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Literature and Environment in France in the 18th and 19th Centuries


Literature and Environment in France in the 18th and 19th Centuries

David McCallam

This seminar explores the discourses and representations of the environment in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French literature. It charts the evolving relationships between the human, non-human, geological and climatic worlds in the period as they are (re)configured in contemporary French works. At the same time, it opens up a critical/creative space to explore how these texts are read and experienced in the twenty-first century.

Methodologically, the course broaches such approaches as deep ecology, environmental history, disaster studies, pastoralism, animal studies, ecofeminism, (post)colonial ecocriticism and the intersections between them.

The structure of the seminar is broadly thematic, concentrating on pairs of texts across centuries to set up dialogues between them and their twenty-first-century readers. All primary texts are provided in both French and English.


Introduction to 18th-19th c. France – a foundational moment of the Anthropocene?

Vagabondage: walking in the country and city in Rousseau, Rêveries d’un promeneur solitaire (1778) and Flora Tristan, Promenades dans Londres (1840)

Alternative ecosystems: on ‘humanimals’ in Rétif de la Bretonne, La Découverte australe (1781) and Jules Verne, Voyage au centre de la Terre (1864)

Environment and Revolution: catastrophe, cycle or both? Sylvain Maréchal, Le Jugement dernier des rois (1793) and Victor Hugo, Bug-Jargal (1826)

Pastoralism and neo-animism: André Chénier, Bucoliques (c.1786-1794) and Paul Verlaine, Fêtes galantes (1869)

Ecocolonial islands: Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Paul et Virginie (1788) and Louise Michel, L’Ère nouvelle, pensée dernière, souvenirs de Calédonie (1887)

Ecotranslation: extracts from recent works by Mireille Gansel and Michael Cronin (both 2017)

General Reading List (in English and French)

 AUDIER, Serge, La Société écologique et ses ennemis, Paris, La Découverte, 2017

 CLARK, Timothy, Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment (Cambridge: CUP, 2011)


CRONIN, Michael, Eco-translation: Translation and Ecology in the Age of the Anthropocene (London: Routledge, 2016)


DESCOLA, Philippe, Beyond Nature and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013)


DUCHET, Michèle, Anthropologie et histoire au siècle des Lumières: Buffon, Voltaire, Rousseau, Helvétius, Diderot (Paris: Flammarion, 1978)


FINCH-RACE, Daniel A. and Stephanie Posthumus (ed.), French Ecocriticism: From the Early Modern Period to the Twenty-First Century (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2017)


GANSEL, Mireille, Translation as Transhumance, trans. Ros Schwartz (New York: Feminist Press, 2017)


GARRARD, Greg, Ecocriticism, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2012)


GOODBODY, Axel and Kate Rigby (ed.), Ecocritical Theory: New European Approaches (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011)


GROVE, Richard, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism 1600-1860 (Cambridge: CUP, 1996)


HARAWAY, Donna, When Species Meet (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003)


HEISE, Ursula K. et al (ed.), The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities (London: Routledge, 2017)


HITT, Christopher, ‘Ecocriticism and the Long Eighteenth Century’, College Literature, 31:3 (2004), 123-147


HUET, Marie-Hélène, The Culture of Disaster (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012)


LATOUR, Bruno, Cogitamus. Six lettres sur les humanités scientifiques (Paris: La Découverte, 2010)


LATOUR, Bruno, Nous n’avons jamais été modernes: essai d’anthropologie symétrique (Paris: La Découverte, 1991)


LOCHER, Fabien and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, ‘Modernity’s Frail Climate: A Climate History of Environmental Reflexivity’, Critical Enquiry, 38:3 (1 Mar 2012), 579-598


LYLE, Louise et David McCallam (ed.), Histoires de la Terre: Earth Sciences and French Culture 1740-1940 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008)


MCCALLAM, David, Volcanoes in Eighteenth-Century Europe: An Essay in Environmental Humanities (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019)

MERCHANT, Carolyn, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution (New York: Harper & Row, 1980)


MIGLIETTI, Sara, ‘Introduction: The Past and Present of Climate Theories’, MLN, 132:4 (2017), 902-911


MOSER, Walter, ‘The Return of the Dinosaurs: About Scientific Imagination and its Affects’, Arcadia, 38:2 (2003), 243-247


OPPERMANN, Serpil and Serenella Iovino (ed.), Environmental Humanities: Voices from the Anthropocene (London; New York: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2017)


PLUMWOOD, Val, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (London: Routledge, 1993)


POSTHUMUS, Stephanie, French Écocritique: Reading Contemporary French Theory and Fiction Ecologically (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017)


POSTHUMUS, Stephanie and Louisa Mackenzie (ed.), French Thinking about Animals (East Lansing: Michigan State UP, 2015)


RECLUS, Elisée, Du Sentiment de la nature dans les sociétés modernes, Paris, Bartillat, 2019


RIGBY, Kate, Dancing with Disaster: Environmental Histories, Narratives, and Ethics for Perilous Times (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015)


SERRES, Michel, Le Contrat naturel (Paris: Flammarion, 1992)


THOMAS, Chantal and Anne-Marie Mercier-Faivre (ed.) L’Invention de la catastrophe au 18e siècle: du châtiment divin au désastre naturel (Genève: Droz, 2008)


WESTPHAL, Bertrand (ed.), La Géocritique: mode d’emploi (Limoges: PULIM, 2000)


WOLFE, Cary (ed.), Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003)



Some general electronic resources


Welcome to the Anthropocene

Environmental History Resources

Environmental Humanities

The Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment

European Society for Environmental History

Bibliographical information about the primary texts and their relevant critical literature will be co-created with students.

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