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Escaping the map: American science fiction and its cartographic imagination

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The beginning of Space Age coincided with the global spread of a subterranean, post-apocalyptic imagination of the bunker. The coexistence of faith in technological progress and fear of a nuclear-caused self-annihilation created a tension between a claustrophilic and a claustrophobic relation to space that deeply shaped American spatial imagination. As I argue in this article, this spatial tension can be profitably illustrated by focusing on the cartographic imagination of science fiction produced in America between the 1950s and the 1980s. Drawing on David Seed and Fredric Jameson among others and focusing on both exemplary novels and films, this article shows to what extent Cold War American science fiction not only translates territorial anxieties into alternative universes or versions of the future, but spatially stages its inner conflict, the tension between a claustrophobic distress on the one hand and an unfulfilled claustrophilia on the other.
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Keywords: American science fiction; Cold War; cartographic imagination; claustrophobia; maps; nuclear age

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000121693852Austrian Academy of Sciences

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • The European Journal of American Culture (EJAC) is an academic, refereed journal for scholars, academics and students from many disciplines with a common involvement in the interdisciplinary study of America and American culture, drawing on a variety of approaches and encompassing the whole evolution of the country.
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