Most of us are all only too aware that we live in an era of climate change, declining biodiversity and pollution. This is depressing stuff! But as literary scholars, rather than feeling helpless, we might ask: how can literature help us to better understand our changing world and our place within it? Science and journalism can tell us how the ecology of our planet is changing and why, but it does not address important cultural, emotional and aesthetic aspects of these changes. Literary works offer alternative ways of seeing and feeling.
In this module we examine how literature has engaged with nature and ecological issues from the 1960s to the present, in the context of changing attitudes toward the environment. We explore how this writing draws on traditional modes of nature writing, and adapts them in a changing world to form new genres such as the ‘anti-pastoral’ and ‘cli-fi’. We investigate the place of beauty, celebration and even humour in literatures of environmental crisis, as well as critique, lament and apocalypse.