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Writing the Urban Jungle: Reading Empire in London from Doyle to Eliot

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Charlottesville 2000 Softcover Very Good with no dust jacket 081391972X. 8vo; 234 pages.

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Overview

Much has been written about cultural imperialism and the effects of Britain and British culture on colonized people, but Joseph McLaughlin suggests that the influence worked both ways. Focusing on the relationship between the literature of British imperialism and turn-of-the-century metropolitan culture, Writing the Urban Jungle offers an account of the cultural confusion caused by bringing the foreign home.

Narrative, plots, and language formerly used to describe the colonies, McLaughlin argues, became ways of reading and writing about life in London, "that great cesspool into which all loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained," as Arthur Conan Doyle's Dr. Watson describes it in A Study in Scarlet (1887), the initial Sherlock Holmes tale. Canonical and popular literature by Doyle, Margaret Harkness, Joseph Conrad, and T. S. Eliot, and the literature of social reform and urban ethnography by General William Booth of the Salvation Army and Jack London all display this inversion of colonial rhetoric. By deploying the metaphor of "the urban jungle," these writers reconfigure the urban poor as "a new race of city savages" and read urban culture as a "Darkest England," an Africa-like place rife with danger and novel possibilities.

Drawing from and extending the field of criticism pioneered by Edward Said, Writing the Urban Jungle presents a powerful new paradigm for reading late-Victorian, modernist, and postcolonial literary and historical texts. It also provides a fresh tool for urban anthropologists working in our own fin-de-siècle.

University of Virginia Press

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Editorial Reviews

Alex Zwerdling

A highly original study of the connections between the rhetoric of colonialism and of metropolitan culture in turn-of-the-century Britain. The argument that the image of the urban jungle becomes part of a discourse, rooted in colonial experience but transferred to the metropolis, has impressive explanatory power. The writing is lucid, jargon-free, lively and occasionally playful—a pleasure to read.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813919720
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 234
  • Product dimensions: 6.22 (w) x 9.11 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph McLaughlin is Assistant Professor of English at Ohio University.

University of Virginia Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 An Irritation to Metaphor: Late-Victorian London as Urban Jungle 1
2 Holmes and the Range: Frontiers Old and New in A Study in Scarlet 27
3 The Romance of Invasion: Cocaine and Cannibals in The Sign of Four 53
4 Colonizing the Urban Jungle: General Booth's In Darkest England and the Way Out 79
5 Writing London: East End Ethnography in Jack London's The People of the Abyss 104
6 Where Does the East End?: With Conrad in Darkest Soho 133
7 "What Are the Roots That Clutch?": Money Migration, and The Waste Land 168
Notes 195
Bibliography 221
Index 229
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