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Module

GEO8011 : Environmental Humanities

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr James Riding
  • Lecturer: Dr Matthew Richmond, Professor Rachel Woodward, Dr Mark Griffiths, Dr Robert Shaw, Dr Alice Cree, Dr Christopher Hackney, Dr Gainbi Park, Professor Andy Large, Dr Catherine Walker, Professor Alastair Bonnett
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 50 student places
Semesters

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System

Aims

This module explores relationships between the human and non-human, person and thing, society and nature, bringing new perspectives to the study of the Anthropocene through critiques of this concept. It complicates the dichotomies highlighted above, and responds to pressing socio-ecological concerns using state-of-the-art theoretical approaches in the humanities to address environmental issues, asking how does human activity shape the natural world?

Drawing upon expertise in human and physical geography at Newcastle University, the module forcefully suggests that the humanities offer a unique perspective on habitat loss and destruction, toxic releases, climate change, sea-level rise, and how this is all experienced unevenly in landscapes as the reserves of the earth are drained, burned, depleted, poisoned, exterminated, and otherwise exhausted.

This module moves beyond merely acknowledging that humans have impacted the environment and engages with new critical ways to describe this epoch termed the Anthropocene. The Plantationocene, the Chthulucene, the Capitalocene, and a Billion Black Anthropocenes are employed in this module to reveal that the Anthropocene is a term that needs rethinking. Students will deeply explore key terms such as landscape, nature, and wilderness, and will engage with theory in the environmental humanities on decolonial ecologies, hybrid and cyborgian ontologies, kinship, multispecies and more-than-human ethics, as well as recent infrastructural, materialist, speculative, abyssal, negative, and post-foundational approaches in this transdisciplinary field.

Built around existing world-leading research expertise across the vibrant Geography unit at Newcastle University, the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS) and the Living Deltas UKRI GCRF Hub, this module offers an opportunity for students to be critical, creative, and ambitious, gaining a range of valuable employability skills in content creation for non-academic audiences. It will explore and ask students to closely engage with ecological questions from across the globe, placing colonialism, capitalism, and enduring racial hierarchies at the centre of the conversation about human-caused environmental change. It is shaped by research-led teaching, cutting-edge theory, and case-study examples from experts in this exciting and growing transdisciplinary field.

Students will get the chance to hear from a range of academics speaking about their research in a variety of global and local settings, from the Middle East, Latin America, South East Asia, and the Balkans, to the night sky, outer space, and the underground via the North East. They will discuss pressing environmental issues with peers and module staff, focusing on plastic, sand, bogs, peat, rivers, deltas, islands, and hurricanes, bombs, tungsten, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, carcinogens, land mines, mass graves, nuclear missiles and radar, and much more, exploring more-than-human infrastructures in cities and in rural communities across the globe that drive human-nonhuman relations.

Students will also have the opportunity to immerse themselves in literature and creative writing on landscape, nature, and wilderness in environmental philosophy, environmental history, ecocriticism, ecopoetics, cultural geography, cultural anthropology, and political ecology.

Outline Of Syllabus

SECTION ONE: FOUNDATIONS IN ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES


Lecture 1: Introducing Environmental Humanities (2-hour lecture incorporating assessment brief)

Workshop 1: Researching Environmental Humanities (2-hour methods workshop introducing arts-based methods)



SECTION TWO: KEY TERMS IN ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES


Lecture 2: Landscape? (2-hour interactive lecture including discussion of key readings)

Lecture 3: Nature? (2-hour interactive lecture including discussion of key readings)

Lecture 4: Anthropocene? (2-hour interactive lecture including discussion of key readings)



SECTION THREE: DOING ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES


Lecture 5: Decolonising Field Ecologies (2-hour lecture incorporating group discussion)

Lecture 6: Military Landscapes (2-hour lecture incorporating group discussion)

Lecture 7: Rivers (2-hour lecture incorporating group discussion)

Lecture 8: Hurricanes (2-hour lecture incorporating group discussion)

Lecture 9: The Night (2-hour lecture incorporating group discussion)

Lecture 10: Childhood (2-hour lecture incorporating group discussion)

Lecture 11: Infrastructures (2-hour lecture incorporating group discussion)



SECTION FOUR: ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES PROJECTS

Workshop 2: Crafting Workshop (2-hour workshop incorporating assessment guidance and crafting)

Presentation 1: students present their arts-based research project (Deadline TBC)

Report 1: students reflect upon the arts-based data they have gathered (Deadline TBC)

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion248:0096:001. Students will each undertake an assessed presentation to share their arts-based environmental humanities project with peers. 2. Students will each submit an essay reflecting upon the use of arts-based methods to explore environmental issues
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00Lectures to cover academic content and all incorporate element of group discussion
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading136:0078:00Students are required to prepare for each lecture and workshop by completing reading specific to each session and attending each session ready to engage with staff and peers
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops22:004:00Workshops will introduce assessment and provide time to explore ideas and create arts-based outputs
Total200:00
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module provides key information to students through 11 x 2-hour lectures to enable students to competently explore environmental thought

The module provides methods training specific to this module through 2 x 2-hour methods workshops to enable students to complete the innovative assessment

The module enables space for peer-learning through discussion sessions built into each 2-hour lecture to discuss key texts and to define key terms

The module enables students to learn field based skills and they will be expected to undertake self-guided field excursions to explore the local environment, as well as researching environmental humanities topics internationally

The module gives students the opportunity to experiment in the field and the module leader will produce detailed guidance on the assessment for the module including ideas for self-guided excursions to collect arts-based data to gain new skills in content creation

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation2A40Students will undertake a 10-minute assessed oral presentation where they will share the arts-based methods they have used and creative output(s) produced to engage with the environment
Essay2A60Students will produce a 2500-word essay which reflects upon the use of arts-based methods to explore the environment drawing upon research in the environmental humanities
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The module has a practical component for students to complete: i) use arts-based methods to produce a creative output(s) that engages with the environment and environmental humanities; ii) share this with peers at a student conference in a 10-minute assessed presentation (40% of module grade).

The written assessment for this module is to write an essay which reflects upon this process, describing the creative output(s) produced, while also referring to the issue, thing, animal, or landscape that it represents drawing upon knowledge gained as part of this module (60% of module grade).

The oral presentation gives postgraduate students the opportunity to share their creative outputs with peers and allows them to describe why it is that they have chosen to explore a particular issue and why they have chosen to use a particular arts-based method to do so.

The essay then allows postgraduate students to reflect upon the process of producing a creative output to engage with an environmental concern while also incorporating learning and knowledge from the lectures and other teaching activities.

Reading Lists

Timetable