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My Words Echo Thus:
Possessing the Past in Peter Ackroyd

by Barry Lewis

ISBN 1570036683 / 9781570036682 / 1-57003-668-3
Publisher Univ of South Carolina Pr
Language English
Edition Hardcover
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Book summary

My Words Echo Thus is the first comprehensive evaluation of Peter Ackroyd's body of work, effectively bridging his novels, biographies, poems, and other writings to introduce readers to the fanciful premises, historical settings, and parallel tales that characterize this British writer's prodigious oeuvre. Employing a broadly intertextual perspective, Barry Lewis reveals how Ackroyd "possesses" the past like a medium, echoing its voices in his work.

Best known for his Whitbread Award-winning novel Hawksmoor, Ackroyd writes fiction in the morning and biography in the afternoon. Lewis explores the ways in which Ackroyd allows these two genres to cross-fertilize, each informing the other. Lewis outlines the early influences on Ackroyd's career, assesses each of his books chronologically, and surveys available criticism of the writer. By looking at Ackroyd's work in sequence, Lewis suggests, one can appreciate the synergy between novels that often feature biographical subjects and biographies that are "interanimated" through fictional techniques.

Placing each work in the larger mosaic of Ackroyd's career, Lewis explores the writer's thematic concerns, including London and Englishness, the tradition of Cockney visionaries, the Catholic legacy, the territorial imperative, the paradoxes of time, the continuity of the literary canon, and father-son relationships. Lewis also discusses the significance of the great writers who recur as touchstones throughout Ackroyd's work--William Shakespeare, William Blake, Charles Dickens, and T. S. Eliot.