Is The Map More Interesting Than The Territory? A Post-Representational Approach to Michel Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory

Ashley Harris, Jonathan Harris


This collaborative, interdisciplinary article analyses Houllebecq’s use of crime fiction and autofiction in The Map and the Territory (2010). The novel’s intra- inter- and extra-textual geographies, including its depiction of urban and rural space, are explored through a post-representational lens. We argue that Houllebecq uses crime fiction and autofiction to destabilise and disrupt Baudrillardian signs and simulacra as well as Barthesian mythologies of the author - setting up his own ‘death of the author’ by writing his avatar’s murder. By analysing how the novel 'sets the scene' in its depiction of both Houellebecq and France’s rural and urban spaces, we find that the way the text maps and describes these spaces in/on/through which the novel 'takes place' lends itself to a processual or assemblage understanding of that space, where reality and representation are co-produced relationally. This spatial co-production leads us to productively re-consider the novel's broader themes through this same post-representational lens, and to problematise distinctions between reality and representation, author and text, and map and territory.


post-representation; representation; Houellebecq; autofiction; crime fiction

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