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Title: Memory, history and the representation of urban space in post-war American literature
Author: Levick, Alice
ISNI:       0000 0004 7427 336X
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis investigates urban development and locational memory in New York and Los Angeles during the mid to late twentieth century, as represented both materially in the landscape of the city and textually in fiction and memoir. I begin my study in Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles, where paved gardens and concretised river beds lie beneath the gridded urban landscape which hides the past and dislocates memory from what is visible in urban space. Next, through my analysis of Marshall Berman’s reflections on his childhood in the Bronx, I paint a picture of New York during the 1950s, during which the proposals of urban planner and master builder Robert Moses were put to work, dismantling many of the city’s pre-existing urban structures and its institutional memory. Subsequently I move to Los Angeles in the late 1960s, analysing two works of fiction by Joan Didion and Alison Lurie. In this chapter I explore California’s spatial and temporal indeterminacy. From imagined to remembered space, I next examine Didion’s family memoirs and personal essays in addition to D. J. Waldie’s reminiscences. I find that despite attempts to cultivate one’s personal history in textual form, a sense of loss is what is long remembered and hard to control. My thesis comes to a close with L. J. Davis and Paula Fox in the early 1970s when there was a new form of change afoot in the built environment in the form of gentrification. In the fragmented, automobile-dominated Los Angeles; in the dislocated Bronx; in California where the past seems to melt into air; and in brownstone Brooklyn, I show that the experience of what Sigmund Freud deems “the uncanny” is rife, appearing in the cracks between the absent and the present, the invisible and the visible, memory and history. The fissures and gaps in the narratives of each author reflect the various processes and consequences of the imposition of twentieth-century modernism in particular urban spaces during this period.
Supervisor: Gill, Jo ; Kember, Joe Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Memory ; History ; Urban ; Space ; America