Type / Thesis

Land-(e)scape or Mindscape: Space and Place in The Buddha of the Suburbia

Kao-chen Liao

Page / 157-185


This paper explores how the landscape of London and its suburb are translated into mindscapes of the protagonist, hence reflecting his roles of socio-cultural production in different time-spaces. I would first appropriate the idea of place and space from Yi-Fu Tuan and Mike Crang, both affirming that space is more abstract than place. Place is defined as a geographic location brought forth by common experiences of a crowd or a community, easily ignored for people rarely find it difficult to know their residential areas. On the other hand, space represents freedom and opportunity on account of its uncertainty. While the protagonist long resides in the suburb as a place, London’s urbanscape turns to be his imaginative space. Yet the latter soon loses its glamour after the hero has finally become a Londoner. This process illuminates that while landscape and mindscape are mutually molded, each of them constantly escapes the subsuming power of the other party. In this way, the inevitable mental portrayal of the landscape has made it something other than the place recognized by its residents, which turns to be land-(e)scape as this paper calls it.
Following the route taken by the hero, together with socio-economic relationships with which he is entangled, I would like to divide this paper into three parts. The first part examines that the suburban landscape, which is always dreary for the protagonist, is never devoid of the geographic in-betweenness and cultural heterogeneity. This is because the hero’s suburban residence as a place fascinates him that London is a space. He has never found that his adolescent privilege of leisure enables him to look into the fine texture of his residence, while at the same time includes the landscape of London into his mindscape. Unsatisfied with the suburban mediocrity then, the protagonist is a cultural consumer yearning to upgrade his lower-middle class in the metropolis. The “real” landscape hence escapes his imaginary mindscape. The second part excavates a process in which urban space rapidly comes down to a place after the hero immigrates into London with other major characters. At this moment he is obsessed with how his ethnic outlook is to facilitate a budding acting career. Since the protagonist is inlayed in the relations of production in London and serves to be a part of its cultural landscape, the urbanscape as space is constantly ignored. The hero’s short stay in New York and final homecoming in London turns to be the research object of the third part. Unable to accommodate himself to a social web revolved around his lover Charlie, the protagonist re-attaches himself to London. A successful career and the reassurance of his interpersonal relationship render London as a city where place coexists with space, and landscape overlaps mindscape.

Keywords : space, place, Hanif Kureishi, landscape, mindscape, in-betweenness
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