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The ‘Crazy Clock’ of York: Collapsing Time and Unstable Reality in James Montgomery Urban Topographic Poetry

Smith, Adam James ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3938-4836 (2021) The ‘Crazy Clock’ of York: Collapsing Time and Unstable Reality in James Montgomery Urban Topographic Poetry. In: Evans, Anne-Marie and Kramer, Kaley, (eds.) Time, The City and the Literary Imagination. Literary Urban Studies . Palgrave, pp. 15-32

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Abstract

During the 1790s James Montgomery, editor of the Sheffield Iris newspaper, was twice confined to York Castle Prison on dubious charges of treason and sedition. Whilst a prisoner Montgomery composed a collection of poetry, later printed in 1797 as Prison Amusements. The collection’s stand-out poem was a two part epistle titled ‘The Pleasures on Imprisonment’. The first instalment labours Montgomery’s horror at being locked away in York Castle Prison. He soon finds that his fellow prisoners are neither dangerous criminals nor feared radicals but merely thoughtful men and women of dissenting opinion. This essay presents discrete contextual evidence for the simultaneous personification of York at the end of the 18th century as both an idealistic platform from which London government could be challenged and as a panoptical city associated with punitive surveillance and incarceration designed to protect and promote traditional government hierarchies. The essay explores the extent to which the city can come to stand metonymically for the politics and behaviour of its residents, forced in this instance to signify as a physical manifestation for competing and contradictory ideologies.

Item Type: Book Section
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55961-8
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
School/Department: School of Humanities
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/4996

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