Nature, Magic, and Myth: The Dark Arts in Cornish Writing

This Research & Innovation Doctoral Project brief summarises our priority areas of research interest under the heading of: Nature, Magic, and Myth: The Dark Arts in Cornish Writing.

We welcome all research degree applications aligned with and in response to this brief.

Project brief details

From the Gothic novels of Daphne du Maurier, to the piskies, mermaids, and giants of Cornish folklore, the Beast of Bodmin Moor, and the infamous witchcraft of Aleistair Crowley, Cornwall is well known as a place of otherworldly nature and myth, and also of dark and dangerous magic. The fictions of Cornwall have long drawn not just on each other but also on the beauty, harshness, and dangers of the landscape to reimagine time and time again what it is to exist in this exposed peninsula. 

Though the desire to retell and reimagine old myths and stories to subvert their meanings is nothing new, it has seen a resurgence in the last 50 years, from Angela Carter’s reclamation and transformation of fairy tales to new iterations of Greek and Roman myths and legends, such as Miller’s Circe (2018), which privilege the female voice and experience in order to look aslant at the past. The recent wave of interest in folk horror, in films such as The Witch (2015), similarly appeals to this desire to use the magic and darkness in the tales of the past as a lens through which to view the present.

Myth and magic abound in both our histories and our fictions, and this is true particularly in Cornwall, where the landscape has long invited tales of magic and danger. But how are the Dark Arts written, rewritten, and embedded into the Cornish landscape, life, and fictions? How are the monsters and fears of the past and present managed and mitigated through magical acts? And how are these mythical and magical narratives reframed to subvert existing or to create new power structures? And how do place and space play into these narratives in a new way, when they have seen times we can only imagine?

We are seeking innovative proposals that reinvent or investigate how the Dark Arts, in its broadest sense, are navigated within Cornish writing in relation to nature, myth, and magic. Critical or practice-based proposals are welcomed on creative writing, literature, oral or folktales, film, and television.

The department of Writing and Journalism is focused on ‘becoming world renowned for our innovation in storytelling’ and one of our key specialisms is in the Gothic and the environment and we are ‘on track to become world leading’ in this area. Our focus on Cornwall is well established and we have current PhD candidates completing critical and creative research into Cornwall. One of our department’s key thematic aims is to build on our existing expertise in this area and so this PhD is fundamental to achieving that goal. It will also allow us to broaden and strengthen both our research into and our knowledge exchange centred on Cornwall and the Gothic.

Staff in Writing and Journalism already have both critical and creative specialisms in the Gothic, the environment, and genre writing. The supervision team already partner with a number of associations as detailed below and this PhD will enable us to both strengthen existing partnerships and develop new ones.

Strategic alignment

Projects deriving from this brief are expected to sit within the following Research & Innovation programme and department:

Programme Dark Economics
Department School of Communication

As successful research degree project proposals must emphasise a clear alignment between the project idea and one or more of our Research & Innovation programmes, we recommend that you review details of the programme aligned to this brief before you complete the application process.

Project brief lead

Dr Amy Greenhough
Dr Amy Greenhough

Project Supervisor: Dr Amy Greenhough

Dr Amy Greenhough specialises in the use of fairy and folktale in contemporary fictions, looking specifically at the subversion of traditional narratives for contemporary audiences and the depiction of nature and materiality. Her co-written screenplay – a contemporary gothic thriller  is currently in pre-production and is set in Cornwall, aligning with the department’s key specialism of Gothic and the environment.

How to apply

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We welcome all research degree applications aligned with this Doctoral Project brief. ​To apply in response to this brief or learn about the application process click the button below.

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Project brief & project proposal enquiries

To discuss this project brief, ideas or project proposal responding to this brief, please contact: Dr Amy Greenhough.


Application enquiries

For all other application related enquires please contact the Research & Development team.


T01326 255831

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