London has been compared to many things: "a hoary, ponderous inferno" (D.H. Lawrence), "a mighty ogress" (Henry James), or "The Golden City" (William Ernest Henley). A small sample of the wide range of images that writers have used to depict London, these descriptions only hint at the city's colourful literary history. In this seminar we will explore London's past and present in British literature, investigating the literary traditions and stylistic means that have shaped portraits of the city. Starting with the Romantic period and poetic renderings of the city by, for example, William Wordsworth and Joanna Baillie, we will catch a glimpse of Victorian London as seen by Charles Dickens or Henry Mayhew, before accompanying Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway on her walk through the modern metropolis. Our study of London in literature will conclude with a close reading of the contemporary city in Zadie Smith's novel NW.
Please purchase a copy of Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway (ISBN 9780241436271) and Zadie Smith's NW (ISBN 9780241965269). All other texts will be provided on Moodle.