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Erotic Life and the Reimagination of Urban Space in Blitz London

Janine Utell

Stories about places are makeshift things.

— de Certeau (107)

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Henry Moore was a fairly well-known sculptor in the British modern art world. His career as a sculptor was temporarily placed on hold by the Battle of London. The art schools in which he taught closed and moved out of the city to avoid the Blitz, and his own studio was rendered uninhabitable by bombs. The city that was his was transformed by fire and destruction. This destruction drove thousands of Londoners underground in an attempt to seek shelter, a movement captured by Moore in his Shelter Drawings of 1940-1941.[1]

The Underground was a claustrophobic and tense place. Fights broke out; violence erupted among shelter-dwellers. To ease the tension, dwellers told stories, shared food, played cards. There emerged from this very social behavior an attempt to negotiate the new reality of a collective suffering. Yet for some the shelter became spaces of intimacy. Photographs, and drawings by Moore, show families huddled under blankets they shared with strangers, all trying to sleep on the floor of the Underground; Jon Wood, in his study of Moore’s work, describes these scenes as ones of “defamiliarized and uncanny homeliness” (9). Events and actions which might seem so familiar –- the taking of a meal, the preparations for sleep –- are made strange even in their normality; they are familiar and unfamiliar, heimlich and unheimlich, of home and not simultaneously.

This defamiliarization, captured in Moore’s dreamlike images, extends to the pursuit of erotic experience -– to sex. One such drawing, “Man and Woman Talking in a Dark Corner,” depicts two shadowy figures, their forms composed of dark lines and streaks. No faces are visible, but one can see the hand of one figure clearly reaching towards the other standing between his legs. In creating the image, Moore drew on Mass-Observation reports of people having sex in the Underground (Andrews 44). M-O, a documentary movement started in the 1930s, recruited everyday observers to record everyday behavior. In his book on the war years, Tom Harrisson, the founder of M-O, noted that sex was just one more behavior in which shelter-dwellers took part, a behavior that would be very much a part of their lives on the outside (121).

However, sex is not simply an everyday act to be transplanted into the mirror-world of the Underground, like card playing or sharing a snack. Sex is what Richard Mohr calls “world-excluding” behavior (100). The space created in the sexual act, the space surrounding bodies engaged in sex is meant to be an inviolable boundary; the space between bodies is itself a world of intimacy into which others are not allowed. I propose here that for this reason the reimagination of urban space through a privileging of private life, especially the erotic, is a necessary act in the literature of the Second World War, and that in the creation of specifically erotic memory, emerging from the connection of intimate bodies in a particular historical moment, many authors sought to reclaim a private space at a time when the individual self is increasingly under the demands of a world at war.

These demands were instrumental in constructing the myth of “Britain’s finest hour,” a moment when people came together for a cause greater than themselves, when sacrifice and duty were paramount. However, much of this was in fact purely a construct designed to boost morale.[2] Before and during the Blitz, as John Baxendale points out,

everyday life became permeated with the bureaucratic mechanisms through which the national state was fighting the war –- rationing, conscription, evacuation, the blackout. The impact of the war on individuals’ lives, bringing deprivation, dislocation, and loss, was acknowledged and incorporated as part of a general national experience, something ‘we’ had to go through together. (301-02)

As early as appeasement in 1938 and the “Bore War” or “Phoney War” of 1939, there was a perceived need on the part of the government to address public sentiment, to create a background of shared hardship and suffering, to strengthen community ties – to build the myth of the People’s War. Apparatuses were put into place to do just these things.

Concurrently, however, people resisted such a construct of community, of shared suffering. Jeffrey Reiman has asserted that privacy –- practices of private life –- are actions that confer upon the individual the right to a self, to the existence of a discrete self (310). In contrast, what Erving Goffman has called “total institutions” are social practices which penetrate the private reserve of an individual and mortify the self; this would include war and the bureaucratic machine set in motion to transform society into a war society (Reiman 311). In seeking to set aside a private space, a private life, individuals in the face of extreme demands from the public sphere might very well seek to assert the primacy of the private being and the right of the private being to define his or her own behavior and desires, outside dominant codes; codes of sacrifice, duty, and loyalty to institutions.

London in all its strata, in all its polyvalent layers, was the site upon which and through which these questions were brought. The city itself and the ways in which its inhabitants lived and moved in it changed drastically as it was transformed from cosmopolitan center to battlefield. Leonard Woolf, with Virginia Woolf, evacuated to Monk’s House, their home in the Sussex countryside, after both their homes in London were destroyed. Leonard Woolf continued to travel in London regularly by train –- a trip that could take hours through areas often targeted by bombs –- in order to maintain his political and literary work in the city; he upheld these duties until problems with the trains and gas rationing made it impossible. Woolf found that walking through the city during the Blitz brought him into contact with the worst of humanity. In his memoir he describes his own shelter experience:

I hated the stuffiness and smell of human beings, and, if a bomb was going to get me, I preferred to die a solitary death above ground and in the open air. Like so many convinced and fervent democrats, in practice I have never found human beings physically in the mass at all attractive – there is a good deal to be said for solitude whether in life or death. (59)

The subterranean layers of London which had become home for so many, the life under the surface, was not the London of Woolf’s life, of his memory. The city created by Woolf as he walked through it all of his life, in contrast to the city foisted upon him now, was a cosmopolitan center of liberalism, of imperial power, of civilization. The coming war, and its fulfillment in the streets of London, proved to be the end of the city for Woolf and for others.[3]

We dig through the city, excavating its layers even as we walk through its streets. Michel de Certeau’s walker through the city creates a representation of that space, making meaning of the streets and the experience of walking through them: creating the space (107). To do this one must not only walk through the streets – or even under, entering the caverns of the Underground where the voices of millions once echoed not as people hurried to work but as they hurried to shelter, and where the voices fell silent as those millions slept under the bombs. One must excavate. Walter Benjamin posited the figure of the urban archaeologist: “To retrieve the commonplace, the mundane and the unremarkable is his or her task” (Gilloch 71). If a person walking through London today leaves the City and its welter of banks and businesses, one layer, that walker comes upon the monument to the Great Fire of 1666, another layer, a monument to a world that no longer exists. If that walker moves past the monument, following the tiny sign, she finds herself stepping down a bit from the sidewalk and standing on a patch of cobblestone, the remnants of a medieval churchyard, the stones crumbling, a stratum under yet another layer peeled away: “The fragments found serve above all to illuminate the lives of those in the past who are unrecorded and unremembered in the present” (Gilloch 71).

Benjamin’s figure of the archaeologist, in seeking to reclaim the voices and lives of those lost to the past, serves to highlight and resist the fragmentation of modern life. There is, for this figure, the perpetual shock of uncovering, the constant work of situating through experience and memory the individual within the collective life of the city and the collective memory of its history. This Weberian loss of self in the modern world, was noted by Raymond Williams in one of the first studies of the city in literature.[4] More recently, Donatella Mazzoleni, a theorist of the city, describes this sensation thus: “To immerse oneself. To be swallowed up. The space around us becomes gigantic, the body shrinks. To lose one’s identity in the ‘ant-heap’ of the crowd. These are metropolitan experiences, in which are intertwined and reactivated memories” (298). Mazzoleni’s vision of the city denizen is itself bodily, but it is the body being swallowed, consumed, its boundaries rendered permeable.

To resist this vision, we must return to de Certeau’s walker: “People are put in motion by the remaining relics of meaning” (105). In moving through a space, the body creates the space and thus (re)claims it for the self. There is great power in the body moving through the city streets, not as part of a mass, but as a subjectivity capable of negotiating the space, constructing it and giving it meaning. The meaning may be found, a relic; it may be part of a memory that can be withheld from the collective. Writes de Certeau: “ ‘I feel good here’: the well-being under-expressed in the language it appears in like a fleeting glimmer is spatial practice” (108).

So the experience of the city is one in which the individual constantly negotiates the private and the public; it is this negotiation, and ultimately resistance, that provides Louis MacNeice’s poetic autobiography Autumn Journal with its tension and power. I propose that MacNeice uses the exploration of his sexual experience –- his private life –- to construct a vision of the city in order to resist the public upheaval which surrounded him in 1938, the year of the poem’s publication. What I’d like to focus on here is the way MacNeice interpolates private life, especially private memories of his own erotic experiences, with meditations on the collective and public anxiety of the approaching war –- what he calls an “autumnal palinode,” an attempt to reconcile the historical and sexual self as it exists not only in a particular time but in a particular space. According to Samuel Hynes,

MacNeice’s achievement in his poem was to interweave the constituent parts of his life, and to show how those parts acted upon each other: how the past affected his responses to the present, and how the present forced him to judge the past; how the public world invaded private life, and how private losses colored his attitude toward public crises. (368)

By documenting sexual experience, he seeks to reaffirm the importance of privacy and private life, as well as his poetic self, in the face of historical pressures. Sex, often idealized as a private, intimate activity, becomes a site of negotiation between these borders of public and private. Not merely an exemplification of a drive in the face of death, nor a route to escape, sex here exists as straddling the public and the private as the very notion of these terms is called into question. In his observations of the turmoil of the times, MacNeice seeks to gain a foothold in history, to situate the individual voice within what John Lehmann called “the noise of history.” The construction of his poetic autobiography relies on reaching back into private sexual memory, even as it struggles with public collective experience. Furthermore, and more crucially, it relies on the placing of the body in space, particularly the space of the city. MacNeice takes the world of the city, the communal experience of urban life, excavates his own erotic memories, and reinscribes those memories on the city through the experience of the body. The public world of the city is folded inward and then brought forth as a private space of erotic experience. It becomes, in Lefebvre’s words, a representational space: “Space as directly lived through its associated images and symbols. … It overlays physical space, making symbolic use of its objects” (39). The body –- and the private self –- is reclaimed through its lived experience in space.

As cultural and social geographers have noted, space, the living body in space, the lived body in space, is a necessary component in theorizing the self. Michel Foucault, in an exchange with the editors of Hérodote in which they confronted him with the need to consider space and place in his theorization of history, acknowledged, “I must admit I thought you were demanding a place for geography like those teachers who protest when an education reform is proposed …. Now I can see that the problems you put to me about geography are crucial ones for me” (“Questions” 77). Movements of the body through space as well as history determine the construction of the self -– and the potentiality of the self to reclaim a space for itself. The work of cultural and theoretical geographers puts forth the idea that geography, like the body, is constructed in space and time; furthermore, the body as sexed, the sexual identity of the subject, the body, is constructed through place, lives out in space (Bell and Valentine 9). The speaker of Autumn Journal does not only move through time; he moves through space. Furthermore, he seeks to construct a space for and through erotic memory in the city, his city, the city he shared with a vanished lover.

London serves as the construction site for this view of private and public life, as the point where the sexual and historical self intersect. Foucault has noted, “The space in which we live, which draws us out of ourselves, in which the erosion of our lives, our time and our history occurs, the space that claws and gnaws at us, is also, in itself, a heterogeneous space”; yet he has also pointed out that despite this eating away at the self by time and history, despite the multifaceted aspects of space, there are still certain “inviolable” boundaries (“Of Other” 23). Space is also fundamental in delineating a boundary between communal private life. Expression of passion –- here, in MacNeice, connected with an intimate and erotic experience of geography –- in the face of a dominant discourse of sacrifice which calls for putting the collective before the individual, putting nation before intimacy, asserts the importance of the individual and the intimacy which is engendered between individuals. London, for MacNeice, is memory, where the individual constructs his erotic narrative.

MacNeice juxtaposes his individual experience of the coming war with a construction and ultimate rejection of collective experience. Here we will examine the tension between the sexual body and the historical self in the creation of erotic memory as it plays out across the geography of the city on the brink of war. Through a re-envisioning of the body in space and time, memory and place is eroticized and made part of an individual life story, rather than a collective historical experience. Maurice Halbwachs in writing on the construction of collective experience notes that it is our collective experience that leads to the creation of a communal narrative. Here, sex is deployed precisely in order to reject such a narrative. Rather, MacNeice reaffirms his own personal, erotic narrative against the construction of a historical, communal narrative. He writes his own history, through the body, through erotic memory and space. Lefebvre writes,

The body’s inventiveness needs no demonstration, for the body itself reveals it, and deploys it in space. Rhythms in all their multiplicity interpenetrate one another. In the body and around it, as on the surface of a body of water, or within the mass of a liquid, rhythms are forever crossing and recrossing, superimposing themselves upon each other, always bound to space. (205)

These “rhythms” are needs, desires, the movement of one body towards another, then apart and away. The body is a site for pleasure, communion, and loss, not a site to be appropriated by another body, the body politic, and not to be appropriated by those who would use the body as part of the war machine. Memories of love and loss, of erotic union, feed into the anxiety of the present and the isolation of anxiety during wartime. It is the construction of these memories, and the construction of the city as the site for these memories, that MacNeice works through to resist the appropriation of the body and the self for war.

As Janet Montefiore argues, the process of constructing memory, of writing the self as a historical subject, characterizes much thirties writing. The attempt to give meaning to individual life, to structure the narrative of an individual life by connecting it to the narrative of history, and thus to try to make some sense of the forces acting on both, is revealed in MacNeice’s poem. MacNeice described his project to his editor at Faber and Faber, T. S. Eliot, as follows:

A long poem of from 2,000 to 3,000 lines written from August to December 1939. Not strictly a journal but giving the tenor of my intellectual & emotional experiences during that period. It is about nearly everything which from first-hand experience I consider significant. … It contains rapportage, metaphysics, ethics, lyrical emotion, autobiography, nightmare. … Places presented include Hampshire, Spain, Birmingham, Ireland, & — especially London. … I think this is my best work to date; it is both a panorama and a confession of faith. (qtd. in Stallworthy 232-33; emphasis added)

MacNeice sought to juxtapose his personal biography and the story of the public world happening around him through his own lifewriting. He seeks to construct and give meaning to his own narrative, and to the political and historical narrative happening simultaneously. Most significantly, he seeks to place that life in a space, the space of the city. He draws a map here of the self; this project is fulfilled by the map he draws of the city through the poem. MacNeice creates both city and self in a process described by Steve Pile and Nigel Thrift:

The map does not simply itemise the world: it fixes it within a discursive and visual practice of power and meaning; and, because it naturalises power and meaning against an impassive and neutral space, it serves to legitimate not only the exercises of that power but also the meaningfulness of that meaning.
This narrative can be extended to cover the practices of subjectivity and the body: the individual struggles to place themselves [sic] within regimes of power and meaning, but that struggle is naturalised in and through the spatial and temporal practices of the I/eye. The map and the subject portray truth: they seem to be what they seem to be –- but they are always more than this. (48)

By examining and re-examining his own biography, the speaker attempts to situate himself in a history that seems to be moving inexorably, carrying him on its tide. The poet tries to create his own history through space, through the body. It may be futile but he does not fully accept the history imposed upon him. He seeks to assert his own voice, his own biographical, confessional, storytelling voice, not succumb to “somebody else’s voice.” The city is the intersection, the collocation of sense impressions, memories, images, conflicts. In this poem, MacNeice seeks to order them, to create a map of memory, an erotic cartography.

I’m going to begin by drawing on Section I, in which MacNeice depicts a return to London from a summer in the country; Section IV, in which London is cast as site of erotic memory; Section V, where London becomes a site of anxiety over the war; then finally I will focus on Section XVII, illustrating the ultimate realization and statement of the importance of intimacy and private life to MacNeice’s project.

In creating his London, MacNeice draws on what Paul Rodaway calls “sensuous geography.” Rodaway argues that “geographical experience is fundamentally mediated by the human body” (31). The body is the site of erotic experience; memory is constructed through these experiences. We have landmarks, we have a landscape that changes when another body enters it, we have dimensions of intimacy that alter our most fundamental relationship with space. Rodaway arranges his argument around the five senses, moving from most intimate to least: touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight. It is worth noting that MacNeice, too, arranges his experience of London around these sense experiences, and they inform his depiction of intimacy. The moments when London is suffused with intimacy are the moments when and the places where he recalls touch. On the other hand, the moments and places where he feels most distant from his own city are when he sees the crowds milling fearfully around a newsstand or wireless, when he hears the voice of Hitler and the worried questions of passersby.

In Section I, the speaker is returning to London from the country at the end of the summer:

But the home is still a sanctum under the pelmets,
All quiet on the Family Front,
Farmyard noises across the fields at evening
While the trucks of the Southern Railway dawdle…shunt
Into poppy sidings for the night –- night which knows no passion
No assault of hands or tongue.

The home, the private realm, is hidden –- a sanctum, a sacred space. It is hidden under pelmets, which are coverings for fixtures. But “pelmets” also echoes “helmets,” and this combined with the line “all quiet on the Family Front” creates a semantic field evoking the Great War, and the anticipation of the impending war. Further, the speaker notes his own sexual loneliness; even this mention of a “night which knows no passion” is cast in terms of an “assault.” Yet the intimacy that would be connoted by touch –- “hands or tongue” –- the entering into one body by another is missing. As the speaker moves closer to the site of public anxiety, the potentiality for intimacy, for the erotic experience that would allow him to fully experience his own body, vanishes. The link between private life and loss with the anticipation of the war and public anxiety is made early. These public concerns, this awareness of history, has infiltrated the private consciousness of the poet.

The rail journey back to London at summer’s end is a complex of images offering a more pronounced sign that history is taking a dangerous turn; simultaneously, this complex is deployed to show the association with private endings and losses:

And I am in the train too now and summer is going
South as I go north
Bound for the dead leaves falling, the burning bonfire,
The dying that brings forth
The harder life

And the train’s rhythm becomes the ad nauseam repetition
Of every tired aubade and maudlin madrigal,
The faded airs of sexual attraction
Wandering like dead leaves along a warehouse wall …

The train moves towards London, towards the center of war anticipation and anxiety, towards the site of Chamberlain’s political treachery and the demands of civic duty; it moves with the inexorable force of history, a force we will see coming to the fore again in Section V. At the same time, the rhythm of the train evokes private loneliness and memories of desire, memories which will become even stronger once the speaker moves to the city.

Sections IV and V show London as the intersection between private desire and erotic memory and collective fear. September belongs to the lover, but it also belongs to Hitler. The city is simultaneously a private and public space. In Section IV, MacNeice writes:

September has come, it is hers
Whose vitality leaps in the autumn,
Whose nature prefers
Trees without leaves and a fire in the fire-place;
So I give her this month and the next
Though the whole of my year should be hers who has rendered already
So many of its days intolerable or perplexed
But so many more so happy;
Who has left a scent on my life and left my walls
Dancing over and over with her shadow,
Whose hair is twined in all my waterfalls
And all of London littered with remembered kisses.

A passage of profound intimacy is again delineated by MacNeice’s “sensuous geography”. Here, that intimacy, and the space of erotic memory, is marked by scent, one of the more intimate sense experiences as theorized by Rodaway. The house, the city, is a space created and remembered through the body, through erotic experience; the place itself –- “my walls” –- is linked to the self of the speaker –- “my life” –- and the place of memory is rendered bodily through smell, through dance. These are the “reactivated memories” described by Mazzolini. London, the urban space, is sexualized through bodily memory, through the intimacy of erotic contact, transformed through memory.

In the next section, the individual is caught in the tide of history, a tide sweeping over the city and overwhelming the private significance the place has for the man:

And the individual, powerless, has to exert the
Powers of will and choice
And choose between enormous evils, either
Of which depends on somebody else’s voice.
The cylinders are racing the presses,
The mines are laid,
The ribbon plumbs the fallen fathoms of Wall Street,
And you and I are afraid.

In Section V, the focus does not shift; rather, the two concerns of the text are overlaid with one another: in MacNeice’s words, ““the bloody frontier/Converges on our beds.” The city is not the only place of intimacy for the poet. Beds serve here as a crucial signifier of intimacy, of erotic experience. As the city is transformed from a world of passion to a world of fear, bed would seem to be a refuge of intimacy. Yet even here it is encroached upon by public anxiety:

And I notice feathers sprouting from the rotted
Silk of my black
Double eiderdown which was a wedding
Present eight years back.
And the linen which I lie on came from Ireland
In the easy days
When all I thought of was affection and comfort,
Petting and praise.

In this section, the public anxiety surrounding the encroaching conflict is intertwined with the private loss –- the breakup of MacNeice’s marriage, the end of his affair with the artist Nancy Coldstream. The bed, again, is a site of erotic memory, a space of intimacy, and a signifier of lost love.

In her study of MacNeice, Robyn Marsack notes that within this “densely interwoven poem of public and personal life,” there is a “parallel theme of loneliness, in particular sexual loneliness” (51, 45). Intimacy, especially sexual intimacy, is a necessary part of private life. Richard Mohr writes, “Sexual arousal and activity, like the activities of reading a poem or praying alone, are such as to propel away the ordinary world of public places, public function, and public observation” (101). Sex in one’s private life affirms that private life; sex as part of public experience creates a world of privacy, denying the demands and codes of the public for a brief time. It is, in Mohr’s words, “world-excluding.” In Section XVII, late in the poem, MacNeice makes his final and most protracted statement on the necessity of intimacy, of erotic and emotional union with another:

We lie in the bath between tiled walls and under
Ascending scrolls of steam
And feel the ego merge as the pores open
And we lie in the bath and dream;
And responsibility dies and the thighs are happy
And the body purrs like a cat
But this lagoon grows cold, we have to leave it, stepping
On to a check rug on a cork mat.
And Plato was right to define the bodily pleasures
As the pouring water into a hungry sieve
But wrong to ignore the rhythm which the intercrossing
Colored waters permanently give.
And Aristotle was right to posit the Alter Ego
But wrong to make it only a halfway house:
Who could expect – or want – to be spiritually self-supporting,
Eternal self-abuse?
Why not admit that other people are always
Organic to the self, that a monologue
Is the death of language and that a single lion
Is less himself, or alive, than a dog and another dog?

This is a rejection of the collective anxiety and sense of responsibility that permeates the poem. Here the speaker views himself as responsible to only one person: the intimate other. He is responsible to only one world –- the world of two –- excluding all others. The speaker acknowledges the fleeting nature of desire; in fact, the poem in its entirety is an examination of the ephemeral quality of desire. Yet erotic memory lives on because crucial to the construction of the self is the incorporation into that self of the erotic other. Intimacy is both a function of the self and a necessity for the survival of the self.

Significantly, MacNeice in his final reflection on intimacy rejects the city itself. The movement into the home, into the bed is the creation and reclaiming of a space wholly outside the collective consciousness of the city. In the final section, Section XXIV, of Autumn Journal, the speaker calls only for sleep: “Sleep, my various and conflicting/Selves I have so long endured.” In his examination of the multiple selves possible throughout this autobiographical work, MacNeice has sought to reclaim, reconstruct, and reaffirm the subjectivity of the individual. This subjectivity is rendered impossible by the collective consciousness of the city, and the wartime anxiety of London; the only resistance for the self is escape into a world of private memory.

In his Modern Poetry: A Personal Essay, published in 1938, MacNeice wrote, “The poet does not give you a full and accurate picture of the world nor a full and accurate picture of himself, but he gives you an amalgam which, if successful, represents truthfully his own relation to the world” (qtd. in McDonald 65). Autumn Journal is an attempt to show the poet’s relation to the outside world. At the same time, it is an affirmation of the necessity of maintaining a private life, and of the importance of preserving erotic experience and memory in the confrontation with the tides of history.


[1] The most in-depth cataloguing of Moore’s shelter drawings remains Julian Andrews’s London’s War: The Shelter Drawings of Henry Moore. Moore created the drawings when he could no longer work on sculpture; they began as a private project, but were ultimately purchased and used by the War Artists Advisory Committee starting in 1941. Moore’s drawings became linked in the collective mind with wartime propaganda supporting a certain ideal, of stoicism, of morale in London during the Blitz. Moore felt profound ambivalence about this link, and about his own fraught relationship with the WAAC, an ambivalence that reflects the troublesome boundaries between public and private at this time.

[2] See Angus Calder’s Myth of the Blitz and The People’s War: Britain 1939-1945, John Costello’s Love, Sex, and War, Changing Values, 1939-1945, Mark Donnelly’s Britain in the Second World War, Nick Hayes’s and Jeff Hill’s (eds.), “Millions Like Us”?: British Culture in the Second World War, Norman Longmate’s How We Lived Then: A History of Everyday Life During the Second World War, Sian Nicholas’s The Echo of War: Home Front Propaganda and the Wartime BBC, and Malcolm Smith’s Britain and 1940: History, Myth, and Popular Memory.

[3] For considerations of the Woolfs’ experiences of the war in London and Sussex, see Natania Rosenfeld’s Outsiders Together: Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Anna Snaith’s Virginia Woolf: Public and Private Negotiations, and Jean Moorcroft Wilson’s Virginia Woolf, Life and London: A Biography of Place.

[4] Williams notes the tension in modern literature between the “collective, in its metaphysical and psychological forms” and a consciousness “which could see not only individuals but also their altered and altering relationships” (246-47). The walker in the city is part of a collective experience, but must negotiate the city the way a pedestrian negotiates the sidewalks of New York. In negotiating that individualized space, and determining the space the individual might take within the landscape, the walker creates space; through the construction of that space, the individual carves out a personal experience of the city within and without the collective experience.

Works Cited

Andrews, Julian. London’s War: The Shelter Drawings of Henry Moore. Burlington, VT: Lund Humphries, 2002.

Baxendale, John. ‘You and I – All of Us Ordinary People’: Renegotiating ‘Britishness’ in Wartime. Hayes and Hill. 295-322.

Bell, David and Gill Valentine. Introduction. Mapping Desire: Geographies of Sexualities. Ed. Bell and Valentine. New York: Routledge, 1995. 1-27.

Calder, Angus. Myth of the Blitz. London: Jonathan Cape, 1991.

—–. The People’s War: Britain 1939-1945. London: Panther, 1971.

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—–. “Questions on Geography.” Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. Ed. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon, 1980. 63-77.

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McDonald, Peter. Louis MacNeice: The Poet in His Contexts. New York: Oxford UP, 1991.

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To Cite This Article:

Janine Utell, ‘Erotic Life and the Reimagination of Urban Space in Blitz London’ . Literary London: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Representation of London, Volume 7 Number 2 (September 2009). Online at Accessed on [date of access]