Countrysides in the contemporary imagination: Interrogated through the imagery of leisure and lifestyle
It is argued that in the post-war era modernisation and urbanisation, assisted by the rapid expansion of mass media, has seen (the English) ‘countryside’ subject to multiple interpretations and semiotic turns. This reimagining of countryside can be observed in its many reproductions (in for example the lifestyle magazine) often recalling romantic ideas of pre-industrial land use and ways of life we know do not exist in the now; ideas that are subtly incorporated into our everyday living through the products and experiences we are invited to consume. In addition, it is argued that for the dislocated urban consumer the present day countryside experience is less characteristically encountered through embodied practical everyday engagement but is instead reflexive, contemplative, and above all a lifestyle choice – an expressed ‘feeling’ for countryside may thus be interpreted as a statement of uniquely personal values or a narrative of identity. The effects and influences of the evolving relationship with place underpin the research question.
How can the researcher, the policy maker and the manager of the protected rural landscape track and evaluate the myriad voices, the meanings and interpretations that now contribute to the rural discourse? In addition, can the methods typically employed within the prevailing polling culture discriminate between preference statements deployed performatively and those articulating more pragmatic interests? This thesis therefore employs a qualitative, narrative or life-history methodology in order to critically unravel and assess empirically the creative and symbolic dimension of countryside within late modern material culture.
This research has been in receipt of a grant award from the Sustainable Development Fund administered by the Peak District National Park Authority