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Title: The nowhere machine : a cultural history of the London Underground from 1860 to the present
Author: Ashford, David Matthew
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2008
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The Nowhere Machine is a cultural history of the London Underground from 1860-2007. Offering an alternative to the theoretical framework applied to the network by critics in the field of Subterranean Studies, this thesis argues that the London Underground might be understood as the link between those nineteenth-century industrial spaces considered by Walter Benjamin and Wolfgang Schivelbusch and the virtual spaces of consumer-capitalism that have attracted the attention of Marc Augé. The Victorian Underground is shown to have been conceived and experienced as a non-place of abstract circulation, utterly divorced from urban topography and compelled to mediate itself to the travelling public through signs, presenting early passengers with the unprecedented spectacle of a mediated environment. The Nowhere Machine indicates that passengers soon fell victim to what Schivelbusch has called the psychopathology of the railway carriage – the state of intense silence and isolation that results when travellers find themselves involved in an industrial process that apes an environment for social interaction. This space of alienation has fascinated writers, musicians and artists from the outset. This dissertation examines the representation of the network in music-hall ballads, modernist poster-art, novels and poetry, painting and photography, film and pop music, and shows how this space for the circulation of signs has been transformed through the power of the imagination into metaphor – into the vehicle for significant transport. It demonstrates that such virtual environments remain peculiarly vulnerable to the practice of détournement, providing individuals with remarkable opportunities to refashion the space of non-place, to re-inscribe the human revenant in the alienated machine-age metropolis. In short, this thesis explores the ways in which writers and artists have attempted to make a home in modernity, and should therefore provide a compelling alternative history of the modern age.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available