Literary London Reading Group

‘Crossings’: Zadie Smith, Urban Space, and Contemporary British Politics

The warm weather is finally here. Before you clock off — by which we mean shift your energies elsewhere — for the summer, though, we do hope you’ll join us for the final Literary Literary Reading Group session of this academic year. We’re very pleased to announce that Lauren Elkin, author of the much-celebrated book Flâneuse: Women Walk the City (2016) will introduce ‘Crossings: Zadie Smith, Urban Space, and Contemporary British Politics.‘ This session will take place on Tuesday, 13 June from 6.00-7.30pm at Senate House, Room 243.

Nigel Farage canvassing for ‘Leave’ votes during the Brexit campaign, London, May 2016. He resigned as leader of the UK Independence Party on July 4, shortly after the referendum.

From ‘A Brexit Diary’ in The New York Review of Books.

Crossings: Zadie Smith, Urban Space and Contemporary British Politics 

Zadie Smith’s writing on London in the last few years has raised interesting questions about the relationship between the city and citizenship, belonging and commonality. This seminar will look at a section from NW, in particular “Crossing,” which addresses the difficulty of taking in the entire city at once; it can only be grasped in fragments. Looking at her long short story The Embassy of Cambodia as well as her essays in the New York Review of Books (and perhaps even taking a stab at understanding the crossings in her most recent novel, Swing Time), we will attempt to think about issues of mobility and crossing in the context of contemporary British politics. What relationship might there be between Brexit and city writing? Between the Londons of Zadie Smith and Boris Johnson? And finally, what kind of crossings are possible in Sadiq Khan’s London, capital of Theresa May’s Britain?

About the Speaker Unknown

Lauren Elkin is a lecturer in English at the University of Liverpool, where she co-directs the Centre for New and International Writing and co-founded the Citizens of Everywhere project. She is most recently the author of Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Venice, Tokyo, and London (Chatto & Windus). Her essays have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Guardian, the FTfrieze, and the White Review, where she is a contributing editor. She lives in Paris.


Zadie Smith, NW (2012). ‘Crossings’ section, Available on Dropbox via this link.

Zadie Smith, ‘The Embassy of Cambodia’, from The New Yorker.

Zadie Smith, ‘Fences: A Brexit Diary’, from The New York Review of Books. 

Optional Reading:

Zadie Smith, ‘The North West Blues’, from The New York Review of Books. 

Zadie Smith, ‘Find Your Beach’, from The New York Review of Books. 

So please mark your diaries, share the news with friends and colleagues, and come along to discuss (what will be the very seasonable subject of) contemporary British politics. We also have one or two announcements to make about next year’s reading group, which you won’t want to miss!


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This entry was posted on May 26, 2017 by .
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