EL6055 - Writing and Environment

What will I learn on this module?

You will study a selection of texts, written from the eighteenth century to the present day, that engage with the natural environment in various ways. These include natural histories and popular science, pastoral and environmental poems, environmental protest literature, apocalyptic novels, and the ‘new nature writing’. You will learn how literary writers describe the world around them and how they use the natural world to articulate their own personal needs, feelings, and desires. You will study texts that draw attention both to natural beauty and to environmental catastrophe. You will learn how writers as diverse as Gilbert White, William Wordsworth, Charles Darwin, Rachel Carson, and Robert Macfarlane have changed the ways in which readers engage with the world around them. As part of your studies, you will learn to produce your own literary engagement with the natural world in a ‘creative field journal’, inspired by the writings of Charles Darwin, Robert Macfarlane, Amy Liptrott, and others. By the end of the module, you will have gained a sophisticated understanding not only of the ways that writers can change the world, but also how they can save it.

How will I learn on this module?

Learning and teaching will be through weekly interactive lectures (1.5 hours) followed by seminars (1.5 hours) which will encourage debate and discussion. The aims of the module will be consolidated by a combination of formative and summative modes of assessment facilitating awareness of the relevant issues in environmental writing, while also encouraging self-assessment and reflexive learning. As well as a traditional essay, you will develop your skills of environmental awareness and your ability to express environmental themes by producing a creative field journal. In this, you will record your engagement with an environment or location of your choice, discussing both its natural and its cultural significance. Examples of creative field journals will be made available on Blackboard, and there will also be a field trip to a local nature reserve to help you understand first-hand some of the key themes in environmental writing and to help develop your field journal skills.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Seminars are supported by a dedicated Blackboard site, by a detailed module guide that clearly sets out the structure of formal teaching, by bibliographies that draw upon the latest scholarship in the field of environmental literature and ecocriticism, by discussion with the module tutor and in the development of speaking, listening, and critical skills gained through participation in classroom activities, and through a field trip that gives practical guidance on the creative field journal.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• 1. advanced knowledge and understanding of literary texts concerned with the natural environment.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• 2. advanced intellectual skills in employing critical material in relation to literature and emulating that material through close textual analysis.
3. advanced abilities in observing and recording the environment and communicating its personal, cultural, and environmental significance.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• 4. understanding of debates around natural history and environmental change and literature’s intervention in those debates
5. skills conforming to relevant standards of good academic conduct in the expression of an informed argument in written forms through completing the various activities prescribed.

How will I be assessed?

Formative: an oral presentation on a critical or theoretical text relevant to one of the texts on the module, delivered during a seminar. (MLO 1, 4, 5)


2000-word critical essay referring to at least two texts on the module
(MLO 1, 2, 4, 5)

2000-word ‘creative field journal’. A piece of written work recording an engagement with an environment of the student’s choice. The piece must show awareness of both nature and literature, and it must include a completed risk-assessment form. It may be text only, or may include maps, photos, or other images. (MLO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Feedback on formative presentations will be delivered with comments on feedback sheets designed specifically for presentation work. Feedback on summative work will be delivered according to the existing protocols of the Humanities Department on feedback sheets. Feedback on the first summative assignment will help students prepare for the assignment at the end of the module. In addition, students will be encouraged to reflect critically on their own work by completing a self-evaluation sheet to accompany submitted work asking them to identify strengths and weaknesses and to request specific feedback in key areas.





Module abstract

We currently face an environmental crisis, but writers have long been at the forefront of raising awareness of the complexity of nature and the threats it faces. This module looks at two hundred years of literary engagements with the natural world, including natural histories and popular science, pastoral and environmental poems, environmental protest literature, apocalyptic novels, and the ‘new nature writing’. As well as reading some of the most important environmental literature produced in English, by writers as diverse as Gilbert White, William Wordsworth, Charles Darwin, Rachel Carson, and Robert Macfarlane, you will produce your own ‘creative field journal’, blending your skills as a literary critic with your observational skills, developed on a field trip to a local nature reserve. By the end of the module, you will have a sophisticated understanding not only of the ways that writers can change the world, but also how they can save it!

Course info

UCAS Code Q320

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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