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Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination
 9783030559601, 9783030559618

Table of contents :
Praise for Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination
Notes on Contributors
Chapter 1: Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination
Part I: Time and Memory
Chapter 2: The ‘Crazy Clock’ of York: Collapsing Time and Unstable Reality in James Montgomery’s Urban Topographic Poetry
York, a Radical and Conservative City
James Montgomery and Topographical Tradition
Inner Space: The Pleasures of Imprisonment, Part 1
‘Walking’ the Streets of York: The Pleasures of Imprisonment, Part 2
Poisonous Dreams of the City
Chapter 3: Marshall Berman and D.J. Waldie: Memory and Grief in Urban and Suburban Spaces
Marshall Berman’s Modern City
Memory and Grief
Becoming the Grid
Chapter 4: No Safe Sanctuary: Race, Space, and Time in Colson Whitehead’s Speculative Cities
Alternative New York: Verticality and Notoriety
City of the Future: Manhattan in Ruins
Unsafe Spaces
Part II: Time and Motion
Chapter 5: ‘The Sensation of a Moment’: Speed, Stillness, and Victorian London in Wilkie Collins’s Basil
The Omnibus
Misreading and Manipulating the ‘Moment’
The Victorian Suburb
Chapter 6: ‘This Is London, This Is Life’: ‘Migrant Time’ in Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners
Towards a Notion of ‘Migrant Time’
Loco-specificity and Local-specificity
Imperial Time and Space
Chapter 7: Time and the City in Ulysses: ‘Like Holding Water in Your Hand’
‘Time Is the Time Movement Takes’: Objective Time, Cartographical Place, and Realistic Dublin
‘Can’t Bring Back Time’: Simultaneity, Continuous Present, and Dublin as Discourse
‘A Most Edifying Spectacle’: Dublin under Surveillance and Unconnected Urban Milieu
Chapter 8: Time in the Translocal City
Part III: Time and Material Space
Chapter 9: ‘Skyscraper Primitives’: Futurity and Primordial Time in New York City, 1904–1932
Technology as a Visionary Experience
Artificial Space, Artificial Time
The Evolution of America
Chapter 10: Temporal and Physical Liminalities of Trauma in Murakami’s After the Quake and DeLillo’s Point Omega
Murakami’s After the Quake: Mapping the Temporality of Trauma
DeLillo, Point Omega, and the Impossibility of Retreat
Chapter 11: ‘Totaled City’: The Postdigital Poetics of Ben Lerner’s 10:04
10:04: Post-Crash/Post-Postmodern
Writing the City
Part IV: Time and Melancholy
Chapter 12: Los Angeles as a No Man’s Land: First World War Trauma in Raymond Chandler’s Detective Fiction
Chapter 13: Spatio-Temporal Reterritorializing of Queer Urban Spaces and Bodies in Bai Xianyong’s Taipei Novel Nei Zi 孽子 (Crystal Boys, 1983)
The Park
Cozy Nest
Chapter 14: No Center Other Than Ourselves: Istanbul, Hüzün, and the Heterotopic Portal Between Civilizations and Time in the Works of Orhan Pamuk
Chapter 15: ‘Our Native Reminiscence’: Clinging to ‘Lost Time’ in Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane
The Isolated City, Migration, and the ‘Celtic Tiger’
Utopia versus Dystopia
Ancient and Historical Bohane Film Society

Citation preview


Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination Edited by  Anne-Marie Evans · Kaley Kramer

Literary Urban Studies Series Editors Lieven Ameel Turku Institute for Advanced Studies University of Turku Turku, Finland Jason Finch English Language and Literature Åbo Akademi University Turku, Finland Eric Prieto Department of French and Italian University of California Santa Barbara, CA, USA Markku Salmela English Language, Literature & Translation Tampere University Tampere, Finland

The Literary Urban Studies Series has a thematic focus on literary mediations and representations of urban conditions. Its specific interest is in developing interdisciplinary methodological approaches to the study of literary cities. Echoing the Russian formalist interest in literaturnost or literariness, Literary Urban Studies will emphasize the “citiness” of its study object—the elements that are specific to the city and the urban condition—and an awareness of what this brings to the source material and what it implies in terms of methodological avenues of inquiry. The series’ focus allows for the inclusion of perspectives from related fields such as urban history, urban planning, and cultural geography. The series sets no restrictions on period, genre, medium, language, or region of the source material. Interdisciplinary in approach and global in range, the series actively commissions and solicits works that can speak to an international and cross-disciplinary audience. Editorial Board Ulrike Zitzlsperger, University of Exeter, UK Peta Mitchell, University of Queensland, Australia Marc Brosseau, University of Ottawa, Canada Andrew Thacker, De Montfort University, UK Patrice Nganang, Stony Brook University, USA Bart Keunen, University of Ghent, Belgium More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/15888

Anne-Marie Evans  •  Kaley Kramer Editors

Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination

Editors Anne-Marie Evans School of Humanities York St John University York, UK

Kaley Kramer Department of Humanities Sheffield Hallam University Sheffield, UK

ISSN 2523-7888     ISSN 2523-7896 (electronic) Literary Urban Studies ISBN 978-3-030-55960-1    ISBN 978-3-030-55961-8 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

For Nasser, for all our times and cities —KK To my parents, for their love of city life —AME


This collection was completed during the global pandemic of COVID-19 in the late spring of 2020. We want to thank—wholeheartedly—everyone involved in the preparation and production of this collection, especially our brilliant contributors, who responded so quickly and cheerfully to all of our comments and requests for information. We would like to thank the reviewers of this volume for their invaluable perspectives and suggestions. We are extremely grateful to the editors of the Literary Urban Studies series, to Allie Troyanos, Rachel Jacobe, and Raghupathy Kalynaraman at Palgrave Macmillan for their belief in this project and their assistance, attention, and professionalism throughout this process. Thank you to Richard Wood, Nasser Hussain, and Larry Kramer for their timely help as well. We would also like to thank our colleagues at York St John University and Sheffield Hallam University for their support and encouragement. Finally and not least, thanks to our families and friends for everything and everything else.


Praise for Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination “As the editors and contributors to this volume make vividly clear, the city is a rich site for the exploration of time’s complexity. Taking us from New York and Los Angeles to Taipei and Istanbul, this collection properly re-centres discussions of the literary city around time and temporality, thereby making a major contribution to the fields of literary urban studies, time and temporality studies, and geocritical studies.” —Adam Barrows, Associate Professor of English, Carleton University, Canada, and author of The Cosmic Time of Empire (2010) and Time, Literature, and Cartography after the Spatial Turn (2016)


1 Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination  1 Anne-Marie Evans and Kaley Kramer

Part I Time and Memory  13 2 The ‘Crazy Clock’ of York: Collapsing Time and Unstable Reality in James Montgomery’s Urban Topographic Poetry 15 Adam James Smith 3 Marshall Berman and D.J. Waldie: Memory and Grief in Urban and Suburban Spaces 33 Alice Levick 4 No Safe Sanctuary: Race, Space, and Time in Colson Whitehead’s Speculative Cities 49 Anne-Marie Evans




Part II Time and Motion  67 5 ‘The Sensation of a Moment’: Speed, Stillness, and Victorian London in Wilkie Collins’s Basil 69 Helena Ifill 6 ‘This Is London, This Is Life’: ‘Migrant Time’ in Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners 87 Sarah Lawson Welsh 7 Time and the City in Ulysses: ‘Like Holding Water in Your Hand’105 Quyen Nguyen 8 Time in the Translocal City121 Lena Mattheis

Part III Time and Material Space 135 9 ‘Skyscraper Primitives’: Futurity and Primordial Time in New York City, 1904–1932137 Steven Nardi 10 Temporal and Physical Liminalities of Trauma in Murakami’s After the Quake and DeLillo’s Point Omega155 Megan E. Cannella 11 ‘Totaled City’: The Postdigital Poetics of Ben Lerner’s 10:04169 Spencer Jordan



Part IV Time and Melancholy 187 12 Los Angeles as a No Man’s Land: First World War Trauma in Raymond Chandler’s Detective Fiction189 Sarah Trott 13 Spatio-Temporal Reterritorializing of Queer Urban Spaces and Bodies in Bai Xianyong’s Taipei Novel Nei Zi 孽子 (Crystal Boys, 1983)207 Jean Amato 14 No Center Other Than Ourselves: Istanbul, Hüzün, and the Heterotopic Portal Between Civilizations and Time in the Works of Orhan Pamuk223 Michael P. Moreno 15 ‘Our Native Reminiscence’: Clinging to ‘Lost Time’ in Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane243 Deirdre Flynn Index261

Notes on Contributors

Jean  Amato  is an associate professor in the English Department and coordinator of the Asian Minor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New  York (SUNY). She has studied and conducted graduate research in Mainland China and Taiwan for over six years. Working in Chinese and English, her research centers on theories of gender and nationalism and the ancestral home and homeland in twentieth-century Chinese, diasporic, and Chinese American literature and film. Some of her publications include “Ideological Mappings of Gendered Bodies, Nations and Spaces in Louis Chu’s 1961 Chinatown Novel, Eat a Bowl of Tea,” in Ecologies of Seeing, eds. Asbjorn Gronstad and Mark Ledbetter (2016); Oxhide II [牛皮二] (2009); “Chinese Film-maker Liu Jiayin’s New Geography of the Home,” in Spaces of the Cinematic House: Behind the Screen Door, eds. Fran Pheasant-Kelly, Stella Hockenhull, and Eleanor Andrews (2015); “It All Depends on What You Mean by Home: Metaphors of Return in Chinese American Travel Memoirs from the 1980s to 2010s,” in CoHaB: Diasporic Constructions of Home and Belonging, ed. Florian Klager (2015); “Relocating Notions of National and Ethnic Authenticity in Chinese American and Chinese Literary Theory Through Nieh Hualing’s Overseas Chinese Novel, Mulberry and Peach,” Pacific Coast Philology (1999). Megan E. Cannella  is a PhD candidate in the English Department at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her research focuses on dystopian representations of motherhood in twenty-first-century American literature. She xv



teaches classes in American culture, composition, and gender studies. She has published on the works of Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich, Cherie Dimaline, Philip K. Dick, and Kazuo Ishiguro. Anne-Marie Evans  is Associate Head of School for English Literature at York St John University. Her main area of interest is early twentieth-­ century American women’s writing and material culture. She is also interested in contemporary American fiction and has published on a range of authors including Edith Wharton, Anita Loos, Mae West, Colson Whitehead, and Cormac McCarthy. Deirdre  Flynn  is Lecturer in Twenty-First Century Literature at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick. She has worked in University College Dublin, National University of Ireland Galway, and the University of Limerick. Her research interests include world literature, literary urban studies, postmodernism, Haruki Murakami, Irish studies, theatre, and feminism. She has written, directed, and acted for theatre and worked as a journalist for over seven years. She is preparing a monograph on Haruki Murakami and has published two co-­edited collections on Irish literature, including Irish Urban Fictions with Maria Beville (2018 Palgrave Macmillan). From 2015 to 2017, she was the chair of the Sibéal Gender and Feminist Studies Network. Helena Ifill  is a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen where she specializes in Victorian popular fiction, especially sensation fiction and the Gothic. Her monograph, Creating Character: Theories of Nature and Nurture in Victorian Sensation Fiction, was published in 2018. Spencer Jordan  is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing in the School of English, University of Nottingham. A writer and an academic, he is interested in historical and experimental writing, postdigital fiction and literary geography, particularly as forms of affective intervention in response to disruption and uncertainty. Kaley  Kramer  is Principal Lecturer in English Literature and Deputy Head of English at Sheffield Hallam University. Her research focuses on British women’s writing, discourses of property and ownership, and national identity in the eighteenth century. She is the co-editor of Women During the English Reformations: Renegotiating Gender and Religious Identity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).



Alice Levick  is working for the Department for Education in the Private Office Correspondence Management Team and is an independent scholar. After completing her doctoral thesis in 2018, she taught at the University of Exeter as a postgraduate teaching assistant from September 2018 to June 2019. She has presented academic papers at the Humanities Postgraduate Research Conference at the University of Exeter and the British Association for American Studies Conference. Her articles have appeared in the journal HARTS & Minds in Spring 2015 (“The Big Sleep, Uncanny Spaces, and Memory”) and US Studies Online in March 2016 (“Looking for Moses in NYC”). A forthcoming paper is due for publication in the European Journal of American Culture (“Damnatio Memoriae in California: Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays and Where I Was From”), in January 2021. Her monograph, provisionally titled Memory and Built Environment in Twentieth-Century American Literature: A Reading and Analysis of Spatial Forms, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Publishing. Lena  Mattheis  is a lecturer and research assistant at the University of Duisburg-Essen. In 2019, Lena completed her PhD in the field of contemporary global writing and urban studies. She holds BA and MA degrees in French and Anglophone Literature, as well as Media Studies, from the University of Duisburg-Essen where she studied from 2010 to 2016, after completing a year of social service in the field of cultural education. She finished her studies with an MA thesis on urban narratives in Namibia, which she wrote during an internship at the University of Namibia in Windhoek. Michael  P.  Moreno is Professor of English and Diversity Studies at Green River College in Washington state. He holds a PhD in English from the University of California, Riverside, in 2007, with disciplinary concentrations in Latinx literature and culture, twentieth/twenty-first-century American literature, and spatial theory. His publications include Term Paper Resource Guide to Latino History; book chapters in Narratives of Place in Literature and Film; We Wear the Mask: Paul Lawrence Dunbar and the Representation of Black Identity; Speaking desde las heridas: Cibertestimonios Transfronterizos / Transborder (September 11, 2001– March 11, 2007); and Reel Histories: Studies in American Film; as well as journal articles in Otherness and the Urban, Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture; Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies; Journal X: A



Journal in Culture & Criticism; and British Association for American Studies Journal. Steven Nardi  holds a PhD from Princeton University. He has taught at Princeton, the City University of New York, and is an adjunct professor at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx. In 2009–2010, he was selected for a Fulbright in Japan. His research interests include Harlem Renaissance and modernist poetics. His recent essays include “The ‘Colder Artifice’: Paul Laurence Dunbar, Countee Cullen, and the Mask of Blackness” in Behind The Masks of Modernism: Global and Transnational Perspectives (2016) and “‘Some Steel-Souled Machine-Room’: Henry James’s The American Scene and the Consuming City,” in Urban Monstrosities: Perversity and Upheaval in the Unreal City (2017). Quyen  Nguyen  holds a PhD with the Division of English at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Her research interests include James Joyce, Irish literature, modernism, translation studies, and contemporary literature. Her PhD dissertation is entitled “City as Writing: Textual Dublin in Ulysses.” She is an English-Vietnamese translator with more than ten years of experience. She is also the co-founder of Zzz Review, a nonprofit online literary review in Vietnam. Adam James Smith  is Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature at York St John University. His work explores the relationship between the citizen and the state in eighteenth-century periodical print. He has published on Joseph Addison and James Montgomery. Smith is co-­ director of the York Research Unit for the Study of Satire, a founding member of the Print Culture, Agency and Regional Identity Research Network and Chief Editor of Criticks, the online review site for the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Sarah Trott  is Lecturer in American Studies and History at York St John University. She is the author of the monograph War Noir: Raymond Chandler and the Hard-Boiled Detective as Veteran in American Fiction (2016). Her work has also featured in the edited collection Men After War (2013) as part of the Routledge Research in Gender and History series. Her articles have appeared in Comparative American Studies and the European Journal of American Culture; she has also contributed articles to the American crime magazine, The Strand.



Sarah Lawson Welsh  is Associate Professor and Reader in English and Postcolonial Literatures at York St John University. She holds a PhD in Caribbean Studies (Language and Literature of the Anglophone Caribbean) from Warwick University in 1992. Her latest monograph is Food, Text and Culture in the Anglophone Caribbean (2019). She is working on a new book on Caribbean literature for the new Routledge series, Global Literatures: Twenty-First Century Perspectives. She is the co-editor of The Routledge Reader in Caribbean Literature, first published in 1996 and a Founding Editor of JPW, the Journal of Postcolonial Writing (formerly World Literature Written in English), published by Taylor & Francis.


Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination Anne-Marie Evans and Kaley Kramer

Literature necessarily deals with time, both as a function of storytelling and as an experience of reading. Literature about cities brings to the forefront the relationship between individual and communal experience and time. Lieven Ameel’s contribution to The Routledge Handbook of Literature and Space argues that the city novel is in part concerned with ‘measuring time’: ‘The spatial dimensions of the literary city are profoundly informed by temporal layers of meaning’ (2017, 233). Cities are, paradoxically, unified spaces of fractured chronologies experienced by individual citizens whose own ‘measures’ complicate any clear or authoritative reading of the space. In urban spaces time is regulated, marked, and organized by public and private citizens, by civic institutions, and by regulatory bodies. Public monuments connect the present with the past, memorializing a place and time that must be navigated both psychically and physically by inhabitants. The heterotopic space of cities also gives rise to pockets of resistant time, often associated with specific places: the park at night, the prison and legal A.-M. Evans (*) York St John University, York, UK e-mail: [email protected] K. Kramer Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_1




courts, the rush hours of public transit and roads, the ad hoc creation of different time zones experienced through private rituals and community celebrations. The ‘working day’ that regulates infrastructure, even where it demarcates regular hours of labour from night-shifts and overtime, also functions in literary narratives: an awareness of ‘official’ time structures many urban narratives. Stories move from the beginning of the working day to the end; the protagonist can be understood in relation to the timely rituals of the eight-hour day: walking, cycling, commuting, being driven to work. In long forms of literature, time functions through duration. The city endures and it is endured in various ways by the astonishing variety of inhabitants, who respond to the city’s time-keeping rituals communally and privately in obedience to laws of civil jurisprudence and cultural tradition. In Literature and the Peripheral City, Lieven Ameel, Jason Finch, and Markku Salmela argue that ‘the city has always occupied a special position amongst literary spaces’ (2015, 1). This collection interrogates the special place that time occupies in narratives set in and about cities. The ‘durability’ of the city—or of the citizens—signifies the ways in which time works in urban narratives. Whether it is the city that remains unchanged, as in the story of a character returning, transformed, after time away, or the city that changes too quickly, leaving behind individuals, communities, or neighbourhoods, time in the literary city is dynamic and plural. Durée interrupted by the new characterizes some of the complexity of the contemporary experience of urban time, particularly in the face of the emerging global city. Time zones—identified by cities across the world—telescope and collide through inter-urban travel: a neighbourhood in the same city may be more remote than another city due to the time it takes to travel there. Migrants from other cities might experience culture as well as jet-­ lag, in part because of the different divisions and accepted uses of time. The essays in this collection explore cities both familiar (in literary manifestations) and ‘peripheral’. Ameel, Finch, and Salmela highlight the importance of ‘peripherality’ to literary urban studies as a key aspect of defining cities. In this collection, periphery is crucial to the narratives as a strategic way of distinguishing the central organizing ‘city’ from the subjective experience of the urban space. Peripheral space can be marked out by time in terms of how a given city is experienced by those not included in regulated time (under-employed and unemployed inhabitants, for example) as well as by the experience of places outside of such organized time (a shopping street after store hours, a parking garage at night).



Memory, whether official or private, can also disrupt regulated time: a cenotaph in the centre of a busy square might afford a moment of reflection at the height of rush-hour; memorial parades or celebrations bring a halt to the flow of work, regardless of individual interest. Equally, the regulation of movement, of public transportation as well as the circulation of goods, services, and people, follows strict temporal regulation: parking, deliveries, ‘peak times’, ‘rush hours’ change the space and the use of space dramatically across a 24-hour frame. The imagined future of the city disrupts the present: scaffolding and temporary walls interrupt commuter routes, advertising through artists’ impressions a time after the upheaval when time and space will be rejoined. Increasingly, these experiences reflect the majority of human experience. In 2018, 55% of the global population lived in cities; by 2050, this figure is predicted to rise to 68% (UNESCO 2018). This increase might suggest that urban experience is a contemporary concern; a history of literature, however, suggests that, at least imaginatively, narratives have focused on cities for centuries. Whether hellish (Milton’s ‘Pandemonium’) or paradisaical (More’s Utopia), cities are most often figured as a future space, an end-point of human history. In the Book of Revelations, it is the ‘new Jerusalem’ that descends, ‘prepared as a bride’ in the unfolding of the Apocalypse (Revelations 21:2). This poetically transfigured city is the divine dwelling place at the end of time, but cities in literature also contain and negotiate the experience of diverse ‘times’, from the work-a-day 9-to-5, with the experience of endless commutes, to the uncanny experience of living in a palimpsestic space that has seen centuries, if not millennia, of human habitation. Literary urban spaces reflect more than topography. They reflect and often refract a unique experience of urban time. Jo Guldi argues that from 1880 to 1960, academic disciplines ‘reflected on our nature as beings situated in space’ (Guldi 2011 [2019]). This period coincides with radical changes to infrastructure in many Western cities, making way for increased public transportation as city planners worked in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. The ‘spatial turn’ in academic discourse coincides with an increased interest in urban design and the study and regulation of human behaviour. For Edward Soja, the spatial turn responds to ‘a longstanding ontological and epistemological bias that privileged time over space in all the human sciences, including spatial disciplines like geography and architecture’ (1989, 4). Literature from this period intensified and extended previous modes and narratives that focused



on the experience of ‘city life’, using the city as the catalyst for characters’ development and trajectory. Adam Barrows’s Time, Literature, and Cartography After the Spatial Turn: The Chronometric Imaginary (2016) argues that ‘literature is ideally suited to spatially conceptualize temporal experience, but that in doing so, narrative fiction can intervene meaningfully in the problems of mediating between locality and globality, place-­ based and planetary existence, and spatial conception and temporal transformation’ (2016, 2). This is no small claim. Barrows’s work is crucial to this discussion because he offers a geocritical analysis ‘for understanding the cartographic imaginary in literary narrative’ (2016, 2). By better understanding how to theorize the concept of time’s place in the ‘Spatial Turn’, Barrows reveals a more nuanced and sophisticated reading of literature’s role in reflecting and negotiating urban experience. This collection seeks to develop and build on existing scholarship, exploring how literature structures and is structured by temporal experiences of urban spaces. The literary imagination has demonstrated for centuries that there are multiple ways of figuring and reconfiguring the city on the page. Mikail Bakhtin’s concept of chronotopes remains an influence on many scholarly approaches to the literary city. Bakhtin ‘give[s] the name chronotope (literally, “time-space”) to the intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically expressed in literature’ (Bakhtin 1981, 4). This intersection ‘thickens’ time and ‘charges’ space, making both differently available for literary uses. For Bakhtin, time is the ‘primary category for literature’, but, in recent scholarship, attention has returned to the points of connection between time and space indicated through the term ‘chronotope’ as well as turning away from a Universalist experience of history (1981, 85). Bart Keunen’s Time and Imagination: Chronotopes in Western Narrative Culture (2011) uses a ‘cognitive-­ psychological approach’ to draw out Bakhtin’s concept and refigure the theoretical synthesis between narrative time and space. Moving on from Bakhtin’s insistence that the chronotope is essentially related to genre, Keunen argues that chronotopes are ‘cognitive strategies applied by specific readers and writers’ that rely on the already ‘existing, intertextual knowledge of the reader’ (2011, 1). The relationship between the reader and the writer of urban novels adds another rich layer of complexity to the analysis in this collection. Urban novels reflect a sophisticated familiarity with city spaces. Richard Lehan’s The City in Literature: An Intellectual and Cultural History (1998) argues that as urban spaces evolved, writers created new ways to



articulate complicated civic experiences. Urban expansion, geographical location, and regional traits all contributed to new and different narratives reflected in literary modes and periods: ‘Comic and Romantic realism gave us insights into the commercial city; naturalism and modernism into the industrial city; and postmodernism into the postindustrial city’ (Lehan 1998, 289). Rather than a universal claim for human experience, Lehan’s focus on the difference that time afforded authors foregrounds the relationship between the historical position of the subject and their experience of the city. Burton Pike’s The Image of the City in Modern Literature (1981) understands the urban space as a phenomenon that confounds perception and posits that the urban novel uses time and movement to shape experience. Pike argues for two main models of the city in literature: the city in stasis and the city in flux. The city in stasis accords with architectural realities, anchoring the city of the imagination to the ‘real world’ city of the reader’s experience. Charles Dickens’ London, Edith Wharton’s New York, or Gabrielle Roy’s Montreal are examples of this stasis in which the character’s trajectories are pinned against a fixed urban background. In contrast, the city in flux celebrates the unfixed experience of the city space, offering an impressionistic literary experience of urban life, and, by extension, the city-dwelling subject as well. Pike draws on examples from Joyce, Whitman, and Kafka to argue that such fragmented, non-linear, complex constructions of spaces through time provide a new kind of urban literature in which the intersections between time and space are a crucial and newly visible aspect of the modern metropolis. Paul Ricoeur’s Narrative and Time (1983) argues for a similarly integrated experience of time and space. While the focus is on time rather than space, his analysis of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925) implicitly involves the urban space that contains Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith: ‘the chimes struck by Big Ben…possess a different meaning, for each of the characters whole experience stretches between two limits marking the boundaries of the space opened up by the novel’ (Ricoeur 1985, 130). The striking of the hour throughout the novel emphatically locates the narrative in a specific urban setting (the area of London in which Big Ben can be heard) and marks out ‘common time’, a regulatory operation of civic organization. However, in Woolf’s novel, ‘Common time does not bring together, it divides’ (Ricoeur 1985, 130). Infinite divisions of time and an appreciation of the irreducibly individual experience of both space and time inform considerations of the



ways in which the city novel represents time. Given that cities are explicitly shared spaces, the question must arise of who measures time and for what purposes. Often, the connection between space and time is implicit in scholarship that has done much to unpack and elucidate the ways that space influences the experience of time. While much work has been done to critique the privileged position of chronology as the organizing principle for investigation, recently, scholars have looked more closely at how space and time function together in specific environments. Setha Low’s work on ‘spatializing culture’ offers an illustrative example of how time is a crucial but often unacknowledged aspect of urban spaces. Describing the Moore Street Market in Brooklyn, New York, Low focuses on the arrangement of space: At lunchtime, Moore Street market is bustling, housed in a squat, white cement building that looks more like a bunker than an enclosed food market with its barred windows and painted metal doors. The deserted street in the shadow of the looming housing projects seems oddly quiet for a busy Monday morning. Upon entering, however, carefully stacked displays of fresh fruit, yucca and coriander, passageways lined with cases of water and soda, and high ceilings with vestiges of the original 1940s architecture of wooden stalls, bright panels, and ceiling fans reveal another world…The smell of fried plantains fills the air conditioned space as Puerto Rican pensioners gather at the round red metal tables with red and white striped umbrellas open to offer intimate places to sit and talk. (Low 2014, 34–8)

This space reveals both the specific experiences of the inhabitants and the cultural past and future of the city in which it resides. It is a ‘bustling’ centre of an otherwise peripheral part of the city that is otherwise ‘deserted’. But the description also relies implicitly on time: the ‘deserted street’ is remarkable because it is otherwise a ‘busy Monday morning’. The customers are ‘pensioners’, inhabitants of the city space whose lives are no longer necessarily dominated by the pace of a working day. Their experience of the city is shaped by their experience of time, specifically, their own ageing. In addition, the space reveals its durability in the ‘vestiges’ of the original architecture, as well as its functional and utilitarian design—a ‘squat, white cement building that looks more like a bunker’. The space of the market is situated in time; the experience of the space is shaped by time, in the sense that it depends on what time the space is engaged, the duration of time spent there, and the relationship, for the subject, between what the building has meant—both privately and communally—and what it now means.



Sarah Sharma’s In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics (2014) also considers the urban experience of time from a similar immersion in specific places and experiences. Developing out of Doreen Massey’s ‘power-geometry’, Sharma’s ‘power-chronology’ focuses on ‘rhythm, thus calling attention to time’ (2014, 15). Sharma locates the crux of time in ‘lived experience, [which is] always political, produced at the intersection of a range of social differences and institutions, and of which the clock is only one chronometer’ (2014, 15). Her work takes up the perspectives of travellers through urban spaces, both transitory (the jet-lagged traveller) and routine (the sedentary worker). In her chapter on ‘Temporal Labor and the Taxicab’, she notes the particular tension of movement and stasis that marks the experience of those ‘on the clock’ whose work connects time, motion, and urban topography. The taxi driver, whose experience of the city is measured out between and through fares (a system of payment that itself measures time and distance travelled), exists for Sharma as an exemplar of ‘temporal labor’—a term that ‘accounts for the experience of labouring within a temporal infrastructure while being cast outside it (2014, 57). Throughout In the Meantime, the experience of time in the city emerges through the complex negotiation of personal and professional relationships, institutions, infrastructures, and individual circumstances. The city in literature is unmoored in time: it achieves a semblance of motion impossible in space. For Low and Sharma, memory and melancholy are symptomatic of the experience of urban time. Speed (for Sharma) and stasis (for Low) create temporalities that crisscross urban topographies, destabilizing hegemonic orders of time. Literary explorations of the urban city produce similar effects, negotiating the conflict between civic progress and individual experience. Time might march, or drag, or speed away; literature records these rhythms and provides perspectives from those who are out(side) of time. Thus, the prisoner (as in Adam J. Smith’s chapter on James Montgomery) ‘doing time’ constructs a different timeline for the same space otherwise marked by modern progress (as in Alice Levick’s chapter on Berman and Waldie). The spaces created by different times—nighttime, ceremonial time—shift and change, and the material spaces of the city mark and are marked by these shifts. These qualities, memory, motion, material space, and melancholy, structure the multiple and conflicting experiences of urban time in literature. The first section of the collection, ‘Time and Memory’, begins with speculation. Each of these essays explores how the city is remembered and experienced in and through time. From reflections on eighteenth-century



York to autobiographical musings about Californian childhoods, to speculative constructions of New York, each essay is concerned with how the individual relates to the urban experience. In each chapter, memory— both personal and historical—is a central focus as civic spaces are reconstructed through the act of writing. The urban experience is therefore read as highly subjective, innovative, and fluid. Adam J.  Smith’s reading of York, UK, sets the historical ‘second city in England’ against the present-­ day city, in which history is a key industry. James Montgomery’s poetry, written while incarcerated in York Castle prison, was published in 1797 as Prison Amusements. Smith’s chapter argues that ‘The Pleasures of Imprisonment’ recalls both John Gay’s earlier work, Trivia; or, Walking the Streets of London (1716) and William Blake’s ‘London’ (1796). Yet Montgomery’s ‘memories’ of York, drawn from public record and private reflection, negotiate the different kinds of memory present in a city truly ancient by the late eighteenth century. Time is necessarily still for Montgomery and yet imagination calls up the tension between past and present. Alice Levick explores a similar tension between private and public records in her chapter on Marshall Berman and D.J. Waldie. Turning to memoir, Levick argues that a localized, geographic sense of memory is the subject of both All That Is Solid Melts into Air (1983) and Holy Land (1996). For both Berman and Waldie, private memory that desires stillness and durability of place to allow for reflection conflicts with twentieth-­ century drives for urban regeneration and renewal. The persistence of memory may be only and ever localized, but nonetheless functions to preserve sites of individual experience in the cycle of progression and development that necessitate destruction and loss. Colson Whitehead’s speculative novels project memory forward and backwards, using the imagined city of the past and the future to engage with time, subjectivity, and activism. The gift of literature that folds, extends, and manipulates time at will finds special purchase in Whitehead’s ‘new’ old cities. His literary cities, argues Anne-Marie Evans, are ‘both in and out of time…both a recognizable image of the past and…of the future’. The cities in The Intuitionist (1999), Zone One (2011), and The Underground Railroad (2016) are defined by dynamic, fluid, and politicized time that draws on historic memory as well as the contemporary experiences of everyday life in American cities. The collection’s second section builds on ideas examined by the first three essays by focusing on time in motion, and states of flux. Essays in this



section play with complicated intersections of time and movement, from analysing the impact of ‘a moment’ to considering migrant time, hidden or layered time, and transnational urban time. All of these understandings of time rely on its connection to human movement, speed, and interaction. Seeking to problematize and destabilize our understanding of progressive time, these essays consider time as a different element of a nuanced social construct. Helena Ifill’s discussion of public transportation in Wilkie Collin’s Basil (1852) contrasts the leisureliness of the flâneur with the speed of the modern omnibus in an effort to understand the new conditions of human interaction in the modern city. This analysis of intra-urban transport resonates as well in Sarah Lawson Welsh’s analysis of Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners (1956). Published nearly a century after Basil, Selvon’s novel nonetheless asks similar questions about the time for human connection in urban spaces. Selvon’s London is both located precisely in time (London of the 1950s) and is also ‘out of time’. Lawson Welsh argues that the novel attempts to capture the ‘layered or hidden “time”’ that defines the experience of the migrant. The novel enables the articulation of an imaginary future as well as the creation of space for displaced and distant but nonetheless present personal memories. Quyen Nguyen and Lena Mattheis engage with the connection between time and movement in very disparate texts dealing with literary cities: Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) and the recent works of Helen Oyeyemi, Kiran Desai, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Nguyen’s discussion of the ‘Wandering Rocks’ episode examines how time changes into a ‘potentially treacherous and unstable artefact’ in Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1922): time is in motion throughout the novel and becomes a force that threatens the stability of experience and of the narrative. Mattheis, on the other hand, considers the movement between cities as well as the layering of cityscapes to create experiences of simultaneity in Oyeyemi’s The Opposite House (2007), Desai’s The Inheritance of Love (2006), and Adichie’s Americanah (2013). The relationship between time and space is present in all of the chapters in this collection, but is addressed explicitly in the section on time and material space. Each chapter in this section seeks to address how fixed structures, architecture, and memorials interact with the city and an awareness of time. Considering how certain events leave indelible marks on the urban landscape, these essays explore how an embodied experience of the city is reliant on understanding how the impact of specific events—including national traumas—plays a dynamic role in the lifecycle of urban spaces.



Steven Nardi’s chapter engages with Rem Koolhaas’s ‘architectural Big Bang’, a metaphor that returns to the origin of both time and space, and applies it to the emergence of the skyscraper and its role in literary manifestos of the 1910s and 1920s. The skyscraper—now a ubiquitous feature of the cityscape—fascinated writers, argues Nardi, who regarded it as a force that contained all of time and could undo time as well as mark the progress and development of urban ambitions. Megan Canella’s chapter develops the importance of material space in marking out urban time, particularly the public regulation of memorials. Nostalgia, experienced as an interruption in time, and trauma function in the work of Murakami and Delilo to navigate the link between public trauma and the corresponding changes to individual identity. For both authors, trauma ‘has a spatial dimension as well as a temporal one’, and it is the latter that is the focus in After the Quake and Point Omega. The Kobe earthquake and 9/11 render impossible the daily experiences for the characters, who struggle to ‘supplant their loss with daily urban routines’. Drawing on Caruth’s sense of trauma as an event ‘not experienced in time’, Canella explores the fragmented temporal experience of individuals after well-known disruptions to urban space. In Point Omega, an art exhibit featuring Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) slowed down to a 24-hour duration. Carol Reed’s film, The Third Man (1949), ‘hovers over Ben Lerner’s 10:04’. In this novel, the material space of the city is threatened by Hurricane Irene, an incipient disaster that forms the backdrop for Lerner’s ‘totaled city’. Taking its title from the moment in Back to the Future when the city clock is struck by lightening, 10:04 articulates the experience of contemporary urban time through a protagonist obsessed with his ‘growing ontological disconnect’ with the real. Dealing with the temporal uncertainties of the post-digital world, 10:04 constitutes, Jordan argues, a ‘significant milestone in the exploration of meta-modernist sensibility…particularly in regards to city-space and the experience of time’. The final section of this collection explores how urban time figures in articulations of melancholy. Chapters in this section explore diverse texts that often seek to look back or look away from the current time. Fragmented or traumatic time leads to a need of hybrid or safe spaces for the individual. In each, the past seems to haunt the present. Sarah Trott’s discussion of Raymond Chandler’s detective fiction argues that the literary city functions as a ‘physical and psychological battleground relocated from the trenches of Europe’ and told through the perspective of a veteran.



Positioned as the antithesis to Turner’s ‘Frontier thesis’, Chandler’s city is depicted as regressive and corrupted, a space in which time cannot be tracked reliably and human experience loses coherency. Trott argues that, against this newly urbanized but nonetheless ‘Devouring Time’, Chandler’s detective escapes to a ‘timeless’ nature, a space ‘out of time’ compared to the urban experience of Los Angeles. Jean Amato’s chapter on queer time and space in Bai Hsien-Yung’s Nieh Tzu [Crystal Boys] (1983) articulates a fluid reading of Taipei as always in process: a juxtaposition of spatial-temporal trajectories involving queer bodies, desires, and communities all undergoing continual transformation. Set in Taipei in the 1970s, a city under strict martial law, Bai’s novel is told through the perspective of a homeless teenager. The narrative negotiates the peripheral spaces and times of the city, as well as parks between government buildings after dark, to explore alternative spaces created by both the passage and duration of time in the city. The production of hybrid spaces acknowledges different experiences and uses of time contained in a single urban space. Michael P. Moreno and Deirdre Flynn explore the particular condition of melancholy produced by the experience of unstable and fragmented time in specific urban spaces. Moreno’s chapter considers Orhan Pamuk’s representation of the experience of post-Imperial Istanbul as a city between two ‘times’: the conflicting histories of a city located along the historical and geographical fault line of ‘East’ and West’. A ‘site of crisis’, Pamuk’s Istanbul collapses time for its inhabitants, whose experience of the varied spaces produces various ‘times’ that are reassembled in their daily lives. Flynn’s work on Kevin Barry’s Bohane features the only fully ‘imaginary’ city in the collection. Barry’s dystopian city, set somewhere on the west coast of Ireland in 2053, is a digital-free future nonetheless haunted by the time of its writing and publication. Flynn argues that time in this speculative city is experienced through melancholy, the state of grieving without a definite object. Melancholy structures the lives of the inhabitants of Bohane, a city that merges gothic and postmodern forms ‘to allow a discussion of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland coming to terms with the crash of 2008’. As in Spencer Jordan’s chapter on Ben Lerner, the argument here partly derives from the consideration of how time functions in post-­ capitalist urban spaces. Bohane, like Pamuk’s Istanbul, is an at-times paradoxical heterotopia. Like earlier chapters exploring memory, Flynn’s analysis of City of Bohane explores the effects of civic trauma on the temporal experiences of individuals.



For the first time in history, the majority of the global population lives in cities. Changes to patterns of work, leisure, production, acquisition, and consumption, as well as changes to how, when, and by whom urban spaces are used, will continue to be the stuff of literary speculation and reflection. This collection demonstrates the ways in which the historical time and space of real cities affects the creation of their fictional counterparts. Overall, this collection seeks to contribute to the developing field of urban literary studies in recognizing the importance of time in the creation and critical analysis of literary cities.

References Ameel, Lieven. 2017. The City Novel: Measuring Referential, Spatial, Linguistic, and Temporal Distances. In The Routledge Handbook of Literature and Space, ed. Robert T. Tally Jr., 233–241. London: Routledge. Ameel, Lieven, Jason Finch, and Markku Samela, eds. 2015. Literature and the Peripheral City. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Trans. Michael Holoquist. Austin, TX: The University of Texas Press. Barrows, Adam. 2016. Time, Literature, and Cartography after the Spatial Turn: The Chronometric Imaginary. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Guldi, Jo. 2011. What is the Spatial Turn?. In Spatial Geographies: A Project of the Institute for Enabling Geospatial Scholarship. Accessed 1 February 2020. http://spatial.scholarship.org/spatial-turn/what-is-the-spatial-turn/ Keunen, Bart. 2011. Time and Imagination: Chronotopes in Western Narrative Culture. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Lehan, Richard. 1998. The City in Literature: An Intellectual and Cultural History. London: The University of California Press. Low, Setha. 2014. Spatializing Culture: An Engaged Anthropological Approach to Space and Place. In The People, Place, and Space Reader, ed. Jen Jack Gieseking and William Mangold, 34–38. London: Routledge. Ricoeur, Paul. 1985. Time and Narrative. Vol. 3. Trans. Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer. London: the University of Chicago Press. Sharma, Sarah. 2014. In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics. London: Duke University Press. Soja, Edward W. 1989. Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. London: Verso. UNESCO. 2018. 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects. Accessed 17 May 2020. https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html


Time and Memory


The ‘Crazy Clock’ of York: Collapsing Time and Unstable Reality in James Montgomery’s Urban Topographic Poetry Adam James Smith

‘York never loses its magic’, wrote Dana Huntley in 2009 whilst attempting to account for the public’s enduring fascination with the city’s history (2009, 1). A decade later, as no less than three stores dedicated to providing merchandise to legions of Harry Potter fans slowly colonize York’s celebrated fourteenth-century Shambles (doubling as both functioning shops and interactive simulations of fictional boy wizard’s own ‘back to school’ experiences), the city now faces an excess of magic. Why these shops have appeared in York is not immediately obvious. Fidelity critics might erroneously claim the Shambles as some form of proto-Diagon Alley, but a consideration of York’s relationship in literature with the topographic imaginary reveals that the city has long been a site where the boundaries between the real and the imagined have proved unstable. Alongside the Dick Turpins stalking the corridors of York Dungeons and

A. J. Smith (*) York St John University, York, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_2




the hordes of Roman Soldiers commandeering the museum gardens once a year, it is no surprise that the cobbled streets of York should provide the breach through which the Wizarding World can extort real capital from real customers. This chapter argues that the reason York provides such a fruitful arena for these complex negotiations of fact and fiction is bound up in the city’s history, or rather the city’s performance of this history. The following account of James Montgomery’s depiction of York in 1795, and the various ways in which he replicates and subverts stock characteristics of earlier examples of topographical poetry, will reveal that this is a performance that York has sustained since at least the eighteenth century. The poet, printer, and political prisoner James Montgomery proposed that York was a city where time was out of joint. Writing from a cell beneath York Castle Prison, Montgomery penned a knowing contribution to the genre of urban topographical poetry, decentring the form’s typically London-bound focus to consider the surprising relationship between time and space in a city later described as a living ‘microcosm of English history and architecture’ (2009, 34). To this day, York refuses to permit the observer to experience its significant and varied history in anything resembling a linear fashion. Instead, this is a city where the local branch of the Ask Italian restaurant chain is housed within the eighteenth-century Assembly Rooms and the Starbucks down the road is a partially resorted Georgian Bank. At the same time, York’s famous culture of retail tourism offers Roman and Viking themed tours—English variations of Jean Baudrillard’s Disneyland, ‘presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real’ (1989, 29). As Richard Voase identifies, visitors to York today are myth-hunters: ‘There is a sense [that] anything [coded] for tourist consumption [is] staged. The ‘authentic’ becomes inauthentic and a quest for the unmarked ‘authentic’ begins, initiating a trajectory of interest and activity in pursuit of the real’ (1999, 291). As early as 1125, accounts of York prioritize discussions of the city’s past over descriptions of its condition in the present. William of Malmesbury, often credited as one of the first English Historians, described York less as a city than a scar upon the landscape, signifying centuries of violent failure and cyclic trauma (Malmesbury 1979, 5). In 1479, a Venetian diplomat wrote that York is one of the most important towns in the Kingdom because of its lost status ‘in ancient times’ (Paliser and Paliser 1979, 7). For Joseph Taylor, visiting in 1705, York was ‘a very ancient city’ populated with ‘ruins’ (Paliser and Paliser 1979, 30). York is rarely understood as temporally present. This tendency persists well into the



twentieth century, with G. J. Ashworth and J. E. Tunbridge defining York primarily as a ‘tourist-­historic city’ (Ashworth and Tunbridge 1990, 151). They highlight the significance of the Jorvik Viking Centre, intended to be an ‘icon attraction’ when it was opened in the 1980s, suggesting that its arrival set the agenda for York tourism for the remainder of the twentieth century and beyond (Ashworth and Tunbridge 1990, 151). This highly successful simulacrum of a Viking settlement prompted a boom in the city’s tourism. Voase suggests that after its installation, tourist behaviours typically associated with designated attractions spread beyond the confines of the Jorvik Viking Centre, influencing surrounding businesses such as shops, restaurants, and more recently even civic events such as the Jorvik Viking Festival (1999, 290). The emergence of this lucrative ‘retail tourism’ prompts Ashworth and Tunbridge to observe that York city centre now operates in a manner strikingly reminiscent of a ‘fantasy theme park’ (Ashworth and Tunbridge 1990, 151). Undoubtedly, this is a theme park dedicated to a fantastical reimagining of York’s history, and because of this constant reference to its Roman and Viking roots, the city’s present remains elusive. In 1724, Daniel Defoe lamented that York is a difficult city to experience precisely because it is mired in history, characterizing it as a place ‘sunk into time’ (Defoe 1979, 33). The places he encounters during his tour of the city are symbolic of all they have been before, distorting any perception of what they might be today. According to Defoe, contemporary York is at best glimpsed momentarily through the cloudy sea of time. In framing his account of York in such terms, Defoe contemplates a set of questions that are also central to the traditions of topographic poetry that Montgomery would later draw upon, namely those of time, perception, and the signifying practices of the city. Topographical poetry, often said to have originated with John Denham’s 1642 poem ‘Cooper’s Hill’, is a genre traditionally consisting of descriptions or praise of particular places. Robert Aubin’s history of the form provides the most often-cited definition: ‘a subspecies of descriptive poetry’ seeking to depict ‘nature in general’ but aiming chiefly to ‘describe specifically named actual localities’ (Aubin 1936, 1). Following the publication of Aubin’s history, topographical poetry fell out of favour amongst literary historians, dismissed as a parochial form built on ‘stock elements and dull morals’ (Foster 2017, 395). The form enjoyed some rehabilitation throughout the twentieth century, stemming from acknowledgements of both its popularity during the eighteenth century and its identification as a site of generic instability,



mutation, and amalgamation (Wasserman 1959, Durling 1964, Page and Preston 1993). Contemplation of the passage and projection of time is one of five characteristics that John Wilson Foster argues remains central to this genre throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These include the use of extensive description; the use of space as a patterning device; the use of extended metaphor; the development of a controlling moral vision; and the use of ‘time projections’ (Foster 2017, 403). As Foster explains: The topographic poet has a choice of four time-projections. He is looking and writing in the present, of course, but he can also reflect upon the past (the recent and the distant) and use the mythological past for purposes of comparison and explanation of origins. (2017, 399)

In ‘The Pleasures of Imprisonment’, Montgomery incorporates each of the five traits later identified by Foster, self-consciously aligning himself with long-standing traditions of topographic poetry. His two-part epistle, ‘The Pleasures of Imprisonment’, sees Montgomery’s captive poetic persona imagining a walk around York, a city that refuses to be located temporally in the present, only ever understood in terms of what it is not, or, more often, what it no longer is. Exchanging the literal world of the typical topographic poet for the figurative world of his narrator’s imagination, the poem sets about exploring and exposing the city’s reliance on myth, both past and present. At the heart of this endeavour is an emphasis on time, outed here as a subjective and malleable foundational myth upon which are built the systems and structures that led to Montgomery’s imprisonment.

York, a Radical and Conservative City At the time of publication, Montgomery had a very particular relationship with York. Prior to his arrival in the city, Montgomery was a resident of Sheffield, where he was also editor of the Sheffield Iris newspaper. A sequel to the openly dissenting Sheffield Register, the Iris was well known as a champion of political reform and a vocal critic of central government. In 1794, Montgomery was sentenced to a six-month imprisonment at York Castle for allegedly printing a poem deemed overtly critical of Britain’s involvement in the French Revolution. Montgomery, who denied all knowledge of the poem, was charged for ‘intending to stir up and excite



sedition amongst his majesty’s subjects’ (Montgomery 1795, 2). He received a six-month sentence. Upon release, he was quickly charged again, this time for reporting an altercation between Sheffield protestors and government militia. He returned to York Castle for a further sentence of six months. Prior to his conviction, Montgomery’s work in the Iris reveals a paradoxical perception of York, as both a platform for elite political protest and a site of discipline and punishment for activists and radical non-­conformists. The Iris celebrates, for instance, the activities of the founder of the Yorkshire Association, Christopher Wyvill. Established in 1779, this Association sought to make constitutional information available to Yorkshire landowners and, in 1780, petitioned parliament for greater representation of Northern interests in Westminster (Smith 2017, 358). In 1793, Wyvill’s sentiments regarding England’s involvement in the French Revolution aligned with those expressed in both the Register and the Iris. This alignment provided a synergy that Montgomery capitalized on in his weekly editorials. Amidst the pages of the same paper, though, Montgomery also found himself reporting (with increasing regularity) the imprisonment of fellow Reformists charged with treason. Weeks before he was charged himself, Montgomery dedicated a string of issues to the trial of Thomas Hardy, the founder of the London Corresponding Society, who was charged with high treason as part of William Pitt’s attempt to crush the British Radical Movement during the 1790s. It is clear from Montgomery’s private correspondence that after receiving his sentence, the city of York became a synecdoche for state-sanctioned punishment of the government’s critics. Writing to Joseph Aston in the months preceding his captivity, Montgomery spoke of the extent to which the image of York Castle had taken up residence in his imagination: ‘I have got York Castle wedged in my head, and, for the life of me, I cannot get it out again; indeed, my upper story is so full of it, that there is scarce any room for anything else to breathe’ (Everett and Holland 1854, 198). Whilst in prison, Montgomery wrote twenty-six poems, the majority of which were posted to the Iris office and printed in the paper during his confinement. For the most part, these poems see a repentant Montgomery reflect on his apparent naivety in thinking he could criticize his government in print without consequence. Montgomery’s foray into topographical poetry in the two-part epistle ‘The Pleasures of Imprisonment’ differs from the rest of this collection in two important ways. This is the only poem to treat Montgomery’s situation at the time of writing in literal,



non-allegorical terms. It is also the only poem not to be published in the Iris during his confinement. Its first appearance in print was as part of Prison Amusements, an anthology of Montgomery’s prison writing published in 1797, a year after his final release.

James Montgomery and Topographical Tradition Though Montgomery’s phantasmal wanderer surveys the roads, gates, and bars of this once Roman city, he also acknowledges that he does so from the confines of a cell in York Castle Prison. The poetic voice of this epistle is in two places at once: one physical, one imagined. Montgomery’s York is no longer a signifier prompting imaginative action; it is a cypher conjured entirely within the imagination of both the poet and his narrator. This York is a hyper-real space divorced from its real-world referent, where there can no longer exist any meaningful distinction between the literal and figurative. Whilst relaying this imagined tour of a wholly conceptual York, Montgomery deliberately evokes earlier examples of urban topographical poetry. These pre-existing forms foreshadow Guy Debord’s later assertion that the city is spectacularly made available for visual consumption (Debord 1967). The poems tended to detail the observations of a typically anonymous wanderer, functionally reminiscent of the ‘loitering, idling, walking […] flâneur’ (Higgins and Madden 2018) first described by Baudelaire in 1863 and theorized by Walter Benjamin in the twentieth century (Baudelaire, 1987, Benjamin, 1979). For instance, Jonathan Swift’s ‘A Description of the Morning’ and ‘A Description of a City Shower’ (each appearing in the pages of Richard Steele’s The Tatler in October 1710) both see a detached poetic voice observing the city during unflattering circumstances. These poems also contributed to the emergence of a pioneering satirical form later termed the Urban or Mock Georgic (Bullard 2013, 611). This poetry subverts the structure and diction of Virgil’s Georgics (poems dedicated to lavish representations of the lost pastoral paradises of a mythic golden age), oxymoronically applying them to the moral and physical depravities of the city at the time of writing. These descriptions of the city focus on the unflinching recollection of detail, foregrounding and magnifying the grim realities of London life. In this manner, the city becomes a gateway to the cultural and the political. The moral degradation writ upon the street becomes, for Swift, a barometer for the state of the nation.



Montgomery relocates the tropes and traits of Gay and Swift’s Urban Georgic (which, on closer inspection, are revealed to be exclusively examples of ‘London’ Georgic) to eighteenth-century England’s second city, York, questioning the metropolitan assumptions of his poetic predecessors. York’s historic character, and the specific contexts in which Montgomery was embroiled, permits the poet to self-consciously juxtapose real and imagined visions of the city in order to destabilize distinctions between the two. In explicitly drawing and stating conclusions about the broader implications of the state of the city, Montgomery also recalls William Blake’s ‘London’, published four years before Montgomery’s Prison Amusements. Blake’s poem signalled a shift from denotation to connotation. Blake’s city no longer signifies itself, but invites an indictment of the social ills of civil life. Blake confirms the social ills that Swift only ever infers. The reader is not left to discern the horror in that which is described: the poem tells us, for instance, that the infant’s cry is one of fear. That ‘The Pleasures of Imprisonment’ shares discernible life-blood with both the early eighteenth-century Urban Georgic and Blake’s ‘London’ is a trait consistent with Montgomery’s literary career. Montgomery’s work resists the easy categorization which often accompanies by literary periodization. On the one hand, Montgomery bears some striking Romantic credentials. Following the publication of his 1806 poem, ‘The Wanderer of Switzerland’ (a poem which quickly circulated around Europe and America), Montgomery found himself listed alongside the best-known poets of the time. Described by Helen Cross Knight as a ‘patriotic plaint over down-trodden liberties […] which directly appealed to the strongest affections and best instincts of the heart’, ‘The Wanderer of Switzerland’ won the praise of both William Wordsworth and Robert Southey (Knight 1857, 118). Wordsworth wrote to Montgomery upon reading the poem, expressing a ‘lively interest in [his] destiny as a poet’, whilst Southey asserted that it was ‘worth a thousand Lyrical Ballads’ (Knight 1857, 157). Elsewhere, The Eclectic Review reported that Montgomery ‘displays a rich and romantic fancy, a tender heart, a copious and active imagery and language, and an irresistible influence over the feelings’ (Knight 1857, 118). At the same time, however, Montgomery’s poetry owes a discernible debt to the Augustan poetry of the early eighteenth century, his protest poetry proving far more akin to the verse of Pope and Swift than Wordsworth and Coleridge. Rather than staging a Romantic invitation to imagine, Montgomery’s earliest published poetry



(which appeared amidst the pages of the Register and Iris newspapers) peddled overt and discrete positions relating to specific social and political situations. Caught between the Romantics and the Augustans, Montgomery ultimately fell through the seams of the literary canon. Indeed, Mary Cross Knight’s posthumous biography reveals that whilst it is an Augustan commitment to explicit causes that distinguished Montgomery from his Romantic contemporaries, it was this same characteristic that rendered him inferior in the eyes of his posterity (1857, iii). This difficulty in categorizing Montgomery’s poetry, endured by both his biographers and his editors, is symptomatic of a broader contradiction. Throughout his career his verse fluctuates between pragmatism and idealism. This is the true difference between his earlier poems and ‘The Wanderer of Switzerland’. The earlier poems seek to further a specific political cause, while the latter uses specific causes to stage abstract appreciations of nature and the imagination. Montgomery’s contribution to topographic poetry, as a broadly defined form, sits similarly between the Augustan and Romantic traditions: it is clearly informed by the Urban Georgics of Swift and Gay, deriving horror from painstakingly detailed descriptions of the city, whilst also anticipating Blake, and the revelation that true terror lies not in what the city is, but rather what it represents. It also provides the keystone of a collection, Prison Amusements, that self-­ consciously foregrounds the tensions between Montgomery’s interest in poetry as both a practical expression and as an abstract invitation to the imagination.

Inner Space: The Pleasures of Imprisonment, Part 1 At the centre of Prison Amusements sits the two-part epistle, ‘The Pleasures of Imprisonment’ (Montgomery 1797, 42–56). From the outset of the first epistle, Montgomery foreshadows the poetic tour deferred until the second, stressing to his addressee that though he finds himself physically confined behind ‘bolts, bars’ and ‘gates of iron’, his mind remains ‘as free as you’ (43). This defiant declaration sets the agenda for the first epistle, which stages an overt meditation on the function of reading and writing. Indulging in a protracted description of literary appreciation, tracing the gradual conversion from inspiration, to imagination and then ultimately to composition, the poem explicitly showcases the poet’s shared interests in poetic imagination and functional journalism.



At the heart of the poem sits an emphasis on food, fame, air, and the imagination; Montgomery’s implication being that all are necessary for his survival. However, he stops short of drawing an equivalence, making the case instead that of these four vital necessities, the fourth is most essential. First, he debunks ‘fame’, a significant act given his life-long, self-confessed commitment to this end. He admits that for poets ‘air and fame […] are both the same’, and each lesser important than food, for ‘who ever fattened on a name? Or made a Pidgeon pie of fame?’ (45). Food, he confirms, is needed to sustain the body. But, he continues, more important still is food for the imagination: ‘For books, my friend, are charming brooms/ To sweep the dust of upper rooms!’ Imagining ‘the chamber of the brain’ as a physical space, he explains that ‘Strange creeping things, called thoughts, are bred, / Among the lumber of the head’ (46). Thoughts can feast, as a pestilence, upon the uncultivated mind, ravaging the brain like ‘the frogs of Egypt land’ (46). Likewise, if the mind is fed on a well-balanced diet, thoughts can enhance an individual, and ‘genius, wisdom, and wit abound’. Montgomery’s topographical tour of the spaces within his mind again foreshadows the tour waiting in the second epistle, in which the streets of York are replicated within this inner space. Though Montgomery claims that during his solitude he has learned that ‘reading, writing, eating, drinking’ are the most reliable supplements for healthy ‘thinking’, he warns that he has also learned that not all books are cures. Some are full of nothing but the ‘wit of being dull’. Such books, he writes, can contain ‘ten thousand words and ne’er a thought’ (47). News and letters provide the most substantial sustenance for thoughts, forging a temporary connection to an external social reality for which Montgomery theatrically pines. His poetic voice stresses the salvation he feels upon receiving the ‘paper messengers of friends’ (49). These letters are described as though they are ‘manna’—food from God—gifting Montgomery with the jubilant inspiration he will need to transcend his corporeal form and walk the streets of York in the second half of the poem. Crucially, however, it is neither the books nor the letters that themselves generate these transcendental thoughts. Rather, it is the act of reading. When Montgomery engages with these texts, he perceives that: Art and nature both combine, And live, and breath, in every line; The reader glows along the page, With all the author’s native rage! (47)



‘Rage’ is used in this sense to mean ‘a vehement desire or passion’ (OED). Participation in the act of interpretation allows Montgomery to share the passion instilled in the text by its author, and this in turn fuels his figurative escape from confinement: When high the tide of fancy flows, The muse takes me by the nose: With brains on fire, I boldly then Bestride my Pegasean pen; Bourne on an honest gander’s quill, I fly triumphant where I will; Beneath my feet York Castle falls, With all its bolts, and bars and walls. (50)

The poem’s focal perspective splinters as Montgomery’s body frantically writes the ensuing scenes whilst his imagination, quite literally, takes flight. Free from the confines of ‘my senses and myself’, Montgomery is free to journey anywhere, unbound by time, space, logic, or reason (51). As the narrative strikes off ‘to fairy land’, Montgomery maintains the poem’s split perspective, switching back and forth between the reality perceived by his imagination and that experienced by his physical self, juxtaposing within the poem’s very couplets the tension between Augustan pragmatism and Romantic imagination that characterized his life’s work (51). For better or worse, Montgomery transforms his surroundings, escaping his immediate situation by imagining an alternate present where he is instead subject to the law of ‘a generous soul [who] knows how to rule, and how to please’ (54). He reads and then re-writes his world. When this trip is brought to an abrupt conclusion by his growing hunger, the epistle itself provides the only evidence of its occurrence, a tangible residue of this temporary transformation: ‘Nothing remains of all this vapour, / Save—what I send you—ink and paper’ (55). As the first half of the epistle ends, the opening position of Montgomery’s narrator has shifted. At the outset, the poem asserted that of air, fame, food, and imagination, the latter two were equally vital, providing sustenance for the body and the mind respectively. Regardless of the detail and sophistication of the fantastical worlds Montgomery has been able to build ‘within the darkness of [his] head’, it will always ‘vanish in a thrice’ when his body succumbs to hunger (55): ‘[Not] even in gaol can folk forget, / To eat, to drink, and run in debt!’ (42). Montgomery reveals the



true horror of enforced captivity, foregrounding what Michel Foucault would centuries later term ‘biopower’: the means by which subjects are controlled through the external management of their biological reality (Foucault 2006, 21). There is, Montgomery abruptly discovers, no equivalence between mental and bodily succour. The physical and the perceived, the real and the imagined, are not synonymous. The second half of the epistle explores this revelation to damning effect with general reference to the imagined city and specific reference to the city of York.

‘Walking’ the Streets of York: The Pleasures of Imprisonment, Part 2 Montgomery’s reluctant endorsement of the physical over the perceived has considerable consequences on the genre of the epistle’s second half, which deliberately apes the structure of the early eighteenth-century Urban Georgic. As seen previously in Swift’s contribution to this form, the city is always less important than that which it represents. Analogue becomes allegory, as detailed descriptions of London become metaphorical critiques of social and political behaviours. John Gay’s 1716 poem, published in three books and titled Trivia, or The Art of Walking the Streets of London, is a particularly striking intertext for Montgomery’s poem. Gay’s topographical poem delivers documentary satire, powered by the revelation of gruesome detail. Favouring the literal over the figurative, these London poems sidestep simile, metaphor, and analogy to denote to the reader a vivid picture of the streets outside. The implication that modern life has fallen short of classical standards resides in the reader’s appreciation of classical form, but in terms of content we have ‘straightforward description […] devoid of any meaning beyond its capacity to function efficiently’ (Barnett 1981, 93). Gay’s urban wanderer physically walks the streets of the city and contemplates what it might represent. In an ironic inversion of this dynamic, Montgomery’s wanderer embarks on a fanciful tour of an entirely imagined York and contemplates what it might be like in reality. Trivia opens with a second-person address to the reader, offering to ‘steer your course alright’ as the narrator teaches you ‘how to walk clean by day, and safe by night’ (Gay 2009, 170). Gay’s narrative voice acknowledges that the reader will not literally be present for the forthcoming walk around London, but insists that they will vicariously share in and learn from his experience:



By thee transported, I securely stray Where winding alleys lead the doubtful way, The silent court and op’ning square explore, And long perplexing lanes, untrod before. (170)

The second half of Montgomery’s epistle (57–72) adopts a strikingly reminiscent pose, inviting the reader to join the narrator on a walk around York: Now let us ramble o’er the green, To see and hear, be heard and seen; To breathe the air, enjoy the light, And hail yon sun, who shines as bright […] (67)

Unlike Gay’s narrator, Montgomery’s readers are not required to imagine him walking around the city and translating what he observes into moral or political advice. We are already aware that Montgomery resides in York Castle, where we can assume he is imagining this tour of York just as he imagined his previous adventure in ‘Fairy Land’ (51). This second flight of fancy is an inversion of the first. Where before, the couplets saw Montgomery’s imagination translating his lived surroundings into a more desirable alternative, this second instalment begins with the imagined alternative and marks its gradual regression back to reality. Rather than describing the projection of exterior locations on the interior of the prison, Montgomery imagines the intrusive appearance of prison apparatus on the external world of York. Though an effort is made to describe life outside, the couplets bring Montgomery back to his physical location. Even as he describes the sun, he cannot help but concede that if it shines bright on ‘York Minster’ it must also shine on ‘the dungeons and the gallows’. When he next pauses to survey the scene, his gaze falls once more on the city’s ‘solitary cells’: And let us the scene review: That’s the old castle, this the new; Yonder the felons walk, and there The lady-prisoners take the air. (67)

In response to the prison’s disruptive intrusions into his carefully conjured vision of York, Montgomery’s narrator capitalizes on the lessons learned during the first epistle. Reading, he has argued previously, orders the



mind. It facilitates the application and rejuvenation of imagination, combating against those ‘parasitic’ thoughts that might otherwise reduce the mind to ‘a fog of dullness’ (490). To regain control over this York he has imagined, Montgomery begins to read the city—an act prompting the revelation that York cannot be read productively. As we shall now see, whenever this poem attempts to scrutinize what the city might truly signify, it is met instead with a catastrophic disintegration of meaning. The first harbinger of this reality’s impending collapse arises from the surreal revelation that time has become untraceable. Throughout the first epistle, the passage of time provides Montgomery with a much-needed constant. We’re told that he is awoken ‘every morning’ with ‘the great adamantine door unlocks [at five o’clock]’ (43). He will then ‘rise as early even as eight’, before moving to the yard breakfast is ‘dispatched’ (44). He eats, and then charts the progression of the day by observing the gradual return of hunger, before finally being returned to his cell for ‘ten hours of drowsiness’ (44). In the first epistle, routine allows Montgomery to mark time, and time allows him to make sense of his isolation. In the second epistle, however, time has become subjective, ‘each day a month, each month a year’ (61). As the nexus of the real and the imagined becomes increasingly tangled, Montgomery concedes that time, the most transcendental of signifiers, is now anchored no longer to the passage of the sun but to the arbitrary workings of his own mind: How proudly shines the crazy clock! A clock, whose wheels eccentric run, More like my head than like the sun! (61)

This tour of York is one of dream logic rather than topographical reality. And bound as it is to the state of Montgomery’s mind, this joyous dream becomes a wretched nightmare as the narrator comes upon the courts of justice. The court, a writhing nest of paradoxes and contradictions, resists Montgomery’s attempts to read and interpret its place in his dream world. Its description is steeped in bathos: Across the green, behold the court, Where jargon reigns and wigs resort; Where bloody tongues fight bloodless battles, For life and death, for straws and rattles. (62)



Nothing here is as it should be. ‘Bloody tongues’ are put to violent yet ‘bloodless’ ends and ‘life and death’ are treated the same as ‘straws and rattles’ (62). The function of the court is to preserve and promote justice, yet in Montgomery’s dream it signifies the exact opposite. As Montgomery refers to a ‘well known song in York’, which observed that ‘On the outside stands justice, who never once walks in’, he further disrupts the already fragile boundaries between the dream and its real-world referent (62). The song exists, which means that Montgomery’s most fantastical conjuring— a court of justice dedicated to the perpetuation of injustice—is not a product of his imagination. This revelation instigates the breakdown of Montgomery’s imagined tour, triggering the collapse of the poem itself: ‘Odd? Did I say?—I’m wrong this time; / But I was hampered for a rhyme’ (63). His thoughts contaminated, Montgomery finds himself back in his cell. The hellish tour is over. The poem, however, continues, building to a final reflection on the role of the city in cultural imagination. His attention turns to an ‘unhappy buck’, upon whom he projects his own situation (66). Since both have learned through unhappy experience that ‘innocence availeth naught’, Montgomery asserts that the ‘feeble, lean, consumptive elf [is] the very picture of myself’ (66–67). Both have known freedom, and both have lost it. The deer is accompanied by a ‘dappled doe’, figured as the ‘victim’s wife’ (69). Montgomery envies this creature, ‘all fire and life’ and ‘happier than a queen’ (70). He concludes that the doe was ‘born in a gaol, a prisoner bred’ and is thus a stranger to ‘all the woes of liberty’ (70). With no conception of the freedom denied to her, she can live happily. As the poem ends, Montgomery invites speculation on a possible kinship between this calf and the supposedly free citizens who have not experienced ‘the joys that reign in prison’ (72). They assume that they are free, but the poem wonders how they can be sure that they too were not ‘born in a gaol’ (70). Here, Montgomery further distorts the real and imagined visions of York blended throughout the epistle, irreversibly compromising each with the revelation that both are imaginary. There is honesty in captivity, he concludes. He is presented daily with a palpable set of anchors to lived experience. His only real choice is to eat or starve, a choice grounded in physical effect. The poem’s final paradox is that his release will rob him of the liberation he finds in knowing what is real:



Yet still this prospect, o’er the rest, Makes every blessing doubly blest; That soon these pleasures will be vanished, And I, from all these comforts, banished. (72)

Poisonous Dreams of the City It is well documented that Montgomery’s journalistic attitudes shifted considerably upon his release. The man once imprisoned for reporting ‘inconvenient truth’ later wrote the following to John Pye Smith, the acting editor of the Sheffield Iris: ‘Be on your guard not to tell all the truth you know: there are some truths, which, like ancient coins, must not be circulated among the swine’ (Wigley 1973, 177). John Wigley paints Montgomery’s stay in York as a peculiar time in his life: He had indulged in agonizing speculation on the nature of sin, death, and salvation as early as 1792 and by 1797 seemed, perhaps helped by two imprisonments [in York] to have fallen into a state of mental and spiritual despair. (1973, 179)

Wigley reads Montgomery’s subsequent withdrawal from journalism and public life as a fear of further imprisonment, which was doubtless a significant factor. However, careful reading of Prison Amusements sees Montgomery’s poetic persona courting a more existential angst: a loss of faith in reality itself culminating in the revelation that York itself is a mirage. This revelation pre-empts Virginia Woolf’s lampooning of the very same poems that Montgomery seeks to subvert, the Urban Georgic poetry of Swift and Gay. When tasked with describing Swift’s London in Orlando, Woolf announced that such a thing would be impossible: To give a truthful account of London society at that or indeed any other time, is beyond the powers of the biographer or the historian. Only those who have little need of truth, and no respect for it—the poets and the novelists—can be trusted to do it, for this is one of those cases where truth does not exist. Nothing exists. The whole thing is a miasma—a mirage. (Woolf 2008, 184)

Like a mirage, the city cannot be truthfully described. The best one can hope for is to convey its essence through description of some analogous experience. This would, of course, be a highly subjective exercise, and can



only therefore be trusted to Woolf’s ‘poets and novelists’. The city cannot be objectively described because the city does not exist: ‘the whole thing is a miasma—a mirage’. A miasma is a ‘cloud of vapour’ (OED 2018). It has no substance. It is transparent and illusive. It lacks weight. As a phenomenon, a mirage is ‘a deceptive image of a distant object formed by light that is refracted as it passes through air of varying temperature’. It also offers a linguistic short-hand for illusive fantasy: ‘something that appears real or possible but is not in fact so’. Woolf needles at conceptions of London, and of the city more broadly. It is worth noting that a miasma is also noxious, arising from putrescent organic matter (OED). The city that Woolf sees conjured here is gaseous, non-corporeal, and poisonous. Montgomery finds the concept of the city to be similarly harmful, offering a vision of freedom that cannot be confirmed. It is a poisonous dream, a miasma. That Montgomery performs this revelation in the city of York is highly significant. As Defoe observed in 1720, York is a city never recognized for what it literally is. Travel writers before and after Defoe, like Francis Bacon and John Baskerville, only ever scour it for evidence of times past. Whilst such figures are seen wandering the city imagining it as it was, Montgomery writes his poem in prison, imagining a tour of the city as it is. Though Montgomery’s York is wholly imagined, by foregrounding the city not as a site of signification but a canvas for interpretation, his poem reveals the extent to which a city’s character is always conjured by the wanderer walking its streets. The city must be read, Montgomery implores, but at the same time, reading a city as ensnared in its own mythology as York can present both considerable epistemological challenges and severe existential angst. By embarking on an imaginary tour of an already-imaginary city, Montgomery short-circuits his topographical poem and reveals the unspoken conceit of the city as a signifying construct and social concept. Twenty-first-century York is a city fuelled by an industry dedicated to creatively (re)imagining its own past. In writing and in culture, the character of the city is always imagined. It is a pleasant irony, then, that the stage from which Montgomery embarked upon this fantastical journey, York Castle Prison, is now not only a museum but also one of the city’s most lucrative tourist attractions.



References Ashworth, G.J., and J.E.  Tunbridge. 1990. The Tourist-historic City: Retrospect and Prospect of Managing the Heritage City. London: Belhaven. Aubin, Robert A. 1936. Topographical Poetry in Eighteenth-century England. New York: Modern Language Association of America. Barnett, Louise K. 1981. Swift’s Poetic Worlds. Newark: University of Delaware Press. Baudelaire, Charles. 1987. Les fleurs du mal. Trans. R. Howard. London: Picador. Baudrillard, Jean. 1989. America. London: Verso. Benjamin, Walter. 1979. One-way Street and Other Writing. Trans. E.  Jephcott and K. Shorter. London: Verso. Bullard, Paddy. 2013. The Scriblerian Mock-arts: Pseudo-technical Satire in Swift and his Contemporaries. Studies in Philology 110 (3): 611–136. Debord, Guy. 1967. La société du spectacle. Paris: Chastel. Defoe, Daniel. 1979. Notes for A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain. In York as they Saw It: From Alcuin to Lord Esher, ed. David Palliser and Mary Palliser, 32–38. York: Wm. Sessions Ltd. Durling, Dwight L. 1964. Georgic Tradition in English Poetry. New  York: Kennikat Press. Everett, James, and John Holland. 1854. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of James Montgomery. London: Longmans. Foster, John Wilson. 2017. A Redefinition of Topographical Poetry. The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 63 (3): 394–406. Foucault, Michel. 2006. The Birth of Biopolitics. Trans. Arnold I.  Davidson. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Gay, John. 2009. Trivia. In Walking the Streets of London, ed. Clare Brant and Susan E. Whyman, 169–215. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Higgins, Mark, and Brooke Madden. 2018. (Not idling at) the Flâneur in Indigenous Education: Towards Being and Becoming a Community. In The Flaneur and Education Research, ed. Alexandra Lasczik and Rita L.  Irwin, 5–33. Cham: Palgrave. Huntley, Dana. 2009. ‘Eboracum. To Jorvik. To York.’ In British Heritage. May: 34–39. Knight, Helen Cross. 1857. The Life of James Montgomery. New York and Boston: Gould and Lincoln. Montgomery, James. 1795. The Trail of James Montgomery for a Libel on War. Sheffield: James Montgomery. ———. 1797. Prison Amusements. London: J. Johnson. Page, Norman, and Peter Preston. 1993. The Literature of Place. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Paliser, David, and Mary Paliser, eds. 1979. York as they Saw It: From Alcuin to Lord Esher. York: Wm. Sessions Ltd.



Smith, Adam James. 2017. Property, Patriotism and Independence: The Figure of the Freeholder in Eighteenth-century Partisan Print. Journal for Eighteenth-­ Century Studies 40 (3): 345–362. Voase, Richard. 1999. Consuming Tourist Sites/Sights: A Note on York. Leisure Studies 18: 289–296. Wasserman, Earl. 1959. The Subtler Language: Critical Readings of Neoclassic and Romantic Poems. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press. Wigley, John. 1973. James Montgomery and the Sheffield Iris: A Study in the Weakness of Provincial Radicalism. The Hunter Archaeological Society 10: 173–180. William of Malmesbury. 1979. Extract from Ecclesiastical History of the English People. In York as They Saw It: From Alcuin to Lord Esher, ed. David Palliser and Mary Palliser, 5–6. York: Wm. Sessions Ltd. Woolf, Virginia. 2008. In Orlando, ed. Rachel Bowlby. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Marshall Berman and D.J. Waldie: Memory and Grief in Urban and Suburban Spaces Alice Levick

‘What is a City?’ asks Lewis Mumford in his eponymous 1937 essay. According to Mumford, the city is, amongst many things, a place of both ‘personal disintegration’ and ‘reintegration through wider participation in a concrete and visible collective whole’ (2004, 29). In The Culture of Cities, published a year later, Mumford continues on the theme of that which becomes manifestly perceptible in the built environment: ‘In the city, time becomes visible’ (1938, 4). In keeping with other contributions to this collection, my focus is on the city and time and, specifically, on the way in which the built environment is able to make time visible and to cultivate what we remember of the time that has passed through these spaces. In the discussion that follows, I apply Mumford’s maxim regarding the visibility of time in the city to two different forms of memoir, examining the ways in which they speak to the complexities involved in visualising and retaining a tangible connection to the past. The two authors discussed, D.J. Waldie and Marshall Berman, are intimately associated with particular

A. Levick (*) Surrey, UK © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_3




suburban and urban spaces. Both are also concerned with the possibility of remembering and forgetting personal history within the confines of these specific spaces. In exploring the relationship between time and the city, I consider Waldie’s memories of his childhood in California in Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir (1996), and several articles and essays by the late philosopher and academic Marshall Berman. I particularly emphasise the final section of his part-polemic, part-personal history, All That Is Solid Melts into Air, ‘In the Forest of Symbols: Some Notes on Modernism in New  York’ (1982). Waldie’s semi-autobiographical narrative depicts a particular area of suburban Los Angeles County—Lakewood—during the early to late 1950s. Writing about the same decade, Berman seeks to understand how inhabitants of the Bronx, and by implication New York City as a whole, internalise and react to its fluctuating landscape; a landscape in which ‘everything is torn down/Before you have had time to care for it’ as James Merrill writes in his 1962 poem ‘An Urban Convalescence, (1998, 816). All That Is Solid and Holy Land, two formally and geographically disparate texts, invite the reader to consider the role that the space of the modern built environment plays in the construction and imagining of the past. It should be noted that though this essay implicitly draws on a large body of work concerning the built environment in general, it does not strictly adhere to the traditional boundaries by which ‘the city’ is defined. For Waldie, the space examined is that of the suburb of Lakewood, as opposed to the strictly urban landscape of Berman’s Bronx. In the context of this essay, the suburb is nevertheless an example of the modern built environment. Though Los Angeles itself pushes at the traditional borders of what it means to be a city, leading Edward W. Soja to describe it as ‘too limitless and constantly in motion, never still enough to encompass, too filled with “other spaces” to be informatively described,’ Lakewood is nevertheless not synonymous with Los Angeles proper (Soja 1989, 222). Likewise, the Bronx, though one of the five boroughs that comprise New York City, is not itself technically a city. Both places lie on the margins of what might be classically defined as city spaces. It is this ambivalence and liminality that connects them, and it is for this reason that I have chosen them as conduits through which to discuss the ways in which built spaces in various forms can make memory, and the grief that accompanies it, visible. I first briefly examine the question of modernity and how this is made manifest in Berman’s urban landscape of choice. I then touch on city planner par excellence Robert Moses’ impact on the Bronx as evoked in



Berman’s writing, before looking at the ways in which the ghostly presence of the uncanny is evoked in the still-locatable spaces of Berman’s childhood. The concept of the uncanny, a phenomenon that pertains to a very personal sense of grief, absence and homesickness, then takes me to Waldie. Here I begin by detailing the suburb of Lakewood, which ironically (given that one of the purposes of the suburbs was to provide respite from the city) mirrored that of modern city spaces like New York in that it assumed the form dictated by the grid system. I then analyse the ways in which Waldie’s text itself mirrors in literary form the regimented sense of control that drove modern urban planning during this era, and how this desire for control extends to the need to impose discipline on his own memory. Waldie’s attempts to regulate and temper how and what he remembers of his past is deeply embedded in the form and style of his text. This essay examines how Waldie and Berman reconcile themselves to the apparent contradictions of the spaces that are intimately connected to their respective personal histories, and how they each conceive of the past in spatial terms, as represented in the post-war built environments in which they grew up. Both Lakewood and the Bronx (as depicted by their respective authors) reflect, in their separate ways, an attempt to extract, control, and suppress the past.

Marshall Berman’s Modern City Marshall Berman, who grew up in the South Bronx neighbourhood of East Tremont during the 1940s–1950s, found himself immersed in a period of great change in the borough, thanks in many ways to ‘Master Builder’ Robert Moses, who held numerous positions of public office in New  York City from 1924 to 1968, but whose influence and reach extended far beyond the traditional remit of his duties.1 In his obituary, the New York Times recorded that by the time he had departed his post as chief of the state park system, ‘the state had 2,567,256 acres. He built 658 playgrounds in New  York City, 416 miles of parkways and 13 bridges’ (Goldberger 1981, n.p.). In All That Is Solid, Berman writes that to oppose the work of Moses was to ‘oppose history, progress, modernity itself’ (1982, 294). What does modernity mean to Berman, and why is this important in the context of this chapter? Berman takes his cues about modernity from The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) in which Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels describe the shock of the new inherent during the period of nineteenth-century modernisation characterised, in



their words, by the constant ‘revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation’ (1968, 38). In Imagining the Modern City, James Donald argues that modernist urban planners saw modernity as ‘a state of mind to do with accommodating newness’ (1999, 54). This accommodation of a ‘new social order’ apparently made the ‘absolute repression of all traces of history, memory and desire from the city’ a necessity (84). The move towards greater transparency and order symbolised a rejection of the built environment of the late eighteenth-century city, which Michel Foucault argues was defined by its ‘stone walls, darkness, hideouts and dungeons’ (1980, 154). Anthony Vidler in The Architectural Uncanny agrees that it is not just regulating a sense of history in the urban environment that has been a key aim of modernity,  but also escaping it completely. If only houses, for example, were not ‘haunted by the weight of tradition and the imbrications of generations of family drama, if no cranny was left for the storage of the bric-a-brac once deposited in damp cellars and musty attics,’ then people would be liberated from the anchor of memory, which was deemed an ‘unhealthy preoccupation’ (Vidler 1992, 64). He continues that these attitudes stem from ‘the conventional wisdom of modern urbanism’; this wisdom dictated that one must ‘flood dark space with light’ and open it up to ‘vision and occupation’ (168). Why is all this significant for Berman? The answer lies in the connection to Robert Moses. Vidler writes that modernising figures, of which I argue Moses is an example, wish to ‘forget the old city, its old monuments, its traditional significance’ (179). For Moses, forgetting the old city translated as an attempt at its erasure, one haunted house at a time. In a 1954 address before the National Education Association in Madison Square Garden, Moses said of his plans for the city: ‘We aim to rebuild New York, saving what is still durable, what is salvageable and what is genuinely historical, and substituting progress for obsolescence’ (Moses 1954, n.p.). Berman describes Moses as coming from a long line of public figures with similar concerns about the urban environment, all of whom were ‘moved at once by a will to change—to transform both themselves and their world—and by a terror of disorientation and disintegration, of life falling apart’ (Berman 1982, 13). In order to prevent this annihilation, this ‘falling apart,’ Moses felt it necessary to break open the city’s ‘darkened spaces’ and let in the light of modern planning (Donald 1999, 73). As such, Robert Moses sought to create order out of chaos, rendering the amorphous irrationality of New York’s urban spaces into what he saw



as something of a cleaner logic. In the pursuit of this aim, he oversaw the creation of what is today one of the world’s greatest examples of the modern metropolis. In order to do so, he first had to destroy what had preceded it.

Memory and Grief The Bronx’s Grand Concourse in its original form, built in 1909, traced a path through the West Bronx to Manhattan, emulating the wide postHaussmann boulevards of Paris. Berman notes that it was a place frequented by his family: ‘My family used to take walks up and down the Grand Concourse, and on Jerome Avenue near the Yankee Stadium, just to look at the buildings’ (Berman 1999, 78). The construction of one of Moses’ most infamous projects, the Cross-Bronx Expressway, which started in 1948, split the Bronx, dispersed thousands of households, and was forced through residential neighbourhoods along the path of the Concourse. After almost two decades, the Expressway emerged gleaming in the rubble of the South Bronx and its grand boulevard. Berman’s family was one of the thousands forced to relocate from a  formerly cohesive neighbourhood. By the early 1960s the buildings he had so admired along the Concourse and Jerome Avenue were soon gone. Even, he writes, ‘the rubble was gone. Soon our family, too, would go’ (Berman 1973, n.p.). In The Power Broker, Robert Caro reports that in order to ‘clear the land’ for his various slum clearance, urban renewal and highway construction plans, Robert  Moses repeated this across the city, evicting ‘the city’s people, not thousands of them or tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands, from their homes and tore the homes down’ (1974, 7).  Moses attempted to ‘forget the old city’ by erasing vast tracts of it (Vidler 1992, 179). But the denial or removal of history, writes Vidler, forges ‘a kind of negative path, a route of obliteration into a past that is […] always a present’ (180). An abandoned home, a reconfigured city block or an old neighbourhood can each become ‘an object of memory’ for an entire population, creating nostalgia for a localised, material past which seems to have disappeared (64). There is a certain eerie familiarity, finds Berman, in his old stomping grounds, which gives him, when he returns to them, a ‘route to the past’ that can take him suddenly to the shock of the present in which his childhood home is surrounded by rubble: ‘the house I grew up in was still there and still lived in, but the whole block across the street



had burned and crumbled into ruins’ (Berman 2007, 18). There is a new sense of alienation in these spaces, instead of familiarity. What were the consequences of Moses’ policies for a borough like the Bronx, which has seen its fabric stretched and torn, its stitches unpicked block by block? In his introduction to New York Calling, Berman reflects on the visceral experience of these strangely unoccupied spaces: ‘In 1979, 1980, 1981, I spent many lonely afternoons wandering through the Bronx’s ruins. I couldn’t believe the enormity of these ruins! They went on and on, for block after block, mile after mile. Some blocks seemed almost intact; but look around the corner, and there was no corner. It was uncanny!’ (Berman 2007, 125–26). As Berman walks through the borough, he is occasionally ‘lulled to sleep’ by the sense of the ordinary and the vaguely familiar as he re-traces his old neighbourhood steps. Should you walk around Southern Boulevard or Longwood, he advises, you will find blocks ‘that feel so much like blocks you left long ago, blocks you thought had vanished forever, that you will wonder if you are seeing ghosts—or if you yourself are a ghost haunting these solid streets with the phantoms of your inner city’ (Berman 1982, 344). But upon turning a corner, ‘the full nightmare of devastation’ is revealed in the form of ‘a block of burnt-out hulks, a street of rubble and glass where no man goes,’ which rudely awakens him (344). The sense of difference this creates— that tangible before and after which can be made both visible and invisible in the urban landscape—is a schism between what was and what is. Here it is this shock of difference in the built environment, this shock of the new, which awakens Berman from his dream of the past. Sigmund Freud’s 1919 paper ‘The Uncanny’ describes the experience of sensing simultaneously the familiar and unfamiliar, the homely and the unhomely, which represents for Freud a manifestation of the return of the repressed. Such feelings are arguably endemic to life in the modern city. ‘For Freud,’ Vidler explains, ‘“unhomeliness” was more than a simple sense of not belonging; it was the fundamental propensity of the familiar to turn on its owners, suddenly to become defamiliarized, derealized, as if in a dream’ (Vidler 1992, 7). This sense of defamiliarisation creates a feeling of unreality and alienation, and it is the confrontation with an unexpected tabula rasa that awakens Berman from his dream of the past into present-day alienation. The ‘open,’ ‘empty’ spaces Berman describes echo D.J. Waldie’s empty rooms (on which, more below); the very fact of their uncanny emptiness creating the shadow of what had filled them before. The final pages of All That Is Solid find Berman seeking and



meeting signs of the past in the street he loved and abandoned: ‘I thought to end up with the Bronx,’ he discloses, ‘with an encounter with some ghosts of my own’ (1982, 345). In All That Is Solid, he describes with great pathos the scene of destruction as the bulldozers rolled in, reducing his home to ashes: ‘My friends and I would stand on the parapet of the Grand Concourse, where 174th Street had been, and survey the work’s progress […] and marvel to see our ordinary nice neighbourhood transformed into sublime, spectacular ruins’ (1982, 292–293). For Berman, Moses and his crew were not simply blasting through concrete and steel. They were obliterating the physical locus of memory, effectively demolishing the site of Berman’s personal history. When Berman returns to his old neighbourhood, setting out to rediscover what he felt he had lost, he immediately finds, as detailed above, signs of incoherence and disintegration. The streets, for example, are in ‘various stages of demolition or decomposition’ (18). But perhaps more significant is his description of the space around the borough blocks themselves, which are ‘as open and empty as the desert’ (20). The sense that something has been omitted from the physical text of his history permeates much of Berman’s writing. In his work on the Bronx, he often writes in terms of absence, loss, and bereavement. ‘As I saw one of the loveliest of these buildings being wrecked for the road,’ he tells us, ‘I felt a grief that, I can see now, is endemic to modern life’ (295). Berman’s evocation of the grief induced by a changing city intent upon modernisation is palpable, and its roots are deep. In 1955, he and his family had moved into the northwest Bronx, at his father’s behest, settling at Claremont Park. Six months later his father died. In his 2013 Mumford Lecture, given four months before his own death, Berman states that ‘The whole episode would have been a perfectly ordinary “move to the suburbs,” at a time when millions of people were making that move—except that, six months later, my father died of a heart attack. […] People even had a hard time getting to our new house, to mourn with us; mostly they didn’t come’ (Berman 2014, n.p.). His home became a site of felt absence, the distance to and from it insurmountable. The Bronx became a place where his life ‘was shattered,’ the pieces scattered amidst the ubiquitous rubble of East Tremont.  ‘When I talk about ruins,’ he notes in 1984,  ‘I’m an interested party’ (1984, 18).  



Becoming the Grid Throughout his work, Berman asks whether it is possible to root oneself in ‘a stable and coherent personal and social past’ in a place like the Bronx, which continuously attempts to erase ‘both the physical and social landscapes of our past, and our emotional links with those lost worlds’ (1982, 35). The destruction of landscape for him equates to the destruction of a locatable and material history. The overwhelming sense that something has been omitted from the physical text of his history permeates much of Berman’s writing, with the death of his father implicitly linked to his fascination with urban ruin and renewal. In a similar way, Waldie makes use of his childhood home to surreptitiously discuss his grief over his father’s death. ‘My father died behind a well-made, wooden bathroom door,’ he tells us, and this material separation is reinforced by the sequestering and demarcation of personal, painful memories within his text (Waldie 1996, 24). For both authors, remembrances of ‘home’ become fixed on a point of loss. In All That Is Solid, Berman expresses his desire to go home, to go back: ‘I want to go back to where this essay started, to my Bronx, vital and thriving only yesterday, ruins and ashen wildness today’ (1982, 340). But D.J.  Waldie is home. He never left. Until his death in 2013, although Berman continued to live in New  York City, he did so  in a different borough to the one in which he spent his formative years. Waldie on the other hand, remained not only in Los Angeles County but also in the house in which he had grown up. Like Berman, Waldie traces a localised history, in this case the suburb of Lakewood, California, where he grew up during the post-war decades. In 1946, Waldie’s parents bought the house in which Waldie still lives (at the time of writing) and where he wrote the book that narrates both his childhood and the life of his hometown. Lakewood, a suburban community developed by Louis Boyar, Mark Taper and Ben Weingart from late 1949 to 1953, is part of the history of endless development in California as a whole. Los Angeles itself seemed to possess  no natural or locational advantages, and was at first merely an isolated tract of land ‘in the middle of the empty, semi-arid coastal plain’ (Fogelson 1993, xv). The seemingly uninhabitable landscape of Southern  California was eventually pummelled into submission by the might of urban development, quantified and claimed via a ‘mental grid over physical space,’ with constructions such as the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Southern California freeway system superimposed over the



wilderness (Wyatt 1986, 158). Mike Davis explains in City of Quartz that the Greater Los Angeles area was ‘first and above all the creature of real-­ estate capitalism: the culminating speculation, in fact, of the generations of boosters and promoters who had subdivided and sold the West from the Cumberland Gap to the Pacific’ (2006, 24–25). Joan Didion, who writes about Lakewood in her memoir Where I Was From, tells us that just like ‘much of the southern end of this grid, Lakewood was until after World War Two agricultural, several thousand acres of beans and sugar beets just inland from the Signal Hill oil field’ (2004, 102). During the same decade that the location of Berman’s childhood was being brought to an end, Waldie’s was in the process of being constructed, forged amid the fields of lima beans. In All That Is Solid, Berman recounts that for ten years, ‘through the late 1950s and early 1960s, the center of the Bronx was pounded and blasted and smashed’ (1982, 292). Meanwhile, Waldie reminisces that ‘I grew up in these neighborhoods when they were an interweaving of houses and fields that were soon to be filled with more houses’ (1996, 3). Holy Land is broken up into 316 segments, like plots of subdivided land or rooms within a house. Waldie approaches the personal and intimate carefully throughout the text, incrementally moving from one story to the next by way of adjoining ‘rooms.’ This is akin to the careful progression from cell to cell, block to block, of the grid system. Waldie writes of his concern that he may have internalised the geometric landscape of his childhood, that is, its subdivision of space and sense of rigid containment: ‘That evening he thought he was becoming his habits, or—even more— he thought he was becoming the grid he knew’ (1996, 1). Waldie refers frequently to the grid system according to which the spatial arrangement of Lakewood was established. This grid is ‘a fraction of a larger grid, anchored to one in Los Angeles,’ making Lakewood an extension of a larger map which was first laid out in 1781 (22). He writes that it is possible to drive from the ocean to Los Angeles and remain on the same grid of streets. ‘Every square foot of my city has been tilled or built on and fitted into the grid’ (54). The site of Waldie’s memories, in its system of intersecting grids, right angles, and straight lines, is therefore not only a reflection of his attempts to control and contain memory but is also symptomatic of the urban spatial arrangement of the twentieth-century city. In Borderland, John R. Stilgoe explains that during the mid-nineteenth century, land speculators at the edge of every major American city were throwing ‘an essentially urban fabric over hitherto borderland landscape,’



cultivating the margins so they resembled the urban spaces from which they originally sought to provide sanctuary (1988, 152). The street patterns being built on a ‘rectilinear’ style was a reflection of the fact that urbanity was at the time ‘equated […] with straightness’ (Stilgoe 1988, 152). In Grids, Rosalind Krauss depicts the grid as deeply modern in its function and style: ‘one of the important sources of this power is the way the grid is […] so stridently modern to look at, seeming to have no place of refuge, no room on the face of it, for vestiges of the nineteenth century to hide’ (1979, 54). Here we find another manifestation of modernity’s rejection of nineteenth-century ‘illegibility,’ in favour of more regulated space (Donald 1999, 73). Waldie himself embeds his own desire for control, in his case control over narrative, memory, and emotional chaos, into his text. At times Waldie seems to be deliberately placing blocks in his memory between the experience of pain and the remembrance of that pain. For example, two sections stand between the disclosures that his mother died in hospital and his father died at home. Section 49, in which his father’s death is first mentioned, is succeeded by two sections which detail the Douglas Aircraft plant in Long Beach, and the materials used in the construction of the neighbourhood houses. When he alternates in his remembrances between stating facts and referring circuitously to pain, he uses the rooms in his house as repositories for memory: some of these rooms provide a buffer between other rooms he does not wish to enter. The bathroom door behind which his father dies becomes a symbol of the way in which Waldie’s segmentation and subdivision of the narrative into textual cells allows him to contain things he cannot always bring himself to discuss explicitly, and on which he can shut the door of memory if necessary. In section 55, he describes his father’s death as though from a great distance: ‘He sat on the edge of his bed in the middle room and waited for his father to die,’ while in section 56 he tells the same story from the first-­ person perspective: ‘I waited on the edge of my bed in the middle bedroom’ (Waldie 1996, 28). In the latter section however, he does not mention his father’s death until the last sentence, as though the use of ‘he’ mitigates the pain of remembering, allowing him to tell the story as if it happened to someone else. The use of ‘I’ on the other hand, offers no such protection. Waldie often writes in the third person in order to narrate the lives of others. Many sections of Holy Land neglect to identify the subject of discussion by name, and so when Waldie refers to ‘he’ and ‘she’ (or Mr ‘X’ or Mrs ‘Y’) it remains ambiguous whether he is referring



obliquely to himself and his own recollections, telling the stories of the many who allowed him that privilege rather than his own, or articulating his own memories subliminally through the collective. When he does use the first person, it is from the position of the present, referring back to the past, for example, ‘You and I grew up in these neighborhoods’; ‘The house where I still live, and where my father died, predates the building of the rest of this city’; ‘My brother and I, who shared a room for almost twenty years’ (28, 25, 47 (emphasis added)). These are further examples of Waldie’s attempts at quarantining himself, in the form of his textual ‘I,’ from the rest of the sentence devoted to a painful memory. Berman also imposes distance, but for him this is more literal than textual: what Waldie does in writing, Berman did in life. In a 1984 article for The Village Voice, Berman explains that he and his family had often spoken of their home on 1460 College Avenue (‘we would talk about “our house”’), the apartment building in the Bronx where they had lived for 20 years (Berman 1984, 18). None of them had been back: ‘No one had heard anything about the building since the fires, collapses, and abandonments had begun. Maybe no news was good news, but during the plague years none of us could bear to go back and take a look’ (18). In On the Town, Berman details his trips into Times Square as having begun in the early 1950s, when he would meet his father near his office at 130 West 42nd Street, ‘half a block from the Square,’ and ended for some time in 1955, when his father died (2006, xxiv). Berman writes that from that point he did not return to downtown Manhattan for a long time. Equally painful for him was the prospect of continuing to go back to his old Bronx  neighbourhood after a period of time in which he had ‘walked through those ruins obsessively,’ seeking a ‘core of meaning’ inside the skeleton of what used to be (1982, 352). Berman confesses in the ‘Afterword’ to All That Is Solid that as time went by he found it increasingly unbearable to walk in the shadow of the past; he felt that the ruins were overwhelming his sense of what had preceded them. These particular locations—the house on College Avenue, West 42nd Street in Manhattan, and the streets of East Tremont—became, for a while, points of no return. Throughout Waldie’s Holy Land, the narrative is peppered with references to rooms that develop particular significance. These are rooms both literal and symbolic, separate spaces in which memories he does not wish to dwell on can be placed. Though each of these rooms is its own separate entity, they are in extremely close proximity to one another. Waldie consistently provides information about the measurements of rooms, the



square footage taken up by houses, the distance spanned by the city that further encroaches on the land around it. Though he attempts to seal off and surround each section by the narration of a history which is characterised and understood much of the time through data and quantification, attempts to circumnavigate painful memories are often mitigated by a return to a locational site of memory; his efforts to stop it at the door are thwarted: ‘My father died behind a well-made, wooden bathroom door. It is a three-panel door. Each panel is nearly square, twenty-one inches wide by nineteen inches high. From edge to edge, the door is twenty-eight inches wide. […] The doors in my house are abstract and ordinary. The bathroom door is now forty-seven years old. My father was sixty-nine’ (Waldie 1996, 24–25). Just as the irrational behaviour of his neighbours (such as Mr H with his superfluity of detritus in his front yard and Mrs A who sends countless letters to the council concerning nuclear waste) continually finds a way of evading suppression and expressing itself publically, so too does Waldie’s grief, revealing itself sporadically and proving to be beyond his capacity for control of the narrative. This is comparable to Berman’s experience of being first ‘lulled to sleep’ when walking through the streets of the South Bronx before turning a corner to see suddenly ‘the full nightmare of devastation’ (Berman 1982, 344). ‘At some point in your story grief presents itself,’ Waldie observes, as though apologising that this is beyond his control. ‘Now, for the first time, your room is empty, not merely unoccupied’ (1996, 3). Grief is here likened to emptiness. A space which is not filled seems to be the most disturbing concept for both Berman and Waldie. Berman notes that unoccupied buildings in the Bronx since the 1950s had become ubiquitous symbols of the psycho-geographical scar of city living at that time: ‘Thus depopulated, economically depleted, emotionally shattered […] the Bronx was ripe for all the dreaded spirals of urban blight’ (Berman 1982, 293). For Waldie, emptiness is smaller in scope and more important from a symbolic standpoint. He describes his house in the present day as ‘largely a void’ (1996, 42). References to emptiness recur through Holy Land, often in conjunction with discussions of flimsy construction work, which provides only negligible separation between rooms, houses, and blocks. Walls, posits Waldie, offer only a ‘thin, cement skin over absence’ (43). The exteriors of the houses themselves are ‘little more than an inch thick’ (43). In such an enclosure, one’s separation from the outside is so minimal as to be almost non-existent; Waldie envisages



feet crashing through the attic, the bathroom door knocked down, an earthquake forcing the ‘stucco and chicken-wire houses […] off their foundations’ (137). Space now seems permeable, the memory housed within it ultimately uncontainable. Indeed, the segmented spaces of the domestic interiors likewise threaten to spill over into the neighbouring rooms. Access to a different room is only one clumsy footfall away. The attic stuffed with the relics of Christmases past is so structurally unsound that one ‘bad step will put your foot through a bedroom ceiling’ (42). When it is discovered that Mr H, who has since been forced to absent himself from his house, has dug a 300-square-feet fallout shelter beneath his garage floor, a city inspector informs the new owner that should a car actually be driven onto this floor, it would immediately collapse. Space is porous, and memory within it ultimately uncontainable. The irrationality of Waldie’s neighbours, and the pain of his own memory, cannot always be kept sequestered in separate rooms. Death and chaos, it turns out, are only on the other side of a Douglas fir door. Waldie’s grief is outlined subtly in his description of the house in the wake of this bereavement: ‘My brother brought me back from the hospital. I spent that night in the empty house, as I continue to spend each night at home’ (31). Here we return to the sense of uncanny emptiness to which he continually refers. This is one space that cannot be filled. To return to Mumford’s dictum that ‘time becomes visible’ in the city, I argue that time is indeed made manifest in Waldie’s Lakewood and Berman’s Bronx (Mumford 1938, 4). For both authors, the past is very much rooted in the landscape of their respective childhoods, but exactly how, and indeed whether, to locate and access personal memory within these material spaces, is a more difficult proposition. Berman goes searching for the past, but his return home leads him to a phantasmagoric landscape of hauntings, ghosts, and nightmares that he struggles to reconcile against his own memory. For him, it is the passing of time that has become painfully visible, rather than its capacity for preservation. Waldie, in his attempts to manage his own past by building walls around memory, finds that he cannot entirely prevent time from becoming visible in ways he may not be comfortable with. Despite the propensity of the modern city, and its residential periphery, to pave over the past, individual memory can survive, secreting itself in specific locations and bursting forth at unexpected moments. But what of Mumford’s question with which this chapter opens: ‘What is a City?’ (2004, 29). As reflected in the work of Waldie and Berman



respectively, Lakewood and the Bronx consider the same capacity of post-­ war suburban and urban environments to internalise the concerns and urges of the modern, as the cities with which they are associated. Equally the authors themselves have internalised what it is to be a city, in the ways in which they have chosen to articulate the modern built environment. Berman writes that, after World War II, Robert Moses turned his hand from his early work on the parkways and beaches of Long Island to the complexities of urban reconstruction, consequently bringing to life brutally imposing structures which were ‘sealed off from the surrounding city by great moats of stark empty space’ (1982, 308). But were such constructions really signs of Moses’ ‘contempt for all natural and human life’ (308) as Berman puts it, or were they merely a symptom of the sequestering and demarcation of space which is perhaps inevitable in the gridded city? Even in the seemingly benign suburban landscape of Lakewood, houses were likewise ‘sealed off’ from one another, the rooms within in turn buffered by other rooms, turning endlessly away from one another at right angles—adjacent but self-contained. Arguably, Waldie himself is attempting to achieve symbolically and textually what Robert Moses made literal in New York City—using the segregation of space to quarantine the ‘irrational’ or unspeakable aspects of the urban landscape (Donald 1999, 73). Stylistically, Waldie constructs his text like a modernist who fears ‘darkened spaces,’ things falling apart, and the potential disintegration of his structurally unsound house, preferring the straight lines and safety of the grid, despite his acute awareness of its failure to completely ‘eradicate the domain of myth, suspicion, tyranny and, above all, the irrational’ (73). In Berman’s case, he lays the blame for the end of his childhood at the feet of Moses, but is unflinchingly honest about his own choices about his separation as an adult from the site of his youth. ‘For children of the Bronx like myself,’ he notes, ‘this road bears a load of special irony: as we race through our childhood world, rushing to get out, relieved to see the end in sight, we are not merely spectators but active participants in the process of destruction that tears our hearts’ (Berman  1982, 291). He confesses that regardless of the path bulldozed through the Bronx by Moses, he would have ultimately, embodying the very spirit of Moses’ modernity, left his childhood home of his own accord. ‘What if […] we had managed to keep the dread road from being built? How many of us would still be in the Bronx today, caring for it and fighting for it as our own? Some of us, no doubt, but I suspect not many, and in any case—it



hurts to say it—not me’ (326). For this is the paradox of modern urban life. We are equally as desperate to grow up and leave ourselves behind as we are to preserve that which we abandon. Or as Berman puts it: ‘We fight back the tears and step on the gas’ (291). What can Waldie do but wall himself off from the past? What can Berman do but move forward, and try not to look back?

Note 1. For more on Moses read Robert Caro’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning book The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (1974).

References Berman, Marshall. 1973. Expressway and Me: Personal Side. Draft for Ramparts article, 1973, Marshall Berman Papers, Box 12, Folder 37: Robert Moses: on Caro, The Power Broker, etc. Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries, New York, accessed 28 March 2016. ———. 1982. All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. London: Verso. ———. 1984. Roots, Ruins, Renewals: City Life after Urbicide. The Village Voice, September 4, 1984. ———. 1999. Views from the Burning Bridge. In Urban Mythologies: The Bronx Represented Since the 1960s, eds. Lydia Yee and Betti-Sue Hertz, 70–83. New York: Bronx Museum of the Arts. ———. 2006. On the Town: One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square. New York: Random House. ———. 2007. Introduction. In New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg, ed. Marshall Berman and Brian Berger, 9–38. London: Reaktion Books. ———. 2014. Emerging from the Ruins. Dissent Magazine, Winter 2014. https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/emerging-from-the-ruins ———. 2016. New  York: Seeing through the Ruins. In Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, ed. Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, 119–128. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. Caro, Robert. 1974. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New  York. New York: Random House. Davis, Mike. 2006. City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles. London and New York: Verso. Didion, Joan. 2004. Where I Was From. London: Harper Perennial. Donald, James. 1999. Imagining the Modern City. London: The Athlone Press.



Fogelson, Robert M. 1993. The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles, 1850–1930. Berkeley, LA and London: University of California Press. Foucault, Michel. 1980. The Eye of Power. In Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977, ed. Colin Gordon, 146–165. New York: Pantheon Books. Freud, Sigmund. 2003. The Uncanny. (1919). In The Uncanny, trans. David McLintock, 121–162. London: Penguin. Goldberger, Paul. 1981. Obituary: Robert Moses, Master Builder, is Dead at 92. New York Times, July 30, 1981. http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/ onthisday/bday/1218.html. Krauss, Rosalind. 1979. Grids. October, Vol. 9 (Summer 1979): 50–64. Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. 1968. The Manifesto of the Communist Party. (1848). In Selected Works in One Volume. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Merrill, James. 1998. An Urban Convalescence. (1962). In Writing New York: A Literary Anthology, ed. Phillip Lopate, 816–818. New  York: Washington Square Press. Moses, Robert. 1954. The City of New York. Address by Robert Moses before the National Education Association at Madison Square Garden, New York City, 28 June 1954. Series 2: Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. Box 73. Folder: Library—Robert Moses Correspondence—January 1, 1954 to December 31, 1954. Robert Moses papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, New York, NY. 24 April 2015. Mumford, Lewis. 1938. The Culture of Cities. New York: Harcourt Brace. ———. 2004. What is a City? (1937). In The City Cultures Reader, eds. Malcolm Miles, Tim Hall, and Iain Borden, 2nd ed., 28–32. London and New  York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group. Soja, Edward W. 1989. Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. London and New York: Verso. Stilgoe, John R. 1988. Borderland: Origins of the American Suburb, 1820–1939. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Vidler, Anthony. 1992. The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press. Waldie, D.J. 1996. Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir. New York: St Martin’s Press. Wyatt, David. 1986. The Fall into Eden: Landscape and Imagination in California. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.


No Safe Sanctuary: Race, Space, and Time in Colson Whitehead’s Speculative Cities Anne-Marie Evans

In Henry Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1974/1991) he identifies three types of space: conceived space, the spaces of cartographers or city planners; perceived space, the space of everyday social life that is often ignored by the more theoretical conceived space; and lived space, the space of the human citizen with an active imagination. For Lefebvre, an existentialist and neo-Marxist, space is inextricably bound to power hierarchies. As Lieven Ameel summarises: ‘In Lefebvre’s view, space is not something that simply “is”, either absolute or a priori. Space, on the contrary, is always experienced and perceived, always dependent on a subject and thus, on a body’ (Ameel 2016, 24). Colson Whitehead’s fiction offers a similar focus on the lived experience associated with certain spaces. For Whitehead, time and racial identity form crucial components in the construction of literary ‘lived’ spaces. His fiction connects, in a way, the perceived space and the lived space that Lefebvre explores. The literary city—as the type of space Whitehead most frequently writes about—is

A.-M. Evans (*) York St John University, York, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_4




therefore always both in and out of time; it is a recognisable image of both the past—and a deliberately distorted reflection of it—and the future. This is true of both the versions of New  York that Whitehead creates in the uncanny space of Manhattan in The Intuitionist (1999) where racial integration is a relatively new concept; and the Manhattan of Zone One (2011) which has been devastated by the outbreak of a deadly zombie virus. In his work on literary versions of Helsinki, Ameel notes that ‘There is indeed something profoundly reductionist in equating the literary city with its geographically locatable counterpart’ (2016, 14). Yet, it is this locatability that makes the speculative city so effective. Whitehead’s writing of the urban space—its history, its architecture, its rhythms, its spatial dynamics—are all intrinsically connected to debates about racial politics, time, and ‘safe’ spaces in contemporary America. This chapter will explore the intersections between a hegemonic history of America and how Whitehead’s writing functions as a way of destabilising concepts of history by narrating the experiences of history from multiple different perspectives. I am interested in how this can be traced through and inscribed on the urban spaces of New York and the way in which Whitehead explores how the lack of safe spaces for African Americans in America usually correlates to a lack of safe time for African Americans in American history. I will consider the representation of this relationship between the city, time, and African American citizens in three of Colson Whitehead’s novels, The Intuitionist, Zone One, and The Underground Railroad (2016). In the first two texts, Whitehead uses a speculative version of New York to suggest that space and place operate in a multi-folded version of time and history within his imaginative reconstructions of New  York. In The Underground Railroad, Whitehead develops this approach through his neo-slave narrative where real-life spaces are again repurposed and rewritten. For Whitehead, time is often explored as history, and his fiction suggests this sense of ‘history’ needs to be thoroughly examined from multiple perspectives before time and the promise of the future can ever progress in a positive and inclusive manner. Jason Finch’s work on deep locational criticism offers a way of approaching studies of literature and place. Finch argues that his method takes ‘account of both the text-internal and referential dimensions of place (or, to put the same thing another way, the imaginary and real)’ (2016, 2). For writers attempting an imagined, speculative or revised version of a real city, another layer of complication is added, as they are not just attempting to write the city but to write a different version of the city, one different in



time but not in geographical place. The speculative literary city must therefore always be uncanny, strange enough to be new, yet familiar enough to be recognisable. Both The Intuitionist and Zone One reconceptualise New York as a ‘new’ version of the actual, real city, and Whitehead rebuilds literary urban spaces and repurposes each as a place for social criticism. In doing so, Whitehead clearly draws on a long tradition of writing and rewriting the city. What sets Whitehead’s work apart from other literary treatments of New York is his fierce focus on contemporary American politics and racial inequalities. Whitehead’s construction of alternative and speculative cities serves to illustrate the lack of safe spaces for the African American community; they are simultaneously a direct response to the traumatic history of African Americans in civic spaces. For example, his characters frequently find the city to be a dangerous space where their racial identity renders them profoundly vulnerable. This traumatic history is both historical and recent, stretching from the Antebellum America, the segregated Jim Crow South, through to the Civil Rights marches, the LAPD riots of the 1990s, and the Black Lives Matter movement of the twenty-first century. For Whitehead, the passing of time therefore rarely signifies any form of positive progression. The ongoing complexities of African American identity and history are at the centre of all of Whitehead’s fiction, and when re-imagining the city, Whitehead is acutely aware that public civic spaces have a problematic history for African Americans. Whitehead explores literary representations of the city that draw out this issue of how civic safety can be dependent upon skin colour. What might be considered a benign space for a white American can be a place for terror for a person of colour. Claudia Rankine, in her award-winning prose poem Citizen: An American Lyric (2014) draws attention to this by documenting a series of racial micro-aggressions and harassments that happen to the speaker in public spaces—on an aeroplane, in a campus cafeteria, in Starbucks, in a shop, on the subway. These microaggressions, suddenly frozen and removed from the quotidian, become moments that reveal the vulnerability created by the hypervisibility of African-Americans in public spaces increasingly policed by aggressive white privilege. In Between the World and Me (2015), Ta-Nehisi Coates writes a letter to his teenage son as a means of explaining how institutions such as school and the police effectively disempower African Americans, and details how growing up in 1980s Baltimore he was acutely aware that his race and gender made him both visible and vulnerable. Recent protests in Charlottesville have highlighted how many African Americans must



critically navigate public spaces where slavery is commemorated, where roads are named after Confederate generals and slave-­owners, and the Confederate flag is displayed as a nostalgic and unproblematic way of remembering the past.

Alternative New York: Verticality and Notoriety As actual, real, lived American city spaces often have an unacknowledged history of violence for African Americans, speculative spaces in art and fiction become increasingly important. Ramon Saldavar’s theoretical approach to reading and analysing speculative work by writers of colour focuses on the development of a ‘postrace aesthetic’ involving ‘speculative realism’. Saldavar defines speculative realism ‘as a way of getting at the revisions of realism and fantasy into speculative forms that are seeming to shape the invention of new narrative modes in contemporary fiction’ (2013, 3). For Saldavar, speculative realism operates alongside genre splicing, postmodern writing techniques, and racial politics to function as a theoretical approach—postrace aesthetics—for writers of colour who write speculative fiction. Speculative city spaces can therefore become a way of allowing writers to consider alternative histories, potential futures, and imaginative possibilities. The term ‘postrace’ is used, as Saldavar notes, ‘with full ironic force’ (2013, 2) in a contemporary America where white supremacy is ‘the unacknowledged ideology of our times’ (2013, 2). Imagining a speculative version of New York that still has enough recognisable elements to remind the reader of the real-life geographical location thus becomes a specific way of engaging with racial politics. Speculative spaces in literature are pedagogical spaces for Whitehead, created to signal that America still has a very long way to go when it comes to reflecting on its institutional practices with regard to race and space. Whitehead’s imaginative cities are always fantastical, satirical spaces that feature some clear hallmarks of Afrofuturism, such as alienation, representations of the lived realities of black bodies in the past and present, and a re-examination of the historical past to attempt to build new truths outside of the dominant cultural narrative. Whitehead’s first novel, The Intuitionist, established some of the central themes and ideas that he continues to explore in his later writing. Set in an unnamed city full of skyscrapers and impossibly high buildings that is clearly meant to be New  York but is deliberately never confirmed as such, concepts of time are intrinsically connected with Whitehead’s



construction of African American life in the city. Lila Mae Watson is the city’s first black female Elevator Inspector, working in a profession that has, the narrator’s voice wryly informs the reader, an ‘undeniable macho cachet’ (Whitehead 1999, 21). In this deliberately Gotham-esque vertical city, elevator inspecting is a serious business and one which necessitates years of study. By using the metaphor of the elevator, Whitehead plays with ideas of verticality and ascension, drawing on a long tradition of African-American writing which stretches back to the work of writers such as W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston, who explore migration, urban movement, and ideologies of racial uplift. For Lila Mae, working as an Intuitionist is the literal and metaphorical means of elevating herself within her present society. In the world of The Intuitionist, the Department of Elevator Inspectors is divided into two camps, for in this alternative world, there are two binary approaches to the inspection of elevators. The Intuitionists possess the ability to feel or ‘intuit’ any elevator. In contrast, the Empiricists use traditional instruments to assess an elevator and are deeply suspicious of Intuitionist methodology. Lila Mae, an Intuitionist and proud of it, has the highest accuracy rate in her department. A single moment in time changes Lila Mae’s life forever and forces her to re-evaluate her relationship with the city, with history, and with her role in urban life in general. When an elevator that Lila Mae has recently inspected crashes, her professional reputation is called into question, as is the whole Intuitionist school of theory. The trauma of the crashed elevator effectively disrupts Lila Mae’s experience of linear time. She is convinced the elevator was sabotaged and begins her investigation into the darkest corners of the city, uncovering bit by bit the murky secrets of the Elevator Guild. Lila Mae spends much of the text searching for the mysterious ‘black box’ that contains the notes of the now deceased James Fulton, credited as the architect of the Empiricist school. Halfway through the novel, Fulton is revealed to have been an African American who successfully passed for white. His black box, containing the engineering blue print for a revolutionary new type of elevator, is conceptualised as a Pandora’s box that holds the key to the mystery, and one that will, Lila Mae reflects, ‘deliver us from the cities that we suffer now’ (Whitehead 1999, 61), suddenly takes on new meaning. As Madhu Dubey notes, African Americans are revealed to be the ‘hidden architects of modern cities’ (2003, 238). Whitehead aims to remind the reader of the history of African American labour that has so often been eradicated from historical



narratives, yet is absolutely intrinsic in literally building the spaces from which African Americans are subsequently disenfranchised. Lila Mae, an intersectional figure who is never allowed to forget her heritage, now possesses incontrovertible proof that an African American was responsible for the design of her city. The current urban landscape is thus ideologically transformed by Lila Mae’s new knowledge of the ‘true’ historical past. Lila Mae is now aware that there is a competing version of the ‘history’ that has shaped her present, and hegemonic history can be rewritten through the literal construction of new monuments. As Saundra Liggins argues, ‘With this black box, Whitehead has created an ingenious metaphor for racial uplift. The investigation into the validity and location of the plans for the black box functions effectively as an exploration into the past, present, and future of racial progress, outlining the compromises, losses, and gains inherent in such an evolution’ (2006, 365). Lila Mae cannot unlearn what she knows, of course, and her entire understanding of history—and her possible future—has been irrevocably altered. Through the elevator metaphor, and the revelation of Fulton’s real identity, Whitehead offers a re-examination of the role of African Americans in urban history, and American history more generally. As Ruth Mayer has stated about the United States, ‘black history is both there and not there, evident in countless traces, scars, and memories, yet largely submerged when it comes to written accounts and first-person documentations of the past from the viewpoint of the victims’ (2000, 558). In his fiction, Whitehead makes explicit what some versions of American history have tried to eradicate. The ‘traces, scars, and memories’ to which Meyer refers, the traumatic relationship between African Americans, time, and space, a history that has been chronicled on the body through scars and beatings, and on city spaces through racial segregation of civic areas, is the history that Whitehead is trying to expose and interrogate. Whitehead’s writing shows how African Americans can be haunted by a cultural memory of a traumatised past. In this reading, time and history can be an immense burden on the individual, as Lila Mae’s reaction to Fulton’s secret suggests: she must now carry on his work. Whitehead’s fiction can therefore be read as a process of imaginative restoration, a reclaiming of African American spaces in alternative versions of landmark American cities. Lila Mae has the chance to change history, to write a new future that acknowledges African American intellect, ingenuity, and labour. The verticality to which she is now even more attuned—with the revelation of Fulton’s true identity—is about racial uplift, about making visible what has been



previously rendered invisible. Lauren Berlant reads the Fulton reveal as integral to the racial politics of the text, and the narrative structure of the novel: ‘This detective plot reveals slowly a secretly racialized map of twentieth-­century utopian technologies’ (2008, 8). These new designs for the cities of the future, Lila Mae realises, offer not just a new form of elevator, or even a new form of city life, but the creation of a new order, a brand-new civic space. The promise of a new version of future time offers Lila Mae hope. She perceives it as tabula rasa, a chance to start again and rewrite public space for a new and more inclusive world. This new knowledge places Lila Mae at the intersection of two versions of time. She must understand the past (time-as-history) in order to write the future (time-as-possibility). She is at the juncture of the old and the new; she has the power to change things for the better. The New York of The Intuitionist therefore exists both in and out of the fictional timeline constructed in the text. Whitehead draws on the quasi-mythical status of New York (and especially Harlem) as a ‘safe space’ in the North during America’s Jim Crow years. Liggins notes that ‘the northern city in particular has been the source of much inspiration in African American literature, codifying ideas of both hope and frustration’ (2006, 360). The frustration Liggins refers to is the assumption that safety lies northward when in fact this was not always the case, and Whitehead plays with this historical assumption throughout The Intuitionist. Lila Mae, who has migrated from the South to New  York, has also presumed a greater safety to be found in the metropolis, only to learn that city life is far more complicated than she imagined. Fulton’s new possibilities for a different future are therefore imbued with a certain urgency which Lila Mae—marginalised through both race and gender—is quick to recognise. Reflecting on the possibilities of the new city of the future that Fulton’s elevator will surely herald, Lila Mae believes that the current city will have to be destroyed to make way for the new. She imagines: They will have to raze the city and cart off the rubble to less popular boroughs and start anew. What will it look like. The shining city will possess untold arms and a thousand eyes, mutability itself, constructed of yet-­ unconjured plastics. It will float, fly, fall, have no need of steel armature, have a liquid spine, no spine at all. Astronomer-architects will lay out the Heliopolis so that it charts the progress of the stars through heaven. (Whitehead 1999, 198–99)



Lila Mae’s pseudo-Biblical imagining of the second elevation, the new world order she believes will be necessitated by the delivery of Fulton’s elusive black box, is a terrifying vision of the future delivered from a problematic present. Her vision is one of apocalypse where the new New York as the ‘shining city’ seems to suggest an end to time and history itself; a literal unveiling of a new order. This fresh understanding of architecture, space, and verticality will mean that New York will have to be destroyed and built again. Even as Lila Mae contemplates this imaginary future for her city, she is aware of the tensions between capitalism and environmental justice, as the rubble and debris from the decimated city of the future will have to be sent to ‘less popular boroughs’. Perhaps Queens and the Bronx might have to suffer so that this ‘new’ Manhattan will be able to shine. In Lila Mae’s imagination, the city is sentient, a living organism of a metropolis with ‘untold arms and a thousand eyes’, watching its inhabitants. It is ‘mutability itself’, able to remould and rebuild itself at a whim. The role of the human architect at this point is unclear (it is possible, of course, that it might be Lila Mae herself); she can only see the possibilities of this new space, which will be ‘constructed of yet-unconjured plastics’. The pacing and rhythm of this section reveal the rapidity of Lila Mae’s thought process as she dreams of this possible future, this speculative city: ‘It will float, fly, fall, have no need of steel armature, have a liquid spine, no spine at all’. The city is full of movement, flexibility, and possibility. Even at this moment of imagining a future moment in time, Lila Mae is caught in the past, conceiving as this new city as ‘heliopolis’, the ancient city of the sun; in this moment that folds together time, myth and history she can imagine the apocalyptic future of New York. The ‘Astronomer-architects’ take on God-like powers. Lila Mae’s relationship with time structures this passage as she spins her urban fantasy of the future by focusing on the destruction of her present. This dream of infinite and beautiful city spaces operates in sharp contrast to Lila Mae’s experience of urban life up to this point. When training at the Institute for Vertical Transport, Lila Mae lived in the janitor’s closet because there was no living space for African American students. She is literally kept out of sight, hidden away from the rest of the community. As Dubey points out in her study Signs and Cities, Whitehead ‘participates in a postmodern interrogation of the grand narrative of urban modernization, showing that this narrative gains coherence through racial exclusion’ (2003, 238). Fulton’s passing for white, the most successful form of racial exclusion (and one that Fulton willingly participated in) is symptomatic of



a culture where whiteness is continuously privileged. At one point in the novel, suspecting her Empiricist colleagues of sabotaging her career and investigation, Lila Mae chooses to follow them to the Elevator Guild’s most important night of the year, the wonderfully named ‘Annual Funicular Follies’ (Whitehead 1999, 147). Barred from entering as herself, a professional woman, Lila Mae dresses as a maid and spends the evening waiting tables, serving her colleagues, and listening to the secrets of the Guild. Nobody recognises her; she is simply another nameless African American woman serving food and drink to white men: ‘She understood that this night was for all the Department but her’ (Whitehead 1999, 153). Whitehead’s point here is not that Lila Mae is passing at this stage (or any stage) of the novel; it is simply that her race and gender renders her painfully invisible in the urban environment: ‘In here they do not see her. She is the colored help’ (Whitehead 1999, 153). During the Follies, she witnesses two of her co-workers putting on blackface and performing a minstrel show, and a performance from ‘the Safety Girls’, a group of twenty white women singing and dancing whilst wearing ‘short and tight crimson outfits’ (Whitehead 1999, 150). The Follies are revealed to be a horrific celebration of racism, misogyny, and masculine ego that Lila Mae is forced to witness. As Ameel suggests during his study of literary Helsinki, ‘The most important research subject in the present study is not so much the city itself, or even images of the city, but the experience of the city in literary texts’ (2016, 15). Lila Mae’s experience of city life in this moment—that it is exclusionary, misogynist, and ignorant—is what drives the narrative. Lila Mae’s role in the text is to forge potential new spaces for other African Americans. She must fight to find a space—a safe space—away from the confines of the janitor’s closet from which she has emerged. Saldavar reads The Intuitionist as a history of the future (2013, 4). As the text ends, Lila Mae is the custodian of Fulton’s work; she will continue his legacy as African Americans are revealed to be the true architects of the modern city. In doing this, it is implied, she will become as visible as the vertical architecture to which she has dedicated her life.

City of the Future: Manhattan in Ruins Over a decade after the success of The Intuitionist, Whitehead published Zone One (2011), a fresh take on the zombie novel. In an America virtually destroyed by a zombie virus, Mark Spitz and his fellow volunteer



soldiers must clear out and make safe ‘Zone One’, the space that once used to be downtown Manhattan. Spitz’s relationship with time and the city structures the text as the action takes place over three days of the clean-up operation. The novel is focalised through Spitz and his memories of the glorious New York of his past, contrasted with the terrifying reality of the Zone One of his present. The very first line of the novel establishes the arch tone of the narrative voice, with the admission that Spitz ‘had always wanted to live in New  York’ (Whitehead 2011, 3). The zombie apocalypse has suddenly made that dream of city living come true. As the novel begins, the new American government—now based in Buffalo—has decreed that the time has come to reclaim Manhattan, and the skyscrapers and office blocks of Zone One must be cleared of any remaining zombies so that this premium urban space can be re-used as accommodation for top government officials. Whitehead’s construction of New York in Zone One, just as in The Intuitionist, is as a deliberately uncanny landscape. It is a ruined space where the volunteer soldiers such as Spitz survive on army rations provided through corporate sponsorship of the clean-up operation. Capitalism must play its role, even after the zombie apocalypse, and one of the first things to be restored after the zombie outbreak is, of course, corporate paperwork. Spitz’s relationship with the New York he clearly remembers visiting as a child, and the disturbing Zone One of his present, provides a literary re-mapping of the city space and is used by Whitehead to allow the reader to learn the ‘new’ New York that he has created. This is complicated when it is revealed—almost at the very end of the novel—that Spitz is actually African American. ‘Mark Spitz’ is not even the protagonist’s real name (which is never revealed) but is instead a nickname. Moreover, it is a nickname that was awarded because of a racist joke when Spitz’s fellow white survivors were surprised that he, as a black man, could swim. Mark Spitz is a white American Olympic swimmer, so the use of this nickname can be read, as Jessica Hurley suggests, as transforming the text into a ‘meta-passing novel’ (2015, 321). Just as with the revelation of Fulton’s race in The Intuitionist, cleverly hinted at with his creation of the ‘black box’, Spitz’s status as an African American recalibrates some of the text’s politics. Spitz’s walking of Zone One and role as a flâneur is suddenly far more complex as he is an African American abroad on dangerous city streets. He is potentially in even more danger than his fellow (white) volunteer soldiers. The existence of his nickname and the text’s withholding of his real name serves to reiterate Whitehead’s point that



racism seems to have survived the zombie apocalypse just fine. Saldavar argues that: ‘As an aesthetic mechanism of fear management, the representation of apocalypse thus becomes for Whitehead a way of containing and processing a world too close to our own for full comfort in hope. In the end, Whitehead proposes that it may well be necessary first to imagine the end of the world before we may imagine the historical end of racialization and racism’ (2013, 13). Speculative realism therefore becomes a mode in which the writer of colour can offer hope to their readership through the imagining of a new civic space. The opening pages of the novel document Spitz’s relationship with the pre-apocalyptic New York: He remembered how things used to be, the customs of the skyline. Up and down the island the buildings collided, they humiliated runts through verticality and ambition, sulked in one another’s shadows. […] Yesterday’s old masters, stately named and midwifed by once-famous architects, were insulted by the soot of combustion engines and by technological advances in construction. Time chiseled at elegant stonework, which swirled or plummeted to the sidewalk in dust and chips and chunks. Behind the facades their insides were butchered, reconfigured, rewired according to the next era’s new theories of utility. Classic six into studio honeycomb, sweatshop killing floor into cordoned cubicle mill. In every neighborhood the imperfect in their fashion awaited the wrecking ball and their bones were melted down to help their replacements surpass them, steel into steel. The new buildings in wave upon wave drew themselves out of rubble, shaking off the past like immigrants. The addresses remained the same and so did the flawed philosophies. It wasn’t anyplace else. It was New  York City. (Whitehead 2011, 5–6)

Spitz recognises that Zone One is simply the latest incarnation of Manhattan. The city has always been a work in progress, a flexible and transformative space to be updated whenever necessary in order to serve the citizens. The verticality of the city is emphasised alongside the old competitions for architectural height and status. Configured as works of art, the ‘old masters’ of old New York are eventually ‘butchered, reconfigured, rewired’. Despite this, the ‘addresses remained the same’. Just as Lila Mae’s vision of the future is quasi-apocalyptic, Spitz’s reflection on the spaces of New York also seems to suggest that Whitehead does not subscribe to the idea of wholly positive progression. Architects become ‘midwives’, helping the city to give birth to a new (not always improved)



version of itself. Time is a transforming agency but the physical spaces— the addresses—serve as a cultural and geographical anchor to the past. This is the New York that Spitz remembers from his childhood, and ‘[t]he boy was smitten’ (Whitehead 2011, 6). It is a version of this city that he is trying to save through the attempted regentrification of Zone One. As Spitz works his way through the city—visiting restaurants he used to frequent, offices he once worked in, shops he used to visit—Whitehead offers a novel written as a pseudo-memoir of Spitz’s former life, and time-as-­ memory is layered and complex, lying upon the cultural remnants of the New York that everyone knows. A memorial to the New York of the reader’s present that has been re-imagined as the lost past of the novel. As ever, in post-apocalyptic fiction, remembering what has gone before is painful but necessary for the narrative. Former restaurants and cafes are now used as briefing areas for the army; Spitz and his team camp in old offices and abandoned spaces as architecture is recycled out of necessity in the new urban landscape. A flâneur in a new and unstable world, Spitz walks and walks and walks around former Manhattan. The necessary relearning of a once-familiar environment is, of course, a standard trope of post-­ apocalyptic writing and associated media. On television and in film, the same strategy of uncanny environment is also used—The Walking Dead and Atlanta, the London of 28 Days Later (2002)—to understand what Whitehead is trying to accomplish through writing Spitz’s navigation of the once well-known landscape. Spitz attempts to layout the ‘referential dimensions of place’ as he gets to know the new New York. The only way Spitz can forge any sense of connection with Zone One is to re-map it. When his team clears out the city grid by grid, Spitz finds himself unable to orientate himself in a space he used to know well: Was he looking north or south? It was like dragging a fork through gruel. The ash smeared the city’s palette into a gray hush on the best of days, but introduce clouds and a little bit of precip and the city became an altar to obscurity. He was an insect exploring a gravestone: the words and names were crevasses to get lost in, looking and meaningless. (Whitehead 2011, 8)

The city has become an unknowable space. Monotone and blurred, the visual landscape no longer has any defining features or place for the ‘elegant stonework’ (2011, 6) at which Spitz used to marvel. The ‘old masters’ are now indecipherable from the landscape and Spitz is aware of his



own tiny place in the new world order. Whitehead draws on the imaginative past of Spitz’s memories whilst offering an unsettling vision of the city’s future that can seem all too recognisable. How New Yorkers spent their time in relation to the urban environment is also a crucial part of Whitehead’s construction of Zone One. This is done predominantly through the way that Whitehead rewrites the figure of the zombie. Building on the work of Donna Haraway’s figure of the cyborg, Sarah Juliet Lauro and Karen Embry argue that ‘the zombie now represents the new slave, the capitalist worker, but also the consumer, trapped within the ideological construct that assures the survival of the system’ (2008, 99). Whitehead reinforces this interface of consumer and capitalist ideologies in the construction of the ‘straggler’ zombies. Unlike the familiar figures of the mindless zombie horde—called ‘skels’ by Spitz and his companions—the ‘stragglers’ are rarely violent, and instead are caught in a time loop of repetition. They repeat the actions of their former life again and again and again, usually in their place of work. Time has become a trap for the stragglers; their experience of the city is based on their previous life, and they have now become mindless slaves to their personal histories. Hurley reads the formation of the zombie figure within the text as a physical haunting from a time before, as: ‘un-dead: a walking embodiment of past populations that will not stay dead but extrude threateningly into the present, where systems of government disintegrate in the face of an unruly, unrulable population of the no-longer human’ (2015, 312). Spitz and his comrades function as parallels to the zombies; they are also caught in a capitalist web of exploitative work (clearing out Zone One) rewarded by meagre payment (small rations of food). Just as in the television show of the same name, Spitz understands that although he is living, he is now also part of the ‘walking dead’. Time stands still in the spaces of Zone One; Spitz works his way through former office blocks noticing the evidence of life before—the lunch boxes and coffee mugs on desk—that operate as a bizarre monument to a past that seemingly cannot be recaptured. The focus on corporate space suggests that perhaps one version of time has been suspended; a Foucauldian version of time dependent on understandings of space, power, and knowledge. This understanding of time—corporate, capitalist time where lawyers bill their time by the minute and workers are expected to clock in and out of their low-­ wage jobs—has now been almost entirely unwritten by the zombie apocalypse. Offices are now mausoleums, and it is only the entrance of Spitz’s



team that breaks the stasis of these spaces: ‘He was the first live human being the dead had seen since the start, and the former ladies of HR were starving’ (Whitehead 2011, 14). Whitehead demonstrates, however, that in the space of Zone One, the stragglers are still caught in the patterns of urban modernity. There is no escape from capitalist constructs of work and labour, as the corporate zombies and Spitz’s job attest. Spitz’s narrative, the only narrative of this ‘new’ New York to which the reader has access, is rewriting the narrative of time in the city. Still Foucauldian in nature, but now based more on heightened surveillance (which is what allows for some measure of personal safety).

Unsafe Spaces Finally, it is useful to consider Whitehead’s most recent and most successful work to date as a way of concluding this chapter. Since publication in 2016, The Underground Railroad has won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Carnegie Medal for Fiction, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award, which is awarded annually for the best science-fiction novel of the year. The Underground Railroad, a neo-slave narrative that re-imagines the underground railroad of abolitionist safe houses as an actual train, complete with carriages and stations, has been commercially successful as well critically lauded, and was famously part of Barack Obama’s summer reading list in 2016. Interpreting the text as a work of science-fiction prompts an examination of how race and genre intersect more broadly in Whitehead’s work. Building on the work of established African American science-fiction writers such as Octavia Butler’s whose Kindred (1979) explored a black female traveller being thrown back in time to when her ancestors were enslaved, thus endangering her very existence in the present day of the novel, also plays with ideas of time and space. For both Butler and Whitehead, time is integral in understanding some of the complexities of African American identity, a cultural identity that was itself forged from a violent historical past. Being black is about thinking about how one can reflect on the past in order to make a better present and is a concept that Whitehead and Butler both reflect on. A nuanced understanding of time can therefore create concepts of race—as happens in terms of the literary representation of slavery in Whitehead’s work—but can also fix or develop troubling concepts of race (and racism) as The Underground Railroad seeks to do.



In The Underground Railroad, cities and time play a complex role. The enslaved Cora, running away from the horrors of plantation life, finds herself travelling from Georgia through to South and then North Carolina and finally Indiana. The traditional literary motif of space and time that suggests that journeying North is a move towards a better future and new possibilities is one that has always played a central role in African American life (from escaping from the antebellum South to the Great Migration of the early twentieth century) and African American literature, where images of ascent and uplift have a particular resonance (such as in The Intuitionist). The usual motif of journeying North symbolising progress is directly challenged by Cora’s experiences in The Underground Railroad. The text draws on real-life slave narratives; for example, Cora ends up hiding in an attic for several months in South Carolina, in an obvious reference to Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). Each of the states has a symbolic significance, and there is more than a hint of steampunk in terms of how urban spaces are imaginatively redesigned in the text. In his world-building, Whitehead excels at a superb blend of speculative fiction and realism that layers historical fact with real geographical spaces and flights of imaginative fancy. South Carolina, for instance, has towering skyscrapers. Entrances to the railroad are carefully hidden and must be accessed through trap doors in safe houses. Suddenly, parts of America are connected by this labyrinthine network of underground tracks. It turns the text into a picaresque, a travel narrative of Cora’s flight towards freedom and safe spaces. But there are multiple horrors along the way. In North Carolina, African Americans (and any whites who help them) are lynched as part of the ‘Freedom Trail’ as Boston’s famous historical sites are repurposed for mass murder. Just as real locations in the United States often have a layered history for African Americans, Whitehead layers his historical narrative, folding multiple levels of fact and fiction to complicate and destabilise the hegemonic concept of ‘history’. Just as New  York functions in The Intuitionist and Zone One, North Caroline is thus rendered as an uncanny and complicated space. There are no safe spaces for African Americans in North Carolina; this is Whitehead’s point. The polar opposite of Lila Mae, who dreams of public recognition for her work, Cora longs for invisibility, to be able to move around the city freely as an African American woman. For Cora, being visible in the city is to risk torture, imprisonment, and death. Just like Zone One, The Underground Railroad plays with the idea of safe spaces—characters



repeatedly presume a safe is space before this is assumption is cruelly and often violently destroyed. Whitehead constructs the relationship between time, the city, and the individual as integral to constructions of race and selfhood. In doing this, he offers an explicit parallel to contemporary America. Cora’s terror of being seen on the city streets in The Underground Railroad uncomfortably resonates with recent cases of the violent death of many African Americans on city streets (Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tanisha Anderson). How can the city ever be a safe space for African Americans? In both The Intuitionist and Zone One, New York is repurposed as part of a much bigger political project. The ambiguity of New  York itself, and its ability to shape and reshape itself, is part of its attraction for both writer and tourist. The spaces that Whitehead’s characters encounter—empty buildings, janitor’s closets, broken elevators—are all utilised to explore how physical and architectural environments have been politicised. Whitehead’s rewrite of New  York serves as a reminder that racial identity can re-map the city for its citizens, and how the historical past must be re-examined for the future to succeed. As a way of attempting to offer a counter narrative to this version of American history, Bryan Stephenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, has led one of the foundation’s recent projects to mark the sites of historical lynchings as a way of both reclaiming and memorialising public space. Just like Whitehead, Stephenson is attempting to acknowledge the difficult layers of history connected to a specific space. Through his fiction, Whitehead embarks on a similar project, where the understanding that urban spaces are also sites of historical (and more recent) racial atrocities is crucial when considering how space functions within the literary past and present. In this way, city spaces are inevitably bound up in concepts of time as they are continually haunted by memories and physical remnants of the traumatic past.

References Ameel, Lieven. 2016. Helsinki in Early Twentieth Century Literature: Urban Experiences in Finnish Prose Fiction 1890–1940. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society. Berlant, Lauren. 2008. Intuitionists: History and the Affective Event. American Literary History. https://doi.org/10.1093/alh/ajn039. Butler, Octavia. 2014. Kindred. London: Headline.



Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2015. Between the World and Me. Melbourne: Text Publishing Company. Dubey, Madhu. 2003. Signs and Cities: Black Literary Postmodernism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Finch, Jason. 2016. Deep Locational Criticism: Imaginative Place in Literary Research and Teaching. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Hurley, Jessica. 2015. History is What Bites: Zombies, Race and the Limits of Biopower in Colson Whitehead’s Zone One. Extrapolation 56: 311–333. Jacobs, Harriet. 2005. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. London: Penguin Classics. Lauro, Sarah Juliet, and Karen Embry. 2008. A Zombie Manifesto: The Nonhuman Condition in the Era of Advanced Capitalism. boundary 2 35: 85–108. Liggins, Saundra. 2006. The Urban Gothic Vision of Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist. African American Review 40 (02): 359–369. http://www.jstor. org/stable/40033724. Mayer, Ruth. 2000. “Africa as an Alien Future”: The Middle Passage, Afrofuturism, and Postcolonial Waterworlds. Amerikastudien / American Studies 45 (4): 555–566. Rankine, Claudia. 2014. Citizen. London: Penguin. Saldavar, Ramon. 2013. The Second Elevation of the Novel: Race, Form, and the Postrace Aesthetic in Contemporary Narrative. Narrative 21 (1): 1–18. Whitehead, Colson. 1999. The Intuitionist. New York: Anchor Books. ———. 2011. Zone One. London: Vintage. ———. 2016. The Underground Railroad. London: Fleet.


Time and Motion


‘The Sensation of a Moment’: Speed, Stillness, and Victorian London in Wilkie Collins’s Basil Helena Ifill

Victorian London was one of the biggest, most densely populated cities in the world, and rapidly expanding. One article, written on the ‘eve of a decennial census’ and in anticipation of a great influx of British and foreign tourists for the Great Exhibition, called it an ‘over-grown and ever-­growing hive—the metropolis of the world’ (‘London in 1851’ 1851, 127). The article estimates that in each average square mile of London there are: 130,000 human creatures, performing within that stinted compass all the operations of life and death, mixed up in a fearful mêlée of passions and interests, luxury and starvation, debauchery and criminality, hard work and idleness; besides an infinity of occupations—useful, ornamental, and mischievous, making love, begging alms, picking pockets, juggling, grinding organs, rolling in carriages, exhibiting ‘happy families’ in the streets, and returning at night to unspeakable misery at home. (‘London in 1851’ 1851, 128)

H. Ifill (*) University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_5




Implicit in this extract is the image of London as a place of potential for numerous meetings of different classes and social types. Yet, whilst offering positive and negative examples of human experience and interactions, the overall tone of the extract tips towards the latter, as people beg, steal and are only seemingly ‘happy’ in public. Strangers are ‘mixed up’ in a ‘fearful’ manner, rather than brought together in a productive or fulfilling way. Much Victorian writing addressed the modern city (especially London) as a place of potential isolation and loneliness, in which people rarely made deep or enduring connections: ‘A city mass’, observed one North British Review contributor in 1859, ‘is a multitude of units living in mere juxtaposition, or at best shaken and jostled together in the intercourse of common life’ (Burns 1859, 207–8). In many accounts of Victorian London, the vastness of the ‘mighty Babylon’, and its potential for generating feelings of anonymity and insignificance, is described in temporal terms. In one Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine series, The World of London (1841–42), the city is described as ‘an eternity of town, without beginning and without end—an ocean filling the mind of the bewildered wanderer with the idea of amplitude infinitesimally extended’. (‘The World of London. Part III’. 1841, 62, emphasis added) In his early 1852 novel, Basil: A Story of Modern Life, Wilkie Collins perpetuates, for sensational purposes, notions of the city as a place where individuals are ‘mixed up’ and ‘jostled together’ but fail to make positive connections and the representation of time is a significant element in this portrayal.1 In Collins’s London, time is experienced differently by different types of people, depending on their social status, their purpose in the city, how they travel through it, and what part of it they inhabit at any given moment. Time is also something that people, particularly the eponymous protagonist, try to manipulate, especially by attempting to expand or pause it, in order to impart meaning to otherwise ephemeral chance encounters; the result is a portrayal of opportunities that are not missed, but perhaps should have been, and this contributes to a cynical depiction of class types and cross-class relations. One opportunity for being jostled (sometimes literally) alongside other Victorian city dwellers was afforded by the horse-drawn omnibus, horse bus, or just ‘’bus’, which ‘emerged as a common metaphor for the collapsing distances within the metropolis but also for the reduction of distance between fellow travelers’ (Newsom Kerr 2010, 288). One of the most structurally important scenes of Basil occurs when the eponymous narrator gets on an omnibus one day in order to study the characters he chances



to find on this ‘perambulatory exhibition-room of the eccentricities of human nature’ (Collins 2005, 27). The omnibus is at once a place of progress that (as it moves through the city faster than walking pace) saves time, and a place of stillness that allows time, time for disparate people from different backgrounds to be temporarily brought into close proximity; this provides a unique opportunity for interactions which would not otherwise be possible. So, when Basil boards the omnibus, he sets himself up to enjoy a flâneur’s observatory experience without the physical exertion of strolling through the city, and with a more leisurely opportunity to watch his fellow passengers. It becomes apparent, however, that Basil is open to establishing a more direct connection than merely watching affords. Basil’s observations are disrupted by the arrival of a veiled young woman, Margaret Sherwin, from whom he feels an ‘influence’ that draws him to her and marks the beginning of a doomed fascination (Collins 2005, 29).2 By following Margaret to her home, the upper-class Basil discovers that he has fallen for a ‘linen-­ draper’s daughter’ (Collins 2005, 33). In this way, Collins characterizes the modern city as a place with the potential for chance encounters that may prove life changing, if the speed of city life is paused long enough for people from different backgrounds to make connections. In her reading of street encounters in Elizabeth Gaskell’s works, Sue Zemka notes that they ‘happen suddenly and briefly but open into other temporalities, ones that allow for imagined intimacy’ (2009, 797–798). While ‘density and brevity can open into alternative temporalities that imagine a web of social sympathies,’ Zemka argues, ‘these opportunities for intersubjectivity are temporally circumscribed; inter-class intimacy has no permanence in Gaskell’s world, only an isolated present’ (2009, 813). While the brevity of Gaskell’s street encounters allows for the generation of imagined sympathy which is short-lived by default, in Basil the omnibus encounter allows for a different quality of interaction, providing a moment of pause as people travel together for a time. The window of opportunity for the imagination to work is slightly but significantly prolonged. Basil’s imagination is so impressed by Margaret that he actively protracts the moment even further; he engineers circumstances so that he will continue to see Margaret in the future, and also imagines a shared past for them, telescoping what should have remained a brief encounter. The relationship does not develop as Basil plans. Hoping to buy time in which to overcome his haughty father’s inevitable disapproval, Basil enters into a secret marriage. Margaret proves unfaithful, and a series of connected events leave Basil estranged from his



family and running for his life. The majority of the novel is Basil’s first-­ person account of how things have gone so terribly wrong, written whilst he is in hiding in Cornwall. Like Gaskell, albeit in a different manner, Collins casts doubt upon the possibility of extended ‘inter-class intimacy’, and also implies that attempts to force it to come about will be based on false assumptions and imagination, and will be ultimately doomed. The way in which characters make use of time in the city is a part of Collins’s social critique. For the upper-class Basil, the days (especially the day on which he meets Margaret) stretch out in a manner that is both loosely structured and repetitive, leading to boredom and idleness. However, Collins’s depiction of the middle classes does not, as might be expected, offer a contrasting sense of business, or busyness, of precise and efficient use of time. Instead, Collins focuses on the suburban environment inhabited by his bourgeois characters Margaret and her parents, Mr and Mrs Sherwin. The growth of the Victorian suburbs and the increase in speedy communal transport like the omnibus went hand in hand, as ‘people began to take houses in the suburbs, for the sake of more elbow-room and a purer atmosphere than the dense old city afforded’ (‘Locomotion in London’ 1868, 296). This image of the suburbs as semi-rural fringes, to which city dwellers could move for some relief from the oppression of the town, was often opposed by images of them as the city devouring the surrounding countryside, growing at a shocking speed. Collins makes use of this latter well-known impression of the suburbs and places the Sherwin’s house in an area that shows clear evidence of the city’s rapid development, but which, within its walls, is characterized by stasis, hollowness, and disconnection. Time seems to stop, to become stagnant, in this soulless modern place, which is inhabited by equally soulless people who are far more interested in Basil’s rank and fortune than in his affection for Margaret. Collins challenges the notion, implicit in much writing by Victorians about London, that the speed and lack of time that primarily define city life are significant obstacles to the development of deep social bonds. By depicting moments of pause and stillness within the fast-moving environments of the omnibus and the suburbs, but by using them to create and reveal false and empty relationships, Collins questions the possibility of ever making a meaningful connection, particularly outside of one’s own class, in the Victorian city.



The Omnibus In 1853, the Leisure Hour noted that although ‘when first started’ in the 1820s, omnibuses ‘were regarded somewhat as a luxury, they have long since become, from the distances which myriads are daily compelled to traverse, an absolute necessary of life’ (‘Our Cabs and ’Busses, With a Word for Their Drivers’ 1853, 437). People increasingly used omnibuses to save time on their work commute, particularly ‘city men’, both ‘employers’ and ‘clerks’ (‘The Omnibus in London and in Paris’ 1869, 29).3 For example, one sanguine account of life in the London suburbs of the 1840s mentions ‘the punctual city omnibus’ which comes ‘grinding along the newly-graveled [sic] road’ to pick up a commuter from a ‘well-known house’. This is worth quoting at length because the description of the omnibus (and the suburban family) is so different from the experience described in Basil. Everything in this account indicates a daily routine that runs like clockwork, with a sense of speed and efficiency, but no rushing: The servant-maid appears at the door in a twinkling, and […] is quickly followed by her master, with brushed hat and brilliant boots, his Mackintosh or greatcoat prudently thrown over his arm, and a little flower tastefully adjusted in the button-hole of his coat. The conductor, touching his hat, assists his accustomed fare, who smilingly exchanges a ‘good morning’ with his well-known fellow-passengers, and waves his hand to his youngest child, held up at the window to see papa depart. (‘The Suburbs of London’ 1844, 265 emphasis added)

Here the punctuality and regularity of the omnibus is a source of comfort that allows the commuter to build friendly and lasting (if not particularly profound) relationships with both the conductor and the other passengers. The timeliness and efficiency of the proceedings seem to augur well for the commuter’s working day ahead; rather than the stress that some readers (both then and now) might associate with a rush hour journey, this evokes a sense of ease and predictability. Basil’s ride on the omnibus allows for a different type of interaction. Basil is not travelling during commuting hours, and the people on the omnibus do not know each other and converse only with the person they board and alight with, except in unusual circumstances (which leads to a sense of discomfort and breached etiquette, discussed shortly). The repetitive and reliable timing of the omnibus in the example above is replaced by a sense of meandering and lack of structure, as Basil has nowhere in



particular that he needs to be; although he has been thinking about how to get home, he describes the omnibus rather vaguely as ‘going westward’ (Collins 2005, 27). Despite the name omnibus, this was generally a middle-class form of transport, as the very poor could not afford to travel, while those who were ‘in the slightest degree opulent and luxurious’ would make ‘a point of patronising the more expensive cab’, and the richest owned their own coaches (‘The Omnibus in London and in Paris’ 1869, 29).4 So, as a member of an ancient and wealthy family, who admits that he has ‘no tastes that [he] could not gratify as soon as formed; no cares or responsibilities of any kind’, Basil is an anomaly, and indeed his purpose and conception of his position within the omnibus set him apart from the others (Collins 2005, 9). He decides to take the omnibus home rather than a cab as ‘the idle impulse of the moment’ and in pursuit of ‘the idea of amusement’ which he connects to his ‘unfailing delight in studying characters of all kinds’ (Collins 2005, 27). This turns Basil into a non-pedestrian flâneur, somewhat like Edgar Allan Poe’s narrator in ‘The Man of the Crowd’ (1840), although whereas that flâneur initially watches through glass from his table in a London coffee-house, Basil is in much closer proximity to his subjects of observation. Basil experiences a similar pleasure on the omnibus to that which Srdjan Smajić observes in relation to Poe’s literary flâneurs: ‘[o]ne of the biggest thrills available to flâneurs […] involves scrutinizing the outward appearances of passers-by and reading them as texts whose meaning is perfectly transparent’ (Smajić 2010, 94). Ironically, considering his numerous misjudgements in the novel, Basil claims that he has ‘an aptitude for discovering points of character in others’, which he believes suits him for his chosen career as an author (Collins 2005, 27). Basil shares his amused observations with the reader, and twenty-first-century city dwellers may well still smile in recognition at the different figures he describes: the two finely dressed ladies who think that they are too good to travel by omnibus; the strange man who mumbles to himself; the ‘mansplainer’ (to use an anachronistic but appropriate term) who expounds to his young female companion in detail, rather too loudly, the etiquette and procedure of riding an omnibus (Collins 2005, 27–28). Despite their physical proximity, Basil’s humour here is based upon a feeling of distance rather than association with his fellow passengers, not only because of his rank (and accompanying educational and cultural privilege), but because of his confidence in his own perspicacity. Moreover, the several pages (especially in the longer 1852 version) that Basil takes to



describe these characters reflect the leisureliness he feels riding in the omnibus with no pressing need to be anywhere in particular. This passage also allows space to establish that Basil does not only take (as Poe’s flâneurs do) ‘pleasure in his ability correctly to interpret the visual signifiers of identity’ (Smajić 2010, 95), but also assumes that his moral judgement is more piercing, and superior to that of his fellow passengers. The 1852 version includes a long story told by one traveller, a veterinary surgeon, to his distinctly uncomfortable fellow passengers about how he ended up offering to euthanize a colleague who had allowed a dog bite to become infected (Collins 1852, 1:107–8). Basil is struck by not only the ‘kindness’ and ‘pure pity’ shown by the vet, but by his own (i.e. Basil’s) sensitive response to the story; while Basil’s ‘fellow-­passengers’ question the man’s ‘humanity’, Basil notes ‘I differed from them’ (Collins 1852, 1:109).5 Significantly, it is at this point (in the 1852 version) that Margaret and her mother board the omnibus. Whilst Basil’s ‘social tourism’ has aligned ‘him with the figure of the flâneur’, this event ‘propels him across the permeable boundaries of voyeurism into nearly fatal entanglements’ (Wagner 2006, 200).6 The superior detachment that Basil has just assured us of is shattered in an instant.

Misreading and Manipulating the ‘Moment’ Basil is eager to see his meeting with Margaret as more than an arbitrary encounter and writes about it as a portentous and portended, spiritually profound event which gives him a sudden insight into her unseen ‘influence’ upon him (Collins 2005, 29). Yet, as a reading of Basil’s life before the meeting, and a consideration of what happens afterwards, shows, while this encounter is certainly momentous, in that his life is changed from that point on, it is also ironic. Basil’s desire to read something significant into this moment (and his feelings for Margaret) blinds him to the fact that the influence that he deems ‘moral’7 is in fact sexual (Collins 2005, 28), and that his sudden devotion to a complete stranger is the result of his dissatisfaction with his own quiet life. This novel does not endorse hopes that either the instances of pause and observation supposedly offered by the omnibus, or the sudden arising of a single moment that seems especially tailored to the needs and desires of the individual, will lead to reliable knowledge or deeper understanding of others. The meeting with Margaret is so climactic because, despite his supposed detachment, Basil’s life prior to this point has primed him to seek



meaningful connection in an environment outside of his own family, social circles and class. Basil made no friends while at university (Collins 2005, 8). His current aspiration to be a writer means he often works alone, and he avoids social functions as much as possible (Collins 2005, 9, 26). His mother is dead; his father is distant and often away from home (Collins 2005, 12, 25). His brother Ralph is often abroad and rarely visits. Basil is very close to his sister Clara who has an ‘untiring good nature’ (Collins 2005, 23) but falls into the category of one of Collins’s ‘blue-eyed, weak, passive heroines’ (Cox 2007, 111) and cannot compete for Basil’s attention against the alluring Margaret. In following Margaret to her home, Basil forgets to go riding with Clara for the first time in his life (Collins 2005, 31). While Ralph moves abroad and makes a point of associating with women whose reputations range ‘from the mysteriously doubtful to the notoriously bad’, Basil’s sense of decorum prevents him from seeking a similar outlet for his desires (Collins 2005, 18). Yet, when Basil describes how Ralph, on his visits, comes to his room at night and mocks the ‘horribly inanimate’ upright young ladies of their acquaintance, he may well be expressing opinions and emotions that Basil represses (Collins 2005, 18). So, although he does not fully admit it (particularly in relation to Clara), there is plenty of evidence to show that Basil, at the age of 24, is bored, dissatisfied with his quiet life, and sexually frustrated. His attraction to Margaret is primarily physical, as Basil’s detailed descriptions of her sensual, exotic appearance (including ‘too full’ lips), and mature figure reveal (Collins 2005, 29). As an honourable gentleman, however, he cannot act upon these feelings without asking for her hand in marriage, and convincing himself that there is something he can accept as deep and meaningful (i.e. non-physical) in his desire for her.8 When Basil helps Margaret into the omnibus, his clearly erotic response to her is quickly covered under the guise of a more profound experience. He touches her arm ‘merely […] for a moment’, but, he exclaims, ‘how the sense of that touch was prolonged! I felt it thrilling through me— thrilling in every nerve, in every pulsation of my fast-throbbing heart’. (29) In her work on Victorian literary engagements with concepts of time, Zemka discusses the seeming ‘importance’ of ‘momentary events’: Moments that emerge from an undifferentiated flow of time, moments that break routines and habits: almost universally, such events are hallowed for their power. They bring insight, a concentration of meaning, ecstasy. They are linked to the event, which in contemporary thought bears the



r­esponsibility for change. That sudden, remarkable changes are qualified temporally, as moments or instants, alerts us to something so obvious as to be ignored. The moment is a punctualist form; it is over in a flash, though its effects may linger. (2011, 1)

The way in which Basil describes his initial meeting with Margaret as a significant single instant in time from which everything changes, suggests that he partakes of this reverence for ‘moments’ and belief in the significance they carry. He needs to trace the start of his great love, and his downfall, to this brief touch, and expects the reader to share his belief that a single moment can be so powerful that it dictates the subsequent behaviour of the person who experiences it. Basil is a confessional narrative, and here Basil tries to make the reader understand the sheer force of this momentary experience, and to appreciate why it leads him to such extreme behaviour later. Having first seen Margaret and felt her influence, Basil continues with his ironic belief that he is perceptive, that he knows something of Margaret, and tries to convince his reader (and himself) of this. He supports his insistence on the revelatory moment discussed above, with a contradictory assertion that he feels that they knew each other ‘in some former state of being—as if I had died for her, or she for me, after living for each other and with each other in some past world’ (Collins 1852, 1:114). Basil’s attempts to render his feelings for Margaret significant and spiritual implicitly acknowledge the way we attach value to things that are short and sudden and to things that are well established. His attempt to associate her with both temporal concepts turns Margaret into an uncanny figure, aligned with the new and the arbitrary moment (and so with the unfamiliar), and with the on-going and long-known (and so with the familiar).9 Shortly after this, Basil has another significant moment: Margaret raises her veil and their eyes meet ‘only for a moment—but the sensation of a moment often makes the thought of a life; and that one little instant made the new life of my heart’(Collins 1852, 1:118). While Basil ostensibly frames this meeting as another sudden moment revealing a spiritual connection, his lengthy and detailed descriptions of Margaret (including her hair, facial features, developed figure and her ‘lovely, dusky throat’ (Collins 2005, 30)10), indicate that his feelings are facilitated by the way in which the omnibus allows time for pause, contemplation and observation even whilst on the move.



Despite his misreading of Margaret’s features, and his own feelings (one reviewer exclaimed that ‘a sillier person than Basil […] has never been found in print talking sentiment of his own deeds and doings’ [‘Basil: A Story of Modern Life’ 1852, 756]), Basil is correct that their encounter on the omnibus will have a lasting influence. Shortly after this, Basil dreams of standing on a plain and seeing a fair ‘woman from the hills’ (representing Clara) who sends out ‘long thin rays of trembling light’, which are ‘cooling and calming’ but only just reach to where Basil is standing. This fair woman is rejected by Basil, in favour of a dark-haired ‘woman from the woods’ who has eyes which are ‘lustrous and fascinating, as the eyes of a serpent’ and whose ‘touch [runs] through [Basil] like fire, from head to foot’ (Collins 2005, 41). The intensity of the dark woman’s touch is important as it echoes the moment that Basil helps Margaret into the omnibus and the following one when he meets her gaze. In Basil’s dream, the momentary touch and the thrill it induces are extended as the dark woman ‘[clasps] her supple arms around [Basil’s] neck’ and leads him ‘towards the wood’ (Collins 2005, 42). The physical contact becomes more intense as the dream continues: the woman from the woods clasped me more closely than before, pressing her warm lips on mine; […] I was drawn along in the arms of the dark woman, with my blood burning and my breath failing me, until we entered the secret recesses that lay amid the unfathomable depths of trees. There, she encircled me in the folds of her dusky robe, and laid her cheek close to mine. (Collins 2005, 42)

Importantly, the dream does not become more explicitly erotic, instead the contact with the woman becomes more intimate, comforting and communicative; she ends up ‘[murmuring] a mysterious music in [Basil’s] ear’ (Collins 2005, 42).11 This does much to explain why, beyond a respect for propriety, Basil is insistent on marrying Margaret: he dreams of being taken away from his normal environment, and of forming a private, intimate and lasting bond with another person; he has ‘no thought of returning to the plain again’ (Collins 2005, 42). The opportunity afforded by the omnibus to bypass the anonymity of the city, to turn a chance moment into a momentous and lifelong event, has allowed Basil to hope that he has found the kind of connection he longs for. But Basil will never be on the intimate terms (sexual or emotional) he wishes with Margaret: she feels little more than contempt for him and desire for the wealthy lifestyle he



can provide for her. Margaret’s superficiality is reflected in the ‘suburb of new houses’ (Collins 2005, 30) where she lives with her parents.

The Victorian Suburb As part of its description of ‘London in 1851’, Fraser’s Magazine refers to: New streets, squares, crescents, terraces, and suburban villas, […which], grow up in thick clusters upon the frontiers with a rapidity so astounding that it is impossible at any particular moment of time to fix the actual limits of that brick-and-mortar chaos which comes under the general designation of London. Even while we are making the calculation, fields, gardens, and sleepy hamlets, are in process of obliteration by masonry and scaffolding on all sides. (‘London in 1851’ 1851, 127)

Many descriptions of the London suburbs, like this one from Fraser’s, tend to discuss them collectively, in order to convey the speed with which they are erected. Such writing is not just noting that the suburbs lack individuality (which was a common claim), but conveying the impression that if we were to stop to focus on one, we would be left behind by the ‘rapidity’ of the developing ‘brick-and-mortar chaos’. This means that it is ‘impossible’ to temporally ‘fix the actual limits’ of the city as there is no ‘particular moment of time’ when London is measurable. It is one of the newest suburbs, inhabited before it is even completed, that Collins chooses for the home of the materialistic, bourgeois Sherwin family. While Collins is undoubtedly relying on his reader’s awareness of stereotypes of the collectively fast-moving suburbs (the Sherwin’s neighbourhood would have been subsumed into the rapidly growing city by the time Basil was revised in 1862), he stops to focus on one of these that allows him, as with the omnibus scene, to depict stillness within rapidity. Whereas in the omnibus there at least seems to be the possibility of fostering productive relationships, Collins associates the stillness of the suburbs with sterility, rather than the potential for growth. Other Victorian writing on the city noted the slower pace in the suburbs, sometimes in a positive manner that represented them as a welcome break from the bustling city centre. For example, the same article that gave such a positive depiction of omnibus travel (discussed above) also praised the suburbs as places where men choose to live for their ‘pleasantness and healthfulness for their families’, and where the ‘quietness of the



country is animated by some of the more agreeable and exciting features of city life,’ where ‘the man-made city and the God-made country are […] united’ (‘The Suburbs of London’ 1844, 265).12 Much writing claimed the opposite, however, complaining that the ‘outlying suburbs stretch for miles along the great highways, spoiling rurality without displaying the bustle and animation of town’ (‘Street Aspects of London’ 1863, 168). Collins’s depiction of the Sherwin’s neighbourhood is most definitely aligned with the latter perception, and the suburb’s very newness is used to associate it with stasis and stagnation: it is a place of near-empty ‘unfinished streets, unfinished crescents, unfinished squares, unfinished shops, unfinished gardens’ (Collins 2005, 30). The place is ‘intermingled with wretched patches of waste land’ and ‘its newness and desolateness of appearance’ revolt Basil, who notes that the square is ‘desolately silent, as only a suburban square can be’, and that the Sherwin’s ‘little slip of garden was left solitary—baking and cracking in the heat’ (Collins 2005, 30–32). Basil is partly struck by the quietness of the place because he lives in a much busier part of the city, but his choice of language gives a sense of despondency and abandonment, rather than peace or future potential. While collectively the suburbs may be fast growing, Collins indicates that there is a deadness at the heart of them; rather than slowing down to a more manageable rate, time seems to have simply stopped. When (after some subterfuge) Basil manages to gain access to the Sherwins’s house, North Villa, the sense of sterile newness is intensified, although rather than things being ‘unfinished’ inside the house, time here seems to have stopped just at the point of being ‘finished’, or ready for use. A lengthy passage describes in detail the ‘oppressively new’ drawing-­ room which has ‘gaudy’ wallpaper, ‘showy’ curtains and carpet, and a ‘round rosewood table […] in a painfully high state of polish’ (Collins 2005, 53). As well as being tastelessly decorated (in Basil’s estimation), the ‘richly furnished room’ is ‘thoroughly comfortless’ and is more of a showroom than a living area: the ‘morocco-bound picture books […] looked as if they had never been moved or opened’ and ‘not one leaf even of the music on the piano was dogs-eared or worn’. (Collins 2005, 53) Of course, these descriptions are always offered through the biased perspective of Basil who, though he tries not to be, is a class snob whose sense of value is tied to his pride in his family’s ancient name and pedigree.13 Nevertheless, there is no intimation here that we are supposed to read past Basil’s description in order to find a more positive perception of North Villa, and Collins seems to share Basil’s ‘undeniable disgust for the new



petty-bourgeois suburban classes’ (Dolin and Dougan 2003, 3).14 Collins’s portrayal of the suburbs aligns with an ‘idea of suburbia as deadening, culturally sterile, petit bourgeois’ that ‘was a literary commonplace’ by the time he was writing Basil, as Sarah Bilston notes: ‘by the 1840s and 1850s, notions of suburbia as boring, aesthetically sterile, populated by the masses, and hence dull, were so familiar as to be a stereotype […such] discussions of suburban dullness […] were from the start framed as a response to suburbia’s commodification and commercialization’ (2013, 622). The Sherwins’s purchasing of objects for show rather than use, demonstrates their dullness and superficiality. While Mr Sherwin’s pride manifests itself in the ability to flaunt wealth and acquire the newest of the new, he is also keen to ally himself with an ancient family such as Basil’s, and Basil (albeit with distaste) trades on his name and pedigree to barter for Margaret’s hand. And so, as Tamara Wagner observes in her reading of Basil as a suburban Gothic tale, it is in this suburban setting that ‘the flâneur comes to grief to be transformed into a social speculator and commuter, an unwilling participant in the fraudulent moral and fiscal economies that Victorian suburbia has come to stand for’. (2006, 200) The shiny newness of the room indicates materiality and covers the immorality of Mr Sherwin and Margaret Sherwin’s behaviour, but it is also associated with a lack of comfort, of emotional connection, of community, and the sense of time frozen is essential to demonstrating this. The untouched state of the contents suggest that people do not really ‘live’ in this room, and the rest of the novel will confirm that the interactions which take place in the house are all false in some way or another: Margaret is having an affair with her father’s clerk; Mrs Sherwin is trying to act as though nothing is wrong, despite suspecting the truth about the affair; Basil and Margaret’s romance will prove to be misguided and fake. This description of North Villa encourages the reader to think about how the passage of time is important to imbue both objects and relationships with emotional value. Frozen as they are, at the point of purchase and display, the things in the Sherwins’s house show off their monetary value, but the signs of use over time which would suggest that both the objects and the social interactions they are associated with (a dog-eared page that suggests family evenings at the piano, for instance) are valued in other ways, are lacking. Collins depicts a city of public transport and half-finished suburbs that many Victorian readers would have recognized, either from personal experience or by reputation, and offers a cynical reading of the possibilities for



human interaction that it affords. It is a place of speed, expansion, and newness, but not of corresponding development, fertility, or freshness. In both settings, potential for new, significant and honest connections is denied. The horse bus is not the social melting pot that Basil claims; while many types of people do ride the omnibus, it is hardly a ‘sphere in which persons of all classes and all temperaments’ can be found. And while different types of people are ‘immediately contrasted and confronted with each other’ (Collins 2005, 27), this does not mean that a spectator can necessarily learn or make accurate judgements about them. It is neither a place where the flâneur can preserve his superior detachment, or where a young romantic can find ‘true’ meaningful connection. The chance encounters that the ’bus affords do not lead to epiphanic moments, but lustful eruptions in an otherwise boring existence. Even the notion that it is a quick way home is deceptive, because Basil ends up getting off at a different stop in order to follow Margaret, the start of a process which will lead to him being disowned and homeless. Like the omnibus, the suburbs are associated with both movement and stasis as they are rapidly growing, but appear still and desolate. These could be places for families to settle and grow away from the speed and commotion of the city centre, but they are instead associated with sterility and the maintenance of appearances over emotional connections. The perception and experience of time is important to the depiction of both settings, as Collins juxtaposes speed and stillness, but also shows characters attempting to manipulate time by expanding the moment past its proper bounds (as Basil does) or freezing it to keep things at the point of pristine newness (as Mr Sherwin does). In both cases, such attempts are associated with false and damaging relationships. In this way, Basil displays a fascination with, but ultimate mistrust of, the forms of human connection offered to the Victorian city dweller.

Notes 1. Collins removed the subtitle when he revised Basil in 1862. By then sensation fiction (of which Collins was one of the first and most famous authors) was the dominant popular literary genre, and as most sensation novels concern the secrets and scandals of ‘modern life’, the subtitle was no longer pointing out anything unusual. Basil was too early to be labelled ‘sensational’ by critics, but it contains all of the elements required for inclusion in the genre: mystery, scandal, domestic troubles, the breaching of boundaries, and challenging of expectations relating to class, gender, and propriety. This essay uses the more readily available 1862 version unless otherwise stated.



2. Basil’s Dedicatory Letter, justifies Collins’s decision to set ‘the first love-­ meeting’ of Basil and Margaret ‘in the very last place […] which the artifices of sentimental writing would sanction’ by asserting that this is part of the novel’s realism. Not only, Collins explains, is the omnibus encounter based on a specific ‘real love-meeting’, but it is a common occurrence: ‘I have truly represented [Basil and Margaret] as seeing each other where hundreds of other lovers have first seen each other’ (Collins 2005, 3). Collins stays notably silent on the outcomes of these real-life love-meetings. 3. By 1866, however, the press began to complain about the congestion resulting from increasing amounts of public transport: ‘If time be money, then what an enormous amount of time is lost every day where we should least expect it—in the City of London!’ (‘Mending the City’s Ways’ 1866, 613). 4. The introduction of cheaper outside seating made the omnibus somewhat more accessible, albeit financially rather than physically. One 1864 article looking back at the history of the omnibus remembered ‘the “knifeboard”’ introduced in 1849, just three years before Basil was published: ‘a narrow slip of wood, which ran along the middle of the roof, to mount which there were no steps whatever; the adventurous climber making the best use he could of the door-step and the window-ledge’ would then have to do his best ‘to keep [his] equilibrium when perched upon it’. By the time the article was written (just two years after Collins revised and republished Basil) the ‘outside-seats’ had been ‘built up’ to the extent that ‘no thorough Englishman will ride inside one of these vehicles if the weather be tolerable’. (A.W. 1864, 426–27) However, as early as 1847, the writer of ‘Omnibus Sketches’ insists that the way ‘to see to the best advantage buildings, streets, and citizens together’ is from the top of an omnibus (‘Omnibus Sketches’ 1847, 394), and as Newsom  Kerr notes, in 1859 George Augustus Sala recommended that one ride on the roof whenever possible (2010, 288). There is no suggestion in Basil that Basil considers riding outside. This could be another reason that the subtitle ‘A Story of Modern Life’ was dropped from the 1862 version—ten years after initial publication, Collins’s description of the omnibus is out of date. However, perhaps it is simply that it is necessary for the plot that Basil rides inside, so that he can encounter Margaret. 5. Tim Dolin and Lucy Dougan read this scene as a ‘bald parable of social infections left untended’ (2003, 16). 6. The flâneur should, at his most effective, be invisible and anonymous, allowing him to perceive events in the city unobtrusively (see Murail 2013, 4). Basil, contrastingly, stares at Margaret until she responds. Another reason for Basil’s failure as a flâneur may be his youth. As Edmund Yates



explained to London Society readers in 1871: ‘To flâner [sic] properly, one must […] combine the appreciative powers of youth with the soberer judgement of middle age; one must have seen men and cities, and still retain sufficient interest in life to be amused with what passes around’. (Yates 1871, 92). 7. ‘Moral’ here means non-physical as much as ethical. 8. Significantly, Ralph, who freely accepts his sexual desires, finally settles down happily with one of his disreputable women. This suggests it is not Basil’s physical attraction for Margaret that Collins is portraying negatively, but his insistence on trying to frame it in a more honourable light. 9. She also fulfils another criterion for Freud’s concept of the uncanny, as she is the manifestation of Basil’s repressed sexual feelings. Ironically, the sense of fear and anxiety that is the crucial part of an uncanny experience is missing here, in part because any warning bells that may have gone off are dampened by Basil’s confidence in his own ability to read people, and in his own emotional integrity, not to mention by his libido. 10. Readers versed in Victorian physiognomy may start to worry at this point: Margaret’s ‘dark features’ accurately indicate her sensuality, ‘her sexual deviancy’, and that she ‘does not conform to Victorian notions of “proper” femininity’ (Cox 2007, 120, 113). 11. On a practical basis, Basil’s virgin imagination can only take him so far. Moreover, this scene (and indeed the novel as a whole) is already pushing the boundaries of Victorian literary acceptability. The Athenaeum, for example, found Basil to be ‘almost revolting from its domestic horrors’ (Maddyn 1852, 1323). 12. Importantly, some suburbs are favourably portrayed in Basil; he and his sister Clara enjoy riding out to ‘a suburban roadside inn’ where they manage to find ‘country sights’ which remind them of the ‘inns near [their] country home’. (Collins 2005, 26). 13. The suburbs were often associated with middle-class attempts to imitate an upper-class lifestyle (see Armstrong 2001, 244; Bilston 2013, 626). Basil is particularly disgusted by Mr Sherwin’s attempts to present himself as cultured and sophisticated, seeing him as ‘a pompous parasite’ (Collins 2005, 54). 14. Dolin and Dougan note that Basil may well have been an inspiration for Holman Hunt’s famous painting The Awakening Conscience (1854) which depicts a room very similar to the one Collins describes, and which also shows ‘the spiritual emptiness and hermeneutic overfullness of modern life’ (Dolin and Dougan 2003, 3) Dolin and Dougan also make the important point that Basil is not just a critique of ‘the vulgar new order’, because ‘the old order, unreformed’, and represented by Basil’s haughty father, ‘is as corrupt and deficient, in its own way’ (Dolan and Dougan 2003, 15).



References A.W. 1864. London Omnibuses. Once a Week 10 (250): 426–431. Armstrong, John. 2001. From Shillibeer to Buchanan: Transport and the Urban Environment. In The Cambridge Urban History of Britain: Volume 3,  ed. Martin Daunton, vol. 3, 229–258. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. “Basil: A Story of Modern Life.” 1852. Examiner 2339 (December): 756–757. Bilston, Sarah. 2013. ‘Your Vile Suburbs Can Offer Nothing but the Deadness of the Grave’: The Stereotyping of Early Victorian Suburbia. Victorian Literature and Culture 41 (4): 621–642. Burns, Islay. 1859. Scottish Home Missions. North British Review 30 (59): 202–227. Collins, Wilkie. 1852. Basil: A Story of Modern Life. Vol. 1. London: Richard Bentley. ———. 2005. Basil. Oxford: OUP. Cox, Jessica. 2007. Reading Faces: Physiognomy and the Depiction of the Heroine in the Fiction of Wilkie Collins. In Wilkie Collins: Interdisciplinary Essays, ed. Andrew Mangham, 107–121. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Dolin, Tim, and Lucy Dougan. 2003. Fatal Newness: Basil, Art, and the Origins of Sensation Fiction. In Reality’s Dark Light: The Sensational Wilkie Collins, ed. Don Richard Cox and Maria K.  Bachman, 1–33. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. “Locomotion in London.” 1868. All the Year Round 19 (463): 295–98. “London in 1851.” 1851. Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country 43 (254): 127–137. Maddyn, Daniel Owen. 1852. Basil: A Story of Modern Life. Athenaeum 1310 (December): 1322–1323. “Mending the City’s Ways.” 1866. All the Year Round 15 (376): 613–617. Murail, Estelle. 2013. The Flâneur’s Scopic Power or the Victorian Dream of Transparency. Cahiers Victoriens et Édouardiens 77. Newsom Kerr, Matthew L. 2010. ‘Perambulating Fever Nests of Our London Streets’: Cabs, Omnibuses, Ambulances, and Other ‘Pest-Vehicles’ in the Victorian Metropolis. Journal of British Studies 49 (2): 283–310. “Omnibus Sketches.” 1847. Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal  207 (December): 394–396. “Our Cabs and ’Busses, With a Word for Their Drivers.” 1853. Leisure Hour 80 (July): 436–439. Smajić, Srdjan. 2010. Ghost-Seers, Detectives, and Spiritualists: Theories of Vision in Victorian Literature and Science, Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. “Street Aspects of London.” 1863. London Review 7 (163): 168–170. “The Omnibus in London and in Paris.” 1869. All the Year Round 2 (28): 29–32.



“The Suburbs of London.” 1844. Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal  43 (October): 265–266. “The World of London. Part III.” 1841. Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 50 (309): 60–71. Wagner, Tamara S. 2006. Sensationalizing Victorian Suburbia: Wilkie Collins’s Basil. In Victorian Sensations: Essays on a Scandalous Genre, ed. Kimberly Harrison and Richard Fantina, 200–211. Ohio: Ohio State University Press. Yates, Edmund. 1871. The Flaneur. London Society 19 (109): 92–96. Zemka, Sue. 2009. Brief Encounters: Street Scenes in Gaskell’s Manchester. ELH 76 (3): 793–819. ———. 2011. Time and the Moment in Victorian Literature and Society. Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


‘This Is London, This Is Life’: ‘Migrant Time’ in Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners Sarah Lawson Welsh

Towards a Notion of ‘Migrant Time’ Sam Selvon’s classic novel of West Indian migration to Britain, The Lonely Londoners (1956), is exemplary in showing how a literary text can reveal the layered or hidden ‘time’ of an urban space. The migrant characters’ very newness in the cityscape, and their irregular or anti-social hours of work, means that they experience the city very differently from the majority of the ‘host’ population. This experience of time might be termed ‘migrant time’, not in the sense that it is unique to migrants or that all migrants necessarily experience time in this way, but in so far as Selvon’s novel shows us another temporal dimension to life in the city through the prism of the migrant experience. In doing so, Selvon renders our usual notions of time inadequate and open to question. London in this novel is a city imagined in glimpses and fragments, in unusual ways and at unusual times of day, as the migrant characters’ employment status influences their

S. L. Welsh (*) York St John University, York, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_6




perceptions and experiences of the city. For example, both Galahad and Moses ‘pick up a night work’ and ‘while other people going to work, Galahad coming from work’ (Selvon 1985, 86). As the novel’s title suggests, London is also viewed through the affective lens of the migrants’ feelings of loneliness and alienation in the city and their intense longing for connection, dwelling and ‘at-homeness’, itself a major trope in West Indian literature. Ultimately, the migrant characters’ different experiences of being and living in a city which is both open and closed to them, ‘their city’ in some ways and not in others, serve to break down the assumption of ‘clear borders between self and other, private space and public space [and] ways of thinking about urban space which have arguably been ‘foundational to the modern period’ (Berland 2005, 332). The Lonely Londoners is a novel about arrivals and projected departures, as scenes at the beginning of the novel make clear. For example, when veteran West Indian migrant Moses goes to Waterloo Station to meet new arrival Tolroy (and his family): ‘right away in that big station he had a feeling of homesickness that he never felt in the nine-ten years he had in this country’ (Selvon 1985, 26–7). As Moses reflects: For the old Waterloo is a place of arrival and departure, is a place where you see people crying goodbye and kissing welcome, and he hardly have time to sit down on a bench before this feeling of nostalgia hit him and he was surprise. It have some fellars who in Brit’n long, and yet they can’t get away from the habit of going Waterloo whenever a boat-train coming in with passengers from the West Indies. They like to see the familiar faces, they like to watch their countrymen coming off the train, and sometimes they might spot somebody they know. (Selvon 1985, 26)

Although Moses reflects that he does not indulge in such behaviour, as it is a ‘sort of slackness’ (Selvon 1985, 26), the railway station still evokes ‘a soft feeling’ (Selvon 1985, 26). Indeed, the novel as a whole explores fictionalized memories and experiences of first arrival in ‘the old Brit’n’ (Selvon 1985, 24) and the bittersweet realities of life in London, affectionately known as the ‘big city’. However, for many of the characters, a more sustained form of ‘double-consciousness’ characterizes the perception of time. Their fictional trajectories as migrants do not simply start with the ‘ground zero’ of their arrival in Britain but also include a layered or Janus-like perspective as they look back at their Caribbean pasts and simultaneously look forward to nascent futures in ‘the old Brit’n’. Thus



when Moses links a specific London place, Waterloo Station, with significant temporal markers, he reflects what might be termed a ‘migrant’ sense of time: ‘It was here that Moses did land when he come to London, and he have no doubt that when the time come, if it ever come, it would be here he would say goodbye to the big city’ (Selvon 1985, 26). In this way, the station becomes a place of layered temporalities in the novel, a place marked by a profoundly ‘migrant’ sense of time, invoking both time and space as intimately connected in particular ways. These moments of ‘double consciousness’ (awareness of being here but also ‘not being here’, or being here but also ‘elsewhere’) often occur when ‘The Boys’ congregate in Moses’ room on Sunday mornings for ‘old talk’ about their London lives and life back home in the Caribbean (Selvon 1985, 138–40). The migrants’ chosen meeting place reflects Moses’ veteran status and his (reluctant) leadership of the group, in keeping with the Old Testament resonances of his name, whilst the temporal location suggests an alternative, secularized space of communion where the Boys can, temporarily at least, seek respite from the racism and exclusions of life in the wider city: ‘It look to him as if life composed of Sunday morning get-­ together in the room: he must make a joke of it during the week and say: ‘You coming to church Sunday?’ (Selvon 1985, 140). However, Moses also recognizes the limitations of existing ‘lock up in that small room with London and life, on the outside…’ and urges the boys to connect with others and the wider city space, to ‘dress, go out, coast a lime [hang out] in the park’ (Selvon 1985, 140). The imperative to ‘keep moving’ seems to be crucial in this novel. Indeed, movement is a key motif in The Lonely Londoners, whether on the level of major (global migrations) or micro-­ journeys (of the characters moving across the city, or from one rented place to another), and the novel’s intertexts also often involve journeys.1 To ‘journey’, to keep moving and to talk about ‘making trip’ seems crucial to many of the migrant characters of this novel, whether this be Galahad’s energetic perambulations in the city and his fascination with London landmarks, ‘Big City’s’ mental map of London or Tantie’s bold desire to journey out of her neighbourhood to visit Agnes who works at the Lyons Coffee shop in Great Portland Street. It is only when characters stand still that the dangerous possibilities of ‘loneliness’ and isolation in the city become apparent. For example, Moses ‘frighten sometimes’ by the thought that ‘He used to see all his years in London pile up one on top of the other, and he getting no place in a hurry, and the years gone by… ’(Selvon 1985, 98). For Selvon’s migrant characters, movement in time



and space is often restless, repetitive, unsettled (literally) and poignant ultimately, but stasis or ‘going nowhere’ is feared even more. This sense of stasis is reflected on a more existential scale at the end of the novel when Moses reflects on his time in Britain, wonders if he will ever return to Trinidad and ponders the emptiness of it all: The old Moses, standing on the banks of the Thames. Sometimes he thinks he sees some sort of profound realization in his life, as if all that happen to him as experience that make him a better man, as if now he could draw apart from any hustling and just sit down and watch other people fight to live. Under the kiff-kiff laughter, behind the ballad and the episode, the what-­ happening, the summer-is-hearts, he could see a great aimlessness, a great restless, swaying movement that leaving you standing in the same spot. As if he could see the black faces bobbing up and down in the millions of white, strained faces, everybody hustling along the Strand, the spades jostling in the crowd, bewildered, hopeless. As if, on the surface, things don’t look so bad, but when you go down a little, you bounce up a kind of misery and pathos and a frightening—what? (Selvon 1985, 141–2)

Sometimes ‘migrant time’ is more positively inflected, as when the irregular or anti-social work patterns of the characters allow them an unexpected freedom in another sense, as the daytime world of ‘liming’ in the streets and parks is open to them in a way it is not to other sectors of the working London population. This is most evident in the long stream-of-­ consciousness ‘Summer is Hearts’ section of the novel which describes a genuine love for summer in the city when one is free to be outside and to move through open space. Patrick Parrinder refers to the ‘freedom the city offers…[as] as often as not, the freedom to fantasize [including] fantasies [of] unlimited sexual possibility’ (2006, 389) and this is certainly to the fore in this part of the novel. Galahad is a particularly good example as his regular perambulations through the city afford him considerable social and sexual possibilities. Significantly, he names as he walks and walks to named places, thus weaving his own subjectivity and ‘local-specificity’ into the city space. Graham MacPhee goes as far as to argue that Galahad’s ‘reappropriation of public space’ marks ‘an important early moment in the hybridisation of post-war Britain’ (2011, 123), although he remarks on the ‘very definite limits’ of the West Indian migrants’ re-appropriation of space. ‘As Moses observes, although the ‘boys’ can cruise the parks, pubs and public spaces, ‘you can’t go in [the host population’s] house and eat or sit down and talk’ (MacPhee 2011, 124).



Temporality is central to defining excitable newcomer Galahad’s relationship with the older and somewhat jaded figure of Moses who has lived in Britain a decade. As MacPhee notes: The pairing of Moses and Galahad allows for a complex structure of retrospection and reflection, as Moses reviews his own experience of coming to London through his now more experienced and melancholic eyes. Galahad’s arrival opens the narrative, and his introduction to British life and the difficulties of surviving in London provide its initial narrative. The book moves from winter through to summer, and ends with Moses in reflective mood, assessing his own life decisions of his younger self. (2011, 120)

This pairing also allows Selvon’s narrator to reflect on the transformative shifts of Moses’ time in Britain, including the significant demographic changes which were taking place across London and a number of other British cities in this period, with the arrival of growing numbers of immigrants from the new Commonwealth. Indeed, alongside Moses’ own personal recollections, the novel ‘shows how public institutions and discourses [politics, the media, the employment exchange] construct[ed] a new ‘immigrant’ subjectivity’ (McPhee 2011, 123) and polarized notions of race. Although The Lonely Londoners is set in a very specific place and time: London in the 1950s, it is neither a documentary account nor a straightforwardly realist novel. Indeed, Selvon’s experimentation with language, narration and form disrupts any consistently realistic rendering of the city as well as the linearity of realist narrative. The novel’s temporality encompasses both specificity and passages that are curiously ‘out of time’. In large part, this is due to the cyclical and episodic structure of the novel, loosely based on the characteristically West Indian cultural forms of the ‘ballad’ (oral storytelling) and the satirical musical form of the calypso. Deliberately generic openers ‘one time’ or ‘the time’ regularly marks the ballad structure; this is significant since it fractures and challenges any strict narrative teleology. Moreover, Selvon’s descriptive rendering of the cityscape is often surreal and lyrical and this is one reason why a number of critics choose to read the novel as broadly modernist in technique.2 The concept of ‘migrant time’ is also useful in understanding the peculiar form of temporal and spatial dislocation and disorientation in this novel. The new urban environment of London is spatially disorientating to the migrant characters due to its size, transport systems and the



time-space compression of urban life. A particularly disorientated character, Lewis, looks up to Moses as a man both urban and urbane: ‘a man about London’ and asks ‘him all sorts of stupid questions’ (Selvon 1985, 68). In return, Moses gently mocks Lewis’ gaucheness and gullibility by suggesting that ‘if you tell [him] that the statue on top of Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square is not Nelson at all but a fellar what name Napoleon, he would believe you, and if you tell him that it has lions and tigers in Oxford Circus, he would go see them’ (Selvon 1985, 68). Even the names of city landmarks can be misleading and disorientating to the new migrants as this passage suggests. Oxford Circus is not a circus, the Bayswater Road is near no bay or water. As the characters discover, language is slippery and not at all what it seems—and so is the city. Temporal distortions and disorientations are also caused by the meteorological conditions of the city in an era before the Clean Air Acts removed London’s now iconic smog. The London fog renders characters’ inner sense of the time of day unreliable. Thus, for example, in his first weeks in the city, Galahad ‘ha[s] a feeling is about seven o’clock in the evening: when he looks at a clock on top a building, he sees is only half-past ten in the morning’ (Selvon 1985, 42). Different chronotopes clash here but are interestingly linked to a particular spatial location (‘a clock on top of a building’). To these multiple disorientations of time and space we might add the reader’s own, as Selvon depicts a city both familiar and strange— even to those who know London well. This is not just a case of the changes the city has undergone in the sixty or so years since the novel was first published but is also part of Selvon’s deliberate representation of the city in terms of a migrant perspective: the capital city glimpsed in unusual ways and at unusual times of the day. As the narrator reminds us in Moses Ascending, Selvon’s sequel to The Lonely Londoners: The alarms of all the black people in Brit’n are timed to ring before the rest of the population. It is their destiny to be up and about at the crack o’dawn. In these days of pollution in environment, he is very lucky, for he can breathe the freshest air of the day before anybody else…he does not know how privileged he is to be in charge of the city whilst the rest of Brt’n is still abed. He strides the streets, he is manager of all the offices in Threadneedle Street, he is Chief Executive of London transport and British railways, he is superintendent of all the hospitals, he is landlord of all the mansions in Park Lane and Hampstead…Instead of moaning and groaning about his sorrows, he should stop and think and count these blessings reserved solely for him. He should realise that if it wasn’t for him the city would go on sleeping forever. (Selvon 1989, 7)



Susheila Nasta reads this passage in terms of Moses’ tone here. He is playfully sarcastic in suggesting the positives of this situation but the stubborn reality remains that, as the ‘black man is…[seen] only at night’ (Nasta 1995, 49), he remains subaltern. However, we might re-read this passage as revealing temporary agency, as London is possessed and reconfigured by its Black migrants in a carnivalesque borderland between night and day; carnivalesque because the usual hierarchies of power are overturned, however briefly. If ‘the imperial structures made concrete in the built environment [of the city] are figured through a spatial divide that corresponds to the racial divide at the heart of imperialism’ as Clement-Ball argues (2006, 111), then in this passage we see the colonial subject not only occupy but appropriate power in acts of colonial mimicry (e.g., Manager, Chief Executive, Landlord). In this way, this passage also anticipates the more sustained inversion of hierarchies centring particularly on language, authorship, property and politics in this later novel set during the Black Power era in London.

Loco-specificity and Local-specificity However, in this and other urban fictions, space is not necessarily synonymous with place. Peter Barry’s term ‘local-specificity’ (2015, 237–8) signals the ways in which city spaces are remade subjectively as the act of walking, looking, even speaking acts to transform anonymous or undifferentiated space into more particularized notions of belonging and place. The opposite of the ‘local-specific’ might be termed the ‘loco-specific’: the referencing of physically recognizable places and spaces in a specific city.3 There is undoubtedly ‘loco-specificity’ in Selvon’s novel with its many references to central London landmarks or its class distinctions between the mansions of Hampstead and the less socially elevated areas of Notting Hill, Harrow Road and the Bayswater Road where the migrants live alongside white working-class communities. This familiarity is part of the novel’s appeal. However, the city in the novel is also ‘local-specific’, made and remade in terms of the human practices and imaginations of its fictional characters. Each of Selvon’s protagonists, in their own inimitable way, attempts to ‘give shape to this poetic mess [of the city]—to form, in [their] mind’s eye, the private city of [their] own imagination…creat[ing], in [their] thoughts a city entirely [their] own’ (McInnes 1957). One of the most important functions of the characters’ peripatetic wanderings and journeys across the city and their experiences of, and engagement with,



different city spaces, is that such human activity acts to ‘shape’ and ‘remake’ the city in some highly significant ways. Crucially, ‘remaking’ takes place on a temporal as well as a spatial level. Indeed, Barry’s term could be productively expanded to include temporal specificity, as the landmarks provide anchors in time as well as in space. One such example is Galahad’s meeting place for his dates with women under ‘the big clock they have in Piccadilly Tube station, what does tell the time of places all over the world’ (Selvon 1985, 84). Here, global and local time, public and private landmarks come together in interesting ways as Galahad maps his local specificity onto the loco-specificity of the city. John Thieme has recently argued that the use of space in urban novels such as The Lonely Londoners needs to be read in terms of ‘a series of ever-­ changing chronotopes, in which colonial and postcolonial discourse intermingle’ (2016, 178). He continues: Whilst urban environments are always in flux, the metamorphoses of the postcolonial city, itself a far from uniform category, offer a heightened instance of transformative pluralism, which provides a paradigm for a geography of city life that replaces older essentialist stereotypes…the postcolonial city becomes the representative city of the contemporary era. (Thieme 2016, 179)

Reading the Lonely Londoners alongside other urban novels set in London and Bombay, Thieme observes that in Selvon’s novel ‘mainstream’ London is relegated to the margins, only figuring as a fantasized site from which the protagonists largely feel excluded’ though he also acknowledges John McLeod’s more positive reading, that they also ‘trans[form] the city’ through ‘valuable protean forms of resistance, disruption, agency, contestation and change’ (2004, 12). However, despite Thieme’s emphasis on flux, the chronotope seems a limited, because relatively fixed, way of speaking about time and the city. Other postcolonial approaches to time, most centrally that of Homi Bhabha in ‘DissemiNation’ (1994) and his conclusion to The Location of Culture (1994), also have their limitations. When Bhabha argues that postcolonial and diasporic subjects experience a ‘signifying time-lag of cultural difference’ (1994, 237), he does so in a positive way by suggesting that this allows a time/space in which active resistance to complicity with colonial norms is made possible. However, time-lag is also a disadvantage in navigating the complex codes of the new urban space.



Imperial Time and Space Crucially, ‘The Boys’ in the novel are still colonial subjects and London is still at the heart of the ‘Mother Country’: located at the centre of the vast, global, spatiotemporal enterprise of the British Empire. London was often popularly represented at this time as the living embodiment of empire at the centre of a global network of industry and commerce. As colonial subjects still, many of the migrant characters possess a heightened awareness of London’s connectedness to its colonial ‘elsewheres’. The novel also reminds us that London was the ultimate destination for Caribbean migrants, what Lamming famously termed ‘A Journey to an Expectation’ (1960). This imagined, mythic London preceded the actual (often more disappointing) one and the distinction between the imagined city and the city as it is experienced is a recurrent concern of migrant novels of this period. Arguably, the London of Selvon’s novel is still very distant from the cosmopolitan, buzzing, vibrant city depicted in twenty-first century ‘London fictions’ such as those of Zadie Smith or Monica Ali in which characters show not only an intimate, lived knowledge of London as their own city but also increasingly self-identify as British rather than second- or third-generation migrants. As Sebastian Groes suggests: rather than a penitentiary space, Smith’s London feels like a liberated, heterogeneous space which is matched by and created by a particular kind of Bakhtinian heteroglossia, namely the mixture of languages spoken by the new generation of youngsters growing up in this society. (2011, 227)

John Clement-Ball’s observation that ‘through a set of recurring spatial images and intertextual correspondences…for West Indian migrants [of this period] London is a place overdetermined by imperial history and power structures even as it shows itself to be mutually imbricated with the peoples and spaces of its (former) Caribbean colonies’ (2006, 109) is extremely useful here: the idea of London as a place informed by a series of imperial histories and power relations whose reach has always been global.4 Galahad is again a central character here since he, more than any other migrant character in the novel (except perhaps ‘Big City’), loves to name and visit some of the iconic landmarks in London as a city already familiar to him as a colonial subject. In this way, Selvon invokes a complex and layered sense of London’s representation both as a great metropolis, the



heart and commercial hub to empire, and as a city already known and, in some way, desired. In one particular passage, Galahad is described walking in Oxford Circus: This is London, this is life oh lord, to walk like a king with money in your pocket, not a worry in the world…Always, from the first time he went there to see Eros and the lights, that circus have a magnet for him, that circus represents life, that circus is the beginning and the ending of the world. Every time he go there, he have the same feeling like when he see it the first night, drink coca-cola, any time is Guinness time, Bovril and the fireworks, a million flashing lights, gay laughter, the wide doors of theatres, the huge posters, eveready batteries… and Galahad Esquire, in all this, standing there in the big city, in London. Oh Lord. (1985, 87–90)

The passage demonstrates one of the many ways in which London is figured as ‘a city of signs’ and of desires of different kinds in the novel.5 Here, the statue of Eros represents one wryly suggestive constant in the almost overwhelming network of associations historical, commercial and cultural.6 London for Galahad is ‘Bovril’ and ‘Guinness time’—both brands as familiar to Britain’s colonial subjects as to its own inhabitants, but also a great imperial city recorded and memorialized in a myriad of intertexts.7 Through Galahad, Selvon makes this vastness more personal and breaks down the divide between public and private space in ways which suggest a new migrant sense of time and place. Galahad’s walking importantly not only brings a human, embodied scale to the city but also makes his perception of it into an active event. As Julian Wolfreys usefully observes: [London] ‘is not a place as such [but also] takes place’ (Wolfreys 1998, 4, cited in McLeod 2004, 7) and Galahad grasps this. London is here brought into being and ‘performed’ in particular ways that involve both space and time.8 Sara Upstone has recently suggested that many postcolonial novels are characterized by a ‘complex matrix of dwelling and movement’ within which ‘particular type[s] of mobility may carry a subversive function’. She argues, via Stephen Clark, that mobility, in and for itself, as opposed to in the service of a destination, can be a source oqf resistance to dominant power structures held over from this colonial mobility. Simply to appropriate the mobile in this context, where in narrative terms it has been the domain of a colonial experience of travel and exploration, means subversion: writing mobilities itself may be a



political statement as it counters the suggestion that such narratives are ‘oneway traffic, because the Europeans mapped the world rather than the world mapping them’. (Clark 1999, 3, cited in Upstone 2014, 47)

This is a useful frame for thinking about Selvon’s novel too: walking, as a form of mobility, can signify subversion and resistance to dominant narratives of the city. We might return to Barry’s notion of the ‘local-specific’ or Jonathan Raban’s ‘soft city’ (1974) by thinking of human practices such as Galahad’s in more differentiated ways, after Henri Lefebvre’s definition of experiencing space in three dialectically connected ways: through sense impressions (material space), space as it is already represented (concept space of ‘official’, orderly, discourse such as maps and planning documents) and space as it is lived in daily experience (lived space). New Marxist sociologist, Henri Lefebvre (1991, 1996, 2002), is just one of a number of influential thinkers on space and place to have widened the understanding of cities and urban spaces. Cultural geographer, Doreen Massey, writing on the porous connectedness or relationality of space and the idea of ‘space-time’ (space and time as intimately connected) (1992, 2005) and Edward Soja’s postmodern approach to theorizing cities (1996, 2000) have also been hugely influential. Soja is especially useful in the context of reading The Lonely Londoners since he stresses how ‘place emerges as a particular form of space, one that is created through acts of naming as well as the distinctive activities and imaginings associated with particular social spaces’ (Hubbard et  al. 2004, 6) and this is a novel in which both characters and spaces are renamed through human agency. For example, the character Big City, defending himself in response to questions about the veracity of his experiences, declares: You think I don’t know London? I been here ten years now, and it ain’t have a part that I don’t know. When them English people tell strangers they don’t know where so and so is, I always know. From Pentonvilla right up to Musket Hill, all about Claphand Common. I bet you ent call a name in London that I don’t know where it is. (Selvon 1985, 101)

The effect, however unintentional, is subversive. Big City’s comical misnaming of London places can also be read as a kind of renaming which acts to refashion the loco-specific city into a local-specific place. For other writers and theorists of the city such as Michel de Certeau (1974), it is the act of walking in the city and the objectifying power of the



human gaze which is important, whilst for earlier thinkers such as French writer, Charles Baudelaire, it was the activity of the proto-modern figure of the flâneur which was key to understanding city space. The flâneur was: That archetypal city-stroller …[a] footloose character on the modern scene… Amongst the urban crowd the flâneur managed to keep his distance socially by transforming physical proximity into aesthetic proximity—by opening up another dimension, hidden to others, purely for his own satisfaction, he narrated the world around him without letting reality interfere with his lot, coming to enjoy the strange and familiar. (Hubbard et al. 2004, 51)

It has become almost commonplace to focus on the figure of the flâneur and/or the action and rhythms of walking the streets in readings of city-­ based literary texts. Indeed, both de Certeau’s notion of walking and Baudelaire’s figure of the flâneur can be found in Selvon’s novel, the latter most notably in the character of Sir Galahad. Thus, for example, Clement-­ Ball discusses Moses and Galahad as ‘Caribbean flaneurs’ (2006, 135–40), characters that claim knowledge of, and perhaps ultimately, a place in the city firstly through an idea of the city (its mythos) and then through the accumulative, iterated process of walking its streets (its social reality). Both Clement-Ball (2006) and McLeod (2004) draw upon key concepts from these thinkers, such as the role of perambulation, the idea of space as socially constructed and the power of the visual gaze, in their critical readings of London migrant fictions of this and later periods. De Certeau’s suggestion about the relationship of individual human movements across city space in relation to the ‘concept space’ of official ideas of the city can be likened to that of individual speech acts to the synchronic system of language; systems to which they belong but always exceed is useful here.9 In Selvon’s novel, both walking and talking are crucially important practices; the city is reconceptualized not only through the characters’ peripatetic journeys but also through their repeated speech acts. It might even be argued that, despite the ephemerality of words, the novel’s charting of a series of speech acts in characteristically West Indian language forms constitutes an important mapping of London as a city of migrant language and experience. To paraphrase Lamming’s classic study, The Pleasures of Exile (1960): London is also a West Indian city and English is a West Indian language. Indeed, Selvon’s novel shows how this might



be so. Susheila Nasta’s useful concept of a ‘City of Words’ (1995) is, in this context, doubled in meaning as new speech acts and voices are layered over older, more persistent ones to create a polyphony of voices, a kind of palimpsest of inscriptions and enunciations. Indeed, the city of London itself could be argued to be itself a rich intertext of all the inscriptions and enunciations of the city that have gone before as well as those which are yet to come. Indeed, Groes argues that ‘London is such a fruitful territory for mythographers because it is a city thick with myth, some wholly its own, others universal and eternal’ (2011, 7), to which should be added the ‘simulacrum London’ produced by TV, film and tourist attractions such as Jack the Ripper tours (2011, 3). In The Lonely Londoners, this kind of intertextual layering or city as ‘memory map’ locates the migrants’ material and social and experiences of the city within a larger sense of its status as mythos: its status as a place made famous, in large part, though the ways in which it has been imagined and reimagined in literary and cultural representations. Such intertextuality in Selvon’s novel is multidirectional. Indeed, the novel reveals the processes of signification to be ongoing, as the boys signify their own experiences in the metropolis through a series of movements, sense impressions and speech acts. The characters literally walk their way around the city and then retell their experiences in episodic fashion through the residually oral ‘ballad’ form, an emergent kind of counter-­ mythos in which the migrant locates himself in the city through the micro-narratives (the ‘ballads’) they tell. That they do this in a distinctively West Indian (albeit an artificially rather than naturalistic idiom) is also significant here as it cuts across and challenges the monopoly of standard English accounts of the city and reminds us of the polyglot basis of London as a transnational city which has long been connected to any number of other places and spaces. By Zadie Smith’s 2000 novel White Teeth, such popular mythologies of London as the centre of Empire are more thoroughly challenged as Smith ‘question[s] historical truth and also renegotiates London’s past…The centre of London, as a Victorian city built on the spoils of empire, comes to be viewed as the production of a particular, falsified national history’ (Groes 2011, 229). In Smith’s novel, a character notes how ‘they do love their false icons in this country’ (2000, 503) referring to the English love of monuments and statuary of maritime leaders and explorers, colonial governors and kings. He asks:



[W]hat is it about the English that makes them build their statues with their backs to their culture and their eyes on the time?…Because they look to their future to forget their past…They have no faith, the English. They believe in what men make, but what men make crumbles. Look at their Empire. This is all they have. Charles II Street and South Africa House and a lot of stupid looking stone men on stone horses…This is what is left. (2000, 504)

‘London’s most important public squares’ lie at the heart of Smith’s critique, according to Groes, as they are the sites ‘where monuments mould national memory into a particularly heroic, even mythical past. [Smith] exploits and exposes what Paul Ricoeur in his analysis of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925) calls the ‘oppressive and repressive power of monumental time’, whereby monuments produce an unbearable gap between the eternity represented by the monument and the temporal experience of our everyday life as mortals’ (Groes 2011, 231).

Conclusion The Lonely Londoners is in part Selvon’s ‘love song’ to the metropolis, a place to which he travelled as a Caribbean migrant in 1950 and lived for nearly thirty years. As he reflected in interview years later: When I first went to London, they were still issuing ration books and things like that. I love London. I got out of London what I had hoped for. Walking the streets of London and looking at the landscape…I had difficult times sometimes—jobs and things like that—but by and large I love London. I’ve been back recently and it has changed a great deal from the London of the fifties. It’s changed for the black immigrants and I think the actual landscape of the city has changed in certain parts. (Thieme 2003, 123)

The novel not only reflects this but also chooses to expose some of the grittier features of migrant experience in 1950s London rather than sentimentalizing the city overall. In The Lonely Londoners, we see the beginnings of what another 1950s novelist, Colin McInnes, called ‘The City of Spades’: a racially segregated, primarily working-class, bifurcated world of work and dwelling which produced very different experiences of London than had been seen before in London fictions. Reading the novel sixty years on is an interesting experience precisely because it charts what Ferdinand Dennis terms ‘travell[ing] part of the journey into Britishness’



(1999, 315). Selvon’s characters have not yet attained a sense of habitus (in Bourdieu’s sense). His fictional London, as we have already suggested, is emphatically not the cosmopolitan, buzzing, vibrant city of much twenty-first century ‘London fiction’. It is instead a city space imagined in glimpses and fragments, in unusual ways and at unusual times of day, one which is constructed around alienation and a continued search for connection, dwelling in and ‘at-homeness’ in Britain. With a focus on time, space and place in a relational context, the novel’s distinctive use of intertextual ‘layering’ and of characteristically West Indian speech acts to ‘speak’ a new city into being, the chapter has shown how Selvon’s 1956 novel makes fictional use of ‘space as a dynamic force in the contemporary struggle for meaning, belonging and power’ (Berland 2005, 334). Indeed, it might well be ‘the greatest exploration of London and the immigrant dream’ (Hughes 2016, n.p.).

Notes 1. Thus, for example, Selvon alludes to Dante in Bart’s search for his lost love, ‘Beatrice’ ‘comb[ing] the whole of London, looking in the millions of white faces walking down Oxford Street, peering into buses, taking tube ride on the inner Circle just in the hope that he might see she. For weeks the old Bart hunt, until he became haggard and haunted’ (Selvon, 1985, 66). 2. MacPhee is among a number of critics who read Selvon’s novel as a ‘highly self-reflexive modernist novel’ (2011, 125). 3. Jonathan Raban’s alternative term for this kind of plasticity in the experience of living in urban centres (from his 1974 book Soft City) is the ‘soft city’. 4. Indeed, Clement-Ball suggests that ‘At the height of imperial power…London was the great metropolis, the world’s largest city. “The Heart of the Empire” (as a famous painting named it in 1904), London projected itself to the inhabitants of its pink-stained territories as the centre of the world, the fountainhead of culture, the zero-point of global time and space’ (2006, 4). 5. As the cover illustration picturing Galahad next to the (suitably apt) statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus for the 1985 Longman edition of the novel also underlines. 6. Significantly, in Moses Ascending (1975), his sequel to The Lonely Londoners, Selvon returns to the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus as pivotal to the migrants’ changing sense of belonging in the city. Now having ‘gone up in the world’ as a house owner and writer of independent means, Moses reflects, in characteristically bawdy fashion: ‘I have weathered many a storm



in Brit’n, and men will tell you that in my own way I am as much part of the London landscape as little Eros with his bow and arrow in Piccadilly, or one-­ eyed Nelson with his column in Trafalgar Square, not counting colour’ (1989, 44). 7. These include the foggy opening to Dickens’ Bleak House (1851), Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1901), Ezra Pound’s ‘ In a Station of the Metro’, T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ (1922), Woolf ’s Mrs Dalloway (1925) and a host of more diffused intertextual echoes in representations of the city such as St Augustine’s ‘Celestial City’ (The City of God), the diseased city of Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) or William Cobbett’s Rural Rides (1830), Dick Whittington’s London, Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ (Milton, 1808), and popular cultural references such as the song ‘Maybe it’s Because I’m a Londoner’ (Hubert Gregg, 1944). 8. Groes goes further in contending that: ‘the metropolis is a place that embodies and literalises process…London is a living metropolis, a healthy city that is laboured on constantly; it is the ultimate city of BECOMING’ (2011, 2). 9. See also McLeod (2004, 8–9).

References Barry, Peter. 2015. Poetry and the City. In The Cambridge Companion to British Poetry 1945–2010, ed. Edward Larrissy, 228–239. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Berland, Jody. 2005. Place. In New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society, ed. Tony Bennett, Lawrence Grossberg, and Meaghan Morris, 256–257. London and New York: Blackwell Publishing. Clark, Stephen H. 1999. Travel Writing and Empire. London: Zed Books. Clement-Ball, John. 2006. Imagining London: Postcolonial Fiction and the Transnational Metropolis. Toronto and Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press. Dennis, Ferdinand. 1999. The Prince and I.  In London: The Lives of the City, 311–327, Granta 65, Spring. Groes, Sebastian. 2011. The Making of London: London in Contemporary Literature. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Hubbard, Phil, Rob Kitchen, and Gill Valentine, eds. 2004. Key Thinkers on Space and Place. London: Sage. Hughes, Sarah. 2016. Zadie Smith: The Smart and Spiky Recorder of a London State of Mind. (Review of Zadie Smith’s Swing Time). The Observer, October 6. Lamming, George. 1960. The Pleasures of Exile. London: Allison & Busby. Lefebvre, Henri. 1991 [1947]. The Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. 1. Trans. J. Moore. London: Verso.



———. 1996. Writings on Cities. 1996. Trans. and eds. E. Kofman & E. Lebas. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. ———. 2002 [1961]. Critique of Everyday Life, Volume II. London: Verso. McInnes, Colin. 1957. City of Spades. London: MacGibbon & Kee. McLeod, John. 2004. Postcolonial London: Rewriting the Metropolis. London and New York: Routledge. MacPhee, Graham. 2011. Postwar British Literature and Postcolonial Studies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Massey, Doreen. 1992. Politics and Space/Time. New Left Review 196: 65–84. ———. 2005. For Space. London: Sage. Nasta, Susheila. 1995. “Setting up Home in a City of Words”: Sam Selvon’s London Novels. In Other Britain. Other British: Contemporary Multicultural Fiction, ed. A. Robert Lee, 48–68. London: Pluto Press. Parrinder, Patrick. 2006. Nation and Novel. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Raban, Jonathan. 1974. Soft City. London: Hamish Hamilton. Smith, Zadie. 2000. White Teeth. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Soja, Edward. 1996. Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real And-­ Imagined-­Places. Oxford: Blackwell. ———. 2000. Postmetropolis: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions. Oxford: Blackwell. Selvon, Sam. 1985 [1956]. The Lonely Londoners. London: Longman. ———. 1989 [1975]. Moses Ascending. London: Longman. Thieme, John. 2003. Interview with Sam Selvon. In Something Rich and Strange, ed. Martin Zehnder, 117–123. Leeds: Peepal Tree Press. ———. 2016. Postcolonial Literary Geographies: Out of Place. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Upstone, Sara. 2014. “Footprints are the Only Fixed Point”: Mobilities in Postcolonial Fiction. In Researching and Representing Mobilities, ed. Lesley Murray and Sara Upstone, 39–56. London: Palgrave Macmillan.


Time and the City in Ulysses: ‘Like Holding Water in Your Hand’ Quyen Nguyen

Writing about the preoccupation with urban life in modernist novels, Malcolm Bradbury remarks, ‘Modernist writing has a strong tendency to encapsulate experience within the city, and to make the city-novel or the city-poem one of its main forms’ (Bradbury and McFarlane 1976, 100). One of the most celebrated cities in literary modernism, Joyce’s Dublin has been much dwelt upon by critics of all persuasions: geographical-­ cartographical, psychoanalytic, and post-colonial. However, Joyce scholarship dealing with Dublin too often hinges on the ‘real’ to discuss the extent to which Joyce’s Dublin resembles the historical city.1 This strong tradition of admiring Joyce’s topographical precision has a crucial drawback in that it fails to examine the textual city in all its multifariousness, and a reading of the city in relation to the experience of time is rarely touched upon. This essay addresses that neglect in an analysis of Dublin in ‘Wandering Rocks’, the tenth episode of Ulysses, in which simultaneous events are spread out across the city. Ulysses is as much writing about Dublin as reshaping and recreating it: on the one hand, by using Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of a ‘chronotope’,

Q. Nguyen (*) Singapore, Singapore © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_7




the chapter will argue that the impression of a realistic city in the real time-­ bound world is established, thanks to a deluge of facts and concrete details; on the other hand, the flow of linear time is constantly disrupted by the interpolations that interweave themselves throughout the whole episode, creating a text laden with arbitrariness and fragmentations. With reference to Gérard Genette’s analysis of duration, I will demonstrate how reading about Dublin thus comes as close as possible to experiencing the chaotic reality of the modern city in the early twentieth century. Ulysses dramatically changes the reader’s perception of time: the novel challenges the conventional concept of the wholeness of time in addition to that of space. By analysing how the urban space in ‘Wandering Rocks’ is constructed, the essay proposes that Joyce denies any totalizing attempt to make sense of a text so opulent in portraits and pictures, and as a result, Dublin is presented not as a community but rather as a collection of people and places on Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) monitors. Dublin becomes a spectacle of a surveillance society, with the reader as the over-watcher.

‘Time Is the Time Movement Takes’: Objective Time, Cartographical Place, and Realistic Dublin In his ground-breaking study about time and space in literature, The Dialogic Imagination, Mikhail Bakhtin proposes the concept of ‘chronotope’ (from Greek ‘chronos’ plus ‘topos’, literally ‘time’ and ‘space’ or ‘place’) to indicate the inseparability of literary time and space, explained as follows: In the literary artistic chronotope, spatial and temporal indicators are fused into one carefully thought-out, concrete whole. Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history. (Bakhtin 1981, 84)

Inspired by Albert Einstein’s notion of the space-time continuum in his General Theory of Relativity (1905–1915), Bakhtin uses ‘chronotope’ to show that time and space should be examined as a fundamental unity wherever a certain form of narrative is needed to shape the fictional world. By analysing different kinds of chronotopes, he lists at least four levels of significance: (1) narrative, plot-generating significance; (2) representational significance; (3) genre-distinguishing significance; and (4) semantic significance (Bakhtin 1981, 250–1). Reading Joyce’s city in the light of



Bakhtin’s momentous theory helps us understand how Joyce constructs his imaginary Dublin. The ‘Wandering Rocks’ episode, with its painstakingly arranged synchronism of actions, provides an exemplar of the employment of chronotopes, in which narrative time and space are deeply entangled and together act as unifiers of the whole episode in its representation of Dublin. Richard Brown argues that ‘[t]he relation of time to space in the episode reminds us that it is only by virtue of the clock (and clocks) that the life of the city can interconnect’ (Brown 2002, 64). Temporality has, undeniably, ‘take[n] on flesh’ and ‘become visible’ as the spatial dimension of Dublin unfolds within the passing of time. Ulysses is, famously, a novel that takes place in one single day: 16 June 1904. Joyce deliberately picks this date and takes pains to root his novel deeply in historical events, in order to conflate his fictional Dublin on this fictional day with the real city on that historical date. Benjamin Hrushovski’s analysis of the connexion between fictionality and referentiality can shed light on how the text of Ulysses deliberately leads the reader deeper and deeper into this conflation. He suggests that there always exists in a text at least one signpost (signifier) of fictionality, which is the omission of either the specific time or place: the so-called floating coordinates (Hrushovski 1984, 244). Ulysses, however, is set in an existent place from the very beginning. With regard to time, the sense of ‘floating’ without a specific sense of temporality in the first few chapters of the story is slowly relaxed as the novel progresses. The very first calendric marker appears in the seventh chapter, ‘Aeolus’: ‘HORATIO IS CYNOSURE THIS FAIR JUNE DAY’ (Joyce 1993, 143). Two chapters later, in ‘Scylla and Charybdis’, the reader hears from Stephen Dedalus, ‘It is this hour of a day in mid-­ June’ (Joyce 1993, 180). The vagueness persists, but now the day is narrowed down to a few days between the 10th and 20th of June. Finally, in ‘Wandering Rocks’, the exact date is confirmed: ‘Miss Dunne clicked on the keyboard:—16 June 1904’ (Joyce 1993, 220). Thus, the floating coordinates become anchored, the presumed fictionality of this story problematized, and the reader’s conviction about the separation of the two worlds is contested. In the two schemas which Joyce prepared for his friends, Carlo Linati and Stuart Gilbert, to help them grasp the structure of Ulysses, he listed the precise hours for all episodes (omitting the 18th, ‘Penelope’): the hours of the three Stephen Dedalus’ chapters are 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and 11 a.m., respectively; Leopold Bloom’s narrative begins with ‘Calypso’ at 8 a.m.; ‘Wandering Rocks’ starts at 3 p.m., and so on. This zeal for



exactitude of time is also evident in the main text where clues are constantly dropped either as subtle hints or as direct statements. For example, in the first episode ‘Telemachus’, Buck Mulligan complains when the milk lady is late, saying, ‘I told her to come after eight’ (Joyce 1993, 12); in ‘Nestor’, Stephen is informed by his students that they have hockey session coming: ‘Hockey at ten, sir’ (Joyce 1993, 26); in ‘Siren’, ‘What time is that? asked Blazes Boylan. Four?’ (Joyce 1993, 255). In ‘Wandering Rocks’, time frequently pops up in conversations as well as the interior monologues of the characters. A conspicuous declaration of the temporal coordinate appears in the very first lines: ‘The superior, the very reverend John Conmee S.  J. reset his smooth watch in his interior pocket as he came down the presbytery steps. Five to three’ (Joyce 1993, 210). Joyce calls particular attention to the mechanically defined time, letting his characters regularly consult watches or clocks, even if the time itself is often omitted, such as, ‘M’Coy peered into Marcus Tertius Moses’ sombre office, then at O’Neill’s clock’ (Joyce 1993, 224) or ‘he turned suddenly from a chip of strawberries, drew a gold watch from his fob and held it at its chain’s length’ (Joyce 1993, 218). The text also takes every opportunity to announce the exact time, thus upholding the temporal realness of Ulysses’ Dublin. Time in ‘Wandering Rocks’, according to Joyce’s schemas, is objective and divided ‘by the physical theory, into separate, distinct, measureable quantities’ (Meyerhoff 1955, 15). This meticulousness of time is mirrored by that of space, starting at the head of the chapter with Father Conmee’s reflection before his journey, ‘Five to three. Just nice time to walk to Artane.’ This is a solid signpost of non-fictionality, so to speak. Joyce’s infamous boast, ‘I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book’ is validated by the torrent of proper names in Ulysses, a formidable vehicle to create an illusion of verisimilitude (Budgen 1972, 67). The areas and routes covered in this episode are greatly expanded compared to the limited part of Dublin being walked in Bloom’s episodes, totalling an extreme number of 181 named localities, 2.5 times that in ‘Lestrygonians’. The real, ubiquitous names help to authenticate purportedly genuine experiences of the characters who in ‘Wandering Rocks’ are not one or two but legion.2 Despite switching perspectives and resetting time once in the middle (and except for the narrator-less chapter ‘Aeolus’), the first episodes are structured innocently enough: Stephen is first seen outside the city then



enters it; Bloom is first seen within his home then roams the city without it. But in ‘Wandering Rocks’, the reader is plunged into a maze woven through nineteen narrative sections between the hours of three and four in the afternoon. An assorted cast of characters from various backgrounds scattered about the streets of the Hibernian metropolis make their brief, but unique, appearances in ‘Wandering Rocks’, rendering all remaining episodes, save for ‘Circe’, inferior in terms of population when compared to this chapter. Here, Dublin is donning a new mask: that of a metropolitan capital, in which each Dubliner has at best a cameo role. In an earlier schema prepared in September 1920, this episode is attributed a ‘Sense (Meaning)’ of ‘The Hostile Milieu’, and, as Clive Hart rightly remarks, the episode is ‘Joyce’s most direct, most complete celebration of Dublin, demonstrating succinctly his conception of the importance of physical reality, meticulously documented’ (Hart 1974, 181). Accordingly, to make room for both new characters and their interior monologues, the text does dilate in terms of covered space as well as the sheer volume of words: indeed, totalling at 12,516 words, ‘Wandering Rocks’ is the second longest chapter in the book, only 133 words shorter than ‘Lestrygonians’. Within that monstrosity of a textual realm, every character performs their action by moving along lines that are precisely defined in terms of both time and space: they constantly pass by a named place, or inhabit in a named abode at a stated hour. Based on detailed information about the characters’ whereabouts and destinations, Clive Hart is even able to compose a chart of spatio-temporal coordinates in ‘an attempt to show what is happening, minute by minute’. Likewise, the temporal system that Joyce developed allows the characters’ movements to be mapped onto a kind of space-timetable while still preserving the semantic integrity of the text. No one character stays still, and the language itself calls attention to this fact with the word ‘road’ appearing ten times and ‘street’ thirty-five times in this episode. The chronotope of the road, and with that the intersection(s) of Dublin citizens from various hierarchal positions, is heavily employed, an embodying illustration for Bakhtin’s analysis: Time, as it were, fuses together with space and flows in it (forming the road); […] the spatial and temporal paths of the most varied people—representatives of all social classes, estates, religions, nationalities, ages, intersect at one spatial and temporal point. (Bakhtin 1981, 243–4)



In ‘Wandering Rocks’, the streets of Dublin are conjured as gridlines on which countless meetings take places: Father Conmee meeting with three schoolboys; a one-legged sailor passing Katey and Boody Dedalus; or in the final section, William Humble, Earl of Dudley, passing almost all citizens that appeared in the previous sections. In giving prominent representation to these insignificant stories, the chronotope of the road also destroys the traditional notion of plot. Instead of continuing with a plot that moves through a sequence of events to produce an effect of causality, Joyce abruptly abandons Bloom’s storyline and dedicates the whole episode to irrelevant characters, to plenty of streets, houses, and waterways. Therefore, amidst varied characters roaming a city abundant in real place names with exact time markers between 3 and 4 p.m., a realistic Dublin in 1904 emerges with the ‘spatial and temporal interrelationships’ that ‘[work] out in realistically exact fashion’ (Hart 1974, 200–1). In order to achieve the goal of creating ‘a chapter of the moral history’, Joyce has borrowed from and expanded upon the techniques of the nineteenth-­ century literary realism, yet the end product that is Ulysses, a champion of twentieth-century modernism, appears even more realistic than any of its realist predecessors. The novel with its surplus of facts flaunts its realism on every page and asserts its claims as an objective record of modern Dublin.

‘Can’t Bring Back Time’: Simultaneity, Continuous Present, and Dublin as Discourse A comparison of the novel’s early serialization in The Little Review (1918–1920) with its final form of 1922 reveals crucial alterations in the text of ‘Wandering Rocks’: numerous interpolations were inserted while Joyce was working on the later chapters. In the very first section, for example, the narration of Father Conmee’s movements is suddenly interrupted by a sentence about a simultaneous event, Mr Denis J. Maginni’s crossing Dignam’s Court. More than thirty such post-Little Review passages serve the same purpose. Pervasive and intrusive, these interpolations signify the idea that ‘we happen simultaneously’ in a city full of activity but yield no meaning to this signification. Frank Budgen’s eyewitness account of Joyce’s writing process is helpful in understanding how the cross-cutting technique is handled: Budgen compares Joyce to an engineer with ‘compass and slide-rule, a surveyor with theodolite and measuring chain’



(Budgen 1972, 121) and describes Joyce writing ‘Wandering Rocks’ ‘with a map of Dublin before him on which were traced in red ink the paths of the Earl of Dudley and Father Conmee’ (Budgen 1972, 125). Predictably, the art symbol in the schemas for ‘Wandering Rocks’ is ‘mechanics’: the episode is metaphorically and literally a mechanism constructed with the scrupulosity of an engineering draftsman. Verisimilitude is just one of Joyce’s objectives in amassing names and facts as he painstakingly listed the routes and measured the distances and time required to travel between the various destinations, in order to arrange them all into an extremely exact design. Kathleen McCormick’s definition of interpolation is useful here: ‘An interpolation […] is a line that appears out of context in one vignette and that generally belongs somewhere else in the text, frequently in another vignette’ (McCormick 1991, 276). While Father Conmee is sauntering ‘along Mountjoy square east’, Mr Denis Maginni is passing ‘lady Maxwell at the corner of Dignam’s court’; while Corny Kelleher is chewing ‘his blade of hay’, Father Conmee is stepping ‘into the Dollymount tram’ (Joyce 1993, 211, 215). All these events happen simultaneously, but the only relation between them is that of temporality. Joyce’s Ulysses unfolding in a continuous present is the ideal illustration for Gérard Genette’s theory on the notion of ‘duration’ in narratology (Genette 2002, 28–31). Seymour Chatman summarizes Genette’s analysis of the term as ‘the relation of the time it takes to read out the narrative to the time the story-events themselves lasted’ and proposes one possibility when discourse-time is equal to story-time, that is the scene. In the scene, ‘[t]he two usual components are dialogue and overt physical actions of relatively short duration, the kind that do not take much longer to perform than to relate’ (Chatman 1978, 68). In an episode of thirty-four pages over an hour-long time-span, Joyce splits the narrative into multiples sections and various scenes focusing on the depiction of characters’ conversations and movements; thus, creating a series of dramatic scenes in which the reader experiences the story’s chronological happenings as equal to the passing narrative time. Moreover, the prevalent sense of simultaneity in the tenth episode especially seems to affirm that plot time is parallel to narrative time. Fascinated by the montage technique in cinema introduced by the Soviet filmmaker Sergei Ensenstein, Joyce deftly employs the cinematic cross-cutting technique to masterfully construct a city in a flowing present while simultaneously, incessantly moving characters and objects, supported by a number of secondary devices: all nineteen episodes start at the same time of the



day; one character’s whereabouts is reported from various perspectives, such as the one-legged sailor in sections one, three, sixteen, and eighteen; some certain object keep appearing, most notably the ‘Elijah is coming’ throwaway in sections four, twelve, and sixteen.3 As a nod to Bloom’s reflection that ‘you’ ‘Can’t bring back time. Like holding water in your hand’ (Joyce 1993, 160), the text continuously keeps track of the passage of time when people go about their business around the city, oblivious to the throwaway’s journey in the river Liffey. When Maggy is pouring soup into Katey’s bowl, this throwaway is flowing under Loopline Bridge, past Custom House and George’s Quay. It keeps sailing to North Wall and past Benson’s Ferry while the cavalcade crosses Kingbridge and Pembroke Quay in the last section. Altogether, the text records the simultaneous events on the street of Dublin, never ceasing to remind the reader about the advancing of both plot and narrative time, which, as Andrew Shail emphasizes, ‘Plot time across the whole of Ulysses is virtually always the present, always compelled to pass as long as narrative time is passing, the narrative never moving the story-NOW into the past of a previous plot moment’ (Shail 2012, 112). Nevertheless, the single temporal dimension that holds together these synchronized activities turns out to be very fragile. The linearity and unity of time are quickly destabilized: the reader is presented with an artificial linearity of plot, whereby the text intentionally obscures ‘the temporal connections between the events presented in successive sections’. These often ‘refer to events occurring simultaneously, but there is no reference to this simultaneity in the text’ (Lawrence 1981, 83). Accustomed to the traditional presentation in classical novels, in which events unfold in plot time in the same order they appear in the text, the reader might presume that Father Conmee strolling along Mount Joy Square comes before Maginni passing Lady Maxwell. Yet as William B. Warner explains, Joyce splits the narrative into nineteen sections and ‘[d]isrupts the temporal illusion of the narrative, and leaves the reader without any sense of an integral connection between one time, place, or event and another’ (Warner 1977, 24). The intense sense of bizarreness and arbitrariness arising from these interpolations shatters the wholeness of space, transforming the world of Dublin into a montage of disorienting images. For example, while the text is following the one-legged sailor on his route up Eccles Street, unexpectedly a sentence appears describing an unrelated and absent character’s



face, ‘J. J. O’Molloy’s white careworn face was told that Mr Lambert was in the warehouse with a visitor’ (Joyce 1993, 216). Right after this, the text continues with the sailor story. Between these two instances, there are no linking words, no warnings, and no offered explanations—just the abruptness of this two-line interpolation unto itself. An interpolation can even appear right in the middle of a sentence: ‘Corny Kelleher sped a silent jet of hayjuice arching from his mouth while a generous white arm from a window in Eccles street flung forth a coin’ (Joyce 1993, 216). The sense of bizarreness gradually increases as interpolations unceasingly amass in the course of the episode. In addition, by breaking into a scene with mere shards of other events, interpolations can be considered an alienating factor at best: they exist independently in the narrative; they are not easy to attribute to any ongoing story; and they present random events with random people in random places and create an artificial link between them. The events listed are irrelevant to the ongoing story and refer to actions happening simultaneously elsewhere, whose ‘elsewhereness’ becomes the prominent characteristic of the urban space, as Fritz Senn observes, and in this episode, dominated by a deadpan style that frequently interrupts the humdrum third-person narration, helps to break the monotony, and transfers the reading to the same plane of ‘elsewhere’ temporality and location. To further complicate this aspect of urbanity, characters are mentioned just to immediately become redundant, pushed aside by other characters who in turn are also vying for a specific kind of textual attention reserved only for the primary plot. Read in this context, the interpolations also manage to shatter ‘the habitual unity of place, and transform the text into a double bind, being disorienting and coordinating at the same time’ (Senn 2002, 160–1). There is an analogy between reading Dublin and interpreting Dublin’s textual presence—that is, the city becomes a discourse, and the reader navigating the discourse becomes a walker in the textual city. Hence, the act of reading about the city becomes the act of experiencing urban space itself: it is about getting lost and finding the right way, about wandering and observing, about navigating the language and texture of the constructed Dublin, all of which is celebrated. As a reader, and as a walker in the city, one observes and gets to know citizens and streets, trace a character’s routes as if one’s own, and attempt to extract the significance from the simultaneity of events. The interpolations mirror the unpredictable relationships between citizens and places in a city. Again, it must be



reminded that these activities and the persons are unrelated in the plot: the place where Kelleher spits the hay juice is unrelated to Eccles Street; the place where Miss Dunne is typing is unconnected to Monypeny’s Corner. The quest for a cue to tease a meaning out of ‘Wandering Rocks’ is doomed from the beginning due to the purposelessness in everything presented. The text becomes an assortment of mini-narratives rather than a structure supporting any meaningful plot. In their Topographical Guide, Knuth and Hart suggest that the interpolations are not thrown in at random but demonstrate what Hart calls ‘casual relationships between the interpolations and their contexts’ (Hart and Knuth 1975, 193). I would rather suggest that this very attempt to find a link between these interpolations, thus seeking an order in the narrative, still belongs to a traditionalist way of reading, in which symbolic significances are of the utmost priority, any of such attempt is simply defied by this fundamentally modernist text. Interpolations behave like other wandering objects, true to the Homeric allusion of this episode. They interrupt the narrative whenever they come along, or ‘float’ aimlessly in the text, and it is never explained why the reader must be informed of those concurrences. They become elusive because they do not neatly fit in any story, and instead, lure its audience into a game of chasing down significations. Left in a labyrinth of tangled stories and interpolations, the reader is desperate to find a pattern, a hint, a red thread that can lead to a meaningful unity. But the options are endless; the goal of an absolute order is never in sight. Furthermore, each interpolation closely revolves around a particular individual and their locality in the city. Hence, this wild goose chase is about finding not only a suitable context for an interpolation but also the purpose behind an interpolation occurring in a specific locality, where places themselves also float through various interpolations without an explicit reason to stay put. ‘Wandering Rocks’ is an episode full of paradoxes in the way the text is so scrupulously establishing facts and yet so randomly throwing in people and actions together, in the apparent attempt to recreate a faithful Dublin just to present a fictional city in a montage of random scenes. The randomness of interpolations suggesting random actions in the urban space, the simultaneity of actions spreading out in the city, and the fragmentariness of the narrative: these three together engender a unique reading experience of the modern Dublin in Ulysses.



‘A Most Edifying Spectacle’: Dublin under Surveillance and Unconnected Urban Milieu The overwhelming lack of connections in the narrative begs a question: can Dublin with its isolated citizens and places be considered a community, even an imagined one? In my close reading, I propose that Dublin appears in ‘Wandering Rocks’ not as a community but rather as a collection of people and places on the assembled monitors in a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) or surveillance video control room. The city is split into multiple parts and it seems that cameras are set up to do a live reportage. The text flaunts its collection of facts listed in a legalistic and minutial style, recording every single detail in the private life of the citizens, effectively transforming Dublin into a spectacle of a surveillance society in which the reader takes on the role of the over-watcher. Or, to adopt a much more poetic outlook, one can even say that the city is observed and depicted as a performance on a stage. Be it panoptic or romantic, this multiplicity of space is generated tremendously thanks to the cinematic technique of montage. On the gridlines of Dublin, slices of Dubliners’ lives are ostentatiously displayed. The different through the different sections documenting the everyday activities of a series of citizens: Corny Kelleher closing his daybook and examining a coffin lid; the Dedalus sisters, coming home, discussing their household situation; and a blonde shop girl preparing a basket of fruit for Blazes Boylan, to name a few. In this fabric of urban Dublin, Stephen or Bloom play just a part like any other Dubliner. There is undoubtedly an expansion in both the number of voices and the number of words. For the first time, the reader gets a chance to glimpse into the mind of other Dubliners: this is the Reverend Conmee thinking that it is ‘Just nice time to walk to Artane’ or Dilly Dedalus calculating the value of her belongings, ‘Those lovely curtains. Five shillings. Cosy curtains’ (Joyce 1993, 210, 227). Dublin in ‘Wandering Rocks’ is presented as a compendium of blasé citizens and unconnected places. In ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’, Georg Simmel discusses this ‘blasé attitude’, as one of the surviving skills that the city dwellers acquired in order to cope with the downpour of stimuli in the modern metropolis (Simmel 1976, 409). If in ‘Lestrygonians’, the reader a taste of how a single character’s nerves are constantly hammered by that torrent of stimuli, here in ‘Wandering Rocks’ the city of walking citizens is mostly depicted from outside observation in



third-person narration. Dubliners’ movements around the apathetic urban space are mostly reported by an unemotional camera eye in a monotonous distancing style, rendering them estranged and impersonal. Utilizing solely the simplistic sentence structure consisting of a single subject, verb, and object, the text moves from describing Dubliners in their trajectories to other activities in a mechanical style. This prevailing sentence pattern describes all characters from the fingernails-paring narrator’s viewpoint, the same way Stephen hypothesizes in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) about the narrator acting as a God-figure, rendering the episode as a whole an unfriendly space. Additionally, the characters are mechanically reported performing trivial everyday actions that seem arbitrary and meaningless. The reader starts straining to make sense of the capriciousness of the text as well as to seek ‘some underlying significance’ (Johnson 1993, 866). He interrogates not only the raison d’être of a character, but also the reason why these arbitrary activities are cited in such a curt style. The terse sentences about random people and dull events render the reader demoralized and the production of meaning obsolete. There is an effect of accumulation from all the factors I have discussed, ranging from the deadpan sentences to the amassing of proper names and objective time to create the ostentatiously complete picture of Dublin. On the one hand, Dublin is conjured from such raw materials that the excess of localities has rendered it physical, meticulous, and spatially plural. On the other hand, the realistic city under the combined effect of the distancing style and hollow facts becomes bizarre and defamiliarized: the more real Dublin becomes, the stranger the reader’s experiences are amid all of its purposeless people and activities. This accumulation effect works hand in hand with the interpolations in breaking of the narrative into small sections, bringing about a chapter of unconnectedness. Joyce hardly provides a panoramic picture of his urban habitat in Ulysses. Instead, in ‘Wandering Rocks’, he creates an illusion of panorama with a series of spectacles in nineteen mini-narratives. The cameras in the episode are never set on a vantage point to observe what is going on on Dublin streets, but sent into every corner of the city to gather as much ground-­ level data as possible. At the start of the episode, the text consists of short sentences averaging between twelve and fifteen words. Gradually, short and terse sentences turn long and cumulative, until in the final scene when all the random characters are gathered into one single section. The last sentences are six to seven times as long as those at the beginning,



mirroring the extent to which facts are accumulated. The oversized passages span three continuous pages, cramming Dubliners from various places into sentences profuse in proper names. Rather than describing the scene, they claim their realness as a collection of people and titles. Lawrence rightly observes the ‘infinite expansibility of the sentence’ to cover everything in this episode, ‘the sentences parody the arbitrary structure of prose writing. The narrative’s attempt to catalogue all the action of the chapter is comically outpaced by the possibilities that present themselves as potential members in the catalogue’ (Lawrence 1981, 88). A new urban experience is presented: a passive compendium of citizens in a passive place. Moreover, the camera-like narrator watching and recording everybody creates the impression of a Big Brother society. In Inventing Ireland, Declan Kiberd suggests how the author takes up ‘a god’s eye view of Dublin [in this episode], from which distance both [Stephen and Bloom] appear (like everyone else) as mere specks on the landscape’ (Kiberd 1996, 350). It is the reader who observes Dublin from a virtually omniscient perspective, in a city meticulously created from the street level. From this god-like view of the city, it is impossible to catch a glimpse of Almidano Artifoni’s ‘heavy hand [taking] Stephen’s firmly’ or Ned Lambert ‘h[olding] his handkerchief ready for the coming’ (Joyce 1993, 219, 222). In ‘Wandering Rocks’, Joyce selects a wider area of Dublin than in other episodes and splits it into smaller parts, in each of which he focuses on different people. If in Bloom’s episodes, the reader gets a vague impression of a street-level narrator, or more exactly, of the street itself as the narrator, which changes identity with every new street to follow characters’ movements, in ‘Wandering Rocks’, the city itself becomes the narrator. It is not a simple god-like position, but a hybridity between god-like and street-­ level where the narrator zooms in and out as quick and as much as possible. Imagine a city surveillance camera system with numerous cameras in different parts recording citizens’ activities. The narrator is omnipresent and with these cameras he transforms Dublin into a constantly watched city, where the camera feeds from nineteen sections themselves constitute the narration. Life becomes a spectacle in which each Dubliner is now transformed into the hero of a mini-show: all of them performing unbeknownst for an audience. The reality effect caused by the accumulated proper names does not gesture to a real Dublin but is undermined by this very accumulation and the interrupting interpolations. The constantly broken narrative and the



exposed lives of the numerous citizens overwhelm the reader. When seeking for a dominant metaphor for the city in this episode, critics often label it a labyrinth. I suggest the metaphor of a CCTV control room, in which each slice of Dublin is enlarged on a monitor amid multiple monitors, arranged side by side to capture each character’s movements throughout various places: unrelated to each other, they are indifferently wandering individuals over apathetic places in an urban metropolis, yet together they create an illusion of a community. But this community is not structured as a system, and deny any signification that the reader wants to impose onto it. The Dublin CCTV room does not provide a panoramic view of the city but only a collection of fragments. The world of Dublin is not intelligible, but an inventory of arbitrary, random, and unconnected data. In ‘Realism in Balance’, György Lukács investigates the breakdown of modern society in the early twentieth century due to the capitalist system and its effect on individual perceptions, noting that the ‘surface of capitalism appears to “disintegrate” into a series of elements all driven towards independence. Obviously this must be reflected in the consciousness of the men who live in this society, and hence too in the consciousness of poets and thinkers’ (1994, 28). Arguing in a similar fashion, Stephen Kern examines the unprecedented revolutions in technologies that drastically changed human views of time and space in the period of 1880–1918, the four decades before Joyce’s Ulysses was published (1983, 1–20). With the advent of telegraphs, telephones, trains, cinema, and so on, men experience the simultaneity of distant events in various places in the world, the reduction and thickening of time due to the ability of traversing space quickly, and the multiplicity and fragmentariness of space as well as the perception of humankind. Joyce’s Ulysses is the exemplar modernist work of prose fiction, along with numerous cultural movements mirroring those radical changes in life in this momentous watershed. Budgen notes that, the ‘principal personage’ in ‘Wandering Rocks’ is ‘Dublin itself. Its houses, streets, spaces, tramways and waterways are shown us’ (Budgen 1972, 123). However, the faithful representation of the city is contested by the interpolations in the narrative: on the one hand, they confirm a continuous presence with simultaneous actions around the city; on the other hand, they destroy the linearity of time and make it become a treacherous and unstable artefact. Dublin becomes a space of disconnected, wandering objects and even places. Instead of a logical and overarching plot to follow, the text forces the reader to probe at various disjointed stories, each irrelevant to the others. It denies any



attempt at totalization: the wholeness, whether of time, space, place, or plot, is shattered. The amassing of people, places, names, and the distancing prose in the nineteen mini-sections, going hand in hand with the repetition of time markers as well as the synchronized events, engenders a strange reality consisting of random objects and humans, as if being reported by nineteen cameras. As a result, the text is steeped in fragmentation, and Dublin is now less a community than an assortment of unrelated people and places on the monitors in a CCTV network, transfiguring the city into a spectacle.

Notes 1. See Quyen Nguyen, 2017, ‘“Dublin what place was it”: Making sense of the textual city in Ulysses’, Moveable Type Vol. 9, (‘Metropolis’) for a list of Joycean works with this cartographical approach. 2. See Quyen Nguyen, 2018, ‘“Neither This nor That”: The Decentred Textual City in Ulysses’ in Irish Urban Fictions: A Critical Introduction, ed. Maria Beville and Deirdre Flynn, (London: Palgrave Macmillan), 109–127, for a close analysis of how proper names create the effect of reality in Ulysses. 3. Stephen Kern lists five devices. See Stephen Kern, 1983. The Culture of Time and Space, 1880–1918 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), 77.

References Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1981. Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel. In The Dialogic Imagination, Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, 250–251. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Bradbury, Malcolm, and James Walter McFarlane. 1976. Modernism: 1890–1930, Pelican Guides to European Literature, University of Texas Slavic Series, 1. New York: Penguin. Brown, Richard. 2002. Time, Space and the City in “Wandering Rocks”. In European Joyce Studies 12: Joyce’s ‘Wandering Rocks, ed. Andrew Gibson and Steven Morrison, 57–72. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi. Budgen, Frank. 1972. James Joyce and the Making of ‘Ulysses,’ and Other Writings. London: Oxford University Press. Chatman, Seymour. 1978. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Genette, Gérard. 2002. Order, Duration, and Frequency. In Narrative Dynamics: Essays on Time, Plot, Closure, and Frames, ed. Brian Richardson, 25–34. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press.



Hart, Clive. 1974. Wandering Rocks. In James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’: Critical Essays, ed. Clive Hart and David Hayman, 181–216. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hart, Clive, and Leo Knuth. 1975. A Topographical Guide to James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. Vol. 2 vols. Colchester: A Wake Newslitter Press. Hrushovski, Benjamin. 1984. Fictionality and Fields of Reference: Remarks on a Theoretical Framework. Poetics Today 5 (2): 227–251. Johnson, Jeri. 1993. Explanatory Notes. In Ulysses, 763–980. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Joyce, James. 1993. In Ulysses: The 1922 Text, ed. Jeri Johnson. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lawrence, Karen. 1981. The Odyssey of Style in ‘Ulysses’. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Lukács, Georg. 1994. Realism in the Balance. In Aesthetics and Politics, ed. Ernst Bloch, Theodor Adorno and Georg Lukács, Trans. Ronald Taylor, 28–59. London: Verso. Kern, Stephen. 1983. The Culture of Time and Space, 1880–1918. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Kiberd, Declan. 1996. Inventing Ireland. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. McCormick, Kathleen. 1991. ‘Ulysses,’ ‘Wandering Rocks,’ and the Reader: Multiple Pleasures in Reading, Studies in British Literature. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press. Meyerhoff, Hans. 1955. Time in Literature. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Senn, Fritz. 2002. Charting Elsewhereness: Erratic Interlocations. In Joyce’s ‘Wandering Rocks’, European Joyce Studies, ed. Andrew Gibson and Steve Morrison, vol. 12, 155–185. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi. Shail, Andrew. 2012. The Cinema and the Origins of Literary Modernism. New York: Routledge Publishers. Simmel, Georg. 1976. The Metropolis and Mental Life. In The Sociology of Georg Simmel, 409–424. New York: Free Press. Warner, William B. 1977. The Play of Fictions and Succession of Styles in Ulysses. James Joyce Quarterly 15 (1): 18–35.


Time in the Translocal City Lena Mattheis

When we think of translocal1 writing, we naturally think of space: Noisy cityscapes suffused with a ‘polyphonic murmuring’ (Brand 2008, p. 149), far-away countries with lush landscapes, distant memories haunting a relocated presence. Even if we speak of temporal gaps or movements in such stories, we do so in spatial metaphors (e.g., in ‘gaps’ or ‘movements’). In an article on representations of silences, or absences, Alina Kwiatkowska explains that: linguists of the cognitive orientation […], have pointed out the universal tendency to conceptualize the abstract domain of time in terms of the more concrete and accessible domain of space. Time is thus conceptualized metaphorically as dimensional; events and states are seen as entities having extension, and the distance between them can be measured. This conceptual spatialization of time is reflected in language: the English within the space of two weeks or the Polish kawal czasu ‘a large piece of time’ are representative of the countless spatial expressions that we use to speak about temporal phenomena. (Kwiatkowska 1997, 329–330)

L. Mattheis (*) University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_8




While Kwiatkowska does not go as far as Ricoeur, who refers to the ‘ultimate unrepresentability of time, which makes even phenomenology continually turn to metaphors and to the language of myth’ (Ricoeur 1988, 243), her rather practical examples show how interwoven space, time, and language are. The ubiquity of time in narratives focused on space, and vice versa, remains undeniable even (or especially) after the spatial turn in literary studies. In translocal novels in particular, presence is layered with absences that are located in distant pasts, or sometimes futures, and are therefore narratable only through complex constructions of individually experienced time. To phrase this a bit more concisely: if characters move between different spaces, what they take with them is the experience of time—an internalised rhythm that is compared, contrasted, or adapted to every new environment. The reason this particular type of narrated time, which to a certain degree is at work in any change of setting, becomes particularly intriguing in translocal novels is twofold. First of all, the recent trend in Anglophone writing to depict two or more distinct localities around the globe interwoven into one narrative reflects a world that is more and more marked by hypermobility, global concerns, ‘simultaneously occurring processes of border rigidity’ (Sadowski-Smith 2002, 4) and border porosity, as well as voluntary movement, forced movement, and migration. At first glance, one could easily assume that all of these phenomena lead to a more homogeneous experience of a constantly accelerating ‘global’ time. Saskia Sassen, as one of the most prominent scholars analysing the ‘global city’, cautions us to remember that this ‘is not the whole story. Discrepancies between the rates of acceleration affecting different economic activities can engender differing temporalities, and it is these differences that should be of the greater interest to us’ (Sassen 2001, 267). An increasing heterogeneity ensues when we consider that encounters with other temporal rhythms are hardly ever blended with previous ones to create one smooth and stable time sphere. In The Inheritance of Loss (2006) by Kiran Desai, for example, Biju’s experience of the fast pace of New York remains distinct from the calm languor of Kalimpong, despite the fact that both cities are layered and interwoven to create one translocal narrative voice. An increasing homogeneity can perhaps rather be found in the heightened complexity of colliding time spheres that is, to a certain degree, shared by travellers, migrants, and expats alike. The tension between both poles, heterogeneity and homogeneity, is therefore not resolved but underlined by translocal narratives.



The second reason translocal novels produce a distinct type of temporality is the fact that generally at least one of the narrativised settings is urban. As the city is, by nature, a place where a multitude of time spheres interact and exist simultaneously, we can find structural analogies to translocal time(s) since both urban spaces and translocal spaces are ‘site[s] where multiple temporalities collide’ (Crang 2001, 189), although Crang here refers to urban rather than translocal space. At the same time, since the city is a single place, it cannot be truly translocal in itself. It is the versatile nature of the city that allows writers to project a variety of other spacetimes onto its surface. ‘The rapid crowding of changing images, the sharp discontinuity in the grasp of a single glance, and the unexpectedness of onrushing sense impressions’ (Simmel 2004, 13) which Georg Simmel describes as typical features of metropolitan life already in 1903, are marked by a distinct set of accelerations and sensory overloads condensed into one locale. Acceleration, extreme sense impressions, complexity, and a shrinking of lived space also appear to be the most cross-cultural aspects of urbanity, which is another analogy to translocal narratives but also clearly presupposed by a limited and singular space. In sum: urban time is similar enough to translocal time to find fruitful connections, but different enough for productive contrasts. Translocal urban time could figure as a sub-category of both. How then is time narrated in the translocal city? Some of the more obvious techniques include flashbacks, letters, and diary entries through which the past permeates the present. Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being (2013), for instance, creates a translocal temporality through the author’s alter-ego protagonist Ruth, who lives on a remote island in British Columbia and finds letters and diaries washed ashore that transport her to the pre-3/11 urban Japan of Nao (note the homophony to ‘now’), the young woman who has written them. The entire novel is concerned with determining time as Ruth more and more frantically tries to find out where Nao would have been during the tsunami and the ensuing catastrophe. Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For (2008) has four main characters who all narrate translocal storylines anchored in Toronto and culminating at roughly the same time, but a fourth character—protagonist Tuyen’s long-lost brother—has a storyline that follows his travels from Vietnam to Canada and spans many years. The discrepancy between timelines causes confusion for readers and characters alike, reflecting the disorientation translocal urban time can create. Although numerous contemporary translocal texts use such intriguing chronotopes, the main part of this



chapter will focus on two translocal novels: I Am China (2014) by Xiaolu Guo and The Maestro, the Magistrate, & the Mathematician (2015) by Tendai Huchu, in order to show how exactly these translocal urban temporalities are constructed. In Xiaolu Guo’s I Am China (2014), Scottish translator Iona is drawn into the Bejing of the 1990s when she starts working on a book project comprised of a bundle of letters exchanged between Chinese punk rock star Jian and poet Mu, his partner. Their star-crossed love story intrudes into Iona’s London and forces her to re-evaluate her own biography, including the conflicted relationship with island she was named after, but never visits. Throughout the course of the novel, the focalisation switches between Iona, Jian and Mu, presenting a series of near encounters between them from different angles. When Iona and Jian are first in the same place, they are still separated by a number of years, while the reader is being drawn into the spacetime between them, as if he or she too could have been there with them at the Cafe-on-the-Channel in Dover: If you had been sitting there on April 2012, around midday, you would have seen a white van driving past with ‘Dover Immigration Removal Centre’ printed in blue letters on the side. It stopped at the cafe for a few moments while the driver picked up a takeaway coffee and soggy sandwich. Inside the van were several individuals, including a slight Chinese man with a hungry look in his eyes. He, too, from the small window at the back, saw the birds swooping, and the grey mist on the sea. (Guo 2014, 46)

The image of the swooping birds implies that Jian, Iona and the reader may just have glanced up at the exact same second to see the exact same bird swooping down—if only they had been there at the same time. Simultaneously, this image of flighty brevity also depicts an eternal routine that a visitor may encounter on almost any given day. This passing sense of timelessness may be due to the fact that Iona is not yet attuned to the rhythm and chronology of Jian and Mu’s lives as she translates their letters without a given order. Simultaneity, temporal distance and timeless routine co-exist within the same image and place. Reading all three interpretations of this passage as different chronotopes, this corresponds to Bakhtin’s observation that ‘chronotopes are mutually inclusive, the co-­ exist, they may be interwoven with, replace or oppose one another, contradict one another or find themselves in even more complex interrelationships’ (Bakhtin 2008, 252). This functional principle of



chronotopes corresponds not only to translocal urban time, but also to Bakhtin’s concept of polyphony, which he first develops in Problem’s of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1972). Just as narrative voices remain distinct and retain agency when they develop unevenly in a polyphonic narrative, translocal chronotopes enrich each other rather than drowning out other voices, narratives, or times. Through their multi-layered interaction, Jian’s and Iona’s times can produce several possible chronotopes for the reader to read in. Mu’s province, Bejing, and London diversify the chronotopic cityscape even further. Towards the end of the novel, the near encounters no longer take place years apart: mere days separate the character’s presence in the same place. When Iona discovers Mu’s new London address in November 2013, she arrives there after Mu has just left for China ‘two days ago’ (Guo 2014, 320). Accelerating the narration in a hunt for the present—after all the past letters have been translated—Iona then travels to Crete and misses Jian by only a few hours: he drowns on the afternoon of her arrival on the island. Despite the fact that Iona meets only Mu in person, and only on the final pages of the novel, her increasingly obsessive work on the translation of the Chinese couple’s letters and diaries allows their past to become her present. London is suddenly inhabited by ‘apparition[s] from another world’ (Guo 2014, 190) when, for example, Iona confuses a man she sees on one of her frequent walks across Millennium Bridge for an Englishman that Mu describes in a diary entry written in Milwaukee. Although a note of location and date at the beginning of each chapter seemingly anchors each narrative strand in its own spacetime, they saturate each other through memories, associations, and surprising shifts in focalisation. Jian and Mu reach beyond the margins of their letters to meet in Iona’s time. A somewhat more abstract but very common strategy to create translocal time in an urban environment is the translocal palimpsest. Generally employed to describe the historical and geographical layers of urban space, the urban palimpsest becomes translocal when layers from a foreign spacetime are added to the narrated city. Since the palimpsest is characterised by layers that are alien to each other and only put into relation through the fabric they are added to, this type of palimpsestuous narration is therefore even more congruent with the original conceptualisation of the palimpsest as consisting of unrelated layers than with the urban palimpsest in which layers are often more directly related or similar (cf. Dillon 2005, 2007). The simultaneous presence of different experiences of time is often accompanied by similar motifs (such as roots, water, and flight) as well. In I Am



China, Jian’s memories are often triggered by an intense, almost camuesque, perception of the sun, which also underpins the translocal palimpsest in Tendai Huchu’s The Magistrate, the Maestro & the Mathematician (2015).2 All three main characters of Huchu’s novel are Zimbabweans who have lived in Edinburgh for many years but perceive the city—and its time-­ keeping sun—in very different ways. While Farai, the Mathematician, is as local in the Scottish capital as he is in Zimbabwe and the Maestro removes himself from time and space by delving into the sphere of literary fiction, the Magistrate lives with a constant longing for a past in which he had a secure social status as a judge in Bindura and the social and moral compass of Shona culture to live by. In order to deal with that discrepancy, over the course of the novel the Magistrate develops different strategies to conjure up a time that feels more like his own. The first and most prominent strategy he uses to create translocal urban time layers is a ritualised daily walk around Arthur’s seat, designed to give his seemingly timeless life as a temporarily unemployed middle-aged man the desired structure and catapult him back into a far-away past. This translocal meditation on the past and present is initiated by his reflections on the sun(s) and a not particularly optimistic likening of himself and his relocation to the flight and fall of Icarus: On the horizon, the sun was an icy orb hidden behind a thin veil of wispy white clouds. The Magistrate looked straight at it for a few second, its power lost in the stratosphere. With a bit of glue and feathers, he could touch it. He’d never have dared to look the Bindura sun straight in the face like that. It came to him that each place had its own little sun, different from anywhere else. (Huchu 2015, 18)

The Magistrate goes on to explain that in Bindura, ‘one only had to cross Chipindura Road from the east or Chipadze Road from the north into the high density suburbs to find the sun fierce and angry’ (Huchu 2015, 18) whereas the sun is ‘wondrous, a joyful gift warmth and light’ (Huchu 2015, 18) in the wealthier low-density suburbs. This indication that even within the same small city, the experience of time and space can differ greatly is one of the reasons I prefer to describe this novel (and others) as translocal rather than transcultural, transnational or global: Huchu here acknowledges and overtly deals with the local-local connections across varying distances and scales. A translocal layering of different suburbs of



the same city can yield as many interesting similarities and contrasts as a translocal connection that reaches across national and even continental borders. As Maria Ridda explains: ‘the chronotope dismantles the holistic constructions of the nation to signify a wider space that contains multiple layers of time and extends beyond national borders’ (Ridda 2015, 28). In creating the routine of a daily long walk, the Magistrate performs a ritual to access these extended layers of time. This process relates to Benjamin’s perception of the urban palimpsest as affecting the flâneur through superposition.3 While opinions differ on whether superposition is initiated by space, by the walker himself or by the text, Gurr’s explanation that ‘superposition refers to both the temporal layering and to the ability to perceive it’ (Gurr 2015, 30) is congruent with the Magistrate’s relationship to the translocal urban palimpsest: He found he could clear his mind when walking. It was as though the act of perambulation was complemented by a mental wandering, so he could be in two, or more, places at the same time. His physical side being tied to geography and the rules of physics, his mental side free to wander far and wide, to traverse though the past, present and future, free from limits, except the scope of his own imagination. (Huchu 2015, p. 13)

The Magistrate uses the routine of the walk to look, not past, but beyond and through the space surrounding him. Since he no longer needs to pay attention to a walk that he later describes as a type of urban muscle memory, as a ‘full topographical awareness of how he was oriented on a gradient’ (Huchu 2015, 55), he can open his mind to the state (or technique?) of superposition. Being able to move freely on the temporal axis of the layered cities, his superposition becomes as individual an experience as it is translocal. While Benjamin suggests different techniques and herbal aids to enter the state in which one can fully perceive superposition, the Magistrate can achieve all of this through routine and rhythm, the second of which will become even more important when he starts infusing his travels through the city with music. As Mike Crang points out, both factors are connected to urbanity: The sense of rhythm and repetition connects provocatively with ideas of routinization—and the suggestion then of the relationship between societal pressures and individual life. Indeed Lefebvre suggests that ‘everyday life’ only became visible as urbanization allowed the observation of uniform and repetitive aspects of social existence. (Crang 2001, p. 193)



We see here, again, the tension between heterogeneity and homogeneity, now on the level of urban rather than global spacetime. Routinised movement through the city enables the Magistrate to ‘live it [the city], make it a part of himself, a felt experience’ (Huchu 2015, 55) by accessing different layers of time. However, it also connects him to a city in which he does not feel at home. This interurban connection is emphasised by the fact that the other two protagonists have similar routines of urban movement. Despite the fact that the three of them only ever meet in passing, they all provide the reader with detailed mappings of their regular walks, runs, and drives through the city. The heightened visibility of similarities and differences of routines in an urban environment is translated into the narrative. Throughout the entire novel, Edinburgh is depicted as a city that consists of a large variety of building materials and styles, their very texture emanating the essence of distinct times and cultures. Farai, the Mathematician, explains that the local mosque, ‘a gift from the Saudis, is a blocky solid building fusing Islamic architecture with a baronial style that blends in with the stocky, gothic architecture of the rest of the city’ (Huchu 2015, 26). While this more intellectual perception of the cityscape and its architecture is just as expressive of phenomena connected to translocal urban time, the Magistrate’s tactile appreciation of a different place of worship references the passing of time more directly: ‘It [Pilrig St Paul’s Church] had weathered rain, wind and snow for centuries; time had leeched and calcified within. It was solid, fixed in this point of space, and the act of touching it fixed him to it too’ (Huchu 2015, 84). Endless cycles of seasons seem to have seeped into the stone walls, grounding them in the timeline of the city. The Maestro’s Edinburgh forms a contrast to both the Mathematician’s and the Magistrate’s modes of perception: his city is that of anonymous and much more recently built high-rises and supermarkets. In the course of the narration, the Maestro becomes more and more isolated and the cityscape more and more unreal. Space disintegrates and is replaced by the literary cities he emerges himself in. From Auster’s New  York, the Maestro moves into the fictional town of Dostoevsky’s Demons, removing himself further and further from his spatiotemporal reality. This corresponds to an older trend in city writing, which Burton Pike, in 1981, ascribes to the dominance of time (over space) in narrative media. Pike speaks about Chekov’s absent Moscow and Proust’s Venice and then goes on to write that ‘so many cities in contemporary literature are etherealized or disembodied, like Biely’s St. Peterbsburg, Musil’s Vienna, or Eliot’s London’ (Pike 1981, 120). In



Eliot’s London, for example, borders between different time spheres are dissolved as well, making different episodes in the city’s history ever-­ present and linking it to the histories of other metropolises, such as Athens and Jerusalem. The Maestro’s storyline is not imitating this trend, but is instead taking it to extremes by blurring time, space, and narrative reality into a timeless haze. Timelessness functions both as a contrast to the other two protagonists, whose impressions of the city always rely on sensual stimuli, and as an expression of the overwhelming presence of sense impressions in the urban environment. Overstimulation is desensitising the Maestro and forces him to retreat into his own mind. Overstimulation and ensuing timelessness are also familiar results of the hypermobility associated with globalisation and with what Augé calls ‘supermodernity’: an extremely high density of transnational connections leads to the creation of places that no longer seem to be connected to anything. The ‘too much’ becomes too overwhelming to process, which results in ‘too little’. Augé provides examples, such as airports or business hotels, and describes these as transit zones that are more or less the same wherever they are located and are temporarily inhabited by people who anonymously move side by side through different time zones. Non-lieux are neither historical nor relational; within them ‘everything happens as if space was overtaken by time, as if there was no history other than the news of the day’ (Augé 1992, 131, my translation).4 Before the Maestro retreats into the cities of literature, his life is determined by spaces he perceives as non-lieux. His workday at Tesco seems to him to consist of ‘twenty-four hours of reality TV with a cast and an audience that didn’t even know they were taking part in an act in the ultimate playhouse, a performance replicated in every city and town’ (Huchu 2015, 41). To the Maestro, the chain store is a copy of a copy that distorts time for employers and shoppers alike: ‘That’s what this place did to the fourth dimension; outside of it time rushed by too quickly, but inside it was dilated by some sort of Tardis effect’ (Huchu 2015, 43). Time stretches endlessly in the unreal environment until the Maestro can no longer work there. Implications of mental illness in the development of the character do not take away from the relatability of his depiction of a large chain supermarket. Just as the prevalence of routine and the onrush of sense impressions in the metropolis can lead to what Simmel describes as the blasé attitude—a filtering out of all irrelevant impressions—but also to an overpowering sense of timelessness, an ‘overdose’ of globalisation can result in the formation of non-lieux.



In I Am China, Jian experiences distortions of time most intensely after he leaves a chain of urban environments—Bejing, Dover, Bern, Paris— behind for Crete. On the other side of the extreme, a sudden lack of the stimuli he is used to as an urbanite slows down his perception of time. During a conversation with Rosemary, one of the very few people he interacts with on the island, everything is suddenly ‘pausing as if time itself had thickened, pouring more slowly through their veins’ (Guo 2014, 329) and Jian can no longer move. Through the stark contrast with the fast-moving cityscapes that dominate the novel, the extreme slowing-down functions not unlike the timelessness of the non-lieux. ‘Neither singular identity, nor relation, but solitude and similarity’ (Augé 1992, p. 130, my translation)5 are created in the non-lieux as well as in the timeless environment. Jian is isolated and unable to distinguish the passing days by meaningful non-­ repetitive actions. This chronotope of timelessness depends on the translocal links to past and present cityscapes as its characteristics are heightened through the contrast with protest marches in Bejing or the frantic urgency with which Iona travels the streets of London to deliver the news of Jian’s death on the island. Since Crete is also referenced in one of the first letters she translates, timelessness in a way frames a narrative relying on the co-­ presence of a multitude of chronotopes. When Jian can finally force himself to move again, the rhythm of his footsteps does not accelerate his present time, but brings back other rhythms from his past as a musician: As his sandals move through white sand and lapping water, he realises that a melody from an old song is looping in his mind. It’s one of his. He wonders why it has come to him now, out of nowhere, like a homing pigeon flying to its master, who has long thought it dead, or has forgotten it entirely. (Guo 2014, 329)

Both possible trajectories of flight—fleeing from or flying to—are alluded to in the image of the returning bird that is initially not recognised. The image also links in with the birds at the café in Dover where Jian, Iona, and the reader could have potentially observed the same gulls. It almost seems as if Jian is making time flow backwards, all the way to the concert where he first met Mu. In addition to the different layers of time, there appear to be circles of narrative time that close around parts of the novel: Jian’s death, for example, is not explicitly narrated; his perception of time instead spirals into the past and neglects the present and future that no longer include Mu. The novel ends with Iona sitting on her favourite



London bench, observing the lives around her and entering a meditative state in which she can see ‘the lapping waves, the soaring gulls, and, in the distance a dark island she has never visited’ (Guo 2014, 370), the Isle of Iona. These subtle allusions appear to unite her timeline with that of Jian and Mu, especially because this chapter is the only one that lacks a date and place. All chronotopes find simultaneity in the lack of spatiotemporal determinants. All of these approaches to narrating translocal urban time point to what Nora Pleßke describes when she writes that ‘all urban novels rely on a psychological and internalised urban landscape that determines the sensual experience of the city and overtly affects human consciousness’ (Pleßke 2014, 138). Palimpsestuous perception of space, sensory overload, and deprivation are all at work when it comes to literary cityscapes, no matter whether they are described in terms of time, space, or both. In translocal urban novels, however, the reader is required to internalise a somewhat more complex world. After discussing the relationship of space and narrative, Laura Bieger writes that ‘familiarity with the scenery is not essential to becoming immersed in this story world; it creates a particular spatiotemporal assemblage of associations and memories with which the narrative word is completed’ (Bieger 2016, 18). The translocal urban narrative is further removed from its real-life spatiotemporal referent as it relies on frequently distorted sense impressions and multiple internalised landscapes. It actively invites the reader to add his or her own experiences of locality and time to the narrated chronotopes. This level of timespace is generally the most dynamic one in the narrative as it emerges both from what Jerome Bruner, in his seminal work on narration and cognitive psychology, refers to as ‘narrative mental ‘powers’ and the symbolic systems of narrative discourse that make expression of these powers possible’ (Bruner 1991, 21). This connection between the reader’s reception and the techniques and strategies of narrative points to one reason for the emergence of translocal urban time in so many recent novels: the new type of narrative reflects a new way of experiencing the world. As Stephen Clingman points out, ‘the ubiquity of transnational fiction is obvious’ (Clingman 2012, 7) as it complicates a more and more outdated view of nation and place that roots concepts into one singular and unifying past. The stories that now pervade time and space are distinct and multi-layered, and create countless possibilities for connections with other stories, times, or spaces.



From a physical presence of the past in the form of letters and diaries to translocal palimpsests and re-interpretations of the non-lieux, this tentative inventory of translocal time in the city is by no means complete but rather aimed at showing how relevant this type of analysis is becoming. Further connections between translocality and urbanity on the level of narrated time can be found, for example, in typical motifs and narrative voices. Concepts such as the chronotope, polyphony, and the rhythms of everyday life can aid us in decoding new translocal phenomena and their expressions in urban literature. Referring to Neelam Srivastava’s reading of Bakhtin’s heteroglossia as dialogicity, Maria Ridda explains: Applied to the chronotope model, dialogicity implies that the differing spatio-­ temporal segments represented by the world of the characters, authors and readers generate a number of interacting and multiple localities. This perspective regards the city as the site where different layers of time and space, the contrasting spatial and temporal segments of colonialism, postcolonialism and globalisation ‘interact and oppose one another’. (Ridda 2015, 50)

The same process takes place on the individual level of characters and readers. Larger contexts are addressed, but what makes countless interwoven layers of spacetime narratable is the relatability of individual and sensory experience. The city is the ideal site for this as it contains a surprising density of nodal points, which link people, places, and times. Commonality and difference exist side by side in a polyphony of translocal urban timespaces.

Notes 1. While many scholars opt for terms such as global, transnational, or transcultural to describe similar phenomena, I believe that the term translocal captures best the spatiotemporal ‘importance of local-local connections’ (Brickell and Datta 2011, 3). 2. For a discussion of the translocal mappings and maps in Huchu’s novel, see Mattheis, (forthcoming). 3. For a more detailed discussion of superpositions and urban layerings, see Mattheis and Gurr, (forthcoming). 4. ‘Tout se passe comme si l’espace était rattrapé par le temps, comme s’il n’y avait pas d’autre histoire que les nouvelles du jour.’ 5. ‘L’espace du non-lieu ne crée ni identité singulière, ni relation, mais solitude et similitude.’



References Augé, Marc. 1992. Non-lieux: Introduction à une anthropologie de la surmodernité. Paris: Éditions du Seuil. Bakhtin, M.M. 2008. Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel. In The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist, 84–258. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Bieger, Laura. 2016. Some Thoughts on the Spatial Forms and Practices of Storytelling. Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 64 (1): 11–26. Brand, Dionne. 2008. What We All Long For. New York: Dunne. Brickell, Katherine, and Ayona Datta. 2011. Introduction: Translocal Geographies. In Translocal Geographies: Spaces, Places, Connections, ed. Katherine Brickell and Ayona Datta, 3–22. London and New York: Routledge. Bruner, Jerome. 1991. The Narrative Construction of Reality. Critical Inquiry 18 (1): 1–21. Clingman, Stephen. 2012. The Grammar of Identity: Transnational Fiction and the Nature of the Boundary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Crang, Mike. 2001. Rhythms of the City: Temporalised Space and Motion. In Timespace: Geographies of Temporality, ed. John May and Nigel Thrift, 187–207. London: Routledge. Dillon, Sarah. 2005. Reinscribing DeQuincey’s Palimpsest: The Significance of the Palimpsest in Contemporary Literary and Cultural Studies. Textual Practice 19 (3): 243–263. ———. 2007. The Palimpsest: Literature, Criticism, Theory. London: Continuum. Guo, Xiaolu. 2014. I Am China. London: Vintage. Gurr, Jens Martin. 2015. The Modernist Poetics of Urban Memory and the Structural Analogies between “City” and “Text”. In Recovery and Transgression: Memory in American Poetry, ed. Kornelia Freitag, 21–38. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Huchu, Tendai. 2015. The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician. Cardigan: Parthian. Kwiatkowska, Alina. 1997. Silence Across Modalities. In Silence—Interdisciplinary Perspectives, ed. Adam Jaworski, 329–338. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter. Mattheis, Lena. forthcoming. Possibilities of Translocal Mapping in Tendai Huchu’s The Maestro, the Magistrate & the Mathematician. In Literatures of Urban Possibility, ed. Lieven Ameel, Jason Finch and Markku Salmela. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Mattheis, Lena, and Jens Martin Gurr. forthcoming. Superpositions: A Typology of Spatiotemporal Layerings in Buried Cities. Literary Geographies. Pike, Burton. 1981. The Image of the City in Modern Literature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.



Pleßke, Nora. 2014. The Intelligible Metropolis: Urban Mentality in Contemporary London Novels. Bielefeld: Transcript. Ricoeur, Paul. 1988. Time and Narrative: Volume 3. London and Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Ridda, Maria. 2015. Imagining Bombay, London, New  York and Beyond: South Asian Diasporic Writing from 1990 to the Present. Oxford: Lang. Sadowski-Smith, Claudia. 2002. Introduction: Border Studies, Diaspora, and Theories of Globalization. In Globalization on the Line: Culture, Capital, and Citizenship at US Borders, ed. Claudia Sadowski-Smith, 1–30. New York: Palgrave. Sassen, Saskia. 2001. Spatialities and Temporalities of the Global: Elements for a Theorization. In Globalization, ed. Arjun Appadurai, 260–278. Durham: Duke University Press. Simmel, Georg. 2004. The Metropolis and Mental Life. In The City Cultures Reader, ed. Malcolm Miles, Tim Hall, and Iain Borden, 12–19. London: Routledge.


Time and Material Space


‘Skyscraper Primitives’: Futurity and Primordial Time in New York City, 1904–1932 Steven Nardi

Writer and critic Waldo Frank, who published widely in the 1920s and edited the seminal journal Seven Arts in 1916–1917, lived at a moment when the question of the machine seemed one that would define humanity’s very nature. Although at times Frank wrote very pessimistically about machine culture, he couldn’t help but speculate at the possibilities it might offer in return. Toward the close of his 1925 essay, ‘The Machine and Metaphysics,’ Frank argues that the machine represented a new stage in human evolution. Earlier man, he muses, had fused tools and animals into part of their own selves, but that achievement seemed thin because there is nothing in the makeup of tools and animals that challenges human will. In contrast, the machine offers resistance. Frank writes: if we dominate the machine—make it part of ourselves—we shall have won control over a realm of nature which includes mankind; for man’s will, other

S. Nardi (*) College of Mount Saint Vincent, New York, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_9




men’s wills, are constant and determining factors of the machine. We shall have won a victory of consciousness not merely over the nature of the external world—but over our own nature. (1937, 157)

To dominate the machine, in other words, is to extend our consciousness over an object that includes another’s will (assumedly the inventor’s) and ‘make it part of ourselves.’ The self is to be expanded by including other alien things within it. The machine presents an opportunity for conquest, but a conquest ‘over our own nature.’ To win this battle is to become new, yet more authentically me. Paradoxically, I become more myself by becoming partly other than myself. If this is a ‘victory of consciousness’ over both the ‘external world’ as well as ‘our own nature,’ it is because within this paradox we reconceive the borders of our selves. How can two authentic selves co-exist? For Frank, these authentic selves exist at different points in time. Frank, and the avant-gardists he was close to, understood the impact of the machine as a compression of time. In ‘The Machine and Metaphysics,’ he argues that the machine gives us access to an older, more natural—primitive—self that co-exists with us within us. These multiple selves co-exist across time. An older self pressures the present and future self. Unsurprisingly, then, Frank’s retrospective collection of essays, In the American Jungle: 1925–1936 (1937), understands the zeitgeist of the times to be a function of time. The title itself, ‘Jungle’ in the 1920s as well as today, was shorthand for a primordial landscape. The future collapses into the primordial past. Human nature’s developmental path bends back upon its evolutionary past. This is particularly striking because so many of the essays included in In the American Jungle focus on the city’s modernity. For example, one essay in that collection, ‘Straight Streets,’ speculates that the evolutionary effect of the expanding matrix of urban America may be physical in addition to cultural and mental: ‘American civilization has revolutionized the shape of cities. It may yet appreciably alter the shape of man’ (1937, 125). This is an extraordinary statement—and it is difficult to know how literally to take it. Time, effectively, flows freely into the modern city—from the future and from of the past. The hyper-modern cityscape has become another human proving ground, a cauldron for evolutionary advancement. The association of the cityscape with a compression of time gave the 1920s perhaps their most colorful name. In a 1925 article Gorham Munson, essayist and editor, christens the American avant-garde he belonged to the ‘skyscraper primitives,’ and he seems to play with the



phrase’s full range of possible meanings. The essay begins with a paradox: ‘I have the temerity to write about a literary school which has had an origin, yet never achieved an existence’ (1925, 164). How can this be true? If something began, it must have been. The truth in that statement emerges in the paradox of the term itself—‘skyscraper primitive.’ ‘Primitivism’ claims to be an origin that structures our notion of who we are, but it is also an idea that resists concrete form; it remains outside of the individual in the same way as the unconscious does. It is a presence that brings us into being without coming into being itself. And yet Munson’s essay insists on the possibility that this ideal can be realized: ‘Perhaps within the next decade we shall be able to touch it’ (1925, 169). Similar to Frank’s ‘victory of consciousness,’ Munson imagines a future self bringing the modern moment to completion.

Technology as a Visionary Experience Fundamental to the skyscraper primitives was the belief that New  York represented not only a new urban shape but also a new way of being. Frank and Munson, along with Rudolph Bourne, James Oppenheim, Malcolm Lowry, Jean Toomer, and others, formed a coterie, publishing articles and editing various journals, including Sesession and Seven Arts. Other contemporary journals and other affiliated intellectuals took up the pre-occupation as well. Floyd Dell, for example, beginning in October 1923, published a fifteen-part series titled ‘Literature of the Machine Age’ that unfolded over the course of the last year of The Liberator. For these intellectuals, the urban experience—literary and actual—is structured by the collapse of the past into the future. Amy Lowell, in a 1920 piece first published in The New York Times, puts her finger directly on the paradox. Lowell at the time was perhaps the most prominent voice for free verse writing in America. She would be chosen for the cover of Time Magazine in 1925. For her, the skyscraper emanates power because its enormity identifies it with massive ruins. Present and past co-exist in its form. She writes: Sky-scraper architecture recalls the strange old ruins of Assyria and Egypt in its superb, brutal force. Look at these huge, marching blocks of masonry cutting the sky, treading down the little streets at their feet, do they at all resemble St. Martins-in-the-field, or the Houses of Parliament, or Saint Paul’s? (1930, 149)



In Lowell’s description, the tower’s grandeur is directly linked to the collapse of time within its interior. There is no history to admire in these edifices—no St. Paul’s, no Houses of Parliament. Instead, they resemble a force of nature rather than a landmark. The massive slabs exist in the past and the future at the same time; they are infused with a primal architectural energy that seems to pre-date culture. They are monstrous life, ‘treading down the little streets at their feet,’ in order to reveal the past, the ‘strange old ruins of Assyria and Egypt,’ concealed within their forms. For Lowell, to see the new architecture properly is to submit to this gap in time. Their spectacle compels us to acknowledge a vision. Lowell continues: we must admit their grandeur […] if we imagine them for a moment as ruined, and if we conceive of ourselves as tourists gazing at the tremendous, terrifying debris of a vanished world. Being of them and not beyond them, we think of them in other terms. (1930, 150)

For Lowell, the skyscraper demands a specific perspective: if we see them ‘as ruined’ ‘we must admit their grandeur’ (emphasis added). We are forced to ‘conceive of ourselves as tourists.’ And through the tourist’s gaze, we can see the skyscrapers as fragments of ‘a vanished world.’ As a perspective, the tourist is an revealing trope. The tourist’s vision assembles the thing seen into a comprehensible whole, but always from an outsider’s perspective, and by definition with a coherent but removed perspective. In his book Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class, Dean MacCannell points out that critiques of tourism tend to take the point of view that the problem with the tourist’s perspective is that it is too superficial. However, this critique assumes that a proper, better, tourist would get closer to the authentic culture. Instead MacCannell argues that this is a misapprehension of the basic function of tourism, which is to process difference into amusement. He writes: The differentiations of the modern world have the same structure as tourist attractions: elements dislodged from their original natural, historical and cultural contexts fit together with other such displaced or modernized things and people. The differentiations are the attractions. (1976, 13)

Tourism and the experience of being a tourist, in other words, is an affirmation of a particular globalized point of view, the sense of being an



outsider but as an outsider participating in a super perspective that absorbs and consumes other cultures. Lowell gives the tourist’s point of view a crucial place for much the same reason. To see the energy of the city properly, we stand outside and inside the city at the same time. Like the tourist who integrates what he or she is seeing into a new, globalized identity that belongs everywhere and nowhere at the same time, the poet gains from the skyscraper a vision of ‘being of them and not beyond them.’ On the surface, this seems contradictory. If one is ‘of them and not beyond them,’ it would seem that one is part of them. But Lowell insists that the same gesture means ‘we think of them in other terms,’ which is to say we retain a difference. Lowell’s paradox echoes Frank’s claim for the ‘victory of consciousness.’ Like the tourist, who composes a self made up of visions of alien sights, the visionary poet in this formulation comes into being witnessing his or her own self as a composition of alien presences. He or she is in one moment both self and others. We collapse different selves into the same moment. In witnessing the skyscraper, we step out of history and into an entirely different order of time.

Artificial Space, Artificial Time The skyscraper primitives’ embrace of the collapse of time is characteristic of the fin-de-siècle’s conceptualization of modernity as a fount of both cultural renewal and destruction. From the 1890s through the twenties, according to the critic Frederick Karl, there was general agreement across the political spectrum that modernity was a twin phenomenon: civilization was in decline, and overwhelming forces were being released that could either overwhelm or resuscitate what was seen as a dying Western culture. Karl writes, ‘For all its benefits, civilization [to the fin-de-siècle] meant a dilution of a life that demanded fuller expression’ (1985, 82). The new energies seemed to remove time from the strict progressive linearity of the Victorian world: future and past erupt from one and another and into one and another. That compression of time was associated with the rapid changes then going on in the city. In the 1890s, the French intellectual Gustave Le Bon saw the city as forcing its dwellers back down the evolutionary ladder. In Psychologie des Foules an influential text first published in 1896 and translated into English a year later as The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind,



Le Bon argues that the permanent crowds created by the new city’s density represented a threat to the social structure. Le Bon writes: by the mere fact that he forms part of an organized crowd, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization. Isolated, he may be a cultivated individual; in a crowd he is a barbarian—that is, a creature acting by instinct. He possesses the spontaneity, the violence, the ferocity, and also the enthusiasm and heroism of primitive beings, whom he further tends to resemble by the facility with which he allows himself to be impressed by words and images. (1960, 32)

While traditional crowds only gathered for a short time or specific occasion, the modern crowd was characteristic of the modern city. As Robert Nye summarizes Le Bon’s argument, ‘modern crowds were a permanent feature of contemporary civilization, fulminating in streets, factories, sports arenas, and assembly places in a state of permanent mobilization’ (1995, 47). In effect, an urban environment was a machine for creating savages. Submission to the new order of time, in other words, could seem equal to being consumed. To reflect that fear, writers at the turn of the century depicted the new city as ravenous. In The American Scene Henry James, for example, who returned to New York in 1904 after a twenty-one-year absence, describes the changes that Manhattan had undergone. Seen from the water, James portrays the city as a ravenous cybernetic beast. The bobbing ships and the harbor are ‘the scattered members of the monstrous organism.’ ‘One has the sense that the monster grows and grows,’ James writes, ‘flinging abroad its loose limbs even as some unmannered young giant at his “larks”’ (1994, 75). The new city rises as a violent mechanical creature: ‘some colossal set of clockworks, some steel-souled machine-­ room of brandished arms and hammering fists and opening and closing jaws’ (1994, 75). This monster is for crushing and consuming the human. The primitive energy of the city lies outside the self; it manifests as a repressed primordial force—the resurgence of primitive time into the present. The effect is destructive. Humanity is consumed. Arriving from Russia, Maxim Gorky reacted similarly when he visited New York three years later. Again, primordial beasts roam the cityscape. Entering the harbor Gorky describes steamers as ‘antediluvian monsters,’ little boats as ‘hungry birds of prey.’ Vampiric mechanisms have drained the human of energy and absorbed it as their own: ‘The iron seems



endowed with nerves, life, and consciousness’ (1906, 177). For the city inhabitants, the result is equivalent to being swallowed: From afar the city looks like a huge jaw with black uneven teeth. It belches forth clouds of smoke into the sky, and sniffs like a glutton suffering from overcorpulency. When you enter it you feel that you have fallen into a stomach of brick and iron which swallows up millions of people, and churns, grinds, and digests them. The streets seem like so many hungry throats, through which pass, into some unseen depth, black pieces of food—living human beings. (1906, 178)

In Gorky’s mind, the city grinds up people and then burps, farts, and defecates them out as waste. City dwellers are brutally decomposed into nothing more than feces. But for the native American avant-garde that emerges after 1912, the metaphor of consumption and digestion gives way to the more optimistic possibility of elevation. The dominant metaphor for the technological city becomes absorption and transformation rather than consumption and digestion. Becoming, in Lowell’s words, ‘of them and not beyond them’ now represented the incorporation into a force that could shatter a conservative political order and reinvent the human spirit. Concern persisted about the possible end results, but across the political and aesthetic spectrum writers were fascinated. This new image of the machine as a revolutionary force upended the nineteenth-century American image of the technological object. In Civilizing the Machine John Kasson argues that technology, for Americans around the mid-nineteenth century, had been synonymous with rationality and progress. In the efficiency of the machine, the perfect coordination of moving parts, the technological object came to represent the incarnation of an idealized American republic where unity and utility merged into a perfectly efficient unit. According to Kasson, the rise of steam power and coal power seemed to American idealists to celebrate the capacity of the mind: ‘Such marvels appeared to them victories of the human mind and spirit, promising a grand new era of progress in which America would stand in the forefront’ (1999, 22). For the nineteenth century, the machine became a metaphor for an ordered and efficient life—every part working together toward a complete action. Kasson writes, ‘The characteristic qualities of mechanization—regularity, uniformity, subordination, harmony, efficiency—appeared to offer a model for government and society in general’ (1999, 32).



Further, the machine’s improvement upon natural process seemed to offer as an example of the power of the human mind to compel nature to serve human use. David Nye makes this point in America as Second Creation: Most nineteenth-century Americans believed in a deceptively simple story in which the natural world was incomplete and awaited fulfillment through human intervention. Being incomplete, the land needed technological improvements that would express the pattern latent in it. (2003, 9)

In the last decades of the nineteenth century, as the physical frontier ran out, technological advancement even seemed to offer a new way to evade the sense of limitations anticipated by Frederick Jackson Turner in ‘The Significance of the Frontier in American History.’ Instead of territorial exhaustion, the machine opened up a new, albeit conceptual, world to be occupied by American ingenuity (1999, 45). At the time, in the popular imagination, when people thought of mechanical objects they thought primarily of industrial products, household devices contained within the consumer economy—objects to be bought, sold, used, and thrown away. When David Jaffee, in A New Nation of Goods, picks examples of how the rise of technological objects transformed American public life in the nineteenth century, he picks consumer objects—for example, the clock and the photographic portrait (2010). These objects appeared to supplement rather than disrupt national life and its agrarian basis. Technology was seen as having been absorbed into rural life rather than displacing it. However, by the dawn of the twentieth century that was changing. As the modern city, particularly New York, came to be seen as a special case— an entirely new social formation—the meaning of the machine changed. In the early twentieth century, the machine came to be exemplified by the massive objects that were rising in Chicago and Manhattan—and by the overwhelming sensory effects of the city itself. First in sociological studies, and then in artistic manifestos, the city and its enormous forms became central to the definition of technology. By the first two decades of the twentieth century, the new shape of New York City seemed to represent the first real occurrence of American genius leading the world; the new, technological, urban environment seemed to offer an entirely new experience of life, one that was both distinctly modern and distinctly American. Discarding the orderly, rational, nineteenth-century image of the machine,



in descriptions the city took on the characteristics of James’s cyborg: antirational, fantastical, and even monstrous. During the Progressive era, around the turn of the century, attempts to study the city largely came from reformers who understood the city in terms of social problems. Angela Blake, in How New  York Became American, traces the conflict between Progressives and the emerging power of marketing in her analysis of the conflicted re-writing of New York’s image at the turn of the century. Of the reformers, she writes, ‘In the early Progressive Era, a new combination of social science research methods, new forms of graphic representation, and urban reform campaigns produced a version of New York as solely the site of urban problems’ (2006, 19). The city was understood as sets of problems to be solved, and the inhabitants of the city needed not to be understood so much as fixed. It was the emergence of sociology in the early twentieth century that toppled that model. Instead of sets of problems, the new social science energies in Chicago and New York understood the city as a whole, as an experience with multiple perspectives, but an essential unity, its environment distinctly different from what had come before. From an apprehension of the city as a distinct experience, it is a short leap to the conclusion that this shift in experience will have convulsive cultural, and perhaps biological repercussions. In a 1903 essay ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life,’ the German sociologist Georg Simmel argues that the basic psychology of the ‘metropolitan type’ is the ‘intensification of nervous stimulation which results from the swift and uninterrupted change of outer and inner stimuli’ (Simmel’s emphasis). It is the spectacle of the machine-ridden modern city that produces this intensification. In rural life, ‘sensory mental imagery flows more slowly, more habitually, and more evenly’ (1950, 410). The effect of this overwhelming burst of stimulation, in Simmel’s view, is to change not only human behavior but also human nature itself. When he reaches for a metaphor to describe the impact, Simmel finds one that compresses time. His image combines evolutionary biology with technology: ‘Thus the metropolitan type of man—which of course, exists in a thousand individual variants—develops an organ protecting him against the threatening currents and discrepancies of his external environment which would uproot him’ (1950, 410). This metaphor is mixed. The threatening ‘currents’ seem electronic, but the adaption is anatomical—‘a new organ.’ Human nature itself adapts and mutates to create a



Frankenstein-like biology specifically adapted to an urban environment. Like a tiger whose pattern grows to mimic the trees, and whose eyes adapt to the dim forest light, this cyborg is becoming a native in the hyperkinetic new cityscape. ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’ was influential on sociologists Robert Park and Ernest Burgess, fellow founders of the Chicago School, who went on to influence the American avant-garde and, especially, the Harlem Renaissance. Park and Burgess translated Simmel and included essays by him in their 1921 Introduction to the Science of Sociology (1950, lix). That book was known at the University of Chicago as ‘The Green Bible’ (Bulmer 1984, 4). Park’s 1915 essay ‘The City’ adopts Simmel’s thinking whole. For Park as well, the city is best understood as an enormous mechanism: we can think of the city, that is to say, the place and the people, with all the machinery, sentiments, customs, and administrative devices that go with it, public opinion and street railways, the individual man and the tools that he uses, as something more than a mere collective entity. We may think of it as a mechanism—a psychophysical mechanism—in and through which private and political interests find corporate expression. (1915, 577–78)

Which is to say the city is an extension of our cultural mind, and an extension best understood through the metaphor of a machine that integrates disparate parts into a whole. Park’s assumption is that identity should be understood as the product of absorption into a ‘psychosocial mechanism.’ Thus, in the research leading to the 1818–19 The Polish Peasant in Europe and America study, for example, Chicago School researchers look at personal documents such as letters and biographies of individuals as well as quantitative surveys and other more conventional instruments. These narrative documents gave insight into the individual experience of the city. A series of similar volumes was imagined, the aim of which ‘would be to describe the life of each group’ (Bulmer 1984, 48). Rather than aiming for a statistical analysis of a population, the Chicago School sought a holistic understanding of urban dwellers’ lives. The effect of this notion of the city is, I have argued, the birth of a new vision of modernism in New York. This modernism saw the energy reinventing culture as emanating from the machine, and most critically the skyscraper. And its essential characteristic was a disturbance in time. It seemed able to unearth the past, to let long-suppressed primordial emotions and energies come flooding into the present.



This argument has been revisited more recently by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas in his 1994 book Delirious New York. The new technologies that suddenly became available around the turn of the century, Koolhaas argues, altered the urban individual’s perception of space, movement, and speed. In terms of its size, its relationship to the earth, and the seeming separation of the architectural interior from previously understood natural relationships to space, the skyscraper offered a new type of experience of the world, one determined and mediated by technology to an extent that just a few years prior would have been the realm of fantasy. Koolhaas writes: One hundred years ago, a generation of conceptual breakthroughs and supporting technologies unleashed an architectural Big Bang. By randomizing circulation, short circuiting distance, artificializing interiors, reducing mass, stretching dimensions, and accelerating construction, the elevator, electricity, air-conditioning, steel and finally, the new infrastructures formed a cluster of mutations that induced another species of architecture. The combined effects of these inventions were structures taller and deeper—Bigger—than ever before conceived, with a parallel potential for the reorganization of the social world—a vaster, richer programmation. (1985, 495)

By ‘artificializing interiors’ Koolhaas means removing interior spaces from a naturalistic relationship with each other. Space and volume are ‘stretched,’ ‘short circuited,’ ‘accelerated.’ Elevators, electricity, steel-framed buildings, ‘artificializing’ interiors all have the cumulative effect of removing space from configurations derived from the natural world. With the skyscraper, according to Koolhaas, technology creates interiors so vast and so dense that they disturb the way that we think of how architectural space is connected to natural space. To enter into a building is to enter into an unpredictable maze where orientation is lost; by means of the elevator, a tiny plot of land can be multiplied seemingly indefinitely. ‘Through volume alone,’ Koolhaas writes, ‘life inside the Skyscraper is involved in a hostile relationship with life outside’ (1994, 88). In previous public buildings, the function of architecture was to announce and explain. In the skyscraper, it is to beguile and conceal what is on the interior. Koolhaas uses the metaphor of a costume ball: ‘architecture has become the design of costumes that do not reveal the true nature of repetitive interiors but slip smoothly into the subconscious to perform their roles as symbols’ (1994, 130). Deprived of a clear reference to the natural world, sensory perception seems to be simply a conduit for fantasy.



In Koolhaas’s terms, by ‘artificializing’ time, man experiences absorption into the machine as an evolutionary regression. As in Lowell’s image, the skyscraper compresses time—here all the way back to the big bang. Forced to experience the world as, once again, new, modern humanity is thrown back onto our most primitive selves. Broken down into basic psychological components, the new avant-gardist became, in words repeated across the decade, once again primitive.

The Evolution of America While it is never clear how literally to take the biological metaphors these writers deploy, the American avant-garde had a definite end product in mind. The compression of space and time in the machine-city becomes a point of national self-definition. Wanda Corn, in The Great American Thing, argues that technological change in the 1920s was a crucible for a new vision of the American nation as a distinct identity. According to Corn, through the 1920s the theorists themselves were conscious that they were embracing technology as a corrective to a nineteenth- century tradition. That previous tradition viewed American identity as a product of the landscape of the frontier (1999, xv–xvi). In contrast, the technological cityscape offered a new vision of American origins as a technological product. It is in this spirit that the critic Van Wyck Brooks’s 1915 America’s Coming-of-Age is to be understood. Brooks’s book was an influential codification of what by the middle teens was broadly seen as the emergence of a national art. To make the case for this unique birth, Brooks portrays the rise of American arts and nationhood as an evolutionary event. Emergent America is, to Brooks, an unwieldy and unconscious wilderness, still only half alive. He portrays the new America as a quasi-living mass at the beginning of its evolutionary development: America is like a vast Sargasso Sea—a prodigious welter of unconscious life, swept by ground-swells of half-conscious emotion. All manner of living things are drifting in it, phosphorescent, gayly colored, gathered into knots and clotted masses, gelatinous, unformed, flimsy, tangled, rising and falling, floating and merging, here an immense distended belly, there a tiny rudimentary brain (the gross devouring the fine)—everywhere an unchecked, uncharted, unorganized vitality like that of the first chaos. It is a welter of life which has not been worked into an organism, into which fruitful values and standards of human economy have not been introduced, innocent of those laws of social gravitation. (1915, 165)



The debt of this passage to evolutionary processes is evident; it is ‘unconscious life’ and ‘half-conscious emotion’ that defines America. ‘American society,’ he writes, ‘so to speak, is in this pre-Darwinian state’ (1915, 165). Yes, he means the biological language here to be metaphorical, but the very detail with which he develops the imagery suggests that he saw the metaphor as extending through the process by which American culture would develop. In Brooks’s image of the Sargasso Sea the artificialized technological space of the city becomes a cauldron of new life. And yet, the very malleability of the developing American identity leaves Lowell nervous about the potential directions American poetry might take. In, ‘Poetry and Propaganda,’ the same essay that she proclaims the skyscraper transcendent, Lowell also worries that poetry’s influence on culture might be destructive. She frets particularly about Carl Sandburg, whom she regards as infected by a ‘morbidly sensitive, unhealthily developed, modern mind.’ That kind of influence, she worries, is ‘engulfing’ and contagious (1930, 152). ‘Propaganda,’ the diseased alter-­ ego of poetry, diminishes and distorts culture, bending its evolutionary direction to the wasted and diseased. Her solution is to look for irreducible aspects of the American mind, principles through which to impose order. ‘Now, our population is a crazy quilt of racial samples,’ she writes in 1917’s Tendencies in Modern American Poetry, ‘But how strong is that Anglo-Saxon ground-work which holds them all firmly together to its shape, if no longer to its colour’ (1917, 201). That America’s uniform ‘colour’ has already been lost obviously bothers her and demands a reaction. To keep the American character’s ‘shape’ pure requires submitting it to industrial processes. She writes: The welding together of the whole country which the war has brought about, the mobilizing of our whole population into a single, strenuous endeavor, has produced a more poignant sense of nationality than has recently been the case in this country of enormous spaces and heterogeneous population. Hyphens are submerged in the solid overprinting of the word ‘America.’ (1917, v)

The new American form, then, will replace the colonizing Anglo-Saxon heritage with something distinctly American. In her metaphor ‘overprinting’ the word ‘America’ ‘submerges’ hyphenated identity. Even the most sympathetic reading of this passage must note that the creation of American identity is done through industrial and military



processes: ‘welding,’ ‘mobilization,’ and ‘overprinting.’ While Frank used a martial vocabulary—speaking of ‘domination’ and ‘victory’—it is always clear that the principle site of conflict is the individual’s interior life. We triumph over our own limitations. Lowell adopts these metaphors with much less care. The triumph she imagines is an extension of imperial power as well as a self-realization. Lowell’s conflicted response echoes that of the Harlem Renaissance writer Wallace Thurman in his 1932 retrospective novel, Infants of the Spring. Looking back on the 1920s, Thurman’s book is deeply critical of the idealism of the Harlem Renaissance—the optimistic belief that culture could create social change. In the introduction to the 1925 anthology The New Negro, Alain Locke argues that Afro-America’s ‘more immediate hope rests in the revaluation by white and black alike of the Negro in terms of his artistic endowments and cultural contributions, past and prospective’ (1925, 15). And yet, when the main character Raymond finds momentary transcendence through absorption into a skyscraper, the book seems to suspend its cynicism. The novel seems to adopt the transcendental identity of the skyscraper primitive as a solution to racial conflict. Infants presents Frank’s idea of the combination of self with a machine object as the seemingly literal absorption of Raymond, the protagonist, into the interior of a building. Absorbing technology, or being absorbed into it, alters and elevates: He pressed harder and harder against the surface of the building. After what seemed hours of effort, it gave way, and his body began to penetrate into its stone. He became chilled. The buildings across the way toppled crazily downward. Let them fall. He was safe in his cranny. The protective stone had entombed him. He had achieved Nirvana, had finally found a sanctuary, finally found escape from the malevolent world which sought to destroy him. (1992, 207)

The surface of the skyscraper separates two types of temporality. Falling into the interior, Raymond experiences time as still; outside history accelerates—the buildings around him collapse and civilization falls. The freedom Raymond has been craving in order to find a space to create art in, comes from becoming part of the city itself, literally merging with the interior of the building. He emerges purified, elevated, transformed. The skyscraper’s ability to elevate Raymond is tied to its ability to compress oppositions: self into other, futurity into the primordial past. This



paradise is as much a deathly state as liberation—he is ‘entombed’ by the ‘protective stone’—his sanctuary conflates salvation with death. But if it is an encounter with the grave, it is not a frightening one. Instead, it is presented as ‘Nirvana,’ a paradisiacal apprehension of past and future compressed into one. He has become, in Lowell’s words, ‘of them, not beyond them.’ This would seem to be a moment of total racial uplift, the triumph of the inner self over outer identity. However, Raymond’s deliverance is only momentary; his reverie is soon broken by a policeman’s voice, ‘How’s the coon?’ (1992, 208). Although the book seems to accept the essential elements of the skyscraper primitive technological fantasy, that fantasy is interrupted by history, the everyday world, a voice of oppression. The fantasy of racial uplift is undercut. This leads to the final scene of the novel. Infants ends with Paul, the one character in the book who seems to actually produce work, simultaneously finishing his masterpiece and killing himself. Paul’s suicide is not simply out of despair. He composes a scene that is meant to end his life as a literary gesture. Paul completes his novel, spreads it out over the bathroom floor, and commits suicide in the tub; unfortunately water spills out from the tub and splatters over the pages, rendering them illegible. Only the title page and dedication page can be read: Beneath this inscription [the dedication of the novel to Huysman and Oscar Wilde], he had drawn a distorted, inky black skyscraper, modeled after Niggeratti Manor, and on which were focused an array of blindingly white beams of light. The foundation of this building was composed of crumbling stone. At first glance it could be ascertained that the skyscraper would soon crumple and fall, leaving the dominating white lights in full possession of the sky. (1992, 284)

This is an emblem of uplift, but also of the disappearance of this uplift into the moment. As a coda, Thurman emphasizes that the ecstatic sensation of unified time is irreducibly fleeting. ‘Niggeratti Manor’ is the house where Raymond and Paul formerly lived, modeled after 267 West 127th Street where many central figures in the Renaissance lived. Here it is transformed into the emblem of emergent New York modernism, the skyscraper. But this image serves as a corrective to the skyscraper primitive idealism. Built only to collapse, the blackness of this skyscraper serves only to increase the brightness of the already blinding lights. Niggeratti Manor’s fall leaves the skyline blindingly white, whiter than if the new black skyscraper had never been there.



References Blake, Angela M. 2006. How New York became American, 1890–1924. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Brooks, Van Wyck. 1915. America’s Coming-of-age. New York: B.W. Huebsch. Bulmer, Martin. 1984. The Chicago School of Sociology: Institutionalization, Diversity, and the Rise of Sociological Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Corn, Wanda M. 1999. The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915–1935. Berkeley: University of California Press. Frank, Waldo. 1937. In the American Jungle: 1925–1936. New York: Farrar & Rinehart. Gorky, Maxim. 1906. The City of Mammon. Appleton’s Magazine August: 177–181. Jaffee, David. 2010. A New Nation of Goods: The Material Culture of Early America. University of Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Press. James, Henry. 1994. The American Scene. New York: Penguin. Karl, Frederick R. 1985. Modern and Modernism: The Sovereignty of the Artist, 1885–1925. New York: Atheneum. Kasson, John F. 1999. Civilizing the Machine: Technology and Republican Values in America, 1776–1900. New York: Hill and Wang. Koolhaas, Rem. 1994. Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan. New York: Monacelli Press. Koolhaas, Rem, and Bruce Mau. 1985. S,M,L,XL. New York: Monacelli. Le Bon, Gustave. 1960. The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind. New York: Viking. Locke, Alain. 1925. The New Negro. In The New Negro: An Interpretation, ed. Alain Locke, 3–16. New York: Boni. Lowell, Amy. 1917. Tendencies in Modern American Poetry. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ———. 1930. Poetry and Propaganda. In Poetry and Poets: Essays, 148–160. New York: Houghton Mifflin. MacCannell, Dean. 1976. The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Schocken Books. Munson, Gorham. 1925. The Skyscraper Primitives. The Guardian: A Monthly Journal of Life, Art, and Letters 1.25: 164–178. Nye, Robert. 1995. Savage Crowds, Modernism, and Modern Politics. In Prehistories of the Future: The Primitivist Project and the Culture of Modernism, ed. Elazar Barkan and Ronald Bush, 42–55. Stanford University: Stanford University Press. Nye, David E. 2003. America as Second Creation: Technology and Narratives of New Beginnings. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.



Park, Robert. 1915. The City: Suggestions for the Investigation of Behavior in the City Environment. American Journal of Sociology 20 (5): 577–612. Simmel, Georg. 1950. The Sociology of Georg Simmel. Trans. Kurt H Wolff. Glencoe: Free Press. Thurman, Wallace. 1992. In Infants of the Spring, Northeastern Library of Black Literature, ed. Richard Yarborough. Boston: Northeastern University Press.


Temporal and Physical Liminalities of Trauma in Murakami’s After the Quake and DeLillo’s Point Omega Megan E. Cannella

In the early twenty-first century, two disparate literary texts from two separate cultures and geographies explored individual responses to national traumas. Both Haruki Murakami’s (2002) short story collection After the Quake and Don DeLillo’s (2011) novel Point Omega examine the aftermath of horrific events as lived by characters who do not experience them firsthand. These narratives use the lack of a definitive post-trauma moment to destabilize and expand traditional trauma narratives. In doing so, they, along with other early twenty-first-century trauma narratives, begin to lay the foundation for twenty-first-century loss and recovery narratives. Murakami and DeLillo illustrate that twenty-first-century trauma narratives can no longer effectively rely on previous cultural conventions of grief and trauma—conventions which require a defined moment so they can readily employ definitive resolutions. Murakami and DeLillo’s narratives resist such linear understandings and resolutions. Both of these texts

M. E. Cannella (*) University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_10




stage the individual’s experience of contemporary, national trauma as a disruption of temporal experience, a discontinuity represented as a collision between urban and rural experience. In their mappings of the individual’s experience of larger national traumas, both Murakami and DeLillo recognize that trauma has a spatial dimension in addition to a temporal one. Recent theorists have focused on trauma’s temporal aspects. Cathy Caruth (2016, 12), for example, in Unclaimed Experience (originally published 1996), examines the way traumas always reference previous traumas, resulting in the present moment always being processed via history. Building on Caruth, Jeffrey C. Alexander’s (2004, 1) ‘Toward a Theory of Cultural Trauma’ addresses temporality in literature, as well as addressing the abruptness of traumatized cultural identity. In these accounts, trauma’s power is located in its ability to disrupt the present moment with an uninvited return to the past. However, such a linear temporal regression is incompatible with such a forward-facing cultural moment as the twenty-first century. In this way, a reading of trauma’s temporality in After the Quake and Point Omega is reminiscent of Edward W. Soja’s (Soja 1996, 1–23) call to think about space in our consideration of the ways in which culture thinks of itself. In Thirdspace, Edward W. Soja (1996, 46) argues that ‘Social reality is not just coincidentally spatial, existing ‘in’ space, it is presuppositionally and ontologically spatial. There is no unspatialized social reality.’ Accepting Soja’s claim that all social realities are spatialized enables us to approach Murakami and DeLillo’s examinations of physical setting, travel, and encounter as a means of identifying and critiquing temporal linkages and fissures between and across urban and rural locations in their works. Despite their differences, these authors similarly comment on the ways in which even the most tangential victims of communal trauma experience it as both a temporal disruption and a spatial one.

Murakami’s After the Quake: Mapping the Temporality of Trauma After the Quake is a collection of six short stories, each of which has some connection or reference to the 1995 Kobe earthquake, though the quake is not the primary focus of any of these stories. In a discussion of the collection as post-3/11 literature—which references the Tō hoku earthquake and tsunami of March 13, 2011 and acknowledges that while After the Quake is published before 2011, the content and style of the collection



certainly speaks to the collective trauma and attempts at recovery present in post-3/11 literature—Roman Rosenbaum (2004, 102) explains, ‘The characters in each story in After the Quake are affected only peripherally by the earthquake disaster in Kobe, yet for each of them the earthquake becomes metaphor for the necessity for change.’ Yet to consider the earthquake only as metaphor for personal change is to overlook how Murakami establishes the relations between individual experiences and larger geopolitical and natural forces. Narrowly, the earthquake enables Murakami to examine the particular ineffability of large environmental disasters that occur during the twenty-first century, where technology is waiting to broadcast, analyze, archive, and replay such disaster’s effects. The collection’s stories range from the realistic—one demonstrates a man’s struggle after his wife leaves him; one showcases the ephemerality and art of bonfires and their ability to unite the lost—to the surreal and magical—a man is told he is the son of God; an ordinary man must team up with Super-­ Frog to save Tokyo. All of the stories, however, take place in urban settings in the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake, grounding them simultaneously in a Japan that is intensely modern and constructed and in a natural disaster which is, Murakami makes clear, also a national trauma. In order to examine how the collection portrays post-traumatic subjectivity and its relation to temporality through urban modernity, going forward, I focus on two stories in Murakami’s collection, ‘UFO in Kushiro’ and ‘Super-Frog Saved Tokyo.’ ‘UFO in Kushiro’ is one of the more realist stories in After the Quake. After days of being obsessed with coverage of the Kobe earthquake, Komura’s wife leaves him. Set adrift by this rupture in his personal life, Komura readily accepts when a colleague asks him to take a short trip and drop off a small package in Hokkaido. Thus, the story is set up along the familiar lines of a bildung but with the adult Komura using this trip to understand his situation, both personally (his wife’s departure) and more broadly socially (who he is in the aftermath of the quake). Instead of the rural setting offering a pastoral sense of resolution and reclamation, as it may have in a more traditional tale, Komura’s journey only reinforces his alienation and his inability to clarify his understandings of society or himself. In myriad ways, this story focuses on the far-reaching effects of large events, as experienced by those whose lives are only tangentially related to the quake. The departure of Komura’s wife at first seems caused by her obsession with the earthquake, but a note she leaves Komura suggests



otherwise, as it recasts the causality on to his behaviors, reading in part, ‘You are good and kind and handsome, but living with you is like living with a chunk of air. […] Just get rid of all the stuff I’m leaving behind’ (Murakami 2002, 5–6). The earthquake clarifies something for her— Komura’s lack of presence—and sends her in search of something that she doesn’t name, at least not for Komura. For her, the earthquake erases what has come before—‘all the stuff’ she leaves behind, including Komura. In this way, she disappears from Komura’s life and the narrative, as if personifying the dislocation and lack of certainty that often accompanies national trauma. Paradoxically, Komura, who until now has not been traumatized by this national event firsthand, registers his wife’s leaving as a personally traumatic event palimpsested on the national trauma. He, in turn, is left to find resolution of and relief from these intangible losses. As he experiences and attempts to navigate these two imbricated traumas, Komura maps a spatial and temporal model of a specific sort of modern-day loss—fleeing the urban and domestic traumascapes for a hoped-for restorative refuge in Hokkaido—the rural, northernmost part of the Japanese archipelago. His search for relief takes Komura on a trip from Tokyo to Hokkaido. This departure from the city initially presents as an effort to escape his grief all together, to leave it behind as his wife did. Yet, Komura’s escape from the city only suspends his attempts to move past or understand his losses. Physically separated from Tokyo, he is arguably freed from what may be seen as the urban temporality of grief, the sanitization of grief as mediated by media that both refer to and replay the traumatic events and, in its repetition, both diminish and contain the event. The story depicts Komura’s journey as a disconnection from and disruption of both urban space and modern temporality. But rather than his experience being a retreat to a far simpler, more stable place with a slower more predictable sense of time, Komura’s journey makes his grasp on concrete understandings of time and space yet more tenuous and points to the impossibility of a retreat into pastoral simplicity as a solution for the traumatized. Upon arriving in Kushiro, Hokkaido, a prefecture known for its swamps and birds and for being a popular nature retreat, he reflects that it does not feel as if he has traveled very far at all (Murakami 2002, 12). Keiko, a sister of his colleague, greets him upon arrival. She attributes his inability to properly perceive his traveled distance to the fact that he traveled by plane, ‘Those planes are too damn fast. Your mind can’t keep up with your body’ (12). Her observation about the physical and temporal discontinuity that Komura experiences in Kushiro is one of the first hints



in this story that the reaches of globalization and modernity redefine and destabilize traditional understandings of the relationship between self and place, journey, and time. A trip conventionally promises clarity due to geographic and temporal distance from a place or an event, but here, Komura is confronted with the possibility that there is no escaping the experience of post-trauma. Mired in the loss of his wife and the destabilization of the life to which he had grown accustomed, Komura’s trip north further untethers him from an urban reality he has had no previous need to question. Rather than discover either escape from or an understanding of his wife’s motivations, in Kushiro, Komura instead discovers that even his own situation is not unique. Keiko and her friend, Shimao, tell him of a woman who left her husband and children. After seeing a U.F.O. and talking about nothing but the U.F.O. for a week, the woman disappeared without warning or note (15). An earthquake in Tokyo, a U.F.O in Kushiro; both seem equally unusual, but in this telling, they are also understood as somehow mundane. In this way, traumatic events are normalized and made unremarkable. Further, any clarity in their wake is problematized, with experiences in the aftermath delivering only more uncertainty. For example, Komura suddenly becomes concerned about what is in the package he brings Keiko. Shimao claims cryptically, ‘It’s because that box contains the something that was inside you. You didn’t know that when you carried it here and gave it to Keiko with your own hands. Now you’ll never get it back’ (Murakami 2002, 22). Although Shimao shrugs off her cutting insight as ‘a lousy joke,’ (23) Komura senses the truth in it, if only that the truth is that geographical and temporal distance from his problems at home does not give him clarity. Instead, he is faced with the recognition that he is insubstantial due to his utter lack of understanding his condition or situation. This makes him unrecognizable to even himself. In this way, the U.F.O. in Kushiro is Komura. He has no experience that prepares him for how to exist post-earthquake, post-­ trauma. As a result, he has become unintelligible to all, including himself. While a retreat to nature from the city fails to deliver clarity to the main character of ‘U.F.O. in Kushiro,’ nature quite literally invades the city in the stylistically different ‘Super-Frog Saves Tokyo.’ This earthquake tale employs a postmodern magical realism in order to portray the responsibilities and consequences attendant to communal loss in the city. For Komura, the post-traumatic state is isolation and erasure of the self, which can be read as a failure of pre-traumatic systems of self-understanding and



coping. Komura’s journey results not in self-discovery or self-realization but in the discovery that there is––and was––no stable self, and thus neither is there a true escape from the way things have become nor a way back to how things were before. In contrast, for Katagiri, unremarkable daily life in the city is replaced by a disruption that challenges his conception of reality. When the giant, angry worm, Worm, attempts to assault Tokyo, Katagiri, the story’s protagonist, works with the giant frog, Frog, to save the city from the earthquake Worm’s visit will cause. He wishes to convince himself that the giant Frog is a hallucination (94, 103, 109), but Frog assures him: ‘A real frog is exactly what I am. A product neither of metaphor nor allusion nor deconstruction nor sampling nor any other such complex process I am a genuine frog. Shall I croak for you? […] I am not a product of your imagination. I can take action and produce results. I am a real, living being’ (Murakami 2002, 103). Frog’s definition of ‘a real, living being’ is a being with agency. Katagiri’s challenge is to locate his own agency in these new circumstances. Katagiri’s survival and the survival of Tokyo depend on him being able to let go of reality as he has known it; the unremarkable citizen is pulled into an epic battle to save Tokyo, a far-fetched scenario but nonetheless one in which his efforts have effect. Trauma is experienced in these stories as an assault on agency, and that assault on agency in turn affects how the characters perceive their everyday lives. Alexander (2004, 10) describes the post-traumatic state as ‘a fundamental threat to their sense of who [people] are, where they came from, and where they want to go.’ After an intense battle between Frog and Worm, the immediate threat of an earthquake has been addressed and passed, but Frog and Katagiri remain aware of a continued, peripheral threat—the undefeated Worm who will wake again to cause more destruction. Worm’s threat is heightened as Frog begins to lose his sense of purposeful identity. In turn, Katagiri’s ability to maintain his agency through his affiliation with the supernatural elements of Frog disintegrates. Alexander begins to explain the relationship of such instabilities, writing, ‘Events are one thing, representations are quite another. Trauma is not the result of a group experiencing pain. It is the result of this acute discomfort entering into the core of the collectivity’s sense of its own identity. Collective actors ‘decide’ to represent social pain as a fundamental threat to their sense of who they are, where they came from, and where they want to go’ (10). To that end, this story reimagines the earthquake, attempting to pre-empt and forestall its destructive force while its magical realism explains both



the mysterious mechanics of earthquakes and the human impulse to assert agency. If we could truly understand the causes of earthquakes, we might sidestep their traumatic aftermath. Late in the story, Katagiri wakes from this dream and finds himself ‘soaked in sweat’ in a hospital bed (Murakami 2002, 113). His partnership with Frog is revealed to be Katagiri’s hallucinated alternate post-­earthquake reality, one in which he is able to halt the traumatic aftermath of the event that causes a complete rupture from reality into hallucination. Caruth’s work is helpful in understanding such temporal staggers and the disruptiveness of post-traumatic experience: The breach in the mind—the conscious awareness of the threat to life—is not caused by a pure quantity of stimulus, Freud suggests but by ‘fright,’ the lack of preparedness to take in a stimulus that comes too quickly. It is not simply, that is, the literal threatening of bodily life, but the fact that the threat is recognized as such by the mind one moment too late. The shock of the mind’s relation to the threat of death is thus not the direct experience of the threat, but precisely the missing of this experience, the fact that, not being experienced in time, it has not yet been fully known. And it is this lack of direct experience that, paradoxically, becomes the basis of repetition of the nightmare. (2016, 64)

The story ends with Katagiri in the hospital, certain he has been shot and that Frog has died after saving Tokyo from an earthquake, only for his concerns to be dismissed as dreams by the nurse entering his room to administer more medication (Murakami 2002, 108, 114), medication that will perhaps transport him from his broken Tokyo, to the Tokyo of Frog and Worm. Katagiri’s hallucinations thus read as a form of compensation for his physical and psychic losses and the story becomes representative of the myriad ways in which the earthquake disrupts all meaning.

DeLillo, Point Omega, and the Impossibility of Retreat On the surface, Don DeLillo’s novel Point Omega could not be more different from Haruki Murakami’s post-earthquake world in After the Quake. Nevertheless, like Murakami, DeLillo is preoccupied with traumatic aftermath and the havoc it wreaks on traditional understandings of progress, the relation between urban and rural, and their related temporalities in the



late twentieth century. In Point Omega, the narrator Jim Finley interviews Richard Elster, a retired war strategist, about Elster’s ‘time in the government, in the blast and spatter of Iraq’ (DeLillo 2011, 26) for a film Finley is making. Starting and ending in an art exhibit that depicts Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho slowed down to a runtime of 24 hours, the narrative is overtly invested in distorted temporalities, representation, and truth. Elster insists the interview cannot take place in New York or Washington, where there are ‘too many goddamn echoes’ (26). Instead, the men meet in Elster’s broken down desert home, located somewhere east of San Diego (26). While the remoteness of the location promises escape from the traumatic echoes and repetitions of urban daily life, time in the desert flows and alters, flattening into a kind of amorphousness that echoes the slowed down Hitchcock film. Similar to the way the art installation delays and intensifies the experience of Hitchcock’s classic film––trapping its viewers in an already-known-but-elongated-and-inevitable violent narrative—the desert backdrop to the interview seems to promise Finley, Elster, and Elster’s daughter Jessie an escape from various pains, losses, and traumas associated with their city lives post 9/11. Elster comments, ‘Time slows down when I’m here. Time becomes blind’ (30), but rather than finding solace or respite in the desert, the characters experience their unspeakable, unthinkable problems and complications as sustained and unrelenting. The desire for and inability of escape from past actions and ethical responsibilities underpins Point Omega’s narratives. Elster’s promised interview, an interview never fully reported in the novel, is the backdrop of the sudden and never-explained disappearance of his daughter Jessie. Some events may have explanations, the novel suggests, but those closest to the events may never have access to those explanations. While both Finley and Elster are deeply uncomfortable about Jessie’s disappearance and its mysterious circumstances, they eventually leave the desert and abandon all hope of her return. The loss of Jessie, and the resulting destabilization of self for both Elster and Finley, reflects the effects of the illegibility of contemporary global conflicts for the former secret war consultant and the documentary maker. In their attempts to capture and preserve the complicated, behind-the-scenes, history of twentieth century war, the implication is that traditional, linear narratives such as Finley’s documentary, and indeed DeLillo’s novel, cannot fully explain or justify the war, Elster’s actions, or American imperialism more generally. Martin Paul Eve explains the relationship between the novel’s discussion of American identity in the early twentieth century and its setting:



While Point Omega remains a text that runs the risk of reinscribing an exceptional America that contains all Others, this containment becomes more than simply an exercise in literary colonialism, but rather a mirror. DeLillo’s novel may look inwards, but the reflection cast in the glass seems to be an image from outside. Such an exercise in seeing darkly is a valuable literary technique because it allows DeLillo’s bidirectional setup to gain ethical purchase. Cultural difference is both enshrined and erased; America is the isolated focus but within America lies alterity. (2015, 590)

Eve’s focus is on isolation as a thematic that enables the novel’s political discussion of American culpability in global imperialism, but it asks for a closer examination of the novel’s implied tensions between an isolated western desert and the urban spaces associated with American political and economic power. In his desert cabin, Elster is somehow given a reprieve from traumas he experienced and inflicted while working for the government. Eve (2015, 590), examining narrative technique, identifies in the novel a ‘bidirectionality, framed here through the image of looking in a rearview mirror, a rearview window perhaps, is the adept mechanism through which Point Omega’s trans-temporal metaphors at once conflate and distance; negotiate historical and cultural specificity; and, more importantly, represent the mentality that relativizes and analogizes.’ For DeLillo, this paradoxical experience of time, with the past being paradoxically always present and pressing at the same time as it is distant and abstract, enables Elster to seem to avoid reflection on and thus responsibility for his actions. The desert allows Elster to believe that the complicated consequences of his actions and their resulting traumas do not exist. His unarticulated desire for clarity and perhaps even absolution as he tells his story to Finley, it seems, is a desire to collapse a complex, geopolitical narrative into a personal, factual reminiscence. Still, his daughter Jessie’s disappearance—the only trauma that explicitly takes place during Point Omega—is temporally removed from virtually any kind of cultural reference point. Deprived of any linearity or ‘echoes and mirrors,’ the repetitive nature of trauma is felt as an inescapable lack of progress, as it lacks the ability to be defined as a movement toward knowledge. The temporal ‘bidirectionality’ Eve identifies as a narrative strategy for exploring wartime trauma is linked in its structure to Caruth’s (2016, 64) explanation of how trauma is experienced as repetition: ‘For consciousness then, the act of survival, as the experience of trauma, is the repeated confrontation with the necessity and impossibility of grasping the threat to



one’s own life. It is because the mind cannot confront the possibility of its death directly that survival becomes for the human being, paradoxically, an endless testimony to the impossibility of living.’ Both Elster and Finley realize that their attempts to articulate larger cultural truths and, as a result, achieve a definitive ownership or understanding of larger cultural and geopolitical processes are impossible. There is no outrunning of experience: Elster’s affinity for isolation will never actually insulate him from the traumas he has witnessed, participated in, and precipitated. Rather than enable a romantic, Western escape from this realization, the desert backdrop makes it starker. Unable to retreat further into isolation in the desert, Finley and Elster finally must return to the city, even as they know this most recent trauma cannot be mapped onto the collective cultural experience of daily life in the city. At this point, return to the urban signals an opportunity for the characters to distance themselves from their pain. The city offers Elster and Finley the opportunity to abandon the undefined and unresolved specifics of their loss, both physically by leaving the desert and temporally by supplanting their loss with daily urban routines. As they approach the city, Finley notes to himself the changing landscape and increased traffic: ‘It means that soon the city would be happening, nonstop New York, faces, languages, construction scaffolds everywhere, the stream of taxies at four in the afternoon, off-duty signs’ (DeLillo 2011, 126). Despite their attempts to remove themselves from time by leaving the city, New York has continued to function in its usual fashion. By returning to the city without his daughter, Elster must finally acknowledge that there is no escape from his past and the linear progression of Western, urban time. He must always return to the temporality and physicality from which he fled to confront these traumas, both personal and collective, again and again. He cannot remove himself from the temporality and physicality of his trauma, because as Soja (1996, 46) asserts, social realities—including those of trauma—are spatialized.

Conclusions In Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media and Literature, E. Ann Kaplan (2005) depicts the modern emergence of trauma as a condition to modernity, specifically linking it to a nineteenth century culture of gendered domestic and public spheres, mature capitalism, and industrial developments responsible for mechanized warfare. Industrialization,



she writes, ‘provided the social conditions for … train and machine accidents, and for large-scale wars. These in turn prompted attention to the traumatic symptoms such accidents and wars produced in men’ (25). One hundred years after the developments Kaplan documents and well into an era that is identified both as postmodern and globalized, Murakami and DeLillo define contemporary existence as post-traumatic existence. Komura, Katagiri, and Elster all work to evade trauma by removing themselves from sites that trap them in the daily reinscription of traumatic moments. Yet, even though these men distance themselves from the urban sites identified with the origins of their trauma––post-earthquake Tokyo, post-9/11 and New  York and Washington, D.C. during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars––since trauma is experienced as a temporal loop or stagger, removal from these urban spaces affords neither clarity nor relief. The city seems positioned as a definitive starting point for the journeys these men embark upon, but the city in these literary works is more than geographic location or municipal boundary. It is experienced as temporality, an instrumentalized temporality associated with the era of late capital, one that underpins twenty-first-century understandings of trauma. Jay Rubin, the translator of After the Quake, asserts that ‘the central characters in After the Quake live far from the physical devastation, which they witness only on TV or in the papers, but for each of them the massive destruction unleashed by the earth itself becomes a turning point in their lives’ (Rosenbaum 2014, 103). While the earthquake precipitates the events in the collection, the stories themselves cast doubt on seemingly irrefutable events. The beginning of Komura’s story is not the Kobe earthquake, nor is it even when his wife leaves him; it is something else that comes even earlier, to which the reader, and likely Komura himself, is not privy. Though Katagiri’s hospitalization seems to be in some way linked to the Kobe earthquake, the break he experiences is a hallucinatory amalgam of things that exist before, during, and After the Quake, indicated when Frog says he picked Katagiri to help him based on skills he has previously exhibited during difficult times in his life (Murakami 2002, 99). Similarly, in Point Omega, for Elster, events that take place before, during, and after September 11, 2001 shape his subsequent search for escape and resolution, as well as his attempts to process his daughter’s mysterious disappearance. Nevertheless, they do not deliver recognition of his culpability or new knowledge to him. Thus, as this discussion has shown, ‘subsequent’ is a category that both Murakami and DeLillo trouble, identifying traditional, sequential, and progressive notions of time to be impossible



in locations as geographically distant from one another as are Tokyo and New York. In all three narratives, the impulse to withdraw from urban life is a response to communal trauma. Alexander explains the impulse to escape as a kind of social restructuring in which relations between the individual and the collective are renegotiated: ‘“Experiencing trauma” can be understood as a sociological process that defines a pain injury to the collectivity, establishes the victim, attributes responsibility, and distributes the ideal and material consequences. Insofar as traumas are so experienced, and thus imagined and represented, the collective identity will become significantly revised’ (2004, 22). In these literary works, this repositioning is depicted as a removal from the urban to the rural and its promise of clarity or some sort of slowing of time to enable reflection. However, there is no outrunning trauma in these works, suggesting that trauma––even trauma experienced collectively, at a remove––cannot be outrun or escaped in the twenty-first century but rather disrupts or infiltrates every moment. The layered spatial representations of this dynamic in these two works enable us to access their nuanced depictions of the temporal experience of trauma in the late twentieth century. The challenge of representing trauma in narrative, these works by Murakami and DeLillo suggest, shares something of the difficulty of representing environmental change and large-­ scale-­ but-‘slow violence[s],’ to borrow Rob Nixon’s term (2009, 443–467). The lack of closure in the very different texts discussed in this chapter are not, then, primarily expressions of a postmodern aesthetic, but of an effort to faithfully represent life in a historical moment in which existence is post-traumatic.

References Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2004. Toward a Theory of Cultural Trauma. In Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, ed. Jeffrey C.  Alexander, Ron Eyerman, Berhard Giesen, Neil J. Smelser, and Piotr Sztompka, 1–31. Berkley: University of California Press. Caruth, Cathy. 2016. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. DeLillo, Don. 2011. Point Omega. New York: Picador. Eve, Martin Paul. 2015. Too many goddamn echoes’: Historicizing the Iraq War in Don DeLillo’s Point Omega. Journal of American Studies 49 (3): 575–592. Kaplan, E. Ann. 2005. Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media Literature. Piscataway: Rutgers University Press.



Murakami, Haruki. 2002. After the Quake. Trans. Jay Rubin, 3–24. New  York: Vintage Books. Nixon, Rob. 2009. Neoliberalism, Slow Violence, and the Environmental Picaresque. Modern Fiction Studies 55 (3): 443–467. Rosenbaum, Roman. 2014. Post-3/11 Literature in Japan. In When the Tsunami Came to Shore: Cultural Disaster in Japan, ed. Roy Starrs, 91–112. Leiden: Brill. Soja, Edward W. 1996. Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-­ Imagined Places. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.


‘Totaled City’: The Postdigital Poetics of Ben Lerner’s 10:04 Spencer Jordan

I’d say you were doing something pretty dangerous this time … Mixing fact and fiction … I’d say stick to fiction, straight fiction. (Carol Reed, The Third Man 1949)

In Carol Reed’s film, The Third Man (1949), the novelist Holly Martins spends much of the film trying to find out who murdered his friend, Harry Lime. Famously, the setting is postwar Vienna, a city divided into four sectors, each under the control of either American, British, French or Soviet forces. The film follows Martins over three days, much of it shot on location, including the famous Riesenrad, or Ferris wheel, in Wurstelprater. At one point, Martins is invited to give a talk to a local book club on ‘the contemporary novel’. As his lecture falls apart, Martins announces that his latest work is a novel entitled The Third Man. This metafictionality permeates Graham Greene’s script: in one of Martins’ earlier works, The Lone Rider of Santa Fé, we are told that a rider hunts down a sheriff who unlawfully killed his friend. It is clear that in Martins’ version of The Third Man,

S. Jordan (*) University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_11




Trevor Howard’s Major Calloway is the corrupt sheriff, responsible in some way for the murder of Lime. Reed’s film, however, shows us that, in ‘reality’, it is the ‘murdered’ friend, played by Orson Welles, who is the real villain. Martins has to kill Lime himself in a shootout in the sewers beneath the city, finally confronting what his friend has done. Greene had outlined the story to The Third Man in, what was at that point, an unpublished novella; the script was adapted from this version and then further edited by Greene on set. This provides one additional level to our nested narratives: Greene writes Martins who writes The Lone Rider of Santa Fé. Both Martins and Greene are writers in Vienna working on a novel called The Third Man. Yet the film is no simple dime western; like a lot of Greene’s work, it explores real-life abuses of power and corruption where the divide between good and evil is not straightforward (Brennan 2010). And in both Greene’s and Martins’ version of The Third Man, it is a writer of fiction who is cast as the lone rider, charged with discovering the killer. And it is the writer who finally becomes the ultimate arbiter of justice. Reed’s film hovers over Ben Lerner’s 10:04 (2014). It even makes an appearance at the start of the novel, watched by the narrator as Hurricane Irene bares down on a ravaged New York, a city temporarily split into its own emergency zones (2014, 22). Although the narrator quickly moves on to Back to the Future (1985), from which the novel gets its title, the inclusion of The Third Man (1949) is clearly meant as some kind of symbolic reference point. Just like Reed’s film, 10:04 explores the creative tension between fiction and non-fiction; and just like the film, it also has a writer as its main protagonist, set in a city through which the writer’s restless movement is encoded. 10:04 even has the writer delivering a lecture on the writing process, something that also occurs in Lerner’s first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station (2011). Yet while there are undoubted synergies between the first and second novel, it is also apparent that 10:04 is a far more ambitious work, both in terms of its narrative design but also critical intent, specifically in terms of time. It is these ambitions that underpin much of what I have to say in this chapter. Crucially, I argue that 10:04 is a significant milestone in the exploration of metamodernist sensibility. Issues of authenticity and meaningful affect are never far from the surface of the novel; indeed, their discussion forms a kind of critical nucleus around which the novel’s emplotment is inscribed. As the narrator states in the novel, ‘Art has to offer something other than stylized despair’ (Lerner 2014, 93). Trying to understand what that ‘something’ might be is a major theme of the novel. 10:04 not only



offers a powerful example of emergent metamodernist thinking in this regard; I suggest it also constitutes a significant development of these ideas and concepts, particularly in regard to cityspace and the experience of time. This chapter positions 10:04 as an overt attempt to create a new literary form through which these metamodernist specificities, namely the relationship between cityspace and time, are both inscribed and interrogated. 10:04 should therefore be understood as a kind of creative praxis, what Barbara Bolt terms a ‘materialising practice’, by which new and emergent knowledge is brought to bear on existing theories and ideas (Bolt 2004; Bolt 2010, 27–34). The creative exploration of the city remains one of the central pillars of Lerner’s approach. For Lerner, cities have become powerful metaphors for our contemporary condition; the metaphysical, emotional and ecological issues that he prioritises in his writing are overtly manifest in the large, sprawling conurbations of twenty-first-century urbanism (Hamilton et al. 2015, 1–13). He uses the term ‘totaled city’ to suggest that we have reached a point of social and cultural failure in how our lives are lived. Yet there’s something else here too that makes 10:04 a particularly important work. Elsewhere, I argue that the ontological shifts characterised by metamodernism have also led to a reinterpretation of digitality as a distinct and separate domain (Jordan 2019). What I term postdigitality is defined by new forms of digital and non-digital hybridity, new structures of, what Tim Ingold calls, meshwork, connecting embodied practice with the technological (Ingold 2016). My chapter adopts two critical positions in this regard: first, it argues that postdigital hybridity is a key characteristic of metamodernism; and secondly, it argues that an understanding of the spatial and temporal effects of this hybridity remains at the heart of 10:04. The work is therefore not only a metamodernist novel, but also one that offers an important and critical response to our hybridic postdigital condition. From the physicality of the page, with its grainy black and white photographs, through to the text’s curiously archaic technological cadences, 10:04 offers what Lerner, writing as Lerner within his own novel, calls ‘a threshold between worlds, between media’ (2014, 43).

10:04: Post-Crash/Post-Postmodern To date Lerner has written three novels and four poetry collections. He has also published an essay, The Hatred of Poetry (2016), and has collaborated on three mixed-media publications with artists Thomas Demand (2015) and Anna Ostoya (2018), and film director and author Alexander



Kluge (2018). Both his poetry and fiction have received notable awards and accolades, including the Hayden Carruth prize for his fifty-two sonnets cycle, The Lichtenberg Figures (2004), and the Believer Book Award for Leaving the Atocha Station (2011). 10:04 was shortlisted for the 2014 Folio Prize; his latest novel, The Topeka School (2019), was shortlisted for the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. When considering his prose, it is clear that there is a strong correlation between all three novels; however, this connection is especially evident in the first two, Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04. Each appears to be autobiographical, about a writer/poet struggling to complete a project. Both are predominantly set in cities, Madrid in Leaving the Atocha Station, and New York in 10:04; and both share a backdrop of systemic dislocation: growing political unrest and the Madrid train bombings in the former, Hurricane Irene and wider concerns about ecological degradation in the latter. Anxiety about art and the value of artistic practice more generally runs through the two works (Horton 2019, 321–332). The novels, then, are significantly intertwined, even to the point where ‘the unreliable narrator’ of the first novel is fleetingly mentioned in the second (Lerner 2014, 148). And as we’ll see, this interconnection also reaches out to his non-­ fiction and artistic collaborations. Yet, despite these and other similarities of theme and technique, I would argue that 10:04 marks a significant development of Lerner’s oeuvre. Perhaps this is best described as an intensification of style, a confidence and maturity in the way Lerner pushes and explores the experimental boundaries of his fiction. It is the contention of this chapter that these literary and stylistic properties are a direct result of the author’s critical engagement with metamodernist ontology. In other words, 10:04 has its sights not just on our enmeshment with neoliberalism; what concerns Lerner is something far more profound, namely, the emergence of a new dominant cultural logic in which our conceptualisation of space and time is fundamentally reconfigured (Jameson 1991). Through this critical focus, 10:04 can be understood as a meditation, or exegesis, on the form and function of creativity itself in this post-postmodern world. For Robin van den Akker and Timotheus Vermeulen, this new era emerged in the 2000s (2017, 4). The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the 9/11 attacks and the financial crisis are all seen as key indicators of a paradigm shift in how western capitalist society is understood. Annie McClanahan, in her study of the impact of mounting levels of (unpayable) indebtedness on contemporary culture, offers a picture in which ‘this



sense of crisis has become both the ambient context and the manifest content of cultural production’ (2017, 15). Such ‘crisis subjectivity’ (2017, 196), as she terms it, is based upon an uneasy relationship with neoliberalism at best, a pragmatic acceptance of an economic reality that has been revealed as unsustainable in multiple ways. The cultural, social and economic tensions that underpin these concerns are at their most overt within those cities that form the essential nodes of global capitalism; it should not be surprising then that here we also find the focus of Lerner’s novels.

Writing the City For Lerner, the city remains the essential hub, or nodal point, in contemporary life. It is the point at which the invisible forces of, what might loosely be termed, global capitalism are more readily experienced, the contradictions of neoliberalism most keenly felt and engaged with. To be in a city, then, is to be on the front line of humanity’s striving for meaningful survival in the face of accumulating economic and ecological crises. Here’s the narrator of 10:04 describing a celebratory meal with his agent at an expensive restaurant in New York: I swallowed and the majesty and murderous stupidity of it was all about me, coursing through me: the rhythm of artisanal Portuguese octopus fisheries coordinated with the rhythm of labourers’ migration and the rise and fall of art commodities and tradable futures … and the mercury and radiation levels of the sashimi and the chests of the beautiful people in the restaurant— coordinated, or so it appeared, by money. One big joke cycle. One big totaled prosody. (Lerner 2014, 156)

For Lerner, capitalism is a form of prosody, the underlying structure or rhythmic pattern to our lives. Yet, as the narrator reflects on the enmeshment of his meal with the global economy, he also realises that this system of living, this means of, what Heidegger called, ‘being-in-the-world’, is fundamentally unsustainable and therefore totaled, broken beyond repair, to the point where it no longer has any value (Bolt 2011, 3). If the prosody of human existence is broken, then new forms and structures need to be written, new ways of ‘being-in-the-world’: for Lerner, artistic practice is not pushed aside in these times of crisis but instead takes centre stage. Lerner, of course, is not the first writer to critically and artistically engage with the economic and social contradictions of urban living. A



direct precursor to his concerns, and something that Lerner himself appears to directly draw on, is the collective of avant-garde artists who came together under the banner of the Situationist International (Sadler 1999; Wark 2011). Creative methodologies such as the dérive and détournement allowed the situationists to create, what McKensie Wark calls, ‘a practice of the city as at once an objective and subjective space’ (2011, 27). 10:04 is strategically set in Manhattan, the very heart of global capitalism; the narrator spends a lot of time walking through the city; and the novel meditates on the nature of affective creativity, in particular the tension between fiction and non-fiction, authenticity and inauthenticity. Finally, underneath it all, is the narrator’s obsession with, what he perceives to be, a growing ontological disconnect with the ‘real’ world, what Arne De Boever, in his own analysis of 10:04, calls ‘psychosis’ (2018, 11). This final point is foregrounded by the narrator’s possible diagnosis of Marfan, a genetic disorder whose symptoms include, so we’re told, ‘poor proprioception … a terrible neurological autonomy not only spatial but temporal’ in which the brain ‘can detect local texture variations, but cannot integrate that information into a larger picture, cannot read the realistic fiction the world appears to be’ (Lerner 2014, 6–7). De Boever, however, is only partly right when he describes 10:04 as finance fiction, a novel that specifically engages with ‘the new economic reality that contemporary finance has produced’ (2018, 8). Lerner’s returning interest in the situated, embodied experience of ‘being-in-the-­ world’ speaks of more fundamental concerns: the words proprioceptive/ proprioception, for example, appear seven times in 10:04, surely a high number, given the particularity of the term. Whereas Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (Ellis 1991) and Sherman McCoy in The Bonfire of the Vanities (Wolfe 1987) encapsulate the hedonism of financial markets in their prime, I would argue that the narrator’s psychosis in 10:04 is fundamentally a response to his perceived need for embodied authenticity and moral affectivity. And it is this ontological shift, from postmodern solipsism to new forms of moral and ethical connectedness, that positions 10:04 as an important metamodernist intervention. Metamodernism is still a nascent academic term. While it is the preferred noun for Robin van den Akker, Alison Gibbons and Timotheus Vermeulen (2017), there are a host of other names too, including post-­ postmodernism, cosmodernism (Moraru 2011) and the sui generis, digimodernism (Kirby 2009). While Christian Moraru’s cosmodernism calls for ‘a new togetherness, for a solidarity across political, ethnic, racial,



religious, and other boundaries’ (2011, 5), metamodernism emphasises an in-betweenness of feeling, an oscillation between lingering postmodern anxiety and the need for ethical force and truthfulness. Yet, at its heart, is the imperative of the Anthropocene, the sense that things cannot go on as they have been if we are to survive as a species, where, as van den Akker and Vermeulen remind us, ‘wealth is concentrated at the top 1 per cent of the pyramid, while rising sea levels and super storms crumble its base, where the rest of us reside in highly precarious conditions’ (2017, 17). In 10:04, the city, like capitalism itself, has become hollowed out, an outmoded signifier for an age that is already past. Lerner uses the adjective ‘totaled’ to describe this redundancy, a condition that applies equally to the lives of individual women and men. This wider socio-cultural enmeshment, this being-in-the-world, is what Lerner is referring to when he uses the term ‘totaled prosody’: the cultural logic or ontology of neoliberal postmodernity (2014, 156). The formation of new ways of living, of new post-postmodern prosodies for the twenty-first century, is, at least in part, the responsibility of artists and writers such as Lerner, working their ‘way from irony to sincerity in the sinking city, a would-be Whitman of the vulnerable grid’ (2014, 4). Importantly 10:04 provides a critique of its own creation and publication; in this way Lerner offers up for analysis his creative praxis into what these new forms of prosody might actually look like. And central to this is his experimentation with autofiction. Gibbons in particular has noted the prevalence of autofiction within the wider canon of metamodernist writing (2017, 117–130). By autofiction, Gibbons is referring to texts that blend autobiography and fiction as a deliberate creative technique. In the past this might have been associated with the sort of postmodern experimentation that came under the rubric of metafiction, in other words fiction that represented the constructed nature of all knowledge. Yet, with the waning of postmodernism, metafiction has become postironic, or, to use Lee Konstantinou’s term, ‘credulous’: ‘Credulous metafiction uses metafiction not to cultivate incredulity or irony but rather to foster faith, conviction, immersion and emotional connection’ (2017, 93). Contemporary autofiction, then, rather than denying the possibility of an objective self, seeks to reinstantiate it through an interrogation of our being-in-the-world. In other words, the focus of works such as 10:04 is as much the process, as the subject, of being, a renewed engagement, as such, with a hermeneutics of the self. 10:04 purposely locates the narrator ‘in a place, a time and a body’ (Gibbons 2017, 118), a calculated affectivity that seeks an emotional and ethical connection with its readers.



Postdigital An important aspect of this situated embodiedness is, what I shall call, postdigitality. One of the first to use the term was the composer, Kim Cascone. In an article written at the beginning of this century, Cascone argued that a new era was emerging, one in which ‘the revolutionary period of the digital information age has surely passed’ (2000, 12). At the heart of Cascone’s approach was an artistic disenchantment with digital technology, a sense that a new creative period had arrived in which artists were no longer willing to simply accept the perceived superiority of digital form and expression. Cascone observed that one outcome of this was the increasing willingness of musicians to add distortion and glitches into their recordings, deliberately re-emphasising a productive and technological process that digital technology naturally erased from the listening experience. Florian Cramer calls this the rise of DIY ethics and maker culture and sees it as a critical part of our postdigital age (2018, 367). Indeed, for both Cascone and Cramer, the avant-garde and the radical is now associated with, what Cramer calls, a ‘post-digital hacker attitude’, in which the distinction between old and new media is broken down and remediated (2015, 20). Two of the key conditions, then, for postdigitality is both the pervasiveness and consequent normalisation of computationalism; in other words a complex enmeshment of digital technology with everyday life, to the point where to describe something as ‘digital’ becomes almost meaningless. As David M. Berry and Michael Dieter note of this postdigital condition, ‘[c]omputation becomes experiential, spatial and materialized in its implementation, embedded within the environment and embodied, part of the texture of life itself but also upon and even within the body’ (2015, 3). And this enmeshment, of course, reaches outwards from the body to the very operation of market capitalism, in the form of humanless, machine-led processes such as high frequency trading and algorithmic modelling (De Boever 2018; O’Neil 2016). In 10:04 too, digital technology is all pervasive and utterly normalised, particularly within the city. In a sense, digitality in 10:04 is everywhere but also nowhere. The smartphone in particular is used incessantly across the novel, as a means of communication, a timepiece and a direction finder. The narrator’s journeying across New York in 10:04 is an exploration of, and reflection on, these new forms of hybridic spaces (de Souza e Silva 2006), characterised by the increasing entanglement of the digital and non-digital:



So much of the most important personal news I’d received in the last several years had come to me by smartphone while I was abroad in the city that I could plot on a map, could represent spatially, the major events … of my early thirties’. (Lerner 2014, 32–33)

This new hybridic condition, what Sarah Pink and Larissa Hjorth call ‘online/offline’ entanglement (2014, 496), induces a kind of sublimated anxiety within 10:04’s narrator, a subconscious concern about its impact on how we experience the world. The narrator’s condition of Marfan can be understood as a direct transference of his own anxieties concerning the technologically mediated displacement, or cognitive dislocation, induced by his engagement with hybridic space. Whereas Jason Farman extols the virtues of the ‘technological proprioception’ of hybrid space (2012, 88), Jeff Malpas is much more circumspect (2012). Malpas describes the impact of mobile technology as engendering an intense form of individualisation, a cognitive separation from those physically around them, which results in an individual being essentially ‘displaced’ (2012, 33). Further, for Malpas, there can only be consciousness through place; any disruption to constructions of place will necessarily have a fundamental impact on human subjectivity (Malpas 1999, 10). In part, Marfan fits with De Boever’s use of ‘psychosis’, in other words, a condition interpreted as a response to the frenzied contradictions of market capitalism. Yet, if psychosis offers a new kind of post-crash literary realism, as De Boever suggests, then it is one that also draws on much wider socio-cultural change, underpinned, at least in part, by the significant technological development described by Malpas. Such innovations would include the rise of the world wide web, the development of mobile devices such as iPads and smartphones, and the spread of wifi and broadband access. In their turn, these have enabled further conceptual developments, including the ‘internet of things’ and ‘smart cities’ (Townsend 2013). 10:04 is a response to this fundamental transformation in how we live our lives, a working through, a materialising practice, of these broad societal changes. By asking what remains of traditional notions of place and embodiedness in the hybridic spaces of a postdigital city, 10:04 interrogates the very things that Gibbons isolates as key characteristics of contemporary autofiction: situatedness and embodied subjectivity (2017). The author’s anxiety around his proprioception, his failing spatial and temporal awareness, is a constant theme in the novel. Yet, concurrently, the narrator is also hyper-sensitised to spatial and temporal affect. Even a



gaslight produces a kind of temporal vertigo: ‘it was as if the little flame in the gas lamp he paused before were burning at once in the present and in various pasts, in 2012 but also 1912 or 1883, as if it were one flame flickering simultaneously in each of those times, connecting them’ (Lerner 2014, 67). One of the key scenes in the novel is the narrator’s encounter with Christian Marclay’s art installation, The Clock (2010). The Clock is a looped 24-hour montage of film, video and television clips. All of the sequences in the montage reference a specific time in some way or other, either overtly through dialogue, or on clocks and watches; but also less obviously through everyday objects such as TV sets, microwaves, computers, and pagers. Marclay has spliced these fragments together in chronological order and then synchronised the entire 24-hour loop with real time, so that 3 p.m. in the installation will only show at 3 p.m., and so on. As Jane Campbell writes in her response to the artwork, ‘The Clock bears witness to time’s perplexing elasticity … there is only now, and now, and now, and now—one moment endlessly giving way to another’ (2018, 20). Despite The Clock’s overt foregrounding of the technological inscription of time, the narrator of 10:04 notes how it simultaneously emphasises the embodied nature of time, both individually but also as a collective experience: ‘Marclay had formed a supragenre that made visible our collective, unconscious sense of rhythms of the day—when we expect to kill or fall in love or clean ourselves or eat or fuck or check our watch and yawn’ (Lerner 2014, 53; Horton 2019, 326–7). It is not that The Clock attempts to collapse the divide between the fictional and real; rather, by drawing attention to its own artificiality, the constraints of its own fiction, it brings to the fore the affective power that such fictions can have: ‘As I made and unmade a variety of overlapping narratives out of [The Clock’s] found footage, I felt acutely how many different days could be built out of a day, felt more possibility than determinism, the utopian glimmer of fiction’ (Lerner 2014, 54). These ‘overlapping narratives’ spill out into the very form and content of 10:04 itself, in which Marclay’s physical installation is transmediated into a textual encounter in the course of which the narrator begins to work on a new piece of fiction, fiction that, at that moment, we are reading. Yet this layering is also technological, in which the interplay between the video installation, the smartphone, the embodied narrator, and the final printed text of the novel is emphasised. The author’s anxiety around his proprioception is less about an existing medical condition and much more about these fundamental changes to how



space and time are experienced. De Boever’s post-crash psychosis, the mounting threat of global ecological disaster, together with the advent of ubiquitous digital technology, combine to engender new forms of hybridic prosody, to use Lerner’s term, in which situatedness and embodied subjectivity are foregrounded. What we have in 10:04, then, is an attempt to form both a new way of thinking about, and representing, this fundamental change in ontology. In this new cultural logic, the metaphor of the network ceases to have value (Castells 1996, 83); instead, Ingold’s term meshwork becomes far more instrumental (2016, 83). The individual nodes of a network are independent and static; further, as Larissa Hjorth and Michael Arnold state, a network ‘privileges ramified dyadic relationships, and fails to signify collectivity, emotional affect and a shared horizon’ (2013, 12). In comparison, ‘the lines of the meshwork are the trails along which life is lived … it is the entanglement of lines, not in the connecting of points, that the mesh is constituted’ (Ingold 2016, 83). In a meshwork, it is our very entanglement, our being-in-the-world, that constitutes the ‘inhabited world’ (Ingold 2016). Ingold uses the term ‘wayfaring’ to describe this movement ‘along’ and it offers a powerful way of conceptualising Lerner’s own practice (2016, 85): Far from connecting points in a network, every relation is one line in a meshwork of interwoven trails. To tell a story, then, is to relate, in narrative, the occurrences of the past, retracing a path through the world that others, recursively picking up the threads of past lives, can follow in the process of spinning out their own. (Ingold 2016, 93)

Unlike the formless dérive, wayfinding is all about affective, situated and embodied connections, in other words, the fundamental means by which we engage and make sense of the world. In the online/offline, postdigital city, Pink and Hjorth recognise a new variant of Ingold’s term, what they call the ‘digital wayfarer’ (2014). Here the emphasis is on movement across the relatively new condition of digital and non-digital entanglement as ‘part of the ongoingness of everyday life’ (Pink and Hjorth 2014, 491). It offers an interesting lens through which to consider Lerner’s metamodernist style, or prosody: rather than ‘digital wayfaring’, however, I would suggest that ‘postdigital wayfaring’ would be a better term in this regard, signalling more clearly Lerner’s ontological concerns that I’ve identified here.



If the first characteristic of postdigitality in 10:04 is the representation of digitality within the novel itself, the second is its tactical emphasis on the value of non-digital form in, what Lerner calls, ‘the postcodex world’ (Lerner 2014, 154). Despite the normalisation of digital technology across 10:04, the novel remains purposely ‘old-fashioned’ in its emphasis on small presses and the physical purity of hard-copy publication. Lerner has form here: two of his collaborative projects, The Polish Rider (Ostoya and Lerner 2018) and Blossom (Demand and Lerner 2015), are published through Mack, a small press specialising in hard copy publications that explore the creative synergy between text and non-textual (photographic) art. Blossom (2015), for example, consists of a poem by Lerner, alongside Demand’s high-resolution colour photographs of cherry blossom. Although it isn’t stated, the tree is actually made of paper, the photographs a subtle examination of fraudulence and authenticity, themes picked up by Lerner’s poem. The photographs are spread across both sides of a French fold, sometimes with additional images hiding (and not easily visible) inside. As a result, the book encourages a form of interactivity, a physical exploration of the printed page in which embodied entanglement is explicitly drawn into the storytelling process. These themes are equally apparent in 10:04. Much of the book revolves around the materiality of publication, from the narrator’s own work— including a novel we may or may not be reading with its inclusion of the short story, ‘The Golden Vanity’—to the narrator’s self-publication of To the Future with Roberto Ortiz. ‘Virtuality’ as a concept in 10:04 has an unusual duality, referring both to the extrapolated value of any object within the capitalist system (including the narrator’s own hypothesised novel) as well as the more common understanding of something being rendered digitally. The effect of this synthesis is to directly equate a digital text with the workings of the market economy, while at the same time positioning the non-digital, or printed text, as something inherently immune from such contamination. Yet, crucially, Lerner does not want to wipe away digital technology; instead, 10:04 argues for new forms of creative hybridity, new assemblages of digital and non-digital entanglement. On the very last page Lerner includes a low-grade photograph of Vija Celmins’, Concentric Bearings B (2014, 241). The work appears to consist of two photographs—one of the night sky and one of a plane—but this is a deliberate illusion, at least on the part of Lerner. The view of the night



sky is an aquatint; that of the plane is a mezzotint. Both were images taken from magazine photographs. In the case of the plane, Celmins has translated it into a drawing before finally rendering it through the mezzotint process. This translation of image—from the physical plane, to photograph, to magazine illustration, to drawing, to mezzotint, before finally back into a digitised photograph in 10:04—is a beautiful prosody in its own right, at the heart of which is Celmins’ own artistic practice, the hand burnishing of a metal plate as part of the mezzotint process (Rippner 2002, 59). As Lerner says at the very end of The Polish Rider, ‘the verbal does not get the last word, or gets the last word, but then something else happens: the eloquence of the depiction of silence “talks” back’ (Ostoya and Lerner 2018, 59). In the silence of Concentric Bearings B lies the embodied practice of the artist, the physical inscription of handheld tools on a metal plate, before a handmade print can be taken on paper. This prosody of form, technique and non-digital/digital media, is also a prosody of embodied practice and the materiality of creative expression, a new kind of détournement for the metamodernist age; or rather, part of the postdigital meshwork of our being-in-the-world, ‘out of which we build a social world, a way of organising meaning and time that belongs to nobody in particular but courses through us all’ (Lerner 2014, 116).

Conclusion Oh Holly, what fools we are, talking to each other this way … Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't. Why should we? (Carol Reed, The Third Man 1949)

In the British version of The Third Man (1949) the prologue is narrated by the film’s director, Carol Reed (in the American version, it is narrated by Joseph Cotton, the actor who plays Holly Martins). It is informal and direct, a personal address from the director, straight to the audience; and, of course, it adds a further level of complication to our nested sequence of narratives. From script to film to novella, The Third Man can be seen to offer a form of metafictionality, and, through that, a playful consideration of the affective possibilities of storytelling in which justice is finally metered out by the writer, Holly Martins. The Third Man is one of the films that hovers over 10:04 like a guardian angel. The other, of course, is Back to the Future (1985). But it is The



Third Man’s metafictional exploration of creative affect and moral responsibility that, I would argue, strikes at the core of Lerner’s artistic intent. If Harry Lime, in the above quote, is representative of postwar neoliberal ideology, then it is a world view that appears increasingly untenable and out of step with new forms of ethical and moral concerns. Some have called this ‘new structure of feeling’ metamodernism (Van den Akker and Vermeulen 2017, 4); yet, whether or not one embraces the term, it is increasingly apparent that a deep, structural change has occurred in how we understand our engagement with the world—what, throughout this chapter, I’ve called being-in-the-world. 10:04 is one attempt at exploring how fiction might respond to this new ontology. Its playful use of a heavily autobiographical perspective, what Gibbons has termed ‘contemporary autofiction’ (2017), inscribes this very praxis into the story itself. In other words, 10:04 is as much about the practice of metamodernist storytelling as it is about Ben Lerner, making the novel a ‘meta-contemporary text’, to use Ben Davies’ phrase (2019, 2). Two things emerge from this. The first is what I’ve called postdigital poetics, in other words, the form and specificity of digitality within the novel. The narrator’s anxiety concerning the spatial and temporal effects of hybridic space, what I have described as the meshwork of physical and digital presence, remains a constant theme. This is reinforced through Lerner’s emphasis on the embodied materiality of creative agency—the importance of the hardcopy book, and the materiality that then ensues through the physicality of making and reading. This rediscovery of an embodied imperative to our lives offers new types of prosody, to use Lerner’s term, or rather, new forms of postdigital wayfinding in the world. Second, and finally, the site of this postdigital poetics is overwhelmingly that of the twenty-first-century city for it is here where the contradictions and opportunities of our post-postmodern age are to be found. While the situationists sought new methodologies of transgressive reappropriation within the urban spaces of postwar Europe, writers such as Lerner are exploring new forms of hybridity and translation, foregrounding the situated embodiedness, the essential entanglement, that connects all our lives. As the narrator says at the very end of 10:04, ‘I am with you, and I know how it is’ (Lerner 2014, 240).



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Time and Melancholy


Los Angeles as a No Man’s Land: First World War Trauma in Raymond Chandler’s Detective Fiction Sarah Trott

In the work of American hard-boiled crime writer Raymond Chandler, the city of Los Angeles is a corrupt, decaying environment that consistently thwarts the protagonist’s efforts to find justice and closure. In the post-­ First World War era, the metropolis has moved beyond the era of optimism posed by modernization and the brightness of the Jazz age, into a quagmire of criminality, deceit, and manipulation. Generational anxiety caused by contemporary change and the widespread corruption and decadence of the inner-city are themes explored in the works of many of the era’s writers, including John Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer (1925), which attacks consumerism and the indifference of contemporary urban life; F.  Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), which critiques the frivolous lives of the wealthy; and T.S. Eliot’s despairing examination of civilization’s bleakness in The Waste Land (1922). As a veteran of the First

S. Trott (*) York St John University, York, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_12




World War, Raymond Chandler similarly instils his novels with the same level of disillusionment by exposing the criminality, corruption, and social inequality at the heart of the modern city. This generation of writers focused on the time-altered world in which they found themselves, and, like his peers, Chandler’s work highlights the sense of spatial disorientation and confusion felt in the face of a shallow and antagonistic post-­ war world. Drawing upon Chandler’s experience of war and the implied veteran status of his protagonist, private investigator Philip Marlowe,1 this chapter argues that disillusionment towards society—and the city specifically—is suggestive of the author’s vision of Los Angeles as a hostile post-war No Man’s Land; a physical and psychological battleground relocated from the trenches of Europe to urban California. In Chandler’s Los Angeles, time, space, and emotion—and even any form of meaningful human existence— have been eroded beyond Marlowe’s comprehension, and the only distractions offered from the psychological tumult of the city are his infrequent forays to the pastoral areas outside of Los Angeles. The city is a traumatic reminder of wartime anguish, while nature provides respite and an opportunity for Marlowe to restore his human ideals. Chandler’s complex notions of time and the urban locale therefore provide a powerful commentary on Los Angeles as a destructive post-traumatic force. As a writer who lived, worked, and wrote in the California landscape, Chandler’s work can be significantly reconsidered in the context of his own war experiences during the First World War, which substantially alters the way that his novels and characters appear to function.2 Born in Chicago in 1888, Chandler was raised by his mother and her family in London, where he received a classical education, before returning to America in 1912. Chandler’s upbringing instilled in him a connection that, with the outbreak of the First World War in Europe, compelled him to enlist not with the Americans, but with the Canadian army, noting ‘it was… natural for me to prefer a British uniform’ (MacShane 1976, 27). Chandler was assigned to the Seventh Battalion of the First Canadian Division, which had previously successfully defended Vimy Ridge in April 1917 and had also emerged triumphant after the battle of Passchendaele in November 1917. Although the Canadian Corps Divisions were officially in reserve by the time Chandler arrived in France, G.W.L. Nicholson notes that the Canadians were actually on the front line of Allied defence in an extremely perilous area for much of Chandler’s time in combat (379–382). By early 1918, vast numbers of German troops and artillery pieces, freed from the Eastern Front by the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty, signed on 3 March 1917,



had relocated to the Arras area. When Chandler arrived on the French front line in March 1918 the Canadian divisions were working hard to repair and ready their damaged defences in preparation for a German offensive that would begin that month. Chandler was immediately thrown into action: his battalion, the 7th Canadian Infantry, was suffering heavy bombardment and gas attacks at their reserve position at Loos. After being in France for less than four weeks Chandler’s battalion was rotated into the front line in both the area of Vimy Ridge and the Arras region of northern France on two further occasions. This was where some of the bloodiest battles of the war were taking place. Chandler saw three front line rotations during the three months he was stationed in France. When the battalion was not on the front line the conditions in reserve were not much better. Located near Loos and Arras, the battalion was never more than 10 km from the front line and never completely safe from bombardment. The 7th Battalion War Diaries, indicating their day-to-day activities, show that the battalion came under frequent attack from long-range enemy artillery fire (Directorate of History and Heritage). By considering the potential traumatic impact of Chandler’s war experience, Marlowe can be reconfigured in Chandler’s image, as a veteran of the Great War. Although Marlowe’s veteran status is never explicitly stated, like Ernest  Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories Chandler’s novels can be interpreted as tacit accounts of a veteran attempting to reconcile his conflicting emotions regarding his war experience while attempting to reintegrate into a society that had changed beyond recognition. Drawing upon Chandler’s front line experiences, Marlowe’s characterization and temperament begin to resonate strongly with the disillusionment of the post-­ war generation; a generation ‘lost’—in time and trauma—to the conflict and struggling to interpret the world around them in the wake of such devastation. Like the Lost Generation, Chandler’s work resonates with the tension between time and location, pastoral and urban; where the conflict zone is transplanted from the physical reality of European trenches to the psychological dejection of Los Angeles’ ‘mean streets’ (Chandler 1988, 18). Instead of the optimism implied by post-war modernization, returning veterans were instead confronted by a hostile city where the environment and its residents were devoid of empathy and compassion towards their sacrifices. No Man’s Land was a hellish location for soldiers who found themselves trapped there. It was an environment that Wilfred Owen described



as ‘Hideous landscapes, vile noises… everything unnatural, broken, blastered; the distortion of the dead… the most execrable sights on earth’ (qtd. in Owen 1965, 22). It was ‘pocketmarked like the body of foulest disease and its odour is the breath of cancer… [it was] chaotic, crater-ridden, uninhabitable, awful, the abode of madness’ (qtd. in Owen 1965, 51). Entering No Man’s Land meant encountering destruction, ruins, the deceased, and psychological torment. As the flâneur reading the ‘social physiognomy of the streets’ (qtd in Shields 1994, 63) Chandler’s detective observes the ‘dangerous, violent, and squalid’ (Willett 1996, 4) city. The pace of early twentieth century city life resulted in ‘exhausted nerves’, ‘neurotic reaction[s]’, ‘velocity’, and ‘[b]ewilderment […] in response to the speed and volume of circulation, the flow of people, money… and vehicles’ (Willett 1996, 4). It is in this bewildering and grimy landscape that Chandler locates Philip Marlowe; the physical No Man’s Land of wartime France has become the sordid urban wasteland of Los Angeles, where ‘the decomposing carcases of old automobiles lay in grotesque designs, like a modern battlefield’ (Chandler 1952, 153). Marlowe’s No Man’s Land is  a symbolic environment of immorality, corruption, and duplicity, laden with depravity and deceit. Chandler’s first novel, The Big Sleep, begins and ends in the oil fields owned by General Sternwood, Marlowe’s client, and the connection between the exploitation of the land and the moral recklessness that ensues is explicit from the beginning of the novel. Marlowe’s case revolves around the blackmailing of Sternwood’s daughter, Carmen, and Richard Lehan suggests that Carmen’s moral recklessness in the novel closely mirrors her father’s capitalism because ‘blackmail involves the use of information for purposes of extortion, and extortion is simply a form of exploitation. General Sternwood’s money, gained partly from exploiting others, leaves him vulnerable to being exploited’ (1998, 252). As Marlowe traverses the city he uncovers pornographic bookstores, illegal gambling, the mob, and murder. Key to the plot is Carmen, who, unbeknownst to her family, killed her brother-in-law Rusty Regan for rejecting her advances in the same oil field that made her family rich, and tries to shoot Marlowe in a similar manner at the end of the novel. Lehan observes that ‘Rusty Regan dies and Marlowe is threatened in a symbolic landscape that is the source of both wealth and death’ (1998, 253). He suggests that Chandler uses this landscape to ‘extrapolate […] from a personal truth: the big sleep, which is at the heart of every life, is also at the heart of every city’ (Lehan 1998, 253). In Chandler’s work the city equates to downfall and eventual demise.



In The Big Sleep Chandler describes the decline of this ‘fallen world’ in detail, and reinforces the sense of corruption that lingers in Los Angeles, describing how the city has become a decaying entity that has symbolically developed, ‘the rotten sweetness of a prostitute’ (1970, 15). By employing the Los Angeles oil fields as a backdrop for the murder that sets in motion the plot’s unfolding conspiracy, Chandler, from the outset, ‘connects the exploitation of the land and the moral recklessness that follows’ (Lehan 1998, 252). As Ralph Willet notes, ‘General Sternwood’s forest of orchids with their fleshy leaves and pungent odour… is an index of depravity’ and ‘the insidious taint of urban crime and malice…confronts the protagonist at every turn’ (1996, 23, 24). Chandler illustrates for the reader ‘the moral consequence of a state of mind tied to the industrial city, a state of mind inseparable from the desire to control people and the environment in the name of money’ (Lehan 1998, 253). The City of Angels is, ironically, a city of sinners and synonymous with power, deception, and criminality. For Marlowe, Los Angeles is a city that exists on a tipping point between morality and impiety. In his state of post-war alienation Marlowe negotiates his way between the legal and illegal realms of the urban No Man’s Land, which ‘turn out to be two faces of the same world. Just a few miles from the Sternwood mansion are found pornographic bookstores and illegal gambling—the world of the mob, whose motives, if not its methods, are substantially the same as those of Sternwood and his corporation’ (Lehan 1998, 253). While retaining his strong sense of values and integrity, the detective easily traverses the speakeasies, casinos, and dens of iniquity in Los Angeles, and often crosses paths with gangsters, hired thugs, femme fatales, and corrupt police and politicians. Marlowe’s fluid sense of law and justice serve him well in this environment. Chandler’s critique of politics, social order, and the criminal justice system all serve to highlight the dark, disillusioned, and alienating urban environment where working outside the law can be more effective than abiding by the law. In Marlowe’s world the lines between good and evil, crime and justice are seldom clear, especially when they intertwine with law enforcement. Criminals can be police, lawyers, and respectable pillars of the community, and as such, Chandler’s work grapples with a very definite moral perspective. Yet, Marlowe’s ‘personal conscience’ (qtd. Gardiner and Walker 1971, 214) highlights the detective’s moral integrity and signifies his recognition of the depravity that has engulfed the city. But his individual sense of right



and wrong also underscores the detective’s inability to find a sense of meaning. Detectives uncover what the city conceals: secrets, deceit, crimes, and corruptions. Yet as Willett notes: ‘The detective all too frequently achieves only partial understanding or flawed justice. Thus the text of detective fiction can be used deconstructively to display the fragmentation and complexity of modern life and to undermine the tendency of narrative to achieve control and closure’ (1996, 8). This quality is even characterized by the titles of Chandler’s texts, including the ‘melancholy, regret and emptiness’ (Willett 1996, 8) suggested by The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely, and The Long Goodbye. Marlowe consciously ‘realizes the futility of his task, realizes he is in an urban world too soiled to be renewed’ (Lehan 1998, 253), and is very aware of his failure to find meaning in the ineffectiveness of society. Although Lehan states that ‘Chandler takes us close to existential urbanism’ (1998, 253), it is an existentialism that focuses upon the nightmare of the post-First World War urban environment and not upon its enlightened freedoms. In this nightmarish environment of 1930s Los Angeles, Roy Meador contends that ‘failure and fear suddenly became avenues of life in America for people who had never met such strange enemies before. Raymond Chandler sent Marlowe to battle them’ (1982, 152). In an expression of his own war experiences and subsequent disillusionment and cynicism, Chandler reflected in his 1944 article for The Atlantic, titled ‘The Simple Art of Murder’, that [L]ong before the atom bomb, civilization had created the machinery for its own destruction, and was learning to use it with all the moronic delight of a gangster trying out his first machine gun. The law was something to be manipulated for profit and power. The streets were dark with something more than night. (9)

Highlighting the plight of the era’s most demoralized and dejected people, Sean McCann suggests that many of Chandler’s novels bring together a wide selection of downtrodden civilians from across Los Angeles’ epochs and geography. Chandler underscores the wide disparity between rich and poor by ‘draw[ing] the disparate features of Los Angeles into something that looks like a new deal coalition’ (McCann 159). While each novel does this in its own way, the key novel for identifying this inequality is Farewell, My Lovely (1940). Here, Marlowe’s travels:



take him from a hotel clerk in Watts; to Jesse Florian, an impoverished and alcoholic widow; to Anne Riordan, the spunky daughter of an honest cop; to Red Norgaard, the operator of a boat taxi—a collection that, along with Moose Malloy, links African Americans, the urban poor, the white ethnics of the working class, and honest middle Americans. (McCann 2000, 159)

Chandler creates an image of Los Angeles as, ‘an idealized version of the welfare state’, with Marlowe ‘feel[ing] the pain of working stiffs and those who have been neglected by an unjust society, thus tying the fragmented landscape of Los Angeles into a more or less coherent narrative of victimization’ (McCann 2000, 159). The city is therefore an environment that thrives on persecution, discrimination, and oppression. In order to chart the detective’s disillusionment with the city, Chandler employs time—and the passing of time in particular—to highlight Los Angeles’s downward moral spiral. To some extent Chandler even pursues the meaning of the West itself by charting simultaneously the chronological development of the city and its corresponding moral decline. The sense of opportunity offered by Fredrick Jackson Turner’s 1893 Frontier Thesis, that the line separating civilization from the open space of the West would provide an escape from the overcrowded cities of the East—a safety valve, so to speak—both resonates with and differs from Chandler’s work. The wilderness, Turner suggested, could, and would, forge a new sense of individualism, democracy, and self-reliance amongst Americans. ‘American democracy was born of no theorist’s dream’, Turner argued. Instead ‘It came out of the American forest, and it gained new strength each time it touched a new frontier’ (Turner 1921, 294). In Chandler’s novels the pastoral environment outside of the Western city acts as an outlet from the pressures of the urban environment and as a ‘return to nature’ in the same vein as the work of Ernest Hemingway. Returning to nature (usually through the act of fishing) offers peace and clarity of mind for both Nick Adams in the short story ‘Big Two-Hearted River’ (1925) and Jake Barnes in the novel The Sun Also Rises (1926). Frederic Henry’s escape to neutral Switzerland in Hemingway’s  First World War novel A Farewell to Arms (1929), and Henry’s subsequent retreat with Catherine to a ‘brown wooden house in the pine trees on the side of a mountain’ (1994, 257), provides a counterpoint to the on-going conflict and battle taking place in neighbouring Italy. Richard Lehan observes that Hemingway’s work highlights the fact that ‘the places that remained untouched by urbanization were becoming fewer and fewer’



(1998, 254) and the natural world offered rejuvenation from the dirge of urban life. As Ralph Waldo Emerson noted in his 1836 essay ‘Nature’: ‘In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life… which nature cannot repair’ (American Classics Library 2012, 9). In this space, and ‘in the presence of nature, a wild delight runs though the man, in spite of real sorrow’ (American Classics Library 2012, 8). The natural environment offers a safe location for those seeking to escape past traumas. Emerson notes that ‘Nature is a setting that fits… a mourning piece’ because, ‘Nature never wears a mean appearance’ (American Classics Library 2012, 8, 7): In the woods […] a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever [sic] of life, is always a child. In the woods is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years… In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature. (American Classics Library 2012, 8–9)

Marlowe’s embracing of nature allows him to regain a sense of innocence and virtue that has been lost to the city and recuperate from the tumult of conflict and hostilities encountered during his investigations. Turner’s thesis also suggests that the frontier acts as a line representing American advancement and evolution, a line that represents the violence of living on ‘the outer edge of the wave’ (4). As the representative ‘meeting point between savagery and civilization’ (Turner 1921, 4), Chandler’s novels utilize the concept of living ‘at the hither edge of free land’ (Turner 1921, 4) by juxtaposing nature’s ‘poetical sense’ (American Classics Library 2012, 7) with the criminality that abounds in Marlowe’s Los Angeles. In place of the promise, opportunity, and freedom offered by Turner’s ‘West’, Chandler presents the City of Angels as a nightmarish landscape littered with the criminal and corrupt. A site of lost hope, it is a landscape reminiscent not of freedom, liberty, or independence, but conflict, violence, and decay. Society’s fragmentation increasingly disturbed Chandler as it progressively placed the accumulation of wealth and power above all else regardless of the consequences, and to the detriment of moral and ethical values. Chandler’s cynicism towards affluence endured throughout his life and his



distaste for wealth and rampant consumerism is obvious in his later work. He captured the essence of this increasingly volatile urban environment, and the hypocrisy that lay behind it, when he said critically in 1954: The country through its enormous talent for manufacture has worked itself into an economy of overproduction, which is probably a permanent economy. Half the world is starving, or at any rate badly underfed, yet we have to have a new refrigerator and a new automobile every year or so. If we don’t, we feel inferior because we are made to feel inferior. The kind of economy we have can only continue to exist if there is an enormous artificial wastage of manufactured products. We get that kind of waste in war. In time of peace you have to try to create it artificially by advertising. (qtd. in Gardiner and Walker. 1971, 171)

Like many Lost Generation writers, Chandler recognizes the selfish nature of society. The increasing decadence and the decline in moral standards in Chandler’s Los Angeles is something Marlowe vehemently resists; he bitterly resents the effect of money and modernity upon the changing face of the city. In The Little Sister (1949), a novel that deals freely with Marlowe’s disillusionment towards the effects of modernity, and specifically Hollywood, the detective says: ‘California, the department-store state… More movie stars. More pink and blue bath-tubs. More tufted beds. More Chanel No. 5. More Lincoln Continentals and Cadillacs. More windblown hair and sunglasses and attitudes and pseudo-refined voices and waterfront morals’ (Chandler 1955, 79–80). Demonstrating the passage of time by contrasting the pre- and post-war urban environment and its moral standards, Marlowe later laments: I used to like this town…A long time ago. There were trees along Wilshire Boulevard. Beverly Hills was a country town. Westwood was bare hills and lots offering at eleven hundred dollars and no takers. Hollywood was a bunch of frame houses on the inter-urban line. Los Angeles was just a big dry sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but good hearted and peaceful… Now we’ve got the big money, the sharp shooters, the percentage workers, the fast dollar boys, the hoodlums out of New York and Chicago and Detroit—and Cleveland. We’ve got the flash restaurants and night clubs they run, and the hotels and apartment houses they own, and the grifters and con men and female bandits that live in them. The luxury trades, the pansy decorators, the Lesbian dress designers, the riff-raff of a big hard-­ boiled city with no more personality than a paper cup. Out in the fancy



suburbs dear old Dad is reading the sports page in front of a picture window, with his shoes off, thinking he is high class because he has a three-car garage. Mom is in front of her princess dresser trying to paint the suitcases out from under her eyes. And junior is clamped on to the telephone calling up a succession of high-school girls that talk pidgin English and carry contraceptives in their make-up kit. (Chandler 1955, 181–2)

Marlowe clearly recognizes the difference between the pre- and post-war urban environment, suggesting his return to the city finds it a changed place that is selfish and ugly; in his own words Los Angeles has become a ‘big hard-boiled city with no more personality than a paper cup’ (Chandler 1955, 181–2). The opening sentences to this section also hark back to a simpler time, when nature still permeated the urban environment and Los Angeles was a ‘country town’ with ‘bare hills’ and streets ‘lined with trees’. The Little Sister clearly shows that these differences concern both Chandler and his detective. The war is a pivotal event for Marlowe because it signals the advent of a ‘new’ and ‘modern’ urban environment that corresponds with the decadence, crime, and corruption he encounters in his cases. And in a manner reminiscent of many other writers of the era, by noting the contrast between pre-war Los Angeles—a time when he felt comfortable with the city—and the condition of the city by the 1940s, there is a clear sense of nostalgia for a world changed by war. Chandler used the evolving and decaying cityscape as a metaphor for the decline in social accountability, and with it, society’s ignorance and renunciation of war veterans. Chandler’s explicit inclusion of veteran characters is obvious throughout his body of work and includes The Big Sleep’s General Sternwood, The Lady in the Lake’s Bill Chess, The Long Goodbye’s Terry Lennox and Roger Wade, in addition to Johnny Morrison and Buzz Wancheck in Chandler’s screenplay for the film The Blue Dahlia (1946). Yet, Chandler also succeeds in portraying society’s contemptuous reception of returning veterans. In the 1939 short story ‘The Lady in the Lake’ (which Chandler later be expanded to create the novel of the same name), he contrasts the image of the war-wounded veteran Bill Chess, who has an injury ‘copped […] in France’, with a Sheriff who believes that, ‘veterans give themselves too many privileges in my opinion’ (Chandler 1966, 333, 348). For the novel, The Lady in the Lake, a story of ambiguously shifting identities, deceit, and police corruption written shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, Chandler introduces the character of Lieutenant Al Dergamo, a tough-guy who consistently disrespects the soldiers



guarding a dam at Little Fawn Lake by saying ‘nuts to you’, and belittles the military by referring to a sentry as ‘soldier boy’ (1952, 218). Those who experience combat undergo an alteration of social status and feel that ‘having been to hell and back, they are different’ (Tick 2005, 98). The attitudes they encounter upon their return compound this feeling of rejection. For many veterans returning after the Great War, America seemed dominated by unregulated free market capitalism and increased mechanization. Social decadence made it seem as though the nation had abandoned all morality in favour of an advanced consumer-oriented economy. The decade following the First World War was a time that contrasted bustling new wealth and dismal poverty. However, society’s decadence was washed away by the economic crash of October 1929, and as Michael Parish notes, the Wall Street Crash represented a ‘curtain call for flush times’ (1994, 217). Furthermore, the subsequent Great Depression affected the entire country, and Chandler was no exception. Having been unemployed since his dismissal from the Dabney Oil Company in 1932, Paul Meador notes that the experience taught him ‘not to take anything for granted’ (1982, 145). However, rather than joining the millions of Americans that waited in ‘unemployment and bread lines, knocked on doors, applied for relief, sold apples, joined the Marines, hopped freight trains, hitchhiked toward any rumor of work, became prostitutes, begged, borrowed, or stole’ (Meador 1982, 144), Chandler was fortunate enough to be able to stay at home and write. Living on an extremely tight budget, he said later, ‘I never slept in the park, but I came damn close to it. I went five days without anything to eat but soup once… It didn’t kill me, but neither did it increase my love of humanity’ (qtd in Meador 1982, 145–6). Witnessing the city in such a desperate state allowed Chandler an inside view of the Great Depression’s aftermath. Meador argues that ‘Chandler was not simply a Los Angeles resident. He was a scientist dissecting a native society and recording detailed notes. He classified the facts and resonances of Southern California with the precision of a cultural historian and anthropologist combined’ (1982, 146). Chandler uses the passing of time, and the duration of the First World War specifically, to highlight the increased depravity and declining morality of the city. In Chandler’s work, the city becomes a battleground for both the moral compass of its citizens and the traumatic consciousness of the detective. When understood as a war veteran, Marlowe can be seen as reliving his wartime experiences in a different type of battle where the trenches of northern France have been replaced by the hard-boiled streets of Los



Angeles. For Chandler, the reality of war is given a coarse urban setting in which Los Angeles suffers an invasion of ‘big money, the sharp shooters, the percentage workers, the fast dollar boys, the hoodlums’ (1955, 181). The theme of the ‘war brought home’ sees Los Angeles represented as a No Man’s Land associated with loss, displacement, despair, and confusion, especially for veterans. The Lady in the Lake (1943), in particular, records the estrangement and alienation that war brought to Chandler’s work and is reflected in Marlowe’s observation that ‘Time seemed to have lost its grip on me. And almost everything else. I was flat out’ (1952, 199). The oppositional theme of pastoral versus urban is a tradition of American literature that has captured the imagination of many American writers. The escape from the urban jungle to the rural environment is a literary cry against the waves of modernity washing the United States in the first half of twentieth century by those who considered American innocence to be lost. It is observed most clearly in some of the later literature of the Lost Generation, such as Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts (1933), which provides a condemnation of both society’s alienation and the invasion of commoditization into American social life. The world depicted in Miss Lonelyhearts, like Chandler’s Los Angeles, is incapable of providing solutions or solace because each obstruction ultimately has a systemic cause. In Chandler’s work ‘the city has become a degenerative system’ (Lehan 1998, 253) that can only be escaped by seeking sanctuary in nature. What Chandler adds to the pastoral/urban tradition, however, is a more complex time/space dynamic. As a war-traumatized veteran the detective requires time away from this ‘front line’ in order to regain his sense of morality, and the space required for this is the pastoral environment. In contrast to the often degenerate city, the areas outside Los Angeles are described as almost Edenic; in The Lady in the Lady, for example, the fictional Little Fawn Lake is likened to ‘a drop of dew caught in a curled leaf’ (Chandler 1952, 34). In the novel, Marlowe’s case also takes him to Puma Lake where the pastoral environment is in stark contrast to the urban environment and the detective’s relief at escaping the city is clear in his reflection that ‘the war did not seem to have done anything to Puma Lake’ (Chandler 1952, 32). Marlowe visibly relaxes into the environment, stating, ‘I… walked out on the little pier. I leaned on the wooden railing at the end of it… The air was peaceful and calm and sunny and held a quiet you don’t get in cities. I could have stayed there for hours doing



nothing but forgetting’ (Chandler 1952, 45–6). It is a poignant reminder of Marlowe’s nostalgia for the pre-war world. By contrasting the serenity of Puma Lake with the disquiet of the city, Marlowe provides a counterpoint for his feelings regarding the urban environment. Published in 1944, at the height of the Second World War, The Lady in the Lake can be read as Chandler’s own struggle with his thoughts regarding the conflict in Europe. Writing to his publisher in August 1939, he noted that ‘The effort to keep my mind off the war has reduced me to the mental age of seven’ (qtd, MacShane 1981, 9), and by the summer of 1943 Chandler’s biographer Tom Hiney notes that the writer was feeling ‘mentally finished’ (1997, 134). In Chandler’s final novel, Playback (1961), Marlowe must, again, leave the city in order to follow suspected criminal Betty Mayfield to the town of Esmerelda, close to San Diego. That the majority of the novel’s plot then takes place outside of Los Angeles is no coincidence. By the mid-­1940s Chandler himself had become so disillusioned with Los Angeles that his growing frustration with the city is palpable in his novels. Yearning to escape the impropriety of Los Angeles, in 1946 he and his wife, Cissy, moved to La Jolla, close to San Diego, in southern California. There is little doubt that the fictional Esmerelda is based on Chandler’s own shore-­ side retreat of La Jolla. Similarly, Chandler’s unfinished novel, Poodle Springs, which was posthumously completed by Robert B. Parker in 1988, is also based away from Los Angeles. In a mocking reference to Palm Springs (where Chandler used to vacation), Chandler resumed the novel where Playback finishes—outside of the Los Angeles metropolis in the self-contained resort of Poodle Springs, bordered by the San Bernardino National Forest, San Jacinto Mountains, natural hot springs, and the Sonoran Desert. Although Parker’s ending to the novel sees Marlowe return to Los Angeles, it is interesting to theorize whether Chandler would have chosen a different finale or whether he too would have returned the detective to the ruthless city. Of the post-war upsurge and expansion of the urban environment Ralph Willett notes that: writers of hard-boiled novels, especially Chandler, Cain and their Hollywood counterparts… constructed a sinister, malignant image of Los Angeles, exploding the myth of the city as a golden nirvana gracing the California coast… LA’s fragmentation has produced a city of strangers, where the claims of the community are acknowledged less strongly. (1996, 20)



Los Angeles during the inter-war period is an alienating force that breeds fear and uncertainty. However, it has been suggested that by remaining on the city’s periphery Marlowe ultimately ‘helps personalize the city; he cuts through its anonymity and assembles the pieces of the narrative’s mystery’ (Lehan 1998, 252). However, this is not strictly accurate. Marlowe never achieves a sense of accomplishment at solving his cases and therefore fails to cut through the anonymity and alienation of the urban metropolis. In fact, Marlowe is constantly under attack from opposing camps eager to deceive, manipulate, and slow his progress. Even the city is constantly resisting efforts to decode its confusing and alienating structure, and as William Wilson notes: ‘No hero of a city novel escapes feelings of desperate loneliness in the midst of the urban throng’ (1974, 120), especially if they are a veteran of war. Time, therefore, does not heal all wounds. Although a resident of Los Angeles, Marlowe is consistently on the ‘edge’ of the city; as a veteran he is an observer to the city’s malevolence and bears the brunt of the socially isolating environment. He does not wish to engage with what he views as society-gone-bad, yet he is consistently pulled back into what Lehan calls Los Angeles’s ‘urban hell’ (1998, 259). As Marlowe almost acceptingly states at the end of The Big Sleep: ‘What did it matter where you lay once you were dead?… You were sleeping the big sleep, not caring about any the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now’ (Chandler 1949, 220). Just as the city isolates its inhabitants, it is also unwilling to acknowledge its returning veterans, which Peter Aichinger suggests, ‘provide an adequate symbol of the selfishness of society’ (1975, 18). Marlowe is, therefore, ‘an outsider… motivated by personal ideals that are implicit moral comments on the degeneration of America’ (Lehan 1998, 252). The detective’s urban story ‘is cynical, his ideals tenuous, his accomplishments morally dubious’ because literary narratives and expressions at the time reflect the destructive impact of time upon the city and ‘the eroding of expectations as America moved west’ (Lehan 1998, 252), and specifically that ‘history’ has become a mere process. As a key element of the hard-boiled style, the city is what drives the plot and the protagonist. Yet Chandler’s Marlowe breaks free from the stereotypical urban noir and acknowledges the importance of the pastoral environment as a counterpoint to the frenetic city. Marlowe manages only brief respite from the city in the novels The Lady in the Lake and Playback, but these occasions provide us with noteworthy intermissions through which to evaluate the detective’s state of mind. They also suggest a form



of healing that takes place in the natural environment reminiscent of areas away from the battlefield during conflict. Although the detective is instinctively drawn to the noir landscape, with its post-war intensity and chaotic force, the disillusion with which Marlowe reacts to the city is palpable. In The Little Sister the character Delores Gonzales remarks to the detective: ‘You are a ridiculous character, amigo. You really are. I did not know they made such people any more’. To which Marlowe replies ‘Pre-war stock…We’re getting scarcer every day’ (Chandler 1955, 160–1). Marlowe is an anti-hero out of his depth in the overwhelming environment of 1940s Los Angeles. He no longer feels that he belongs. In an analogy that demonstrates the furrowed and dispirited passing of time, Marlowe is left feeling like a ‘page from yesterday’s calendar crumpled at the bottom of the waste basket’ (Chandler 1955, 177). The past has literally become irrelevant and surplus to the needs of the fast-moving, forward thinking city. The dispiriting effect on Marlowe is evident throughout the novel as he gradually becomes ‘depressed by the restless emptiness of everything, the lack of human communication, the indifference and the ugliness’ (MacShane 1976, 151) of the world around him. Woody Haut argues that Chandler ‘single handedly reinvent[ed] the genre’ by ‘successfully decoding the culture’, revealing the sordid reality of a society ‘saturated with crime and corruption’ (1995, 68–69). As a war veteran who had endured the physical battlefields of the First World War, Chandler positioned his protagonist on his own front line; a generational ‘No Man’s Land’ that draws the detective further into its dark underbelly. The city becomes an analogy for the post-war trauma blighting veterans, constantly pulling them back towards the darkness of combat, confrontation, and a distressing moment in their personal and national history. Chandler’s West Coast literature becomes the antithesis of Turner’s Frontier Thesis by presenting the West as a site of disillusionment and corruption that denies social equality and individualism. To counter the capitalist monopoly and rabid consumerism that exist in Los Angeles Marlowe looks to the wilderness for refuge; he seeks comfort in the pastoral locations outside the city and immerses himself in the quiet calm of the natural environment. Chandler’s work is therefore far more sophisticated that has previously been recognized; the novels are reminiscent of the post-war disillusionment of the American Lost Generation and also suggest a belief in the inherent goodness and nurturing power of nature. Ultimately, it is the alienating city space and the time in which he is writing—even history itself—that proves to be the most painful obstacle for Chandler’s traumatized urban detective.



Notes 1. For an in-depth examination of Chandler’s war experiences and the implied veteran status of his protagonist, please see Trott, Sarah, War Noir: Raymond Chandler and the Hard Boiled Detective as Veteran in American Fiction (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2016). 2. See Trott, War Noir. Chapter two specifically discusses Chandler’s combat experience with the Canadian Corps during the First World War, and chapters four, five, and six examine how Chandler’s protagonist can be reinterpreted as a war veteran.

References Aichinger, Peter. 1975. The American Soldier in Fiction 1880–1963: A History of Attitudes Towards Warfare and the Military Establishment. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press. American Classics Library. 2012. Two Environmental Classics: Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature & Henry David Thoreau’s Walking. Chandler, Raymond. 1949 [1940]. Farewell, My Lovely. London: Penguin Books. ———. 1952 [1944]. The Lady in the Lake. London: Penguin Books. ———. 1955 [1949]. The Little Sister. London: Penguin Books. ———. 1961 [1958]. Playback. London: Penguin Books. ———. 1966. Killer in the Rain. London: Penguin Books. ———. 1970 [1939]. The Big Sleep. London: Penguin Books, 1970 [1939]. Print. ———. 1988 [1944]. The Simple Art of Murder. New York: Vintage Books. Directorate of History and Heritage. “Confidential War Diary of 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade.” March-May 1918. Collections Canada. Correspondence. 6 March 2008. Photocopy. Gardiner, Dorthy, and Katherine Sorley Walker, eds. 1971. Raymond Chandler Speaking. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. Haut, Woody. 1995. Pulp Culture: Hard-Boiled Fiction and the Cold War. London: Serpent’s Tail. Hemingway, Ernest.1994 [1929]. A Farewell to Arms. London, UK: Arrow. Hiney, Tom. 1997. Raymond Chandler: A Biography. New York: Grove Press. Lehan, Richard. 1998. The City in Literature: An Intellectual Cultural History. London: University of California Press. MacShane, Frank. 1976. The Life of Raymond Chandler. London, UK: Jonathan Cape. ———, ed. 1981. Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler. New York, NY: Delta. McCann, Sean. 2000. Gumshoe America: Hard Boiled Fiction and the Rise and Fall of New Deal Liberalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.



Meador, Roy. 1982. Chandler in the Thirties: Apprenticeship of an Angry Man. Forum 6 (2): 143–153. Nicholson, Colonel G.W.L. 1962. Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914–1919. Published by authority of the Honourable Douglas S. Harkness, P.C., G.M., M.P., Minister of National Defence, and printed by Roger Duhamel F.R.S.C. Queen’s Printer and Controller of Stationary: Ottawa. Owen, Joseph. 1965. Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen. New York: New Directions. Parish, Michael E. 1994. Anxious Decades: American Prosperity and Depression, 1920–1941. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. Shields, Rob. 1994. “Fancy Footwork: Walter Benjamin’s Notes on flânerie” in The Flâneur by Keith Tester. ed. London: Routledge. Tick, Edward. 2005. War and the Soul: Healing our Nation’s Veterans and their Families. Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books. Turner, Frederick Jackson. 1921. The Significance of the Frontier in American History. In The Frontier in American History. New  York: Henry Holt and Company. Willett, Ralph. 1996. The Naked City: Urban Crime Fiction in the USA. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Wilson, William H. 1974. Coming of Age: Urban America 1915–1945. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Spatio-Temporal Reterritorializing of Queer Urban Spaces and Bodies in Bai Xianyong’s Taipei Novel Nei Zi 孽子 (Crystal Boys, 1983) Jean Amato

In 1983,1 when Bai Xianyong白先勇, a Modernist Chinese American writer from Taiwan, published Nei Zi 孽子 (Evil Son),2 it was the first modern Taiwanese novel centered on male, same sex desire. Howard Goldblatt’s 1990 English translation is titled Crystal Boys.3 Bai’s novel Nei Zi focuses on a tongzhi同志 (homosexual)4 community of hustlers in Taipei in 1970, as told by a homeless teenager. During this period, the Guomindang (Nationalist) party ruled Taiwan, the Republic of China, under an extended period of strict martial law (1949–1987), while promoting traditional Confucian and patriarchal values as the central controlling mechanism of its nationalistic rhetoric. Bai’s novel demonstrates how, from within a seemingly monolithic superstructure of the city, the

J. Amato (*) Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY, New York, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_13




characters’ ongoing creation of hybrid queer public and private spaces produces temporary cracks in the hegemonic patriarchal structure. Bai’s 1983 novel has also inspired a series of Taiwanese adaptations in film, television, and the stage over the past few decades. In 1986, when director Yu Kan-ping 虞戡平adaptated Nei Zi into a film by the same name (English title: Outsiders) it was the first licensed commercial gay film released in Taiwan. Cao Ruiyuan’s 曹瑞原 2003 adaptation of Nei Zi into a popular mainstream Taiwanese miniseries was also the first to address male homosexuality in public television. Cao and Bai Xianyong collaborated on a stage adaptation of Nei Zi for the Taiwan National Theater in 2014. The passage of time between each adaptation of Nei Zi, from 1986, 2003 and 2014, can reveal multifaceted, fluid, and overlapping spatialtemporal iterations of public and private queer urban spaces and stories of continuance and community. I focus on how three key urban spaces intersect with different conceptions of time in Bai’s novel and its subsequent adaptations. After first examining domestic space in a military dependents’ residential village, I turn to a highly politicized and historically significant public park and an underground gay bar, both in the heart of Taipei’s governmental, business, nightlife and brothel districts. Rather than view these multilayered urban spaces as ‘static slices through time,’ I turn to cultural geographer Doreen Massey’s call to reveal them as a multiplicity of contrasting temporalities that are ‘open, multiple and relational, unfinished and always becoming […] If time is to be open then space must be open too’ (1995, 59). Massey urges us to view places as ‘as temporal and not just spatial: as set in time as well as space’ (1995, 186). Bai’s novel, in particular, interrogates ideas of homogenous space as it points to a more open and fluid reading of Taipei’s cityscape as always in process—a juxtaposition of spatial-­temporal trajectories involving queer bodies, desires, and communities all undergoing continual ‘negotiation[s] with the hegemonic identities and stories we tell’ (Massey 2005: 158–9). Bai’s novel begins with a description of how a few months prior, the father of the main character A-Qing, chased him out of his home with a string of curses. This is followed by his high school’s official notice from May 5, 1970, expelling him for engaging in ‘an immoral act…that damaged the reputation of the school’ (Bai 1990, 1). A flashback eventually reveals that A-Qing was caught having sex for cash at school with a much older adult supervisor the day after his beloved little brother died from tuberculosis (69–70). Driven from his home, A-Qing runs to Taipei’s



New Park (renamed 228 Memorial Park in 1996), the still-thriving site of a long-established gay male cruising area, unobtrusively nestled between buildings of the nation’s capital and commerce center. The narrative describes the park and the deep friendships A-Qing forms with a group of young destitute gay hustlers based there.5 While heavily downplayed in all the subsequent adaptations, the novel centers on these male prostitutes and cross-generational gay relationships. The novel’s principle theme is an enduring familial sense of community and continuance A-Qing forms with the hustlers and a few elders centered on the park. A-Qing and his new friends are under the ‘protection’ of Chief Yang, a middle-aged, self-­ appointed park guru who looks after their safety and well-being while also functioning as their consensual pimp. Every evening, the characters re-­ signify the culturally, commercially, and politically saturated site of the park to reveal alternative temporalities. They continually refer to the park as their ‘anarchical kingdom,’ but are always acutely aware that it can offer them no protection from the voyeur-like intrusion of the outside world. After a police raid, some of the park elders try to open a gay bar with Chief Yang in the hopes of creating a safer private/public queer space named ‘Cozy Nest’ until a popular tabloid exposé draws in a parade of voyeuristic and taunting gawkers, forcing them to shut it down. At the end of Bai’s novel, A-Qing returns to the park to meet his friends after some time has passed. He runs into a homeless boy sleeping on the same bench that he slept on during his first night there and helps the young runaway much in the same way that one of the park’s older, self-­ appointed guardian/historians, Grandpa Gou helped him. Here, Nei Zi closes the plot in a circular fashion, with actions that suggest the continuity and coherence of an alternative community, an ongoing bond of brotherhood and spatio-temporal reterritorializing of queer urban spaces that, although fragmented and tenuous, still lives on. In addition to its overarching father/son theme, Bai’s novel is intently focused on the park as the central locus of the plot as all the characters keep returning there as their symbolic and literal home. Each adaptation of Bai’s novel consistently circles thematically, metaphorically, and visually around the park.

Background The son of a high ranking Guomindang general, Bai Xianyong’s family fled China in 1948 to Hong Kong when he was eleven, on the eve of the Communist victory. Four years later, his family settled in Taiwan and in



1963, he immigrated to the USA. Bai’s fiction is part of Haiwai Wenxue (Overseas Chinese Literature) popular from the 1960s to 1980s, during which authors in the USA published in Chinese for an overseas audience. Often preoccupied with the past, their work conveyed a simultaneous, bi-­ directional nostalgia—for Mainland China and a pre-industrial, rural Taiwan. Bai’s fiction, blended modernist techniques and traditional Chinese poetics that was imbued with a deep sense of rootlessness and homelessness. The exile motif in Taiwan’s modernist literature, not bound by geography or ethnicity, was more an embodiment of a cultural identity crisis, complicated by modernization, fierce political oppression and the growing global isolation of Taiwan at the time (see endnote 5). More importantly, Bai wrote Nie Zi over a decade after leaving Taiwan, thus adding simultaneous and multilayered gaps of place, time, distance and memory. As Svetlana Boym points out, ‘nostalgia appears to be a longing for a place but is actually a yearning for a different time’ (2007, 8). Bai’s fictional characters were usually Mainland émigrés in Taiwan or the USA, who held a deep nostalgia for the homeland, a sense of exile or rootlessness, and disillusionment with Taiwan’s growing political isolation that created a country in its own exile.6 Bai explained that Nie Zi addresses struggles between marginalized individuals and society’s attitudes towards the next generation (TPTF 2003). Early Nei Zi reviewers in the 1980s focused on the themes of father/son conflict and downtrodden communities while also often applying allegorical readings that echoed Taiwan’s precarious global and local situation at the time (Chang 1993). The characters were often read as victims, symptomatic of the problems facing Taiwanese youth, their orientation a result of poor family life and urban squalor, in a city and society gone bad (Ming 1982, 45–66). Renewed interest in Nie Zi in the mid-­1990s has led to a rich body of nuanced readings that track the novel and its always evolving reception and influence through the lens of queer theory and history of Taiwanese tongzhi identity politics (Chen 2011, 37). Using, as the mode of adaptation, an older, the 1970s Qiong Yao 琼瑶 styled, Taiwanese domestic melodrama, a genre over-determined by patriarchal ideologies (Hoare 1993, 33, 37, 41), Yu Kan-ping’s 1987 film Nei Zi sets Bai’s novel in the late 1980s when social anxieties around AIDS were surging in Taiwan. In the late 1980s, Taiwanese filmmakers, where still adapting literature from the influential root-searching nativist xiangtu wenxue 鄉土文學 movement, while at the same time reflecting a shift towards less government censorship (1983) and calls for democratic reform.7



In 2003, Taiwan Public Television released Cao Ruiyuan’s 20-episode drama Nie Zi to much success (TPTF 2003).8 Cao felt that Bai’s fiction beautifully reflected the ethos of the times while echoing an important part of Taiwan history that spoke to an entire generation (Ma 2015). Cao and Bai chose a lighter and more abstract approach for the stage version when they collaborated on their 2014 Nie Zi theatrical production. The play employs a non-linear, dreamlike style that merges past and present, reality and imagination with a set design centered almost completely on the park. While Bai has writing credits for all adaptations, he was most directly involved in the television series and play.

Home The very first words of Bai’s novel read as follows, ‘Three months and ten days ago…Father kicked me out of the house… He was screaming in a trembling, hoarse voice filled with anguish and fury: ‘YOU SCUM! YOU FILTHY SCUM’ (Bai 1990, 13). All of the Nie Zi adaptations closely parallel and emphasize this core dramatic scene in Bai’s novel where A-Qing’s father violently expels his son, chasing him down a dark alley. In fact, this is the melodramatic opening title sequence for every episode of Cai’s 2003, 20-part drama series. The descriptions of A-Qing’s family home are a vital feature of Bai’s novel. As Rosemary George reminds us ‘homes are not neutral locations; to imagine a home is as political an act as imagining a nation’ (1996, 6). Rich with social commentary, the novel’s representation of A-Qing’s decaying family home serves to interrogate ideas of Taipei as a homogenous site of modernization. A-Qing’s father is a discharged, low ranking veteran who, like many that fled China after the Communists’ victory, arrived penniless for an indefinite exile in Taiwan and were quietly forgotten. He is broken, drunken, abusive, and violent. Early in the novel, A-Qing’s young mother abandons her family to run off with another man, only to die destitute and alone from a venereal disease. A-Qing’s beloved little brother eventually dies from tuberculosis, in part due to their poor housing conditions, right before A-Qing is kicked out. Their home is in the military dependents’ 眷村 village, a remote ghetto of 1000 homes quickly assembled after 1949 for retired Guomindang soldiers. A significant part of Taipei’s urban landscape and political history, these were thrown together as temporary housing in accordance with the Guomindang’s master narrative that they would eventually take back and



liberate the mainland.9 Residents had no rights to the land since it was government property, so there were few improvements or renovations. Low-income mainlanders in these ghettos were caught up in a series of controversial demolitions and forced relocations in 1990s as part of the rapid urbanization trends of the period. In their adaptations of Bai’s novel, both Yu and Cai’s portrayals emphasize A-Qing’s home. Yu’s previous family melodramas often revealed tensions between rapid economic growth and ideological/spatial urban constrictions, focusing on how these pressures played out in domestic spaces. For example, his 1983 film, Papa Can You Hear Me Sing 搭錯車 centers on a poor army veteran in this village whose home is demolished and he dies abandoned after his daughter leaves to pursue fame. Spatial-­ temporal relations in Nie Zi suggest how urban development, economic growth, and planning intersects with bodies, locales, and left-behind communities that have conflicting relationships with this relentless flow of progress. Bai’s novel questions the views of modernizing Taipei as a homogenous space of progress. A-Qing describes his neighborhood on ‘Lane 28 of Longjiang Street’ as filled with rotting and ‘dilapidated’ wooden homes that were all ‘broken or crumbling…like a huddled pack of ragged beggars’ (Bai 1990, 46). It seemed as if they were ‘pushed and shoved by the taller buildings until they were about to crumble and slide into the river (Bai 1990, 63). His was the ‘the oldest,’ ‘darkest’ and most run-down home in this ‘dead-end of dead-ends’ lane where ‘decay hung over the area’ (Bai 1990, 46–47). It was ‘surrounded by a constant ‘overpowering stench’ from mountains of rotting trash and unpaved roads that turned into ‘rivers of foul, black, stagnant water’ in the rainy season (Bai 1990, 46). Filled with decay, mildew, chronic dampness, holes, and leaks from previous typhoon damage; the home was ‘was deathly still inside … as it quietly rotted’ (Bai 1990, 47). Bai’s novel reveals the park as a layered and contested space that reflects dynamic change and transformation. In contrast, A-Qing’s family home is an image of decay and stasis—ideologically solidified around fixed patriarchal representations of space and time. When A-Qing returns to that ‘familiar smell of decay,’ he feels ‘nothing had changed’ in his ‘ruined, chaotic home,’ where time seemed to stand still (Bai 1990, 178). Except for a layer of dust over everything, he finds his room untouched since he left months ago (Bai 1990, 178).



For A-Qing, home in Bai’s novel is a space of inertia, guilt and loss. After his mother dies, A-Qing goes back, while his father is out, to leave her ashes. When he returns there on the eve of a monsoon, ‘he felt an overwhelming sense of suffocation’ (Bai 1990, 265). His father still held out hope he would eventually ‘reject [his] sinful past and come home to start anew’ (Bai 1990, 177). Bai’s novel, however, makes it clear that A-Qing knows he can never return because he ‘couldn’t bear to the look of anguish on his father’s devastated face’ over losing his wife, younger son and now older son (Bai 1990, 177). Bai’s Nei Zi is filled with images the cast-out son, who by engaging in homosexual acts, is destined to be physically and symbolically positioned outside of the dominant patriarchal culture. A-Qing affirms this by leaving a note about his mother’s death on a piece of hotel stationery that still had his last male client’s phone number scrawled on it (Bai 1990, 178). He then describes a painful realization, running straight back to the park. I left everything where it was, closed the door behind me, and walked outside…the rain pelted my face painfully. I ran down the lane into the wind, faster and faster, until it was the same scene over again. When I reached the end of the lane I turned and looked back. Just then I felt the sobs building inside me, and the tears began to flow. This time I really knew how miserable it was to give up your home. (Bai 1990, 178)

As imagined spaces, homes are shifting sites of intersecting territorial, temporal, cultural, familial, national, and individual affiliations. The narration of an ancestral home and a homeland is, in part, an individualized expression of a relationship with a conceptualized idea of origin, native space, and place. Added to the spatio-temporal gap of overseas nostalgia built into Bai’s novel, published a decade later in America, the portrayal of A-Qing’s home and sense of homelessness has wider implications. Both Yu’s 1986 film and Cai’s 2003 drama series show A-Qing sneaking back into his family home when the father is out to leave the ashes. In Cai’s 2003 drama series A-Qing hides and watches his father return before he walks away. However, in Yu’s film, the cinematic organization of space centers on a long take with the father located inside the home. The son is positioned outside, peering into the home, partially framed by a window and filled with torment as he looks at his father while he is drenched by the storm—forever outside. Yu’s film often seems to reinforce public/private binaries for the point of view of the assumed viewer, who is ideologically



located on the inside of the patriarchal and domestic space, looking out at the spectacle of the homeless gay ‘outsider’ as a violent monsoon begins to rip the house apart. In Cao’s more contemporary 2014 theatrical adaptation, the set design no longer positions A-Qing as ideologically outside the family home by using transparent windows and walls positioned in the back of the stage while A-Qing is featured center stage wrestling with his guilt. Whether intentional or not, this serves to effectively reduce the ideological power of patriarchy and domestic space as they are downplayed in the performance. In Yu’s film, after he is kicked out, the camera immediately draws the viewer to an image of A-Qing shaking with fear and cold, huddled in the dark corners of the dark, foggy, and threatening park. When the older pimp/mentor Chief Yang first comes across this figure of pathos he seems to speak for the intended viewer asking, ‘Shouldn’t you be going home, son?’ This didactic message seems to frame the entire film, from opening until resolution. After A-Qing is cast out in Yu’s film, his family home and its surroundings undergo further physical and symbolic destruction that increases in proportion to the family’s breakdown. The saturated imagery of the cluttered household objects in the home reveals a cultural energy turning in on its self. Shown as a shack, vulnerable to the elements and covered with dust and mold, we see close up shots of an interior infested with filth, roaches and clutter. The film closes with an invented scene (not in Bai’s novel) with A-Qing smiling as he makes his way back to his father’s home bearing gifts, for his first visit back. The sun comes out for the first time in the film and his violent and alcoholic father is miraculously reformed as he prepares for his son’s visit. We see the father happily repairing, tidying up and dusting off the family pictures in what has suddenly become a bright, clean, and well-ordered home. Cai’s more contemporary drama series and stage adaptations sidestep A-Qing’s permanent sense of exile by inserting a scene where he takes a small step towards reconciliation with his father on Chinese New Year by placing a gift outside the door, left unresolved. They also echo the thematic focus of the novel as they circle back to the park for affirmation and continuance rather than stasis. In contrast, Yu’s film closes with this invented scene where we find the ‘newly reformed’ prodigal son returning. While all the plots are circular in each adaptation, the original novel, drama series and 2014 play point outward to possible alternative queer communities, brotherhoods, subjectivities, sites and futures; whereas Yu’s film turns inward to its only option—turning back the clock, as all roads lead back to the father.



The Park Individual narrative negotiations of an ancestral home are always simultaneously personal and communal. Bai’s thematic preoccupation with the themes of exile, rootlessness, and homelessness saturates his portrayals of the home and the park in Nie Zi. Bai consistently reinforces a nomadic sense of homelessness for A-Qing and his friends. Grandpa Gou, one of the park elders, echoes this theme, ‘All you wild youngsters who’ve grown up on this island have that strain of wildness in your blood…You’re a bunch of fledglings who’ve lost your nest…struggling to keep flying ahead, with no idea where you’ll wind up (Bai 1990, 81). A few older clients, ‘sugar daddies,’ and mentors try to help A-Qing and his friends find housing and stable career paths, but they seem unable to settle down. While ‘wondering alone, never knowing where [his] next meal was coming from,’ waking up in a stranger’s bed after hustling, A-Qing ‘felt a longing for some place [he] could call [his] own. But…[he] always found an excuse to slip away…running…faster and faster, all the way to the park without stopping’ (Bai 1990, 109). As the central locus of the plot, Bai’s novel opens and circles back to rich extended descriptions of the park as their kingdom and symbolic home. The area between our borders is pitifully small, no more than two or three hundred meters long by a hundred meters wide, that narrow strip of land surrounding the oval lotus pond in Taipei’s New Park on Guanqian street…It’s as though our kingdom were surrounded and hidden by a tightly woven fence—cut off from the outside world, isolated for the time being. But we are always keenly aware of the constant threat to our existence by the boundless world on the other side of the fence… Loudspeakers from beyond the trees frequently broadcast sensational news from the outside world. (Bai 1990, 17–18)

Rather than sealing it ‘up into one neat and tidy envelope of space-time,’ Doreen Massey urges us to recognize that a place, such as the park, also ‘stretch[es] through time’ and that ‘what has come together, in this place, now, is a conjunction of many histories and many spaces’(1995, 190–191). In Taipei, where space is the most valuable commodity, the park embodies tensions between converging territorial positions in a setting that includes government buildings, lotus ponds, traditional pagodas, an MRT station, playgrounds, and much more. This public park also conveys simultaneous and diverse political ideologies, with a temporal layering of monuments



from four distinct decades of political rule, including ruins from the end of the Qing Dynasty and instillations from the Japanese Occupation to Guomindang rule. After it was renamed ‘228 Peace Memorial Park’ 二二 八和平公園 in 1996 to commemorate the February 28 massacre and subsequent Reign of White Terror (1949–1987) in Taiwan’s oppressive past, it is now the site of the 228 memorial and museum. The park is brimming with the full flow of daily city life: retired men arguing politics or playing Go, early dawn tai chi or dance groups, students chatting, couples kissing, joggers and commuters passing through the MRT station, workers having lunch, people getting their fortune read, staging protests, or taking elaborate wedding photos. At night, the park has always been widely known as a gay cruising area even during the Japanese Imperial Era (Allen 2007, 106). Beyond a few scattered bathhouses and clubs, it was still the central male cruising area well into the late 1990s. It has now expanded into the Ximen area, where hundreds of cafés, bars, clubs, and retailers catering to the LGBTQ+ community and tourists have created one of the world’s most lively and progressive urban gayborhoods. Beyond cruising, the park has remained a vital social hub, tourist site, political site and meeting place (Martin 2003, 54). It still holds a deeply nostalgic and symbolic home base in the hearts of many older gay men in Taipei. In part due to Bai’s novel, it is ‘decisively linked with the subject of tongxinlian’ 同性戀 (same-sex desire) and serves as the central organizing point for the annual gay pride parade, LGBTQ+ activism, protests, and tours (Martin 2003, 47). The characters in Bai’s novel, even as their lives break into different paths, are all drawn back to the park as a symbolic home as if by invisible forces. Grandpa Guo warns A-Qing and his friends, ‘It always happens like this. You think there’s a great big world out there, don’t’ you? Well someday, someday for sure. You’ll all come flying back to the nest’ (Bai 1990, 18). A-Qing explains that each time they returned to the park, All the differences among the old, the middle-aged, and the young, the high-class and the low…the suffering and the contented, simply vanished on the steps of the lotus pond in [their] secret kingdom. We stood there as equals …we began to move, stepping on each other’s shadows…for all our footsteps in that kingdom of ours wrote a page of history on the steps of the lotus pond. (Bai 1990, 232)



The daily temporal flows of urban life and the continual transformations of the park are key themes in all the versions of Nei Zi. If we turn to Yu’s film as an example, it amplifies a staging of the park as a dark and threatening site—for cruising, sexual excess passion and murder. One scene starts with a wide-angle view of the park by day with images of modern space shared by diverse social and capital needs. Undergoing a complete transformation, the frame then slowly fades into a night shot where men start making their rounds cruising. They are often presented as dark shadowy figures in long shots, their silhouettes framed with deep blue hues, complete with mist and sinister background music. This cloak of darkness also functions as a prevailing metaphor for the park throughout Bai’s novel but it is presented more as a complex emblem of refuge and escape. A-Qing explains, ‘there are no days in our kingdom, only nights. As soon as the sun comes up, our kingdom goes into hiding, for it is an unlawful nation’ (Bai 1990, 17). Here bodies and spaces are in constant transformation, as the hours of the day and the functions of public space are inexorably intertwined. The tongzhi ‘kingdom’ of the park is also ‘described as occupying an undecidable place in relation to visuality… between dark and light,’ day and night (Martin 2003, 189): Our kingdom came to life in the darkness. The steps around the lotus pond were filled with shadows of moving figures. We started coming to life as night fell, throwing its protective cover of darkness over us…moving round and round the steps of the lotus pond in a ceremonial dance in frantic pursuit of each other long into the night, until dawn began to break. Late at night, in the wee hours…the deserted, defenseless streets belonged only to us. (Bai 1990, 29, 41)

As a multiplicity of contrasting temporalities, the park in Bai’s novel presents a fleeting sense of security mixed in with agency, which surges and ebbs under outside pressures. While every evening, the location of the park disrupts official or sanctioned uses of space, a central theme here is that the establishment of any so-called queer territory is simultaneously transitory and tenuous. Set in the 1970s, still during the Martial Law era, this ‘kingdom’ was always vulnerable to any form of outside intervention and often subject to police or media raids.



We prick up our ears like a herd of frightened antelope in a predator-infested forest, forever on guard against the slightest sign of danger…every sound carries a warning. We listen for the sound of the policemens’ hobnailed boots as they march past the green barrier that separates us; the minute we hear that they are invading our territory, we scatter and flee as if on command…Our anarchical kingdom can offer us no protection; we must rely on our animal instincts as we grope in the dark for a path to survival. (Bai 1990, 17)

While homosexual acts were not illegal according to code at the time of Bai’s novel, government laws contained vague provisions such as strict Martial Law curfews and allegations of prostitution, disturbing the peace or loitering that were sometimes used to harass gays in public spaces (Martin 2003, 62).

Cozy Nest After a string of police raids on the park, the characters try to create a gay bar called ‘Cozy Nest’ as a space free from the disapproving gaze of mainstream society. Every evening starting at 8 PM, ‘this basement tavern of 360 square feet’ drew its gay clientele ‘from all over […] spontaneously forming a single body with no concern for age or social station’ (Bai 1990, 213). At night, the bar echoes the novel’s thematic representation of the layered or hidden times of urban queer spaces. Bai’s narrative, however, never deludes itself with the illusion of a lasting, safe queer space. At the close of the novel, Cozy Nest is forced to close down when word leaks out and a popular tabloid sends a reporter over for an undercover story, titled ‘Wandering Into a Den of Fairies’ (Bai 1990, 282). The sensationalized article focused on exposing a subaltern queer space, where people ‘from all walks of life’ share the same ‘affliction’ and gather to ‘taste the forbidden fruit’: In the heart of our fair city, on Lane 125 of Nanking East Road, there is a convergence of restaurants and nightclubs where the nights are witness to unusually bustling activity. And there, tucked in among the barbecues, coffee houses, and Japanese restaurants, shrouded in secrecy, is a tavern called the Cozy Nest. If the reader enters through the narrow door beside the Golden Angel and descends to the basement he will find himself in an amazingly different world, a den of fairies…a group of pretty-face, scarlet-lipped, giggling ‘fairies.’ (Bai 1990, 282)



The article points to a cultural signifier, the ‘Golden Angel,’ one of the many barbershops and coffeehouses that function as transparent covers for the city’s most upscale brothels that were intentionally overlooked by the authorities. As A-Qing describes, ‘our new haven…was tucked away in a corner of this bustling lane where, unless you were one of us, you would walk right past it without noticing’ (Bai 1990, 204). Its mere placement in the heart of a thriving international red-light district ‘that came to life when night fell’ threatens to interrupt a seamless performance of the heterosexual code (Bai 1990, 204). The article ends with this message, ‘but fairies travel different roads, and a den of fairies cannot long exist in human society’ (Bai 1990, 282). After the article was published, outside Taipei descended with voyeur-like curiosity and overran the bar, eventually forcing it to close (Bai 1990, 285). The novel’s focus on the bar’s forced closure confronted dilemmas around the establishment and continuance of any self-identified queer site in the 1980s that once named—was easily targeted, subjected to voyeurism, and ghettoized. For the gay community in all the adaptations, their history was a constant rebuilding of momentary refuges from the voyeur-like gaze of the outside world. At the end of the novel, after the forced closure of Cozy Nest, when Grandpa Guo sees A-Qing in the park again he explains, ‘that’s how it always is’ as he goes on to name all the underground gay bars that opened and were forced to close as they were ‘discovered’ over the last decade (Bai 1990, 320). Guo continues, ‘this one opens, that one closes, round and round it goes. They’re all gone without a trace. But this old nest of ours [the park] is still here, just waiting for the tired birds to come home to roost, to rest’ (Bai 1990, 320).10 Often, visions of hegemonic and heteronormative belonging narrate themselves through ideological mappings of patriarchal codes that represent space as a ‘closed system’ and ‘static slice through time’—as a means of ‘taming it’ (Massey 1995, 59). In the urban landscape of Bai’s novel and its adaptations, however; bodies, histories, stories, and places are always in flux and refuse to be pinned down into a particular imagined geography or time. The queer spaces in this novel are in a constant and open ‘state of becoming’ (Bai 1990, 59). As writer and art critic Lucy Lippard reminds us, Place is latitudinal and longitudinal…it is temporal and spatial, personal and political. A layered location replete with human histories and memories, place has width as well as depth. It is about connections, what surrounds it, what formed it, what happened there, what will happen there. (Lippard 1997, 7)



Nie Zi, and its many renderings, reveals the urban landscape of Taipei as a multiplicity of contrasting temporalities, identities, and trajectories that continue to reveal a ‘simultaneity of stories-so-far’ (Massey 2005, 24). The themes of exile, rootlessness and homelessness that permeate Nie Zi are exactly what support its tenacious and lasting relevance as critics, filmmakers, playwrights, activists, and artists continue to revisit and retell this tale, decades after its publication.

Notes 1. Bai Xianyong 白先勇 Nei Zi (Nieh-tzu) 孽子. Taipei: Yuanjing chu ban shiye gongsi, 1983. First serialized in Xiandai Wenxue (Modern Literature) 1977–1978 (Chen 2011, 397). 2. Nei Zi is usually translated as evil, bad, unfilial, or unworthy son; more literally a bastard or concubine’s son, born as a result of the sins of a past life with the potential to disrupt family order. 3. Based on the revised 2nd edition of Nei Zi (Horizon Publishing, Taipei, 1984). Crystal Boys, refers to boli quan 玻璃圈(glass circle/clique) a dated, derogatory slang term used for gay male prostitutes. 4. Tongzhi known as the PRC term for ‘comrade’ was a popular reference for gays and lesbians in Taiwan in the early 1990s. 5. The rootlessness motif, started in the 1930s during Japanese Occupation, was a label normally assigned works by mainland Taiwanese in the Modernist camp from the 1960s on. 6. For example, see Taipei Ren [Taipei Residents] 臺北人 (Taipei: Chenzhong Chubanshe, 1971). 7. This literary movement originated in the 1920s but resurged again from the 1970s to 1990s. Taiwan centered narratives often focused on contradictions of a growing rural-urban dichotomy and the tension between tradition and development. 8. Rebroadcast a few times, it had a large fan base and won six Taiwanese Golden Bell Television awards. 9. Guoguang Jihua 國光計劃 the National Liberation Plan, was a military campaign and propaganda tool from 1950 to the 1970s. 10. One of the first gay bars opened in Taiwan in 1970s and by the late 1980s there were over a dozen (Chou 2000, 146).



References Allen, Joseph R. 2007. Taipei Park: Signs of Occupation. The Journal of Asian Studies 66 (1): 159–199. Bai Xianyong 白先勇. 1983. Nei Zi (Nieh-tzu) 孽子. Taipei: Yuanjing chu ban shiye gongsi. ———. 1990. Crystal Boys: a novel by Pai Hsien-yung. 1983 Trans. Howard Goldblatt. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press. ———. 2017. Gong shi wenxue daxi 公視文學大戲─「孽子] (About the Literary Play Nie Zi). Trans. mine. Taiwan Public Television Foundation. Accessed 12 December 2017. http://web.pts.org.tw/~web01/boys/p1.htm 2003 Web. Boym, Svetlana. 2007. Nostalgia and its Discontents. The Hedgehog Review 9 (2): 7–19. Chang, Sung-sheng Yvonne. 1993. Modernism and the nativist resistance: Contemporary Chinese fiction from Taiwan. Duke University Press. Chen, Li-fen. 2011. Queering Taiwan: In Search of Nationalism’s Other. Modern China 37 (4): 384–421. Chou, Wah-Shan. 2000. Tongzhi Politics of Same-Sex Eroticism in Chinese Societies. New York: Haworth. George, Rosemary Marangoly. 1996. The Politics of Home: Postcolonial Relocations and Twentieth-century Fiction. New York: Cambridge University Press. Hoare, Stephanie. 1993. Innovation through Adaptation: The Use of Literature in New Taiwan Film and Its Consequences. Modern Chinese Literature 7: 33–58. Lippard, Lucy. 1997. The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicultural Society. New York: New York Press. Ma, Yuelin 馬岳琳. 2015. ‘Jin Zhong Daoyan Cao Ruiyuan Xiang Kangzhan Shidai Zhiyi’ ‘金鐘導演曹瑞原:向抗戰世代致意.’ (‘Director Cao Ruiyuan Pays Homage to the Anti-­war Generation.’) The Commonwealth 天下雜誌, Taipei, World Magazine 587. 8 December 2015. https://www.cw.com.tw/article/ article.action?id=5073096 Web. 10 April 2017. Martin, Fran. 2003. Situating Sexualities: Queer Representation in Taiwanese Fiction, Film and Public Culture. Vol. 1. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. Massey, Doreen. 2005. For Space. Los Angeles: Sage. ———. 1995. Places and Their Pasts. History Workshop Journal 39: 182–192. Ming, Tse. 1982. ‘Yexing de Huhuan: Cong xiaoshuo Nei zi kan Bai Xianyong de Tongxing Lian Guan’ (‘The Call of Wild Nature: On Bai Xianyong’s Concept of Homosexuality in Nei zi). Xiandai de wenxue [Modern Literature]. Taipei: Yuanjing chubanshe, 18: 45–66. Nei Zi 孽子20 episodes. 2003. Dir. Cao Ruiyuan 曹瑞原 (Official website of the drama series) TPTF Taiwan Public Television Foundation http://web.pts.org. tw/~web01/boys/p1.htm 2003 Web. 2 November, 2017.



Nei Zi 孽子. 2014. TIFA Taiwan International Arts Festival Annual Production (台灣國際藝術節年度製作). 孽子Nie Zi Presented on Stage, National Theater, Taipei (國家兩廳院) http://tifa.npac-ntch.org/2014/en/theatre/crystalboys/ 2014. Web. 9 September 2017. Nei Zi 孽子 (Outsiders). 1986. Directed by Yu Kan-ping 虞戡平. Taipei: 群龍影業 有限公司 Dragons Group Film Ltd.


No Center Other Than Ourselves: Istanbul, Hüzün, and the Heterotopic Portal Between Civilizations and Time in the Works of Orhan Pamuk Michael P. Moreno

For over six centuries, Istanbul was the seat of great Ottoman sultans whose cultural adeptness and political savviness at making this city a center of intellect and innovation ushered in a renaissance of art and science through a precarious balance between the city’s Eastern and Western identities. Long after the empire’s decline and the formation of the modern Turkish republic in 1923, Istanbul remains a heterotopia in design, culture, and imagination. Its social, demographic, and economic transformations throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have also marked the city with a unique hüzün, a deep and collective spiritual anguish only ̇ I stanbullular—citizens of this city—experience as a result of living in a post-imperial metropolis. This collective melancholy generates a sense of

M. P. Moreno (*) Green River College, Auburn, WA, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_14




displacement throughout the city as artifacts from the past intersect with spaces in the present to create a kaleidoscope of reflections and refractions of Istanbul’s identity. While this strategic locale along the Bosphorus River has known other historical incarnations (Byzantium, Constantinople), what is constant is the city’s timeless role as a geopolitical and cultural crossroads of Eastern and Western civilizations. Contemporary Turkish literature, in particular, not only reflects this hüzün but also articulates a cultural language through which to understand hüzün’s meanings and implications. Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk’s novels My Name Is Red (2001), A Strangeness in My Mind (2015), and memoir Istanbul: Memories and the City (2004) explore Istanbul’s paradoxical identity of an imperial past with a post-imperial present, reflecting varied ‘slices of time’ (Foucault 2008, 20) throughout the city’s kaleidoscopic design. This is unique to Istanbul because it has always blurred between eastern and western shores. ‘Both temporally and spatially the city…embodies both sides of the binary opposition [of East and West] hence making it impossible to draw a clear-cut line’ (Gurses 2012, 51–52). As an ‘other space,’ or heterotopia, as Michel Foucault has termed, the city operates as a site of exigency or crisis, one that can collapse conventional perceptions of time and space, while splintering its features—individual and collective memories; repurposed structures, streets, and locations; abandoned mansions, cemeteries, or historical ruins—into new spatio-temporal layers where the Turkish identity is in enduring transformation, anxiety, and reconceptualization. In such a contradictory place, ‘one abolishes time; yet it is also time regained, it is the whole history of humanity harking back to its source as if in a kind of grand immediate ̇ knowledge’ (Foucault 2008, 20) to which I stanbullular have privileged, albeit temporary, access despite the city’s culture of loss and displacement. For Pamuk, ‘hüzün is not a damaging feeling; instead, it enables artistic creation’ (Gurses 2012, 55) while establishing a conduit through which the city’s Ottoman past merges with contemporary manifestations. While seemingly disparate, the novels encapsulate the last vestiges of Istanbul’s imperial and palimpsestic identity through the emergence of a melancholic hüzün that occurs when focusing on the material and worldly rather than the transcendent and infinite. Pamuk’s flâneur-wanderings throughout Istanbul: Memories and the City serve as a meta-narrative that bridges the novels by articulating precisely how the city’s heterotopic identity draws from its past and present simultaneously, thereby reformulating its Eastern and Western double-gaze from the fragments and layers, both old and new, of a city ceaselessly rising and falling.



̇ More importantly, hüzün offers I stanbullular—collectively and individually—opportunities to reconstruct their identities and articulate new ways of perceiving themselves in an ‘other space’ that, on the surface, seems to be broken into unrecoverable fragments suspended in time. Pamuk sees this position of spatio-temporal displacement ‘not [as] the melancholy of Istanbul [per say] but the hüzün in which we see ourselves reflected, the hüzün we absorb with pride and share as a community. To feel this hüzün is to see the scenes, evoke the memories, in which the city itself becomes the very illustration, the very essence, of hüzün’ (Pamuk 2004, 94). As such, this displacement and fragmentation generate ‘an active movement in the passage of memory to hope, from past to future. And the reconstruction of places can reveal hidden memories’ (Harvey 1996, 306) which ultimately generate varied outcomes and possibilities of reimagining identity. Pamuk’s novels and memoir demonstrate that Istanbul has perpetually grappled with this cultural hüzün; and yet, ironically, ‘Istanbul’s greatest virtue is its people’s ability to see the city through both western and eastern eyes’ (Pamuk 2004, 258). For Pamuk, his literary works serve not only as a conduit between spatial, temporal, and epistemological chasms but also as a site for ‘transgress[ing] these [perceived] cultural boundaries between East and West by using in-betweenness’ (Silkü 2004) to contest and rescript historical and contemporary manifestations and collective memories of Istanbul. As such, his literary imagination generates a ‘third space’ which is one ‘of extraordinary openness, [and] critical exchange where the geographical imagination can be expanded to encompass a multiplicity of perspectives’ (Soja 1996, 5) in varied moments through time; moreover, a hüzün of melancholic creativity ensures that this literary third space crafts an East-West identity that is never fixed or absolute but has the power ‘to detonate, to deconstruct, [and] not to be comfortably poured back into old containers’ (163) that mar a porous exchange of perceptions and interconnections between Istanbul’s spatio-temporal identities. Having lived and worked within the city for most of his life, Pamuk is part of the very fabric of this ancient metropolis. Layers of time are reflected throughout Istanbul’s locations, (re)constructing an ongoing and timeless Eastern and Western accumulation of artifacts and communal experiences, all of which comprise a heterochronia that ‘creates a bridge between time and space…[and] depict[s] history and [the] present at the same time’ (Toprak and Ünlü 2015, 161). Woven throughout the city’s



interstices—ornate stone structures, cobbled and shadowed streets, cypress-lined cemeteries, and broad shorelines—stages of decline are reaḋ ily visible, palimpsests that remind the modern-day I stanbullular that they dwell in a once-great-civilization. This melancholic aura of hüzün is something Pamuk’s literature locates as a quintessential key to the city’s and his own identity. ‘I have described Istanbul when describing myself,’ he writes in his memoir, ‘and describe myself when describing Istanbul’ (Pamuk 2004, 295). To be at the post-imperial convergence of Asia and Europe ̇ has, nevertheless, taught I stanbullular to ‘embrace this suffering [of loss and defeat] as a sign of their dignity’ (Erol 2001, 660), and Pamuk himself draws from this metaphorical river of narrative fragments in his literature to demonstrate how ongoing spatio-temporal exchanges throughout his city are perpetually mirrored and transformed by its fluid East-West character and evolving imagination. Throughout this East-West discourse, the broad constellation of voices, spaces, and places around Pamuk may have morphed throughout time, but greater meaning and purpose can always be reimagined from the ongoing cross-narratives of crowded streets and the inspiring Bosphorus. As an East-West city, the Istanbul that Pamuk generates through his literature is fueled, rather than defeated, by this haze of hüzün, for Pamuk’s Istanbul aligns these worlds, blending the past into the present, the margins into the center, and the dystopia into the heterotopia. My Name Is Red depicts a complex murder mystery about Sultan Murat III’s controversial commissioning of The Book of Festivities in the late sixteenth century.1 The deaths in the novel highlight the theological clash concerning Islam’s long-held belief that creation can only be depicted through the eyes of God,2 whereas the European Renaissance shifted this focus to perspectival art, thus placing the human at the center of creation. In the Islamic East, ‘painting is the act of seeking out Allah’s memories and seeing the world as He sees the world’ (Pamuk 2001, 79). Ultimately, My Name Is Red examines how im/material spaces within the narrative are situated to negotiate collective spiritualism versus individualist secularism—an issue that continues to inform modern Istanbul’s relationship to European progressive humanism and Middle Eastern Islamic traditions. Pamuk’s literary and historical spectrums of Istanbul function as an interchange through which seemingly disparate epistemologies can be creatively reimagined into alternative cultural productions or ‘hybridization[s] of Eastern and Western traditions, which he has already discovered at the core of hüzün’ (Erol 2001, 665). Likewise, A Strangeness in My Mind



explores this balancing crisis through 44 years (1968–2012) of the city’s history from the vantage point of a wandering street merchant and traditional boza seller who becomes the eyes and voice of a post-imperialist city in a constant state of flux and reimagining. For this novel’s title, Pamuk borrows a few lines from the 1805 version of William Wordsworth’s The Prelude (Book Third) to include in his epigraph: I had melancholy thoughts… a strangeness in my mind, A feeling that I was not for that hour, Nor for that place. (as qtd. in Pamuk)

In this epic poem, Wordsworth discovers his mind’s own power to shape and be transformed by the spaces and spectrum of events that surround him throughout his life’s journey; likewise, Pamuk recognizes the spatiotemporal disruption and strangeness in the journey that informs an EastWest identity. His nod to a Western poet’s intellectual odyssey—one that parallels St. Augustine’s Confessions or Dante’s The Divine Comedy— speaks to an East-West identity ‘shaped into the inherited design of crisis and recovery’ (Abrams 1986, 228) and emerges from the literary interstices of heterotopic and heterochronic sites through history. As a contemporary retelling of Istanbul’s mythic Ottoman past, My Name Is Red presents a constellation of unconventional characters—sundry humans, a dog, a tree, a coin, the color red, a horse, death, and Satan—whose intermingling of narrative voices with one another and with the reader establishes literary interconnections across spaces and time which are integral in mapping the parameters of an East-West city like Istanbul. At the start of the novel, Master Elegant, one of the four young miniaturists working on the Sultan’s Book of Festivities, is mysteriously murdered for experimenting with the Western perspectival style. He speaks to us as a corpse, ‘a body at the bottom of a well’ (Pamuk 2001, 3). Part testimonial, part personal confession, Elegant admits his blending of Eastern and Western artistic styles is an ideological and epistemological paradox as well as an iniquity in Islam. And yet, he also recognizes the displacement of living between worlds and the simultaneity of their co-­ existence: ‘Before my birth there was infinite time, and after my death, inexhaustible time. I never thought of it before: I’d been living luminously between two eternities of darkness’ (3). Though his guilt in potentially



betraying his faith colors his role as an East-West artist, he will be the first among other characters in My Name Is Red to articulate this bridge between the East and West.3 Such a perception allows one to recognize the fluidity that exists in binary oppositions. Pamuk himself employs this metaphor to describe his own literary intentions. ‘A bridge doesn’t belong to any continent,’ Pamuk maintains in his memoir, ‘[or] any civilization, [but it] has the unique opportunity to see both civilizations and be outside of it’ (Pamuk 2002). Another significant ‘bridge’ in this East-West matrix of Istanbul is Black, a former student of art who returns from exile to assist his uncle Enishte Effendi with the Sultan’s Book of Festivities. However, Black soon finds himself embroiled in the murder investigation because of his expertise in miniaturist artwork. His participation in the investigation becomes his own urban odyssey throughout the novel, and it creates a pathway for the audience to comprehend how not only the individual characters but Istanbul itself struggle to negotiate this complex East-West identity. The East-West literary cross-over in Pamuk’s novels, and in his broader oeuvre, allows him ‘to analyse the West through the eyes of an Easterner instead of looking at the East through the eyes of a Westerner (i.e. adopting an orientalist approach)….In this way, he manages to be local when discussing miniature and Western painting and universal when talking about the wider artistic level’ (Arslan 2003, 78–79). When the novel’s investigation eventually includes the murder of Enishte Effendi himself for his own allure to an East-West blending style of painting, the remaining miniaturists—‘Butterfly,’ ‘Olive,’ and ‘Stork,’ workshop nicknames given by the Head Illuminator Master Osman the Miniaturist—become primary suspects in the deaths, inevitably capturing the attention and concern of the Sultan himself. The traditional encounters between East and West— artistic and spiritual, spatial and temporal—are most overt when examining the ubiquity of hüzün within Pamuk’s city streets. By reimagining the streets, alleyways, and buildings of Istanbul, the hüzün that Pamuk carefully and passionately describes in his memoir is mirrored in My Name Is Red. As he shows us the genesis of the imperial city’s decline through its growing crowdedness, extreme economic disparities, and urban neglect, we can see the novel is as much a commentary on his contemporary city as it is on the imperial one. The spatio-temporal interchangeability in his narrative patterns, ‘where Time is transformed into Space’ (Pamuk 2009, 106), demonstrates that hüzün functions as an art form recognizable by its ability to reveal how historical fragments



become real and tangible stories that interconnect and transform identities. ‘Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history. This intersection of axes and fusion of indicators characterizes the artistic chronotope’ (Bahktin 1981, 84), according to Bakhtin, and allows for greater perception and fluidity between time and space when applied to the East-West city. My Name Is Red reveals the creative anxiety and confluence of hüzün that the East-West exchanges generate in contemporary Istanbul by using spatio-temporal snapshots of the late sixteenth-century Ottoman world, bridging the two Istanbuls into a heterotopic and heterochronic site. Upon Black’s return to the city after his exile, he wanders the streets purposefully cultivating a deepened perspective while discovering with growing cognizance that Istanbul is transforming: I set out on long and satisfying walks through the streets as if I’d settled not in Istanbul, but temporarily in one of the Arab cities at the other end of the world. The streets had become narrower, or so it seemed to me. In certain areas, on roads squeezed between houses leaning toward one another, I was forced to rub up against walls and doors to avoid being hit by laden packhorses. There were more wealthy people, or so it seemed to me. I saw an ornate carriage, a citadel drawn by proud horses, the likes of which couldn’t be found in Arabia or Persia….Had I been told Istanbul used to be a poorer, smaller and happier city, I might not have believed it, but that’s what my heart told me… Some of the neighborhoods and streets I’d frequented in my youth had disappeared in ashes and smoke, replaced by burnt ruins where stray dogs congregated and where mad transients frightened the local children. In other areas razed by fire, large affluent houses had been built and I was astonished by their extravagance, by windows of the most expensive Venetian stained glass, and by lavish two-story residences with bay windows suspended about high walls. (Pamuk 2001, 7, 8)

Black bears witness to a city where passing images, both veiled by memories and made visible during his flânerie, refract through a lens of intermingling sensations that seem in his mind’s eye to coalesce the eastern and western worlds. The layers of the city at once show its past, present, and future along with its extreme overlapping of poverty and prestige. ‘In the literary and artistic chronotope, spatial and temporal indicators are fused into one carefully thought-out, concrete whole’ (Bahktin 1981, 84). And



yet, this heterochronic world of other places and times is constructed from hüzün because it ‘functions like a mirror’ that serves as a ‘reflection of our presence within the city’ (Gurses 2012, 55). This urban odyssey of distortions and reimagines at once bring Black in touch with himself as much as with his city. In mirroring the details of Black’s wintery flânerie in My Name Is Red with his own contemplative wanderings through the spatio-temporal constructions of Istanbul, Pamuk essentially links Black’s late sixteenth-­ century city to his own contemporary one to produce an interconnective narrative between the novel and his memoir. In turn, this underscores ‘the intersection of time, place, and the affective worldview they constitute as an indivisible unit of comprehension and representation’ (Erol 2001, 657) within the blurring streets, filled with palimpsests and cultural fragments of hüzün, many of which in Istanbul: Memories and the City, are captured in black and white photographs alongside his writing. To see the city in black and white is to see it through the tarnish of history: the patina of what is old and faded and no longer matters to the rest of the world. Even the greatest Ottoman architecture has a humble simplicity that suggests an end-of-empire gloom, a pained submission to the diminishing European gaze and to an ancient poverty that must be endured like an incurable disease. It is resignation that nourishes Istanbul’s inward-looking soul. (Pamuk 2004, 39–40)

Interestingly, Black’s personal endurance during his own urban odyssey parallels a time spectrum of Pamuk’s own life and wanderings through the city. For his characters, and for himself, to accept Istanbul’s imperial fall with dignity permits this city to reconnect its Islamic/Ottoman past with the constraints of post-imperial Turkish nationalism. ‘The symbolic value a particular time and place acquire through their connection, and the worldview this imparts, are preconditions of translating a lived experience to an artistic representation’ (Erol 2001, 657–658). As such, it is in this cultural conjunction of Turkish identity, the many fragments—Ottoman imperialism and architecture, Western secularism and cosmopolitanism, Islamic codes and practices—develop a heterotopic narrative forged in a crucible of hüzün. Confronting the weight and ubiquity of this hüzün results in viewing Istanbul as an intersection of disparate places both in and out of a historical narrative. Within this liminal locus of placelessness and timelessness,



confusion and contradiction are to be expected; and yet, such a heterotopic site allows for the varied narrators throughout My Name Is Red to craft a place from which ‘to voice a perspective on the world even while demonstrating that they are a microcosm of it’ (Ali and Hagood 2012, 510). Thus, literary reimagining and voices provide this vehicle through which to articulate Istanbul’s East-West identity born from other times and places. In My Name Is Red, the Sultan’s imperial Treasury—the symbolic center of Ottoman power, influence, and conjunction—becomes the quintessential East-West portal through which the city’s timeless identity can be (re)constructed. When Black and Head Illuminator Master Osman are granted permission by the Sultan himself to examine various illuminated manuscripts contained in the Treasury, they are hopeful that the murderer’s identity will be revealed when matching his artistic style and patterns to the historical ones. In this way, the murderer would be identifiable since an unusual drawing of a horse, thought to be drawn by one of three surviving miniaturists, was found on Enishte’s body; however, what the men do discover is how the magnificence of this chamber functions as a heterotopia of Ottoman identity and transcultural confluence. Pamuk provides a lengthy inventory in this scene of the sundry objects, books, and treasures from around the known world: richly designed clothing and garments, bejeweled containers and accessories, ivory statues and ornamented weaponry, European clocks and Russian furniture, and countless illustrated tomes from various cities and kingdoms throughout time. As a heterotopic site, the Treasury is paradoxical since it simultaneously serves as an actual location with tangible objects as well as a heterochronic record of civilizations’ varied histories. Awestruck by the sensations of such a place, Black contemplates, ‘After we apprehensively experienced the silence in the room for a while longer, I knew it was as much the light as the dust covering everything that dimmed the red color reigning in the cold room, melding all the objects into an arcane sameness’ (Pamuk 2001, 300). Interestingly, in its effort to preserve these valued contents, the Treasury, similar to a museum or library—other heterotopic manifestations (Foucault 2008, 20)—also appears outside of space, a timeless and ahistorical location enclosing and isolating the products and instruments of history into a singular totality of inter/national, collective memory. More preoccupied now by the opportunity to pore through countless texts known only to them through legend than to disrupt their minds with the murder investigation, the men contemplate the eternal qualities and



cultural languages the tomes’ illustrations have had within their world. Suspended in time, Black and Master Osman reanimate other realms and experiences as they leaf through these delicate and precious volumes; pages of worlds that have been silent and invisible until this moment open up to them. ‘I don’t know how much more time we spent examining book after book and illustration after illustration in this manner’ (Pamuk 2001, 305) Black narrates, becoming more aware of the vastness and timelessness of the world’s knowledge residing here within the immediateness of Istanbul. It was as if the unchanging, frozen golden time revealed in the pictures and stories we viewed had thoroughly mingled with the damp and moldy time we experienced in the Treasury. It seemed that these illuminated pages, created over the centuries by the lavish expenditure of eyesight in the workshops of countless shahs, khans and sultans, would come to life, as would the objects that seemed to besiege us: The helmets, scimitars, daggers with diamond-studded handles, armor, porcelain cups from China, dusty and delicate lutes, and pearl-embellished cushions and kilims—the likes of which we’d seen in countless illustrations. (305)

Engaging so intimately with the Sultan’s vast collection transports the two scholars into a ‘third space,’ one in which history, art, literature, mythology, and technology produce a cacophony of narratives that articulate the vast constellation and traces of Istanbul’s character through time and space. Within the transformative location of the heterotopic city, the Treasury as a narrative microcosm of Istanbul, mirrors many realities that can become possible, one of which is the scholars’ ability to transcend their historical place and moment in time from what appears to be a seemingly fixed existence. It is important to note that these revelations, particularly Black’s, cultivate a self-awareness and perspective of one’s place and agency within the larger world culture. This focus on the individual is something the miniaturists were not supposed to entertain, and, yet, they do in the novel. These characters throughout My Name Is Red are individual voices that form a collective identity, and their significance is only underscored by the fact that each of these characters reflects some aspect of not only Istanbul’s past and present but also Pamuk himself and his own relationship to his city’s history and his own place in the larger constellation of voices who have articulated the city’s identity.



Although he makes a general and generalizing claim about the connection between Istanbul and hüzün on the basis of the framework and the history he creates, Pamuk also underlines the personal motivations and circumstances of the authors—including himself—who not only contributed to the various stages in the collective development of the chronotope but also left their personal signature on it. (Erol 2001, 667)

Pamuk’s recaptures history through the heterotopic spaces of his literary imagination. Such spaces, or ‘heterotopologies’ as Edward Soja maintains, are distinct in and of themselves as separate sites and can serve as micro-­ reflections or embodiments of the larger cultures which produced them while acting as prolific insights into the system and ordering of such cultures (1995, 13–15). Like Black, Master Osman is equally affected by this moment of interacting with a larger Ottoman cultural identity. ‘I now understand,’ he shares with Black, ‘that by furtively and gradually re-­ creating the same pictures for hundreds of years, thousands of artists had cunningly depicted the gradual transformation of their world into another’ (Pamuk 2001, 306). Being within a heterotopic space such as the Sultan’s Treasury makes this way of seeing and articulating integrally part of something eternal and other. My Name Is Red shows how within the monumental fabric of the heterotopia, there exists a vast ‘horizon of meaning’ that possesses ‘a shifting hierarchy’ of multiple social orderings (Lefebvre 1999, 222). It also underscores how locations throughout Istanbul create a larger heterotopic nexus of possibility, a transforming conjunction between the East and the West. The alternate orderings, shifting narrations, and contesting constructions of Istanbul’s identity are not restricted to late sixteenth century epistemological clashes, for we also see these conjunctions within the urban odysseys throughout of A Strangeness in My Mind. Indeed, the various vignettes and testimonies of the different speakers throughout Pamuk’s My Name Is Red, A Strangeness in My Mind, and his memoir create a kind of triangulation between the literary characters themselves, Pamuk, and the audience, since we are the observers and recipients of their experiences and world visions. ‘[The characters in My Name Is Red] at once look at the sixteenth century world that they inhabit as well as have their eye on the ‘reader,’ a marker for current time. The text has consciousness of the reader’ (Göknar 2004, 58). This can be said of both novels examined in this chapter, for this double-awareness between characters and readers invites the past-present, East-West perspective of Pamuk’s literary



imagination. Pamuk employs Ottoman culture and history in order ‘to take a critical look at the present’ (59). Likewise, he also critiques the post-­ imperialist national narrative to understand the Ottoman relationship to Istanbul’s present. As such, ‘The new Istanbul is the unwitting inheritor of both [Ottoman culture and Republic modernization], making Istanbul more modern still and also, once again [in its long history], more diverse’ (Punchner 2014, 107). Conventional constructions and linear narratives of Istanbul’s past and present collapse within the literary spaces of this postmodern writing. Pamuk’s novels further illustrate how varied urban spaces of Istanbul— from opulent Ottoman palaces and twisting alleyways in My Name Is Red to dilapidated neighborhoods and cemeteries in the shadow of glistening skyscrapers in A Strangeness in My Mind—uniquely reveal the city’s ability to reassemble the disparate epistemologies and practices of the East and West into its own timeless, heterotopic marketplace of culture, memory, and identity. Ultimately, Pamuk’s literature seeks to ‘find the language to express this dark spirit [hüzün], this tired and mysterious confusion’ (Pamuk 2004, 360) over what the city is and can become. While ‘[t]he melancholy of remaining unknowable permeates the [literature]’ (Göknar 2004, 59), Pamuk attempts to reconcile himself with the city’s hüzün by allowing the layers of time and space to intermingle across his pages and through the lives of his characters, all extensions of himself and fellow ̇ I stanbullular. Like My Name Is Red, Pamuk’s more contemporary novel, A Strangeness in My Mind, also demonstrates to us the importance of how East-West cities like Istanbul are not necessarily a phenomenon or by-product of twenty-first-century globalization, but often a historical condition that has transformed urban spaces century after century by deconstructing the ‘East/West’ binary in favor of more meaningful and fluid ‘East-West’ exchanges between societies, cultures, and traditions. Through his movements, predicated on income needs and personal interest in his surroundings, the novel’s protagonist, Mevlut Karataş, a boza seller and street vendor who learned his trade from his father, charts his way through an evolving and aging Istanbul as recorded between 1969 and 2012. Mevlut’s fading trade becomes a cultural portal to a past that moderṅ izing I stanbullular are both bewildered by and drawn toward, for it was still a ‘novelty of seeing a living relic of the past that had now fallen out of fashion….[and, as Mevlut himself likes to inform his eager customers]



‘because boza has been around for a long time, passed down to us from our ancestors….Most are happy just to listen to the boza seller’s call and remember the past’ (Pamuk 2015, 23, 27). Acting as a conduit through which the audience experiences a more contemporary Istanbul, Mevlut discovers that his own history of triumphs and tragedies, which can often bear the weight of the city’s hüzün, is as much a part of the city’s collective and historical identity as it is his own. Throughout Mevlut’s travels in and around the city and over the decades, he bears witness to the unmoored emergence of the Republic’s modernization and growing rejection of Atatürk’s secularism for more a traditional Islamic culture. These transformations are slowly covering up the old city and creating new neighborhoods that conceal ancient creeks and cobbled streets. Confronting the past and the present through the urban transformations generates hüzün within Mevlut as he makes his way through a city in spatio-temporal flux: transmission towers, trucks on the asphalt roads, and new concreted bridges…political slogans…scrawled on factory walls and around poor neighborhoods….factories of all shapes and sizes, garages, workshops, depots, medicine and lightbulb manufacturers, and, in the distance, the ghostly silhouette of the city with its tall buildings and its minarets. The city itself and its neighborhoods…were only mysterious smudges on the horizon. (Pamuk 2015, 13, 50)

The cacophony of images mingled with the out-of-placeness and the strangeness Mevlut records in his mind of the city’s alterations invoke a longing to understand not only what his city is becoming, but also where his place in it should now be. When he walqked down a quiet street where no curtain twitched and no window opened, he would sometimes feel—though he knew, rationally, that it wasn’t true—as if he’d been there before, in a time as old as fables, and as he reveled in the sensation of meeting the present moment as if it were a memory, he would shout ‘Boo-za’ and feel that he was really calling out to his own past. (Pamuk 2015, 509)

To escape these spatio-temporal contradictions between the Ottoman past and the ever-emerging modernization of the city, Mevlut often seeks out the old cemeteries as a heterotopic place of refuge and contemplation.



What he discovers amidst these seemingly gloomy and isolated other places is something extraordinary, an ulterior realm through which to see the city in all its complex, anxious, and contradictory manifestations. One evening, to clear his mind, Mevlut walks through labyrinthine neighborhoods to contemplate family troubles: At some point during the evening, he lost his way and climbed down several steep roads, and when he came across a small graveyard squeezed between two wooden houses, he went in to have a cigarette among the gravestones. One dating all the way back to Ottoman times, and surmounted by a large sculpted turban, filled him with awe. (Pamuk 2015, 273)

The scattered cemeteries throughout A Strangeness in My Mind paradoxically summon a sense of static history and timeless disconnection, ‘simultaneously a presence and [an] absence’ (Johnson 2012, 4). Similar to the imperial Treasury described in My Name Is Red, the cemetery functions as a heterotopic site in Istanbul, for cemeteries can serve as a space that intersects rather than separates. Therefore, as interstitial locations, the varied cemeteries throughout A Strangeness in My Mind offer momentary contemplation and processing of hüzün-inspired memories and feelings of ̇ strangeness for Mevlut and the collective I stanbullular, both past and present. These places imbued with individual and collective memories and meaning can also offer a heteroglot that unifies an Eastern Islamic spirituality with a Western secular cosmopolitanism that has always been an integral feature of the city’s personality. In discussing with his brother-in-law Süleyman the paradox of selling boza to both Westernized and Easternized ̇ I stanbullular, Mevlut responds with an evocative understanding of how seemingly disparate worlds can actually intersect without canceling out the other, thus heightening the power and relevance of the cemetery as a heterotopia: Just because something isn’t strictly Islamic doesn’t mean it can’t be holy. Old things we’ve inherited from our ancestors can be holy, too,’ said Mevlut. ‘When I’m out at night on the gloomy empty streets, I sometimes come across a mossy old wall. A wonderful joy rises up inside me. I walk into the cemetery, and even though I can’t read the Arabic script on the gravestones, I still feel as good as I would if I’d prayed. (Pamuk 2015, 271)



̇ To face this ubiquitous hüzün so integral to I stanbullular identity, Mevlut finds solace in these ‘other spaces’ that invoke not only a sense of momentary quietness, but an opportunity to draw on worlds that have collided, co-existed, and coalesced simultaneously throughout Istanbul’s history. For Mevlut, the cemetery becomes his personal mosque where he can ̇ reflect on his individual and collective identity as an I tanbullular. He delighted in the silence that reigned in these places [mosques], the ways the city’s constant humming filtered softly inside like the light that fell in embroidered [kaleidoscopic] patterns along the bottom edge of the dome, and the chance to spend half an hour in communion with old men who’d cut their ties with the world or men like him who simply had nobody left; it all made him feel as if he’d found a cure for this loneliness. At night, these emotions led him to places where he would never have set foot back when he was still a happy man, like deserted mosque courtyards or cemeteries tucked away deep in the heart of a neighborhood, where he could sit on the edge of a gravestone and smoke a cigarette. (Pamuk 2015, 510)

As heterotopias, the cemeteries throughout the city function as a microcosm of past and present identities since they convey multiple meanings both in and out of time. Moreover, as perhaps the last physical repository for personal and collective memory, cemeteries offer a nexus of the community prior to the socio-spatial dissolution. In these other places, there exists an ongoing ‘juxtaposition, syncretism, and coalescence, which originate a prosperity of referential codes’ (Morales 1996, 26) and help establish a language with which to recalibrate and articulate a mutable East-West city like Istanbul. Like Black in My Name Is Red or the various maturing Orhan Pamuks throughout Istanbul: Memories of the City, Mevlut joins these characters in recognizing his own place within the city and seeing himself as an integral ̇ part of its fabric just as I stanbullular—past, present, and future—are reflected in the streets and structures. Cultivating a vantage point over the city is key to lifting the veil of hüzün through reassembling the spatio-­ temporal fragments ubiquitous throughout Istanbul, and then realizing how Istanbul’s ‘history made peace with its ruins; [and how] ruins [in turn] nourished and…gave new life to history’ (Pamuk 2004, 352). As a boza seller who has spent a lifetime hearing his own calls echo throughout the ancient and emergent neighborhoods, Mevlut has seen how the disparate sectors of Istanbul merge and evolve, ever-forming the city’s East-­ West design, and simultaneously creating his own identity:



Beyond the concrete curtain formed by all the tall new buildings, you could still make out traces of old Istanbul, just as you would have when Mevlut first came to this spot…But what really struck him was the sea of skyscrapers and tall buildings rising even farther beyond those limits. Some were so far away that Mevlut couldn’t be sure whether they were on the Asian side of the city or on this one [European]…walking around the city at night made him feel as if he were wandering around inside his own head. That was why whenever he spoke to the walls, advertisements, shadows, and strange and mysterious shapes he couldn’t see in the night, he always felt as if he were talking to himself. (2015, 579)

̇ The strangeness and anxiety hüzün brings to I stanbullular allow them to see themselves reflected in the city-as-mirror, generating the heterotopia through which they articulate a kaleidoscopic identity that moves through time and space, reshaping memory and engendering imagination as an ̇ ethos. Through Pamuk’s literary works, I stanbullular can sense this heterotopia through a haze of hüzün where East and West collide, coexist, and coalesce simultaneously, through temporal and spatial constructions and paradoxes, wrought with anxiety and contradictions. Is this the secret of Istanbul—that beneath its grand history, its living poverty, its outward-looking mqonuments, and its sublime landscapes, its poor hide the city’s soul inside a fragile web? But here we have come full circle, for anything we say about the city’s essence says more about our own lives and our own states of mind. The city has no center other than ourselves. (Pamuk 2004, 349)

As an East-West site of spatio-temporal in-betweenness, one that contests and rescripts historical/contemporary manifestations and collective memories, Istanbul is that crucible of multiple centers, voices, and memories. The messiness and imperfections of the city and the momentary recoveries and relapses in its multi-manifestations are imprinted in the lives of ̇ I stanbullular and those of their families. Hüzün, the anxiety, is part of the fabric and texture of the city and its people. Pamuk recognizes that hüzün ̇ can allow I stanbullular to live within the interstices of time, the city, and the literary imagination of the past and present simultaneously. They see themselves daily through lenses of memory and familial narratives they have learned. Such narratives—albeit fragmented and disruptive—still align past identities with present ones and inform potential constructions of Istanbul as an East-West city into the twenty-first century.



Notes 1. The imperial commissioning of a series of books, including this one, to celebrate the one-thousandth anniversary of the Hegira—Muhammed’s exodus from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE to establish the first Muslim community—are to be illustrated by the leading court miniaturists in Istanbul; however, the Sultan’s controversial and growing curiosity in Venetian (‘Frankish’) artistic styles of detailed and life-like portrait illustrations encourages his court miniaturists to secretly entertain thoughts of incorporating this forbidden art-form into their own work, thus blending Eastern Islamic traditions and practices with emergent, humanist Western ones. 2. In the tradition of Islamic art, especially in miniaturist artworks from the Ottoman Empire, it has always been maintained that ‘the artist should deal with his work, not with himself. To do that, he needs to erase his identity…. [and] depict the unchanging beauties created by God as seen by God’ (Arslan 2003, 100–101). 3. It was not entirely unusual for the Ottoman court and other prominent locations throughout the empire to have Western artists and scholars in their service. In fact, such a practice was common at the start of Istanbul’s Ottoman rule. ‘It is known that Fatih [Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror (1444–46, 1451–81)] gave importance to Italian artists and had them brought to the palace.’ The visiting artists helped integrate ‘the styles of West and East [reaching] a new synthesis in the hands of Turkish artists…. [I]t can be said that the miniature art in the period of Bayezid II [1481–1512, and son of Fatih Sultan Mehmed] was shaped with the common work of West and East originated artists’ (Karakaş and Rukanci 2016, 4, 5). Of course, the intermingling of these worlds was not always received well by the more religious Islamic leaders, who would often attempt to purify the city of these foreign iniquities.

References Abrams, M.H. 1986. Introduction to ‘The Prelude’. In The Norton Anthology of English Literature, ed. M.H.  Abrams, vol. 2, 5th ed., 228. New  York: W.W. Norton. Ali, Barish, and Caroline Hagood. 2012. Heteroglossic Sprees and Murderous Viewpoints in Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. Texas Studies in Literature and Language 54, no. 4: 505–529. https://doi.org/10.1353/tsl.2012.0030. Arslan, Nihayet. 2003. The Dialogical Process in My Name is Red. International Journal of Central Asian Studies 17: 73–111.



Bahktin, Mikhail M. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press. Erol, Sibel. 2001. The Chronotope of Istanbul in Orhan Pamuk’s Memoir Istanbul. International Journal of Middle East Studies 43: 655–676. https:// doi.org/10.1017/S0020743811000894. Foucault, Michel. 2008. Of Other Spaces. In Heterotopia and the City: Public Space in a Postcivil Society, ed. Michiel Dehaene and Lieven De Cauter. Trans. Michiel Dehaene and Lieven De Cauter, 13–29. London: Routledge. Göknar, Erdağ. 2004. My Name is Re(a)d: Authoring Translation, Translating Authority. Translation Review 68 (1): 52–60. https://doi.org/10.108 0/07374836.2004.10523873. Gurses, Hande. 2012. Mirroring Istanbul. In Existentialism and Politics: Global Perspectives on Orhan Pamuk, ed. Mehnaz M.  Afridi and David M.  Buyze, 47–61. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Harvey, David. 1996. Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers. Johnson, Peter. 2012. The Cemetery: A Highly Heterotopian Place. Heterotopian Studies: 1–7. http://www.heterotopiastudies.com/wp-content/uploads/ 2012/05/The-Cemetery-a-highly-heterotopian-space-pdf.pdf Karakaş, H. Sekine, and Fatih Rukanci. 2016. The Miniature Art in the Manuscripts of the Ottoman Period (XVth–XIXth Centuries). Melcom International: 1–16. https://www.melcominternational.org/wpcontent/content/past_ conf/2008/2008_papers/Rukanci&Karakas.pdf Lefebvre, Henri. 1999. The Production of Space. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. Oxford: Blackwell. Morales, Alejandro. 1996. Dynamic Identities in Heterotopia. In Alejandro Morales: Fiction Past, Present, Future Perfect, ed. José Antonio Gurpegui, 14–27. Tempe, AZ: Bilingual Review/Press. Pamuk, Orhan. 2001. My Name is Red. Trans. Erdağ M.  Göknar. New  York: Vintage Books. ———. 2002. Bridging Two Worlds. Interview by Elizabeth Farnsworth. The NewsHour, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. November 20, 2002. https://www. orhanpamuk.net/popuppage.aspx?id=32&lng=eng ———. 2004. Istanbul: Memories and the City. Trans. Maureen Freely. New York: Vintage Books. ———. 2009. Museum of Innocence. Trans. Freely. London: Faber & Faber. ———. 2015. A Strangeness in My Mind. Trans. Ekin Oklap. New  York: Alfred A. Knof. Punchner, Martin. 2014. Orhan Pamuk’s Own Private Istanbul. Raritan 33 (3): 97–107.



Silkü, Rezzan Kocaöner. 2004. ‘Nation and Narration’: Cultural Interactions in Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. TRANS Internet Journal for Cultural Studies, 15 (August). http://www.inst.at/trans/15Nr/05_03/silkue15.htm. Soja, Edward W. 1995. Heterotopologies: A Remembrance of Other Spaces in the Citadel–LA. In Postmodern Cities and Spaces, ed. Sophie Watson and Katherine Gibson, 13–34. Oxford: Blackwell. ———. 1996. Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and -Imagined Places. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. ̇ Toprak, Ilgi, and Alper Ünlü. 2015. A Diachronic Approach on Heterochronic Urban Space. ITU A/Z (November): 159–173.


‘Our Native Reminiscence’: Clinging to ‘Lost Time’ in Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane Deirdre Flynn

Bohane is a dystopian city of the future populated by residents who want to ‘reach again for the whimsical days of their youth and for the city as it was back then’ (Barry 2012, 178). Set in a city on the west coast of Ireland in 2053, Bohane is isolated from the ‘Nation Beyond’ by bogs where nostalgia seeps from the peat. The unknown past that brought this city to its present has created a digital-free dystopian future that is an uncanny multiple space, mixing steampunk with the Wild West, Americana with Irish ethnicity. Had the author, Kevin Barry, not pinpointed the year for this text, it would be difficult to locate this postmodern city in time. Yet Barry’s ‘reveal’ of the specific temporal setting of City of Bohane, simultaneously attempts to suspend the importance of the future for the functioning of the narrative: the story, he claims, could have easily been set in 1853 as 2053; time does not matter. What does matter are the ‘ever present’ ‘tiny fires’ that connect these people to each other, to the urban geography of Bohane (Barry 2012, 214). The layers of time, history, memory, and

D. Flynn (*) University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8_15




nostalgia in the Bohane cityspace are the invisible threads tying these people to their city. This chapter will discuss how, in this imagined future, the past haunts the urban space, shapes its present, and determines its future, and how nostalgia makes this dystopia a pseudo-utopian simulacrum for its residents. Never mentioning the trauma that ended the utopic days of ‘lost time’, the residents in Bohane have created a new space for memory and nostalgia out of their gothic and postmodern present. Published in 2011, during the economic austerity that followed the collapse of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger, City of Bohane is Kevin Barry’s first novel. Set in the near future, this dockland, working-class urban space is recovering from an unexplained collapse that has left it in limbo, without modern technology or access to fossil fuels. The unnamed crisis generates nostalgia for the past, and seems to keep the city in a state of paralysis, stuck in a cycle of perpetual violence. Residents describe their longing to get back to the ‘lost time’ before that undisclosed phenomenon, and often watch old CCTV footage of the city as it was. The story follows the ageing Logan Hartnett as he starts to lose his grip on a city built on violence and nostalgia. When his old rival the Gant Broderick returns after 25 years, the gangs of Bohane prepare for a fight to decide who will have control of the city. This chapter will explore how Barry’s use of gothic and postmodern tropes mirrors the fallout from the collapse of the Celtic Tiger in 2008. In Gothic, Fred Botting explains that gothic forms are constantly being reinvented, especially in that interplay with postmodernity and the ‘the accompanying freedoms of consumerist, corporate, creative and post-­ industrial orders’ (2014, 14). In Bohane, gothic and postmodern forms have merged in order to allow a discussion of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland coming to terms with the economic crash of 2008. Gothic postmodernism represents an ‘even darker vision of contemporary existence’ (Beville 2009, 99). This heterogeneous mix, like the city itself, takes elements of Lyotard’s eclecticism (1992, 8) and the uncanny gothic city best described by Maria Beville or Julian Wolfreys (2008, 168–180): Focusing on the city as a plural space, a complex of hidden and liminal sites, the city in postmodernist literature is effectively presented as a ghostly locus of the uncanny: decentred, fragmented and defined by the otherness encountered in the crowd and in the simulacra of signs that swarm our field of perception. (Beville 2013, 14)



The ‘plural space’ threatens a radical decentring of spatial and temporal relations, lost in the multiple references, and the swarm of streets. It can be hard to situate City of Bohane in a definite geography, time, or even genre, as Mark Hamill of The New York Times notes in his review calling it an ‘Icelandic saga welded to a ballad of the American West’ (Hamill 2012). The labyrinthine streets of Bohane become unsettling and decentring as the residents ‘hark back’ ‘to particular phases in the evolution of the self’ (Freud 1919, 10), ‘time becomes loose’ (Barry 2012, 60). This ‘unheimlich place’ is what Freud would call ‘the entrance to the former heim [home] […] to the place where everyone dwelt once upon a time and in the beginning’ (Freud 1919, 15). This is a city haunted by the past, the spectres of which are on every street. Obsessed with nostalgia and tradition the residents of Bohane are stuck in Derrida’s ‘spectral moment’ in a timeless space that ‘no longer belongs to time’ (Derrida 1994). This nostalgia and tradition spectrally tie the city to the past, and deconstruct the concept of time. Consequently, as Ferdinand Lion says, ‘Whoever sets foot in a city feels caught up as in a web of dreams, where the most remote past is linked to the events of today. One house allies with another, no matter what period they come from, and a street is born’ (Lion, qtd. in Benjamin 1999, 435). This makes Bohane difficult to define and locate, neither dystopian nor utopian, and yet not a heterotopia. As Maria Mianowski says Bohane is ‘a paradoxical place, at once futuristic, neo-western, and more retro-oriented than techno-­oriented, since the characters use none of the technology that characterises the beginning of the twenty-first century’ (Mianowksi 2017, 97). The lack of technology in the text adds to the malleability of temporal location of Bohane. The Gothic and the postmodern are in conversation here, as the residents come to terms with a trauma they do not wish to talk about. This trauma has decentred them and their interaction with time and space in the city becomes a negotiation between past and present, history and memory, time and space. The text demonstrate the ‘confusion, loss, doubling and iterable fragmentation, disorientation, anxiety’ (Wolfreys 2010, 4) of the urban gothic and the ‘labyrinthine enigma that metaphorically stands in for the dizzying plurality of contemporary urban living’ of the postmodern cityscape (Bentley 2014, 175). Time is ‘coming back to haunt’ the residents of Bohane, who have buried the memories of the trauma that ended the ‘lost time’ in true postmodern and Gothic style (Gomel 2010).



The Isolated City, Migration, and the ‘Celtic Tiger’ Isolated from the rest of Ireland, Bohane is surrounded by bog land. It stands apart from many dystopian visions of the city: that of the ecumenopolis, or the technology-saturated, or the completely alone. Jeremy Tambling considers Bohane ‘something amorphous’ and resisting representation (2016, vii). Despite being ‘isolated’, the city still communicates with Ireland, bound by their laws and the recipient of their financial aid. The rest of Ireland is called the ‘Nation Beyond’ or ‘NB’ for short. As a result, Bohane does not fulfil the criteria of the ecumenopolis, the worldwide city, best described by C.A. Doxiadis (2005, 189–206). Between Bohane and the Nation Beyond lie the bogs of Big Nothin’, a metaphorical wall of nostalgia that insulates and isolates Bohane. To the residents, the peat preserves memories and hides secrets. Yet, Bohane is also a global city, filled with people from across the world who choose isolation. Its global inhabitants feel a sense of identity that sets them apart from those who do not live there. As a result, as Maebh Long points out, the residents of Bohane, regardless of origin, feel no connection to anything outside their city and bog: A city of streetwalkers, a neo-noir urban hell […] Bohane’s isolation renders it an aggressively independent frontier city, and its inhabitants treat those from Haiti and Tipperary as equally foreign. (Long 2015, 3)

This is a city of multiplicities and clashes between cultural and chronological references populate the urban space. Bohane becomes a plural space that at once is foreign and recognisable, a mixture of past and present. The multi-ethnic mix of Bohane is reminiscent of Celtic Tiger Ireland, a period of exponential economic growth that started in the mid-1990s and lasted until the (Global) financial crash in 2008. The term ‘Celtic Tiger’ deliberately compares the ‘size and scale [of Ireland’s economic growth] to that experienced by the Tiger economies of South East Asia’ (Smyth and Liverpool John Moores University 2012, 132). Low unemployment, foreign investment, and unprecedented growth meant that Ireland was ranked as one of the richest countries in the world, and during this period inward migration increased exponentially. By the year 2000, 188 different nationalities lived in Ireland and in 2006 alone over 100,000 inward migrants were recorded (Fanning and Munck 2011, intro). In the first two decades of the twenty-first century, there has been a 240% increase



in the number of foreign-born people residing in Ireland (McIvor & Spangler 2014, 5). Prior to the Celtic Tiger ‘from 1990 to 1994, Ireland was the only Member State with a negative net migration rate’; however, ‘by 2007, Ireland had the third highest migration rate across the 27 EU Member States’ (Ruhs and Quinn 2009). According ‘The Globalization Index’ (Foreign Policy/AT Kearney Inc.), Ireland was the most globalised society in the world in 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2004 (Singapore was ranked first in 2001). Passing through the streets of Bohane in 2053 is this mix of ethnicities and cultures. It becomes an uncanny reminder of the huge inward migration that occurred during the Celtic Tiger era: Yes and here they came, all the big-armed women and all the low-sized butty fellas. Here came the sullen Polacks and the Back Trace crones. Here came the natty Africans and the big lunks of bog-spawn polis. Here came the pikey blow-ins and the washed-up Madagascars. Here came the women of the Rises down the 98 Steps to buy tabs and tights and mackerel—of such combinations was life in the flatblock circles sustained. Here came the Endeavour Avenue suits for a sconce at ruder life. The Smoketown tushies were between trick-­cycles and had crossed the footbridge to take joe and cake in their gossiping covens. The Fancy-boy wannabes swanned about in their finery and tip-­tapped a rhythm with their clicker’d heels. (Barry 2012, 31)

This is a vibrant cityscape filled with colour, with culture, with life, with memories. And while Barry has said this story could easily have been set in 1853 or 2053, it is hard to imagine this city in pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland, as inward migration before 1960, and even until 1994, was miniscule and emigration at an all-time high.1 Ireland was one of the hardest hits by the global economic collapse that followed the Celtic Tiger. During the austerity that followed, politicians tried to apportion blame on everyone, with then finance Minister Brian Lenihan telling RTE’s Primetime that ‘we all partied’ during the corrupt and wealthy days of the Celtic Tiger (Primetime 2010). The disjunction between the lived experience of citizens and that of those in power is similar to the rift between Bohane and the Nation Beyond. In Bohane, their ‘lost time’ offers a further disconnect: a trauma that has left time out of joint, as the present and the ‘lost time’ are unsettled. The collapse has changed the cityscape, and the Nation Beyond. The residents have experienced what Gerry Smyth calls an ‘extreme assault’ on their identity because of the Celtic Tiger and the subsequent recession (Smyth and Liverpool



John Moores University 2012, 134). What emerges from this ‘lost time’ and the trauma that ended it is a multiplicitous city, a plural space that has turned to nostalgia and rose-­tinted memories in order to deal with this melancholic loss. In her discussion of Irish recession literature, Molly Slavin suggests that there is a ‘lens of melancholia’ on post-crash fiction because of this grief at the loss of the promises of the Celtic Tiger: ‘public, shared, but unnamed, unconscious, and unspecified grief’ (Slavin 2017). In City of Bohane, this grief, this loss, seems to seep from the bog that surrounds the city, as if this ‘unnamed’ grief was buried in the peat. The past becomes as Marie Mianowski points out ‘an underground force contaminating the present, just as the landscape contaminates the character’ (2017, 102). This repressed trauma is an element of the Bohane taint that haunts the streets of the city and the people that live there. The collapse of the Celtic Tiger had a huge impact on Irish society, not just economically, leading to years of recession and austerity, but Irish identity was altered by what Gerry Smyth describes as ‘the return of the real with a vengeance’ when the reality of the ‘momentous, ignominious fall’ hit home: ‘The levels of corruption, ignorance, incompetence and sheer stupidity that precipitated economic disaster shocked everyone’ (Smyth and Liverpool John Moores University 2012, 134–135).

Utopia versus Dystopia Lieven Ameel suggests that the city is often seen as opposite of utopia, where order does not take hold (2016, 785). At the same time, Ameel adds that ‘utopian environments are typically located in a more or less inaccessible place, distanced from the reader in terms of place and time […] in a distant past or future’ (2016, 786). Bohane is a city distanced from the Nation Beyond and as a result of its uncanny cityscape, and chronological uncertainty, the reader is also decentred. Bohane has its own specific rules and an order that may make little sense to those ‘unfortunate enough not to come from this place’ (Barry 2012, 148). These rules are similar to what Ameel describes as a rigid and immobile social form necessary for a utopia or a ‘harmonious society’ (Ameel 2016, 791–794). On the other hand, Bohane could just as easily fit into Latham and Hicks discussion of the dystopian city in literature from the second half of the nineteenth century. This ‘dystopia version’ of the city, they say, depicted ‘baleful imaginary societies in which cities themselves feature as



the main symbols of negative possibility, as spaces of oppression, blight and ruin’ (Latham and Hicks 2014, 163). They claim that these ‘grim ominous visions’ now outnumber any ‘rosier alternatives’ (Latham and Hicks 2014, 167). The Nation Beyond sees Bohane as a dystopian violent urban outlier. Marie Mianowski also shares this view and sees the style Barry uses as symbolic of that: Through the use of montage, pastiche and parody, the ambiguous narrative voice creates a literary space that fails to name the loss that the post Celtic Tiger generation deeply laments, and draws instead a kind of dystopic aporia where denaturalisation and degeneration prevail, hence confiscating any possibility of thinking out the future. (2017, 98–99)

Mianowski is correct in her description of Bohane as a post Celtic Tiger literary space, dealing with the consequences of the crash; however, the lament that the residents of Bohane feel is for nostalgia, for memories of a pre-crash state. They love their isolated urban aporia. A postmodern contradiction, Bohane is their utopia: a melancholic simulacrum based on the ‘lost time’. Their identity is dependent on this past, and the violent history of the city is integral to their present. As we are told early on in the novel, violence is fundamental to their attachment to the city: ‘it is a fond tradition in Bohane that families from the Northside Rises will butt heads against families from the Back Trace’ (Barry 2012, 5). Even if the faces of those in charge change (Gant, Logan, Jenni), Bohane’s destiny is marked out. Nostalgia is something they can depend on, unlike the economic bubble that brought about the crash. Dystopia and utopia are intertwined in this urban space. From the perspective of the Nation Beyond, Bohane is a dystopian mess. In the city, the Bohane Authority are fearful of how the violent outbreaks will impact funding from the Nation Beyond. The city’s violent reputation precedes it but the violence is part of a tradition; it becomes a performance of nostalgia, and a public declaration of their urban identity: ‘SBJ wept! As if our fuckin’ name wasn’t bad enough! ‘Oh those bastards outside in the Nation Beyond will be laughin’ up their sleeves tonight!’ ‘It’s the end of a Beauvista tram!’ ‘Think the NB tit was gone witchy on us b’fore? It’ll be witchy on us now mos’ certain!’ ‘Ne’er a sign o’ Mr Mannion, nah?’



‘They’re at it again! That’s what they’ll all be sayin’! One half o’ Bohane tryin’ to ate the other half!’ (Barry 2012, 156)

From the outside, beyond the nostalgia-steeped bogs, Bohane is perceived as a dystopian city. The Nation Beyond reprimands Bohane financially for its behaviour. Yet as the Bohane Authority discuss the violence, they know that trying ‘to keep the place in some manner civilised’ was not an easy task, because violence is a vital component of Bohane identity (Barry 2012, 156). Throughout the novel, the residents rely on traditions that come from the ‘lost time’ to define their identity, like the whistle that blows and marks the start of the feud: The whistle was a plain melody that rose once and then fell, that was melancholy, that was sourced from the lost-time in Bohane, that had a special power to it—a power that I cannot even begin to explain to those of you unfortunate enough not to come from this place. (Barry 2012, 148)

Like the whistle that has its own power because of its link to tradition, their need for violence is unexplainable to those not from the city. The Nation Beyond will never understand, because they see this place as a dystopia; Bohane natives see themselves as fortunate. This is their utopia, based on a Baudrilliardian simulacrum of the city before the ‘lost time’. They are re-creating Bohane as it was, through nostalgia, tradition, and isolation.

Memory In Ireland, the decade 2010–2020 marks a number of important centenaries, including the 1913 Union Lockout, the Easter Rising of 1916, and women’s suffrage in 1918. How Ireland chooses to remember these events has been an important debate over the decade. Emilie Pine, in her work on Irish memory, has said that decoding and analysing the trauma and these memories is vital: What has been uncovered in the process are events and subjects of national importance, including the traumas of child abuse, the pain of emigration, and the legacy of conflict. These recovered memories—both of the individual and the collective past—are problematic, and the question remains of how to reconcile them with the present. (Pine 2011, 2)



The residents of Bohane face a similar problem, how to reconcile their past with their present. The collective past of the city, which experienced the trauma that ended the ‘lost time’, is a shared memory that is insulated by their outlying bog. It is also a selective memory, captured and archived in their CCTV system, offering glimpses of life from before the trauma that they do not discuss. Through controlling this visual reproduction of life before ‘lost time’, the anonymous narrator has an important role: curating collective memory. Men and women who want to ‘reach again for the whimsical days of their youth and for the city as it was back then’ frequent the ‘Ancient and Historical Bohane Film Society’ (Barry 2012, 178). Here, they watch old silent footage as far back to the 1930s of the streets of the city, while an old 78 plays on the turntable at the narrator’s office. As Long suggests, Barry’s narrator is a collector of ‘memories and desires’ ‘who assembles the past through his possessions’ offering the people ‘a directly visual access to the past though his security tapes, and operates as an amalgamation of flâneur, who walks by and with the people of the crowd’ (Long 2015, 13). He allows them to virtually walk through the streets of old and encourages that melancholic ‘taint’ of nostalgia so present in Bohane. This is their form of commemoration, a curated, personalised visual reproduction of the past before the crash. Pine suggests that ‘memory is thus perceived as more accessible as well as more intimate, and for these reasons remembrance culture frames itself in terms of memory as opposed to history’ (Pine 2011, 6). Bohane’s residents are not looking for history, but memory that feeds their nostalgia, aligning themselves with Irish remembrance culture from the decade of commemoration. This also coincides with public feeling during the Celtic Tiger era: a sense that Ireland needed to look away from the past and look forward. As Gerry Smyth points out, ‘During the lifetime of the Tiger itself there was much talk in all walks of Irish life about ‘new times’, about the necessity of orienting the nation towards the future rather than towards the past’ (Smyth and Liverpool John Moores University 2012, 135). However, with the onset of the crash, this was reversed and there was a move towards commemoration and remembrance, assisted by the onset of the decade of commemoration. The residents of Bohane have turned to the past after their ‘lost time’ trauma, using an eclectic nostalgia to define identity and stabilise a sense of place.



Nostalgia Nostalgia is the Bohane ‘taint’: something residents are addicted to. Those that have left say they feel the call of the taint calling them back. Barry tells us that nostalgia ‘was a many-hooked lure’ in Bohane and that Gant Broderick, who has recently returned from England ‘had fallen victim to our native reminiscence’ (Barry 2012, 60). As he walks to see Macu, a woman he had a three-week relationship with over 25 years ago, the Bohane nostalgia takes a hold of him: ‘[h]e could not settle. The level of drooling lust was unspeakable. Nostalgia was off the fucking charts’ (Barry 2012, 129). The nostalgia seems to come from the peat bogs, and Old Mannion thinks that these bogs hide much of the history of the city. He is fearful that cutting away the bogs will uncover these painful memories, unearth problematic traumatic experiences that have remained hidden: These times, the city of Bohane was powered largely on its turf, and the bog had been cut away and reefed everywhere. Who knew what passages to its underworld had been disturbed? The bog’s occult nature had been interfered with, its body left scarred, its wounds open, and might this also be a source of the Bohane taint? (Barry 2012, 116)

The scars are open and obvious, and seem to be causing this taint: a curse left waiting to be filled, decoded, and analysed. Like the decade of commemorations, these scars ask how traumatic legacy should be remembered. The people of Bohane, like Old Mannion, do not want to uncover this past; they want to mine selective memories. In passages inflected with Gothic tropes, the residents dig up the bog and burn it, unearthing the physiological taint underneath, harking back to Siobhan Kilfeather’s morselised bodies, to the Irish obsession with the past detailed in Hand.2 Yet as Oona Frawley points out, ‘Irish literature’s keen involvement with nature landscape, and man’s interaction with that landscape can be read, then, as a verbal charting of not only the physical but also the social landscape’ (Frawley 2005, 268). Barry, either consciously or playfully, writing this novel just after the crash, mirrors the social landscape of Ireland at the time. Nostalgia plays a vital role for the residents of Bohane in 2053, and for the Irish during the decade of commemoration. It becomes, as Frawley points out, about ‘the preservation of the past. In allowing the past, by way of memory and longing, to filter in to the present, nostalgia serves to



bridge the two effectively; allowing an individual, or even an entire generation, to adapt to change’ (Frawley 2005, 270). Nostalgia allows the residents of Bohane to bridge time, to easily pass from ‘lost time’ to present day without having to engage with the trauma that connects it. The Bohane Authority hopes that the ‘lost time’ might with the years that passed fade into less painful memory (Barry 2012, 157). However, the residents cannot avoid the taint of nostalgia, the dreams of days during the lost time. Nostalgia calls them back. For Gant Broderick, like Old Mannion, too much reminiscing about the ‘lost time’ is dangerous, like cutting away the bog and uncovering the past, it requires caution: ‘I was drawn back to the lost-time,’ the Gant said. ‘And did you find it a dangerous place to linger?’ Big Dom showed his skill. ‘Yeah,’ said the Gant. ‘It’s too sweet back there.’ Big D thinking: headline LOST-TIME TOO SWEET FOR THE LINGERING. (Barry 2012, 200)

The newspaper is one of the methods of curating these memories and the ‘the most popular and prestigious column’ in the paper is ‘All Our Yesterdays’: It was penned by Dominick himself, in a limpid and melancholy prose, and its stock was reminiscence and anecdotes of the Bohane lost-time. It appeared—twenty-seven inches of nine-point type over three column drops—in the Thursday evening edition, and the queue for it formed early outside the paper’s office and snaked far down the streets of the New Town. (Barry 2012, 196)

In order to deal with the trauma, the residents turn to nostalgia, tradition, and curated memories for a sense of stability. The past is where they find a true sense of their identity. This is the reason the Gant returns to Bohane. It is here he feels at home. The old Bohane, and his memories of the past and its people, draw him back to this city stuck in the past. By returning, Gant hopes he can reclaim some of this former glory. By returning to his past, while in the present, he will make his past a reality once more. He has not only fallen for nostalgia but also for selected memories from his past, in particular a simulacrum of a former girlfriend. Both are impossible to get to in this Baudrillardian representation of reality. When his ex-girlfriend, now 43, confronts Gant, he cannot look upon the reality of the



present. He meets Macu in person for the first time in 25 years and he is afraid to look on her present corporeality: ‘Every word that spilled from her spun him back to the lost-time. It was better if he didn’t look at her— better to let the dream persist’ (Barry 2012, 142). By acknowledging that the time has passed, he acknowledges that the trauma has happened, and therefore must confront that trauma. When the past and the present collide, he sees it ‘with migraine intensity—that their time was gone […] She was no longer what he needed or wanted. Reality infected him with its sourness and truth’ (Barry 2012, 145). As Barry said in an interview, ‘the people are preoccupied with the past. It’s a very Irish thing. The romance of Bohane is a romance with the losttime’ (Mills 2013, np). Hand claims there is a sense that the Irish are ‘unable to move on, debilitated and held back […] In Irish life and culture, this has led to a constant debate—battle even—concerning the past and its significance in the present’ (Hand 2002, 25). What the residents of Bohane are doing, by turning to the past, is representative of a common Irish response to an Irish trauma, as Oona Frawley explains: In the face of a changing or threatened social structure, place and nature can be conceived of as a steady and unaltered realm beyond the reaches of the fluctuating culture, and it is for this reason that I believe Irish literature so frequently uses the natural world as a site for nostalgia. (Frawley 2005, 270)

In the face of a changing world, Bohane stays the same because it focuses on the past, because it avoids and ignores the trauma. As Gant has come to realise, reality is full of sourness and truth and to be avoided at all cost. The residents must answer the call of nostalgia because it is, as Frawley describes, steady and unaltered when it is curated. As a result, the bog lands of Big Nothin’ hold a mystery for them. The bog becomes a receptacle for remembrance, a landscape that can contain and absorb an image of a city that is unattainable, a simulacrum. When Gant speaks with Dominick from the Bohane Vindicator newspaper they speak ‘at length’ about the ‘lost time’: ‘They talked of the great feeling for it that had drawn Gant to the creation once more. They talked of those who had passed, and of how their spirits persisted yet and carried always on the air of the city (or lingered, maybe, away yonder on the bog plain)’ (Barry 2012, 198). The ‘lost time’ is unattainable, but continues to haunt the present. The spectres in the streets are not just names and references but the spirits of the dead. As Barry has told us ‘in the Bohane creation, time



comes loose, there is a curious fluidity, the past seeps into the future, and the moment itself as it passes is the hardest to grasp’ (Barry 2012, 60). Past and present merge here in this city. The Gothic expectation of the bogs of Big Nothin’ allows Logan to use them as a site of possibility. He plays on the superstitions of the residents of Bohane to assist with the control of the city. Knowing that the violence that has erupted needs to be contained, in order for the city to fulfil its cycle of violence and unstable peace, he stages a sighting of the Sweet Baba Jay, their semi-catholic religious icon. The local butcher kidnaps a 12-year-old Norrie3 girl and carves ‘a pair of clover-shaped stigmata’ into her hands (Barry 2012, 192). Knowing the power, the bog holds with residents, Logan tells her: ‘You were drawn to Big Nothin’,’ he said. ‘You felt a strange drag from the bog plain. Something brought you to the High Boreen—it was a particular star in the sky, a bright, bright star. And then, upon a high knoll … do you know what a knoll is, Little Cuse?’[…] ‘And the goat spoke to you, Little Cuse. But as he spoke to you, it was the words of the Sweet Baba you heard, y’check me?’ (Barry 2012, 192)

By April, images of the Sweet Baba Jay appear across the city, keeping the residents of the Northside Rises, and further afield, busy with miracles and prayer. The bog allows the utopian existence to continue. Not only does it isolate it from the rest of the nation, it also hides their secrets and exerts a power over the city that can be exploited to maintain their contradictory utopia.

Ancient and Historical Bohane Film Society The anonymous narrator’s film society is crucial to Bohane because as an act of curation. As the curator, archivist, and a Bohane resident he cannot but be biased. He knows how to choose the accompanying music to the silent film to create the most sentimental effect: ‘an old 78 on the turntable I keep by the projector […] It was a slow-moving calypso burner that gave a lovely sadness, I felt, to the scenes it worked with’ (Barry 2012, 192). He knows that this viewing is steeped in nostalgia, and he wants to accentuate that the ‘lost’ in ‘lost time’. His curation, in this instance, ‘produces as much as it records the event’ (Derrida 1995, 17). His decision to show certain memories rather than others can be understood as what



Maunther and Gárdos call non-innocent practices (2015, 155). Just as Logan harnesses the bog to control the city, the narrator curates what memories the residents see. Yet his choices are not impartial: he has favourite reels and scenes: I picked a favourite compendium; a really lovely reel. It shows the snakebend roll of Dev Street, deep in the bustle and glare of the lost-time, at night, with the darting of the traffic as it rolled then—ah, the white-tyred slouch-backs, the fat Chaparelles, the S’town cruisers—and the crowds milling outside the bars, the stags and the hens, and it was a different world, so glaringly lit. (Barry 2012, 180)

The narrator is aware that he is prejudiced in his selection, that he uses the selection to ‘produce’ or enhance sentiment with his ‘favourite compendium’. He exercises his control over not only the archive, but also the memories shared with the residents, helping to define their collective memory of the ‘lost time’. While the taint may emanate from the bogs of Big Nothin’, it is accentuated by the curation of the archive. In their work on archive and memory, Joan Schwartz and Terry Cook challenge the notion that archives are passive. They suggest that archives have the ability to control the past, and the archivist becomes a storyteller, wielding ‘enormous power’ (Schwartz and Cook 2002, 13). As a result, they posit the archive is a fundamental way in which society seeks evidence of what its core values are and have been, and therefore we have to be cognisant of the power of the archive (Schwartz and Cook 2002, 1): Archives—as records—wield power over the shape and direction of historical scholarship, collective memory, and national identity, over how we know ourselves as individuals, groups, and societies. And ultimately, in the pursuit of their professional responsibilities, archivists—as keepers of archives— wield power over those very records central to memory and identity formation through active management of records before they come to archives, their appraisal and selection as archives, and afterwards their constantly evolving description, preservation, and use. (Schwartz & Cook 2002, 2)

As readers we must wary of what the archivist is presenting to us, how he represents the city, and its past. The narrator/archivist’s editorial choices are important, because he is responsible for maintaining the simulacrum, the image of Bohane that is unattainable, represented and re-presented in



the reels he maintains. He preserves this image of Bohane, one that he himself believes in, that calls to him too: This different world also calls to him I was as always drawn into it, I was put under a spell by the roll and carry of the Dev Street habituees. If all had changed in Bohane, the people had not, and would never: That certain hip-swing. That especially haughty turn-of-snout. That belligerence. (Barry 2012, 180)

This version of Bohane helps to maintain the residents’ obsession with nostalgia. It curates their present, and while as Emilie Pine notes, ‘cultural artefacts, such as photographs, are useful ways of illuminating history’, we must note that ‘they are only ever representations, versions of the actual event’ (Pine 2011, 2). Although set in the future (2053), Bohane is stuck in the past, exhibiting a conditional memory that is maintained through careful maintenance of its memories. The newspaper, the bog, and the narrator all work in conjunction to preserve and maintain a simulacrum of Bohane’s ‘lost time’ through nostalgia and tradition. The residents become obsessed with the ‘lost-time’ limiting them to a present based on something they can never achieve. They see their city as utopic, as they strive to endlessly repeat tradition, rather than confront the trauma that has created this technology-free present. Their future is dependent on re-living a time that is lost.

Notes 1. Between 1871 and 1961, the average annual net emigration from Ireland consistently exceeded the natural increase in the Irish population, which shrank from about 4.4 million in 1861 to 2.8 million in 1961. See Ruhs and Quinn for more detailed figures. 2. For a discussion of the influence and the importance of the famine and history to Irish Literature Read Siobhan Kilfeather, 2006, ‘The Gothic Novel.’ The Cambridge Companion to the Irish Novel. Ed. John Wilson Foster (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 79–96, or Derek Hand, 2011, A History of the Irish Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). 3. A resident of the Northside Rises.



References Ameel, Lieven. 2016. Cities Utopian, Dystopian, and Apocalyptic. In The Palgrave Handbook of Literature and the City, ed. Jeremy Tambling, 785–800. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Barry, Kevin. 2012. City of Bohane. London: Vintage. Benjamin, Walter. 1999. In The Arcades Project, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Bentley, Nick. 2014. Postmodern Cities. In The Cambridge Companion to The City in Literature, ed. K.R.  McNamara, 175–187. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Beville, Maria. 2009. Gothic Postmodernism: Voicing the Terrors of Postmodernity. Amsterdam: Rodopi. ———. 2013. Zones of Uncanny Spectrality: The City in Postmodern Literature. English Studies 94 (5): 616. Botting, Fred. 2014. Gothic. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. “Brian Lenihan ‘We All Partied’ on Prime Time 24/11/10.” YouTube video, 1:36, posted by “alexiablogs,” November 25, 2010., https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=YK7w6fXoYxo Derrida, Jacques. 1994. Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International. New York: Routledge. ———. 1995. Archive Fever. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Doxiadis, C.A. 2005. Ecumenopolis: The Coming World-City. Ekistics 72 (430/435): 189–206. Fanning, Bryan, and Ronaldo Munck. 2011. Globalization, Migration and Social Transformation: Ireland in Europe and the World. Farnham: Ashgate. Frawley, Oona. 2005. Irish Pastoral: Nostalgia and Twentieth-Century Irish Literature. Dublin: Irish Academic Press. Freud, Sigmund. 1919. The Uncanny. First published in Imago, Bd. V., 1919; reprinted in Sammlung, Fünfte Folge. Trans. Alix Strachey, 1–21. http://web. mit.edu/allanmc/www/freud1.pdf. Gomel, Elana. 2010. Postmodern Science Fiction and Temporal Imagination. London: Continuum. Hamill, Pete. 2012. ‘City of Bohane,’ by Kevin Barry. The New York Times, March 29, 2012. Web. 17 June 2016. Hand, Derek. 2002. John Banville: Exploring Fictions. Dublin: Liffey Press. Latham, Rob, and Jeff Hicks. 2014. Urban Dystopias. In The Cambridge Companion to The City in Literature, ed. K.R.  McNamara, 163–174. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Long, Maebh. 2015. Black Bile in Bohane: Kevin Barry and Melancholia. Textual Practice 31: 81–98.



Lyotard, Jean-François, et  al. 1992. The Postmodern Explained: Correspondence, 1982–1985. 3rd ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Mauthner, Natasha S., and Judit Gárdos. 2015. Archival Practices and the Making of “Memories”. New Review of Information Networking 20 (1–2): 155–169. McIvor, Charlotte, and Matthew Spangler, eds. 2014. Staging Intercultural Ireland: New Plays and Practitioner Perspectives. Cork: Cork University Press. Mianowksi, Maria. 2017. Post Celtic Tiger Landscapes in Irish Fiction. London: Routledge. Mills, Lia. Kevin Barry in Pearse Street Library. Libran Writer (Lia Mills). 10 June 2013. Accessed 17 June 2016. Pine, Emilie. 2011. The Politics of Irish Memory: Performing Remembrance in Contemporary Irish Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Ruhs, Martin, and Emma Quinn. 2009. Ireland: From Rapid Immigration to Recession. The Online Journal of the Migration Policy Institute, September 1, 2009. http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/ireland-rapidimmigration-recession Schwartz, Joan M., and Terry Cook. 2002. Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory. Archival Science 2 (1): 1–19. Slavin, Molly. 2017. Ghost Stories, Ghost Estates: Melancholia in Irish Recession Literature. C21 Literature: Journal of 21st-Century Writings, 5 (1). Smyth, Gerry, and Liverpool John Moores University. 2012. Irish National Identity after the Celtic Tiger. Estudios Irlandeses 7 (7): 132–137. Tambling, Jeremy, ed. 2016. The Palgrave Handbook of Literature and the City. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Wolfreys, Julian. 2008. The Urban Uncanny: The City, the Subject and Ghostly Modernity. In Uncanny Modernity: Cultural Theories, Modern Anxieties, ed. Jo Collins and John Jervis, 168–180. London: Palgrave. ———. 2010. Literature, in Theory Tropes, Subjectivities, Responses & Responsibilities. London: Continuum.


A Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi Americanah, 9 African American communities, 51 See also Black Lives Matter; Civil Rights Movement; Segregation; Space, safe/unsafe spaces Afrofuturism, 52 Aichinger, Peter, 202 Alexander, Jeffrey C., 156, 160, 166 ‘Toward a Theory of Cultural Trauma,’ 156 Ali, Monica, 95 Ameel, Lieven, 1, 2, 49, 50, 57, 248 ‘The City Novel’ (The Routledge Handbook of Literature and Space), 1 Literature and the Peripheral City, 2 Arnold, Michael, 179

Ashworth, G. J., 17 The Tourist-Historic City, 17 Aston, Joseph, 19 Atatürk, Mustafa Kemal, 235 Athenaeum, The, 84n11 Aubin, Robert, 17 Augé, Marc, 129, 130 See also Supermodernity Augustine, Saint, 102n7, 227 The City of God, 102n7 Confessions, 227 Auster, Paul, 128 Autofiction, 175, 177 B Back to the Future, 10, 170, 181 Bacon, Francis, 30

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s) 2021 A.-M. Evans, K. Kramer (eds.), Time, the City, and the Literary Imagination, Literary Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8




Bai Xianyong, 207–220 Nei Zi [Crystal Boys, trans. Howard Goldblatt], 207–220 Bakhtin, Mikail, 4, 105–107, 109, 124, 125, 132, 229 The Dialogic Imagination, 106 Problem’s of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, 125 See also Polyphony Ballads, 90, 91, 99, 245 Baltimore, 51 Barrows, Adam, 4 Time, Literature, and Cartography After the Spatial Turn: the Chronometric Imaginary, 4 Barry, Kevin, 11, 243–257 City of Bohane, 11, 243–257 Barry, Peter, 93, 94, 97 Baskerville, John, 30 Baudelaire, Charles, 20, 98 Baudrillard, Jean, 16 Bayezid II, Sultan., 239n3 Bejing, 124, 125, 130 Benjamin, Walter, 20, 245 See also Superposition Berlant, Lauren, 55 Berman, Marshall, 7, 8, 33–47 All that is Solid Melts into Air, 8, 34 Mumford Lecture, 39 On the Town, 43 Berry, David. M., 176 Beville, Maria, 244 Bhabha, Homi K., 94 The Location of Culture, 94 Bieger, Laura, 131 Biely, Andrei, 128 Bindura, Zimbabwe, 126 Black Lives Matter, 51 Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine ‘The World of London’ series, 70 Blake, Angela, 145 How New York Became American, 145

Blake, William, 8, 21, 22, 102n7 ‘Jerusalem,’ 102n7 ‘London,’ 8, 21 Bolt, Barbara, 171, 173 Botting, Fred, 244 Gothic, 244 Bourdieu, Pierre, 101 Boyar, Louis, 40 Boym, Svetlana, 210 Bradbury, Malcolm, 105 Brand, Dionne, 121, 123 What We All Long For, 123 British Radical Movement, 19 Brooks, Van Wyck, 148, 149 America’s Coming-of-Age, 148 Brown, Richard, 107 Bruner, Jerome, 131 Budgen, Frank, 108, 110, 111, 118 Buffalo, NY, 58 Burgess, Ernest W.A., 146 Introduction to the Science of Sociology, 146 Butler, Octavia E., 62 Kindred, 62 C Campbell, Jane, 178 Cao Ruiyuan, 208, 211, 214 Nei Zi (play), 208, 210, 217 Nei Zi (TV series), 208 Capitalism, 41, 56, 58, 118, 164, 173–177, 192, 199 Caro, Robert, 47n1, 181 The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, 47n1 Caruth, Cathy, 10, 156, 161, 163, 166 Unclaimed Experience, 156 Cascone, Kim, 176 Celmins, Vija, 180, 181 Concentric Bearings B, 180, 181 Chandler, Raymond, 10, 11, 189–203


The Big Sleep, 192–194, 198 The Blue Dahlia, 198 Cissy (wife), 201 Farewell My Lovely, 194 ‘The Lady in the Lake’ (short story), 198, 200–202 The Little Sister, 197, 198, 203 The Long Goodbye, 194, 198 Playback, 201, 202 Poodle Springs, 201 ‘The Simple Art of Murder’ (in The Atlantic), 194 Chatman, Seymour, 111 Chekov, Anton, 128 Chicago, 144, 145, 190, 197 Chicago School (Sociology), 146 Chronotopes, 4, 92, 94, 105–107, 109, 110, 123–125, 127, 130–132, 233 See also Bakhtin, Mikail; Keunen, Bart Civil Rights Movement, 51 Clark, Stephen H., 97 Clement-Ball, John, 93, 95, 98, 101n4 Clingman, Stephen, 131 Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), 106, 115, 118, 119, 244, 251 Coates, Ta-Nehisi, 51 In Between the World and Me, 51 Cobbett, William, 102n7 Rural Rides, 102n7 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 21 Collins, Wilkie, 9, 69–82 Basil, 69–82 Conrad, Joseph, 102n7 Heart of Darkness, 102n7 Cook, Terry, 256 Corn, Wanda M., 148 The Great American Thing, 148 Cotton, Joseph, 181


Cramer, Florian, 176 Crang, Mike, 123, 127 Crete, 125, 130 D Dante (Alighieri), 101n1, 227 Davies, Ben, 182 Davis, Mike, 41 City of Quartz, 41 De Boever, Arne, 174, 176, 177, 179 De Certeau, Michel, 97, 98 Debord, Guy, 20 Defoe, Daniel, 17, 30, 102n7 A Journal of the Plague Year, 102n7 DeLillo, Don, 155–166 Point Omega, 155–166 Dell, Floyd, 139 ‘Literature of the Machine Age’ (in The Liberator), 139 Demand, Thomas, 171, 180 Blossom, 180 Denham, John, 17 ‘Cooper’s Hill, 17 Dennis, Ferdinand, 100 Derrida, Jacques, 245, 255 Desai, Kiran, 9, 122 The Inheritance of Loss, 122 Dickens, Charles, 5, 102n7 Bleak House, 102n7 Didion, Joan, 41 Where I Was From, 41 Dieter, Michael, 176 Dolin, Tim, 81, 83n5, 84n14 Donald, James, 36, 37, 42, 46 Imagining the Modern City, 36 Dos Passos, John, 189 Manhattan Transfer, 189 Dougan, Lucy, 81, 83n5, 84n14 Doxiadis, C. A., 246



Dubey, Madhu, 53, 56 Signs and Cities, 56 Dublin, 105–119 DuBois, W. E. B., 53 Dystopia, 226, 244, 248–250 E Eclectic Review, The, 21 Edinburgh, 126, 128 Einstein, Albert, 106 Eliot, T.S., 102n7, 128, 129, 189 ‘The Waste Land,’ 102n7, 189 Ellis, Bret Easton, 174 American Psycho, 174 Embry, Karen, 61 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 196 ‘Nature,’ 196 Engels, Friedrich, 35 The Manifesto of the Communist Party, 35 Ensenstein, Sergei, 111 Esmerelda (nr. San Diego), 201 Eve, Martin Paul, 162, 163 F Farman, Jason, 177 Finch, Jason, 2, 50 Literature and the Peripheral City, 2 Fitzgerald, F. Scott, 189 The Great Gatsby, 189 Flâneur, the, 20, 58, 60, 71, 74, 82, 83–84n6, 98, 127, 192, 251 Foster, John Wilson, 17, 18, 257n2 Foucault, Michel, 25, 36, 224, 231 See also Heterotopia Frank, Waldo, 137–139, 141, 150 In the American Jungle: 1925–1936, 138 ‘The Machine and Metaphysics,’ 137, 138

‘Straight Streets,’ 138 Fraser’s Magazine, 79 ‘London in 1851,’ 69, 79 Frawley, Oona, 252–254 French Revolution, 18, 19 Freud, Sigmund, 38, 84n9, 161, 245 Futurity, 137–151 G Gárdos, Judit, 256 Gaskell, Elizabeth, 71, 72 Gay, John, 8, 21, 22, 25, 26, 29 Trivia; or, Walking the Streets of London, 8, 25 Genette, Gérard, 106, 111 George, Rosemary, 112, 211 Gibbons, Alison, 174, 175, 177, 182 Gorky, Maxim, 142, 143 Gothic postmodernism, 244 Great Depression, 199 Greene, Graham, 169, 170 Grief, 33–47, 81, 158, 248 Groes, Sebastian, 95, 99, 100, 102n8 Guldi, Jo, 3 Guo, Xiaolu, 124, 125, 130, 131 I Am China, 124–126, 130 Guoguang Jihua (National Liberation Plan, Taiwan), 220n9 Gurr, Jens Martin, 127 H Haiwai Wenxue (Overseas Chinese Literature), 210 Hamill, Pete, 245 Hand, Derek, 254 A History of the Irish Novel, 257n2 Haraway, Donna, 61 Hardy, Thomas (founder of London Corresponding Society), 19 Harlem Renaissance, the, 146, 150


Hart, Clive, 109, 114 A Topographical Guide to James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” 114 Haut, Woody, 203 Heidegger, Martin, 173 Helsinki, 50, 57 Hemingway, Ernest, 191, 195 ‘Big Two-Hearted River,’ 195 A Farewell to Arms, 195 The Sun Also Rises, 195 Heterochronia, 225 Heterotopia, 11, 223, 224, 226, 231, 233, 236–238, 245 Hicks, Jeff, 248, 249 Hiney, Tom, 201 Hitchcock, Alfred, 10, 162 Psycho, 162 Hjorth, Larissa, 177, 179 Homosexuality, 208, 213, 218 See also Tongxinlian (same sex desire) Howard, Trevor, 170 Hrushovski, Benjamin, 107 Huchu, Tendai, 124, 126–129, 132n2 The Maestro, the Magistrate, & the Mathematician, 124, 126 Hughes, Langston, 53 Hunt, William Holman, 84n14 The Awakening Conscience, 84n14 Huntley, Dana, 15 Hurley, Jessica, 58, 61 Hurston, Zora Neale, 53 Hüzün, 223–238 I Ingold, Tim, 171, 179 meshwork, 171, 179 Ireland Celtic Tiger, 244, 246–249, 251 Easter Rising, 1916, 250


Union Lockout, 1913, 250 women’s suffrage, 1918, 250 Istanbul, 11, 223–238, 239n1 See also Hüzün J Jacobs, Harriet, 63 Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 63 Jaffee, David, 144 A New Nation of Goods, 144 James, Henry, 142, 145 The American Scene, 142 Joyce, James, 5, 9, 105–113, 115–118 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 116 Ulysses, 9, 105–119 K Kafka, Franz, 5 Kaplan, E. Ann, 155–166 Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media and Literature, 164 Karl, Frederick R., 141 Kasson, John F., 143 Civilizing the Machine, 143 Kern, Stephen, 118 Keunen, Bart, 4 Time and Imagination: Chronotopes in Western Narrative Culture, 4 Kiberd, Declan, 117 Inventing Ireland, 117 Kilfeather, Siobhan, 252 ‘The Gothic Novel,’ 257n2 Kluge, Alexander, 171 Knight, Helen Cross, 21 Knuth, Leo, 114 A Topographical Guide to James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” 114



Kobe earthquake, 10, 156, 157, 165, 166 Konstantinou, Lee, 175 Koolhaas, Rem, 10, 147, 148 Delirious New York, 147 Krauss, Rosalind, 42 ‘Grids,’ 42 Kwiatkowska, Alina, 121, 122 L La Jolla (nr. San Diego), 201 Lamming, George, 95, 98 The Pleasures of Exile, 98 Latham, Rob, 248, 249 Lauro, Sarah Juliet, 61 Lawrence, Karen, 112, 117 Le Bon, Gustave, 141, 142 The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, 142 Lefebvre, Henri, 49, 97, 127, 233 The Production of Space, 49 Lehan, Richard, 4, 5, 192–195, 200, 202 The City in Literature: An Intellectual and Cultural History, 4 Leisure Hour, 73 Lenihan, Brian, 247 Lerner, Ben, 10, 11, 169–182 Blossom, 180 The Hatred of Poetry, 171 Leaving the Atocha Station, 170, 172 The Lichtenberg Figures, 171 The Polish Rider, 180, 181 10:04, 10, 169–182 The Topeka School, 172 See also Demand, Thomas; Lerner, Ben; Ostoya, Anna Liggins, Saundra, 54, 55 Lion, Ferdinand, 245

Lippard, Lucy, 219 Little Review, The, 110 Local-specificity, 90, 93–94 See also Barry, Peter Locke, Alain, 150 The New Negro, 150 London, 5, 9, 20, 25, 29, 30, 60, 69–82, 87–101, 101n1, 101n4, 102n6, 102n7, 102n8, 124, 125, 128–131, 190 Clean Air Acts, 92 Long, Maebh, 246, 251 Los Angeles Douglas Aircraft plant, Long Beach, 42 Lakewood, Los Angeles County, 34, 35, 40, 41, 45, 46 Low, Setha, 6, 7 Lowell, Amy, 139–141, 143, 148–151 ‘Poetry and Propaganda,’ 149 Tendencies in Modern American Poetry, 149 Lukács, György, 118 Lyotard, Jean-François, 244 M MacCannell, Dean, 140 The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class, 140 MacPhee, Graham, 90, 91, 101n2 Madrid, 172 Malpas, Jeff, 177 Marclay, Christian, 178 The Clock, 178 Marx, Karl, 35 The Manifesto of the Communist Party, 35 Massey, Doreen, 7, 97, 208, 215, 219, 220 Mattheis, Lena, 9


Maunther, Natasha S., 256 Maybe it’s Because I’m a Londoner, 102n7 Mayer, Ruth, 54 McCann, Sean, 194, 195 McClanahan, Annie, 172 McCormick, Kathleen, 111 McInnes, Colin, 93, 100 McLeod, John, 94, 96, 98 Meador, Roy, 194, 199 Mehmed the Conqueror, Sultan, 239n3 Melancholy, 7, 10, 11, 194, 223, 225, 234, 250, 253 Memory, 3, 7–9, 11, 33–47, 54, 58, 61, 64, 88, 100, 121, 125–127, 131, 210, 219, 224–226, 229, 231, 234–238, 243–253, 255–257 Merrill, James, 34 ‘An Urban Convalescence,’ 34 Mianowksi, Marie, 245 Migrant time, 9, 87–101 Milton, John, 3 Modernism cosmodernism, 174 digimodernism, 174 metamodernism, 171, 174, 175, 182 post-postmodernism, 174 Modernity, 34–36, 46, 62, 138, 141, 157, 159, 164, 197, 200 Momentary events, 76 Montgomery, James, 7, 8, 15–30 ‘The Pleasures of Imprisonment,’ 8, 18, 19, 21–29 Prison Amusements, 20–22, 29 ‘The Wanderer of Switzerland,’ 21, 22 Moraru, Christian, 174 More, Thomas, 3 Utopia, 3


Moses, Robert, 34–39, 46, 88–93, 98, 101n6 Mumford, Lewis, 33, 39, 45 The Culture of Cities, 33 ‘What is a City?,’ 33, 45 Munson, Gorham, 138, 139 Murakami, Haruki, 10, 155–166 after the quake, 10, 155–166 Murat III, Sultan The Book of Festivities, 226–228 Musil, Robert, 128 N Nasta, Susheila, 93, 99 National Education Association, 36 Newsom Kerr, Matthew L., 70 New York City the Bronx, 34, 35, 38–41, 43–46, 56 Harlem, 55 Manhattan, 43, 50, 56–62, 142, 144, 174 Queens, 56 See also Harlem Renaissance, the New York Times, The, 35, 139, 245 Nicholson, G. W. L., 190 9/11, 10, 172 Nixon, Rob, 155–166 North Carolina, 63 Nostalgia, 10, 37, 88, 198, 201, 210, 213, 243–246, 248–255, 257 Nye, David, 144 America as Second Creation, 144 Nye, Robert, 142 O Obama, Barack, 62 Omnibus, 9, 70–79, 82, 83n2, 83n4 Ostoya, Anna, 171, 180, 181 The Polish Rider, 180, 181



Ottoman Empire, 239n2 Owen, Wilfred, 191 Oyeyemi, Helen, 9 The Opposite House, 9 Ozeki, Ruth, 123 A Tale for the Time Being, 123

Pound, Ezra, 102n7 ‘In a Station of the Metro,’ 102n7 Primitivism, 139 skyscraper primitives, 137–151 Primordial time, 137–151 Proust, Marcel, 128

P Pamuk, Orhan, 11, 223–238 Istanbul: Memories and the City, 224, 230 My Name is Red, 224, 226–234, 236, 237 A Strangeness in My Mind, 224, 226, 233, 234, 236 Parish, Michael, 199 Park, Robert E., 146 ‘The City,’ 146 Introduction to the Science of Sociology, 146 Parker, Robert B., 201 Parrinder, Patrick, 90 Pike, Burton, 5, 128 The Image of the City in Modern Literature, 5 Pine, Emilie, 250, 251, 257 Pink, Sarah, 177, 179 Pitt, William (the Younger), 19 Pleßke, Nora, 131 Poe, Edgar Allan, 74, 75 ‘The Man of the Crowd,’ 74 The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, 146 Polyphony, 99, 125, 132 Pope, Alexander, 21 Postcolonialism, 132 Postdigital poetics, 169–182 Postrace, 52 See also Speculative realism Post-3/11 literature, 156, 157

Q Qiong Yao, 210 Queer theory, 210 Queer urban spaces, 207–220 Quinn, Emma, 247, 257n1 R Raban, Jonathan, 97, 101n3 Racism, 57, 59, 62, 89 Rankine, Claudia, 51 Citizen: An American Lyric, 51 Reed, Carol, 10, 169, 170, 181 The Third Man, 10, 169, 170, 181, 182 Revelations, Book of, 3 Ricoeur, Paul, 5, 100, 122 Ridda, Maria, 127, 132 Rosenbaum, Roman, 157, 165 Roy, Gabrielle, 5 Rubin, Jay, 165 Ruhs, Martin, 247, 257n1 S Saldavar, Ramon, 52, 57 See also Postrace; Speculative realism Salmela, Markku, 2 Literature and the Peripheral City, 2 San Diego, 162, 201 Sandburg, Carl, 149 Sassen, Saskia, 122 Schwartz, Joan M., 256


Segregation, 46, 54 Selvon, Sam, 9, 87–101, 101n1, 101n2, 101n6 Moses Ascending, 92, 101n6 The Lonely Londoners, 9, 87–101, 101n6 Senn, Fritz, 113 Seven Arts, 137, 139 Shail, Andrew, 112 Sharma, Sarah, 7 In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics, 7 Sheffield, 18, 19 Sheffield Iris, 18, 29 Sheffield Register, 18 Simmel, Georg, 115, 123, 129, 145, 146 ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life,’ 115, 145, 146 Situationist International, The, 174 Slavin, Molly, 248 Smajić, Srdjan, 74, 75 Smith, John Pye, 29 Smith, Zadie, 95, 99, 100 White Teeth, 99 Smyth, Gerry, 246–248, 251 Soja, Edward W., 3, 34, 97, 156, 164, 225, 233 Thirdspace, 156 South Carolina, 63 Southey, Robert, 21 Space, 75 conceived space, 49 lived space, 49, 97, 123 perceived space, 49 safe/unsafe spaces, 10, 50, 51, 55, 57, 62–64 See also Lefebvre, Henri Spatial turn, 3, 4, 122 Spatio-temporal reterritorializing, 207–220


Speculative realism, 52, 59 Speech acts, 98, 99, 101 Srivastava, Neelam, 132 Stephenson, Bryan (founder, Equal Justice Initiative), 64 Stilgoe, John R., 41, 42 Borderland, 41 Suburbs, 33–47, 72, 73, 79–82, 84n12, 84n13, 126, 198 Victorian suburb, 72, 79–82 Supermodernity, 129 Superposition, 127, 132n3 Swift, Jonathan, 20–22, 25, 29 ‘A Description of a City Shower,’ 20 ‘A Description of the Morning,’ 20 T Taipei City (Taiwan), 11, 207–220 Tambling, Jeremy, 246 Taper, Mark, 40 The Tatler, 20 Taylor, Joseph, 16 Temporal bidirectionality, 163 See also Eve, Martin Paul Thieme, John, 94, 100 Thurman, Wallace, 150, 151 Infants of the Spring, 150 Time Magazine, 139 Tokyo, 157–161, 166 Tongxinlian (same sex desire), 216 See also Homosexuality Topographical poetry, 16, 17, 19, 20 Translocal writing, 121 translocal palimpsest, 125, 126, 132 Trauma, 9–11, 16, 53, 155–166, 189–203, 244, 245, 248, 250, 251, 253, 254, 257 Tunbridge, J. E., 17 The Tourist-Historic City, 17



Turner, Frederick Jackson, 11, 144, 195, 196, 203 ‘The Significance of the Frontier in American History, 144 28 Days Later, 60 U Uncanny, the, 3, 35, 38, 45, 50, 51, 58, 60, 63, 77, 84n9, 243, 244, 247, 248 Upstone, Sara, 97 Urban Georgic, 21, 22, 25, 29 Utopia, 248–250, 255 V Van den Akker, Robin, 172, 174, 175, 182 Vermeulen, Timotheus, 172, 174, 175, 182 Vidler, Anthony, 36–38 The Architectural Uncanny, 36 Vienna, 128, 169, 170 Village Voice, The, 43 Virgil, 20 Georgics, 20 Voase, Richard, 16, 17 W Wagner, Tamara S., 75, 81 Waldie, D.J., 7, 8, 33–47 Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir, 34 Walking Dead, The, 60, 61 Wark, McKensie, 174 Warner, William B., 112 Washington, D.C., 162, 165 Weingart, Ben, 40 Welles, Orson, 170 West, Nathanael, 200 Miss Lonelyhearts, 200 Wharton, Edith, 5 Whitehead, Colson, 8, 49–64

The Intuitionist, 8, 50–53, 55, 57, 58, 63, 64 The Underground Railroad, 8, 50, 62–64 Zone One, 8, 50, 51, 57, 58, 64 Whitman, Walt, 5, 175 Wigley, J., 29 Willet, Ralph, 192–194, 201 William of Malmesbury, 16 Wilson, William H., 202 Wolfe, Tom, 174 The Bonfire of the Vanities, 174 Wolfreys, Julian, 96, 244, 245 Woolf, Virginia, 5, 29, 30, 100, 102n7 Mrs Dalloway, 5, 100, 102n7 Orlando, 29 Wordsworth, William, 21, 227 The Prelude, 227 World War One, 189–203 World War Two, 41, 46, 201 Wyvill, Christopher, 19 X Xiangtu wenxue (Taiwan nativist literature), 210 Y Yates, Edmund, 83n6, 84n6 York Jorvik Viking Centre, 17 York Castle Prison, 8, 16, 20, 30 York Minster, 26 Yorkshire Association, 19 Yu Kan-ping, 208, 210, 212–214, 217 Nei Zi (film), 208 Papa Can You Hear Me Sing, 212 Z Zemka, Sue, 71, 76 Zombie novel, 57