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Writing the Cityscape: Narratives of Moscow since 1991

Griffiths, MJ; (2014) Writing the Cityscape: Narratives of Moscow since 1991. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis considers how continuity and transformation, the past and the future, are inscribed into the cityscape. Drawing on Roland Barthes’ image of the city as ‘a discourse’ and Michel de Certeau’s concept of the Wandersmänner, who write the city with their daily movements, this thesis takes urban space as both a repository of, and inspiration for, narratives. In few cities is the significance of writing narratives more visible than in Moscow. In the 1930s, it was conceived as the archetypal Soviet city, embodying the Soviet Union’s radiant future. Since the deconstruction of this grand narrative and the fall of the Soviet Union, competing ideas have flooded in to fill the void. With glass shopping arcades, a towering new business district, and reconstructed old churches, Moscow’s facelift offers only part of the picture. A number of other visions have been imprinted onto the post-Soviet city: nostalgic impulses for the simplicity of old Moscow; the search for a new, stable, powerful centre; desires for luxury, privatized gated communities; and feelings of abandonment in the grey, decaying, sprawling suburbs. Following an overview of recent changes to Moscow’s topography, these four major themes are investigated through the prism of post-Soviet Russian literature. Retro-detective fiction offers insight into nostalgia for the past and the temporal layers that build up the palimpsestic cityscape. Descriptions of Moscow after the apocalypse shed light on the city’s traditional concentric structure and the concomitant symbolism of hierarchy. Glamour literature challenges this paradigm by focusing on the gated community, a topographical form that splinters the city. Images of the supernatural and the Gothic lead to an alternative vision of the hybrid city, embracing multiplicity. In this way, fictional works defy the physical world’s constraints of time and space, revealing a kaleidoscope of different perspectives on post-Soviet Muscovite experiences.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Writing the Cityscape: Narratives of Moscow since 1991
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Third party copyright material has been removed from ethesis.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1427967
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