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(Re)Imagining Los Angeles: five psychotopographies in the fiction of Steve Erickson.

By R.L. Litchfield

Abstract

The thesis investigates psychotopography: the dynamic interrelationship of emotions, landscape, and the individual. Psychotopography suggests an all-encompassing connection between landscape and emotion and attempts to outline the intricacies of this, subsequently providing new ways of mapping the landscape, in particular, a re-mapping of emotional and psychic responses to the urban space. The aim of psychotopography is to create new understandings of ourselves, the ways in which we interact with the city, and the identities that arise as a result, through an exploration of the psychotopographic states and tendencies of a place, as identified in creative processes such as fiction, art and film. This study is done with particular reference to the landscape of Los Angeles and individuals relationship with it. Psychotopography is a term specifically used by Los-Angeles based American novelist Steve Erickson, and therefore the thesis approaches psychotopography principally through Erickson’s writings, using studies of five psychotopographic states identified in his work: emotion, happiness, numbers, liquidity and apocalypse. These five main chapters deal with themes that are significant not only in Erickson’s writings but as part of the experience of Los Angeles and the surrounding area, and the interrelation between these themes, their motifs and the notion of psychotopography. The psychotopography of Erickson’s novels and characters is intricately woven through all aspects of his writing and therefore the methodology used during the study of Erickson’s writing is close thematic analysis. This allows a highly detailed and deliberate exploration of both the mechanics and concepts within Erickson’s fiction. The thesis will develop the notion of psychotopography both within the novels and the wider context of the Los Angeles and Southern Californian landscape, going on to suggest how this notion might be applied to other disciplines and mediums.

OAI identifier: oai:RePEc:ner:ucllon:http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/19721/
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