Norbury, Katharine (2019) A PILGRIM’S PROGRESS:ENTANGLEMENT, KINSHIP AND SPIRITUALITY IN THE FISH LADDER. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis comprises an exegesis entitled A Pilgrim’s Progress: entanglement, kinship and spirituality in The Fish Ladder (Part A) and an original work of life writing: The Fish Ladder (Part B).

The Fish Ladder was published globally in English in 2015 by Bloomsbury Publishing. It has since been translated into German. It is a hybrid form which combines memoir, tales from Celtic mythology, fragments of poetry and a travelogue in which the ‘I’ character journeys through the east Atlantic archipelago, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by her daughter. At its heart is a journey from the sea to the source of the Dunbeath Water in Scotland and it is, to that extent, a quest story.

The accompanying commentary explores the influences that inspired The Fish Ladder and analyses the current debates within contemporary nature writing. I will show the way in which themes of entanglement and kinship in The Fish Ladder find their mirror in the writings of Donna Haraway and Timothy Morton. The notion of inclusive ecologies championed by those writers–ecologies that incorporate both human and other-than-human entities–can help to remove the sense of ‘other’ that the word ‘nature’ insists on. Informed by the writing of Malcolm Guite, I posit that a recent schism in nature writing has its roots in the Enlightenment. A third way, and an alternative to the polarised positions identified within the schism, can be gleaned by interpreting The Fish Ladder as an eco-spiritual journey within a mystical Christian tradition. In this respect The Fish Ladder contributes to our knowledge of the possibilities inherent in contemporary writing about place.

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