In response to the economic and political upheaval of World War I, Scottish Modernism explored the cultural and linguistic changes of a nation trying to identify itself amidst a world-wide conflict. Scholars and critics have considered Nan Shepherd's fiction in this context—focusing on issues of gender, female identity, language, and land—but have yet to look seriously at her work The Living Mountain and its contributions to the Modernist movement. More recently, critics like Louisa Gairn and Robert MacFarlane have called attention to Shepherd's small but powerful text in an ecocritical and philosophical light, reframing her contribution to issues of Scottish identity from the Modernist era. Ecocriticism is concerned with the importance of place in relation to human conceptions of identity and explores how landscapes, even a mountain, can elucidate understanding of human being. Ontological questions of being have been explored in relation to place and landscape for several centuries and require, or invite, new narratives of the experience of these encounters, which makes present ecocritical studies an ideal place to do so. This thesis examines Nan Shepherd's work in the intersection of ecocriticism and ontology. To understand a mountain as living, a new language and a new ontology of place is required. The work of Gilles Deleuze on immanence becomes crucial to an understanding of why local place and a connection to it creates a deeper understanding of being and of a language that offers a desubjectivized perspective of a shared awareness between matter. In Shepherd's encounters with the organic and the inorganic her language of experience explores an interaction between her own senses and their perception of the mountain's body of elementals, or the means of apprehending the vitality of the mountain as a living thing. An intriguing twenty-first-century conception of place emerges from Shepherd's modernist perspective and reframes how a landscape and inorganic matter can elucidate human being.



College and Department

Humanities; English



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Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain, ontology, immanence, being, perception, ecocriticism, place, Scottish Modernism