About the Project
Fantasy fiction provides a sophisticated medium for thinking through the values we invest in forests and the meanings we ascribe to them. Fantasy emerged as a genre in reaction against the societal and environmental trends – urbanisation, mechanisation, over-consumption, pollution – which precipitated the Anthropocene. Often misconstrued as ‘escapist’, it repeatedly insists on our need to reconceive our relationship to environments which we threaten even as we depend upon them. Although epidemiological literature has revealed the therapeutic importance of forests, humans, now predominantly an urban species, are increasingly losing the capacity to interact healthfully with the natural world. Given its popularity, fantasy literature, with its rich appreciation of forests, has the potential to assist in reversing this trend.
This project will undertake an interdisciplinary study of the function and representation of forests in fiction set in imagined worlds. Major authors under consideration include William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien and Ursula K. Le Guin. The forests in their fiction will be considered as ecologies including imaginary as well as real beings, who in turn epitomise alternative ethical and psychological conceptions of life as part of a forest configured in relation to place, space and time. Through focus groups and an extended partnership with Ruskin Land, these fictional forests will be compared with responses to actual forest sites and experiments in dwelling with forests to establish their potential to contribute to healthy engagement with forest environments and to advance reafforestation and wider rewilding strategies designed to combat climate change and environmental degradation.
An annual maintenance grant at current UK Research Councils rates (national minimum doctoral stipend for 2019/20 is £15,009), to be paid in monthly instalments to the Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholar by the University.
All studentships will come with a minimum of £3,000 Research Training Support Grant. This can be increased, if there are justified project costs, up to a maximum of £12,000.
Funding is available for UK or EU students only.
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