Spectres of War in the modern city: Post-War London, then and now
  • Devonport Lecture Theatre, Portland Square Building

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The Faculty of Arts and Humanities is delighted to invite you to this inaugural professorial lecture, presented by Professor Angela Smith from the School of Humanities and Performing Arts.

Hervey Russell, the main protagonist of Storm Jameson’s The Mirror In Darkness trilogy, moves to London in December 1918, one month after the Armistice, ‘inexperienced, poor, ambitious, burdened.’ What she finds and what absorbs and binds her over the next few years, is a city of contrasts, a ‘brightly-coloured web’ that could offer opportunities unprecedented in the pre-war world, or might ensnare her along with all the other survivors, struggling to rebuild their lives in the face of poverty and unemployment. Jameson writes from personal experience drawing pictures of a London that was her home. For Jameson, post-war London seems organically bound to Hervey, reflecting her own successes and traumas, against a backdrop of the immediate legacy of the war. Although Hervey determines to look ahead, the war lingers everywhere, in the scars of her friends, on the city streets and in political wrangling from the socialist press to the financial impact on industry. 

Hervey’s London as drawn in Jameson’s trilogy, Company Parade (1934), Love in Winter (1935) and None Turn Back (1936) is a modern city. Spanning the period between the Armistice and the General Strike, Jameson uses representations of the city to explore the politics of the immediate post-war period, developing new narrative techniques to create a cityscape that is as infused with hope for the future as it is haunted by the spectres of the past.

Eighty years later, coinciding with the centenary of the outbreak of war, Anna Hope’s novel Wake, also deals with the landscapes of post-war London, focusing on a trio of different female protagonists as a mechanism for exploring the aftermath of the war in the city. Constructed around the internment of the Unknown Warrior, Wake uses hindsight and memory to expose undercurrents of grief now a century old. While Hope engages with many of the same issues as Jameson, the intervening decades place a different inflection on the cityscapes surrounding the women. In this lecture, I will explore the different ways in which these novels develop representations of the modern city as a narrative device, using it to move from individual to collective memory, while retaining the complexity of Hervey’s London, a ‘brightly-coloured web’.

This lecture is open to all and light refreshments will be available afterwards. Please register your place via the above link.

Lecture starts: 18:00.

Contact elizabeth.chapman-lane@plymouth.ac.uk for any queries.

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