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Selfhood, Rurality, and the Sensorial Body in the Age of British Modernism, 1915-1945

MCNAB, RYAN (2024) Selfhood, Rurality, and the Sensorial Body in the Age of British Modernism, 1915-1945. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This study investigates the ways in which the rural was being both re-enchanted and contested by slant approaches to modernity’s radical shifts in cultural and aesthetic formations. It asks how rurality offered a different version of living to a particular group of writers and filmmakers, and how they came to suggest that we might still need to find a way to live in contact with the earth. This approach saw opportunities for new models of selfhood to be discovered by bringing attention to the body as the site of relation with the natural world. In keeping with the expansive aims of new modernist studies, this thesis takes a critical approach that places seemingly disparate authors and texts (both in terms of formal and generic interests) in dialogue with one another; drawing upon an eclectic corpus, it ranges from the WW1-era lyric poetry of Charlotte Mew and Edward Thomas, to the novelists D. H. Lawrence, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Mary Butts of the 1920s, to 1930s filmmakers such as Michael Powell, Robert J. Flaherty, and John Grierson, before concluding with the 1940s nonfiction work of Scottish nature writer Nan Shepherd. As will be demonstrated through the repositioning of these writers, poets, and filmmakers as central actors in an alternative, green version of British modernity, conceptions of the rural offered various routes for their investigations into questions of subjectivity, nationhood, politics, ethics, and ecology. As part of the expanding critical school of green modernist studies, this thesis aims to incorporate and critique the ways in which both formal and affective features of the pastoral have been adapted within these works, considering the ways in which a sensory aesthetics might help challenge given assumptions about how the rural both coheres and challenges our understandings of the age of British modernism.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:rural, modernism, sensory, ecocriticism, pastoral, embodiment, lyric poetry, Neo-Romanticism, haptic, documentary film
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:29 May 2024 10:52

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