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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 4-5 (H535)
Seminars: Tba

2019-20 syllabus

A note on EN267 in 2019-20

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Objectives

The premise of the module is twofold. First, given the scale and urgency of environmental breakdown in the twenty-first century, ecology – as a way of seeing and reading the world – should change how we study literature. Second, a materialist world ecology offers the most useful way of 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.

Because ecocriticism and the environmental humanities are among our fastest developing cross-disciplines, the module aims to provide both a partial introduction to their history and an updated report from the field. 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, the natural history of capitalism, postcolonial critiques of ‘wilderness,’ environmental questions of race and sexuality, waste, cli-fi and dystopia, the Anthropocene/Capitalocene debates, ecological crisis and environmental activism. 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 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.

Format

Warwick has good institutional resources for a module of this kind, including expertise 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 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)
Charles Burns, Black Hole (Jonathan Cape)
Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury)
Alexis Wright, The Swan Book (Constable)
Han Kang, The Vegetarian (Portobello)
Ben Lerner, 10:04 (Granta)
W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn (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 forum.

Assessment

Assessment is by the following:

2nd years: (80% assessed) 2 x 3,000 word essays; (20% assessed) independent field trip report
3rd years: (80% assessed) 2 x 4,000 word essays; (20% assessed) group video essay