This course explores how literature and film inform the ways we understand, imagine, and relate to the surrounding world. How might we change our relation to place, space, feeling, and thought in relationship to the local and global environment? We will travel, together, through several examples of how the countryside, wilderness, and the city have been depicted historically in literature and film, as well as ways in which we now enter the surrounding world via climate concerns, posthumanism, and digital culture.
- Nature, wild and wilderness
- Countryside – pastoral and picturesque
- The idea of the city
- Postmodern space and place
- Environmentalism and the Anthropocene
- Public and private worlds in a pandemic
On completing the course, students will be able to:
- Demonstrate an awareness of the function of literary representation as both shaped by concrete situations and shaping responses to such situations.
- Analyze and compare different conventions and strategies in the representation of place in literature and explain their significance in relation to environmental attitudes and values.
- Distinguish between different concepts and representations of the environment and point out their historical relationships to material and imaginary uses of places.
- Identify key issues in eco-criticism and trace their histories across different cultural traditions.
- Recognize distinct imaginary and institutional environments constituted by literature and engage in arguments about their relevance to society.
- Journal writing: 30%
- Oral contributions: 20%
- Final written assignment: 50%
A Course Reader will be provided. This contains extracts from:
John Rennie Short, Imagined country: environment, culture, and society (1991);
Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (1973);
David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (1991);
John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667);
William Blake, ‘Jerusalem’ (1804);
William Wordsworth, The Prelude (1799);
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1849-50)
Gary Snyder, ‘The Call of the Wild’ (1974)
John Muir, The Mountains of California (1894)
Jonathan Raban, Soft City (1974);
William Golding, The Lord of the Flies (1962);
Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams (2001);
Robyn Davidson, Tracks (1991);
Bruce Chatwin, On the Black Hill (1982);
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932);
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (1979)
Various film clips will accompany lectures. Two film viewings will be organised.
David Attenborough, A Life on Our Planet (2020, 83 mins)
Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth (2006, 97 mins)