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The Urban Chronotope in Peter Ackroyd’s Fiction


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 4. Coincidentia Oppositorum, or the Unity of the Opposites



Coincidentia Oppositorum, or the Unity of the Opposites

I lack a sense of place.

Peter Ackroyd,The Plato Papers

Ackroyd’s novels analysed in the chapter are mirror narratives that delineate the physical and symbolical recovery of the past as an urban myth. The Plato Papers (1999) is a radical fast-forward narrative into 3705 AD in which the eponymous protagonist analyses the archaeological findings of ancient London. Heinrich Obermann, a 19th-century researcher in The Fall of Troy (2006), is working on an excavation site in Hissarlik, Turkey, believing it to be the ruins of Homer’s Troy. The two men share the obsession with exhuming the past in an attempt to retrieve the Eternal City: Plato seeks to reconstruct London (referred to in the text as “New Troy” [68]) from various archaeological scraps, while Obermann strives to remodel the research site in Hissarlik through Homeric mythology.

The Plato Papers, Ackroyd’s ninth novel, is an oddity amongst other entries in his novelistic oeuvre. Due to its spatiotemporal sinusoids intertwined with the writer’s hallmark fascination with London, the narrative is perhaps the ultimate endeavour on the part of the author to compose a consistent urban mythology. The text’s uniqueness is principally based on its temporal (dis)placement: The Plato Papers is set in London 3705 AD. In an era called The Present, Plato, an orator and teacher, conducts ← 151 | 152 → an extensive research upon the past Age of Mouldwarp, which functions as...

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