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London Writing of the 1930s

Anna Cottrell

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A bold new study of photographic and literary depictions of London in the 1930s

London Writing in the 1930s offers a new perspective on the decade that has long been associated with the Auden generation and the rise of documentary. It argues for the centrality of urban fiction and photography to the decade's experiments in representing daily life. Why the period’s London-set novels were so often described as 'photographic', and what kind of photographs inspired such comparisons? Tracing representations of London by a wide range of 1930s writers and photographers, including Patrick Hamilton, Jean Rhys, George Orwell, and Bill Brandt, the book's chapters are organised around London's spaces of leisure. Teashops, cinemas, and the night clubs of Soho were central to 1930s negotiations of the interrelation between urban life, gender, and class; these settings provide this book both with cultural-historical context and with the basis for its argument about the decade's aesthetic orientations.

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1. Out on the Town: Fiction and Photographs of the West
2. Soho Nights
3. Eating Out
4. Going to the Cinema
5. Staying Home

About the Author

Dr Anna Cottrell writes about mid-twentieth-century and contemporary British literature and urban culture. Her work has appeared in Textual Practice, Literature & History and Critical Quarterly.


Anna Cottrell's London Writing of the 1930s is a superb and timely volume. In tracing how literature portrayed modern, city-dwelling young women – from their pleasures in the cinema to their nights out in Soho – Cottrell shows the complexity of writers such as Patrick Hamilton and Storm Jameson, and this volume thus becomes a vital part in the current rethinking of ‘the thirties’.

- Leo Mellor, University of Cambridge

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