PhD Abstract Dr Sarah Spooner

Abstract PhD Thesis Dr Sarah Spooner

Congratulations to CIRCL PhD student Sarah Spooner for completing her PhD and viva on 8-06-2006 with her thesis on ‘Knowing its Place? Language and Landscape in Arthur Ransome’ (Supervisors: Mr Tony Watkins/ Prof.Coral Howells/Prof. Peter Stoneley. Viva External examiner: Dr Emma Francis, Warwick University, Internal examiner: Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein)!

(Abstract of thesis)

This thesis: “‘Knowing its Place?’: Language and Landscape in Arthur Ransome”, examines landscape as a cultural text, arguing that landscape is a product of intersection between pre-existing cultural texts and concepts and can have no life independent of such preparatory conditioning. Using Arthur Ransome’s “Swallows and Amazons” group of texts for children as a case study, but not claiming the arguments to be specific to these texts, the thesis identifies some of the major tools and methods with which landscape has been conceptualised in textual form, and argues that these are not merely ways of rendering landscape into another medium, but instead actively construct that landscape.

The thesis discusses the role of language and of the visual image and their perceived relationship to a world outside of themselves: the role of literary, historical and scientific narratives in forming a frame through which any landscape is understood and experienced; ideas of familiarity and unfamiliarity, ”home” and ”away”, and the role landscape and language have to play in these mutually dependent concepts; and the map as an important textual form through which landscape is not only understood but often possessed and controlled. The chapters of the thesis are formed by these broad thematic or conceptual groupings and demonstrate how they can be seen at work in the particular texts under analysis.

As the case study texts come from the field of children’s literature, the other key concern of the thesis is the figure of ”the child” and in particular the discourses that circulate around ”the child” and its relationship to the natural world, to language and to culture. Just as the thesis argues that a direct, unmediated knowledge of landscape is not possible, so it argues the same of ”the child”.

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