Rocks of nation

The imagination of Celtic Cornwall

Shelley Trower
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The close relation between concepts of nation and landscapes is well-established in cultural and literary studies. This book considers how the geological substance of national territory itself is used to support ideas of nationhood. The focus of much of the book is on Cornwall (the region located at the far south-west of Britain) and 'primitive' rocks found in this region as an in-depth case study in the context of 'Celtic' Britain. The book begins by focusing primarily on an emerging consciousness of Cornwall as a distinctively rocky territory as depicted in nineteenth-century geological journals, poetry, folklore, travel narratives, gothic and detective fiction. It then looks mainly at twentieth-century ghost stories, Cornish nationalist and New Age writing, and modernist and romance novels. The book reflects how the categories of science and literature were only beginning to take shape in the nineteenth century. It does so by building on well-established connections between these fields to show how geology and poetry together engage with rocks as a basis for perceiving Celtic nations and native races as distinct from England. Finally, the book takes on a more distinctly fictional engagement with the Cornish nationalist imagination and its ghosts.

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‘Does the land beneath our feet define us? Do place have inherent meaning, and if so where do those meanings come from? Shelley Trower's exciting new study, Rocks of Nation, brings together poetry and fiction with geology, folklore, the Gothic, Celtic mysticism and nationalist identity, to offer a long view on Cornwall and the literature of place.'
Liz Edwards, University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, National Library of Wales
British Society for Literature and Science

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