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

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2019
Saturday 14 December 2019
06 August 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA W8F912 Wild Writing: Literature, Landscape and the Environment

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

Aims of the module:

1. To extend students’ knowledge of the nature and impact of environmental literature from Romanticism through to the twenty-first century.
2. To develop awareness of the work of selected poets and prose writers as they explore the relationship between imagination and the natural world.
3. To develop a critical and evaluative understanding of the main theoretical and methodological structures for analysing such literature.
4. To evaluate and interrogate the academic issues posed by nature writing and ecocriticism.
5. To ensure an awareness of environmental writing by women and less well-known authors, as well by authors prominent within the literary canon.
6. To introduce students to potential further research into related topics.

Module learning outcomes

After successful completion of this module, students should 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 taught through ten two-hour seminars. Students will be asked to give short, non-assessed presentations during the course of the module.


  • Nixon, Rob. (c2011) 'Introduction', in Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press., pp.1-44
  • Who Was Robinson Jeffers?,
  • Wright, Judith. (1962) Birds: poems, [Sydney]: Angus and Robertson.
  • Judith Wright,
  • Thoreau, Henry David; Moldenhauer, Joseph J. (c2004) The Maine woods, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Sullivan, H. I. (2012) 'Dirt Theory and Material Ecocriticism', in Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. vol. 19 (3) , pp.515-531
  • Cronon, William. (1996) 'The Trouble with Wilderness: Getting Back to the Wrong Nature', in Uncommon ground: rethinking the human place in nature, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., pp.69-90
  • Gill, Charlotte. (c2011) Eating dirt: deep forests, big timber, and life with the tree-planting tribe, Vancouver: Greystone Books.
  • Abbey, Edward. (2004) The monkey wrench gang, London: Penguin.
  • Morton, Timothy. (c2010) 'Introduction; Critical Thinking', in The ecological thought, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press., pp.1-19
  • Byron, Lord. (2008) 'Darkness', in The major works, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Mauk, Ben. (October 2017) 'States of Decay: a Journey Through America’s Nuclear Heartland', in Harper's., pp.49-59
  • Iain Sinclair. (no date) 'The Man in the Clearing: Meeting Gary Snyder', in London Review of Books.
  • Jeffers, Robinson; Hunt, Tim. (2001) The selected poetry of Robinson Jeffers, Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.
  • Leopold, Aldo. (1968, c1949) A Sand County almanac: and sketches here and there, London: Oxford University Press. vol. GB263
  • (no date) 'Transcendentalism', in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Center for the Study of Language and Information.
  • Cohen, Jeffrey. (2015) 'Introduction', in Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman: Univ Of Minnesota Press; First Edition edition.
  • Solnit, Rebecca. (July 2007) 'Detroit Arcadia: Exploring the post-American landscape', in Harper's., pp.65-73
  • Snyder, Gary. (1974) Turtle Island, New York: New Directions.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework Essay (5,000 words) 17/01/2020 100%

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Jordan Savage, Dr Christopher Bundock
LiFTS Taught Team - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Prof Ian Charles Davidson
Professor of English and Creative Writing
Dr Celia Brayfield
Bath Spa University
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 16 (88.9%) hours available to students:
2 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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