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The Ecological Imagination of John Cowper Powys: Writing, 'Nature', and the Non-human

Wood, Michael Stephen (2017) The Ecological Imagination of John Cowper Powys: Writing, 'Nature', and the Non-human. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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This thesis seeks to explore and demonstrate the ecological imagination of John Cowper Powys. Dismissals of Powys as a naïve worshipper of a received, Romantic concept of nature demand to be updated by a contemporary and on-going greening of modernist studies. Powys’s fictions are marked by an attentiveness to the non-human that is developed by looking through, and beyond, localised human perspectives; the result is a poetics that seeks to ground the human, materially and experientially, in nature understood as material reality. Drawing on both the more familiar Wessex novels—Wolf Solent (1929) and A Glastonbury Romance (1932)—as well as the less discussed discursive writings and Porius (1951), this thesis will show how Powys’s fictions present complex, polyphonic, and often contradictory fictional worlds in which surprisingly modern insights and epistemologies jostle against, and indeed, cross-fertilise with, more traditional literary forms and devices. In Powys’s writing, modernistic experiments with novelistic form and content are variously inflected by a romance-inspired literary consciousness that seeks to transgress the human’s localised perspective through overt expenditures of imaginative license. Exploring how Powys’s fictions record, and respond to, a variety of forms of what Powys calls ‘Nature’—discursive, poetic, material—this thesis will show how Powys’s writing shapes, and is shaped by, an ethical sensibility towards non-human forms and forces. Particular attention will be paid, throughout, to his experimentation with scale and perspective, and to the looming and recurring figure of the Earth, through which his later fiction, particularly, seeks to ground not only human life, but a sense of human and non-human community.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: John Cowper Powys; Ecocriticism; Environmental Humanities; Ecology; Modernism; Romance; Place; Nature; Non-human; Ecopoetics; The Meaning of Culture; Wolf Solent; A Glastonbury Romance; Porius
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of English (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.731517
Depositing User: MR M S Wood
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2018 15:45
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2020 12:48
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19192

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