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.
Course Content and Topics
- 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%
Required Reading and Film Viewing
A Course Reader will be provided. This contains extracts from:
- John Rennie Short, Imagined Country: Environment, Culture and Society
- The Bible
- John Milton, Paradise Lost
- John Muir, Journeys in the Wilderness
- Gary Snyder, ‘The Call of the Wild’
- Robyn Davidson, Tracks
- Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape
- Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard
- William Golding, The Lord of the Flies
- George Eliot [i.e. Marian Evans], The Mill on the Floss
- Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native
- Bruce Chatwin, On the Black Hill
- William Wordsworth, The Prelude
- William Blake, ‘Jerusalem’
- Raymond Williams, The Country and the City
- Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
- Jonathan Raban, Soft City
- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
- Sara Teasdale, ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’
- Phil Moncrieff, ‘My Mother the Land’
- Joy Harjo, ‘A Map to the Next World’
- Sylvia Stults, ‘Warned’
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)