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Unit information: Contemporary Writing and the Environment in 2015/16

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Unit name Contemporary Writing and the Environment
Unit code ENGL30076
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Pite
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Within the extensive and expanding subject-area of environmental writing and criticism, the module seeks to develop the searching, reflective and critical study demanded of third year students. It achieves this a) by a focus on contemporary and near-contemporary poetry (from UK and US writers), alongside novels and examples of 'the new nature writing', b) by identifying some of the predecessors and inspirations of that work – in the Romantic period and the twentieth century and c) by engaging with the critical debates around ‘ecocriticism’ and its cognates and to the ideas underlying these debates – i.e. competing understandings of the environment, man's place in nature, progress and industrial society, and the role of the literary. Recent anthologies of ‘poems for the planet’ will be consulted, as sources of historical context and literary precedent, and considered as part of the literary scene within which contemporary writers work.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have (1) developed a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of contemporary poetry addressing or reflecting environmental concerns; (2) in-depth understanding of the theoretical contexts that inform poetry about the environment; 3) an ability to contextualise contemporary poetry within its literary historical context and its cultural moment; (4) demonstrated the ability to pursue lines of independent research related to the seminar topics but not confined by them; 5) achieved the advanced undergraduate level standards of argument, analysis and academic writing.

Teaching Information

1 x 2-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Information

One short essay of 2000 words (40%) and one long essay of 3000 words (60%). Both summative elements will assess (1) knowledge and understanding of contemporary writing concerned with the environment; test (2) students’ understanding of the theoretical contexts informing this body of writing. In addition the essays will test (3, 4 and 5) contextualisation of primary material in historical and contemporary contexts, some element of independent research their and the ability to present arguments lucidly and in accordance with academic conventions

Reading and References

Timothy Clark, The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment (Cambridge: CUP, 2011)

Jorie Graham, Never (Ecco/Carcanet: New York/London, 2002)

Ted Hughes, River (Faber and Faber: London, 1983, reprinted 2011)

Kathleen Jamie, Sightlines (London: Soul of Books, 2012)

Richard Mabey, The Unofficial Countryside (1973; Little Toller Press, reprinted 2010)

Alice Oswald, Dart (London: Faber, 2002)