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My Words Echo Thus
Possessing the Past in Peter Ackroyd

Barry Lewis

A reading of Ackroyd that maps the influence of his historical and fiction writings on one another

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.

Barry Lewis earned his B.A. in English and Philosophy at King's College, Cambridge, and his doctorate in postmodernist American fiction at the University of Sunderland. A senior lecturer at the University of Sunderland, he also has held posts at the University of Newcastle, the University of Trondheim, and Stavanger College in Norway. Lewis is the author of Kazuo Ishiguro in the Contemporary World Writers series.

"Prolific biographer of London and its citizens, sometimes in fiction, sometimes in biography proper, Peter Ackroyd is not so much a Londoner as a sort of microcosm of the city itself, and Barry Lewis is his cartographer. Lewis knows his way around 'the dark and disordered city of Ackroyd,' with 'his landmarks, his suburbs, and his neglected boroughs,' better than anyone. Lucid, straightforward, thorough, and accessible, Lewis's book is the Ackroydian equivalent of a street-guide to the metropolis, Ackroyd A–Z, and like the one for London, it is invaluable. Don't leave home without it."—Brian McHale, Ohio State University



book jacket for My Words Echo Thus


6 x 9
232 pages
ISBN 978-1-57003-668-2
cloth, $39.95s


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