• The Literary Places of Mary Cholmondeley and Mary Webb: Women Walking and Interacting with the Shropshire Countryside

      Wynne, Deborah; Walker, Naomi (University of Chester, 2020-11)
      This thesis will demonstrate the importance of Mary Cholmondeley’s and Mary Webb’s novels, short stories, poetry and essays by showing their part in the literary heritage of Shropshire. Both writers drew on their experiences of living in Shropshire villages for their inspiration. This thesis will highlight the significance of the work of these now little-known authors and will draw attention to the feminist arguments which were implicit in their work. By highlighting the instances of women walking and interacting with the countryside in their short stories and novels, I will show that both authors indicated the necessity for greater rights for women in society in the early part of the twentieth century. The independent and freethinking heroines who feature in their novels and short stories provide important feminist representations which deserve greater visibility in studies of this period. As such, this thesis will be useful to scholars studying New Woman writers and their depictions of women. By stressing the influence of Shropshire on each author’s work, I hope that they will stand comparison with A.E. Housman, whose poetry is influenced by that region. This thesis will provide a critical study of Cholmondeley and Webb and I have produced a number of G.I.S. maps to emphasise the connection they had with Shropshire. These provide an alternative way to study their work. This online and accessible resource should engage new audiences to their work. The Introduction to the thesis will set out the connections that both writers had with the county. It will also provide an overview of critical texts associated with Space and Place studies that have influenced my research, as well as relating Cholmondeley and Webb to some of the other women writers who were writing at the same time. Chapter One focusses on Cholmondeley’s writing, arguing that her work displays an implicit feminism. She depicts heroines walking and interacting with the countryside in both her novels and short stories as part of her argument that women desired more independence in the early part of the twentieth century. This chapter also assesses the influence of Shropshire on Cholmondeley’s work and argues that, even when living away from the county, it had a great impact on her writing. Chapter Two will show that, whilst Mary Webb’s connection to Shropshire has already been well established, few academic studies have been written about her work. I argue that, by portraying the mobility of women within the rural landscape in her novels, poetry, essays and short stories, she addresses the larger political issue of women’s rights. This chapter also analyses the work of many of the literary pilgrims who visited Shropshire specifically in search of the places that inspired Webb’s writing in order to show the unhelpful ways in which they have mythologised her life and work. Chapter Three will analyse the G.I.S. maps which I have produced in order to argue that mapping can lead to a greater insight into the work of these two authors. It will also point out the growing use of interactive technology in contemporary literature studies. Links to my G.I.S. maps, and more information about them, can be found in the Appendix to my thesis. The Conclusion demonstrates the continuing legacy of Cholmondeley and Webb in order to stress their importance, not only to the literary landscape of Shropshire, but also to the wider literary culture.