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Ecopoetics

Overview

  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 5
  • Convenors: Professor Esther Leslie, Caroline Edwards
  • Assessment: a 1000-word coursework exercise and visual material (10%), a presentation and 1500-word written response (40%) and a 2500-word essay (50%)

Module description

This module introduces you to the latest research in the related fields of ecocriticism, the environmental humanities and ecological posthumanism. Environmental themes have become prominent in recent years and conceptual and formal approaches have developed in scholarly criticism in order to understand how the ecological functions in literary and cultural texts. Deriving from the Greek word poiesis, meaning 'making', ecopoetics considers how the texts that we make using words and other media can help sustain other-than-human practices and processes.

We will consider the philosophical contexts in which contemporary ecopoetics might be understood and explore the interdisciplinary parameters of the environmental (post)humanities - from meteorology, climatology and stratigraphy to human geography, forestry, critical animal studies, marine biology, ocean ecology and water studies. We will consider what 'ecopoetics' means and how this discursive and aesthetic mode can be considered in relation to a variety of cultural texts, including theory, literature, film and video, creative non-fiction, graphic novels, art and sculpture.

Texts

  • Jane Bennet, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things
  • Season Butler, Cygnet
  • Mark Cheetham, Landscape into Eco Art: Articulations of Nature Since the ’60s
  • Jason deCaires Taylor, Museo Atlántico
  • Charlie Gere, I Hate the Lake District
  • Goethe, Theory of Colours
  • N. K. Jemisin, The Stone Sky
  • Richard McGuire, Here
  • Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon
  • Richard Powers, The Overstory
  • Juliana Spahr, That Winter The Wolf Came
  • Alan Weisman, The World Without Us
  • William Wordsworth, 'Daffodils'
  • Kathryn Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None

Films

  • Grizzly Man (Dir. Werner Herzog)
  • The Song of the Styrene (Dir. Alain Resnais)
  • Melancholia (Dir. Lars von Trier)
  • Films from the Unknown Fields design studio

Learning objectives

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

  • demonstrate familiarity with a range of literary, aesthetic, historical and philosophical discourses that engage with environmental themes
  • discuss key concepts such as: nature and the natural; the Anthropocene; anthropomorphism, anthropocentrism and post-anthropocentrism; ecocriticism and the environmental humanities; animal studies; new materialisms; petrocultural studies
  • recognise the worth and pleasure of studying poetic and aesthetic forms (including poetry, art history, sculpture, film and video, the novel, graphic narratives), both historical and contemporary
  • make connections between form and content within aesthetic analysis
  • evaluate conceptual approaches for analysing how the ecological functions within a range of texts and media.