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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 3. Domus Obscurata, or the Darkened House

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CHAPTER 3

Domus Obscurata, or the Darkened House

The City has a very predatory quality and it has also been a very voracious city. […] [A]nd then we come to the question […]: do we belong to the City, or does the City belong to us? This is a difficult question to answer; theoretically, we are the city, but on another level, all of our characters and personalities are dominated by this huge … thing … which surrounds us.

Peter Ackroyd1

After the carnal explorations in the previous chapter, we have arrived at the narratives that indicate a change in Ackroyd’s approach towards the nature of the city and the relationship that the complex urban mechanism develops with its inhabitants. The said change will therefore appear at all levels of the discussed texts, including composition, structure and most importantly, the spatiotemporal modelling of the city and its impact upon the protagonists. Significantly, in both novels examined in this chapter the city functions not only as a setting, but first and foremost as an active participant in the plot development and a catalyst for the profound changes in the structure of the characters. No longer a ‘card-board’ urban reality or the living organism, London constitutes here a complex ← 115 | 116 → semiotic mechanism in which the tension between its centre and periphery shapes the fates of the protagonists.

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