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Unit information: Literature and the Environment: Diverse Perspectives in 2020/21

Unit name Literature and the Environment: Diverse Perspectives
Unit code ENGLM0066
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Pite
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


At a time of rapid and dangerous man-made changes to the climate, what role might literature play in developing sustainable perspectives and ways of life? What can writing do to help create resilience? This unit introduces a range of authors and critics whose work is shaped by these questions: the poets Mary Oliver and Kathleen Jamie, the new nature writers Helen Macdonald and Robert Macfarlane. It studies the ecocritical writing which advocates ‘green literature’ and those critics also who challenge or interrogate its claims. It moves beyond a eurocentric point of view by studying postcolonical ecocriticism, and beyond the humanistic focus on mankind to consider critical animal studies. Attending principally to modern and contemporary work, the unit will show too the historical depth of environmental concerns. It will explore the gender implications of an ecocritical approach and its relation to spirituality.

Primary and secondary material will be set and discussed alongside each other. Seminars will cover a range of genres, historical periods and thematic concerns, including animal studies, ecospirituality, medieval writing, postcolonialism, romantic period poetry and blue humanities.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

1. gain an understanding of ecocritical readings – their variety and underlying assumptions

2. relate ecocritical perspectives to specific issues articulated in literary texts;

3. discriminate between ecocritical and other critical perspectives on the literature studied;

4. identify and present pertinent evidence to develop a cogent argument in written form appropriate to level M.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities. These can include seminars, lectures, class discussion, formative tasks, small group work, and self-directed exercises.

Assessment Details

1 x 4000 word summative assignment (100%) [ILOs 1-4] 1 x 1000 word presentation

Reading and References

Timothy Clark, The Cambridge Introduction toe Literature and the Environment (2011)

Rethinking Nature: Challenging Disciplinary Boundaries

edited by Aurélie Choné, Isabelle Hajek, Philippe Hamman (2017)

Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment, eds. Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George Handley (2011)

Mary Oliver, Wild Geese: Selected Poems (2004)

Helen MacDonald, H is for Hawk

Kathleen Jamie, The Overhaul (2012')