Topoanalysis as Narrative Technique in John Cheever’s Architecture of Short Fiction

Farzaneh Doosti


The backlash of recent biographies of the American “Chekhov of Suburbs” as an ill-tempered alcoholic bisexual with sharp edges of paranoia might serve to justify Cheever’s clumsy, fragmented narratives of grumpy middle class American male commuters who are about to drown in their matrimonial abyss. The present paper’s approach is, however, to avoid psychobiography in favor of stylistic defense. Not quite as psychologically neurotic a writer as what the mainstream biographers have claimed, Cheever mastered the architectural design of fiction. An examination of a number of these short stories (excluding his longer novels in which fragmentation is an undeniable weakness) lays bare a kind of spatial consciousness: the Bachelardian notion of topoanalysis as the dominant technique. Whereas the public and private boundaries are naturally trespassed in many stories, such as Another Story and The Enormous Radio, in some others the protagonists embark on an intentional interference in space – from erasing a whole town in Geometry of Love to living another man’s life in Seaside Houses. Topoanalysis seems to be Cheever’s favorite narrative technique to reach phenomenological borders of life, oftentimes in unhomely circumstances where one’s totality is menaced by internal and external forces.


Topoanalysis; John Cheever; Guston Bachelard; Uncanny home; Intimate spaces

Full Text:



Allen, B. (2009, March). The loneliness and bewilderment of John Cheever. The New Leader.

Bachelard, G. (1964). The poetics of space. Boston: Beacon Press.

Bailey, B. (2010). Cheever. [reprint]. New York: Vintage Books.

Bloom, H. (2004). John Cheever: Bloom’s Major Short Story Writers. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers.

Burhans, C. (1969). John Cheever and the grave of social coherence. Twentieth Century Literature, 14(4), 187-198.

Casey, E. (1997). Fate of place: A philosophical history. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Cheever, J. (1991). The journals of John Cheever. New York: Knopf.

Cheever, J. (2000). The stories of John Cheever. New York: Vintage Books.

Cheever, J. (2004). The world of apples. New York: Rosetta Books.

Cheever, S. (2001). Home before dark: A personal memoir of John Cheever by his daughter. London: Tauris Parke.

Collins, R. (1982). From subject to object and back again: Individual identity in John Cheever’s fiction. Twentieth Century Literature, 28(1), 1-13. doi: 10.2307/441441

Dessner, L. J. (1994). Gender and structure in John Cheever’s “the country husband”. Studies in Short Fiction, 31(1), 57-68.

Freud, S. (1919) The uncanny. Retrieved from <>

Kronegger, M., & Smith, R. (1985). Gaston Bachelard. Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature, 39(2), 160-162.

Lewis, T., & Cho, D. (2006). Home is where the neurosis is: A topography of the spatial unconscious. Cultural Critique, 64(1), 69-91.

Morace, R. (1989). From parallels to paradise: The lyrical structure of Cheever’s fiction. Twentieth Century Literature, 35(4), 502-528.

Portan, R. (1993). American dreams, suburban nightmares. Cinéaste, 20(1), 12-15.

Seamon, D. (2010). Gaston Bachelard’s topoanalysis in the 21st Century. In L. Embree & I. Copoeru (Eds.), Phenomenology 2010 (pp.225-243). Bucharest: Zeta Books.

Stengel, W. (1987). John Cheever’s surreal vision and the bridge of language. Twentieth Century Literature, 33(2), 223-233.

Updike, J. (2009, March 9). Basically decent. The New Yorker. Retrieved from

Williams, R. L. (1981). The visual arts, the poetization of space and writing: An interview with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. PMLA, 131-140.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Farzaneh Doosti

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Share us to:   


How to do online submission to another Journal?

If you have already registered in Journal A, then how can you submit another article to Journal B? It takes two steps to make it happen:

1. Register yourself in Journal B as an Author

Find the journal you want to submit to in CATEGORIES, click on “VIEW JOURNAL”, “Online Submissions”, “GO TO LOGIN” and “Edit My Profile”. Check “Author” on the “Edit Profile” page, then “Save”.

2. Submission

Go to “User Home”, and click on “Author” under the name of Journal B. You may start a New Submission by clicking on “CLICK HERE”.

We only use three mailboxes as follows to deal with issues about paper acceptance, payment and submission of electronic versions of our journals to databases:;;

 Articles published in Studies in Literature and Language are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC-BY).


Address: 1020 Bouvier Street, Suite 400, Quebec City, Quebec, G2K 0K9, Canada. 
Telephone: 1-514-558 6138 
Website: Http://; Http://;;

Copyright © 2010 Canadian Academy of Oriental and Occidental Culture