Ecocritical Perspectives for Literature

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSGA2EL4134

Semester and Year Offered: Semester 3 Monsoon 2019 onwards

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Amol Padwad

Email of course coordinator: amol[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: As per University norms

Course Objectives/Description:

Language and literature offer a great resource of interaction between humans and environment. Since the arrival of environmental studies in the mid-20th century there emerged a variety of fictionally factual and non-fictional writing on man’s changing relationship with ecology. At the onset of 21st century a new school of thought, namely, ‘ecocriticism’ was initiated as a field of study to investigate and interpret interrelationship between literature and enviornment. It is also known as ‘environmental humanities’. Buell et al (2011) observe that, “ecocriticism converges with its sister disciplines in the humanities: environmental anthropology, environmental history, and environmental philosophy”. It is widely acknowledged in humanities that it is a commitment to an environmental praxis that marks this recent movement in literary studies as different from what preceded it.

The present course is envisaged as a tool to explore the way nature / environment is understood, imagined and made. The key components of course will include reading a few literary and non-fiction texts and engage with issues such as environmental crisis, human greed, critiquing cultural and socio-historical contexts, capitalism, consumerism to mention a few.

This course introduces students to urban health and well-being as an outcome of the complexities of the urban way of life. It deals with the historical, demographic, physical, social, economic and institutional attributes of urbanization which along with innate biological and behavioural characteristics, constitute the multi-sectoral and multi-level determinants of urban health and well-being. While having predominantly a global perspective, the course devotes one module to the Indian scenario. Exploring inequity amidst relative abundance is the central theme of this course.

Course Outcomes:

Overarching objective of the course is to facilitate exploration of various eco-critical perspectives.

By the end of the course students would be able to:

  • Engage with environmental issues through literary narratives
  • Understand environmental crises
  • Develop critical awareness about sustainability practices
  • Explore environmental issues via historical narratives

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

1. Tracing the roots of eco-critical engagement

This module introduces the eco-critical perspectives and traces the history of such engagement. The core content of this module includes exploring human and nature interaction from a literary - historical perspective. The idea explored in this module is how literature takes cognizance of and critiques the changing equation of human-nature relationship beginning from ‘man in nature’ to ‘man and nature’ and finally towards ‘man versus nature’.

2. Reflection of environment in literatue

This module discusses how the literary writers represented and shaped the worlds in which they and their audiences lived. The focus of this module is on exploring the evolution of the understandings and conceptualisations of environment as reflected in literature.

3. Exploring eco-critical engagements

This module will focus on the basic tenets, key concepts, and frameworks of eco-critical perspectives. For instance, development vs heritage, man’s rights/dominance, access and opportunities, various dimensions of ecological issues (economical, moral, political etc.), theoretical strands/ various schools of thought (eco-feminism, eco-Marxism, eco-philosophy) will be explored.

4. Towards understanding eco-critical narratives

The focus of this module will be on critically examining the role of literature in promoting or hampering sustainable practices crucial for environmental conservation. The module will discuss various approaches and strategies employed in literature through which ecocritical narratives are constructed leading to the emergence of notions like eco-blogging, Greenwashing, Biomimcry, Biopiracy, etc.

Assessment Details with weights:

The course will have three types of assessment situations.

  • Written Assignments 15X2 30%
  • Response Papers 15X2 30%
  • End semester examination 40%

Reading List

  • Dobrin, S. L. and C. R. Weisser (2002) Natural Discourse: Toward Ecocomposition. Albany: State University of New York.
  • Hiltner, K. (2015) (Ed.) Ecocriticism: The Essential Reader. London: Routledge. (Chapters: Williams, R. – The Country and The City, Shepherd, P. – Ecology and Man: A Viewpoint, Snyder, G. – The Place, The Region, and The Commons, Heise, U. K. – The Hitchiker’s Guide to Ecocriticism, Morton, T. – Imagining Ecology without Nature)
  • Cohen, Michael P. (2004) Blues in the Green: Ecocriticism Under Critique. Environmental History, 9/1, 9-36.
  • Glotfelty, Cheryll, and Harold Fromm (1996) (Eds.) The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens: University of Georgia.
  • Hiltner, K. (2015) (Ed.) Ecocriticism: The Essential Reader. London: Routledge. (Chapters: Buell, L. – Representing the Environment, Soper, K. – The Discourses of Nature, Siewers, A. K. – Reading the Otherworld Environmentally)
  • Eduardo, C. (2013) How Forests Think. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Garrard, G. (2011) . Ecocriticism, New York: Routledge.
  • Daly, M. (2016) Gyn Ecology: The Meta-ethics of Radical Feminism. Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Zimmerman, M., J. B. Callicot, J. Clark, K. J. Warren, I. G. Klaver (2014) (Eds.) Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology. London: Pearson.
  • John Bellamy Foster (2015) Marxism and Ecology: Common Fonts of Great Transition. Available at
  • Kerridge R and Sammals N (1998) (Eds.) Writing the Environment. London: Z Books.
  • Patrick Murphy (2009) Ecocritical Exploration in Literary and Cultural Studies: Fences, Boundaries and Fields. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
  • Scott Knickerbocker (2012) Ecopoetics: Language of Nature, Nature of Language. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
  • Ghosh, A. (2016) The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Gurgaon: Allen Lane.
  • Gilding, P. (2011). The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of
  • Shopping and the Birth of a New World. New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Shiva, V. (1999) Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge. Berkley: North Atlantic Books.
  • Buell, L. (1995) The Environmental Imagination: How Literary Naturalists From Henry Thoreau and Rachel Carson Have Shaped America. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books.