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London's Underground SpacesRepresenting the Victorian City, 1840-1915$
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Haewon Hwang

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748676071

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748676071.001.0001

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The Incontinent City: Sewers, Disgust and Liminality

The Incontinent City: Sewers, Disgust and Liminality

Chapter:
(p.19) Chapter 1 The Incontinent City: Sewers, Disgust and Liminality
Source:
London's Underground Spaces
Author(s):

Haewon Hwang

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748676071.003.0002

The first chapter on the sewers links the construction of the first underground drainage system with the sanitary discourse of ‘circulation’ that removed human waste from the city centre in an outward centrifugal movement. This displacement is then mapped onto distinct populaces of the city with the closest affiliation to the sewers- the ‘lower orders’, prostitutes and foreigners. Although the sewers are never explicitly mentioned, its omnipresence is captured in the aura of filth, from mud and fog, to ‘dust’ and slums, captured in Dickens, Gissing and Stoker. The selection of texts reflects the preoccupation with filth from the realist and the Gothic tradition, and how it serves as a structuring absence and an unknowable presence throughout the depictions of London. The polluting and purifying power of the sewers then reveals the contradictions inherent in the city, the subversive nature of the underground, and the buried anxieties in the Victorian imagination.

Keywords:   sewers, Charles Dickens, George Gissing, Bram Stoker, Haunting, Filth, Pollution, Circulation

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