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16th October, 2012

'The Fantastic Ruined City': Blitzed London's Ruins in Rose Macaulay's The World My Wilderness and Elizabeth Bowen's The Heat of the Day'

Event Details

16th October, 2012
Institute of English Studies, Senate House, University of London, Malet St, London, WC1E 7HU

Introduced by Dr Sebastian Groes.

This Literary London Reading Group session focuses on two novels which pay acute attention to the ways in which Blitzed London temporarily offers different perspectives on, and possibilities for the city in Rose Macaulay’s The World My Wilderness (1950) and Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day (1949). The World My Wilderness tells the story of a geographical and mentally dislocated seventeen year old girl, Barbary, who finds refuge in the alternative world of ruined London’s wilderness just after the Second World War. The Heat of the Day is a psychological spy story which points out the Blitz brought about a ‘particular psychic London’ that reveals ‘an overpowering sense of London’s organic power’.  These gendered visions of the ghostly city give us an alternative reading of the traditional relationship between nature and the city we find in the spectacular, post-apocalyptic dystopian visions of London in the literary work of men, whilst demanding a reassessment of conventional perceptions of the Blitz experience itself.

In preparation, please read both novels or the following excerpts:

1.     Excerpts from Rose Macaulay’s The World My Wilderness

2.     Excerpt from Chapter 5 in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day

Dr Sebastian Groes is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Roehampton. In 2011 his study of the contemporary London novel, The Making of London, was published by Palgrave.

For more information please visit the University of Roehampton website or The Literary London Society Reading Group.

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