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Contemporary British Place Writing: Origins, Definitions, New directions

Lichtenstein, Rachel (2019) Contemporary British Place Writing: Origins, Definitions, New directions. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This PhD by Publication (Route 2) brings together a trilogy of books of which I am the sole author, which share common ground in terms of theme and preoccupation. I seek to demonstrate how these publications have contributed to, and helped to define, the existing body of work that has come to be included within the genre of contemporary place writing. For the purposes of this commentary I am considering my work within a British context and focusing solely on works of creative nonfiction. The submission includes my publications: On Brick Lane (2007), Diamond Street: the Hidden World of Hatton Garden (2012) and Estuary: Out from London to the Sea (2016), all of which are focused on a deep examination of place including urban, edgeland and estuarine landscapes. These books have achieved wide international readership, been highly acclaimed in the national press and media, and recognized by critics and other writers in the field as key examples of literary nonfiction creative writing on place. Two of these books have been listed for major place writing prizes in the U.K. On Brick Lane was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize, and Estuary was longlisted for the Gordon Burns Prize. In addition to demonstrating where my practice overlaps with the work of other authors, my aim in this thesis is to articulate the unique ways in which my working practices contribute to the development and definitions of place writing. Specifically, I will argue that my work has made a unique contribution though a multi-modal community-engaged site-specific creative praxis that focuses on the geographical, cultural and social history of these urban and peri-urban spaces, paying particular attention to describing these locations through the oral testimonies of people who have lived and worked there over time, in order to reveal new and previously hidden histories.

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