'A far green country' : an analysis of the presentation of nature in works of early mythopoeic fantasy fiction
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This study undertakes an examination of the representation of nature in works of literature that it regards as early British ‘mythopoeic fantasy’. By this term the thesis understands that fantasy fiction which is fundamentally concerned with myth or myth-making. It is the contention of the study that the connection of these works with myth or the idea of myth is integral to their presentation of nature. Specifically, this study identifies a connection between the idea of nature presented in these novels and the thought of the late-Victorian era regarding nature, primitivism, myth and the impulse behind mythopoesis. It is argued that this conceptual background is responsible for the notion of nature as a virtuous force of spiritual redemption in opposition to modernity and in particular to the dominant modern ideological model of scientific materialism. The thesis begins by examining late-Victorian sensibilities regarding myth and nature, before exposing correlative ideas in selected case studies of authors whose work it posits to be primarily mythopoeic in intent. The first of these studies considers the work of Henry Rider Haggard, the second examines Scottish writer David Lindsay, and the third looks at the mythopoeic endeavours of J. R. R. Tolkien, the latter standing alone among the authors considered in these central case studies in producing fiction under a fully developed theory of mythopoesis. The perspective is then widened in the final chapter, allowing consideration of authors such as William Morris and H. G. Wells. The study attempts to demonstrate the prevalence of an identifiable conceptual model of nature in the period it considers to constitute the age of early mythopoeic fantasy fiction, which it conceives to date from the late-Victorian era to the apotheosis of Tolkien’s work.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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