Spatialized White Male Nostalgia: Carol Shields’s Happenstance
This chapter examines white male nostalgia in a pair of novellas, published together by Canadian author Carol Shields as Happenstance (1980, 1982). Set in Chicago, the resultant novel contrasts masculine and feminine versions of emotion-driven, largely nostalgic constructions of the past. Following Svetlana Boym, these constructions amount to “restorative” and “reflective” nostalgias. Shields also repeatedly depicts Jack evincing what geographers Owen J. Dwyer and John Paul Jones III identify as a “white socio-spatial epistemology,” a largely unwitting conception of geographical space that correlates with a “masculinist and colonial spatiality.” While Shields expresses hope that unwittingly domineering white men can learn to treat others more equitably, she also dramatizes the common white male tendency to conceive of socio-geographic space in fantasized, self-constituting terms.
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