chapter  18
Thick description in the city
ByJulie Sanders
Pages 9

The immersion in the neighbourhood as a spatial unit is a recurrent trope of contemporary novels about London, offering a form of "thick description" of communities of practice through the defined focus on one area of the sprawling city. This chapter demonstrates, as a means of writing the city the focus on the social and spatial operations of particular neighbourhoods has a considerable historical tail in the UK, reaching back to the development by early modern playwrights. The contemporary British urban novel, then, might be seen from these examples to be looking to engage with and analyze the concept of the neighbourhood through a number of disciplinary lenses, not least sociological but also spatial. In such a society based on proximity, as Maudlin's awareness of the judgement of neighbours indicates, local perception and reputation are powerful defining factors of behaviour.