Institute of Humanities
Director of Studies: Dr David Arnold
Second and Third Supervisors: Dr John Parham; Prof Roger Ebbatson
‘What to Make of a Diminished Thing’: nature and place in the poetry of Edward Thomas and Robert Frost, 1912-1917
My doctoral research addresses the impact of the literary friendship between Edward Thomas and Robert Frost. It involves a timely re-evaluation of the prominence of nature and place in these poets’ thematic and formal developments, and a consideration of their shared philosophical inheritances. I have drawn on unpublished archival material, recent developments in cultural geography, and familiarity with one of the places that influenced their writing.
- About Anna Stenning
About Anna Stenning
After completing my degree in Philosophy at King's College London, I spent a year in Spain teaching English and learning Valencian cookery. On returning, my first job was with Amnesty International, where I worked as a picture researcher and reporter for the Amnesty magazine. In 2004, I moved to my native East Anglia where I was a newspaper sub-editor, and I went on to complete a Masters programme in literature and environmental studies at the University of Essex. My studies focused on sustainable resource management and literary approaches to environmental problems, with a particular focus on how literary or artistic celebration of nature can lead to an awareness of our interdependence with non-human nature.
During this time, I had the opportunity to be taught my ground-breaking writers and thinkers including Marina Warner, Richard Mabey, Robert Macfarlane, Ronald Blythe and Jules Pretty. I learned about the importance of everyday experiences of nature for cultural renewal, amid the industrialised landscapes of the Essex-Suffolk border. This was combined with involvement in grass-roots conservation projects, and I have since volunteered in woodlands and urban wildlife regeneration projects. My Masters dissertation was entitled ‘“Literary Illumination”: a study in the use of celebratory narratives in Nature Cure by Richard Mabey, The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane, and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard’. I have recently been shortlisted for EarthLines magazine’s first essay competition. (You can see samples of my writing at: wildblogging.wordpress.com).
I moved to Worcestershire after being awarded a University of Worcester bursary to enable me to work towards a PhD. With thanks to support from the University of Worcester and the Friends of the Dymock Poets, I visited the New York Public Library this summer to study Edward Thomas’s field notebooks, and I also met with Frost critics in rural Pennsylvania. As a result of my involvement with the Friends of the Dymock Poets, I was interviewed by BBC CountryFile in May 2011. I served on the committee for the Friends of the Dymock Poets 2011-2012, and am currently a Green Party town councillor in Malvern, where I live. My experiences in postgraduate study have allowed me to benefit from the rich cross-fertilisations between academic life, creative projects and community involvement.
- Research Interests
My primary research area is early 20th Century poetry, specifically the nature poetry of Edward Thomas and Robert Frost (between 1914 and 1917). As well as mapping the emergence of poetic forms and themes in this period, I am interested in contemporary nature poetry, comparative literature, fine art, folk music, and wilderness and nature writing. My motivation is to consider how literature and art more generally represent, and potentially affect, our relationship with and care for the non-human environment. With my broader interest in literary treatments of place and environment, I explore the overlaps between cultural geography, ecology and literary criticism.
Co-guest Editor of forthcoming edition of Ecozona (summer 2014) on European nature writing
Long-listed for EarthLines magazine’s nature essay prize (December 2012)
Co-Guest Editor (with Terry Gifford) of Green Letters 17 (Winter 2012)
‘The search for a common ground between science and our 'visionary images' in Nature Cure by Richard Mabey and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, Green Letters 17 (Winter 2012).
‘An interview with Robert Macfarlane’ Green Letters 17 (Winter 2012)
Review of Edward Thomas: The Origins of His Poetry, by Judy Kendall, Edward Thomas Fellowship newsletter 68 (August 2012)
Event review of talk at Ledbury Poetry Festival, by Matthew Hollis, Friends of the Dymock Poets Newsletter (Summer 2011).
Review of Now All Roads Lead to France, by Matthew Hollis, and Edward Thomas: Selected Poems, also by Matthew Hollis, Friends of the Dymock Poets Newsletter (Winter 2011).
- Conference Papers and Conference Attendance
Conference Papers and Conference Attendance
Attended American Geographies: The 2010 British Association for American Studies Postgraduate Conference, October 2010
Paper, 'A "Bioregional" Vision in the Poetry and Prose of Edward Thomas', English and Welsh Diasporas, University of Loughborough, April 2011
Paper, ‘Edward Thomas and urban ecology’, Literary London: Green London, July 2011
Paper, ‘The global dimensions of place in the poetry of Robert Frost: “home and extravagance”’, Emergent Ecocritical Environment, ASLE- UKI Postgraduates Conference, September 2011
Paper, ‘Towards a Transatlantic Ecocriticism’, University of Bristol, postgraduate study group in ecocriticism, May 2012
Attended Adlestrop and Beyond, Edward Thomas Study Day, Oxford, June 2012
Paper, 'Edward Thomas, ecopoetry and birdsong: “a pure thrush word”' ASLE-UKI biennial conference, Composting Culture: literature, nature, popular culture, science September 2012 (organising committee member)