Iain Sinclair and the psychogeography of the split city

Downing, Henderson (2015) Iain Sinclair and the psychogeography of the split city. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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Abstract

Iain Sinclair’s London is a labyrinthine city split by multiple forces deliriously replicated in the complexity and contradiction of his own hybrid texts. Sinclair played an integral role in the ‘psychogeographical turn’ of the 1990s, imaginatively mapping the secret histories and occulted alignments of urban space in a series of works that drift between the subject of topography and the topic of subjectivity. In the wake of Sinclair’s continued association with the spatial and textual practices from which such speculative theses derive, the trajectory of this variant psychogeography appears to swerve away from the revolutionary impulses of its initial formation within the radical milieu of the Lettrist International and Situationist International in 1950s Paris towards a more literary phenomenon. From this perspective, the return of psychogeography has been equated with a loss of political ambition within fin de millennium literature. However, the tangled contexts from which Sinclair’s variant psychogeography emerges have received only cursory scholarly attention. This study will unravel these contexts in order to clarify the literary and political ramifications of the seemingly incompatible strands that Sinclair interweaves around the term. Are Sinclair’s counter-narratives to the neoliberal consensus of the early twenty-first century comparable to the critique of capitalism and urbanism advanced by the Situationists? Or is his appropriation of psychogeography emblematic of a broader contemporary recuperation of the oppositional tactics and strategies associated with counter-cultural currents from a more politically adversarial era? Is Sinclair’s transition from the margins of experimental poetry to the literary mainstream correlative with urban gentrification? By examining these questions through the orientating device of a series of psychogeographical plaques tournantes with which Sinclair is preoccupied, this study facilitates a more nuanced evaluation of Sinclair’s compulsively associative use of psychogeography to navigate the split city of London.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Arts > English & Humanities
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2016 14:18
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2016 12:47
URI: http://bbktheses.da.ulcc.ac.uk/id/eprint/164

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