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IP305 Posthumous Geographies II: Paradises

Thomas Cole's The Arcadian or Pastoral State, 1834.
Dr Bryan Brazeau

Module Leader

Optional module
Term 2
10 weeks

Moodle Platform »

Important information

This module will not be running in the academic year 2020-21.

Principal Aims

How have conceptions of earthly paradises served to legitimize colonial violence, to develop gendered geographies, and to promote music festivals and all-inclusive resorts? In what way do our conceptions of contemplative paradises within influence futuristic conceptions of cloud consciousness?

This transdisciplinary module explores these and other problems. The module employs a combination of approaches from cultural criticism, intellectual history, literary studies, philosophy, marketing, religious studies, and spatial poetics to explore problems such as how specific constructions of paradise spaces may critique the social, cultural, religious, and political values of a particular society; how ideas of profane and sacred spaces shape popular perceptions of ethical behaviour. In other words, this module examines the following broad issue from a variety of complementary perspectives: ‘How do cultural anxieties about finding paradise shape moral and intellectual values, colonial ideologies, intercultural encounters, and built environments.’

We will consider the foundational tropes that underlie and generate such spaces from the biblical account of Eden, across contemplative traditions, through medieval and renaissance conceptions of the earthly paradise, and in contemporary/futuristic reconfigurations. We will examine how such ideas have been instrumental in shaping gendered visions of the earthly paradise, and in turn, the extended impact that such visions have had on the horrors of Western colonialism, on paradisal prisons in chivalric literature, and on philosophical discussions of contemplation as paradise within. We will consider the future of such ideas through an examination of problems concerning cloud consciousness, uploaded minds, and digital afterlives. The module will also feature a critical examination of how such ideas are articulated today in organised sports (Cricket/Baseball), department stores, exotic getaways, and music festivals.

The module will allow you to develop and refine your multidisciplinary analytical skills by engaging with complex problems that resist simple solutions.

N.B. This module is complemented by ‘Posthumous Geographies I: Underworlds’, which explores similar problems but focuses instead on underworlds. You may take either module individually or both in succession.

Principal Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this module, you will be able to:

  • Identify the central narratives of paradisal journeys in Western culture and their reception from the classical world to present day.
  • Critically analyse the dynamic between how such narratives have been inherited, reconfigured, and reshaped according to changing cultural concerns and how they, in turn, influence and often justify such cultural values.
  • Critically apply spatial theory to the paradises we will examine.
  • Engage in weekly critical reflection on how narratives of paradises are articulated and marketed today as part of the ‘experience economy’.
  • Apply advanced cognitive skills to build transdisciplinary knowledge that fosters transformative dialogue between the humanities, the social sciences, and business studies.
  • Implement meta-cognitive skills in approaching complex contemporary problems, such as the debates concerning our digital afterlives and cloud consciousness.
  • Collaboratively create your own culturally-conscious versions of contemporary paradises, along with a plan for potential social/architectural implementations.


The module progresses via a problem-based exploration of paradises, which begins with the biblical account of Eden and pseudepigraphical accounts of the fall. We then move to late medieval depictions of Eden as either healing spaces or deceptive erotic gardens, seeing how these ideas spurred changes in cartography, influenced the development of orientalism, and impacted upon colonial endeavours. The module then moves to a discussion of paradise within the self, looking at philosophical and contemplative texts from several traditions, before considering transhuman digital afterlives. The final problem focusses on paradise in the modern world: the packaging and selling of the idea of Eden and hopes for transhuman digital afterlives.

Weeks 1-3:

Introduction: Problems in the Nest of Humanity

a. Legends of the Fall

b. “I Want it All:” Ambition and Hubris

c. “Run to the Water:” Healing and Weeping in Eden

Weeks 3-5:

Problem I. Paradise, Empire, and Colonialism

a. Sex, Orientalism, and Paradise as Prison

b. Paradisal Geography and Colonial Violence

Weeks 6-7:

Problem II. Paradise as a State of Mind

a. Mysticism and the Fetish of Contemplation

b. Transhumanism and Uploaded Consciousness: Paradise in the Cloud

Weeks 8-9:

Problem III. ‘Two Tickets to Paradise’: Selling Eden in Sport, Retail, and Travel Packages

a. Innings: Baseball, National Identity, and Returning Home

b. Paradise and Capitalism: Retail, Travel, and Music Festivals

Week 10: Conclusions and Group Presentations



1x 3,000 word essay (45%)

1x Reflection Diary (15%)

Practical work

1x Creative Group Presentation (15%)


T1x 24-hour Take-Home Test (25%)

Illustrative Reading List

Selections from the following primary sources, monographs and edited collections may be assigned. An updated bibliography may be found on Talis Aspire.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Bachelard, G. The Poetics of Space (1958)

Bartlett Giammatti, A. Taking Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games (1989)

—, The Earthly Paradise and the Renaissance Epic (1966)

Brazeau, B. ‘Take me Down to the Paradise City: An Ecocritical Approach to Paradise Spaces in Italian
Renaissance Epic.’

Butterworth, M. L. 'Ritual in the Church of Baseball': Performing Patriotism at the Ballpark," in

Baseball and Rhetorics of Purity: The National Pastime and American Identity During the War on

Terror. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2010, 29-50

Charlesworth, James H. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha [selections] (2 vols.) (1985)

Columbus, C. The Four Voyages (1492-1504) (ed. Cohen)

Dante, Divine Comedy (Hollander Trans.)

del Castillo, Bernal Díaz, The Conquest of New Spain (1576) (ed. Cohen)

Foucault, M. ‘Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias’ (1967/1984)

Kozinets, R. ‘Can Consumers Escape the Market? Emancipatory Illuminations from Burning Man,’ Journal
of Consumer Research
29.1 (2002): 20-38. doi: 10.1086/339919

Lancaster, W. The Department Store: A Social History (1995)

Malcolm, D. Globalizing Cricket (2012)

Milton, J. Paradise Lost

Laine, T. Bodies in Pain: Emotion and the Cinema of Darren Aronofsky (2015)

O’Neill, K. Internet Afterlife: Virtual Salvation in the 21st Century (2016)

Petrarca, F. Petrarch’s Lyric Poems (trans. Durling)

Pseudo Dionysius, ‘Mystical Theology,’ trans. Colm Luibheid (1987)

Salazar, N. Envisioning Eden: Mobilizing Imaginaries in Tourism and Beyond (2013).

Said, E. Orientalism (1978)

Scafi, A. Mapping Paradise: A History of Heaven on Earth (2006)

Tasso, T. The Liberation of Jerusalem (1581) (trans. Wickert)

Thorn, J. Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game (2011)

Virgil, Aeneid

Wilkes, K. ‘From the Landscape to the White Female Body: Representations of Postcolonial Luxury in
Contemporary Tourism Visual Texts,’ in Mediating the Tourist Experience: From Brochures to Virtual

Encounters, ed. Jo-Anne Lester and Caroline Scarles (2016), 33-56.

Wright, Louis B. The Colonial Search for a Southern Eden (2006)

Žižek, S. ‘From Western Marxism to Western Buddhism,’ Cabinet 2 (2001)


Films and Television:

Aronofsky, D. The Fountain (2006)

Brooker, C. Black Mirror:’San Junipero’ [TV Series] (2016)


Additional texts, specific book chapters and articles may be set for additional reading.