How Is The City Written English Literature Essay

Published:

The city is often defined as a large and densely populated area, of which there are no exact boundaries, of where it starts and where it ends. However to many others the city is simply just a place called home. Cities play an important role in our lives. After the industrial revolution, urban centres grew rapidly and over the past decades there has been an explosion in the growth of cities, both in there numbers and in there size- this is called 'Urbanisation'. Cities have always been at the centre of the economic growth, technology advances and cultural production. Cities have had a great impact on our lives and in world civilization in general and are becoming more and more important as there sizes and numbers grow. [1] 

The city is often displayed to us through representations from novels, reviews, travel guides or books but also through artistic approaches such as illustrations like maps, photographs, sketches and so forth. The city is not simply a physical presence that writers reproduce; rather, the city is a construct that continues to be reinvented by its inhabitants such as writers, each according to he's or hers experiential eye and personal encounter with it. The personal experience of many writers and artists as 'original' city dwellers implies that we can treat their works as expression of everyday spatial practice, as representations cemented in a material 'reality'.

Lady using a tablet
Lady using a tablet

Professional

Essay Writers

Lady Using Tablet

Get your grade
or your money back

using our Essay Writing Service!

Essay Writing Service

Typically accounts of literary and artists evolution describe a trend from social realism to modernism abstraction by which authors/ artists shifted from being narrators that were outside observers, looking down on and even arranging their creation, much like de Certeau's panopticist, to becoming injected as a participant in

the events of the narrative, much like a character, limiting their knowledge and vision to what was knowable and visible to their characters or expressing only what they felt to be true to their own experience. [2] As Mumford explains 'The city ... is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn urban forms condition mind. For space, no less than time, is artfully reorganized in cities ... With language itself, it remains man's greatest work of art.' (Mumford 1940:5)

There is a divided line between social science and artistic invention being continuously toyed with by writers. Writers challenge the ways of seeing by translating experience into art. On the contrary modernist writers such as James Joyce and John Dos Passos acted as participant observers, distancing themselves from the action, not as distant as Dickens, more like a literary fláneur, on the street as part of the crowd, and some what estranged from it, limiting their knowledge of their fictional protagonist.

In city novels, communities were opaque and experienced only through the minds and thoughts of individuals. Hence, noted Williams, the paradox that in the very places with the greatest potential for collect consciousness- the great cities where people were described as 'classes' or 'masses' - there was 'an absence of common feeling, an excessive subjectivity.' [3] It could therefore be argued that what is being represented by modern literature and art is not the real city, it is not reality as we know it, but instead a subjective city in which the writer is selective in what he or she choose to write about and what to discard. It is a city of ambience to be experience, in the

protagonist's mind, an imagined environment. To Raymond Williams, 'in a way there is no longer a city, there is only the man walking through it … The substantial reality, the living variety of the city, is in the walker's mind.' [4] James Donald goes further to say 'there is no such thing as a city,' (Donald 1996; 1). Rather the city designates the space produced by the interaction of geographically and historically specific intuitions, social relations of production and reproduction, practices of government and media communication. By calling this diversity 'the city,' we ascribe to it a coherence or integrity. [5] The city then, is above all a representation, a construction of reality.

Lady using a tablet
Lady using a tablet

Comprehensive

Writing Services

Lady Using Tablet

Plagiarism-free
Always on Time

Marked to Standard

Order Now

Representations make the city available for investigation and reply. As Anthony King proposes 'their strange effect is that, like the snow falling in a souvenir snow-globe, representations blanket the city, changing the way it appears to us' (King 1996; 228).

Another feature writers use is imagery (usually photographs and illustrations) consider travel guides or books, to demonstrate and liven up the text. The authors tend to portray a factual approach of the conventional guidebooks. Cohen-Portheim, for instance, does not attempt to provide a traditional guide to London but instead tells us what he thinks London represents: A guidebook must be complete, that is to say, included all sorts of dull matter; this book does not profess to be complete, but to offer a choice of what- according to the author - is most remarkable, curious or unknown in London. As it wants to interpret London, it is at least as much concerned

with the life of London as with its buildings and officially recognised sights… it wants to convey the atmosphere and sprit of London; it is a book about what London stands for and what it means. [6] (Cohen-Portheim 1935;vii)

In order to understand the metropolis the authors encourage readers to look far beyond tourist sights of the City. Lewis Hines, for example shows a distorted vision of life in the metropolis in which he depicted 'the others.' Hines documented a hidden reality, in this case crime; the exportation of children as labourers in America.

There is this great myth, that cities provide endless opportunities, this common

sense assumption, that cities are where dreams are made, this idea that you can achieve what ever it is you desire and become what you want to be if your in the city. Of course this is very rarely the case as Hine discovered. What Hines controversy did, was that he steered away from the conventional way of seeing and writing the city and as an alternative depicted a vision that encapsulates shocking and distressing stories such as improvised children being exploited. Lewis Hines work prompts the spectators to wonder what thoughts occupy his subjects and gives a voice to whose who remain unseen. Moreover, his images gave an ideological theme of a damaged humanity and broken lives which we as the spectator identify with reality.

Photographs are increasingly employed by writers and artists as evidence, used to record a particular moment in time, to freeze a specific moment, which is often

perceived by its spectators to represent reality. As a spectator there is this belief embedded in our subconscious that what was captured by the camera has to exist.

More importantly, we do not see the images as a sphere of Ideology.

In Marxist terms, reality is obscured by ideology which furthermore affects how we see ourselves and understand our actions. For instance New York is metaphorically represented as 'the Big Apple,' but other representations such as maps are understood to be realistic images for everyday. Everyday life, we fashion and receive countless representations and while many people realise that a totally accurate representation, a perfect copy, is impossible- we are however happy to settle for a good likeness.

In many authors' works, the city could be considered as an actor, as it becomes a character, with real agency that embodies and structures social powers as well as political, economic and symbolic processes, influencing the attitudes and ideas of its viewer and provoking reactions out of them. It is about encouraging them to ask questions and generate ideas about the city. As writers come to represent the city in literature, they in turn become architects of its history whose literary works reconstruct and remap the city. [7] 

Writers and artists and as articulate spokespersons, reflecting or exemplifying more broadly held attitudes. Or are they individuals of such heightened consciousness that they not only express what the rest of us fail to articulate, but also think what we fail to think? Indeed, literary geography provides analytical tools that dissect the text

Lady using a tablet
Lady using a tablet

This Essay is

a Student's Work

Lady Using Tablet

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Examples of our work

in an unusual way and emphasizes, as Moretti puts it, 'the only real issue of literary history: society, rhetoric, and their interaction' (Morretti 1999; 5)

The relationship between literature and geography, writers and the space they and their narrative occupy, has been briefly articulated by Gamal al- Ghitani, (One of Egypt's major writers and literary architects of the city, in the following terms:

Fundamentally, writing is linked to a specific place, the history and past of this place, and the spirit of this place. To be interested in time, and the passage of time, is to be interested in a specific place as well. For space and time are indissolubly tied. Place contains time. That is why remembering a certain event, at a certain date, cannot but evoke the place, the space in which we were at that given moment… It's for this reason that the relationship between the writer and the place is very important, because place implies time, history, society and human relations. [8] 

Even though representations of 'real' space in literature are fundamentally an imaginative construction, they will necessarily provide, through narrativity and temporality, a map of real material geopolitics and histories as well as a complex network of human relations across literary geography. In the 'book of urban studies,' Roland Barthes describes the city as a 'discourse and this discourse is truly a language: the city speaks to its inhabitants, we speak our city, the city where we are,

simply by living in it, by wondering through it, by looking at it. [9] Not only is the city a 'discourse' and a 'language,' but it also 'speaks to it's inhabitants'; not only is the

city constituted of signs that need to be interpreted and read, but those very signs signify another way for the city dwellers who behold and decode them.

Cities are not only the subjects of representation but are 'objects' in representations. Representations of cities are like portraits consider planning documents, statistical profiles such as crime statistics, maps and 3D models, respondents, sketch maps drawn from cognitive mapping research; these are like souvenirs of the lively urban environment in which most people live.

The contrast between town and country has changed: now the city is associated with vitality and alertness, the country with ignorance and routine. [10] Contrasting fears and opportunities; rising worries about loss of identity, alienation in fast growing metropolises set against the urban life brought opportunities for self-advancement. Williams identified an urban way of seeing that belonged to the street:

people colliding, passing by, speaking past but not at others (otherwise known as the blasé attitude which was coined by Simmel). [11] 

All observers have different ways of seeing and interpreting the city. Yet all city dwellers do have one thing in common: the process of imagining. As engaging as

cities are, promising plenitude, urbanites are faced with never ending series of partial visibilities, of gaps, silhouettes framed in a window, cabs transporting strangers, partly drawn curtains, closed doors and vigilant doormen.

Urban space, for the writers of the city, has become a major architect of its social, economic, and political fabric. In this literary production, Cities become a protagonist whose existence is dispensable for the existence of the narratives themselves, not to speak of their own readings and decoding of these works. Hence, the city becomes a text that is constantly rewritten, a space that is continuously reconstructed/ deconstructed through its ever shifting, ever changing signs.