New nature writing in fiction and poetry
Time: 10:15 - 12:15
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
This course has now started
Course Code: HLT254
Duration: 8 sessions (over 8 weeks)
What is the course about?
In the last 15 years, a new type of nature writing emerged in the UK. It was personal, engaging, and examined the natural world and the environment in fresh and interesting ways. It promised to reconnect a younger generation with the world outside, and to raise awareness of ecological issues in an emotionally resonant way. This course explores the fiction and poetry that emerged from this moment. Tracing back its origins to antecedents like Seamus Heaney, who weaved stories of the politics of Northern Ireland into personal encounters with local nature, and W.G. Sebald, whose long semi-fictional nature walks took in natural phenomena, history, and emotional connection, we explore a number of contemporary texts. Novels, poetry and memoir by Heaney, Sebald, Alice Oswald, Helen Macdonald. Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, Kathleen Jamia and Naomi Booth will be explored.
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 investigates some of the most recent and exciting texts to come out of the new nature writing moment. From Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, whose poems and lyrical memoir explore the interactions of her own memories and sensory experiences of nature to Naomi Booth, whose approach to rural landscapes is via the weird and unsettling - we think about the purpose of nature writing. We’ll also think about the place of politics and national identity in these landscapes. Nature is, we’ll discover, never neutral. We’ll also explore the importance of physically being in nature – walking, swimming or hiking. And finally, we’ll think about the ways in which these writings can connect the human and the animal, with a reading of Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk.
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 previous 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?
Mini-lectures followed by small group work and discussion. Work outside class will be the readings for each week.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Please buy or borrow:
Dart by Alice Oswald (Faber, 2002)
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (Jonathan Cape, 2014)
Extracts from all other texts will be provided by the tutor (via online links and pdfs).
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look for other Literature courses under History, Culture & Writing at www.citylit.ac.uk.
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.