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Title: Sacred Wessex : the ritual performance of place in the work of Thomas Hardy, John Cowper Powys and Mary Butts, 1871-1937
Author: Hawkes, Joel Nathanael
ISNI:       0000 0004 2712 4687
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis reads Wessex as a ritually performed space, examining the particularly ritual-conscious work of Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), John Cowper Powys (1872- 1963), and Mary Butts (1890-1937). This ritual process is begun with Hardy's reclamation of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom name, and with his use of cultural and ritual survivals in his landscape. I argue that anthropological interest and deliberate ritual language positions author and characters as performers, mapping and creating sacred space, through a physical and linguistic movement on the page. Performance is transferred to the physical landscape through the literary pilgrimage of the curious tourist and a plethora of Wessex guidebooks published at the beginning of the twentieth century. These help form what, in Hardy's words, is a `partly real, partly dream-country'. A borderland, or liminal space is created (a region separate, perceived as being out of time and imbued with significant meaning), and caught between the world of literature and that underfoot. This Wessex reflects another process of liminality at the turn of the nineteenth century, often defined by anthropologists as a moment of cultural crisis, manifested in war, industrialisation, and momentous social change. The creation of Wessex, then, is in part a response to the upheaval of a transforming world. Increased ritual has been noted in such periods of instability, and Powys's and Butts's Wessex furthers this response. Influenced by their interest in anthropology, and in the growing occult practices of the era, they seek to reinvigorate a dying land in what, I argue, is in part a reaction to the legacy of Hardy's Wessex, its tourism, and the increased urbanisation of its landscape. Their performance moves beyond Hardy's milieu, in its search for a spiritual `Fourth Dimension', which offers a re-sanctification of the landscape, or an escape from space itself
Supervisor: Pite, Ralph Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available