Clara Dawson

Affiliated Fellow
Period of Stay: 
October – December 2017
University of Manchester
Project Title: 
‘And Singing Still Dost Soar’: A History of Poetic Birds and Lyric Song
Project Abstract: 

The research project ‘And Singing Still Dost Soar’: A History of Poetic Birds and Lyric Song’ engages with environmental history, literature, and cultural imagination. My interest in how cultural beliefs (about birds) may impact on human behaviours connects with the research of Guntra Aistra on biodiversity conservation, political ecology and cultural traditions. The research and teaching of Maja Fowkes and Reuben Fowkes, with their interdisciplinary approach to visual culture and anthropology, is an inspiration for this project. It will examine the history of birds in poetry and investigate what this poetic phenomenon reveals about our understanding of the natural and cultural worlds we inhabit. Birds are one of the most common models for the figure of the poet who sings lyric verse and are a perennial symbol in poetry from ancient to modern, common to almost every culture’s poetry. The major research questions will be: why do poets turn to birds as an inspiration and model for their art? What continuities emerge across a wide historical sweep in the symbolic ways in which poets employ birds? The study will be informed by both an aesthetic and ethical impulse and the investigation of poetic birds will inform and enhance our understanding of our relationship to the natural world and our vexed position within it.

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