College: College of Humanities
Research Centre/Unit: Creative Writing
In 2009 I embarked on a Creative and Critical PhD supervised by Andy Brown and Sam North. 'Otter Country, In Search of the Wild Otter', the creative non-fiction part of the PhD, was published as a lead title by Granta in Autumn 2012. 'Otter Country' is a close reading of the wild otter as an emblem of nature conservation in Britain. It places the animal at the heart of its habitat, and traces the journey of this species from its early evolutionary history to being seen as vermin, from its dalliance on the list of endangered species to its arrival as literary icon and the nation's favourite native predator. The book focuses on and evaluates the shared human/animal history and ecology and follows my meticulous search for the real wild animal through the many different wetlands, coastlines, rivers and urban areas of Britain. The critical and contextual study is due to be completed September 2013. My research and writing interests lie in the literature of animals, landscape and place, and in the movement known as 'the new nature writing' of which 'Otter Country' has been seen as a part. I am particularly interested in the tensions, overlaps and relationships between science, poetry, nature writing and the changing ecology of human-animal relations. My PhD centres on how this animal has been used to tell stories, to think with and to rethink notions of 'wildness'. It explores the particular methodology of attention a nature writer might employ to interpret the contemporary environment. I am also currently compiling a guide to 'nature' writing for Robert Hale books, as well as embarking on a new research project: a non-fiction study of the tensions between the accumulation of mythology around Britain's owl species, and their ecological reality.