One Green Field: walking, landscape, and ecocriticism
Walking is prominent in recent creative non-fiction in the UK and Ireland. It is hypothesised that this has happened because wayfaring offers unique opportunities for our times. Encounters on foot allow us to observe endangered non-human nature and to reassess undervalued landscapes or environments. If this is true, we should see less walking in pre-modern literature, except in the cases where mystics, misfits, urban rustics and adventurers have found their muse on the hoof, or have a particular affinity with wildlife and wild adventures. In the case of Early Modern literature, the poet Edward Thomas suggested ‘The century of Pope and Johnson is looked down on for nothing so much as for being townish and for thinking one green field like another. We forget that, nevertheless, their fields were greener than ours, and that they did not neglect them save in poetry’ (1913: 17). Perhaps, rather than being motivated by environmental concern, the popularity of walking literature is due to new prose forms including the ‘new nature writing’. Perhaps we might even conclude that the literary aspects of such writing have supplanted ‘greener’ forms of engagement.
This call for papers asks for contributions that explore the recent proliferation of walking-based literature, either in terms of the creative and historical developments that have allowed this to take place, or in terms of the unexplored byways that may illuminate our current concerns in terms of broader movements. Walking literature offers a particular openness to hybrid forms and themes, and so this issue of Critical Survey does not limit itself to nature writing nor to rural and pastoral literature. There are no limits to historical or geographical scope, except that the essays should primarily focus on British and Irish works of literature where the act of walking and the non-human landscape are simultaneously prominent. Contributions that cite the body of work known as ‘ecocriticism’ or ‘green studies’ would be particularly useful in potentially opening up new ways to consider both contemporary and historical texts where the landscape and material nature have active roles in the production of the text, and it would be helpful if authors address whether this writing is or can be relevant to environmentalist thought. Since Jonathan Bate’s The Song of the Earth and Romantic Ecology consider the Romantic tradition of green studies, this journal would particularly welcome essays that move beyond these ideas, even if the modern walking text cannot avoid reference to the Romantic traditions.
Suggestions for contributions that would be welcomed include, but are not limited to, the following:
• The relations between walking literature and earlier countryside traditions
• Walking in fiction and poetry
• The ‘new nature writing’ and psychogeography
• Pastoral, anti-pastoral and post-pastoral walking
• The activist or dissenting spirit of literary walkers from an environmentalist or social perspective
• Walking and landscape art
• Walking and the weather or climate
• Travel writing and walking
• Pilgrimage and walking
• Urban walking
• Material ecocriticism and the ways that walking can address the relationship between culture and material process (including biological and geological processes)
• Walking and deep time, evolution and anthropocene
• Walking and health
• Archipelagic walking
All of these are valid themes for this special issue of Critical Survey. The key questions that we seek to address are whether there is one green field of walking literature in Britain and Ireland, and, if so, whether it is as ‘green’, in both senses of the word, as we might suppose. To have a submission considered please send an abstract (approximately 500 words) to Pippa Marland (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Anna Stenning (email@example.com). The abstract itself should be attached as an anonymous document in Word with a covering email that should give your name, address and institutional affiliation.
Abstracts due: 30 November 2015
First draft essays: 31 May 2016
Revised drafts: 31 July 2016
Dr Anna Stenning and Pippa Marland
University of Worcester, Green Voices Research Group, September 2015.