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The Urban Chronotope in Peter Ackroyd’s Fiction

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Marta Komsta

The book discusses the evolution of the urban chronotope in the selected novels by Peter Ackroyd, an acclaimed British author. The examined narratives illustrate the transformation from the postmodern tenets of historiographic metafiction into a unique urban mythopoetics by means of a semiotic analysis.
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Chapter 2. A Lesson in Anatomy

Extract

CHAPTER 2

A Lesson in Anatomy1

Whether we consider London as a young man refreshed and risen from sleep, […] or whether we lament its condition as a deformed giant, we must regard it as a human shape with its own laws of life and growth.

Peter Ackroyd,London. The Biography

In his 2000 London. The Biography, Ackroyd commences his exploration of the urbanscape with a section entitled “The city as body.” The writer puts forward a vision of the city as a living organism, a subject, not an object of a multifaceted investigation:

The image of London as a human body is striking and singular; we may trace it from the pictorial emblems of the City of God, the mystical body in which Jesus Christ represents its head and the citizens its other members. London has also been envisaged in the form of a young man with his arms outstretched in a gesture of liberation; the figure is taken from a Roman bronze but it embodies the energy and exultation of a city continually expanding in great waves of progress. (Ackroyd, London 1)

The correlation between the urban and the bodily indicates the intimate relationship the city develops with its inhabitants, established not only in terms of spiritual connection, but most importantly, through the interac ← 79 | 80 → tion of the senses. Since the carnal discourse is extended upon the urban model, the two-fold image in the extract above...

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