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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 (Un)Buried Life: Death in the Modern Necropolis

The (Un)Buried Life: Death in the Modern Necropolis

Chapter:
(p.116) Chapter 3 The (Un)Buried Life: Death in the Modern Necropolis
Source:
London's Underground Spaces
Author(s):

Haewon Hwang

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748676071.003.0004

From tunnels and transport networks that intimately connect urban dwellers, the next subterranean structure that radically reconfigures the socio-spatial dynamics of the city is the urban cemetery. Movement and circulation were still the guiding urban rationale in the spatial organisation of the necropolis, from the displacement of the dead ex urbis to the removal of burial grounds like St. Pancras to build a major underground station. This chapter explores how the Victorians reconciled these utilitarian methods in treating the dead with the psychological trauma of death itself. The chapter argues that the removal of graveyards from churches away from the city centre replaced the traditional notions of a Christian afterlife with a Derridean ‘revenance’ that lingers in the interstices of life and death in a perennial haunting of the Victorian imagination. The ‘revenant’, which Derrida describes as ‘that which comes back’, articulates a new form of mourning in which spirits and apparitions of the dead become very much a part of the present and the world above. The following texts blur the edges of life and death, collapsing distinction between underground and aboveground.

Keywords:   Cemetery, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sheridan LeFanu, Thomas Hardy, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Mourning, Melancholia, Abject, Revenant

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