Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination

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9780099438076: Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination

Highly original and magnificent in scope, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination discovers the roots of English cultural history in the Anglo-Saxon period, and traces it through the centuries.

What does it mean to be English? This dazzling book demonstrates that a quintessentially English quality can be discovered in all forms of English culture, not only in literature but also in painting, music, architecture, philosophy and science.

Just as London: The Biography guided the reader through the capital city with a mixture of narrative and theme, so Albion, employing the same techniques, engages the reader with stories and surprises - From Beowulf to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, via Chaucer and Shakespeare, to the Bronte sisters, Alice through the Looking Glass and Lord of the Rings

Witty, provocative and anecdotal, this is Peter Ackroyd at his most brilliant and exuberant.

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Review:

Nobody is better equipped to write a book about the roots of the English imagination than the award-winning novelist, biographer, poet and critic Peter Ackroyd, and in Albion he has distilled a lifetime's work into a book of monumental proportions. This is a dense, poetic book about the origins of the English literary imagination, stretching from Beowulf through Shakespeare to the novels of Virginia Woolf and the music of Vaughan Williams.

Ackroyd confesses that "there is no certain description" of the English imagination. As a result the structure of this massive, learned book shares affinities with his recent bestselling biography of London. Specific themes and preoccupations are repeatedly weaved through short, sometimes allusive chapters as Ackroyd traces "the conflation of biography, or history, and the novel" across the evolution of "a mixed language comprised of many different elements and a mixed culture comprised of many different races". The result is a rich poetic tapestry that moves from an exploration of the cadences of Old English poetry to the creation of the modern English language in the work of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Defoe and the great novelists of the 18th century. Ackroyd resists polemical definitions, but repeatedly returns to themes that for him create a quintessentially English imagination. These include a fascination with "the local and the circumstantial", "the English genius for assimilation and adaptation", and the recurrent interest in biography and landscape.

Ackroyd is at his best when establishing poetic connections and continuities between modern and medieval writers, but at times his reflections on the national spirit uncomfortably evoke the conservative nationalist historians of the 19th century. His inclusive vision of what he sees as the English imagination's "placism, as an antidote to racism" is unconvincing, as are his comments on his awkward formulation "femality and fiction". It would have been fascinating to see him develop these ideas through late 20th century transformations in the English imagination, but even without this (and at over 500 pages, the book is weighty enough already), Albion will delight many who regard Ackroyd as one of the most quintessentially English writers of his time. --Jerry Brotton

Review:

"This is much more than history; it is a tapestry of inspiration and love" ( The Guardian)

"One cannot but marvel at Ackroyd's erudition, his energy in marshallin g minutiae, his ear for quotation, his flair for dazzling juxtapositions, his vibrant imagination and sheer exuberance" ( The Times)

"Ackroyd covers not only literature but art, architecture, music and almost everything else that has passed through the minds of the English...just one damn interesting thing after another" ( Sunday Times)

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 226 x 140 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Highly original and magnificent in scope, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination discovers the roots of English cultural history in the Anglo-Saxon period, and traces it through the centuries. What does it mean to be English? This dazzling book demonstrates that a quintessentially English quality can be discovered in all forms of English culture, not only in literature but also in painting, music, architecture, philosophy and science. Just as London: The Biography guided the reader through the capital city with a mixture of narrative and theme, so Albion, employing the same techniques, engages the reader with stories and surprises - From Beowulf to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, via Chaucer and Shakespeare, to the Bronte sisters, Alice through the Looking Glass and Lord of the Rings Witty, provocative and anecdotal, this is Peter Ackroyd at his most brilliant and exuberant. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099438076

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Book Description Vintage Publishing. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination, Peter Ackroyd, Highly original and magnificent in scope, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination discovers the roots of English cultural history in the Anglo-Saxon period, and traces it through the centuries. What does it mean to be English? This dazzling book demonstrates that a quintessentially English quality can be discovered in all forms of English culture, not only in literature but also in painting, music, architecture, philosophy and science. Just as London: The Biography guided the reader through the capital city with a mixture of narrative and theme, so Albion, employing the same techniques, engages the reader with stories and surprises - From Beowulf to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, via Chaucer and Shakespeare, to the Bronte sisters, Alice through the Looking Glass and Lord of the Rings Witty, provocative and anecdotal, this is Peter Ackroyd at his most brilliant and exuberant. Bookseller Inventory # B9780099438076

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 226 x 140 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Highly original and magnificent in scope, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination discovers the roots of English cultural history in the Anglo-Saxon period, and traces it through the centuries. What does it mean to be English? This dazzling book demonstrates that a quintessentially English quality can be discovered in all forms of English culture, not only in literature but also in painting, music, architecture, philosophy and science. Just as London: The Biography guided the reader through the capital city with a mixture of narrative and theme, so Albion, employing the same techniques, engages the reader with stories and surprises - From Beowulf to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, via Chaucer and Shakespeare, to the Bronte sisters, Alice through the Looking Glass and Lord of the Rings Witty, provocative and anecdotal, this is Peter Ackroyd at his most brilliant and exuberant. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099438076

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Book Description Vintage, 2004. Book Condition: New. 2004. New Ed. Paperback. Features the stories ranging from Beowulf to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, via Chaucer and Shakespeare, to the Bronte sisters, 'Alice through the Looking Glass' and 'Lord of the Rings'. This work takes the reader from medieval mystery plays to music hall and pantomime; painting; and music, with Purcell and Vaughan Williams. Num Pages: 544 pages, 16. BIC Classification: 1DBKE; 2AB; DSB; HBTB; JFC. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 233 x 154 x 36. Weight in Grams: 736. . . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780099438076

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Book Description Vintage. Book Condition: New. 2004. New Ed. Paperback. Features the stories ranging from Beowulf to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, via Chaucer and Shakespeare, to the Bronte sisters, 'Alice through the Looking Glass' and 'Lord of the Rings'. This work takes the reader from medieval mystery plays to music hall and pantomime; painting; and music, with Purcell and Vaughan Williams. Num Pages: 544 pages, 16. BIC Classification: 1DBKE; 2AB; DSB; HBTB; JFC. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 233 x 154 x 36. Weight in Grams: 736. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780099438076

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Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: New. Not Signed; Highly original and magnificent in scope, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination discovers the roots of English cultural history in the Anglo-Saxon period, and traces it through the centuries. What does it mean to be English? This dazzling book demonstrates that a quintessentially English qu. book. Bookseller Inventory # ria9780099438076_rkm

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