Landscapes in modern poetry : gardens, forests, rivers, islands
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This thesis considers a selection of modern landscape poetry from an ecocritical perspective, arguing that this poetry demonstrates how the term landscape might be re-imagined in relation to contemporary environmental concerns. Each chapter discusses poetic responses to a different kind of landscape: gardens, forests, rivers and islands. Chapter One explores how, in the poetry of Ian Hamilton Finlay, Douglas Dunn, Louise Glück and David Harsent, gardens are culturally constructed landscapes in which ideas of self, society and environment are contemplated; I ask whether gardening provides a positive example of how people might interact with the natural world. My second chapter demonstrates that for Sorley MacLean, W.S. Merwin, Susan Stewart and Kathleen Jamie, forests are sites of memory and sustainable ‘dwelling’, but that deforestation threatens both the ecology and the culture of these landscapes. Chapter Three compares river poems by Ted Hughes and Alice Oswald, considering their differing approaches to river sources, mystical immersion in nature, water pollution and poetic experimentation; I discuss how in W.S. Graham’s poetry the sea provides a complex image of the phenomenal world similar to Oswald’s river. The final chapter examines the extent to which islands in poetry are pastoral landscapes and environmental utopias, looking in particular at poems by Dunn, Robin Robertson, Iain Crichton Smith and Jen Hadfield. I reflect upon the potential for island poetry to embrace narratives of globalisation as well as localism, and situate the work of George Mackay Brown and Robert Alan Jamieson within this context. I engage with a range of ecocritical positions in my readings of these poets and argue that the linguistic creativity, formal inventiveness and self-reflexivity of poetry constitute a distinctive contribution to contemporary understandings of landscape and the environment.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2024-11-04
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 4th November 2024
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