How much shall we bet? Defining surreal futures

McGhee, John (2019). How much shall we bet? Defining surreal futures. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This work comprises a critical thesis ‘How Much Shall We Bet? Defining Surreal Futures’, assessing the scope for stronger cross-pollination between poetry and futures studies and examining a potential hybrid poet-futurist praxis; and a portfolio of futures poetry in a range of lyrical and conceptual modes, The Bunny Assembly.

Presented prior to the critical thesis, a fragmentary essay ‘Weak Signals’ introduces the main themes of this research through an account of my experiences attending the 2016 annual meeting of the World Futures Society.

Chapter 1 describes the origins and rationale for the research, key lines of enquiry and underpinning conceptual frameworks adopted, including a discussion of why the topic was explored using the methodology of creative Practice-as-Research.

Chapter 2 gives an overview of the academic discipline of futures studies and assesses how contemporary futures studies balances analytic and imaginative techniques to identify possible, probable and preferable futures, in order to identify any existing links to poetic techniques.

Chapter 3 demonstrates how, although the roles of poet and prophet are historically linked, much contemporary poetry has had unexpectedly little to say on the topic of the future. It is shown through a quantitative review of sample texts that where recent poetry has addressed the topic of the future, it has more often presented clichéd declinist or dystopian visions

Sixteen distinct strategies for developing poetic futures are identified in Chapter 4 by combining the steps of a typical forecasting methodology used in futures studies with a simple classification of lyrical and conceptual poetic approaches. These strategies are then evaluated to identify the extent to which they are useful in generating novel and provocative insight about the future. This chapter concludes with discussions of three features which proved effective in writing about the future: ethnographic writing, humour and aphorism.

Chapter 5 consolidates poetic and futurist activities into a proposed praxis for the poet-futurist: what one should do differently as a poet if one is a futurist, and vice versa. This praxis is reviewed in the context of competing visions of the future of poetry. To conclude, the thesis assesses the value of systematic poetic investigation of the future with a particular emphasis on the role of poetry in challenging clichéd declinist or dystopian forecasts and inspiring action to realise more hopeful futures.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History


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