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London's Underground Spaces

London's Underground Spaces: Representing the Victorian City, 1840-1915

Haewon Hwang
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    London's Underground Spaces
    Book Description:

    The construction of London’s underground sewers, underground railway and suburban cemeteries created seismic shifts in the geography and the psychological apprehension of the city. Yet, why are there so few literary and aesthetic interventions in Victorian representations of subterranean spaces? What is London’s answer to the Parisian sewers of Victor Hugo or the unflinching realism of Émile Zola’s underworld? Where is the great English underground novel? This study explores this elision not as an absence of imaginative output, but as a presence and plenitude of anxiety and fears that haunt the pages of Charles Dickens, George Gissing, Bram Stoker and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. The way in which these writers negotiated the dirt and messiness of underground spaces reveals both the emergence of Gothic, socialist, and modernist sensibilities, and the way all modern cities deal with what is unseen, intangible and inarticulable. The inclusion of illustrations of Victorian maps, cartoons, photographs and art bring the period to life. Key Features: An interdisciplinary study that explores Victorian maps, guidebooks, cartoons and advertisements, alongside literature, journals, photographs and art to bring the period to life Draws on modern critical frameworks of Derrida, Lefebvre, and Kristeva to recover and to conceptualize the lost spaces of the Victorian city Redefines ‘underground’ beyond its spatial usage to look at the emergence of underground revolutionary movements in fin-de-siècle London Argues for the distinctiveness of London’s underground culture and its influence on other global cities

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-7608-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Series Editor’s Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Julian Wolfreys
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    The dark and ominous warning that marks the threshold into Dante’s underworld, as well as the preface to Karl Marx’s philosophical tractCapital: A Critique of Political Economy, reveals the complex intersection of physical, metaphorical and metaphysical appropriations of underground space from antiquity to modernity. Classical themes ofkatabasis, or the meta-narrative of descent that dominated images of heroic journeys, articulated a poetics of the underground that embraced eschatological themes of death, redemption and renewal. Although these associations remained critical in apprehending the underground in earlier representations, it was not until the eighteenth century that scientific discourse of geological explorations...

  7. Chapter 1 The Incontinent City: Sewers, Disgust and Liminality
    (pp. 19-71)

    Of all the corporeal functions that underground infrastructures support, the sewers and the removal of waste remain the most ‘invisible’ and unrecognised in the representation of the modern city. Perhaps the relegation of this most essential system speaks more of contemporary society’s approach to human excrement: something to be forgotten with the first flush, an object to be eliminated from the home and diverted to the outskirts of the city, a solid that should be sublimated in some state-sponsored plant as we wash our hands clean of it. However, in all these elisions, the underlying rhetoric that permeates excremental (non)discourse...

  8. Chapter 2 Tubing It: Speeding through Modernity in the London Underground
    (pp. 72-115)

    The contradictory forces of progress and destruction remained a powerful spectre in the Victorian underground, but the construction of the underground railway also created social and psychological fissures in the urban psyche, while irrevocably changing London’s landscape. In many ways, its dual nature is captured in the Janus-edged façade of 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens in Paddington (Fig. 2.1). At first glance, the Georgian exterior, complete with plant trimmings and iron railings, is undifferentiated from the row of terrace houses that line the elegant street. However, just beyond the veneer of gentrification, a network of railway tracks disappearing into a...

  9. Chapter 3 The (Un)Buried Life: Death in the Modern Necropolis
    (pp. 116-158)

    The haunting image of ‘twin cities’ in all its destabilising connotations, from the Gothic sense of doubling to the image of the World Trade Center, reveals how death permeates the urban landscape with the sense of the unknown, the unexpected and the unseen. In antiquity, the underground as a burial space for the dead, from Egyptian tombs to the Roman Catacombs, was predicated on the sacred belief that the afterlife below was just as important, if not more crucial, than the lived experience above. Indeed, the elaborate architecture of underground altars and temples in these civilisations attests to the power...

  10. Chapter 4 Underground Revolutions: Invisible Networks of Terror in Fin-de-Siècle London
    (pp. 159-200)

    As we have observed in previous chapters, the spaces underneath the city have always mapped ideological battles, from the class struggle in the bowels of the sewers to the redistribution of power through the construction of the underground railway. Although subterranean systems attempted to contain these agitations in the mid-nineteenth century, political discontent continued to foment and erupt on the surface of the city in more violent and explosive ways in the latter half of the century. Even the word ‘underground’ gained new currency, from a concrete, physical space to a more metaphorical representation of conspiratorial networks, extending its meaning...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 201-207)

    In many ways, this book attempts to uncover the paradoxes of the underground that complicated its spatial, linguistic and metaphorical representations in the modern metropolis. While the overarching significance of subterranean infrastructure and its impact on the city cannot be overemphasised, the unseen, invisible aspects of the space and the tensions this absence signified also attest to its ghostly presence in the urban literary landscape. In examining the subterranean space through various frameworks, from a Foucauldian and Freudian to a Marxist and Derridean lens, the ultimate picture of the underground that emerges is a fragmented one, a spatial heuristic through...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 208-225)
  13. Index
    (pp. 226-236)