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10 cp from 200-level unit in Literature or English

Unit rationale, description and aim

We are in the early stages of the Anthropocene - a period in which a growing human population and industrial development have begun to shape our environment, rather than vice versa, a process that is leading to catastrophic collapse of our ecosystems. Our understandings of the environment, which may cause or prevent catastrophe, are conveyed in the form of words - media stories, scientific texts and fiction. Environmental literary studies is a relatively recent approach to texts which allow one to better understand how texts 'construct' the environment. Students will experiment with creating their own nature writing to in order to understand its demands. A range of primary texts will allow students to see how the environment is constructed in very different ways in cultural, chronological and geographical contexts. Students will also explore a variety of ecocritical ideas and approaches and apply them to generate interpretations of primary works in which the environment plays a key role. The aim of this unit is to develop students' capacity to join a theoretical approach to a close reading of a variety of texts in order to produce real insights into the textual construction of that we call 'nature'.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Demonstrate broad and deep knowledge of theories in the environmental humanities and apply these to a variety of literary texts in order to generate ecocritical interpretations of texts (GA4, GA5, GA9) 

LO2 - Devise, develop and communicate complex ideas and concepts on environmental literary studies to a specified audience using both critical and creative approaches including audio, digital, oral, visual or written form as appropriate (GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10) 

LO3 - Locate, interpret and appropriately reference a range of texts and critical resources and use them to sustain a nuanced evidence-based argument in a self-devised project (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA10) 

LO4 - Critically analyse evidence and synthesise scholarship on the environmental humanities according to the methodological and ethical conventions of the discipline (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA10) 

LO5 - Critically analyse key literary theories and concepts and recognise and reflect on the significance of complex literary texts in imagining and interpreting the world over time (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA5, GA8). 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include: 

  • Origins of and approaches to ecocriticism 
  • Historical writing about nature  
  • Romanticism, literature and nature 
  • The development of the idea of the ‘environment’ 
  • The idea of the Anthropocene 
  • The national park and the garden in literature/ pastoral vs wilderness 
  • Indigenous conceptions of the natural world 
  • Post-apocalyptic novels and nature 
  • Cli-fi/climate change science fiction 
  • Eco-feminist literary studies 
  • Postcolonial ecocriticism and global climate justice 
  • Ecocritical perspectives on animal and plant studies 
  • ‘New’ nature writing 
  • Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Australian, and world Indigenous peoples responses, critiques and approaches to the environment 

Active literary/critical methods 

  • Advanced techniques in locating secondary ecocritical material and applying these to produce readings of primary texts 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit embraces active learning by engaging in class activities in which students are:  

1) Developing a knowledge of the relationship between primary texts, ecocritical theory and the material world 

Students will read a range of texts in which the environment is a central concern of the texts. Students will engage in debates about our ethical responsibility towards the environment and the ways in which texts construct our understanding of the natural world. 

2) Sharpening a set of skills fundamental to the discipline of English literary studies 

The active learning activities in this unit include: writing creatively and reflectively; engaging in problem solving through synthesis of close reading and a range of ecocritical theories; analysing texts by placing them within historical contexts; locating the material within a real-world context of environmental risk and activism. 

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

The fundamental position of ecocriticism is that nature is not ‘out there’, as Western conceptions of nature would have it, but that it is also constructed through texts, and that the way it is constructed leads to different attitudes and outcomes. The first assessment is a reflective exercise that elicits insights into the complexities of writing about our natural environment.  

Students build on this understanding of the dynamics of nature writing by constructing an independent research assignment investigating a selection of primary texts. The assessment will require a close reading of these primary texts sysnthesised with a high-level understanding of ecocritical theory to produce an insightful interpretation. This assessment may take the form of an active research task requiring locating a specific text and placing it within its historical or cultural context.  

The summative task assesses how well students can synthesise a high-level understanding of ecocritical approaches with close reading of texts to produce statements demonstrating an awareness that these theories and texts have real-world implications.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Reflective Task 

The key purpose of this assignment is for students to develop a sense of the issues involved in writing about nature. A creative work is matched with a reflective component which is aimed at developing an awareness that ‘nature’ is a textual and cultural construction – a fundamental preconception in ecocritical studies.


LO1, LO2 

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Research Task 

The aim of this assessment is to enable students to demonstrate skills in close reading, analysis, writing and research in order to produce an evidence-based argument that offers interpretations of texts within a framework of ecocritical approaches. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Summative Task 

The key purpose of this task is to test how well students can synthesise knowledge about ecocritical theory and a range of texts to produce statements which acknowledge that texts and theories have real-world implications. 


LO1, LO2, LO4 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Representative texts and references

Clark, Tim. The Value of Ecocriticism. Cambridge University Press, 2019. 

DeLoughrey, Elizabeth M. Allegories of the Anthropocene. Duke University Press, 2019. 

Hall, Dewey W. Victorian Ecocriticism: The Politics of Place and Early Environmental Justice. Lexington Books, 2017. 

Hiltner, Ken (ed). Ecocriticism: The Essential Reader. Routledge, 2014. 

Huggan, Graham and Tiffin, Helen. Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, EnvironmentRoutledge, 2015. 

Miller, John. Empire and the Animal Body. Anthem Press, 2012. 

Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance. University of Minnesota Press, 2017.  

Smith, Andrew, and Hughes, William (eds). EcoGothic. Manchester University Press2016. 

Tally, Robert T. and Battista, Christine M. Ecocriticism and Geocriticism: Overlapping Territories in Environmental and Spatial Literary Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. 

Yusoff, Kathryn. A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None. University of Minnesota Press, 2018. 

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