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Metropolis and Modernism

‘unreal city,/Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,/A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,/I had not thought death had undone so many…’ (TS Eliot, The Waste Land). What is the significance of the representation of the city in two works you have studied?
Literature Essay

  • Assessment: Essay
  • Mark: B
  • Year: 2006
  • Wordcount: 1631

View of a town (1918)
Edward Wadsworth

In the beginning of the 20th Century the representation of the modern city in contemporary art and literature is multifaceted. Within art, the View of a town is one of the works that captures the sensation of the city in a moment of time. This woodcut represents the modern metropolis with linear attributes that resemble machines, industrialisation and progress. Within literature too, a number of authors offer approaches to get hold of the tangible reality in the modern city. In Mrs. Dalloway, it is the city’s complex impressions that link the consciousnesses of the two major characters together. Virginia Woolfs’ characters explore “the centre of life itself” (Wilson 1987: 9) with its vibrancy, dynamism and energy. In contrast, D.H. Lawrence understands the metropolis as a place of despair and alienation. Hence Women in Love shows London as a sinful place inhabited by superficial characters that find their satisfaction in drinking, offending and having sex. Thus, these two modernist texts offer different representations of urban life in a rapidly changing metropolis and therefore present a fuller image of the real and unreal London.
Mrs Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith are capturing the fleeting moments of life in the city on a June day. Both characters stroll ‘flâneur-like’ through the metropolis and feel the vibrancy of London. Yet, their responses to the same urban symbols differ from each other…

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