This essay places narratology’s emphasis on space-time within the emergence of the discipline of geography and the rise of a materialist, hard science orientation in US institutions after WWII, ultimately arguing that a nascent geographical narratology should aspire to the broad intellectual scope of geography’s origins. “The new geography,” which emerged in 1887 and focused comprehensively on the relation of humans to the earth’s surface, subsequently contracted and fragmented with the post-war emphasis on material science. Likewise expanding in the rationalist post-war climate, classical narratology emphasized logical categories, especially the space-time dichotomy, divorced from human meanings. Today, cognitive research suggests that narratology’s enduring space-time paradigm occludes the constructive realities of both human relations to physical locations and reader processes. Drawing on discussions of space in narrative theory and in current cognitive research on navigation, Easterlin demonstrates that readers and viewers, rather than building spatialized storyworlds, construe space in a functional, piecemeal manner. Finally, maintaining that the area of place studies and an ecological approach to reading are two components of a broadly interdisciplinary geographical narratology providing a nuanced, psychologically contextualized approach to human-environment relations and narrative, Easterlin demonstrates their utility in readings of stories by Raymond Carver and Lydia Davis.
Easterlin, Nancy. “'The New Geography,' Material Science, and Narratology’s Space-Time Dichotomy: Notes Toward a Geographical Narratology." Frontiers of Narrative Studies 4.2 (2018): 197-214.