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EN267 Literature, Environment, Ecology

This module is a Pathway Approved Option for Theory, North American & World Pathways and a Distributional Requirement for the English Pathway.

Dr Nicholas Lawrence (n.lawrence@warwick.ac.uk)
Office hours: Tuesdays 12-1 and 2-3 (H535)

2018-19 syllabus here

Objectives

The premise of the module is twofold: (1) ecology as a way of seeing and reading the world should change the study of culture, including literature; and (2) the optic of a materialist or ‘world-’ ecology presents the most promising paradigm for re-orienting literary study today, since it is by definition comparative and global in scope, while remaining attentive to the material and relational particulars of local environments, including textual ones. As ecocriticism is arguably our fastest developing sub-discipline, the module aims to provide both a partial introduction to its history and an updated report from the field, combining an emphasis on theoretical contexts for reading in environmental terms with a special interest in innovative forms of imaginative, critical and activist practice. Throughout we will examine literary and cultural production in relation to questions of environmental impact, models of ecological thinking and the implications of revising conventional ways of articulating human with extra-human nature. Our aim is a combination of close and creative reading with attention to cultural and historical context, cross-national comparative study and variations in genre, methodology and medium.

Format

Warwick has good institutional resources for a module of this kind, including experts from Arts and related faculties on a range of areas relevant to our concerns. The module will be conducted as a seminar with the possibility of an occasional visitor invited for discussion. In addition, we’ll aim to incorporate a field trip to a site of theoretical and practical interest. As with any seminar, what you get out of it depends largely on what you (help to) put into it; it’s crucial that students taking the module prepare adequately for each seminar and take an active role in classroom discussion. Seminars are an ecosystem, too.

Set Texts

John Clare, Major Works of John Clare (Oxford World’s Classics)
Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (Dover Thrift)
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (Oxford UP)
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Penguin Modern Classics)
Richard Powers, Gain (Picador)
Charles Burns, Black Hole (Jonathan Cape)
Jesamyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury)
Han Kang, The Vegetarian (Portobello)
Ben Lerner, 10:04 (Granta)
W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn (New Directions)
Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World (Princeton)

In most cases you can purchase or access these texts in either paperback or e-reader form. Auxiliary readings are available as pdfs on the module forum.

Assessment

Assessment is by the following:
• Formative: In-class presentation on one week’s auxiliary reading (below the + on the syllabus)
• Summative: 2 X 4,000-word essays (see the Undergraduate Handbook for deadlines).