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2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL32113 The Wild: Literature and the Environment

20 creditsClass Size: 20


Module manager: Dr Jeremy Davies

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

Pre-requisite qualifications

Please note: This module is restricted to Level 2 and 3 students.

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module examines writing about the environment in Britain from the last 250 years. It explores environmental methods in the study of literature, and the opportunities offered by ‘ecocritical’ ways of reading. It should suit students from any discipline who are interested in the close study of texts from a range of time periods, and in the links between culture and ecology.


The module will enable students to explore issues including the representation of environmental change and destruction; nature and gender; the connections between place, nationhood and identity; representations of nonhuman animals; agricultural labour and social class; ideas of wilderness and pastoral; and historical changes in the relations between language and landscape.

Learning outcomes
By the end of this module, students should be able to:
- understand the major themes and controversies in scholarly and activist debates about the status of wilderness
- demonstrate a nuanced understanding of a selection of ancient and modern works of wilderness literature
- analyse the artistic and intellectual complexities inherent in the literary representation of the wild
- assess the significance of conceptions of wilderness for broader ecocritical and environmentalist concerns
- articulate a matured perspective on literature and wilderness in an extended essay, displaying an appropriate command of scholarly writing


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?

Teaching methods

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

Private study

Teaching will be through weekly seminars (10 x 1 hour), larger-group workshops (5 x 1 hour) and online resources.

Private Study: reading, seminar preparation, essay writing.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Seminar contribution
- Feedback on unassessed essay

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3,000 word essay100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

This module will be assessed by one essay of 3000 words (including quotations and footnotes). One unassessed essay of 1700 words is also required. This does not form part of the assessment for this module, but is a requirement and MUST be submitted. Students who fail to submit the unassessed essay will be awarded a maximum mark of 40 for the module (a bare Pass).

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 05/02/2021 10:23:39


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