Chapter One Theoretical Foundation
1.1 The Origin and Development of Spatial Theory
In the past,scholars have always believed that time is an important element inliterary works.Although the characters in the novel are in a certain social space,thespace existing in the text is static during creation.Relatively,time is still flowing due tothe development of the story and the behavior of the characters.Therefore,somescholars believe that the creation process of a work is actually the flow process of time,which is more important than the space as the background of the story.By the beginningof the twentieth century,time in traditional literary criticism theory had reached anunprecedented position,while the concept of space was opposed,which also led to theerasure and devaluation of space by the historical determinism.Until the 1970s,thenoticeable spatial turn took place in the western academic circles,which brought themeaning of space in literary works back to the center of research.
Space criticism has mainly experienced three stages:the social orientation of spacein the early stage,the cultural orientation in the middle stage and the research on thecharacteristics of contemporary hyperspace.The systematic spatial theory appeared inthe 1970s,but this does not mean that no one paid attention to the significance of spacebefore that.Theorists such as Walter Benjamin and Gérard Genette put forward theimportance of space,which also laid the foundation for the development of subsequentspace theory.Then,scholars such as Henri Lefebvre,Michel Foucault and FredricJameson carried out research from the perspective of sociology and formally developed pace criticism into a theoretical system.They first distinguished the concept of spacefrom the“location study”in geographical research and gave space a social status.
1.2 Lefebvre’s Space Theory
Lefebvre is one of the most important figures in the development of the spacetheory who is indispensable.He is the first scholar to try to study urban space withMarxism,and discuss why the capitalist system has not perished from the perspective of“space”.His spatial ternary theory and urban space theory are of great help to theanalysis of Manhattan Transfer.
1.2.1 The Production of Space
Lefebvre was the first person to pull sociality into the understanding category ofspace.Before this,space has just been regarded as an objective container for storingmaterials,while Lefebvre misappropriated Marx’s concept of production.“In the area ofscience of space has produced either mere descriptions which never achieve analytical,much less theoretical,status,or else fragments and cross-sections of space”(Lefebvre 7).He excavated the social meaning of space,and made the abstract pure logic transition tothe practical life of natural society.
According to Lefebvre,space is not a concept of nature or spiritual entity,but aconcept of social production.In other words,space is not an empty existence,but has acertain significance because of its“social product”characteristics,and the originalattention to“material production in space”should also be transferred to the study of“production of space itself”(Hou 22).“Space is not only a static container or platformfor the evolution of social relations,but also a product of social relations.It arises frompurposeful social practice”(Lefebvre 154).
Chapter Two The Construction of Urban Space inManhattan Transfer
2.1 Physical Space——Dynamic Manhattan
“The fields we are concerned with are,first,the physical-nature,the Cosmos”(Lefebvre 11).In Lefebvre’s view,physical space is connected with geographicallocation,region and architecture and is directly perceptible for individuals as a part ofspace practice.It is“the space of inhabitants and users”(Lefebvre 39).In ManhattanTransfer,New York in the twentieth century has accumulated many achievements ofmodern civilization due to the rapid process of industrialization and urbanization,suchas the throbbing ferry and luxurious buildings,which also shows the prosperity of urban space.However,the process of urbanization is actually one of the ways of capitalistexpansion.Behind the appearance of urban prosperity,there is always social corruption.Therefore,this part will take two images of ferry and building as representatives toexplore the description of physical space in Manhattan Transfer and its allusion to thereal society.
2.1.1 Ferry——The Sign of Hope and Eternal Recurrence
Ferry is an important image that appears many times in Manhattan Transfer.“Theferry is given an almost mysterious meaning in the novel”(Zhu 122).Many charactersin the novel have a direct or indirect relationship with ships.They either come to orleave New York by ferry,or work on the ship.But it is through ferry that the fate ofmany characters is connected with this city.Therefore,ferry is not only a physicalmedium connecting people and the urban space,but also represents the hope ofcharacters for the future and the infinite cycle of Manhattan as a transit station.
2.2 Psychological Space——Distensible Desire
Lefebvre points out that“psychological space refers to conceptual space orimaginary space”(54).If physical space is a space constructed by material relations,which is mainly presented and perceived in material form,then psychological space isan internal and subjective space,which is the construction and projection of humanperception and emotion to the external world.In the 1920s,New York was a fashionablecity piled up by commodities and money.The development of capitalism has greatlyenriched material conditions.However,the society created under this condition can notmake everyone happier and more free,and the emotional performance of people withdifferent identities on urban space is also very diverse,which is also deeply reflected inManhattan Transfer.This part will explore the different psychological spacesconstructed by various people living in New York from two aspects:class consciousnessand contradictory attitude.
2.2.1 Class Consciousness——the Paradise of the Upper Class
The United States in 1925 was in the most special era in history,the Jazz Age.Atthis time,the first World War had just ended,the Great Depression had not yet arrived,the traditional Puritan morality collapsed,and hedonism began to prevail.The UnitedStates collected a large amount of money in the war,which made the economy of thewhole country develop rapidly and led to the change of people’s life style andconsumption culture at that time.The abundance of material life gave birth to people’spursuit of hedonism.Based on this demand,capitalism occupied more urban space tobuild various places of entertainment for the consumption and enjoyment of the upperclass who had accumulated a lot of wealth.As a space where various upper classes livetogether,the city became the most representative space of hedonism culture at that time.
Chapter Three Capitalization of the Production of Urban Space............................42
3.1 The Expansion of Postwar Capital Space................................42
3.1.1 The Encroachment on Personal Living Space.........................................43
3.1.2 The Industrialization and Commercialization of New York....................45
Chapter Four The Influence of Capitalized Urban Space on People.......................65
4.1 Influence on Spiritual Space....................................65
4.1.1 Personal Alienation from the Internal Self.................................65
4.1.2 Personal Alienation from the External World........................68
Chapter Four The Influence of Capitalized UrbanSpace on People
4.1 Influence on Spiritual Space
With the highly developed capitalist industry replacing the agricultural economywhere workers are self-sufficient and rely on labor to realize their own value,humansociety has changed from rural pastoral life to urban secular life,and the relationshipbetween people,nature and society has undergone essential changes.Capitalism has ledto people’s desire for material things,which causes the relationship between people hasbeen gradually replaced by that between people and things.The past frank treatmentamong people has also become mutual suspicion and mutual utilization under theinfluence of profits.Living in this space for a long time has gradually spawned a senseof alienation in people’s spiritual space,not only between individuals and themselves,but also between themselves and the outside world in a wider scope.
4.1.1 Personal Alienation from the Internal Self
The rapid development of modern urban life is a double-edged sword.While accelerating social development,it also makes people lack a lot of time for deepthinking,which leads to people gradually ignoring their inner voice and losing theirideals in the fast-paced society.In the long run,the sense of alienation betweenindividuals and themselves will become stronger and stronger,and people will no longercare about themselves and estrange themselves.
As the most representative novel of Dos Passos’s works,Manhattan Transfershows readers the realest description of New York in the beginning of the twentiethcentury.Based on Henry Lefebvre’s space criticism theory like the production of space,the spatial ternary theory and the urban space theory,this paper detailed analyzes theconstruction of the New York’s urban space in Manhattan Transfer and the power toconstruct it,so as to explore how people’s psychology will change when living in a citywith rapid development of technology and economy.Compared with other works athome and abroad,this paper focuses on the compression of human living space by theexpansion of capitalist space hidden in the urban description in the works and thechange of human ideology in this increasingly compressed environment.
First of all,this paper analyzes the construction of urban space in detail in thesecond chapter.Dos Passos is good at capturing every corner of the city and displayingthese scenes in the book through the“camera eye”,so that readers can enter New Yorkand feel its urban landscape of by reading the words.At the same time,these landscapesare also the carrier of Dos Passos’s emotion,and each scene is given a unique meaningto show different aspects of the space in the city.These spaces can be classified intothree categories,namely physical space,psychological space and social space.Physicalspace refers to the real things that can be observed in the objective world,such as ferries,buildings,and so on.These carriers that often appear in novels are endowed withinternal meaning to assist Dos Passos’s emotional expression.For example,the ferry notonly is a tool to carry people to different spaces,but also has another meaning,whichimplies the expansion of capitalism attracting countless people to rush into the city forsuccess.At the same time,ferry also represents people’s hope for future and the endlesscycle occurred in the city.