‘A bit of a game …’: the Styles of Peter Ackroyd I

  • Jeremy Gibson
  • Julian Wolfreys


Having looked at the poems, it might seem that a long space has to be travelled before one connects the poetry with the carefully constructed relationships and apparent clarity of Peter Ackroyd’s later prose. However, that distance might not be quite so far. In Ackroyd’s poetry and prose there is an abiding interest: not in the distance between this collection of words and that, but in the distance between words and what we call ‘reality’. For Ackroyd that vaster space, between words and reality, reveals a condition of undecidability which he continuously traces and retraces in a play between representations of the physical world and its past, and wry meditations on the values of such representations. This play of traces is to be read reciprocally entwining itself. It promises connections as figures, characters, images, phrases are unfolded and reiterated throughout Ackroyd’s writing. One novel may be read as possibly alluding to, or being ghosted by, the mark of the poetry, or otherwise, and in retrospect, anticipating any other text. This is seen, for example, in the possible overflow between the poem ‘Across the street … ’ (DP 42) which features the amusement arcade, Fun City, and The Great Fire of London, in which Fun City also appears. If the poetry and criticism do not share ostensibly in the reiterative and open-ended seriality of Ackroyd’s narrative labyrinth (though it is the case that the poetry is marked and re-marked by its own reiterations), then they may be said to reconfigure it in some manner and in other words.


Eighteenth Century Ghost Image Stable Identity Spectral Trace Temporal Moment 
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Copyright information

© Peter Gibson and Julian Wolfreys 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy Gibson
  • Julian Wolfreys

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