Activity: Academic Talks or Presentations › Oral presentation › Research
For Bernardine Evaristo in Lara (1997) and Soul Tourists (2005) and Sarah Waters in The Night Watch (2006) and The Paying Guests (2014) a London setting provides a representation of the relationship between the centre, in the form of the capital city, and marginalised characters. Through this we can investigate the continued prominence London plays in relation to understandings of national identity. These authors ‘draw a new map’ of literary London which readdress recent omissions within popular imaginations of the city, absences in relation to gender, sexuality, class, race and even ideological (such as conscientious objectors to war). Despite London’s long held perception as a diverse, multi-cultural and liberal city, it is interesting that at the millennium both of these writers; Waters born in Wales and Evaristo, marginalised due to race, chose to fictionally rewrite key moments from London’s history. Waters re-writes a Blitz narrative to include homosexual romance, a narrative so tied up with conceptions of a London identity. Evaristo foregrounds an absence of representations of black people within historical accounts and popular culture in London, thus somewhat challenging popular discourse which locates London as uniquely accepting and welcoming of difference and diversity. A textual positioning of such characters within literary London builds on a well-established literary tradition but at the same time readdresses and foregrounds cultural absences. This demonstrates the continued prominence that London is read to hold for those who feel marginalised and raises questions about the relationship of London literature with literature of the nation.