The opposition between town and country is a perennial obsession of modern Western narrative art. The idea of the division becoming diffuse and permeable, of the one bleeding through into the other, appears to be deeply threatening. For Titus Andronicus, in a play in which precisely this bleeding effect occurs, Rome’s degradation leads it to become a “wilderness of tigers”.
This obsession is one that began at around the same time as modern map making.
What people don’t realise is that maps lie to us. They present a geographical landscape which is profoundly at odds with human psychic landscapes.
We think of the town having borders, beyond which there lies the country. No matter how we nuance this, it is untrue. We think of the country as a great field of emptiness between cities and towns. No matter how we nuance this, it is untrue.
What actually happens is that the further you venture into the country, the more country you find. The country isn’t a two-dimensional field, it is a three-dimension well which stretches ever downwards into more of itself. Like the fractals generated by the Mandelbrot Set, the further you go into the country, the more it expands out ahead of you. The more you sink down into it. The towns get smaller, the desolation gets more and more desolate, the isolation gets more and more isolated. The sinister vibe gets more and more sinister.
The city, meanwhile, has no borders. It is carried across all borders inside the mind of the city-dweller. And all cities are connected. If you walk far enough into London you will eventually find yourself in Paris or New York or Rome. The more you walk into any city, the more you walk into its history, and the history of every city is the history of its relationship with other cities. Walk far enough into modern London and you eventually find yourself in ancient Rome.