Searching for Gills: fieldwork meditations and Scorper, a novel

Smith, R M (2013) Searching for Gills: fieldwork meditations and Scorper, a novel. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.


This dissertation consists of a critical component, "Searching for Gills: Fieldwork Meditations" and Scorper, a novel. Each essay in the critical study is devoted to a particular aspect of my novel - literary antecedents that inform style and content, real events that prefigure plots and subplots, personal struggles which darkly and sometimes comically affect tone, places that ground settings; and the individuals, ghosts, and uncanny animals who surface as characters. Part transatlantic literary memoir, part critical discussion, this collection provides a background to the philosophical and psychological roots of my writing, encapsulates my evolving vision of fiction, and contextualizes Scorper. I begin by describing the backdrop behind The Gravedigger. I connect this novel's Sussex setting, its themes of graves and mortality, and its link to graduate writing workshops - all of which prefigure Scorper. Next, I examine the influence of Austrian author Thomas Bernhard, in particular his method of comedic writing that creates unease. After this essay I guide the reader on a literary survey of the animals and animal characters which inform my sense of the uncanny - a construct underpinning my own animal depictions. In "Searching for Gills" I take a walk from Corsham to Bradford-on-Avon on a hunt for a living descendant of the artist Eric Gill, whose ghost forms a central role in my book; and in my final essay I explore the sometimes uncomfortable connections between my drinking and my writing. Scorper is a dark comedy about an American copy editor on holiday in Ditchling, East Sussex. The mentally unstable protagonist is on an existential search for meaning, but his psychological health is exacerbated by Ditchling and the cabal of brother/sister alliances within the town. Written in second person narrative voice, the chief themes of the novel are alienation, mental fragility, and transatlantic miscommunication. While the issues examined in my book can be sobering, Scorper is intended as a satirical piece of entertainment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2014 13:08
Last Modified: 07 Jan 2022 19:49
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