Environment and Ecology in contemporary fiction

Course Dates: 19/05/21 - 23/06/21
Time: 14:45 - 16:45
Location: Online
As the ongoing climate crisis deepens and the impact of human activity on the natural world becomes increasingly stark, environment and ecology have become central concerns in contemporary culture and society. This course explores how recent fiction has responded to these concerns, focusing on three novels from the last decade. We will discuss themes including contemporary nature writing, environmental justice, and the future impact of climate change. Authors include Melissa Harrison, Jesmyn Ward and James Bradley.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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SKU
183990
Full fee £129.00 Senior fee £103.00 Concession £79.00

Course Code: HLT230

Wed, day, 19 May - 23 Jun '21

Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)

Or call to enrol:020 7831 7831

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

This online literature course will explore three recent novels that focus on the natural world and our relationships to it, using these texts as focal points to think about how contemporary fiction has approached environmental and ecological themes. Melissa Harrison’s Clay (2013) focuses on a fictional south London common, the natural life it sustains, and its role in connecting the lives of a cast of different characters. Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones (2015) follows an African American family in rural Mississippi in the days leading up to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Lastly, James Bradley’s Clade (2015) looks to the future in order to envision the impact of climate change on generations to come.

We’ll explore both the connections and the divergences between these texts, and zoom in for some detailed discussion of the techniques they use to represent environmental and ecological themes.

Tutor biography:
Laurie McRae Andrew has previously taught at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he also completed his PhD. He is currently at work on a book about geography in David Foster Wallace’s novels. He specialises in contemporary fiction, and is especially interested in the relationships between literature, human geography, and the natural world.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

Reading Clay, we’ll think about the role that nature can play in an increasingly urban, globalised, and technology-driven world. We’ll reflect on how this novel is related to the recent resurgence of nature writing associated with figures like Robert Macfarlane and Helen Macdonald, and how fiction can aim to help us appreciate the value of the natural world. Salvage the Bones will complicate this by pushing us to think about how relationships with environment and ecology are shaped by social contexts such as race and class, and we’ll reflect on the novel’s depiction of natural disaster as a focal point for increasingly urgent questions of environmental and ecological justice. This will set the stage for Clade, an example of a prominent trend in recent fiction that speculates on the future impact of the climate crisis, often in apocalyptic forms — although we’ll also end by thinking about hope, and how we might imagine a future beyond environmental and ecological collapse.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

-Identify and discuss some key environmental and ecological themes in current fiction and culture.
-Understand some of the techniques that contemporary fiction writers use to represent and/or re-imagine the natural world.
-Read texts closely in an imaginative and exploratory way.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

No particular skills or experience are required – you just need an enthusiasm for reading and analysing fiction, and a willingness to discuss your ideas with the group.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The course will be taught through a mixture of short tutor presentations, group discussion, and small-group close reading exercises. You will be asked to read the set texts in advance of the sessions, at a rate of around 125-150 pages per week.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You will need to obtain copies of the following books:

Melissa Harrison, Clay (Bloomsbury, 2014)
Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury, 2017)
James Bradley, Clade (Titan Books, 2017).

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for other literature courses on our website at www.citylit.ac.uk/history, culture and writing/literature/fiction.

Laurie McRae Andrew

Laurie McRae Andrew has previously taught at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he also completed his PhD. He is currently at work on a book about geography in David Foster Wallace’s novels. He specialises in contemporary fiction, and is especially interested in the relationships between literature, human geography, and the natural world.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.