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Benjamin’s Paris, Freud’s Rome: whose London?

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This article sets out to consider the ways in which specific cities and particular bodies of theory come to belong to each other through the interaction of complex processes of urban development on the one hand and the institutional life of theories on the other. If Paris belongs to Walter Benjamin and Rome belongs to Sigmund Freud, to whom are we to attribute London? Arguing that London is an essentially unsatisfactory and even frustrating linguistic structure, which, in Lacanian terms, masquerades the phallus in the guise of the invisible maternal object, I propose that London belongs to Jacques Lacan; or that if it does not go to Lacan, then its presiding figure is Mrs Wilberforce, the leading character of the Ealing Comedy The Ladykillers, not because of the maternal comfort which she appears to offer, but for her uncodable authority that entraps us in our own desire for a satisfactory figure of the city.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: Middlesex University

Publication date: November 1, 1999


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