Lily’s Route: Cognitive Mapping, Strategic Unmappability, and Disability Studies in Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees


  • Neta Gordon Brock University


Disability studies, cognitive mapping, digital mapping, strategic unmappability, orientation, Ann-Marie MacDonald


Guided by Sara Ahmed’s conception of orientation as ‘taking points of view as given’ (2006: 14), this article considers literary mapping as a methodological reorientation for literary critics, exploring a doubled literary mapping of Lily Piper’s route from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to Manhattan, New York, as narrated in Book Eight of Ann-Marie MacDonald’s 1996 novel, Fall on Your Knees. Beginning with an overview of the extant critical neglect of these scenes and a discussion of Lily’s characterization within a disability studies framework, literary mapping is posited as useful methodology for analysis of her journey, especially in its reorienting capacity to make visible a disabled character’s complex embodiment while evading the logic of narrative prosthesis. Focusing on mapping practice as a problem-solving activity, Lily’s route is first explored from the perspective of her own wayfinding techniques, which depend on the contingent acceptance of help and use of relational cues; second, by way of a reader-generated digital mapping of location and temporal data, various interruptions to a straightforward, plausible mapping of Lily’s route are described and then explored in relation to conceptual and affective readerly anchor-points; to the effects of what I refer to as strategic unmappability; and to the way literary mapping coheres with the principle of complex embodiment in disability studies. The conclusion revisits the idea of the literary critic’s methodological turn, cautioning against the repetition of old or constitution of new exclusions.  

Author Biography

Neta Gordon, Brock University

Neta Gordon is professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at Brock University.


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