Vulnerable London: narratives of space and affect in a twentieth-century imperial capital

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Title: Vulnerable London: narratives of space and affect in a twentieth-century imperial capital
Author: Avery, Lisa Katherine, 1968-
Abstract: This dissertation examines sensation in twentieth -century narratives of London and argues that vulnerability is a constitutive experience of the post -imperial city . Sensations of vulnerability in London arise because of the built environment of the city : its status as an imperial center and a global capital create important intersections of local , national , and global concerns which render the city itself vulnerable . I chart the trajectory of vulnerability as an affective history of London that is documented in cultural texts ranging from fiction and film to political debates and legal materials . Since the sensational experiences of the present partly arise from the materials of the past embedded in the landscape , affective histories create new ways of understanding history as a spatial experience . The narrated sensations of the city make vulnerability legible as a persistent feature of twentieth -century London life . I begin with a modernist , imperial London , in Virginia Woolf's Mrs . Dalloway and in Parliamentary debates from the same year (1925 ) . Ambivalence about London's dual status as a local site and as a national and international capital is a response to London's vulnerable position at the end of the Great War . Next , I turn to World War Two London and Elizabeth Bowen's The Heat of the Day . I discuss intimacy as an important national feature in narratives of London during the crisis of this war . National narratives about intimacy constructed by Winston Churchill and heard on BBC radio respond directly to London's defensive vulnerability . My third chapter concerns Margaret Thatcher's 1980s London and the crucial role autonomy plays in constructing London as an invulnerable , international financial and civic capital . Alan Hollinghurst's The Swimming -Pool Library documents Londoners' attempts to make sense of their autonomy in a postimperial capital . My final chapter examines sensations of social and political belonging in contemporary London through reading Stephen Frears's Dirty Pretty Things alongside legal documents about immigration . I contend that reading cultural texts affectively creates counter -histories of the city that accommodate a deeper range of experiences than do traditional histories and offers to literary studies a new way of understanding the relationship between official and unofficial histories .
URI: http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /3232
Date: 2008-08-28

Citation

Vulnerable London: narratives of space and affect in a twentieth-century imperial capital. Doctoral dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin. Available electronically from http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /3232 .

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