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Reading London: The literary representation of the city's pleasures, 1700-1782

Landau, Leya; (1999) Reading London: The literary representation of the city's pleasures, 1700-1782. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This dissertation investigates the representation, in fiction, of London's spaces of pleasure, in the period between 1700 and 1782. It examines the way that these literary depictions both reflect and create their own imaginary versions of familiar urban sites. The thesis engages with recent work by social historians and theorists of eighteenth-century culture, and argues that a gradual shift in cultural sensibilities, from polite urbane respectability to a more bourgeois and feminine sentimentalism, is articulated through literary portrayals of London's urban spaces. My reading of 'the city as text' treats London as a place to be deciphered by the reader, and considers historical detail and peculiarities, rather than theoretical and ahistorical interpretation, as integral to the discussion. The chapters are organized as a series of case-studies, centred around places rather than authors, and focus on the relationship between geography and literature. In the first chapter I investigate the way in which the relocation of the theatres from the outskirts of London to the centre of the city was selectively represented in contemporary literature. The chapter starts with the treatment of the London playhouse in periodicals and scandalous fiction, in the early part of the century, and considers how the cliche of theatrum mundi is given a topical relevance in debates concerning urban identity. It goes on to discuss changing attitudes to the playhouse in various novels, focusing particularly on Samuel Richardson's mid-century ambivalence about the theatre, in his dual role as guardian of the City's morals and author of popular fiction. I also discuss the correlation between the identity of readers of novels and the identity of playhouse audiences. The second chapter examines the changing attitude to Italian opera and the Opera House, from excoriating criticism in early Scriblerian satire to praise and acclaim in the later literature of sensibility. In the third chapter I discuss the changing fictional representation of London's more exclusive pleasure gardens - Vauxhall and Ranelagh. The chapter also considers how certain popular literary works, in particular The Arabian Nights (which first appeared in English translation in 1706) and Richardson's Pamela (1740-1), shaped the reputation and design of the gardens. The final chapter examines the fictional representation of the coffeehouse. I explore the way in which early periodicals like The Tatler and The Spectator construct a polite and urbane version of London through a selective presentation of the city's coffee-houses. I go on to trace the evolution of early literary tropes associated with the coffee-house, in later works, particularly novels. These include the connection between the variety of coffee-houses and shifting urban identity, and the significance of the absence of women, in literary portraits, from the eighteenth-century coffee-house.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Reading London: The literary representation of the city's pleasures, 1700-1782
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Urban spaces
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099970
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