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Spatialising Early and Late Modernity: Representations of London in Peter Ackroyd’s The House of Dr. Dee and Hawksmoor

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Christine Harrison
Christine Harrison


Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor (1985) and The House of Dr. Dee (1993) are examples of a distinctive British form of contemporary experimental historical fiction, and through representations of London they explore the popular dimension of early modernity, showing how the capital’s spaces both embodied and produced multiple modernity, as well as the unsung pre-modern allegiances that critiqued modern forms. While the novels’ respective Renaissance and post-Restoration settings allow them to explore different stages in the development of both London modernity and resistant forms, their juxtaposition of early and late modern narratives establishes a compelling parallel between early modern and late twentieth-century London. Both sets of narratives also stage a shift away from modern forms towards inherited pre-modern allegiances, connecting this to a new relationship with the capital’s inheritance of pre-Reformation and Gothic built space, as well as an equivalent tradition of London writing, one in which Ackroyd’s novels themselves participate.


Peter Ackroyd; modernity; London; British novel; Nicholas Hawksmoor

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