Extrapolation

Imagined Nation

Place and National Identity in Neil Gaiman's American Gods

Extrapolation (2012), 53, (3), 307–326.

Abstract

This essay analyzes the representation of place and its relationship to personal and national identity in Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Since Tolkien, fantasy literature has often represented what human geographers call "place" as threatened by capitalist modernity, a formulation that recalls Edward Relph's and Marc Augé's arguments concerning the growth of placelessness and non-places in late-capitalist society. Urban fantasies such as Megan Lindholm's Wizard of the Pigeons (1985), Charles de Lint's Moonheart (1984), and de Lint's Newford stories developed this image of embattled place in the 1980s and 1990s. In contrast, the plot of American Gods argues that the threat to place, and with it, the threat to national and local identities, has been overstated. The novel concludes by suggesting not only that national identity is a fictive construction but also that neither a sense of place nor stable identity is truly necessary to human existence.

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Borges, Jorge Luis. "Of Exactitude in Science." A Universal History of Infamy. Trans. Norman Thomas di Giovanni. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1972. 141. Print. A Universal History of Infamy 141 Google Scholar

Clute, John. "City and Urban Fantasy." Paradoxa: Studies in World Literary Genres 2.1 (1996): 19-26. Print. City and Urban Fantasy Paradoxa: Studies in World Literary Genres 2 19 26 Google Scholar

Clute, John. "Urban Fantasy." The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. Ed. John Clute and John Grant. New York: St. Martin's, 1997. 975-76. Print. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy 975 76 Google Scholar

Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Malden and Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. Print. Place: A Short Introduction Google Scholar

De Lint, Charles. Moonheart. New York: Orb, 1994. Print. Moonheart Google Scholar

De Lint, Charles. "Tallulah." The Newford Stories: Dreams Underfoot, The Ivory and the Horn, Moonlight and Vines. New York: SFBC, 1999. 275-86. Print. The Newford Stories: Dreams Underfoot, The Ivory and the Horn, Moonlight and Vines 275 86 Google Scholar

De Lint, Charles. "The Invisibles." The Newford Stories: Dreams Underfoot, The Ivory and the Horn, Moonlight and Vines. New York: SFBC, 1999. 656-69. Print. The Newford Stories: Dreams Underfoot, The Ivory and the Horn, Moonlight and Vines 656 69 Google Scholar

Eilperin, Juliet. "Palin's ‘Pro-America Areas’ Remark: Extended Version." Washington Post. n. pag. 17 Oct. 2008. Web. 28 Oct. 2009. Palin's ‘Pro-America Areas’ Remark: Extended Version Washington Post Google Scholar

Ekman, Stefan. "Down, Out and Invisible in London and Seattle." Foundation 94 (2005): 64-74. Print. Down, Out and Invisible in London and Seattle Foundation 94 64 74 Google Scholar

Gaiman, Neil. American Gods. New York: HarperTorch, 2002. Print. American Gods Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

Hartwell, David G. "The Making of the American Fantasy Genre." New York Review of Science Fiction 21.12 (2009): 1-6. Print. The Making of the American Fantasy Genre New York Review of Science Fiction 21 1 6 Google Scholar

Heidegger, Martin. "Building, Dwelling, Thinking." Poetry, Language, Thought. Trans. Albert Hofstadter. New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1971. 145-61. Print. Poetry, Language, Thought 145 61 Google Scholar

Le Guin, Ursula K. A Wizard of Earthsea. New York: Bantam Dell, 2004. Print. A Wizard of Earthsea Google Scholar

Lindholm, Megan. Wizard of the Pigeons. New York, Ace, 1986. Print. Wizard of the Pigeons Google Scholar

Malpas, Simon. "Home." Reading The Lord of the Rings: New Writings on Tolkien's Classic. Ed. Robert Eaglestone. New York: Continuum International, 2006. 85-98. Print. Reading The Lord of the Rings: New Writings on Tolkien's Classic 85 98 Google Scholar

Powers, Kevin. "Balanced Exploration of ‘Real America’ Meeting Brash, Uncontrollable Modernity." Irish Times. 15 Dec. 2008: 11. Print. Balanced Exploration of ‘Real America’ Meeting Brash, Uncontrollable Modernity Irish Times 11 Google Scholar

Reid, Michelle. "Urban Space and Canadian Identity in Charles de Lint's ‘Svaha.’" Science Fiction Studies 33.3 (2006): 421-37. Print. Urban Space and Canadian Identity in Charles de Lint's ‘Svaha.’ Science Fiction Studies 33 421 37 Google Scholar

Relph, Edward. Place and Placelessness. London: Pion, 1976. Print. Place and Placelessness Google Scholar

Sabo, Deborah. "Archaeology and the Sense of History in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth." Mythlore. 26.1-2 (2007): 91-112. Print. Archaeology and the Sense of History in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth Mythlore 26 91 112 Google Scholar

Stein, Sam. "Palin Explains What Parts of Country Not ‘Pro-America.’" Huffington Post. Web. 17 Oct. 2008, updated 17 Nov. 2008. n. pag. Web. 28 Oct. 2009. Palin Explains What Parts of Country Not ‘Pro-America.’ Huffington Post Google Scholar

Tolkien, J. R. R. "On Fairy Stories." Tree and Leaf. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989. 9-73. Print. Tree and Leaf 9 73 Google Scholar

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Return of the King. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Print. The Return of the King Google Scholar

Ward, James F. Heidegger's Political Thinking. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1995. Heidegger's Political Thinking Google Scholar

Williams, Raymond. The Country and the City. New York, Oxford UP, 1973. Print. The Country and the City Google Scholar

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Carroll, Siobhan