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London City - Essay Example

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London City

With such a prominent position in Western history, there are endless articulations of the city. This essay examines Ackroyd’s (2003) London: A Biography and Hunter’s (2006) Persons Unknown; / Life and Death in Hackney in terms of the way they present the city as reality, experience, and practice. Ackroyd’s (2003) London: A Biography presents an expensive exploration of the city of London. As this texts offers considerable insights into the nature and meanings of the city’s reality, it’s necessary to consider a number of particular themes. While traditional biographies oftentimes explicate specific historical events, or notable occurrences in a person’s life, Ackroyd’s account captures many of the instances of London life that would otherwise go undetected. This multidimensional approach can be witnessed in Ackroyd’s exploration of linguistic elements of speech in the city. He writes, “London speech has been variously described both as harsh and as soft, but the predominant characteristic is that of slackness” (Ackroyd 2003, p. 347). Ackroyd then extends this consideration to involve the means that London speech experienced broad patterns of change; for instance, during the fourteenth century the East Saxon voice of London was displaced by verbal elements from the Central and East Midlands. While Ackroyd’s account of this linguistic sentiment is undoubtedly biased by his personal opinion, it functions to contribute to the recognition of the city as a living entity that has evolved through major shifts in time. The presentation of this city in this context creates a reality of the London experience as something monumental. While Ackroyd’s consideration of London as a living entity is prominently demonstrated in the evolution of linguistic elements, there are other means that articulates these elements of reality, experience, and practice. As Ackroyd considers London as evolving a language of slackness, he additionally considers the city as shaped and reflecting more naturalistic elements. Perhaps nowhere is this better witnessed than in his consideration of the ocean as shaping and informing London reality and experience. Ackroyd (2003, p.6) writes, “There was once a music-hall song entitled 'Why Can't We Have the Sea in London?', but the question is redundant; the site of the capital, fifty million years before, was covered by great waters. The waters have not wholly departed, even yet, and there is evidence of their life in the weathered stones of London.” While the specific historical consideration here is the actual linkage between London and its pre-historic past, more significantly Ackroyd is drawing a deep-rooted linkage to the city experience as emanating from its natural surroundings. In addition to the influence of the Ocean, Ackroyd considers elements such as birds, remnants of early civilizations, and the clay that can become mud. Ackroyd links these elements to literary references in Dickens and other historical perspectives. The cumulative impact of such notions of the city further enhances the theme of the city as a living entity and its monumentality. While Ackroyd’s text considered London as a living entity with a monumental reality, Hunter’s photography series captures Londoners’ lived experience. The contrast between these depictions depends on the portions of the articulations the reader or viewer chooses to emphasize. Hunter’s ‘Persons Unknown’ series present a minimalist portrait of individuals living in London. The main aesthetic quality of these images is precisely rooted in the isolation of the people and the quirky, yet somber ambience of their surroundings. For instance, one photograph ‘ ...Show more


London is today recognized as one of the world’s foremost metropolises. While cities such as New York have supplanted London in terms of economic impact, and other cities have supplanted London in terms of population, tremendous historical and cultural occurrences indelibly mark the city as a hallmark of Western society. …
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