London Underground: A Cultural Geography

London Underground: A Cultural Geography

London Underground: A Cultural Geography

London Underground: A Cultural Geography

Synopsis

In London Underground: A Cultural Geography, David Ashford sets out to chart one of the strangest, as well as the most familiar, spaces in London. This book provides a theoretical account of the evolution of an archetypal modern environment. The first to complete that slow process of estrangement from the natural topography initiated by the Industrial Revolution, the London Underground is shown to be what French anthropologist Marc Auge has termed non-lieu - a non-place, like motorway, supermarket or airport lounge, compelled to interpret its relationship to the invisible landscape it traverses through the medium of signs and maps. Surveying an unusually wide variety of material, ranging from the Victorian triple-decker novel, to Modernist art and architecture, to Pop music and graffiti, this cultural geography suggests that the tube-network is a transitional form, linking the alienated spaces of Victorian England to the virtual spaces of our contemporary consumer-capitalism. Recounting the history"

Excerpt

A spoiler follows: the woman was murdered by her husband, who pushed a ring containing prussic acid onto her finger as they travelled together in a compartment on London’s steam-powered Victorian Underground. The resolution to Baroness Orczy’s ‘The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway’ (1901) might suggest a malevolent inversion of the Orpheus myth, the transposition of that primeval narrative of descent into an Industrial Underworld. It is therefore baffling to find no reference to the infernal properties of this smoky, subterranean space in Orczy’s story. The reader is presented with a first-class carriage merely, like that on any conventional railway, save that there is nothing to see through the window. Yet setting is certainly central to the plot. The premise of Orczy’s murder mystery is that the average Englishman might get away with murder on the Underground, because he can count on the fact that the other passengers will resolutely refuse to pay any attention whatsoever to anyone else in their compartment. The first witness, Mr Joseph Campbell, can recall that a man in a tweed suit seated himself next to Mrs Hazeldene and that the man alighted at Farringdon Street, but took no notice of them because he was very much engrossed in some calculations, buried in the Stock Exchange quotations . . .

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