Dwelling in Intimate and Grand Spaces: Natural, Bodily and Narrative Landscapes in Alice Munro’s “What Do You Want to Know For?”

Margaret Jean Steffler


This article addresses relationships between natural landscapes, narrative style and women’s bodyscapes in Alice Munro’s The View from Castle Rock (2006), concentrating on the final short story, “What Do You Want to Know For?” Focusing on theories of space and place-relations by Yi-Fu Tuan, E. Relph, Henri LeFebvre and Wesley A. Kort, the discussion examines the narrator’s return home in these memoir-like stories. The structures and shapes of these narratives of the landscape, the woman’s body and the short story stress dynamic processes and evolving presences rather than permanence or stability. The article, referring to Martin Heidegger’s concept of dwelling, argues that through sparing and preserving her home-place, the narrator is freed from the compulsion to dig into the earth, the past and memory for knowledge and answers. The mounded shapes of the kame moraine, crypt and narrator’s breast, which connect landforms, mortality and the woman’s body, allow for the opening of intimate space into grand space, freeing the narrator from curiosity and the need to know.


Alice Munro, place and space, women’s body, literary landscape, dwelling, short story

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Copyright (c) 2017 Margaret Jean Steffler