Hawksmoor

Literary and philosophical influences

Iain Sinclair's Lud Heat

Peter Ackroyd himself declared in the Acknowledgements that the stimulus for Hawksmoor was Iain Sinclair's poem Lud Heat: "I would like to express my obligation to Iain Sinclair's poem, Lud Heat, which first directed my attention to the stranger characteristics of the London churches."[2] Lud Heat (1975) is subtitled "a book of the dead hamlets". In Book One, "The Muck Rake", Sinclair devotes the first section to "Nicholas Hawksmoor, His Churches".

Sinclair's thesis is that Hawksmoor planned his churches according to a strict "geometry of oppositions" producing a "system of energies, or unit of connection, within the city," similar to those formed by "the old hospitals, the Inns of Courts, the markets, the prisons, the religious houses and the others". Sinclair argues that Hawksmoor arranged Christ Church, St George's in-the-East, and St Anne's, Limehouse, to form a triangle, while St George's, Bloomsbury, and St Alfege's, Greenwich, make up a pentacle star.[17]

Ackroyd did not follow Sinclair in really thinking that the churches form a distinctive and powerful pattern. Asked if the churches form a "symbol of freemasonry" he answered: "They don't really form a pattern. I made the pattern up."[16]

Psychogeography

Coined by the French Situationist Guy Debord, psychogeography originally referred to practices intended to expose the "urban geography falsified by the commercial and consumerist imperatives of late capitalism".[18] Debord undertook what he called dérives (literally 'drifts' across the city) that showed the various layers of place (historical, psychic, physical). For Ackroyd the 'dérive' is more like a "circumambulation through time as well as place: a widening gyre that exposes the very timelessness of this two-millennia-old city."[19] The motif of the wanderer in the novel (tramps, vagrants, the restless wanderers Nicholas Dyer and Nicholas Hawksmoor) shows the influence of the psychogeographical theory in Hawksmoor.

William Blake and T. S. Eliot

Scholars have argued that the influences of William Blake and T. S. Eliot, both of whom are the subjects of Ackroyd biographies, are detectable in Hawksmoor. "The suggestion that Dyer was "more charmed by Milton's Hell than by his Paradise" and Hawksmoor's perception of his work as "that of rubbing away the grease and detritus which obscured the real picture of the world" echo passages in Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (35, 39)."[8]

"Dyer's obsession with physical corruption—in particular his disgust with sex—echoes the dysphoria of Eliot's most characteristic poems; his evocation of London as the Capital City of the World of Affliction and his scorn for the optimism of the Enlightenment strike an unmistakably Eliotic tone. Women are sluts and prostitutes. There is even a passing reference to hollow men.[20] Clearly Mr. Ackroyd shares Eliot's high regard for the language of the Renaissance and for Elizabethan and Jacobean drama."[12]

"The basic principle at work here derives directly from Eliot's The Waste Land, a poem that juxtaposes the past with the present to show the continuity of history. [...] Those who are infected with the Black Death are called "Hollow Men", after the famous poem by Eliot. [...] Dyer's reflection on the quandaries of temporality virtually paraphrases a famous passage from Eliot's Four Quartets (1942) [...]: "What we call the beginning is often the end / And to make an end is to make an beginning."[21]


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