Department of English UG Module Directory (2020)

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American Ecologies

Level 6 (15 credits)

America has been associated with natural abundance since its 'discovery' by European travelers; in the literature of the United States, this has been celebrated as both a locus of national identity and source of philosophical inspiration. For almost as long, however, the very abundance of nature in America has prompted questions: what if nature should be cruel and hostile? And what if, despite its abundance, nature should prove fragile, finite and extinguishable? To explore these questions, this module reads a selection of American literature from the early nineteenth century to the latter decades of the twentieth century. Its themes include the diversity of landscapes that America encompasses (from the arctic to the equator; from seas and rivers to forests, mountains and deserts), relations between animals and humans, and ways in which environmental issues intersect with those surrounding gender, ethnicity and race.

Preparing for this Module and Approximate Costs

The reading list for 2020-21 is not yet finalized, but will include the following, all of which are in print and widely available both new and second-hand:

  • Jack London, The Call of the Wild (1903) (OUP if you want a print edition; this Project Gutenberg one if you're happy reading on a screen)
  • Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us (1951)
  • Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower (1993)

Approx £50-60. This is a new module, and the reading list won't be finalised until quite near to the start of teaching, partly to accommodate changing availability of books (some of the late-twentieth- century texts I would like to study go in and out of print). It is always worth looking for second-hand copies of books before committing to new ones. Kindle editions are always cheaper than print ones. I will source free/electronic editions of texts wherever possible.

Learning Context Long Seminar
Semester 1 or 2

1. Written Assignment 1 (1000 words), 25%
2. Written Assignment 2 (3000 words), 75%

Mode of reassessment Standard
Contact Sam Halliday