<b>The Unreliability of Place Construction in Contemporary Alaskan Regional Writing</b> // La falta de fiabilidad en la construcción del lugar en la narrativa regional contemporánea de Alaska

  • Julia Feuer-Cotter The University of Nottingham School of Geography
Keywords: Alaska, space and place, geographical imagination // Alaska, teoría del espacio y lugar, imaginación geográfica

Abstract

Alaska’s geographic isolation results in the fact that most people experience the Far North only second-hand, commonly from the narratives of visitors. Those representations, overshadowed by myth, define Alaska as a region and reflect on the literary imagination of the 49th state. This paper analyses the reader’s image of Alaska and its inhabitants by tracing how regional narratives are perceived by scholars and reviewers, paying attention to the historically different transatlantic perceptions of indigenous peoples and Arctic nature. It becomes clear that Alaska as a setting, as described by its inhabitants, relies on imposed qualities that depend on the self-perception of the outside observer and not on the narration. The contested narrations of Velma Wallis and Sheila Nickerson help to position Alaska as a stage for the struggle over the spatial meaning carried out between outsiders. Conscious of this power struggle and its importance, these contemporary regional authors engage in the discourse over Alaska’s representation by narrating its unreliability. These authors produce texts that invite different readings to foster a cultural discourse about the meaning of the Alaskan place within the national identity and policies.

Resumen

El aislamiento geográfico de Alaska se debe al hecho de que la mayoría de las personas experimentan el extremo Norte sólo de segunda mano, normalmente a partir de los relatos de visitantes. Esta representación, eclipsada por una larga tradición de mitos, define a Alaska como región y se refleja en la imaginación literaria del estado 49º. Este artículo analiza el paradigma del lector de Alaska y de sus habitantes a través del estudio de cómo los estudiosos y críticos no-académicos perciben las narrativas acerca de dicha región, prestando atención a las percepciones transatlánticas históricamente diferentes de los pueblos indígenas y la naturaleza ártica. Es evidente que Alaska, como lugar descrito por sus habitantes, se basa en cualidades impuestas que dependen de la auto-percepción del lector foráneo y no en la narración. Los escritos de Velma Wallis and Sheila Nickerson colaboran en posicionar a Alaska como un escenario para la lucha sobre el significado espacial producido por los observadores foráneos. Conscientes de esta lucha por el poder y su importancia, estas autores regionales contemporáneas participan en este discurso narrando la falta de fiabilidad de la memoria, el lenguaje y la representación. En lugar de escribir en contra de la imaginación espacial, producen textos que sugieren lecturas que fomentan un discurso cultural acerca del significado de Alaska.

 

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Author Biography

Julia Feuer-Cotter, The University of Nottingham School of Geography

The University of Nottingham, United Kingdom

lgxjf1@nottingham.ac.uk

My previous projects were based on aspects of the human interaction with the environment and highlighted the unique demands of isolation, climate, and technology in the Arctic, introducing me to aspects of Alaska's history and geographical imagination, and the interaction of science and society. My current project, investigates the environmental history of Dalton Highway, highlighting the hardships of construction and maintenance projects in the Arctic. I have also completed a taught MA in American Literature on the construction of place in contemporary Alaskan nature writing; a BA in American Studies on the construction of masculinity in Alaskan mountaineering; and a BA in Philosophy of Science on paradigm shifts in American environmental history and its reflection on national park conservation. By drawing on my interest in knowledge production and the perception of the environment, my aim is to ameliorate my research skills in order to pursue an academic career.

Published
2014-09-22
Section
Northern Nature