Held in Place: landscape and human ecology in the work of Neil M. Gunn

McPhie, Alexander Graham (2024) Held in Place: landscape and human ecology in the work of Neil M. Gunn. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This work considers conceptions and representations of landscape and nature in three novels by Neil M. Gunn (Butchers Broom (1934), Highland River (1937), The Silver Darlings, (1941)) along with a selection of essays and secondary writing. It discusses Gunn’s works as expressions of human ecology and literary activism. Gunn’s human ecology is regarded as deriving from the experience of dwelling and the traditional cultural landscape of the Scottish Highlands. The novels are argued to have continuing relevance to later environmental concerns, highlighting the issue of land ownership as unresolved and problematic. Consideration is given to Gunn’s conception of the natural and how its meaning has changed since the novels were published. Gunn’s interest in anarchist ideas is explored in relation to his literary focus on fundamental aspects of life such as food and shelter. This is linked to his attention to community, mutual aid and human nature. Representations of animal sentience in texts are discussed as moral problems. Gunn’s aesthetic sense of landscape is argued to draw on sociobiological ideas that highlight sustainability and safety. It is argued that environmental issues in his work are inseparable from concepts of dwelling and human ecology. The novels show landscapes as historical sites where ideas, forces and cultures contend and conflict. Gunn’s conception of the contemporary derives from his acute awareness of the past and its agency in the present. It takes the form of a synthesis of history and myth whose span reaches from ancient hunter-gatherer societies to the 1930s. This attention to how people lived with the land, and the culture which emerged from that relationship, underpins Gunn’s conception of what a fulfilling and ethical way of life might be in both present and future.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies
Supervisor's Name: Riach, Professor Alan and Gibson, Dr. Corey
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84273
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2024 15:36
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2024 15:36
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84273
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/84273

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