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Emplaced, Encountered: The City As Nexus Of Power In Peter Ackroyd’s The Plato Papers

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Emplaced, Encountered: The City As Nexus Of Power In Peter Ackroyd’s “The Plato Papers”

In his book, The Plato Papers, Peter Ackroyd offers a novel configuration of power: far from being monolithic and self-evident, it takes on subtle dimensions, exerting not a towering influence, but rather manifesting itself in word-making and world-writing: it is not just discourse in the Foucauldian sense that evinces traces of this power, but speech in its literal denotation. Plato, London’s philosopher, expounds upon the City’s history as both teacher and historian, thus appropriating power. His recounting – and therefore, reshaping – of history is made possible through an agency that is seized within the social sphere. The mutability of the past, its ambiguities and uncertainties, are the playing field within which antagonistic forces meet, inextricably dialectical. But it is an emplotted realm, rooted in a (meta)physical space, that is the subject of retelling: London itself, a ghost city, fluid. Set firmly in the middle of paradigmatic war, it is both pivot and catalyst, acting as an arena for clashing world-views. My paper seeks to investigate precisely how the interplay of time and space factor into notions of agency and power, what destabilizing workings they enforce, and what configurations they give rise to. Methodologies will include urban studies, critical theory and liminality studies.

Keywords: power, agency, liminality, urban studies, postmodernism

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