Enchanted Geographies: experiences of place in contemporary British landscape mysticism

James Thurgill

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This research explicates the role of place in contemporary practices of British landscape mysticism, seeking to understand the relationship between landscape, place and enchantment through a set of experiments in the Heideggerian phenomenology of absence. Landscape mysticism offers particular methods that allow for the formation of a profound spiritual attachment to place and the production of a more overarching understanding of the vitality of nature. The project locates instances of the preternatural, exploring the idea that such anomalies are in fact a way of accessing the landscape, of engaging with place.

The study is broken down into three strands, each one providing an account of the enchanted landscape: haunting, magick and leylines. The strands are dealt with using specific sites, exploring each one through a combination of theoretical discussion, phenomenological engagement and (auto-) ethnographic response. Each of the case studies will be shown to be interrelated through the framework of hauntology, a position that will be used to emphasise the role of absence and memory in the production of place and space.

The geographies I will discuss are widely perceived as marginal, however they are abundant in the natural landscape. Sites such as ruins, earthworks, ancient trees and prehistoric trackways all form places where a sense of the past permeates the present. Of yet greater import still are the practices involved with an occulted engagement of these sites (ghost hunting, magick, divination, meditation, dowsing). These will be explored as methods for dealing with the fragmented ontologies, the hauntologies that pervade these enchanted geographies. The enchantment of place is developed further by practices such as these. Via an investigation of the practices and the performativity used to engage with these spaces of seemingly unnatural animation, the thesis elucidates the experiences of place formed within contemporary British landscape mysticism.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Crang, Philip, Supervisor
Award date1 Dec 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014

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