‘The Effect of London’: Urban Atmospheres and Alice Meynell’s London Impressions

In: Emotions: History, Culture, Society
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  • 1 McGill University, Montreal, Canada
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This essay examines urban atmospheres and emotions in the 1898 essay collection London Impressions by British writer, poet and suffragist Alice Meynell. I argue atmospheres are spatialised emotions and investigate the atmospheric dimension of Meynell’s text and her impressions, through a vocabulary of immersion and movement. Within her own manipulation of a ‘visual’ vocabulary, Meynell transforms impressions into atmospheres, the visual into sensorial, moving from the painterly to atmospheric experience, notably through the medium of fog and smoke and other climate indicators. I argue urban atmospheres are the main feature the text brings forth (even through – and perhaps especially because of – the filter of the written word). By probing the application of the history of emotions’ methodologies within architectural and urban history, I argue the concept of ‘atmosphere’ is a productive analytical category to examine visual and textual sources.

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