Mending Walls and Making Neighbors: Spatial Metaphors in the New Modernist Studies

Sarah Copland and Alexandra PeatMcEwan University and Franklin University Switzerland

This essay explores the project of definitional inquiry central to the New Modernist Studies, identifying the centrality of spatial discourse and particularly models and metaphors of walls therein. The essay turns to Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” in order to resituate the definitional project of the New Modernist Studies in modernism’s own representations and conceptions of walls not only as borders and boundaries, but also as points of contact and exchange. Our reading recovers the ambiguous and complex plurisignification of walls in the poem and, perhaps more importantly, the relationships between the people who build walls and are divided and brought into contact by them. Ultimately, the essay uses Frost’s depiction of two uneasy neighbors in order to advance a neighborhood model of modernism, one that participates in the existing spatial discourse of the New Modernist Studies but regards modernism as a shared territory that accommodates tentative groupings, difficult-to-fit figures, and even outright contestation.

KEYWORDS: Modernism, The New Modernist Studies, Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,” Spatial Metaphors, Walls, Neighbors, Literary History

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