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Networks, narratives and literary representation: Reflections on Julienne Hanson’s ‘Time and space in two nineteenth century novels’

Sam Griffiths

Abstract


Julienne Hanson’s short article ‘Time and space in two nineteenth century novels’ was originally published in 1976 and is amongst her earliest publications. Perhaps for obvious reasons, Hanson’s study of nineteenth-century literature remains something of an outlier in the body of her work. Nevertheless, it marks the first in a small but notable tradition of literary subjects informed by space syntax theory that has helped to establish the dialogue between architecture and literature as a mutually productive one. Hanson’s contribution in ‘Time and space’ could be regarded as both innovative and provocative in this respect. Innovative because it makes an interdisciplinary connection at a time when such initiatives in space syntax research were comparatively unusual, and provocative because it offers a distinctively architectural voice on two canonical novels of English literature that literary critics might have regarded (and, indeed, might still regard) as their exclusive domain of expertise. It is therefore interesting to revisit ‘Time and Space’ at some thirty-five years distance and reflect on Hanson’s meditation on time-space representation in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, not least in the hope that it will help introduce this intellectually stimulating article to a new audience. This paper offers an appreciation of Hanson’s arguments and also offers a critique. It finds that the openness to interdisciplinary experimentation in ‘Time and Space’ is able to successfully distinguish between different modes of time-space representation in Pride and Prejudice and Jude the Obscure in a manner that it perhaps takes an architect with a feel for both the formal structure of social space and literary constructions to identify. At the same time it is proposed that by approaching these novels as social rather than literary artefacts, Hanson underplays the extent to which the texts themselves subvert generic structural descriptions with the effect that apparent ambiguities in time-space representation are presented as secondary to the coherence of the social-theoretical model.

Keywords


Julienne Hanson, plot analysis, social networks, space syntax, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy

Full Text: JOSS_2012_P22-34