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EN2D0/EN3D0 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: Wednesdays 4-5pm (MS Teams) and Thursdays 12-1pm (FAB5.15)

Seminars in 2021-22: Tuesday 11am-12:30pm (H2.44) and 2-3:30pm (FAB2.35)

NOTE: The syllabus for 2022-23 is forthcoming, but will largely follow the current syllabus.

2021-22 syllabus

wearenature Banksy

Objectives

The urgency and scale of environmental breakdown in the twenty-first century suggest that ecology – as a way of seeing and reading the world – should change how we study literature. So it’s not surprising that ecocritical approaches, and more generally the environmental humanities, are among the most dynamic (and conflictual) subfields in literary-cultural studies today.

This module aims to provide both a partial introduction to the history of ecologically responsive literature and an updated report from the field as it evolves. Our emphasis is on theoretical contexts for reading in environmental terms, with a special interest in innovative forms of imaginative, critical and activist practice. Topics to be covered include nature/society dualisms, environmental histories of capitalism, postcolonial critiques of ‘wilderness,’ race and sexuality, waste, cli-fi and dystopia, the Anthropocene/Capitalocene debates, ecological crisis and environmental activism. Throughout, we will look at 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 approach will be 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. Authors include, among others, Rachel Carson, Amitav Ghosh, John Clare, M. Nourbese Philip, Olive Schreiner, Jesmyn Ward, Richard Powers and Alexis Wright.

Format

Warwick has good institutional resources for a module of this kind, including expertise and programming from Arts and related faculties on a range of areas relevant to our concerns. The module will be conducted as a discussion-based seminar, with the possibility of an occasional visitor invited to contribute. In addition, conditions permitting, we’ll aim to incorporate a field trip to a site of special 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 for purchase

John Clare, Major Works of John Clare (Oxford World’s Classics)
Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (Dover Thrift)
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Penguin Modern Classics)
Richard Powers, Gain (Picador)
Chen Qiufan, Waste Tide, trans. Ken Liu (Head of Zeus, 2020)
Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury)
Alexis Wright, The Swan Book (Constable)
Han Kang, The Vegetarian, trans. Deborah Smith (Portobello)
Ben Lerner, 10:04 (Granta)
W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, trans. Michael Hulse (New Directions)

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

Assessment

Intermediate years (Level 5): 2 x 3,000 word essays (80% assessed); independent field trip report (20% assessed)
Finalists (Level 6): 2 x 4,000 word essays (80% assessed); group video essay (20% assessed)