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‘On an Eastern Arc’: Reading Iain Sinclair’s interest in Christ Church, Spitalfields and its uncanny territory through East End discourse

Paul Newland

Iain Sinclair is an East End writer. His work uncovers marginal traces of London’s culture, “allowing the fiction of an underlying pattern to assert itself” (Lights Out for the Territory 4). And, as Rod Mengham puts it, Sinclair’s work is “gripped by its fascination with particular territories …” (56). But, importantly, Sinclair’s territorial excavations usually take place to the east of London, or, more accurately, in a discursively constructed space that has become known as the East End. His vision, then, moves “on an eastern arc” (Lud Heat 13). In this essay I argue that while Sinclair’s later writing has often been understood in terms of its apparent resistance to the hegemonic rationalist discourse of the city, or to what Julian Wolfreys terms the “globalizing urban refit” (Writing London II 164), the remapping of east London constituted by gentrification and regeneration, it can also be said to articulate a distinctly bourgeois idea of an East End that has so often been mobilised as an imaginative space inhabited by voiceless, marginalized stereotypes marked by ‘Othered’ ethnicity, criminality and degeneracy.[1] Sinclair’s interest in the ontology of the East End, the ubiquitous presence of this imaginative space in his work, appears driven, then, by an uncanny double-consciousness. His writing uncovers the irrationality of the area, its enduringly potent, mythological narratives, and, as such, restates its subversive presence, while at the same time actively reinforcing its socio-cultural marginality and Otherness. As such, Sinclair’s writing not only challenges rational ways of understanding and interpreting the city, but also, at the same time, can be said to uncannily reconstitute the familiar binary spatial economy in London in which the East End has come to be understood as the Other of an essentially modern, bourgeois, civilised City and West End. In order to demonstrate how Sinclair’s writing operates within East End discourse, I have chosen specifically to examine his abiding interest in what he sees as the uncanny architecture of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Christ Church, Spitalfields and its ‘territory’, a psychogeographical space based around the forms of Hawksmoor’s other London churches that I argue is broadly coterminous with the discursive space of the East End. As such, I concentrate on Sinclair’s poem, Lud Heat, first published in 1975. But I also trace the influence of Sinclair’s trademark psychogeography of the East End and of Christ Church in particular on subsequent texts, notably Peter Ackroyd’s novel, Hawksmoor (1985), Alan Moore’s graphic novel From Hell (1999) and Matthew D’Ancona’s novel, Going East (2003), in order to suggest that a dialogue can be seen to exist between an essentially unchanging late-Victorian discursive idea of the uncanny East End and contemporary re-imaginings of this idea. Firstly I want to situate Sinclair’s writing within East End discourse.

Iain Sinclair: East End Writer

The shadow of Christ’s Church falls across Spitalfields Garden, and in the shadow of Christ’s Church, at three o’clock in the afternoon, I saw a sight I never wish to see again — Jack London, The People of the Abyss (61)

While he was exploring the heart of London’s East End at the beginning of the twentieth century, the American writer Jack London was shocked to find dozens of homeless people sleeping rough in the environs of Christ Church, Spitalfields. Almost a century later, Iain Sinclair, stalking the same streets, noticed that little had changed: “The east London churches still draw the meths-men and derelicts, fire-alcohol devotees, to the attendant parks” (Lud Heat 20). Sinclair’s vision of this church as an uncanny topographical landmark in east London sees it operating as a centripetal force (Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination 425) that anchors the dark discourse of the East End. Further, Sinclair writes:

Christ Church rises out of Spitalfields, which was excavated in 1574 when the brick-fields, from which Brick Lane gets its name, were being dug. Bone masses were then discovered; cartloads. Ashes. Powder. Skulls. Stone coffins. (27)

Here, Sinclair’s psychogeographical reading of Christ Church and its territory draws on the imagery of death and burial, recalling H.F’s description of the impact of the plague on east London in Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (1722). As such, Sinclair echoes formative descriptions of the East End that can be found in the works of late-Victorian writers such as Arthur Morrison, Israel Zangwill, Walter Besant, William Black, George Gissing, Margaret Harkness (aka John Law) and Jack London.[2] Indeed, as the historian Alan Palmer has suggested, due at least in part to the work of these writers: “Everyone knows the East End, at least as a generalised concept” (xvii). The East End has been reinforced as a spatial idea within the bourgeois imagination through ongoing discourse that has marked it as a terra incognita, as a dark, dangerous, degenerate, exotic space. It was the “joyless city” (132) of Besant’s All Sorts and Conditions of Men (1882), and the “shocking place” (19-20) of Arthur Morrison’s Tales of Mean Streets (1894). It is a space that became notorious for its extreme poverty and its seemingly debased criminal activity. Moreover, this spatial idea of the East End has been essentially fixed at one historical moment: 1888.[3] Lud Heat’s Blakean re-vision of east London specifically returns to this discursive idea East End by gesturing to the infamous Ripper murders of 1888 as well as the Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811:

I spoke of the unacknowledged magnetism and control-power, built-in code force, of these places; I would now specify … the ritual slaying of Marie Jeanette Kelly in the ground floor room of Miller’s Court, Dorset Street, directly opposite Christ Church … the Ratcliffe Highway slaughter of 1811, with the supposed murderer, stake through the heart, trampled into the pit where four roads cross to the north of St George-in-the-East … (21)

So, Lud Heat elides the perceived bestial criminality of these horrific murders with the area’s well-known history of poverty and social deprivation. Sinclair’s psychogeography draws out traces of earlier East End narratives and speculates on how they reverberate and impact upon quotidian experience of this contemporary city space. It is clear, then, that Sinclair chooses the East End for his psychogeographical project precisely because of its chaotic irrationality. His focus falls on the East End because it is an uncanny space that exists in imaginative opposition to the rational, policed and controlled financial heart of the City of London and a West End that remains home to the seat of government, royal palaces and sites of tourism and consumerism.

Iain Sinclair’s East End is a haunted space, a space of death. Indeed, as Julian Wolfreys argues: “The act of writing the city is … for Sinclair, always an act of responding to ghosts, to the traces of ghosts” (Deconstruction: Derrida 140). Steve Pile has also pointed out that “For Sinclair, the city is haunted, and by tracing the stories of the dead he articulates a hidden mood of the city” (124). There is a distinctly uncanny quality to Sinclair’s writing, both in its narrative form and content.[4] In his 1919 essay, ‘The Uncanny’ (Das Unheimlich), Sigmund Freud suggested that the uncanny “is undoubtedly related to what is frightening — to what arouses dread and horror …” (339). The phenomenon of the uncanny can be understood as “that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar” (340). The uncanny is that which appears to be profoundly unhomely (unheimlich). At first, Freud followed Schelling’s definition: “everything that ought to have remained secret and hidden but has come to light” (345). But Freud further suggested that the heimlich and the unheimlich should not be seen within a purely oppositional, binary paradigm: “… heimlich is a word the meaning of which develops in the direction of ambivalence, until it finally coincides with its opposite, unheimlich. Unheimlich is in some way or other a sub-species of heimlich” (347). In other words, the uncanny imbricates the familiar and the unfamiliar. But Nicholas Royle has made an important point concerning the resistance of the uncanny to interpretation: “Intellectual uncertainty is not necessarily or simply a negative experience, a dead-end sense of not knowing or of indeterminacy. It is just as well an experience of something open, generative, exhilarating (the trembling of what remains undecidable.)” (52). I want to suggest that as a writer, Sinclair revels in this open, generative, undecidable nature of the uncanny. He notices the ability of uncanny phenomena to resist rational mapping and interpretation. As such, he suggests the uncanny East End’s potentially subversive presence in a rationally mapped and controlled London. But in Sinclair’s work, the East End’s uncanny irrationality also marks it as a horrific, ghostly, and intellectually uncertain space. In other words, what should remain hidden in bourgeois socio-cultural circles can be seen to come to light in a discursive East End, re-imagined by Sinclair around the forms of Hawksmoor’s churches.

Psychogeography and the Uncanny East End

Book One of Lud Heat, ‘The Muck Rake’, begins with a section entitled ‘Nicholas Hawksmoor, His Churches’. Here, Sinclair suggests that Nicholas Hawksmoor’s architecture achieves a scientific level of brilliance in its planning and construction. But he also speculates that the architecture demonstrates uncanny qualities. Hawksmoor designed and built six churches across London following the Fifty New Churches Act of 1711. These were St Anne, Limehouse; St Alfrege at Greenwich; St George-in-the-East; St Mary Woolnoth; St George, Bloomsbury and Christ Church, Spitalfields. In Lud Heat, these buildings are imagined as elements of Hawksmoor’s greater plan to “rewrite the city” (14). Sinclair suggests that “Eight churches give us the enclosure, the shape of fear; … erected over a fen of undisclosed horrors, white stones laid upon the mud and dust” (13). Sinclair’s interest here is primarily in what he sees as the uncanny geometry of the churches: “we can mark out the total plan of the churches on the map and sift the meanings” (16). He imagines the buildings forming occult patterns of meaning, systems of triangles and pentacle stars that form invisible lines of influence, a “system of energies” (19) within the city. This irrational system of energies produces a conceptual space that can be said to be coterminous with the uncanny discursive mythology of the spatial idea of East End. We can think of both Sinclair’s conceptual space here and the discursive East End as chronotopes. For Mikhail Bakhtin, a chronotope is a “time-space” (The Dialogic Imagination 84). Moreover, he suggests: “every literary image is chronotopic” (251). Bakhtin was specifically concerned with how the textual form of the novel produces chronotopes. But if we think of the discursive spatial idea of the East End as a broadly visualized textual phenomenon built around a framework of signifying practices which incorporates powerful and enduring, essentially unchanging, generic images, it can certainly be understood to be a chronotope. All forms of writing (or, for that matter, all texts) contain junctions between space and time, or, as Bakhtin puts it: “A literary work’s artistic unity in relationship to an actual reality is defined by its chronotope” (243). Accordingly, ‘real’ historical time and space and ‘imagined’ or ‘fictional’ time and space are always necessarily articulated in relation to one another, or are, in Bakhtin’s terms, in dialogue (see also Sennett 191-2; Smethurst 12). In other words, the ‘real’ world and the ‘represented’ world are in “continual mutual interaction … The work and the world represented in it enter the real world and enrich it, and the real world enters the work and its world as a part of the process of its creation, as well as a part of its subsequent life …” (The Dialogic Imagination 254). Chronotopes, then, are time-spaces in which the conscious mind frames and organises the ‘real’ or, indeed, disorganises and re-presents the ‘real’ (Smethurst 5). As such, they can operate as metaphors that serve to condense socio-cultural history for the purposes of narrative. Sinclair’s Lud Heat frames a chronotope around the form of Hawksmoor’s churches and their uncanny topographical relationship with one another in order to make an illegible, irrational space legible.

Sinclair’s psychogeographical reading of Hawksmoor’s churches can also be usefully read through Jonathan Raban’s notion of the ‘soft city’ and Kevin Lynch’s notion of ‘imageability’. In Soft City (1974), Raban suggests that “The city as we imagine it, the soft city of illusion, myth, aspiration, nightmare, is as real, maybe more real, than the hard city one can locate on maps in statistics …” (10), and that “Inside one’s private city, one builds a grid of reference points, each enshrining a personal attribution of meaning” (167). And in The Image of the City (1960), Kevin Lynch argues, “Every citizen has had long associations with some part of his city, and his image is soaked in memories and meanings” (1). For Lynch, the city has to be ordered into a coherent pattern in order for it to become legible, and this pattern relies on the ‘imageability’ of the city, that is, on visual markers in urban space. But Lynch also argues: “Nothing is experienced by itself, but always in relation to its surroundings, the sequences of events leading up to it, the memory of past experiences” (1). Major buildings and monuments in the city can act as agents of memory, then, as markers in the city’s fabric, as well as visible reference points and aids to navigation through the labyrinthine city text. But when Richard Sennett suggests: “the cathedral was a place of precision in a chaotic world” (26), he perhaps gestures to how structures are often imposed on chaos, whether they are religious, legal, institutional, architectural or imagined. Indeed, Freud often described the uncanny within spatial terms; for example, as “something one does not know one’s way about in” (341). Furthermore, Freud’s spatial understanding of the uncanny echoes late-Victorian descriptions of the East End as a chaotic uncontrollable space, an urban jungle. I want to argue here that Sinclair’s psychogeographical reading of Hawksmoor’s churches effectively makes an illegible space legible. But he goes further. He also suggests that the churches appear to aggressively lay claim to the spaces that they occupy; that they produce “an unacknowledged influence over events created within the shadow-lines of their towers” (20). By speculating on this irrational, uncanny force of the churches, their relationships with the territory they occupy and their magnetic pull on poverty and crime, Sinclair’s work can be critiqued as a re-mobilisation of a discursive East End space defined in terms of Otherness and death. In Lud Heat, the history of east London, once more, has been replaced with a surrogate ideology that devalues the cultural status of this area and its marginalized subjectivities.

The Uncanny Architecture of Christ Church, Spitalfields

While in Lud Heat Sinclair clearly articulates the significance of all of Hawksmoor’s London churches within his system of energies, it soon becomes clear that one church, above all, is “an active place, a high metaphor” (20). Lud Heat not only positions Christ Church, Spitalfields as a topographical marker within the rational, material city, but also as a centripetal nodal point or nexus in Sinclair’s ‘soft city’. Building work began on Christ Church, Spitalfields in 1714. It was consecrated in 1729. It stands on the eastern side of Commercial Street and on the southern side of Fournier Street, overlooking the increasingly bourgeois Spitalfields market. It now faces giant postmodern office buildings on the eastern side of Bishopsgate that continue to spread out from the City of London. Indeed, these buildings appear to be encroaching into Christ Church’s territory, trespassing in the East End, and, as such, trespassing in a conceptual urban past. In Lud Heat, a text written before much of the redevelopment of Bishopsgate but uncannily and prophetically preparing to counter it, Sinclair digs into the discursive East End in order to disrupt the potential impact of multi-national capital on this city space. As such, he alleges that Christ Church was “magnet to the archetypal murder myth of the late 19th century … The whole karmic programme of Whitechapel in 1888 moves around the fixed point of Christ Church …” (21-2). Sinclair speculates that Christ Church has not only witnessed horrific and uncanny events but has also, somehow, absorbed them or produced them. His imagined ‘soft city’ marks the church as a location that manages to retain knowledge of the narratives that have unfolded within its shadow but that also is somehow complicit in these narratives. Furthermore, Sinclair speculates that Hawksmoor’s architectural interest in dark, irrational, mystical forces has somehow engendered these happenings. It is this speculation that has fuelled the literary interest in Christ Church that followed Lud Heat. But Sinclair was not the first to notice the apparently uncanny force of Christ Church.

Writing in 1924, the architecture critic H.S. Goodhart-Rendel suggested that Nicholas Hawksmoor sought to engineer an emotional response to his work: “Hawksmoor’s great superiority over his contemporaries … lies in his greater consciousness than theirs of the emotional values of architectural forms. They were versifiers and he a poet, they were sophists and he a philosopher” (17). Aspects of Hawksmoor’s design also caught the attention of Kerry Downes, who, writing in 1959, argued that the church produces an “effect of emotional assault” (167). Downes also suggests: “We feel in or before most of Hawksmoor’s buildings that our emotions are being directly attacked …” (46). He speculates that the architect’s aim was to incorporate rational design and building techniques in order to construct a church that produces, exudes or attracts irrational, unknowable forces. According to Sinclair, Hawksmoor’s plan succeeded: “It shocks every time you glimpse one of the towers” (20). In the following section from his book on Hawksmoor, Kerry Downes demonstrates how the architecture of Christ Church uncannily appeals to his emotions:

The portico has the generative power of a symbol, being, like an object in a dream, a transformation … the whole west front becomes at once a geometrical exercise and a sophisticated visual conceit, smothered with a Tuscan order and slabs of masonry, leaving an emotional charge which is powerful even for us, and of which the taste of the eighteenth century could make no sense of at all. (183)

Downes also argues that Christ Church “suggests the structural grandeur of ancient Rome, particularly through the portholes over the main windows, like tunnels into the masonry” (181). These eye-like portholes suggest a corporeal uncanniness that is often found in descriptions of under-developed architecture in East End discourse. Indeed, in The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1897), Joseph Conrad describes dockside accommodation thus: “On the riverside slopes the houses appeared in insolent groups …” (121). And in his Limehouse Nights (1916) tale, “Beryl and the Croucher,” Thomas Burke describes buildings in Limehouse taking on anthropomorphic characteristics that mirror their Chinese inhabitants: “(he) passed a house where a window seemed deliberately to wink at him” (113-4).

In his 1992 book, The Architectural Uncanny, Anthony Vidler draws on Freud’s essay in order to demonstrate how architecture and urban spaces have often been understood as reflections of modern anxiety. But Vidler argues that the uncanny is essentially projected onto buildings; that the effects produced are not always intentional or purely of design:

If actual buildings or spaces are interpreted through this lens, it is not because they themselves possess uncanny properties, but rather because they act, historically or culturally, as representations of estrangement. If there is a single premise to be derived from the study of the uncanny in modern culture, it is that there is no such thing as uncanny architecture, but simply architecture that, from time to time and for different purposes, is invested with uncanny qualities. (11-2)

Sinclair invests Christ Church and its territory with the uncanny in order to resist and subvert the hegemonic rational discourse of the city. But by doing this, Sinclair effectively re-imagines the discursive East End as a chaotic marginal space situated in binary opposition to rational, civilized subjectivities.

Christ Church, Spitalfields as Centripetal Narrative Force

In Peter Ackroyd’s novel, Hawksmoor (1985), Christ Church, Spitalfields functions as an uncanny centripetal nexus around which characters in the narrative(s) appear to experience a profound sense of dislocation, as rational understandings of time, space and subjectivity become disrupted. As such, the novel borrows heavily from Sinclair’s psychogeography of the East End in Lud Heat.[5] In Ackroyd’s novel, the church appears emblematic of an essentially unchanging late-Victorian idea of the East End, representing “all that was dark and immutably dirty about the area” (34). Hawksmoor is a ludic, labyrinthine text that intertwines factual and fictional events, locations and characters. The novel is constructed around two narratives. The first is a first person narrative set in early eighteenth century London, told in the voice of a character named Nicholas Dyer. Dyer is an architect building a number of churches across London after the great fire of 1666, of which Christ Church becomes the most important. Indeed, he positions Christ Church very carefully within a space that is socially and historically significant:

My Church now rises above a populous Conjunction of Alleys, Courts and Passages, Places full of poor People, but in those Years before the Fire the Lanes by Spittle-Fields were dirty and unfrequented: that part now called Spittle-Fields Market, or the Flesh-Market, was a Field of Grass with the Cows feeding on it. And there where my Church is, where three roads meet … was open ground until the Plague turned it into a vast Mound of Corrupcion. (23)

The second narrative in the novel is omniscient, and set in late twentieth century London. It follows the attempts of a detective, Nicholas Hawksmoor, to solve the mystery surrounding a series of murders that take place in or around Dyer’s churches. Hawksmoor employs rational scientific methods in an attempt to understand the crimes, but finds that he is increasingly thrown off course. Hawksmoor’s experience of space and time, or his chronotopic experience, becomes severely disrupted. It becomes clear that he has an uncanny relationship with Dyer. Indeed, the two characters double each other to an increasing extent throughout the novel.

In the first chapter, the stonemason’s son, Thomas Hill, is invited to lay the highest and last stone of Christ Church. But before he can do this, he mysteriously falls from the steeple to his death. In the second chapter, set in contemporary London, another boy named Thomas Hill becomes trapped and dies in the labyrinthine tunnels under the church. Over the course of the novel, then, it becomes apparent that Dyer’s sacrificial males are doubled by the murder victims found in or around the churches in the contemporary narrative. By lending the character of the detective the name of the real architect of the churches, Nicholas Hawksmoor, Ackroyd writes an uncanny, double history of London. If Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor employs a double chronotope or time-frame (Smethurst), one aspect of the novel appears to remain fixed, however; the seemingly timeless and eternal form of the churches. Christ Church, Spitalfields in particular, the site of the first death and the “apex of the triangle” in the detective, Hawksmoor’s, map of the murders, produces a centripetal force which anchors the disturbed chronotopes of the narrative. Indeed, despite his gradual decent into madness, Hawksmoor still manages to engage in a form of psychogeography. Echoing Jack London and Iain Sinclair, the narrator tells us:

… it did not take any knowledge of the … celebrated Whitechapel murders, all of them conducted in the streets and alleys around Christ Church, Spitalfields, to understand, as Hawksmoor did, that certain streets or patches of ground provoked a malevolence which generally seemed to be quite without motive. (116)

In his rigorously researched and sophisticated graphic novel, From Hell, Alan Moore positions Hawksmoor’s Christ Church as a centripetal force at the heart of the Ripper myth. Much of the book centres on the character of Sir William Gull; identified as Jack the Ripper in Sinclair’s White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings (1987) and Steven Knight’s Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution (1977).[6] Gull is an intellectual, prepared to question Enlightenment philosophy and to embrace the mysterious, uncanny powers of the occult. His meditations on human experience largely take place in or around Christ Church, Spitalfields, and the church also appears in the dreams of several characters throughout the text. Speaking of the church, Gull tells his colleague, Hinton: “Perhaps some places do indeed possess vitality. They dream and feed and propagate themselves” (4:28). And in his novel Going East (2003), Matthew D’Ancona tells the story of a middle class young woman, Mia Taylor, who moves into the East End in an attempt to recover from a personal tragedy. She too becomes ensnared by the uncanny power of Christ Church:

First, though, she would perform the little pilgrimage she always made after a bad night. Turning down Fournier Street she walked towards the church, the Hawksmoor she had learned to love. To approach Christ Church from the east was to appreciate its marvellous Gothic monumentality, especially at this strange hour when street-lamps and natural light competed eerily to reveal its brooding magnificence, she … stood for a few moments by the railings and looked up at its portholes, the eyes of the stone beast glowering over its dominion. (81).

D’Ancona’s vision of Christ Church as a beast rewrites the East End as a hellish urban jungle, echoing representations of the area that appeared in late-nineteenth century texts such as William Booth’s In Darkest London and the Way Out (1890) and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902).[7]

It has been argued that Sinclair’s vision of the East End as a spatial detritus uncovers and reinterprets marginal and repressed histories, or, as Simon Perrill puts it, the “hidden life of the city of London” (309). But as these histories are uncovered, so they are re-mythologized. I hope I have shown how Sinclair’s urban vision continues to re-constitute many of the uncanny characteristics of an essentially unchanging late-nineteenth century discursive spatial idea of the East End. In Lud Heat, the uncanny force of Christ Church, Spitalfields cannot be understood without reference to the discursive mythology of terror, poverty and crime linked to the streets that surround the building. The sense of unease provoked by Christ Church in Sinclair’s Lud Heat, but also in Hawksmoor, From Hell and Going East, can be understood as a manifestation of bourgeois fears engendered by an unhomely East End space. Indeed, spaces have often been understood within the Enlightenment phenomenological paradigm of darkness and light. As Michel Foucault suggests, dark spaces “prevent(s) the full visibility of things, men and truths” (153). The East End of Sinclair’s Lud Heat is just such a dark space. It functions as an ideological construct, as a ‘crisis chronotope’. But it also functions as a heterotopia that has “the curious property of being in relation to all other sites, but in such a way as to suspect, neutralise or invert the set of relations they happen to designate, mirror or reflect” (“Of Other Spaces” 25). In other words, the heterotopian East End has been once again designated by Sinclair as a space in which undesirable, ‘different’ socio-cultural activities can be imaginatively placed.


[1] Peter Brooker has critiqued Sinclair’s representation of east London, noticing what he sees as a “limited social and ethnic base” of Sinclair’s psychogeography of the East End that “colludes in the very norms of Thatcher’s Britain.” See “A Novelist in the Era of Higher Capitalism: Iain Sinclair and the Postmodern East End”, at .

[2] I am thinking especially here of Arthur Morrison’s Tales of Mean Streets (1894), A Child of the Jago (1896), and The Hole in the Wall (1902), Israel Zangwill’s Children of the Ghetto (1892), Walter Besant’s All Sorts and Conditions of Men (1882), William Black’s Shandon Bells (1893), George Gissing’s The Nether World (1889), and Margaret Harkness’s In Darkest London: Captain Lobe, A Story of the Salvation Army (1889).

[3] William J. Fishman’s seminal book on the East End is titled East End 1888: A year in a London borough among the labouring poor (London: Hanbury Press, 1988).

[4] Rod Mengham points out that “the Sinclair oeuvre … is fascinated by, and … returns again and again to, the contemplation of doubles, doppelgangers, contraries and amalgams …” (59).

[5] Ackroyd acknowledges Sinclair’s influence on the final page of Hawksmoor: “I would like to express my obligation to Iain Sinclair’s poem, Lud Heat, which first directed my attention to the stranger characteristics of the London churches.”

[6] Moore’s annotation to From Hell’s prologue gives details of Knight’s suggestions as to the killer’s identity. See also Sinclair, White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings 56-67.

[7] For more on the late-nineteenth century East End as an urban jungle, see Joseph McLaughlin, Writing the Urban Jungle: Reading Empire in London from Doyle to Eliot (Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia P, 2000) and Patrick Brantlinger, Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914 (Ithaca: Cornell U P, 1988).

Works Cited

Ackroyd, Peter. Hawksmoor. 1985. London: Penguin, 1993.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin and London: U of Texas P, 1981.

Besant, Walter. All Sorts and Conditions of Men. 1882. London: Macmillan, 1902.

Burke, Thomas. Limehouse Nights. New York: Robert M. McBride, 1927.

D’Ancona, Matthew. Going East. 2003. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2004.

Downes, Kerry. Hawksmoor. London: A. Zwemmer, 1959.

Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces.” Trans. J. Miskowiec. Diacritics 16 (spring 1986): 22-27.

—-, “The Eye of Power.” Power/ Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977. Ed. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980.

Freud, Sigmund. “The Uncanny.” Art and Literature. Ed. Albert Dickson. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985. 335-376. Vol. 14 of The Penguin Freud Library.

Gissing, George. The Nether World. 1889. Brighton: The Harvester Press, 1974.

Goodhart-Rendel, H.S. Nicholas Hawksmoor. London: Ernest Brown, 1924.

London, Jack. The People of the Abyss. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Literature House, 1903.

Lynch, Kevin. The Image of the City. Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 1960.

Mengham, Rod. “The Writing of Iain Sinclair: Our Narrative Starts Everywhere.” Contemporary British Fiction. Ed. Richard J. Lane, Rod Mengham and Philip Tew. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002. 56-67.

Moore, Alan and Eddie Campbell. From Hell. 1991-1999. Paddington, Australia: Eddie Campbell Comics, 1999.

Morrison, Arthur.

Tales of Mean Streets. 1894. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1983.

Palmer, Alan. The East End: Four Centuries of London Life. 1989. London: John Murray, 2000.

Perrill, Simon. “A Cartography of Absence: The Work of Iain Sinclair.” Comparative Criticism: An Annual Journal 19 (1997): 309-39.

Pile, Steve. “Memory and the City.” Temporalities, autobiography and everyday life. Ed. Jan Campbell and Janet Harbord. Manchester: Manchester U P, 2002. 111-127.

Raban, Jonathan. Soft City. London: Collins Harvill, 1988.

Royle, Nicholas. The Uncanny. Manchester: Manchester U P, 2003.

Sennett, Richard. Conscience of the Eye: The Design and Social Life of Cities. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990.

Sinclair, Iain. Lud Heat and Suicide Bridge. 1975 and 1979. London: Granta, 1998.

—-, White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings. 1987. London: Granta, 1998.

—-, Lights Out for the Territory. 1997. London: Granta, 1998.

Smethurst, Paul. The Postmodern Chronotope: Reading Space and Time in Contemporary Fiction. Amsterdam: Rodipi, 2000.

Vidler, Anthony. The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999.

Wolfreys, Julian. Deconstruction·Derrida. New York: St Martins; Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998.

—-, Writing London II: Materiality, Memory, Spectrality. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2004.

To Cite This Article:

Paul Newland, ”On an Eastern Arc’: Reading Iain Sinclair’s interest in Christ Church, Spitalfields and its uncanny territory through East End discourse’. Literary London: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Representation of London, Volume 3 Number 2 (September 2005). Online at Accessed on [date of access]