Full Text



Subject Literature

Key-Topics city

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


The ancient world provides us with two mythic origins and originators for the city. There is Plutarch's Theseus, the legendary founder of Athens, whose city is organized, coherent, reasoned and reasonable, abstract, bound and guarded by laws. Then there is the city of Cain; for, in the Bible, it is Cain – a cursed and banished murderer, a marked man condemned to be a vagrant and vagabond – who builds the first city. Since Cain was a criminal, a fugitive, a nomad, we may think of a city full of aliens, vagrants; anonymity, randomness; the lost and the damned. The city, particularly as it has developed during the last 200 years, has often aspired to the condition of Theseus's Athens; but it has more often been described as being more like a city of Cain. The city and Western literature are effectively coeval. But the great literary concentration, exploration, and evocation of the city really starts in the nineteenth century. This was when the city started to become both mysterious and ubiquitous, unknowable and inescapable, housing the past and determining – or destroying – the future. Increasingly, meaning no longer comes from the church, the court, or the manor, but is produced – and reproduced – in the city. Already Wordsworth was realizing that “the great city” was producing a new kind of experience, perhaps a new kind of person: How often, in the overflowing streets, Have I gone ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top