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London Khoragraphic

By Julian Wolfreys

Panel I. Epigraphs

…in cities, as in Love, there is no standing still…and just because we none of us know how many treasures we have in London, so we cannot tell what, in the night, we may lose. The person who cares about these things trembles sometimes.

Ford Madox Ford

We don’t have a present. We have a rehearsal for tomorrow’s duo tones.

The photographer’s partner, Slow Chocolate Autopsy

The rest was invisible.

Iain Sinclair, Landor’s Tower

Panels II-VI. Graphic

…an empty continuity box in an unfinished graphic novel.

Iain Sinclair

Graph: a kind of symbolic diagram in which a system of connexions is expressed; -graph: written, that which writes, portrays or records, drawing or writing; graphic: of or pertaining to drawing or painting; producing by words the effect of a picture; of or pertaining to writing; fit to be written on; an appearance of written or printed characters; pertaining to the use of diagrams, linear figures or symbolic curves; of a geometrical proposition; concerned with position and form, not measurement.

Oxford English Dictionary, 1st ed.

Chorography [khora + -graph]:1 though given relatively recent attention in the work of Gregory Ulmer, and bearing a passing resemblance to the Situationist International’s concept of psychogeography, chorography is an Early Modern discourse relating frequently to cartography, one of the most famous extant examples being Michael Drayton’s self-styled “topo-chrono-graphical” poem, Poly-Olbion, printed in 1613.2 While the term chorography has been superseded by the terms geography and topography, the use of the word is suggestive in ways that topography is not, because of the temporal ramifications that accompany and inform the discursive practice. The purpose of chorography for Elizabethan intellectuals was to map the various historical, folkloric, and cultural resonances which could be unearthed in one location, specifically at the county level, as a means of producing a mythical and ideological identity that acknowledged the singularity of place while showing analogically the resonance, both temporally and spatially, between local and national identity. It was also, often, an act of writing, which, like so-called psychogeographical texts of the twentieth century, aimed to generate complex and unanticipated relations in the reading of place, vertiginous dislocations of undifferentiated identity in the service of cultural mythologization. Furthermore, early modern chorography offers a symbolic alternative to the construction of identity, thereby countering chronicle histories, such as that of Geoffrey of Monmouth, which assert the hegemonic imperatives of family and dynasty related in a linear, progressive narrative at the expense of place and the cultural memory of location. —

The chorographical map or written text is, arguably, one significant textual predecessor of particular graphic novels, such as those considered by this essay, as they place reliance on place, London, and places, whether locations or buildings, as the principal structuring devices for their narratives. Place orients, even as what takes place disorients through the emergence of a few of the city’s alternative identities.

The writing of chorographical texts, such as John Stow’s Survey of London (1598), involve the recording of detail gathered in the act of walking through a location such as the city. In this implicitly graphic and iterable process of walking-as-mapping, and writing as the memory of motion, the chorographic text anticipates the interactions, the motifs and motivations, which inform the figures of the flâneur and the detective in the graphic text. While Stow’s Survey tends to support dynastic hegemonic claims, other texts such as Drayton’s Poly-Olbion unearth counter-hegemonic narratives and events peculiar to local identities of place, so that there is at work a form of counter-memory, from which broader notions of alternative identities are formed. In effect, this is what is at stake in the contest over the identities of London in certain graphic texts, such as Slow Chocolate Autopsy, and From Hell. Anamnesiac “afterimages” of site and event are generated, graphic mappings of “collective historical memory, haunting images…that ha[ve] the capacity for a social reawakening.”3

Thus, it might be argued, however tentatively, that the graphic novel in its chorographical articulation—given formal presentation through the simultaneous presentation of multiple panels—has the potential to call up forgotten memories. To take one fleeting example, while Eliot’s The Waste Land is clearly chorographical in its textual evocations of the city’s voices, Martin Rowson’s “translation” of the poem into graphic novel, in offering Chandler’s hardboiled detective fiction as a temporal and cultural countersignature to Eliot’s modernist poem, foregrounds chorographical dissonance. It does so by taking particular locations in the city as these appear in Eliot’s text and, filtering them through the identity of the private eye (and, behind this, Chandler’s own identity in relation to the city), calls up the ghost of “Christopher Marlowe” (fig. 2). At the same time, one frame being solicited alongside, and within, another, it plays off, thereby collapsing, distinctions between high modernism and popular fiction. In this play of difference operative in the problematic of genre that is highlighted in passing here, there is at work the graphics of spacing; there is “a difference that trembles and not as an oppositional duality. What trembles here is the law of genre.”4 It is precisely the graphic apprehended as the silent mark, the grapheme, which occasions the trembling. And, it might be imagined, the quivering of difference that gives the lie to any “oppositional duality” or the simple passage from one to the other is to be witnessed in this signature, Christopher Marlowe.

Moreover, in the proper name of the playwright, poet, and spy, and through the narrative of his violent death (which is narrated in the opening chapter of Sinclair and McKean’s Slow Chocolate Autopsy), there are to be read echoes of early modern London and, with that, a ghostly chorographical discourse. Something opens from within the singularity of the name, and to which that name gives place, although that something is nothing, strictly speaking. Thus, not as an oppositional duality to the notion of chorography, but so as to signal that alterity within its identity, read, just barely, that which writes itself (to recall the definitions of graph), that which trembles and announces itself: khoragraphy. For, while in the word chorography there is named the “writing of place” as our comments have thus far indicated, and while such writing in the early modern period does have a markedly archaeological and temporal dimension that disrupts the identity of the present in which it is produced, within the root of chorography’s prefix, the premise of locating place, of giving precise co-ordinates, thereby pinning down the representation of the site is undone from within. Khora has no identity of its own, it is non-identical with itself; if it names anything at all it names only “its failures, its superimpositions, its overwritings and reprintings,” that is to say a certain disruptive graphic simultaneity and excess that is the very mark of the graphic, the khi or X by which we mark the spot and simultaneously place that location under erasure.5

Khora, it must be understood, gives, makes possible, all determination, as with the most graphic of graphic marks, but possesses none, as Jacques Derrida reminds us. Even as writing takes place, gives place, promises to inscribe location, so a spacing takes place simultaneously, opening abyssally. The graphic text acknowledges this simultaneity in a spectacularly foregrounded manner. In presenting to the gaze the multiplicity of textual and therefore graphic signs, all of different orders, while still remaining signs, marks, and traces, the graphic text invents (in the sense of finding what was already there) that which haunts any act of writing or reading. With regard to the graphic novel that charts the secret histories of the city, such invention is readable as the most apposite of textual analogies with regard the very condition and identity of the city, especially as the text addresses matters of myth, alternative history, power and violence as being constitutive elements in the identity of London. The simultaneity of which we are speaking is not merely that which affronts the eye however in the page’s presentation of several panels, with their mix of image and word, their combination of heterogeneous graphic forms; apropos of England’s capital, the simultaneity of presentation employed by particular graphic texts serves in their revelation of temporal persistence and iterability.

Thus the graphic text’s response to London is read as being one that is markedly faithful to the temporal and textual condition of London, in all its graphic excesses and distortions; its faithfulness is witnessed in its ability to convey the ways in which “certain streets or neighbourhoods carry with them a particular atmosphere over many generations.”6 Such communication marks the reader with the permanent “sense of strangeness in London.”7 It is with such strangeness that the texts of Sinclair and McKean, Moore and Campbell (and also Rowson), confront us, inviting us to consider the grammar and syntax of the abyss.

Following the prescriptions of the OED, what text – understanding this word to refer both to written and pictorial forms, whether drawn, painted, or printed – would not be graphic? To address the ontology of the graphic text in the guise of the graphic novel or comic book in a manner which does not take into account, however fleetingly or by allusion at the very least (as is here the case), the etymologies, genealogies, histories and fortunes of the term graph, the suffix -graph, or the word graphic would leave us open to a number of possible errors. However, the field of inquiry already anticipated is vast, covering at the very least, everything that can be included under the heading text, addressing everything implied or signified by and in that name. It would, from the outset, require that we ask a question akin to the one already posed: what would not be textual? One must therefore necessarily, albeit violently, delimit the fields in which we will find ourselves as we seek to address and chart the terrain, the topography and tropography of the graphic, so as to express a system of connexions. The system of connexions herein being adumbrated has to do with the relation between the provisional constitution of dissonant identities of the millennial or apocalyptic city and its recurring histories of power and violence. Such events are, I wish to argue, graphic interruptions that mark and write the city topographically and historically. From certain aspects, the form of the so-called graphic novel is particularly well suited to respond to the darker aspects of the city, for it allows for textual productions that can simultaneously, or nearly simultaneously, open location and narrative moment to the various historical and material oscillations that resonate in any place in the city, as it brings together writing, photography, drawing, and other textual marks. In this, one possible reading of the graphic text is that which understands it as a chorographical discourse.

Acknowledging the difficulties with which we are confronted by so vast an area of inquiry, the topography of which is unmappable as we have admitted, this essay will examine three texts that map and construct London symbolically through pictorial and narrative acts of phantastry (of which more, shortly). The texts in question are: Iain Sinclair and Dave McKean’s Slow Chocolate Autopsy, one of those so-called psychogeographical texts,8 which is neither simply novel in the conventional sense nor graphic novel, but an uneasy, edgy, and excessive hybrid of both in its yoking together of urban violence, including the scenes of Christopher Marlowe’s death and the murder of Jack “the Hat” McVitie at the instigation of the Kray Brothers in the 1960s; and Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, another psychogeographical or chorographical exploration of the darkness of London, through the filter of the Jack the Ripper murders, with reference to the illustrations of William Blake (Figure 1)

Figure 1. William Blake, The Ghost of a Flea (c.1819)9

and the churches of Nicholas Hawksmoor. In passing (time and space permit little else), we will also mention Martin Rowson’s The Waste Land, an imaginative reinvention of T. S. Eliot’s poem of the same name, redrawn through the hard-boiled detective fiction of Raymond Chandler and his detective, another Marlowe (Philip), who, in Rowson’s version, is renamed Christopher. (It should also be pointed out that there appear here, however faintly, from underneath the layer upon layer of palimpsest and pastiche two other ghostly signatures, those of Peter Ackroyd and Joseph Conrad, leaving their indelible marks on the tracing and echoing of some of the city’s psychic and hieratic contours.) The texts in question emerge on the one hand as singular manifestations of a shared obsessive interest on the part of the authors concerning temporality, iterability identity, and cultural memory. On the other hand, it may be argued that the texts are themselves responses to the recurrent patterns of violent power that write London, and which are reiterated across its topography and its history as fundamental determinants in its identity.

Figure 2. Christopher Marlow, aged 21

Such narratives of the capital are of course already available in novels that are “graphic” only in the sense that they represent in great detail the horrors of murder and other violent crimes. In this sense, novels such as Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor or Iain Sinclair’s White Chappell Scarlett Tracings may be termed graphic, as may be P. D. James’ historical account of the Marr family murders, The Maul and the Pear Tree (The Ratcliffe Highway Murders of 1811).10 However, the graphic novel in its representation of murder, of violence and power, and of the capital’s darkness, effects its disquieting force, not through “illustration” in a pictorial rather than a written sense, but via synchronous revelation. The graphic novel “does violence” to the eye, in its multiplicity of signs irreducible to any calm order or linear narrative logic. It offers something akin to a performative speech act in the excess of its simultaneity, in that the form of the graphic—we might say the graphic form of the graphic—in being irreducible to a single order of signs architectonically arranged, does not merely describe or narrate an event, it effectively stages that event through the multiplicity of signs configured as the simultaneous transmission (and, in principle, reception), of any single page.

We are speaking here of a simultaneity by which the page’s spatiality confounds the temporalities of reading and narrative, and thereby announces as an analogous correlative to the mystery of the crime depicted, the undecidability that lurks at the heart of any act of analysis or autopsy. [As a panel From Hell appearing prior to the first page of the prologue reminds us, autopsy, signifies not only dissection and examination, but also, an eyewitness examination or any critical analysis.] Such simultaneity and its impossible or at least unjustifiable disentangling operates according to what Jacques Derrida calls, in speaking of the photo-novel, “the order of the series or temporalities,” the movements of which announce “the space of the labyrinth and the simultaneity of the [checker] board,” and the possibility to “traverse or cross through the narrative sequences in several directions.”11

The ramifications for any act of reading are profound, although (it has to be said) hardly original, for any act of good reading is always already implicitly caught up in such abyssal disorientations; it is merely the case that the graphic text, in a certain fashion, affirms blatantly in its performativity the poiesis, the making-appear, that moves the graphic, and which the graphic, in its technicity, causes to come to light. For the graphic trait admits of, and so requires in response, and as the responsibility of the reader as eyewitness, an act of analysis and autopsy in which “there is reversibility, irreversibility, diachrony, and simultaneity.”

Here, preliminary to any further consideration and in conclusion, it seems necessary to acknowledge briefly on the one hand, between the novel and the graphic novel, and on the other, between the photograph and the graphic novel. Unlike the novel, “which does not allow for a synchronic exposition or presentation of images,” on the page of the graphic text, everything, at least at first glance, appears (and appears so as to appear) to take place in one glance, in the same time and yet, in that time, never quite the same time. It is as if we were looking at several panels within one frame, a series of photographs within one image. However, while in the photograph, according to Derrida, “all parts of the image are…assembled within the same instantaneous shot,” the graphic text graphically (as it were) simultaneously presents and dismantles the simultaneity of presentation and representation, re-presentation of the presentation within representation. Thus, the graphic novel: neither novel nor photograph, yet partaking of and disordering the temporalities of both; and, in so doing, leaving its mark, which remains to be read.

Panels VII-XX. Postcards from the Capital

I have seen phantoms there that were as men
And men that were as phantoms flit and roam;
Marked shapes that were not living to my ken.
Caught breathings acrid as with Dead Sea foam:
The City rests for man so weird and awful,
That his intrusion there might seem unlawful,
And phantoms there may have their proper

A Crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.13

Figure 3. ‘The Burial of the Dead’ 31 & 32

Treat London like an autopsy catalogue (SCA 90)

In that close corner where the roofs shrink down and cower together as if to hide their secrets from the handsome street hard by, there are such dark crimes, such miseries and horrors, as could hardly be told in whispers.14

In the words of Norton, Iain Sinclair’s narrator from his collaboration with Dave McKean, Slow Chocolate Autopsy, and his more recent novel, Dining on Stones,15 “stick any two postcards on a wall and you’ve got a narrative” (SCA 88). The observation of conjunction and its power to project provides a fitting aphorism for the graphic text’s modes of production, and, more significantly, for the very violent intrusion that just is the graphic, whereby the work of the hand causes to appear that which was hitherto invisible. Martin Rowson’s illustration (fig. 3, above) of the flow of the city’s dead over London Bridge is disturbing enough, the clerks bearing a minimal resemblance to T. S. Eliot. But with the visualization of the tolling bell of St Mary Woolnoth, one of the churches designed by architect Nicholas Hawksmoor following the great fire of London and subsequently figured as part of a ritual structure involving Satanism and murder by Iain Sinclair (Lud Heat) and Peter Ackroyd (Hawksmoor), one is given a vision of a temporal flow that exceeds any present moment.

The “uncanny” is not a property of the space itself nor can it be provoked by any particular spatial conformation; it is, in its aesthetic dimension, a representation of a mental state of projection that precisely elides the boundaries of the real and the unreal to provoke a disturbing ambiguity, a slippage between waking and dreaming.

What arrives has the power to produce an uncanny effect therefore; though, we must remember, it is not an example of the uncanny in and of itself (there is no itself to the uncanny; the uncanny is uncanny, disquieting, to the extent that all examples fail, and one can never pin down what goes by this strange name). Slightly displaced, perhaps unhinged, in the shadow of London’s many absences, four citations therefore in lieu of the city, quadrivial postcards, by the arrival of which the city is announced, however indirectly, and from this perhaps received, perceived. The relationship between the elements of a structure translates as those elements transmit, and in that transmission is the “aesthetic dimension” inadequately referred to as the uncanny. (A brief digression: other structures are implied throughout this essay, as that for example between the locations of Hawksmoor’s churches and the subsequent reference to those churches and their localities, by, amongst others, T. S. Eliot, Sinclair, Ackroyd, and of course throughout From Hell; or that temporal ‘structure’ implicated in the names Marlow/e, [Christopher, Philip,16 Conrad’s narrator in Heart of Darkness] and the proximity of London districts—Deptford and Greenwich for example—related to this name, as if the name bore in its iterability the admission that London has been, as Conrad’s Marlow remarks, one of the dark places of the earth.17 Thus structure—the structurality of structure—has, implicated within the formal presentation that seems merely synchronous, a number of temporalities; having to do on the one hand with the times, if not the untimeliness, of communication and reading—even when all the signs appear to be there in the same frame, or as the structural elements comprising that frame (for even the most apparently formal element is not only a base or support but also, in principle, an articulation, however silent); and concerning, on the other hand, the traces of the material, of a site or text’s historicity. Despite the material and historical dimensions at work here, what returns is immaterial and yet is capable of producing a material effect. The multiple temporalities immanent within any frame or complex of graphic traits facilitate and yet interrupt the subject’s consciousness in the event of reception and in response to the event of perception. As Husserl remarks, the now of apprehension, in this case the perception of the city in the graphic texts with which we are concerned, has about it a sense of belatedness. (Another digression [consider it an internal panel, the borders are porous, other material keeps leaking into my analysis]: as Rowson’s Marlowe remarks ‘I was too late’ [3:26]; being is always ‘late’ for the autopsy, in the wake of the event; agency, and with that being, in the graphic novels discussed here is always the prosopopoeic manifestation of Nachträglichkeit, whether one refers to Marlowe, Inspector Abelline, or Norton.) One gathers, in apprehension, what Husserl terms “earlier now-points of the motion,” which are themselves apprehensions of, and marked by, still earlier now-points.18 Only a few signs are gathered, beyond which lies an unmappable topography composed from the ineffable totality of diachronic and synchronic lines of flight in endless intersection.

Projected for the subject’s consciousness an apparitional and improper identity then, phantasmic though inextricably implicated in the materiality of the city, in the historicity of its ontic meaning; an identity in ruins, wherein “the deeply rooted ideals of transparency between form and function, sign and signifier, space and activity, structure and meaning [are] forced into dissociation, induced to collide rather than coincide. Play of this kind…celebrate[s] dissonance over harmony, difference over identity.”19 In the example of our postcards and in Rowson’s panels, there is apprehened the dead permeating borders, between the present and the past, the visible and the invisible; moving within the materiality of the present moment, the present without presence of any given now, as well as the present consciousness of being-in-the-world open to the reception of the now-points of the other: hence the necessity of treating the city as an autopsy catalogue. This is the work of the graphic, and it is that which is put to work in the graphic novel’s charting of the city, as it opens the urban skin, folding back its layers as it traces its incisions on that same body.

The megalopolis as necropolis emerges as intermittent pulsation, so many heterogeneous marks and signals, through phantasmic flows, disembodied, uncanny, barely present, either to sight or hearing, Biblical and Baudelairean, sacred and profane; in intimate proximity, almost simultaneous, nearly synchronous, though disjointed—just enough—between presentation and apprehension, between three types of temporality at least: that of the object, frame or panel; that of the events or acts presented to the gaze by the graphic presentation (and traced in the graphic act); and that of temporally constituted consciousness. While this might appear in some respects self-evident, it is important that we comprehend the extent to which the graphic novel makes possible a more naked staging than is possible in the reading of a novel of the invisible temporal structures and resonances, the iterability of events, and the phantom effects of writing within a single location and, at the same time, the apparent simultaneity and presence of the visual image. Consider, for the moment, the symbol mapped onto the map of London at night in From Hell (fig. 4):

Figure 4. From Hell, Ch. 14.9

In producing the occult sign upon the map, Moore and Campbell are, in the first instance, drawing on the work of Iain Sinclair, specifically Lud Heat, and Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor, through both of which the architectural designs of Nicholas Hawksmoor haunt the city. However, Moore does not use Hawksmoor’s churches for his co-ordinates in the mapping of the pentagram, but other sites amongst which are the Isle of Dogs (which has its echoes in both Eliot’s The Waste Land and Blake’s Jerusalem), Hawksmoor’s Christ Church, Spitalfields, and Bunhill Fields, in which Blake is buried (From Hell, 4:36).

Synchrony and anachrony, framing and disjointing as well, all are intimately entwined with one another here, as the figure of the pentagram is traced onto central London, its points being the locations significant in From Hell‘s version of the Ripper murders of 1888. The sites connected by the points of the pentagram and through which they pass pertain to other histories, to specific events irrelevant to the murder and dismemberment of five prostitutes in the East End of London; an occult figure thus emerges, a graphic image having to do with neither the immediate history nor topography of the city of Jack the Ripper. The graphic panel figures in its now-time [Benjamin’s jetztzeit] of presentation and staging an instance of chorographical perception, retaining in the conjoined relation of presentation and perception “the past…which is to say absence,” or what Husserl has termed the retention of now-points [jetztpunkt], as we have already remarked. Neither simply narrative nor image, the city is marked symbolically, that is to say graphically (to recall the definitions from the OED), and in the apparent synchrony of the frame presentation takes place “by virtue of this retention [of the invisible shape] constitutive of the act of perception as ‘a single continuum that is continuously modified’.20 This continuum, called by Husserl a Heraclitean flux, is what both enables and disables; and it is in the articulation of this impossible simultaneity that the graphic text shows itself as a singularly appropriate medium of response to the uncanny structures of the city’s spatial and temporal identities.

Alan Moore gives voice to this perception through Sir William Withey Gull in Chapter Fourteen, in From Hell. In a visionary moment, Gull witnesses on the Embankment of the Thames a parade of “oblivious phantoms that I know to be the living, although not of any single night, or century” (14.9). Though the iterable, ghostly signature as both palimpsest and other of the material site, the flux—defined by Gull as “a current of transmission in Masonic mysteries” (14.8)—is not constrained by time; whispers, phantoms, the dead: all arrive insistently and repeatedly, revenants of the city who leave the traces and, in doing so, demand a response that is neither simply, once again, a documentary record nor a narrative; and neither is this merely a mimetically faithful image, for it causes to appear that which is otherwise invisible, and therefore in excess of any simple mimetic mode or ontology. As Gull remarks of the perceived pattern (fig. 3), “luminous filaments connect the city’s stones into a circuit” (14.8). The graphic novel makes visible such circuits and their perception. In the texts on which we are focussing, such circuits trace discontinuous connections, from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, in loose concatenations of poetics, crime, and power, which map London as one of the dark places of the earth through the apparitioning (as Hélène Cixous has it) of the phantom chorographic.

Dave McKean’s images from Slow Chocolate Autopsy map and project such circuits tellingly. In a number of montages that gather together photographs, film-stills, fragments of type, pen and pencil drawings, maps and etchings, McKean projects uncanny chorographical forms that serve to figure London and particular strands from the history of its discomposed identity. In the various acts of yoking together the heterogeneous fragments and traces, McKean illustrates how the work of the graphic artist is to provide the autopsy, to demonstrate how “history [is] that which has passed away” as Elissa Marder remarks,21 and which is therefore, only ever available as the projection of assembled graphic elements having to do with place and event, as in the following example (fig.5). Here we witness road-signs, surveillance cameras, scraps of text, a Hawksmoor church, a distorted image of an obelisk, the head of a gargoyle a barely discernible, shadowed face superimposed onto an arched window, a cartouche, and projection lines offering some kind of mapping the purposes of which are undecidable. Everything floats, a near simultaneous gathering of graphics irrecuperable into any single form or identity, other than that which might be signalled in the name London.

Figure 5. Slow Chocolate Autopsy (87)

Each image, each piece of text, performs as a kind of memory-fetish of the city; bearing no connection to any one temporal moment, each trace can be read as serving as “a kind of memory trace of a mode of inqury that does not simply obey the dubious temporality”22 of linear narrative, narrative presentism, or historical “progress.” McKean’s illustrations can enact the gathering and concatenation of random now-points, where the narratives are only ever immanent or implicit, or they can chart or imply violent events or narratives through inventions of identity and memory that traverse time. The graphic produces, as it performs, snapshots of history, snapshots of sites and locales, topographies and cultural memories, in the single, and therefore uncanny, location of the frame or panel as the instantaneous autopsy of a “series of relayed looks.”23 In addition, the graphic makes possible the merest chance that what Françoise Dasture describes as the “silent event of the encounter”24 come into ghostly being in the relation between apperception and the multiplicity of the trace. There is thus presented to the gaze—and in this presentation there is also a demand that one bears witness—to an iterable relay of passing moments, oscillating between one another as analogous, ghostly figures of each other, and through the passage of time (fig. 6).

Figure 6. Slow Chocolate Autopsy (60)

The illustration above, part of the title page to Chapter Two of Slow Chocolate Autopsy, involves a multiple projection. The chapter itself, “No More Yoga of the Nightclub,” offers the reader an imaginative reinvention of the murder of Jack “The Hat” McVitie, in 1967, as this is witnessed by Sinclair’s time-travelling narrator, Norton. A member of the Kray Brothers’ gang (who, along with the Richardson family, controlled much of organized crime in London’s East End, South London, and Soho during the late 1950s and 1960s), McVitie was killed by Tony and Chris Lambrianou25 at the order of the Krays, for which murder, along with that of associate George Cornell, they were imprisoned. In Sinclair’s version, McVitie is described as “memorising the geography of an event which had not yet happened” (SCA 66). He has visions of London architecture in the 1990s (68). In this world “boundaries warped” (75), and “London settled on its proper axis” (67). Sinclair’s narrative relies for its effects on disruptions of temporality and space, on alignments in the force-field of the city, and McKean’s montage figures such effects analogously, in its combination of film still and map. The still is taken from John Mackenzie’s The Long Good Friday (1979), a story of the decline and fall of gangland London. In the image, we see gang boss Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) to the right of the car (a Jaguar, de rigueur in London gang mythology). The scene from which this still comes is shot in London’s Dockland (see fig. 7; the map is drawn and published in the same year as the murders, 1888), which, though not visible on the map also in the frame is just south of the area shown. The location on the map is Whitechapel, the district infamous for the Ripper murders, but also the site of one of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s churches, Christ Church, Spitalfields. The image of the church appears repeatedly throughout From Hell, as the subject of much debate in the narrative with regard to various pagan and Masonic rituals, and as a brooding, malevolent presence (fig. 8), of which it is remarked that ‘its atmosphere envelopes Spitalfields, it casts shadow-pictures on the minds of those whose lives are spent within its sight’ (4:32).

Figure 7. Spitalfields, Whitechapel, London Docks
Figure 8. Christ Church, Spitalfields

McKean’s montages figure an impossible simultaneity, the possibilities for the analysis of which are, in principle, endless. The emphasis, as already remarked, on difference rather than identity, what disturbs in the second of the two montages (fig. 6) is the reliance on a knowledge of particular East End histories of different orders, so that there is implied an iterable revenance of violent events in close proximity, and with multiple intertextual and discursive resonances. With its immediate citation of film and topography, and from there to other discourses and narratives (myth, architecture, paganism, freemasonry), the image promises an opening from within and yet beyond, as well as in excess of its immediate presentation. And then there is that obviously graphic intrusion, which might be read as either a ladder or a strip of film stills or negative frames. McKean’s singular image is fascinating: for, in figuring the different times of one particular location in London, along with events of differing orders and different modes of presentation, it bears in it the burden of the graphic panel, and graphic novels in general, apropos the responsibility for bearing witness to history in inventive ways that open rather than foreclose acts of reading, whereby chorography and autopsy are caught up in a potentially infinite relay.

This can be expanded upon in the following manner. While “every history” is “incontestably unique, [and] contains structures of its own conditions of possibility,” as Reinhart Koselleck comments in The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History, Spacing Concepts, the “finitely delimited spaces” in which historical events take place have the possibility of changing “with a speed other than that of the events themselves.” Every event is thus marked by a “temporal multilayeredness”; such temporal layering and spatial iterability define the ways in which the chorographically inclined graphic text functions. History, Kosselleck avers, “proves to be the space for possible repeatability; it is never only diachronic, but, depending on how it is temporally perceived and experienced, it is also syncrhonic.”26 We might add to this that the effect of possible repeatability is a translation effect, from the materiality of history to the materiality of the letter (or, indeed, any graphic mark), and that history is in principle translated into historiography. The multilayered surface of an illustration such as McKean’s renders visible that which is already suggested in the map and by the topography of the city’s sites. The energy of such multilayered reverberation is also caught, if not performed, in a strikingly disruptive and material fashion in Eddie Campbell’s fierce cross-hatching and diagonal striations (fig. 8) that intersect with and move across the spire of Christ Church, Spitalfields. The representation of the church in this image is only an interruption in the flow of forces, which continue both across its façade and in the surrounding night sky. thus there is visibly present the graphic traits of that which can otherwise never be visible.

We see another such act of making visible in the figure of the pentagram traced onto the city above, and again, when the 1888 map of Whitechapel and its environs is reproduced by Eddie Campbell, prior to the appendices of From Hell, to plot the sites of the Ripper murders, in relation to Hawksmoor’s church. Implicit is a temporal dimension, the multitemporal layering, in the city’s chorographic unveiling. This is made explicit in another of From Hell‘s panels (fig. 9).

Figure 9. From Hell

Map, graphic gesture of the hand, reiterating itself—an invisible hand drawing the visible hand, marking the map in a vivid gesticulation of accompaniment to the visible trace of the unheard voice—, various narrative and temporal strands, signatures and historical events: all come together in the act of making visible the ineffable forces that inform the city in this one frame. Invisible within the frame, except for that hand caught in the commission of the graphic gesture, is the speaking subject. However, uncannily, the reader is drawn into this frame, even as the subject-position exceeds the frame reciprocally in a moment of disturbing temporal passage. For the reader’s gaze assumes the position of the narrating subject’s eye, and thus we are simultaneously figured, implicated in the moment of the frame and in our own time of reading; ours is the eye observing a hand both ours and not ours. Furthermore, we are implicated in what Derrida has referred to as le plus-de-vue, “the (no)-more-sight…the visionary vision of the seer who sees beyond the visible present, the overseeing, sur-view, or survival of sight”27 (it is this which is registered in Jack McVitie’s visionary apostrophes, and Dave McKean’s montages from Slow Chocolate Autopsy). In this one moment—a moment that is both more and less than one moment, irreducible to a single instant, a sole now-point—the past is never quite past, over or done with; in the double moment of autopsy, analysis and/as the act of seeing with one’s own eye, the pasts of London overflow the frame, the image, the page, so that we are called to trace the connections and bear witness to only a few of the chorographical resonances. The hand promises to trace, after the event, the immanent trait, the invisible graphic, a not-yet visible structure that will never be present. At the same time or, rather, that double-time of the panel, the voice is recorded, in a kind of tele-techno-graphic—where another hand, the hand of the other, has already left its mark and withdrawn—tracing the spectral transmissions of the city’s historicity. There is thus, within the frame, between the frame of the panel and that of the map, a graphic heterogeneity, a heterogeneity, Derrida explains, “between the thing drawn [in this case the traces of historical narratives] and the drawing trait [that] remains abyssal….This heterogeneity of the invisible to the visible can haunt the visible as its very possibility.”28 And so perception is solicited uncannily, as the force of what can never be witnessed traverses the field of vision in the reception and retention of the graphic in all its multiple motions.

In the images from Slow Chocolate Autopsy and From Hell, imaginary axes or trajectories take place; legible as lines of flight perhaps, in, across, as one possible configuration for the otherwise unmappable chrono-topography of a monstrous megalopolis, in order that one possible projection of the city as graphic text, as chorography, has the chance of crossing the invisible. Graphic intersections generate the possibility of an image, a phantom site or narrative from within the materiality and history of the city. At stake therefore is the manifestation of the relationship between a certain haunting, uncanny persistence of violence and the idea of the millennial or apocalyptic city, as this can be expressed through the graphic novel. Implicit in this is a two-fold concern: on the one hand, with the ways in which the material environment, the materiality of site and its histories might be understood to determine or to impose itself graphically on writing and image, and, on the other, to explore ways in which writing, in the broad sense of all forms of graphic mark, shapes itself through singular responses so as to attune its representation most faithfully to the call of the city.

Panels XXI-XXV. Phantastry & Haunting

The man…had cultivated a massive brain tumour…He had X-rays of the intruder—which he superimposed over a map of medieval London, the walled City. He walked the shape of his pain, his unlanguaged parasite, into the map.

Iain Sinclair

I find the matter as in a labyrinth: easier to enter into than to go out.

Lord Burghley, 1593

Something is clearly at work in the graphic novel, having to do with the visionary evocation of what we are tempted to describe as the spirit of London. If the graphic novel in its narratives of the city can be read as a manifestation of chorographic discourse, it is also receivable in another manner, through an understanding of which it is possible to speak of the graphic text in general. For what should by now be clear is that the graphic text operates through serial and iterable processes of visualization, of making visible the invisible, giving momentary material or graphic articulation to the phantasms of the city’s histories, myths, to what are perceived as the capital’s recurrent psychic forces; or, to articulate this a little differently, the graphic text gives visibility to the invisible traits that write the city in particular ways, as the visual citation of Blake’s “The Ghost of a Flea” in Chapter Fourteen of From Hell illustrates (fig. 10; see fig. 1).

Figure 10. From Hell, 14:17

Here, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell refigure William Blake’s “The Ghost of a Flea,” not only as the prosopopoeic manifestation of the evil that informs the actions of Jack the Ripper, but also, most importantly, as a graphic process “in the fourfold city”: “I am movement in the paint-plump brush, an agitation in the squeaking pen” (14:17). Being is unveiled in these words as having no presence; it is instead, disquietingly, a spectral passage, being nothing other than the invisible motion haunting acts of depiction and inscription, residing within, and yet irreducible to merely visible graphic moment or gesture; an other graphic therefore, the graphic of the other, an invisible trait that moves the production of its visible counterpart. Blake, it might be said, haunts both the London of late Victorian England and the work of Moore and Campbell. This citation announces the revenance of the trait, its iterable power. At the same time it functions performatively, inasmuch as the arrival of Blake’s image transforms the context into which it intrudes. In this, less is being remarked about any supposed mystical power (though this is the ostensible narrative thrust) than about the very condition of the graphic trait itself, its ability to transmit across time, to produce material effects, to become momentarily visible, though never as itself; yet always to operate with this uncanny iterability, as the singular process of appearance and withdrawal that simultaneously marks an identity while erasing the fixity of any identity in the process of marking.29 It is this scandalous revelation that is caught in both Moore’s words and Campbell/Blake’s image. In this, the panel offers us a singular visualization of every graphic novel, and, of course, the very condition of the graphic itself: to project momentarily “an encounter with the dead, with the ghostliness of ancestral voices and intertextual hauntings,”30 and thereby re-mark the trace of endless, illimitable flux.

The graphic inscription of such fluxions we designate, in concluding this essay, phantastry, a term serving to signify the phantasmic performative of the graphic novel’s modes of production. This word is now almost wholly forgotten. In being nearly invisible—though materially there on the page, it nonetheless resists revelation of any certain meaning—, it comes to have its chance in the analysis of the graphic manifestation of what Iain Sinclair has described as the “sticky webs of memory” that trace the city (DS 102). Taking the image above as our immediate example of phantastry, we comprehend an instance of single, fragile synecdoche, a singular semi-fluid figure serving in this essay as a mediation of the “conduit for the spirit of place”31 as that which takes place in the work considered here. Phantastry‘s simultaneous materiality and hieratic exclusion (how can we read its Blakean oscillations, and from those, the contest for the spirit of place, if we do not already recognize this?) does double service in fact; for it figures both the graphic text’s ability to draw our attention to the self-replicating and dividing limits of iterability and un/readability, and the abyssal, untotalizable text that is London.

Appearing to admit of a relation, obviously, both to fantasy and phantasy, and being, we might say a long-lost relative, phantastry’s strangeness materializes, for me at least, that which passes graphically, and thus silently, between phantasy / fantasy; it traces a movement for me between lyrical, possibly non-rational, composition inimical to the drive and tyranny of narrative and psychic projection. The trace of that spectral apparition or phantom that haunts this particular family of words arrives, having to do with what comes to light, and what brings with it illumination. This somewhat dusty term signifies a fantastic display or performance, marked by ostentation or affectation. Proposing, finally, a strong reading of the word, one might understand it as one possible manifestation of what might otherwise be called a trope or a conceit. Moreover, phantastry also refers to a visionary delusion, the projection or phantasm of a fevered or disoriented imagination, perhaps even that particular delusion described by Sinclair as “the madness of seeing London as text. Words. Dates. Addresses. No brick that has not been touched, mentioned in a book” (DS 100). If there is a madness in seeing London as a text, it is a madness contracted from the city’s chorographic identities, which arrive unexpectedly to leave an indelible, graphic trace on the subject.

If it is true that “the modern English novel contains as many ghosts and visitations as a Radcliffe three decker,” as Michael Moorcock claims in his “Introduction” to the 1995 reprinting of Iain Sinclair’s poems Lud Heat and Suicide Bridge,32 it is tempting to ask the question, why? Moreover, in asking such a question, the inquiry might be extended: why have more than a few contemporary English novels and graphic texts, in turning to the effects of haunting, taken London as their location? Whether, for example, one considers from recent decades Moorcock’s Mother London, A. S. Byatt’s Possession, almost all of the novels of Peter Ackroyd, Maureen Duffy’s Capital, or Sarah Waters’ Affinity; or whether one reaches further back into the twentieth century to look at particular novels by, say, Elizabeth Bowen, Charles Williams, or Muriel Spark, there is discernible a marked inter-animation between ghosts, spectres, phantoms and the city. As Iain Sinclair remarks in Dining on Stones, in acknowledgement of the persistence of ghostly motion, “facts kept leaking into my fictions, the borders were insecure” (DS 115). The leakage of which Sinclair speaks is undoubtedly also readable as that hauntological flow that disrupts temporally distinct moments, and serves in its transgression of boundaries to offer one more graphic image of the graphic text as it addresses London. The effects of haunting in the context of the city and its texts are also at work in the poetry of Aidan Andrew Dun, particularly his shamanic act of channelling William Blake through alternative histories and sacred sites of London in Vale Royal. And of course, as we have seen, apparitional manifestation takes place in a somewhat febrile manner through narratives of carnage, bloodshed and evil in such hybrid textual forms as Slow Chocolate AutopsyFrom Hell, and Rowson’s The Waste Land, in all of which murder is always caught up with ritual, whether Masonic or pagan, and is bound, moreover, to histories of architecture and place as hieratic symbol.33

To read the work of haunting, both in and of the urban environment, to see the oscillation of the spectral as an uncanny countersignature to, and emerging from within, the cultural space of the English novel and, more recently, the graphic novel, in the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first, is to perceive, through that reading, a disquieting disruption in the otherwise apparently calm and undisturbed critical consensus concerning English fiction of the last sixty years.34 Moorcock suggests of Iain Sinclair that he responds to the oscillations of the spectral in order to address and acknowledge, “the marginal, the unfashionable, and the self-doomed, against the general tenor of Eng. lit. power politics whose vested interests permit no real assault on the status quo, where the established canon is forcefully promoted because lazy convention also acts to employ academics, critics, and literary editors.”35 What Moorcock perceives about Sinclair specifically is also perhaps true of the graphic novel more generally, especially as such a text disturbs the boundaries and ontologies of genre and of aesthetic ideology, where matters of value are related to questions of cultural significance in the maintenance of particular heritages. Though not always overtly or ostensibly polemic in orientation as Moorcock insists, there is, nevertheless, a sense that haunted urban fiction, conceived as so many singular acts of mediumship, acknowledges if not a political then perhaps an ethical responsibility. Writing the city as haunted, mapped and traced by its countless pasts and innumerable others, is to bear witness to, even as it opens a space for “London’s endless flux”36 as Moorcock has it. To write of environment, location, cultural space as haunted, and thereby to liberate occluded or forgotten narratives, intimates what Nicholas Royle has described as “an encounter with the dead, with the ghostliness of ancestral voices and intertextual hauntings.”37

Yet any location is undoubtedly overdetermined by countless, excessive traces, all resonating simultaneously, and all vying for attention. Sinclair admits as much in Radon Daughters, when it is realised, in a moment of Swedenborgian epiphany, that “the lost rivers of London-Black Ditch, Walbrook, Neckinger, Effra, Tyburn-affect[s] all surface life…. They were our unconscious. Somewhere in that drifting unfocused world the link was to be found. A door would open on the mysteries of life and death, being and non-being, good and evil.”38 Suggestive of an invisible network beneath the streets of the city, the catalogue of rivers offers a instance that is tempting to read as intertextual haunting, resonating as it does (via the considerations of Swedenborg that contextualize the revelation of the passage) with catalogues of London location that are to be found in Blake’s Jerusalem, for example, “Hampstead Highgate Finchley Hendon Muswell Hill.”

Of course the intertextuality resounds multiply, producing not an echolalalia but what we might call a graphalalia, a disorienting, abyssal condition (that is named in this essay phantastry); such lists found throughout Sinclair’s writing, disjointed and possibly hieratic co-ordinates, signifying an absent, encrypted, and quite possibly unmappable topography. The desire is for an other London to arrive, but this is not necessarily a London that will, one day, be present. The graphic text may be read as articulating, making visible through its excessive and phantastic representations the seemingly Rosicrucian apprehension that a sign can be simultaneously transparent, available, unequivocal, and encrypted. As we have seen already, London in particular graphic texts is composed of such signs, secrets that are all at once in plain sight and yet which remain withdrawn. Thus there is to be acknowledged in the graphic text a “fundamental aesthetic experience that always mediates spirit and sense…in the formation of judgement.”39 Judgement in the graphic text is that decision to produce combinations of media, not only via traditional graphic media but also through “photomechanical and electronic technologies,” all of which encourage the proliferation of ghosts.

Recognizing this therefore, how one mediates, writes, and reads the city’s flux, its play of phantom-voices and traces, in which one glimpses the “hieratic imposing on demotic” (DS 63), comes into focus. If writing, as a response to cultural space or environment, to topography, and event is to acknowledge its ethical responsibility in its encounter (however impossible the demands of that responsibility might be), what modes of representation, we have to ask, might be appropriate? The graphic text in its processes of montage and temporal multilayeredness offers one possible answer, however seemingly delusional or encrypted such a response might be.



[1] For a brief, informative discussion of the significance and practice of chorography in Early Modern England, see Bruce McLeod, The Geography of Empire in English Literature 1580-1745 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 95-99.

[2] William Camden, Britain (1610). For a reading of chorographical texts and their ideological function, see Richard Helgerson, ‘The Land Speaks’, in Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 107-47.

[3] Jonathan Crary, ‘Spectacle, Attention, Counter-Memory’, in Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents, ed. Tom McDonough (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 455-67; 460.

[4] Jacques Derrida and Marie-Françoise Plissart, Rights of Inspection, (1985) trans. David Wills (New York: The Monacelli Press, 1998), n.p. As a chance instance of khoragraphic opening, the frame is shaken once again; for Derrida’s last sentence reverberates in French with the title of another essay, ‘La Loi du genre’. ‘La Loi du genre/The Law of Genre’, trans. Avital Ronell, Glyph 7, ed. Samuel Weber (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 176-232.

[5] Jacques Derrida, ‘Khora’, in On the Name, ed. Thomas Dutoit, trans. David Wood, John P. Leavey, Jr., and Ian McLeod (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), 99.

[6] Peter Ackroyd, London: The Biography (London: Chatto & Windus, 2000), 504. Ackroyd, T. S. Eliot’s biographer, (T. S. Eliot [London: Hamish Hamilton, 1984]) appears a couple of times at least in Martin Rowson’s The Waste Land (see next note), once as a cab-driver, and another as a barman in ‘The Fire Sermon’ (fig.11).

[7] Ackroyd, London, 503

[8] Iain Sinclair and Dave McKean, Slow Chocolate Autopsy (London: Phoenix House, 1997); Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, From Hell (Paddington: Eddie Campbell Comics, 1999); Martin Rowson, The Waste Land (New York: Harper & Row, 1990). Arguably, all three texts in question are readable as psychogeographical texts in that they explore chance concatenations and resonances across time, as these are suggested by particular locations in London. However, as I remark above, the concept of chorography is more appropriate both to the texts in question and to the analysis of certain graphic novels, at least with regard to the reading of the city.

While discussions of the texts refer to their illustrations or the composition or details of particular panels, reference to the text of Slow Chocolate Autopsy will be given parenthetically as SCA, followed by the page number, and any citations from From Hell will be given parenthetically as chapter and page, thus: (14:9). Reference to The Waste Land is given as chapter and panel.

[9] In the website ( accompanying a William Blake exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London, it is suggested that Blake’s models for the body of the flea come from the work of Michaelangelo. However, considering the posture of the flea, and its presentation on a stage, framed by curtains, it is equally likely that Blake drew his inspiration from Hercules the Strong Man, who appeared in shows at Astley’s Amphitheatre of the Arts, Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth where Blake and Catherine regularly attended. Philip Astley also built Hercules Buildings in Lambeth, where the Blakes moved in 1790, an area of particular spiritual significance for Blake. The most thorough discussion of the less ‘canonical’ aspects of Blake’s life and art is to be found in Peter Ackroyd’s biography, Blake (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1995).

[10] A brief narrative of the Marr murders is given in From Hell (4:29). Near to the site of Hawksmoor’s church, St George’s-in-the-East, in the apartment above a shop on the Ratcliffe highway, the Marr family and an apprentice, in a manner allegedly indicative of Masonic ritual.

[11] Derrida, Rights of Inspection, n.p.

[12] James Thomson, The City of Dreadful Night, (1874) in The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry and Poetic Theory, ed. Thomas J. Collins and Vivienne J. Rundle (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1999), 896-914; vii: 15-22.

[13] T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, in Collected Poems 1909-1962 (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), 61-86; ll. 62-63.

[14] Andrew Mearns, The Bitter Cry of Outcast London ed. Anthony S. Wohl (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1970), 54.

[15] Iain Sinclair, Dining on Stones or, The Middle Ground (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2004). All references are given parenthetically as DS.

[16] Admittedly a much more tenuous connection, not to say a fanciful one (wholly the product or example of phantastry), but Philip Marlowe is created by Raymond Chandler, who lived in Dulwich, just south of Greenwich. (Though not shown on the map of Whitechapel and Spitalfields, the location of Hawksmoor’s Christ Church, Greenwich (another of Hawksmoor’s churches, St Alfege, is to be found here) and Deptford are across the river Thames, immediately south of the London Docks, which do appear on that map. Such is the nature of psychogeographical imagination that writers such as Sinclair or Alan Moore might make much of the fact that Chandler was born in 1888, the year of the Ripper murders (and of the production of the map used not only in this essay but also by Eddie Campbell and Dave McKean), as was T. S. Eliot. To pull at this thread a little more, Eliot’s The Waste Land, though having no references to Christopher Marlowe, is overdetermined by Elizabethan resonances, echoes and citations, and these in connection to the City and the East End of London, with specific mention of another of Hawksmoor’s churches, St Mary Woolnoth, and with acknowledgement of both Greenwich Reach and the Isle of Dogs (‘The Fire Sermon’ ll.275-76). And of course, as if the psychogeographic or chorographic oscillations refuse to be stilled, as if we cannot resist the call of London’s uncanny interrelations, it has to be acknowledged that the Isle of Dogs is referred to by William Blake in Plate 45 of Jerusalem (‘the Isle of Leuthas Dogs’).

[17] Anthony Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), 11. Vidler’s contention is given in the text box on this page.

[18] Edmund Husserl, On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (1893-1917), trans. John Barnet Brough (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1991) §11, 32.

[19] Vidler, Architectural Uncanny, 105.

[20] Françoise Dastur, Telling Time: Sketch of a phenomenological chrono-logy, (1994) trans. Edward Bullard (London: Athlone Press, 2000), 29.

[21] Elissa Marder, Dead Time: Temporal Disorders in the Wake of Modernity (Baudelaire and Flaubert) (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 68.

[22] Marder, Dead Time, 9.

[23] Marder, Dead Time, 68.

[24] Dastur, Telling Time, 71.

[25] Tony Lambrianou is referred to in Slow Chocolate Autopsy as ‘the Bubble’, Cockney rhyming slang meaning ‘Greek’ (‘bubble and squeak’). A common enough term, it appears, perhaps with reference to Lambrianou, in Guy Richie’s post-Thatcherite gangster movie, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), as the nickname of one of the characters.

[26] Reinhart Koselleck, The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History, Spacing Concepts, trans. Todd Samuel Presner et al., Foreword Hayden White (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), 75

[27] Jacques Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind, (1990) trans. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 47.

[28] Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind, 45.

[29] I am drawing on the argument concerning the iterability of the trait of inscription, of the graphic gesture in general, from J. Hillis Miller, Speech Acts in Literature (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 131.

[30] Nicholas Royle, The Uncanny (London: Routledge, 2003), 147.

[31] Iain Sinclair, Landor’s Tower or, the Imaginary Conversations (London: Granta, 2001), 15.

[32] Michael Moorcock, ‘Introduction’, in Iain Sinclair, Lud Heat and Suicide Bridge, maps Dave McKean (London: Vintage, 1995), 3-6; 4.

[33] I discuss the relationship between haunting and the city in Duffy, Ackroyd, Bowen and Sinclair, along with consideration of a number of other texts in my Writing London vol. II: Materiality, Memory, Spectrality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). In response to the critical reading of Muriel Spark’s writing as realist, I open a reading of the traces of the gothic, the ghostly, and the uncanny in Spark in Chapter Three, ‘Biography’s Ruins: the Afterlife of Mary Shelley‘, of my Occasional Deconstructions (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004).

[34] Critical readings focussing on English literature and culture of the last sixty years tend to stress realist narrative or otherwise offer a somewhat formalist reading of so-called ‘postmodernist’ play and self-referentiality, while seeking to produce dissident readings. Where the focus is on realism, the critical response addresses various facets of identity politics from broadly left-liberal or Marxist positions, examining narratives and structures of class, gender, post-colonialism, the politics of gender and sexual orientation, as well as emphasizing regional literatures in analyses tending towards an understanding of the ‘condition of England’. What tends to get ignored or downplayed in the critical effort to historicize and contextualize literature according to particular, perceived national political trajectories, are narratives that engage with the gothic, the grotesque, the uncanny, fantasy, and other ‘eccentric’ modalities. Typical of such critical narratives concerning the ‘condition of England’ are: Alan Sinfield, Literature, Politics, and Culture in Postwar Britain (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1989); Alistair Davies and Alan Sinfield, eds., British Culture of the Postwar: an introduction to literature and society 1945-1999 (London: Routledge, 2000); Steven Connor, The English Novel in History 1950-1995 (London: Routledge, 1996); John Brannigan, Orwell to the Present: Literature in England, 1945-2000 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); Robert Hewison, Culture and Consensus: England, Art and Politics since 1940 (London: Methuen, 1995); Margaret Scanlan, Traces of Another Time: History and Politics in Postwar British Fiction (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990). While such studies are undoubtedly invaluable and provide much necessary historical, cultural, and political material, their partiality and their assignment of certain forms of fiction to genre studies (e.g. ‘postmodern’, ‘magic realist’, ‘science fiction’, ‘cyberpunk’, ‘graphic novel’, ‘children’s’ literature’ and so on) indicates the extent to which the stories they tell belong to a dominant narrative validated and sustained institutionally. Only certain modes of story-telling are authorized for the exploration of issues of class, ethnicity, history, and there appears not to be a comprehension that there are other ways to make visible the occluded or erased histories of those who are marginalized and oppressed. Thus, so-called dissident reading may be read as being recuperated or, indeed, recuperating itself, into an authorized version.

[35] Moorcock, ‘Introduction’, 5.

[36] Moorcock, ‘Introduction’, 5.

[37] Nicholas Royle, The Uncanny (London: Routledge, 2003), 147.

[38] Iain Sinclair, Radon Daughters: A voyage, between art and terror, from the Mound of Whitechapel to the limestone pavements of the Burren (London: Jonathan Cape, 1994), 139.

[39] Koselleck, Practice of Conceptual History, 197.

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