Professor John Wylie
Head of Geography, and Professor of Cultural Geography
Cultural Geographies of landscape, embodiment & performance.
This is my main research area. Through a sequence of 10 books, single-author journal articles, editorials and book chapters I have attempted to outline and explore a series of arguments aiming to advance landscape studies beyond the ‘ways of seeing’ paradigm dominant in cultural geography since the late 1980’s. Seeking to foreground and delineate theoretically-rich notions of materiality, embodied practice and perception, my research here considers intertwinings of self and landscape - of culture and nature more generally – through focusing upon their performance via everyday practices such as walking and visualising. I also attempt, through my writing, to explore how such practices may be creatively expressed and diagrammed. In connection with this research in 2002 I was awarded an ARHB ‘Innovations’ grant to conduct a solo walk along a 200-mile stretch of the South West Coast Path, a project which lead to a series of publications and which was supplemented by a further grant award from the University of Sheffield Social Science Division Research Fund. I have also undertaken studies of cultures of landscape, the body and the visual centred upon Glastonbury Tor in Somerset, England and Antarctica. Underpinning this work is a concern to supplement critical, interpretative and discursive readings with affectual, creative and experiential accounts of enlacings and distanciations of self and landscape. In all of these works I have been concerned with examining how distinctive affinities of self and landscape emerge and are sustained through constellations of materiality, affect, light and morphology. I understand landscape in terms of tensions - tensions between, for example, watcher and watched, interior and exterior, the invisible and the visible. Thought this way, the term landscape names neither an external surface nor a set of cultural meanings, but rather the materialities and sensibilities with which we see.
Spatial Theory & Philosophy
Theory production and innovation in human geography is a longstanding research focus and interest. I am particularly interested in continental philosophy, and in the relationships between phenomenology and post-structuralism, for example the linkages and ruptures between Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze, Heidegger and Derrida. A specific concern here is understandings of landscape, place, subjectivity and embodiment in these writers. This links my research to the ongoing development of non-representational, performative and affectual approaches in human geography. My work here involves ongoing conversations and collaborations with colleagues Mitch Rose (Hull), Paul Harrison (Durham) Ben Anderson (Durham) and J-D Dewsbury (Bristol), and has resulted in 2 editorials and leading journal special issues and a number of international conference sessions/presentations.
Cultures of Travel & Exploration
My work in this area considers both literary and actual processes of travel and exploration in the broad context of European colonialism and imperialism, and its associated geographical imaginations and practices. My writing in this area has sought to both abet and inflect postcolonial geographies, by attempting to situate their critical account of colonial discourse within contexts of material performance. I have published 5 papers and book chapters on the ambivalent geographies of The Tempest, and the South Polar expeditions of Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott.
If space is associated with absence and place with presence, (despite all attempts by geographers and others to think these terms otherwise), then landscape sits precisely on this threshold: presence/absence.In the past two years, much of my writing and thinking has been about presence and absence, focusing in particular upon the configuration and unsettling of senses of landscape and self via processes of haunting. Funded by an AHRC Research Grant (£72K, Dec 2005, project runs March 06 - Sept 09) the focus here is upon the production of a series of discursive and substantive studies of the spectral as a means of re-conceptualising landscape and self. This research is inspired firstly by Jacques Derrida’s ‘hauntological’ writings on self, mourning and testimony, and secondly by the work of the German-born author W.G. Sebald.
Grants and Awards:
- 2007 - 2010
AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award,
‘Land and Sea: the visual geographies of the South West Coast Path,
- 2006 - 2009
AHRC Research Grant,
‘Spectral Geographies: unsettling landscape place and self’. PI
University of Sheffield Divisional Research Fund
‘Smoothlands: fragmenting self and landscape
£750 (a follow-up to my South West Coast Path work)
AHRB Innovations Award
‘Enacting Landscape: walking the South West Coast Path’ PI
ESRC PhD award:
‘Cultures of Landscape and the Body’