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Title: Queering the Black Country : a critical and creative response
Author: Francis, Robert Mark
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 1890
Awarding Body: University of Wolverhampton
Current Institution: University of Wolverhampton
Date of Award: 2018
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This project explores the following research questions: How might Black Country fiction illuminate the possible connections - in theory and practice - between the post-industrial liminality of the region and queer identity or experience; and, in what ways might a close analysis of contemporary Black Country fiction function as an enabling or energising factor in the production of a new creative work about the region? Using Environmental Psychology and Psychogeography, I critically examine the ways the literature of the region depict its geography and the impact this has on the identity of its characters. Freudian and post-Freudian psychoanalysis is utilised to discuss ideas of liminal states of being - focusing on the uncanny, the abject and Lacan's Lamella. These ideas are set within the framework of Queer Theory, connecting place and identity with non-normative sexualities. Psychogeography and environmental psychology illustrate how one's culture, heritage and environment help form communal identity and sense of place. I examine sense of place in the region's literature and investigate the liminal aspects of its geography and socio-politics, exposing how liminal place affects the inhabiting cultures and communities, and how liminal place forges liminal experience and identity. I investigate identity by looking at literary depictions of abjection and the uncanny; using Freud, Lacan and Kristeva, this project looks at notions of coming into being, and the anxieties formed from the return of the repressed. Queer Theory focuses on non-normative desire and sexuality. I discuss how queer experience and identity can be read as liminal, uncanny and abject. These theories are set against the landscape of the Black Country, examining how the region can be used as a fruitful backdrop for dealing with identity politics and how the Black Country, in its borderlessness, plays a significant role in specifically local types of queerness. An important thematic thread of contemporary Black Country literature deals with notions of identity in a post-industrial landscape. The region can be identified as post-industrial in several ways. I examine how Black Country writers deal with it as a borderless place - a place difficult to map, a place where new meets old, where rural life sits next to heavy industry, a place geographically and socio-politically liminal. This thesis is a piece of literary criticism of existing Black Country Literature, an original piece of creative writing and a reflective commentary on my creative practices. Queering the Black Country investigates the research questions through three different methodologies, resulting in an overall conclusion that draws on three distinct academic / creative practices. The critical output sets out how Black Country writing can be read as examples of liminal, post-industrial and queer literature. This also develops the theoretical framework the creative element uses. The creative output develops and adds to the existing dialogue of these ideas of liminality and queer experience, offering an original creative perspective on the traditions of this region's literature. My reflective commentary explores how creative writing practices and processes, in terms of narrative devices, add to the ways one produces liminal and queer literature. This part critical - part creative project investigates slippery notions of liminality through criticism of existing Black Country literature and through production of an original piece of creative fiction.
Supervisor: McDonald, Paul ; Colbert, Ben Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Black Country ; Queer ; Creative Writing ; Working-class