School of Social Sciences

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Ashleigh Prosser

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The Ghosts of the Gothic in Peter Ackroyd's Literary London (Working-Title)


My PhD research is on Peter Ackroyd, a contemporary British author who has written a substantial collection of work as a poet, a novelist, a historian, a biographer, a journalist, and a critic. Ackroyd’s historical and critical writings reveal a thorough understanding of movements in history, in literary theory, and in philosophy. Ackroyd’s prose fictions are built upon the philosophical foundations of his critical works and demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of literary, historical and classical texts. The majority of Ackroyd’s historical and critical writings, as well as his novels, express a distinct personal understanding of English literature and its traditions, and of the nature of history and its complex relationship with time and space, specifically in relation to the city of London. Ackroyd believes that London is the source of a particular kind of spirit or genius found in the lives and works of its famous writers whom he names as the city’s visionaries or luminaries. Ackroyd argues that this genius loci has produced throughout history an English literary consciousness of transhistorical power. In his discussions of this spirit, Ackroyd frequently refers to it in terms of haunting or being haunted, a telling description that evokes ideas of the uncanny and of the Gothic tradition. My research aims to realise the explanatory potential of these concepts, because I believe that Ackroyd, like the London luminaries of whom he writes, is similarly haunted, by a preoccupation that has established an uncanny haunted continuity and a recurring set of major themes and issues for his writing.

Why my research is important

The specific aim of my doctoral research is to draw out of the writings of Peter Ackroyd his personal understanding of the uncanny haunting of English literature, of the city of London, and of its history. The goal of my thesis is to investigate, through close literary analysis of the selected critical and fictional texts, the ghosts of the Gothic in Ackroyd's writing.


  • Australian Postgraduate Award
  • UWA Safety Net Top-Up Scholarship
  • Local Travel Award

Peter Ackroyd (1949 - )