Creative Evolution in the Novels of Nan Shepherd

Vinson, Heather Katharine (2002) Creative Evolution in the Novels of Nan Shepherd. MLitt(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines the novels of Aberdeenshire author, Nan Shepherd: The Quarry Wood (1928), The Weatherhouse (1930), and A Pass in the Grampians (1933). Shepherd developed a vision of life as being characterised by a flow of change encompassing all things in relation. Rejecting determinism and fatalism. Shepherd exalts the human spiritual capacity for creative influence over what is essentially a chaotic universe. Hers is a philosophy of evolution, explicated through narrative. Literal and symbolic dramatisations of her vision explore individual and communal awakenings to the underlying nature of reality, and to the human creative capacity. Shepherd's optimistic vision is rooted in the power of perception, whereby individuals can exert creative influence over their experience of existence. In their search for a peaceful existence, her characters awaken to the importance of continual spiritual (inner) adaptation enabled by interaction with the changing physical (external) world. Deeply rooted in her local region. Shepherd finds there an abundance of material that inspires her spiritual vision and lends tangible force to her modernist ideas. The natural world and human worlds are equally important to her vision. Her characters and communities articulate a specific temporal dimension to the landscapes that Shepherd loved. Perpetual and unpredictable change underlies all of Shepherd's novels. In each. Shepherd seeks balance between the inherited traditions of the past and a bold, creative embrace of an open-ended and unformed future. The first chapter seeks to set Shepherd in the context of her own time and place, and identify her work in relation to the wider cultural arena. The chapter also introduces critical approaches applied in this thesis. The following three chapters are dedicated to Shepherd's novels, treated in chronological order. There is a consistent core to Shepherd's philosophical vision, though each novel shifts its angle and focus as Shepherd's own vision evolves. In each novel an isolated, self-contained entity - a character, a community, or generations of families - awakens to and reconciles its perception to unpredictable, uncontrollable events external to it, establishing close spiritual connections with people and landscape. The purpose of this reconciliation is to find a way in which to live a peaceful, balanced life of empathic compassion and wisdom. In The Quarry Wood, Martha must adapt her inner vision of life to external (physical and social) realities. Failure to do so invites disaster. The novel describes evolution toward wisdom, leading to her discovery that she is in need of others to create a whole and fulfilling life for herself. In The Weatherhouse, each individual must adapt him or herself to complex, unsuspected realities. The novel describes communal evolution within a narrow space and time, toward profound understanding of the vast interconnections of being. The novel demonstrates the need we have for one another. Failure to integrate one's self within the human web has tragic consequences. The horizons of space and time in A Pass in the Grampians are broader than any previous novel. Three generations adapt to the broad movements of social and cultural history - specifically, the modem age. Failure to adapt one's spiritual tradition means spiritual death will accompany the inevitable physical death. The novel explores the threads of mutual need (embodied by tradition and memory) that link past, present and future generations together in a web of temporal and spatial dimensions. The Irish poet, Eavan Boland, writes: 'Our present will become the past of other men and women. We depend on them to remember it with the complexity with which it was suffered. 'As others, once, depended on us.' Boland's words describe the evolving continuum of being that provides the raw material for Shepherd's work, even while she reminds us that the universal life cycle of being will continue creatively and irrepressibly beyond all particular human actions or events.

Item Type: Thesis (MLitt(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Adviser: Alan Riach
Keywords: British & Irish literature
Date of Award: 2002
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2002-76040
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 17:05
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 17:05

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