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Title: Emplacing, re-imaging and transforming 'missing' life-events : a feminine sublime approach to the creation of socially engaged scenography in site-specific walking-performance in rural landscapes
Author: Wilson, Louise Ann
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 1845
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2017
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The aim of this practice-as-research project is to contribute to the emerging field of ‘socially engaged scenography’ through the creation of site-specific walking-performance pursued in tandem with theoretical inquiry giving particular emphasis to notions of pilgrimage for rites of passage. These notions are however, reframed and reworked through the lens of the concept of the feminine sublime, which allows me to work with notions of transformation in such a way that is non prescriptive and open-ended. The practical elements of the thesis embraced two specifically designed site-specific landscape walking-performances. The underlying subject matter of those performances was biological childlessness-by-circumstance and the ‘missing’ life-event of biological motherhood. The Gathering (2014) revealed the day-to-day and seasonal workings of Hafod y Llan, an upland sheep farm in Snowdonia, Wales. It was evolved through an extended period of research at the farm. In the performance the reproductive cycles of the ewes became a metaphor for human fertility and infertility, biological and non-biological motherhood and other pathways to, and types of, mothering and parenting. Warnscale: A Land Mark Walk Reflecting On Infertility and Childlessness (Warnscale) (2015-on-going), is a self-guided walking-performance specific to the Warnscale fells in Cumbria that is mediated through a published multi-layered walking-guide/art-book and aimed at women who are biologically childless-by-circumstance. This practice-as-research project proposes that by emplacing ‘missing’ life-events, for which traditional rites of passage or ceremonies do not exist, into a rural landscape scenographic-led walking-performance can enable participants to reflect upon, re-image and transform, even in the smallest of ways, their relation to and understanding of those ‘missing’ life-events. I argued that this ‘transformation’ is achieved through an applied use of the theoretical concept of the feminine sublime, which I interpreted and evolved into six scenographic principles. I then applied these six principles to the creation and performing of The Gathering and Warnscale, which, I suggest, functioned/function as ‘socially engaged contemporary scenography’. The six principles were developed through a close study of Dorothy Wordsworth’s (1771-1855) approach to, way of engaging with and writing about landscape (her ‘mode’) documented in her Grasmere Journals (1800-1803). This ‘mode’ can, I suggest, be understood and analysed through the concept of the feminine sublime and offers a counterpoint to the ‘masculine’ or ‘transcendent sublime’, which was dominant in the Early Romantic period in which she, and some of her female contemporaries who also informed the principles, were writing. This ‘mode’ parallels my scenographic-led process. To be clear: the concept of the feminine sublime is not about the female gender but a sensibility that manifests as a way of engaging with, walking through, or dwelling in and observing the landscape. My written thesis reveals that the performances had personal (for participants) and wider social effects in relation to the underlying subject matter of biological childlessness-by-circumstance. This is evidenced in the way they enabled individuals to transform positively their personal experiences of that ‘missing’ life-event and in their contribution to the growing networks of communication about this social issue, which carries the potential for social and cultural change, in matters relating to the underlying subject.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available