DOI: 10.1215/03335372-10938618 ISSN: 0333-5372

Assessing Narrative Space: From Setting to Narrative Environments

Marta Puxan-Oliva
  • Literature and Literary Theory


This essay addresses the insufficient attention paid in narrative theory to the reformulated concept of space resulting from the spatial turn in the analysis of narrative space. To address this lack of attention, the essay proposes the concept of “narrative environments” as a new lens for conceiving of narrative space that distinguishes it from setting. Narrative environments are the formal narrative expression of space: the combined social contextualization and historicization and environmental imaginings that have historically produced that space and are called forth in the narrative to build narrative space and its interactions with other narrative components. These are distinguished from “setting” in that the latter has been interpreted as textually self-sufficient, not relying on social and cultural knowledge. The article reviews recent debates on narrative space and their branching into the fields of critical geography and ecocriticism in order to bring the reenvisioned concept of space resulting from the spatial turn into the discussion. The functioning of this new perspective on space is illustrated through the analysis of island and ocean space and its narrative effects in J. M. Coetzee's Foe.