ENGL1340 Environment, Crisis and Creativity: Contemporary Nature Writing

Reading List
  • Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View timetable
  • Credits: 20
  • Class Size: 66
  • Module Manager: Dr David Higgins
  • Email: D.Higgins@leeds.ac.uk
  • This Module is approved as a Discovery Module
  • This module replaces ENGL1330 'Writing the Environment'

Discovery module overview

Module Summary

Module Summary

How can the stories that we tell shape the natural world that we live in? Why does the landscape of Britain look the way that it does? And what is ‘nature,’ anyway? In this module you will explore these questions and others through a close encounter with one of the most exciting trends in contemporary British literature: the so-called New Nature Writing. Connecting literary and scientific studies, this module will also introduce you to some of the key ecological concepts that help to explain the living world around us. It will enable students from all disciplines to understand the vital role that language plays in our changing environment. You will have the option to submit your own creative writing for the final assessment.


  • -To familiarise students with some of the major texts, contexts, and scholarly interpretations of the British ‘New Nature Writing’
  • -To introduce students to some fundamental ecological concepts relevant to the study of nature writing in Britain
  • -To outline the distinctive characteristics of environmental approaches to the study of literary texts
  • -To consider issues of environmentalism and sustainability from cultural, creative, historical, and ethical perspectives


This module is about the cultural, artistic, political and philosophical issues involved in human beings' relationships with the rest of the living world. In this time of environmental crisis, writers are finding radical new ways to represent landscapes and places. The books on this course explore sickness, bereavement, and extinction – but also recovery, renewal, and the prospects of revitalising Britain’s depleted ecosystems. Literature can grant us unique insights into the causes and effects of environmental change, and this course is suitable for all students who enjoy reading about the natural world.
We will examine key prose texts of the New Nature Writing. We will consider them alongside poetry by authors including Simon Armitage and Kathleen Jamie; critical debates about contemporary ‘green’ literature; reportage by environmental activists; and some key ecological concepts, including ecosystems and species distribution, biodiversity and ‘biophilia’, agricultural intensification, cultural landscapes, species introduction, animal cognition, and rewilding.
You will write one short essay based on a close analysis of a set text, and a longer final assignment. That assignment can be either a traditional critical essay, or a creative essay in which you reflect on your studies on the module through original writing informed by literary traditions and your own observation of the places around you.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module, students should be able to:

  • -show a detailed knowledge of the set literary texts, and interpret them in the context of scholarly and critical debates about the ‘New Nature Writing’
  • -describe the ways in which some ecological, social and political processes have shaped landscapes and biodiversity in Britain
  • -appreciate the distinctive contribution that the study of literature can make to thinking about sustainability and environmental crisis
  • -identify some of the main controversies, problems, and priorities in the field of environmental literary studies
  • -articulate their understanding of the set texts in essays that display an appropriate command of written expression

Assessment and teaching

Assessment and teaching


Assesment type Notes % of formal assesment
Essay 1,000 word essay 33
Essay 2,000 word critical/creative essay 67
Total percentages (Assessment Coursework) 100

Private Study

Reading of primary and secondary texts to be discussed in lectures and seminars; seminar preparation tasks; use of library and online resources; researching and writing assignments. Tutors will provide extensive guidance for private study activities.

Progress Monitoring

Weekly dialogue in small-group seminars; opportunities for one-on-one meetings in tutors’ weekly support hours; opportunities to meet with departmental Writing Mentors; individual written feedback on first assignment.

Teaching methods

Delivery type Number Length hours Student hours
Lecture 11 1 11
Seminar 10 1 10
Private Study Hours 179
Total Contact Hours 21
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits) 200

Reading List

Reading List
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