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9 October 2014

From Sacraments to Scales: using spatial and material analysis to approach historical
experiences of Methodism in London (1851-1932)


Ruth Mason, PhD Candidate, UCL Geography

The spatial design and material culture of Methodism may not have the same allure as Catholic
or High Anglican equivalents, but this makes them no less important as historical sources.
Facing the challenge of studying historical experiences of religion without appropriate written
sources, aural histories or the possibility of ethnographic research, this paper will explore how
consideration of ‘Methodist’ spaces and material culture can potentially provide insights into
how the denomination was experienced in London between 1851 and 1932. Particular attention
will be given to the controversial concept of ‘scale’ and how it could contribute and detract from
my research.

“Stationary Trivialities” in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955): a European take on the
Great American Roadside

Elsa Court, PhD Candidate, UCL English

Lolita is the first notable work of literature to have produced a detailed account of motel stay as
modern American phenomenon. Its author, however, was not born American, but Russian.
Vladimir Nabokov certainly intended Lolita to be an authentic American novel, evoking the
“exhilarating” effect that certain “North American sets” had on his “invent[ion]” of America.
This article contends that it was through a first-hand experience of the American roadside
industry that Nabokov became a fervent observer of America, and that the necessity for the
exiled author to recreate a cultural landscape away from home is at the heart of Nabokov’s
unusually perceptive account of America’s cultural geography. Based on an analysis of the
author’s travel journals from 1948 to 1953, this paper will demonstrate that through Lolita, the
émigré author illustrates the European outsider’s compromised assimilation into American
society by way of the all-welcoming, democratic roadside accommodation: services which
recreate domesticity while doing away with lasting human interaction and social surveillance.
Remote from the real world of settled living, which it parodies, the motel is, I argue, a token of
the disintegration of morality in Western civilization, made unnoticeable by its everyday
banality.
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