Sarah France


This article positions Olivia Laing’s novel To The River (2011) as a feminist alternative to the patriarchally-coded concepts of psychogeography and flânerie, which, I argue, do not allow for female inclusion. By demonstrating how the text displays theories of material ecofeminism, I establish how To The River works to determine commonly accepted ontological binary divisions as, in fact, permeable. That is, instead of rejecting her female connection to the body and to nature, Laing fully embraces it, walking into nature and writing her lived experience. By walking into nature specifically, Laing is able to walk out of phallogocentric urban space, both physically and metaphysically. In doing so, she resists the structures of male urban space, exploring spaces in nature that instead allow her the potential to write her mind and her body. She rejects the reason, structure and control of oppressive patriarchy, walking and writing around these structures. She does this by “going beneath” the male gaze, playing with surfaces and the use of liminal spaces, and through an interaction with the freeing and unchartered space of nature. More specifically, she goes to the river: the place of womanly, watery rebirth in which identity can be lost and potentially, reformed.

Author Biography

Sarah France is a Ph.D. student at Newcastle University. Her research examines pre-apocalyptic narratives and their relationship with periods of cultural precarity, looking at how instances of socio-political threats are represented within pre-apocalyptic texts.