Presenter: Louise Ann Wilson

Title:  Creating Warnscale: Applying Dorothy Wordsworth’s Mode of the Feminine Sublime to a Walking Performance about In/Fertility and Childlessness

Abstract: This presentation will focus on Warnscale: A Land Mark Walk Reflecting on In/ fertility and Childlessness (Warnscale) created by Louise Ann Wilson.

Warnscale is a self-guided walking-performance specific to the Warnscale fells south of Buttermere Lake, Cumbria. Mediated through a multi-layered walking-guide/art- book, the performance is aimed at women who are childless-by-circumstance. Society offers no rituals or rites of passage through which women who have ‘missed’ the life-event of biological motherhood can be acknowledged and come to terms with that absence. Warnscale, however, offers imaginative and creative ways through which participants can engage with landscape in order to reflect-upon, re-image and transition (even in the smallest of ways) the liminality that this circumstance can lead to.

My presentation explores how Warnscale was developed through: an in-depth, ‘situated’ study of the landscape in which it was created; observational research in fertility clinics; and a close reading of the journal writings of Dorothy Wordsworth.

Wordsworth’s Grasmere Journals describes how she walked in, and engaged with, the landscape in a manner that was embodied, multi-sensory and materially specific – a mode, I suggest, that can be understood as a form of the ‘feminine sublime’. This sublime, I argue, can also be located in her ability to notice the ‘common-place’ and thus see afresh ‘everyday’ objects, people and experiences that are ordinarily overlooked, or on the edges of social and cultural discourse. Warnscale works with an applied use of Wordsworth’s ‘feminine sublime’ mode of walking, dwelling and noticing and is framed by extracts from her journals.