The complexities of dwelling in Ali Smith's There but for the

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This article offers a sustained exploration of dwelling in Ali Smith’s There but for the. Focusing on the way the character Miles locks himself into a family’s bedroom, I argue that this move transforms a “spare” room into a significant gathering place. As part of his disruptive move, Miles also removes himself from dominant forms of activity and productivity, thereby offering an image of dwelling that is not motivated by capitalist routines of labour and profit. More abstractly, Miles’ form of dwelling opens up a space for thought; both characters and readers are invited to “take the measure” of Miles’ dwelling, as well as their own. Correlatively, the text is an intricate dwelling space, offering an important and challenging phenomenological invitation to the reader to dwell within and upon the relationship between language, space, time and thought; the text invites the reader to think about dwelling and being in contemporary society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-520
Number of pages12
JournalCritique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction
Issue number5
Early online date9 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2017


  • dwelling
  • language
  • space
  • time
  • reading
  • Ali Smith
  • There but for the


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