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Mapping the Modern City: Alan Sillitoe's Nottingham Novels

By Stephen Daniels and Simon Rycroft


As a literary form the novel is inherently geographical. Alan Sillitoe's Nottingham novels deploy the rhetoric of mapping and map reading to articulate a series of perspectives on urban life. Against a background of post-war consumer culture and civic redevelopment, Sillitoe's novels map the modernity of urban life. A key trope in his work is the modernist axis of aerial and labyrinthine worlds. Saturday night and Sunday morning (1958/1976) charts a year in the life of an anarchistic 'angry young man', Arthur Seaton, around the labyrinthine world of working-class Nottingham. The death of William Posters (1965) charts the emergence of a socialist 'new man', moving from Nottingham to Algerian desert and the guerilla war against the French administration. Key to the door (1961b) and The open door (1989) chart the life of the modernist 'airman' Brian Seaton, whose literary and cartographic outlook parallel Sillitoe's own. In these novels Sillitoe portrays a belligerent image of Nottingham, contrary to the smoothly progressive image of the city in professional and academic publications of the time. Studies of geographic thought might broaden their scope to take more account of fictional writings

Year: 1993
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