Ph.D Summary

James Thurgill

BA (Hons) (N’hmpton), MA (London), PGCE (London), Ph.D (London)

Enchanted Geographies: experiences of place in contemporary British landscape mysticism.


This research explicated the role of place in contemporary practices of British landscape mysticism, seeking to understand the relationship between landscape, place and enchantment. Landscape mysticism offers particular methods that allow for the formation of a profound spiritual attachment to place and the production of a more overarching understanding of the vitality of nature. The project located instances of the preternatural, exploring the idea that such anomalies were in fact a way of accessing the landscape, of engaging with place.

The study was broken down into three strands, each one providing an account of the enchanted landscape: haunting, magick and leylines. The strands were dealt with using specific sites, exploring each one through a combination of theoretical discussion, phenomenological engagement and (auto-) ethnographic response. Each of the case studies was shown to be interrelated through the framework of hauntology, a philosophical position that was used to emphasise the role of absence and memory in the production of place and space. In its entirety, the thesis presented a series of experiments in Heideggerian phenomenologies of absence, working to test the balance between materiality and immateriality.

The geographies I discussed in the work are widely perceived as marginal, however they are abundant in the natural landscape. Sites such as ruins, earthworks, ancient trees and prehistoric trackways all form places where a sense of the past permeates the present. Of yet greater import still are the practices involved with an occulted engagement of these sites (ghost hunting, magick, divination, meditation, dowsing). These practices were explored as methods capable of dealing with the fragmented ontologies, the hauntologies that pervade these enchanted geographies. The enchantment of place is developed further by practices such as these. Via an investigation of the practices and the performativity used to engage with these spaces of seemingly unnatural animation, the thesis elucidated the experiences of place formed within contemporary British landscape mysticism.

One thought on “Ph.D Summary

  1. Samuel Villarreal

    You research sounds very interesting. I am in a class right now that is exploring how haunts rendered in American, British, and Caribbean literature are connected to the Atlantic Slave Trade and how the haunts found in these works can act as a heuristic to try and reckon with the past. Meh. But right now we are looking at the idea of hauntology and Jameson’s explanation of the haunt and comparing the two while looking at a wavering that happens to individuals who are closely connected with the trade. I am interested in reading your dissertation though if you don’t mind. Your prospectus sounds great and I like how your words flow.

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