top of page


The Cultures of Ecology and Place

Image by Tom Keldenich

The Cultures of Ecology and Place

Michael Hrebeniak and Others

This seminar aims to introduce ways of theoretically appraising the many forms of cultural representation of the relationship between humans and their environment, and thereby respond to the most pressing enquiry of our age. 

Contrary to the first-wave of ecocriticism - which tended to depict the ideal human relationship to the land as unchanging rather than contingent upon social, political or geographical factors - teaching themes aim to re-examine the cultural narratives and metaphors that have shaped humanity’s consciousness of its location on earth, and the resulting formations of space and place.

While rooted in the study of literary texts, the seminar will strongly encourage interdisciplinary and comparative practices as a means of exploring material culture, exemplifying Ernst Haeckel’s 1869 definition of ecology as ‘the study of all those complex interactions referred to by Darwin as the conditions of the struggle for existence.’

Students will be encouraged to develop a critical and methodological framework through which to pursue questions that engage with the mediation of forces and forms across culture and nature. Teaching will focus on how artists, theorists and activists pull away from representations of nature as secondary to industrial culture, to examine its many meanings, contradictions and productions (beauty, habitat, wildness, ‘dwelling,’ shamanic agency and resource), and explore such relationships that arise between text, memory, place and biology.

Teaching will focus primarily on work from the late-eighteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first, with emphasis on the accelerating understanding in the West of ecological and spatial issues. The programme will also include psychogeographic field studies of the ‘rewilding’ of Wicken Fen (Cambridgeshire), the ‘post-pastoralism’ of Orford Ness (Suffolk), and the urban ‘over-writing’ of Spitalfields (East London) as a means of exploring contested narratives of place – not to mention taking the academic enterprise outdoors.

Seminar Themes:

  • Ecocriticism & Spatial Theory: Bearings

  • Wild Writing: 1. Britain, 1760-2012

  • Body Narratives & Interior Space

  • Wild Writing: 2: USA, 1835-2012

  • Field Study: 1. Rewilding Wicken Fen

  • Ecologies of Text and Visual Culture

  • Urbanism

  • Field Study: 2. Spitalfields and/or Wisbech as Urban Palimpsest

  • Postcolonial Ecocriticism: 1. Indigeneity, Development & Entitlement

  • Postcolonial Ecocriticism: 2. Zoo-criticism

  • Ethnopoetics

  • Field Study: 3. Orford Ness and the Post-Pastoral

Selected Reading List

Abrams, David, The Spell of the Sensuous (2007)

Adams, Henry, The Education of Henry Adams (1918)

Adamson, Joni, American Indian Literature, Environmental Justice, and Ecocriticism: The Middle Place (2001)

Andserson, Lorriane, Scott Slovic and John P. O'Grady, Literature and Environment: A Reader on Nature and Culture (1998)

Armbruster, Karla M. and Kathleen R. Wallace, Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism (2001)

Augé, Marc, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (1995),

Bachelard, Gaston, The Poetics of Space (1964)

Basford, Kathleen, The Green Man (1978)

Bate, Jonathan, Song of the Earth (2000)

Bateson, Gregory, Naven: A Survey of the Problems Suggested by a Composite Picture of the Culture of a New Guinea Tribe Drawn from Three Points of View (1958)

Bateson, Gregory, Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology (2000)

Baudelaire, Charles, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays (1964)

Baudrillard, Jean, Selected Writings (1988)

Benjamin, Walter, Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn, New York: Schocken, 1969

Benjamin, Walter, The Arcades Project (2002)

Bennett, Michael and David Teague, The Nature of Cities: Ecocriticism and Urban Environments (1999)

Berger, John, And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos (1978)

Bleakley, Alan, The Animalizing Imagination: Totemism, Textuality and Ecocriticism (2000)

Borlik, Todd Andrew, Ecocriticism and Early Modern English Literature: Green Pastures (2010)

Braddock, Alan C., Dr. Christoph Irmscher, Lawrence Buell and Angela L. Miller, A Keener Perception: Ecocritical Studies in American Art History (2009)

Branch, Michael P. and Scott Slovic, The ISLE Reader: Ecocriticism, 1993-2003 (2003)

Braudel, Fernand, Capitalism and Material Life, 1400-1800 (1973)

Breidbach, Olaf, Irenaus Eibl-Eibersfeldt and Richard Hartmann, Art Forms in Nature: Prints of Ernst Haeckel (1974)

Brody, Hugh, Maps and Dreams (1981)

Brody, Hugh, The Other Side of Eden (2000)

Broswimmer, Frank J., Ecocide: A Short History of the Mass Extinction of Species (2002)

Brown, Norman O., Closing Time (1973)

Buell, Lawrence, The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination (2005)

Carson, Rachel, Silent Spring (1962)

Chomsky, Noam, Hegemony or Survival (2004)

Churchill, Caryl, Plays Four (2008)

Clark, Timothy, The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment (2011)

Conrad, Joseph, Heart of Darkness (1902)

Corbin, Henri, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth: From Mazdean Iran to Shi'ite Iran (1977)

Coupe, Laurence, The Green Studies Reader: From Romanticism to Ecocriticism (2000)

Creeley, Robert, A Quick Graph: Collected Notes and Essays (1970)

Crow, Thomas, Corinne Diserens, Christina Kravagna and Judith Russi, Gordon Matta-Clark (2003)

Darwin, Charles, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859)

Davis, Mike, Dead Cities (2002)

Davis, Mike, and Daniel Bertrand Monk (eds.), Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism (2007)

Dawson, Fielding, The Black Mountain Book (1991)

Deakin, Roger, Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees (2008)

Deakin, Roger, Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain (2009)

Debord, Guy, The Society of the Spectacle (1967)

de Certeau, Michel, The Practice of Everyday Life (1984)

Denevan, William M, ed. Carl Sauer on Culture and Landscape: Readings and Commentaries (2009)

Deleuze, Gilles, Negotiations (1995)

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Volume Two (1987)

DeLillo Don, ‘In the Ruins of the Future,’ Harper's Magazine (Dec. 2001)

DeLoughrey, Elizabeth and George B. Handley, Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment (2011),

Derrida, Jacques, Spectres of Marx (1993)

Dobrin, Sidney I. and Kenneth B. Kidd, Wild Things: Children's Culture and Ecocriticism (2004)

Dodds, E.R., The Greeks and the Irrational (1951)

Duncan, Robert, The Opening of the Field (1960)

Eddington, Arthur, Science and the Unseen World (1929)

Egan, Gabriel, Green Shakespeare: From Ecopolitics to Ecocriticism (2006)

Eliade, Mercea, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (1959)

Eliot, T.S., Selected Poems (1954)

Evans, George Ewart, Ask the Fellows Who Cut the Hay (1975)

Evans, Mary Ann, The Arts at Black Mountain College (2002)

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, Selected Essays (2003)

Engels, Friedrich, The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State (1972)

Fenollosa, Ernest, 'The Chinese Written Character as Resource for Modern Poetry,' in Donald M. Allen and Warren Tallman, The Poetics of the New American Poetry (1973)

Foucault, Michel, The History of Sexuality, Volume One: An Introduction (1979)

Foucault, Michael, Foucault Live: Collected Interviews, 1961-1984 (1996)Fuller, Richard Buckminster, Earth Inc.. (1973)

Fraser, Sir James, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (1915)

Fuller, Richard Buckminster, Jerome Agel and Quentin Fiore, I Seem To be A Verb (1970)

Garrard Greg, Ecocriticism (2011)

Gersdorf, Catrin and Sylvia Mayer, Nature in Literary and Cultural Studies: Transatlantic Conversations on Ecocriticism (2006)

Gilpin, William, Three Essays - On Picturesque Beauty - On - Picturesque Travel - And On - Sketching Landscape - To Which Is Added A Poem On Landscape Painting (2009)

Ginsberg, Allen, The Fall of America: Poems of These States, 1965-1971 (1972)

Glotfelty, Cheryll and Harold Fromm, The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology (1996)

Gray, Chris, Postmodern War: The New Politics of Conflict (1997)

Graves, Robert, White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (1961)

Gunderson, Lance H., and C.S. Holling, Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems (2001)

Haeckel, Ernst, Art Forms in Nature (1974)

Haeckel, Ernst, Evolution in Modern Thought (2008)

Haraway, Donna, A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century (1985)[

Harvey, David, Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography (2001)

Harvey, David, The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism (2010)

Huggan, Graham and Helen Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism (2010)

Hunt, John Dixon, The Picturesque Garden in Europe (2004)

Husserl, Edmund, The Idea of Phenomenology (1999)

Illich, Ivan, Tools for Conviviality (1973)

Ingram, David, The Jukebox in the Garden: Ecocriticism and American Popular Music Since 1960 (2010)

James, William, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1985)

Jameson, Fredric, Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991)

Kamenka, Eugene, Bureaucracy (1989)

Keats, John, The Complete Poems (1986)

Keats, John, Letters - A Selection (1970)

Knabb, Ken, Situationist International Anthology (2006)


Kolodny, Annette, The Land Before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Frontiers, 1630-1860 (1984)

Korzybski, Alfred, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics (1933)

Kropotkin, Peter, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902)

Laing, R.D, The Self and Others: Further Studies in Sanity and Madness (1961)

Lawrence, D.H., Studies in Classic American Literature (1971)

Lawrence, D.H., Selected Critical Writings (1998)

Lefebvre, Henri, The Production of Space (1974)

LeMenager, Stephanie, Teresa Shewry and Ken Hiltner, Environmental Criticism for the Twenty-First Century (2011)

Lévi-Strauss, Claude, The Savage Mind (1966)

Lifton, Robert Jay, Boundaries: Psychological Man in Revolution (1970)

London, Jack, The Call of the Wild, White Fang and Other Stories (1981)

Love, Glen A., Practical Ecocriticism: Literature, Biology, and the Environment (2003)

Lyell, Charles, Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man (1836)

McCarthy, Cormac, The Road (2006)

McClure, Michael, Ghost Tantras (1964)

McClure, Michael, Scratching the Beat Surface (1992)

McClure, Michael, Of Indigo and Saffron: New and Selected Poems (2011)

McGann, Jerome J., The Romantic Ideology (1983)

McLuhan, Marshall, The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962)

Marcuse, Herbert, One Dimensional Man (1964)

Mabey, Richard, Beechcomings: The Narratives of Trees (2008)

Mabey, Richard, Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think About Nature (2010)

Mabey, Richard, The Unofficial Countryside (2010)

Mazel, David, A Century of Early Ecocriticism (2001)

Melville, Herman, Moby Dick; Or, The Whale (1967)

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, The Phenomenology of Perception (1945)

Miller, Henry, The Air Conditioned Nightmare (1945)

Moran, Emilio, F, An Introduction to Human Ecological Relations (Primers in Anthropology) (2006)

Morton, Timothy, Ecology Without Nature (2007)

Muir, John, Nature Writings: The Story of My Boyhood and Youth; My First Summer in the Sierra; The Mountains of California; Stickeen; Essays (1997)

Mumford, Lewis, Technics and Civilisation (1934)

Mumford, Lewis, The Pentagon of Power: The Myth of the Machine (1970)

Murphy, Patrick D., Ecocritical Explorations in Literary and Cultural Studies: Fences, Boundaries, and Fields (2009)

Nead Lynda, Victorian Babylon (2000)

Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Birth of Tragedy (1927)

Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Anti-Christ (1969)

Nixon, Rob, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (2011)

Novak, Barbara, American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: Realism, Idealism and the American Experience (2006)

Nuttall, Jeff, Art and the Degradation of Awareness (2001)

Olson, Charles, The Maximus Poems (1983)

Olson, Charles, Selected Poems (1993)

Olson, Charles, Collected Prose (1997)

Ong, Walter J., Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (1982)

Orme, J.E., Time, Experience and Behaviour (1969)

Piaget, Jean, Biology and Knowledge: An Essay on the Relations Between Organic Regulations and Cognitive Processes (1971)

Rackham, Oliver, The History of the Countryside (1997)

Reich, Wilhelm, The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1946)

Roos, Bonnie, Alex Hunt and John Tallmadge, Postcolonial Green: Environmental Politics and World Narratives (2010)

Rosenberg, Harold, 'Hans Hofmann: Nature into Action,' Art News, Vol. LVI, No. 2 (May 1957)

Rothenberg, Jerome, and Diane Rothenberg (eds.), Symposium of the Whole: A Range of Discourse Toward an Ethnopoetics (1983)

Ruffin, Kimberly N., Black on Earth: African American Ecoliterary Traditions (2010)

Said, Edward, Orientalism (1978)

Scarry, Elaine, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (1985)

Schlosser, Eric, Fast Food Nation: What the All-American Meal is Doing to the World (2002)

Seitz, William C., The Art of Assemblage (1961)

Selvamony, Nirmal and Rayson Alex, Essays in Ecocriticism (2008)

Sickels, Robert C. The Landscape of Hollywood Westerns: Ecocriticism in an American Film Genre (2006)

Sinclair, Iain, London Orbital (2002)

Sinclair, Iain, Lud Heat and Suicide Bridge (2002)

Sinclair, Iain, and Rachel Lichtenstein, Rodinsky’s Room (1999)

Snyder, Gary, Earth House Hold (1969)

Snyder, Gary, The Practice of the Wild (1990)

Snyder, Gary, No Nature: New and Selected Poems (1992)

Snyder, Gary, Mountains and Rivers Without End (1997)

Spengler, Oswald, The Decline of the West (1991)

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (1987)

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, The Post-Colonial Critic (1990)

Stein, Rachel, Shifting the Ground: American Women Writers' Revisions of Nature, Gender, and Race (1997)

Steward, Julian, Theory of Culture Change: The Methodology of Multilinear Evolution (1955)

Suzuki, Daisetz T., Zen and Japanese Culture (1959)

Tallmadge, John and Henry Harrington, Reading Under the Sign of Nature: New Essays in Ecocriticism (2000)

Thoreau, Henry David, Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854)

Thoreau, Henry David, Excursions: The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Volume IX (1894)

Tufnell, Miranda, and Chris Crickmay, A Widening Field: Journeys in Body and Imagination (2004)

Twain, Mark, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1996)

Vecsey, Christopher, Imagine Ourselves Richly: Mythic Narratives of North American Indians (1991)

Virilio, Paul, Speed and Politics: An Essay on Dromology (1986)

Virilio, Paul, Open Sky (1997)

Virilio, Paul, Art as Far as the Eye Can See (2007)

Wheeler, Wendy and Hugh Dunkerley, eds. Earthographies: Ecocriticism and Culture, New Formations 64 (Spring 2008)

White, Gilbert, The Natural History of Selborne (1977)

Whitehead, Alfred North, Process and Reality (1979)

Williams, Raymond, The Country and the City (1975)

Willoquet-Maricondi, Paula, Framing the World: Explorations in Ecocriticism and Film (2010)

Wordsworth, William, The Poetical Works (1917)

Wright, Laura, Wilderness into Civilized Shapes: Reading the Postcolonial Environment (2010)

Wright, Patrick, A Journey Through Ruins: The Last Days of London (2009)

Wright, Patrick, On Living in an Old Country: The National Past in Contemporary Britain (2009)

Yee, Lydia and Philip Ursprung,  Laurie Anderson, Trisha Brown, Gordon Matta-Clark: Pioneers of the Downtown Scene, New York 1970s (2011)

Zapf, H., ‘Literature as Cultural Ecology: Notes Towards a Functional Theory of Imaginative Texts, with Examples from American Literature,’ in REAL: Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature 17 (2001)

Zizek, Slavoj, Violence (2008)

bottom of page