London in this period was the largest city in the world, a centre of global commerce as well as of the expanding British empire. This course aims to introduce students to a range of textual and visual representations of the metropolis between 1750, which saw the completion of Westminster Bridge, and 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.
In the middle of the eighteenth century, David Hume described the city as a place offering opportunities for self-improvement where “both sexes meet in an easy and sociable manner; and the tempers of men, as well as their behaviour, refine apace.” But this idealized sense of the city as a place of polite social interaction and cultural progress was also widely contested. In debates about the appearance of London in the middle decades of the century, for example, urban planners articulated concerns that London’s dirty, ill-paved, and narrow streets offered no such opportunity for polite intercourse, and indeed that the streets of London might shame the nation in the eyes of foreigners. In dialogue with the satires of Hogarth, novels by writers such as Eliza Haywood and Fanny Burney depicted London as a site of social pleasure but also sexual danger for their protagonists. By the early nineteenth century, representations of the city more frequently (if humorously) focused on the street as a site of contest and confrontation, a place where the unwary walker was jostled, splashed, and dirtied in his attempts to find a way through the urban crowds. If Wordsworth saw London as a place where it was impossible to find the necessary calm in which to write poetry, however, contemporaries – most famously William Hazlitt and Charles Lamb – explored and sometimes embraced the newly emergent identity of ‘the Londoner’. Towards the end of this period, writers and artists including Dickens and Mayhew increasingly engaged with the social stratification of the city. They sought to uncover the lives of the urban poor, drawing sharp contrasts between London’s status as centre of a rich and powerful global empire and the daily lives of those left behind in the race for progress and commercial prosperity.
|A||Autumn Term 2022-23|
The aim of this course is to explore literary and visual representations of London in the period between 1750-1850, with reference to other cities.
On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:
Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with a wide range of works addressing the city between the middle of the eighteenth century and the middle of the nineteenth century.
Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with some the key concerns and debates about the city as presented in various literary and visual accounts of the city.
Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields dealing with the representation of London
Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.
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John Gwynn, London and Westminster Improved
Oliver Goldsmith, The Citizen of the World
Frances Burney, Evelina
William Wordsworth, Book VII of The Prelude
Mary Robinson, “Present State of the Manners, Society, Etc. Etc. of the Metropolis of England”
Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz
Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor