Course

Post-War London: Transgressive City

Postwar London.png

Post-War London: Transgressive City

Michael Hrebeniak and Others

Drawing upon literature, film and music, this semester draws a partial but energetic map of London as its social frontiers (sexual, racial, financial, moral) shift inside a major juncture of the City’s history. It appraises London in terms of a cultural imagination of synthesis: an act of mind as well as of physical geometry; a space of simultaneities, convergences, encounters which constantly fragment, disperse and mesh into new coherences.

As preparation, we will address how London has traditionally been experienced and configured in the work of Pepys, Blake, Dickens, Doré and de Quincy via fusions of the Romantic and Gothic, in order to describe and transform its space. The modern era will see an engagement with projections from the likes of Debord, Benjamin, MacInnes, Pinter, Antonioni and Sinclair, through the sensitising of the pedestrian consciousness to the geographical terrain and its unstable signs, symbols, and mythologies. For a methodology we will use the marginal discourses of the flâneur and pyschogeographer, maintaining their thrilling states of tension with the capital’s official forms of social behaviour and its narratives of power (London as polis of trade, manufactures, militarism).

We will conclude by looking at emerging local conditions in response to international counterculture pressures (Tangier, Paris, New York, San Francisco), at how London dramatises and replays ancient occult continuities, at how it racially pluralizes across terrain, at changes in notions of leadership and society, and at new manifestations of the barbarian outlaw (politicians, gangsters, film and rock stars) financed by new money and culturally sanctioned by the old as a new aristocracy of power. 

Selected Texts & Films:

Peter Ackroyd, Hawksmoor (London: Penguin, 2003)

Monica Ali, Brick Lane (London: Doubleday, 2003)

Michelangelo Antonioni (dir.), Blow Up (1966)

William S. Burroughs, The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead (New York: Grove, 1971)

Sinclair Beiles, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso & Brion Gysin, Minutes to Go (London: Two Cities, 1960)

William Blake, Complete Poems (Oxford: OUP, 1987)

Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays (Trans. Jonathan Mayne, London, Phaidon, 1995)

Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg (dirs.), Performance (1970)

Peter Collinson & F. Gary Gray (dirs.), The Italian Job (1969)

Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith, New York: Zone Books, 1995)

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Volume Two (Trans. Brian Massumi, London: Athlone, 1987)

Thomas de Quincy, Confessions of an Opium-Eater (London: Read Books, 2006)

Charles Dickens, Bleak House (London: Penguin, 2003)

Lewis Gilbert (dir.), Alfie (1966); based on an original play by Bill Naughton

Jim Haynes, Thanks for Coming! (London: Faber, 1984)

Patrick Keiller (dir.), London (1994)

Ken Knabb (ed.), Situationist International Anthology (London: Bureau of Public Secrets, 2007)

Joseph Losey (dir.), The Servant (1964); screenplay by Harold Pinter

Colin MacInnes, Absolute Beginners (1959; London: Allison & Busby Ltd, 1995)

City of Spades (1957; London: Allison & Busby Ltd, 1995)

Jeff Nuttall, Bomb Culture (London: Delacorte, 1969)

Art and the Degradation of Awareness (London: Calder, 1999)

Joe Orton, Entertaining Mr Sloane (1964; London: Methuen, 1973)

Samuel Pepys, The Diaries (London: Penguin, 2003)

Harold Pinter, The Caretaker (1960; London: Methuen, 1983)

Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners (1956; London: Penguin, 2006)

Iain Sinclair, Downriver (London: Grafton, 1991)

London Orbital (London: Granta, 2002)          

White Chapell, Scarlet Tracings (London: Goldmark, 1987)

Iain Sinclair & Rachel Lichtenstein, Rodinsky’s Room (London: Granta, 2000)