Toth, Hayley G. (2016) Making home in the city: a spatial analysis of representations of London in contemporary fiction. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The plethora of novels dedicated to describing London over the centuries is telling of the city’s prolonged perceived importance to authors, their readers and inhabitants alike. Longstanding though the compulsion to imagine London may be, fiction – even fiction written and published in the same moment of history – provides contradictory accounts of the city at best, something which this thesis traces to the very ambiguities and instabilities of London itself. Using a focused spatial framework, this thesis places four stylistically, authorially and thematically diverse contemporary novels that are situated in London and, to an extent, about what it means to live in London, side-by-side with a view to highlighting the multitude of experiences available in the city. Citing the urban space as the site at which the social and the political is constructed, the practice of space is emphasised to be a key trajectory through which identity, agency, and notions of home and belonging are established. With a view to developing Doreen Massey’s (2005) distinction between space and place, coined terms ‘the cartographical’ and ‘the phenomenological’ are applied to analyse the significance and effects of different spatial practices and develop an understanding of London’s contingency. This contingency theorised is further cultivated through an analysis of the city’s palimpsestuousness – that is, how London seems to retain much of its heritage and discursive history (whilst simultaneously modernising, and thus overwriting much of its ancestry) – and an exploration of how each of the four novels interact with the city’s palimpsestuous quality through the employment of intertextuality. Providing insight into both the politics and poetics of London, then, this thesis contributes to the remerging field of spatial scholarship and brings a new and fruitful lens through which to read contemporary works.

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