Literature and the Environmental Imagination: 19th to 21st Century Poetry and Prose

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
16 August 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This specialist module investigates how literary texts since the beginning of the nineteenth century have developed ways of writing about the environment. You will be reading in a variety of genres, beginning with Romantic poetry and prose and ending with a prize-winning postmodern 'memoir' by a Canadian tree-planter. You will also explore how writing looks at exploration, extinction, and environmental justice. Texts to be read include a novel that controversially became a key text of eco-activism and essays by recent environmental journalists.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To extend students’ knowledge of the nature and impact of environmental literature from Romanticism through to the twenty-first century.

  • To develop awareness of the work of selected poets and prose writers as they explore the relationship between imagination and the natural world.

  • To develop a critical and evaluative understanding of the main theoretical and methodological structures for analysing such literature.

  • To evaluate and interrogate the academic issues posed by nature writing and ecocriticism.

  • To ensure an awareness of environmental writing by women and less well-known authors, as well by authors prominent within the literary canon.

  • To introduce students to potential further research into related topics.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Demonstrate skills in analysing, evaluating and discussing literature and literary criticism.

  2. Formulate advance research topics and projects appropriate to further study.

  3. Find and use materials in databases, electronic archives and library rare books resources in addition to using regular literary sources.

  4. Demonstrate advanced skills in presenting and discussing literary and critical materials.

Module information

Creative writing essay option available by consultation with module convenor

Primary Works:

Abbey, Edward. The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975) or Desert Solitaire. (1968).
Gill, Charlotte. Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe (2011).
Humboldt, Alexander Von. and Helen Maria Williams (translator). Passages from Humboldt's Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctal Regions of the New Continent During the Years 1799-1804 (1814-1815).
Jamie, Kathleen. The Bonniest Companie (2015)
Jeffers, Robinson. Selected poems (1920-1940).
Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac. (1949).
Ben Mauk. "States of Decay: a Journey Through America's Nuclear Heartland," in Harper's Magazine (2017)
Proulx, Annie. Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2. (2009).
Snyder, Gary. Turtle Island (1974)
Solnit, Rebecca. "Detroit Arcadia: Exploring the post-American Landscape," in Harpers Magazine (2007).
Thoreau, Henry David. The Maine Woods. (1864).
Wordsworth, William. Extracts from The Prelude and other poems; A Guide to the Lakes (1798 - 1850)
Wright, Judith. Selected bird poems (1960-1962)

Key critical works

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter (Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 2009)
Buell, Lawrence. The Future of Environmental Criticism. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005)
Cronon, William. "The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature," in Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. New York: Norton, 1995, 69-90.
Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism (London: Routledge, 2004).
ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. (journal of the Association for Studies in Literature and the Environment.)
Morton, Timothy. The Ecological Thought (Cambridge M.A.: Harvard UP, 2012)
Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge M.A.: Harvard UP, 2013);
Satterfield, Terre, and Scott Slovic, eds. What's Nature Worth? Narrative Expressions of Environmental Values. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2004).

Learning and teaching methods

The module will be delivered via:

  • Ten 2-hour seminars.

Students will be asked to give short, non-assessed presentations during the course of the module.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay (5,000 words)    100% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff



External examiner

Dr Lorna Burns
University of St Andrews
Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literatures
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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