Module Identifier EN37920  
Academic Year 2004/2005  
Co-ordinator Dr Matthew R Jarvis  
Semester Intended for use in future years  
Next year offered N/A  
Next semester offered N/A  
Course delivery Seminars / Tutorials   10 x 2 hour seminars  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Assessment ESSAY 1: 2,500 WORDS  50%
Semester Assessment ESSAY 2: 2,500 WORDS  50%
Supplementary Assessment MAKE GOOD ANY FAILED ELEMENTS  100%

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:

1. demonstrate an ability to define the concept of `nature', especially in relation to its literary representations;

2. demonstrate knowledge and understanding of current areas of ecocritical concern and theory;

3. explain how a variety of issues to do with the nonhuman world are negotiated and represented in literary texts;

4. demonstrate awareness of historical developments in the literary representation of both the nonhuman world and its interactions with humanity.


Attention to ecological and / or environmental aspects of literature is often elided by more established theoretical traditions. This module addresses the developing theoretical area of ecocriticism in order to alert students to precisely these issues within the reading of literary texts. In short, the module seeks to introduce students to the theory and practice of ecocritical reading.

Brief description

This module seeks to develop an ecocritical approach to the reading of literature. It aims to examine key areas of ecocritical concern by focusing on a historically diverse range of British literature alongside relevant critical work from current or established ecocritical scholarship. It thus begins by addressing the fundamental question of `What is Nature?' and by trying to establish a theoretical basis for ecocriticism (what, for example, should be the relationship between ecocritical practice and science?). The module then moves on to consider a range of significant ecocritical issues in the context of a variety of literary texts. These issues include the interplay between religion and nature, issues to do with science and nature, the status of place, ecocritical approaches to both cities and rurality, and the imagining of eco-catastrophe. The literature considered includes both poetry and prose, and ranges from the medieval to the contemporary. However, the latter part of the module focuses on literature from the past fifty years - literature, in other words, that emerges from what might be called the age of more widespread environmental concern.


1. What is Nature?
Brief extracts from Kate Soper, 'What is Nature?' (1995). Supplemented by critically current material relating to arguments over the social constructionist debate about nature (eg. Terry Gifford, `The Social Construction of Nature', ISLE 3.2, 1996).

2. Theorising Ecocriticism
Lawrence Buell, from 'Writing for an Endangered World' (2001); `Introduction'
Additional critical-theoretical material; eg.: Glen A. Love, `Science, Anti-Science, and Ecocriticism' (ISLE 6.1, 1999); Jonathan Levin, `Between Science and Anti-Science: A Response to Glen A. Love' (ISLE 7.1, 2000)

3. Nature and Religion
Gawain and the Green Knight (C14)
Critical-theoretical material; eg.: Lynn White Jnr, `The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis' (Science, 1967); Paul Davies, `Cosmos as Metaphor: Eco-spiritual Poetics' (from Parham, ed., The Environmental Tradition in English Literature [2002]); extracts from Alister McGrath, 'The Reenchantment of Nature: The Denial of Religion and the Ecological Crisis' (2002)

4. Nature and Science
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
Critical-theoretical material; eg.: Molly Wallace, '"A Bizarre Ecology?": The Nature of Denatured Nature' (ISLE 7.2, 2000)

5. Rurality
Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891)
Critical-theoretical material; eg.: extracts from Terry Gifford, 'Pastoral' (1999); William Empson, 'Some Versions of Pastoral' (1935)

6. Imagining Eco-Catastrophe
J. G. Ballard, 'The Drought' (1964)
Critical-theoretical material: Buell, from 'Writing for an Endangered World'; `Toxic Discourse'

7. Seasons and Myth
Ted Hughes, 'Season Songs' (1976)
Critical-theoretical material: extracts from Northrop Frye, 'Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays' (1957)

8. Cities
Peter Ackroyd, Hawksmoor (1985)
Critical-theoretical material: Buell, from 'Writing for an Endangered World'; `Flaneur's Progress: Reinhabiting the City'

9. The Place of Place
Alice Oswald, Dart (2002)
Critical-theoretical material: Buell, from 'Writing for an Endangered World'; 'The Place of Place' and `Watershed Aesthetics'

10. End of term revision session
What is the nature of nature in the literature we have discussed over the semester? What are the key principles of ecocriticism as you now understand it? Where should ecocriticism go next?

Reading Lists

** Should Be Purchased
Ackroyd, Peter Hawksmoor London: Penguin, 2002 0140171134
Ballard, J. G The Drought London: Flamingo, 2001 0007115180
Barron, W.R.J., ed. & trans Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Revised Edition) Manchester: Manchester UP, 1998 0719055172
Buell, Lawrence (2003) Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 0674012321
Hardy, Thomas (1994) Tess of the D?Urbervilles (Penguin Popular Classics) London: Penguin, 1994 0140620206
Hughes, Ted (1995) Season Songs (Revised Edition) London: Faber 0571137032
Oswald, Alice (2003) Dart London: Faber 057121861X
Shelley, Mary (1994) Frankenstein (Penguin Popular Classics) London: Penguin 0140620303
** Recommended Consultation
Buell, Lawrence (1995) The Environmental Imagination Cambridge, MA: Belknap
Soper, Kate (1995) What is Nature? Oxford: Blackwell
Parham, John (2002) The Environmental Tradition in English Literature Aldershot: Ashgate
Coupe, Lawrence, ed (2000) The Green Studies Reader: From Romanticism to Ecocriticism London: Routledge
Empson, William (1935) Some Versions of Pastoral London: Chatto & Windus
Gifford, Terry (1995) Green Voices: Understanding Contemporary Nature Poetry Manchester: Manchester University Press
Marx, Leo (2000) The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America London: Oxford
Kerridge, Richard and Neil Sammels, eds (1998) Writing the Environment: Ecocriticism and Literature London: Zed
Gifford, Terry (1999) Pastoral (The New Critical Idiom) London: Routledge

(1993 ON) ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment Reno, NV: Association for the Study of Literature and Environment


This module is at CQFW Level 6