Archives for the month of: January, 2012

Looks like I’ll be part of a collection on H. Rider Haggard that’s coming out later this year. Now to write the piece I described thusly:

As an adventure writer, H. Rider Haggard, who wrote at the tail end of the British imperial enterprise, faced a major problem: all the maps had been filled in, threatening an end to the mysterious countries beyond the reach of most white men that promised treasure, romance, and entertaining danger. His first hit novel, King Solomon’s Mines (1885), includes a map with which Allan Quartermain and his companions find the eponymous treasure; but in Haggard’s later novels, such as The Yellow God: An Idol of Africa (1908), She and Allan (1921), and Treasure of the Lake (1926) maps are not graphically represented, even though they play essential roles in the plots of these books. Both The Yellow God and She and Allan, in particular, share the image of a map that must be looked at, memorized, and left behind or even destroyed before their heroes can begin their quests in earnest. Such an insistence on removing maps can be read as a metaphor for Haggard’s own authorial biography, from conscious adherence to a genre formula – as first established by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island – to a mastery that can afford to ignore such formulae. More importantly, Haggard’s effacement of maps from his narratives is fundamental to the critique of empire to be found in his stories. As Allan Quatermain’s many adventures make clear, colonial exploration is fun – after killing Allan off at the end of Allan Quatermain (1887), Haggard resurrected him for more than a dozen new stories. Managing an empire, however, is just more of the busywork that spurs adventurers. This article will argue that Haggard’s later novels put forward this critique most clearly in the absence of maps, which threaten to lay bare the mysteries of Africa to British “reinscription, enclosure and hierarchization of space, which provide[s] an analogue for the acquisition, management and reinforcement of colonial power” (Huggan 21). The absence of maps in The Yellow God and She and Allan turns away from the intensively managed colonies of imperial Africa in favour of an Africa perpetually in the process of being discovered, but not yet plotted and bounded. In this manner, the purposeful blind spots and cartographic exclusions that mark Haggard’s later novels serve to freeze time at the moment when maps were still empty to retain the possibilities for adventure that imperial consolidation precludes.

Huggan, Graham. Interdisciplinary Measures: Literature and the Future of Postcolonial Studies. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2008. Digital book.

This will be the second British genre literature by way of postcolonial African geography article I’ll publish. I’m once again a bit on edge that my cursory knowledge of postcolonial theory will lead me to write something that will piss people off. That grad school concentration in American literature and film is serving me well.

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To put out the first pieces of the world atlas of American cinema, it may be best to begin with a year that does very little strange – 2001. Here’s a hacked-together draft map of where the top twenty (US) box office hits are set. I care about narrative settings, not filming locations.

When it comes to US settings, there’s nothing particularly outlandish about 2001: plenty of NY-LA, with a dash of the midwest (although the “East Great Falls”-set American Pie movies are consciously anywheresville-suburban), with a couple other locations. As is usually the case, for all the population growth, there’s just not much happening in the south. The Pacific northwest isn’t represented, nor are Arizona-New Mexico and Alaska.

Internationally, 2001 was more or less in the normal distribution. Harry Potter in a fictionalised England – there’s pretty much always an England-set film in the top twenty. Princess Diaries in a Mediterranean-fictional Genovia/Monte Carlo – there’s almost always a western European setting, usually in France-Italy-Germany. The Mummy Returns in Egypt occupies the non-European setting for an action film. Lara Croft:Tomb Raider does some globe-trotting to take in Siberia, Cambodia, and England. The major outlier is Blackhawk Down in Mogadishu – Africa is usually desert or dense jungle, not urban (especially not on the Horn).

For fantastic locations, there’s “Ashlar” from Planet of the Apes (looking a lot like the US), animated places in Shrek and Monsters, Inc., and Floop’s Island in Spy Kids. Lord of the Ring’s Middle Earth is in New Zealand and the Jurassic Park sequel has its island off the coast of Costa Rica.

However, there are likely settings which I have missed. Make any changes, additions, or suggestions in comments, por favor.