Rethinking urban space in contemporary British writing

Prescott, Holly (2011). Rethinking urban space in contemporary British writing. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Rethinking Urban Space in Contemporary British Writing argues that the prose literature of its featured authors offers a unique forum through which to perceive and account for the multifarious agency of urban space. Chapter one examines the limitations of using the Marxist spatial theory of Henri Lefebvre, widely adopted by literary scholars, to account for the widespread appearance of abandoned, subterranean and transient spaces in contemporary British writing. The thesis then develops new ways of reading which, unlike Lefebvrean theory, allow such spaces to emerge as affective and narrative agents, shaping narrative form and action. Chapter two focuses upon reading abandoned spaces in the work of Iain Sinclair and Cheshire-born author Nicholas Royle; chapter three examines the agency of the subterranean city-space in narratives by Neil Gaiman, Tobias Hill and Conrad Williams; and chapter four interrogates the agency exerted by the hotel space in contemporary hotel novels by Ali Smith and Monica Ali. Throughout, the materialism of Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer is combined with affect theory to stress the narrative and affective agencies achieved by such urban spaces, precisely due to their transcendence of the networks of production and exchange which dominate the capitalist-driven cities of their fictional worlds.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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