Luis Ponte


This thesis conducts a spatial reading of a selection of novels written by Neil Gaiman to demonstrate how constructions of space in contemporary fiction can be analysed to reveal the underlying politics and cultural commentary of the work. Each of the titles selected juxtaposes an ostensibly ‘real-world’ setting with fantastical elements, such as magic, myths, or ‘other’ worlds. The study draws from a framework of critical theory that has flourished in the past half-century, following several groundbreaking works in the field of spatial theory which confirmed the validity of focused, spatial analysis to an academic landscape that had yet to fully realise the importance of space. Each of the novels is read with the intent of exposing the underlying societal or cultural critique which Gaiman’s use of space confers. The first chapter engages with a reading of American Gods (2001) to demonstrate how, through a reconstructed mythology of gods, folklore, and migration, Gaiman interrogates ever-changing concepts of home in an era of global travel and mass-displacement. The second chapter observes how the literalised concept of a divided city is utilised in Neverwhere (2005) to critique the spatial dominance of capitalist forces in the contemporary city. The final chapter reveals how Gaiman’s child protagonists in Coraline (2002) and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2014) construct real-and-imagined thirdspaces which subvert the traditional model of the bildungsroman narrative. Each chapter is intended to convey how spatial readings of contemporary fiction can reveal nuanced insights into the politics of the work, and how space can be used in such writings to engage with cultural issues and political debate in powerful yet subtle ways.

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