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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL2300 Environmental Literature

20 creditsClass Size: 10


Module manager: Jeremy Davies

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

Module replaces

ENGL32113 The Wild: Literature and the Environment

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Why read literature in a time of climate breakdown, mass extinction, interspecies disease and environmental injustice? Faced with ecological catastrophe, literary critics must reflect on how language and culture shape our relationships with the nonhuman world. Environmental criticism, or ‘ecocriticism,’ is one of the newest and most exciting areas of English studies. Just as feminist, postcolonial and Marxist critics investigate gender, ‘race’ and class, so environmental critics explore how those identities and others intersect with the life of the planet itself.This module surveys classics of environmental literature from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first. It focuses on writing from Great Britain, an island that has played an outsized role in worldwide environmental transformations. It won’t assume any previous familiarity with ecocriticism, and it will help you to think environmentally about texts from any literary tradition. We will ask: what is ‘nature,’ and what makes something ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’? How is human identity related to that of (other) animals? How do texts shape perceptions of place and belonging? Can literature ever achieve real intimacy with the physical world of mountains, rivers, insects and birds?


This module will enable students to interpret environmental writing in English from a range of historical periods. Students will develop critical insights into subjects such as the representation of environmental change and destruction; nature and gender; the connections between place, nationhood and identity; representations of nonhuman animals; ideas of wilderness and pastoral; portrayals of agricultural labour and social class; and historical changes in the relations between language and landscape.

Learning outcomes
By the end of this module, students should be able to:
1. demonstrate a nuanced understanding of some major texts and authors in the history of environmental writing in Britain
2. analyse the significance of environmental/ecological concerns and methodologies for the field of literary studies
3. describe some of the major debates and controversies in environmental literary studies
4. discuss connections between the ecological history of Great Britain and its literary history
5. articulate their understanding of texts and issues on the module in essays displaying an appropriate command of scholarly writing


The module will be taught principally through weekly small-group seminars. We will study writing about the environment in Britain from the last 250 years, beginning with major figures in the tradition such as John Clare, and progressing to the ‘new nature writing’ of the twenty-first century. We will explore key issues in the environmental study of literature, in relation to core literary-critical skills of close textual analysis. The module should suit students from any discipline who are interested in the study of texts from a range of time periods, and in the links between culture and ecology.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Reading of primary and secondary texts to be discussed in workshops and seminars (approx. 90 hours); seminar preparation tasks (approx. 30 hours); researching, writing and reflecting on first (approx. 25 hours) and second (approx. 40 hours) assignments.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Weekly dialogue in small-group seminars; opportunities for one to one meetings in weekly support hours; individual written feedback on first assignment (1 x 1500-word essay)

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1500 words33.00
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: 30/06/2021 10:18:02


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