New nature writing in fiction and poetry
Time: 12:30 - 14:30
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HLT297
Duration: 4 sessions (over 4 weeks)
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?
In the last 15-20 years, a new type of nature writing has emerged, both in Britain and globally. It is personal, engaging, and examines the natural world and the environment in fresh and interesting ways. It promises to reconnect a younger generation with the world outside, and to raise awareness of ecological issues in an emotionally resonant way. This six-week course will expose students to some of the most recent and exciting texts to come out of the new nature writing moment. From Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, whose poems explore the interactions of her own memories and sensory experiences with nature to the American writer Camille Dungy, who thinks about the relationship between nature and race, we think about the purposes of nature writing. We’ll also think about the place of politics and identity in exploring these landscapes.
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.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
This online course will expose students to some of the most recent and exciting texts to come out of the new nature writing moment. Sites and sensory natural experiences will be explored – from the river to wild swimming, from trees and woods to weird nature. We’ll think about the importance of physically being in nature – walking, swimming or hiking. In the last two weeks, we’ll look at two under-explored aspects of writing about nature – firstly, we’ll look at the relationship between nature and race, and the ways in which nature writing may shut out non-white voices and experiences. And in the last week, in our examination of Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide, we’ll think about the ways in which fiction might perform or explore the ecological crisis globally. Nature is, we’ll discover, never neutral.
Week by week breakdown of the course:
1. The River: Alice Oswald, Dart (2002)
2. Wild Swimming: Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, Swims (2017), Roger Deakin, Waterlog (1999)
3. Trees, Nature and Memory: Kathleen Jamie, The Tree House (2004), Findings (2005)
4. Weird Nature: Hag: Forgotten Folktales Retold (2020), Naomi Booth, extracts from Sealed (2017), Weird England (BBC Radio 3)
5. Nature and Race: Camille Dungy, Smith Blue (2011), Black Nature (anthology, 2009)
6. Nature and Global Ecological Crisis: Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (2004), The Great Derangement (2017).
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Be able to talk confidently about a range of literary texts
- Be comfortable reading across very different genres: for example, memoir, nature poetry, essay, the novel
- Be able to develop your own ideas on the topic eloquently and creatively
- Be able to authoritatively develop ideas about the relationship between contemporary literature and nature.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
Some literary study might be an advantage for this course, but the most important skills needed are: 1) enthusiasm about books and willingness to read new things! 2) good listening skills, and openness to free-flowing discussion 3) preparedness: doing the reading and devoting some time to thinking about the topics beforehand.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
There will usually be a lecture or mini-lecture from the tutor followed by small group work and discussion online. You may be asked to focus on a particular short extract from a novel, or at a particular poem together. Work outside class will be the readings for each week.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
It would be useful to acquire (buy or borrow) Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide (Harper Collins, 2004).
Extracts from most texts will be provided by the tutor (via online links and pdfs).
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please look for other literature courses on our website at www.citylit.ac.uk under History, Culture and Writing/Literature.
David Barnes is an academic who has held lecturing positions at the universities of Birmingham and Oxford. His teaching specializes in modernist literature, with additional interests in Victorian writing and contemporary fiction. He held a visiting research fellowship at the University of Virginia and recently produced, wrote and presented the radio series, ‘Weird England’ for Radio 3. David’s essays and criticism have been published by Penned in the Margins, Slightly Foxed Quarterly, Times Literary Supplement, Times Higher Education, The Times, and The Guardian. His poems and short fiction have been anthologised in The Wolf, Intercapillary Space, and the Henningham Family Press. He is currently at work on a major writing project on the city and human-animal encounters in modern London.
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.