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2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL1340 Environment, Crisis and Creativity: Contemporary Nature Writing

20 creditsClass Size: 50

For full module descriptions of our level 2 and 3 undergraduate modules (including details of preparatory reading, texts for purchase and required unassessed work) please see the Undergraduate Module Handbook in the English Organisation on the VLE.

Visiting and Exchange Students must read this information before selecting modules.

Module manager: Dr David Higgins

Taught: Semester 1 View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

Module replaces

ENGL1330 'Writing the Environment'

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

How can the stories that we tell shape the natural world that we live in? Why does the landscape of Britain look the way that it does? And what is ‘nature,’ anyway? In this module you will explore these questions and others through a close encounter with one of the most exciting trends in contemporary British literature: the so-called New Nature Writing. Connecting literary and scientific studies, this module will also introduce you to some of the key ecological concepts that help to explain the living world around us. It will enable students from all disciplines to understand the vital role that language plays in our changing environment. You will have the option to submit your own creative writing for the final assessment.


-To familiarise students with some of the major texts, contexts, and scholarly interpretations of the British ‘New Nature Writing’
-To introduce students to some fundamental ecological concepts relevant to the study of nature writing in Britain
-To outline the distinctive characteristics of environmental approaches to the study of literary texts
-To consider issues of environmentalism and sustainability from cultural, creative, historical, and ethical perspectives

Learning outcomes
By the end of this module, students should be able to:
-show a detailed knowledge of the set literary texts, and interpret them in the context of scholarly and critical debates about the ‘New Nature Writing’
-describe the ways in which some ecological, social and political processes have shaped landscapes and biodiversity in Britain
-appreciate the distinctive contribution that the study of literature can make to thinking about sustainability and environmental crisis
-identify some of the main controversies, problems, and priorities in the field of environmental literary studies
-articulate their understanding of the set texts in essays that display an appropriate command of written expression


This module is about the cultural, artistic, and philosophical issues involved in human beings' relationships with the rest of the living world. In this time of environmental crisis, writers are finding radical new ways to represent landscapes and places. The books on this course explore depression, sickness, bereavement, and extinction – but also recovery, renewal, and the prospects of revitalising Britain’s depleted ecosystems. Literature can grant us unique insights into the causes and effects of environmental change, and this course is suitable for all students who enjoy reading about the natural world.
We will examine four key texts of the New Nature Writing. We will consider them alongside poetry by authors including Simon Armitage and Gillian Clarke; critics’ debates about contemporary ‘green’ literature; reportage by activists like George Monbiot and Michael McCarthy; and some key concepts in ecological science and environmental social science, including ecosystems and species distribution, biodiversity and ‘biophilia’, agricultural intensification, cultural landscapes, species introduction, animal cognition, and rewilding.
You will write one short essay based on a close analysis of a set text, and a longer final assignment. That assignment can be either a traditional critical essay, or a creative essay in which you reflect on your studies on the module through original writing informed by literary traditions and your own observation of the places around you.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours179.00
Total Contact hours21.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Reading of primary and secondary texts to be discussed in lectures and seminars; seminar preparation tasks; use of library and online resources; researching and writing assignments. Tutors will provide extensive guidance for private study activities.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Weekly dialogue in small-group seminars; opportunities for one-on-one meetings in tutors’ weekly support hours; opportunities to meet with departmental Writing Mentors; individual written feedback on first assignment.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1,000 words.33.00
Essay2000 words critical/creative essay67.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/08/2019


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