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Mapping Dangerous Spaces Working Paper Sherlock’s Slums: Mapping Dangerous Spaces in Conan Doyle and The Strand Magazine- Do not cite without author’s permission-

By Jonathan Cranfield


The use of an approach derived from literary criticism to deconstruct the geographical constituents and meanings of literary texts is questionable. Despite Franco Moretti’s quixotic attempt to map the cartographic implications of various works in The Atlas of the European Novel, there remains a lingering doubt over how in touch critics are with what Jacques Derrida termed “ontopology”: “an axiomatic linking indissociably the ontological value of present-being (on) to its situation, to the stable and presentable determination of a locality, the topos of a territory ” (Derrida, 1994, p.82). By employing ontopological thinking as a theoretical frame-work, a new perspective can be cast on the geographical threads that unite Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and the enormous success of the platform in which they first appeared, George Newnes ’ The Strand Magazine. In 1885, Newnes instituted a Railway Insurance Policy in which one hundred pounds would be paid to the family of “any person who [is] killed in a railway accident, provided a copy of the current issue of Tit-Bits [is] found upon the deceased ” (Jackson, 2001, p.77). This scheme explicitly acknowledged the ways in which the magazine’s distribution networks were intermixed both with the geographical spaces opened out by the advancement of intra-city railways and with the commuting lifestyle in general. Tit-Bits, like its younger sibling The Strand, “appealed to a commuting market” (Jackson, 2001, p.78) and depended upon ergonomically fitting its format to reading patterns conditioned by frequent journeys on public transport. The magazine’s most frequent points of sale were clustered around train, tram and omnibus stations; moreover, it was editorial policy to lower the length of accepted short stories from the traditional bottom-limit of 6,000 words because it would better suit the commuter’s reading experience (Pound, 1966, p.30). Similarly, in terms of non-

Year: 2010
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