Mapping narrative space and character psychology in Literature and Film: the cases of Arnold Bennett's The Old Wives' Tale and Vittorio De Sica's Ladri di Biciclette and Umberto D.


Narrative space has been discussed and conceived by theory in diverse and fascinating ways. Michel Foucault's suggestion that ours may be the epoch of space (1998) constitutes a passing reference to the importance of "space" in continental narrative theory. In a more recent overview of notions on space in cultural studies, Phelan and Peter J. Rabinowitz note that "despite some earlier notable efforts by A.J. Greimas and Gabriel Zoran," narrative theory has only rather recently ("as a result of the work by David Herman and Susan Stanford Friedman, and others") "begun to take up more sophisticated questions about space and setting and to give them the attention they deserve" (Herman et al. 2012: 84). In particular, "narrative space" has been closely tied with character, environment, "psychology" and description. And it is exactly such "conflations" that I will be taking up in the present study. The focus of this article is to dwell on the dynamics of space and how such dynamics are likened to particular forms of narrativity and characterization, set in two very well-defined cultural frameworks: literature and film. The choice is motivated by the transcreative quality that defines these two realms of cultural inquiry. Because of the extremely broad and intricate canvass that such a study entails, I will investigate the intertwining complex correlation of spatial dynamics and character psychology within two case studies: Arnold Bennett's The Old Wives' Tale and Italian Neorealism, in particular Vittorio De Sica's Ladri di Biciclette and Umberto D. The methodology adopted in the article will encompass both a cultural studies approach and the visual strategies of textual analysis from the perspective of film studies. This will spur a close examination of the two films under consideration, paying attention to particular cinematic sequences, set in the context of technical possibilities and offset against the matrix of creative options presented by Italian Neorealism.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22804250v7i1p217

Keywords: narration; space; characterization; transcreation; textual analysis; film; literature

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