chapter  24
Spaces of Difference in Subterranean Toronto
ByAmy Lavender Harris
Pages 12

It is a city that burrows, tunnels, turns underground. It has built strata of malls and pathways and inhabited spaces like the layers in an archaeological dig, a body below the earth, flowing with light. Deforested, quarried, polluted, buried and bisected by freeways, by the mid-twentieth century Toronto's ravines had become derelict and largely abandoned spaces. Literary depictions of the ravines underscore Torontonians' collective ambivalence about them. In some works ravines are depicted as spaces of physical hazard. By examining the ways social and spatial differences are enforced, transgressed, negotiated and reframed, Maggie Helwig's and Alissa York's novels illuminate critical meanings of 'difference', while underscoring the powerful position the ravines hold in the city's psyche. 'Difference' has been a recurring preoccupation among contemporary geographers ever since the 'cultural turn'. In Toronto there are real labyrinths which uncoil and connect all the way across town.