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Treading the Spiral: Intermediality, Spatiality, and Materiality in Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting

Authors
  • Uslu, Gülşen Aslan
Type
Published Article
Journal
Anglia
Publisher
De Gruyter Mouton
Publication Date
Apr 09, 2024
Volume
142
Issue
1
Pages
137–161
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/ang-2024-0010
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

In his 2014 intermedial word-image novel Theories of Forgetting, Lance Olsen focuses on human life’s transience, impermanence, and fragility through his major characters, Alana and Hugh, and their children, who read their parents’ diaries. The ideas about the fleeting nature of human lives are presented through intermedial configurations in the novel which are rendered through experimental usage of the topography of the page, hypertextual design, and inclusion of photographs and various visual media which altogether redefine the spatiality and materiality of the novel. The initial construction of the spatial form in the work comes from postmodernist narrative elements. Spatiality and space gain further significance in the novel’s fictional world, or narrative space, with Robert Smithson’s earthwork Spiral Jetty, which aims to show change, regression, and disintegration in nature as well as being the main inspiration in the ekphrastic ventures of the novel. Alana, one of the characters, works on a short documentary film on Spiral Jetty, leading her to think and question time and space and how space is subject to change with time. Hugh, another character, is a traveler in distant places like Europe, the Middle East, and Jordan, all of which turn into metaphors that help to shape the narrative and represent the mental spaces of its characters. Besides these stories on and about space, the print book also becomes a site rich with photographs, visual media, and verbal text. Through intermediality, the novel portrays a complex depiction of space at structural, narrative, and material levels. Such a presentation of the stories with postmodernist elements and hypertext and a critical sensibility of the materiality of the print medium turn the work into an art object to be viewed and read.1

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