Nesting in English fields : bird narratives and the re-imagining of post-war Britain

DOBSON, Joanna (2017). Nesting in English fields : bird narratives and the re-imagining of post-war Britain. Masters, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: 10.7190/shu-thesis-00005

Abstract

This thesis explores what a reading of bird narratives from the mid-twentieth century reveals about contemporary anxieties around human identity. Starting from the assumption that people often use animals to say things they cannot otherwise articulate, it investigates whether readings that foreground the representation of the more-than-human world in both familiar and unfamiliar texts can shed new light on a period of British history that was characterised by radical social change. The texts are examined using insights from historical contextualisation, ecocriticism and animal studies. The period is known as one in which previous ideas about human identity were being destabilised by new thinking around issues such as gender, race and sexuality. However, my readings show all the texts examined to be dominated by a single, overarching question, namely whether humans are capable of creating and sustaining a world worth living in. In The Awl Birds by J.K. Stanford (1949) and Adventure Lit Their Star by Kenneth Allsop (1949) the answer is yes, but this positive response is premised on two very different constructions of national identity and of the type of country that Britain should become after the Second World War. In the 1960s texts, The Peregrine by J.A. Baker (1967) and A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines (1968), the answer is an unequivocal no. My readings demonstrate a close connection between the pessimism of these books and the profound changes in agriculture that were underway during the period. This research is important in demonstrating how readings that foreground the more-than-human world can offer new insights into both the texts under discussion and also the culture in which those texts were produced. In addition, in the current era of anthropogenic ecological crisis, they add to our understanding of what lies behind the way that humans interact with the more-than- human world. Without such an understanding, efforts to solve the crisis are unlikely to succeed.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Additional Information: Supervisor: Dr Harriet Tarlo
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: 10.7190/shu-thesis-00005
Depositing User: Hilary Ridgway
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2018 15:39
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2018 15:55
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/18745

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