Resistance and Rationalisation: Exile and the Inner Cities in Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion
This book is about fiction published in Britain, concerns itself mostly with the representation of London and interrogates the way in which a Jamaican (Hall) and an Englishman (Gilroy), building on the legacy of a Welshman (Williams), challenged existing categories of British — but more specifically English — cultural identity. It begins in none of these places, however, and it is doubtful whether any of the figures just named would straightforwardly embrace the identities I have ascribed to them: Williams’s place of birth in the Welsh borderlands is indicative of the circumspect way in which the work of all engages with the contingent question of nationality. It is perhaps appropriate, then, that this book begins elsewhere, in Venice, which since at least the Romantic period has functioned as an imaginary site where varied and often competing versions of Englishness have been developed, refined and repudiated. The Italian city-state on the shores of the Adriatic has also frequently served as the backdrop for interrogations of the self, and is a common setting for narratives of death, desire and psychological dissolution in English literature. Soon after arriving in the city in 1816, Lord Byron wrote in a letter to the poet Thomas Moore that he considered it to be ‘the greenest island’ of his imagination because its ‘evident decay’ was in keeping with his own personality, which had been ‘familiar with ruins too long to dislike desolation’ (1982: 136).
KeywordsCultural Politics Urban Space Left Culturalism Sovereign Power Economic Agenda
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