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Bleeding Borders

Space, Blackness, and Hybridity in Jack London’s Representations of the American Southwest

Steffen Wöll

Pages 5 - 28


In Jack London’s diverse and often contradictory oeuvre, one finds not one master narrative transplanted into uncultivated or ‘exotic’ spaces but manifold variants of both actual and fictional geographies that energize alternative spatial visions and practices. While the issues and challenges brought to light in his writing surfaced during the Progressive Era, they still constitute crucial aspects of ongoing processes of coexistence, reconciliation, and conflict among different narratives and voices that claim to represent or know what ‘makes’ American spaces and regions. In this essay I argue that London’s sports coverage of the “Fight of the Century” as well as his short story “The Mexican” highlight naturalist writing as an instrument of protest against the spatial status quo that is able to lay bare erstwhile hidden processes of nonwhite placemaking and unpack the deep-rooted intersections between space, race, and class in the United States. Through their depiction of the American Southwest as both an arena for the violent triumphalism of whiteness and as a vital ground for subversion and revolution, the texts discussed here demonstrate the fluidity of national and transnational spaces as well as their propensity to constantly oscillate between borderedness and borderlessness.


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