An evangelist for nature: Stephen Moss's non-fiction in the context of 'new nature writing', past, present & future

Moss, S (2021) An evangelist for nature: Stephen Moss's non-fiction in the context of 'new nature writing', past, present & future. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.


This PhD by Publication consists of two parts. Part One is a collection of non-fiction works by Stephen Moss, which are discussed in the accompanying thesis ... Part Two is the contextualising thesis, in three chapters. This explores the contribution these works make to the genre known as ‘New Nature Writing’, and how they fit into the broader context of the relationship between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’, with particular reference to the current environmental crisis. I describe my development as a writer, tracing the subjects, themes and approaches which connect these separate publications, to create a significant body of work. Chapter 1 begins with a discussion of the term ‘New Nature Writing’, in the context of UK authors and works, and an examination of whether this a distinctive and cohesive genre. I question whether it is simply a convenient label for publishers and booksellers, and whether the different sub-genres and authors have very much in common, apart from the fact that they write about the ‘natural world’ within the broader umbrella of Creative Non-Fiction. I outline a brief history of ‘nature writing’, again in a UK context, examine the overlapping sub-genres included under the umbrella term, and critically examine the definitions of ‘New Nature Writing’ and how they fit into wider social, cultural and philosophical contexts. Chapter 2 seeks to place my own writing, and its development over time, into the various contexts already outlined. I summarise my progress as a writer through groups of works, looking at the different ways I have chosen to convey themes, subjects and issues; and how this has been informed by my work in popular wildlife television, which has shaped my attitudes and approaches. I pay particular attention to how my approach has changed and developed over time, both in response to other writers in the genre, and to external events such as the rise of environmental activism, the discipline of environmental humanities, the critical approaches of ecocriticism, and the concept of the Anthropocene. Chapter 3 looks at the future both of New Nature Writing and my own development as a naturalist and writer. I examine the disputes and debates between practitioners and critics of New Nature Writing, and ask whether these are genuine debates, or merely a symbol of the narrow, occasionally elitist and often self-referential approach of writers in this genre. I question whether New Nature Writing can help change the way we view the world at a time of environmental emergency, or whether it inadvertently reinforces the status quo? Finally, I look forward to the future of New Nature Writing and of my own place in the future of the genre.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

This is a PhD by Publication. Part of the overall thesis is a collection of nine non-fiction books by Stephen Moss, published between 2004 and 2020. Book details are as follows:

• 'A Bird in the Bush: A Social History of Birdwatching'. 2004. Aurum, London.

• 'This Birding Life: the best of the Guardian’s Birdwatch'. 2006. Aurum, London.

• 'Wild Hares and Hummingbirds: The Natural History of an English Village'. 2011. Square Peg, London.

• 'Wild Kingdom: Bringing Back Britain’s Wildlife'. 2016. Square Peg, London.

• 'The Robin: A Biography'. 2017. Square Peg, London.

• 'The Wren: A Biography'. 2018. Square Peg, London.

• 'Mrs Moreau’s Warbler: How Birds Got Their Names'. 2018. Guardian Faber, London.

• 'The Accidental Countryside: Hidden Havens for Britain’s Wildlife'. 2020. Guardian Faber, London.

• 'The Swallow: A Biography'. 2020. Square Peg, London.

Keywords: PhD by publication, creative writing, creative non-fiction, nature writing, writing genres, ecocriticism, environmental humanities, environmentalism, the Anthropocene, publishing, wildlife television, British wildlife, British countryside, birds
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2022 11:59
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2022 15:46
URI / Page ID:
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)