The Urban Chronotope in Peter Ackroyd’s Fiction
Chapter 1. The Society of the Spectacle
The Society of the Spectacle
Now he had a theme – and it was London wasn’t it? – which could draw him further forward, eliciting pictures and images, probing the mystery.
Peter Ackroyd, The Great Fire of London
In one of the seemingly less significant moments in Ackroyd’s debut, The Great Fire of London (1982), Job Penstone, an academic and armchair revolutionary, looks at the photographs hanging on the walls in a restaurant in which he has just become acquainted with Spenser Spender, a film director and one of the key characters in the novel. As his eyes rest upon the pictures, the man sees “blown-up photographs of old festivals and street urchins. Those men and women all dead now, those children lingering in doorways, hungry, staring at the camera as though they might burrow within it and escape. He might set an essay on ‘The Society of the Spectacle’” (Ackroyd, Great Fire 17).
Penstone’s remark on “The Society of the Spectacle” is an interesting allusion to Guy Debord’s 1967 work of the same title, containing a critique of the contemporary society that, the author argues, is a representation rather than an actual living organism, characterized by “the deceived gaze” and “false consciousness” of the world which is mediated through images only (Chapter 1, Section 3). As Debord states, “[c]onsidered in its own terms, the spectacle is an affirmation of appearance and an affirmation of all human life, namely...
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