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Keeping a beat in the dark: narratives of regional identity in Basil Bunting's Briggflatts

Lookup NU author(s): Professor John Tomaney


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This paper is about narratives of regional identity. In it I look at how they are formed and at the complex (and at times contradictory) cultural and political uses to which they are put. I examine the poetry of Basil Bunting, in particular his sonata Briggflatts as an example of a narrative of regional identity. Bunting’s life and poetry are used to cast light on many of the important themes that can be identified in the literature on regionalism including the uses of history in identity formation, issues of landscape and language, and issues of universalism versus particularism in social – political practice. I draw on Bunting’s subtle, complex, and pluralistic sense of his Northumbrian home-world to challenge those advocates of the ‘relational region’ who see places as simply the local articulation of global flows and who present any concern with local culture and identity as atavistic and archaic. I suggest that, by focusing on the enduring importance of dwelling, Bunting’s poetry demonstrates the progressive potential of regional narratives while avoiding recourse to a crude metaphysics of scale. I show how poetry is a means of developing narratives of local and regional identity in ways which transcend the dichotomies with which social scientists in general—and geographers in particular—perennially struggle.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tomaney J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Year: 2007

Volume: 25

Issue: 2

Pages: 355-375

Print publication date: 01/03/2007

ISSN (print): 0263-7758

ISSN (electronic): 1472-3433


DOI: 10.1068/d411t


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