Learning outcomes of the course unit
The course aims to provide students with historical-literary knowledge of and enable them to develop advanced critical-analytical skills in relation to the main literary manifestations and forms from Romanticism to today that pertain to the critical and theoretical discourses of postcolonial literatures, of the intersections between ecology and literature, and ecocriticism. During the course, students will acquire:
- research and analytical skills applicable to the complex manifestations of Anglophone literature and culture from the Romantic period to the present day;
- in-depth knowledge of theoretical notions, authors, works, movements and aesthetic ideas central to the literature in English from the nineteenth century to nowadays, with the support of an updated critical bibliography;
- the ability to contextualize and analyse complex texts in English from both a formal and a thematic-ideological perspective;
- the ability to outline research projects autonomously through the deployment of traditional and digital bibliographical resources;
- the ability to articulate critical judgments about complex literary and cultural phenomena based on textual close readings;
- communicative skills allowing them to formulate ideas and commentaries in English in a linguistic register and lexis appropriate to literary studies, as well as corresponding to the level of language proficiency expected for the year of the Laurea Magistrale attended by students;
- the autonomy to apply the skills developed during the course also to non-literary texts.
In addition, in line with the educational project of the Laurea Magistrale, the course aims to develop transversal skills of communication, engagement and problem-solving, in individual and group contexts, that is to help students acquire a varied and transferable skill-set applicable both to professional and non-professional situations.
- Knowledge of spoken and written English equivalent to at least B2 level of CEFR;
- basic knowledge of literary genres;
- general knowledge of the literary history from the Romantics to today;
- familiarity with the language of literary criticism and theory;
- general knowledge of the British history of colonialism and decolonization.
Course contents summary
Representing the Environment: Anglophone Literatures and Ecocriticism
This course will examine literary responses to our natural environment and how writers, cultural theorists, literary historians and theorists have addressed environmental questions even before current cogent concerns such as the climate crisis, population growth, urbanization, and technological change. Some of these questions will be at the heart of the course, during which students will be asked to engage with a range of literary texts and corresponding critical discourses, including Postcolonial criticism, environmental politics (or ecopolitics) and Ecocriticism. One central purpose of this course is to bring together the concerns of postcolonial critics and environmental humanists. Key questions to be addressed will be: which meanings do writers convey by focusing on the non-human environment, such as land, water and animals? In what ways are environmental issues inseparable from social issues? What does an epistemology of nature involve? How do writers represent human/non-human relations? Throughout the course, works of theory will provide the critical tools to examine works of the imagination. The first part of the course (about 6-8 hours) will focus on the presentation of the main theories concerning postcolonial literatures, literature and the environment, ecocriticism from Romanticism to today. So, in this case, the first key question will be: what is the legacy of Romanticism’s idea of nature as central to human creativity, beauty, social transformation, and spiritual fulfilment? The rest of the course (about 28-30 hours) will be devoted to the analysis of a selection of texts read through an ecocritical lens. The primary texts will be representative of “world literature” in English from a variety of regions and countries, both within and outside the UK: Scotland, Ireland, India, the Caribbean and South Africa. Students will explore how selected writers from these regions represent environmental experience and depict place(s) as linked to the natural world in the contexts of colonialism (including internal colonialism) and imperialism, and postcolonialism. The selected writers are: Nan Shepherd and Neil Gunn (Scotland); Seamus Heaney and a selection of women poets (Ireland); Amitav Ghosh (India); J. M. Coetzee (South Africa); Jean Rhys (the Caribbean). The texts will be first introduced by the lecturer and then discussed by the students. The implication is that students must read each primary text before the class dedicated to it. All the texts, in the original language, will be analyzed in relation to the historical and aesthetic context and pointing out their narratological or poetic, stylistic, thematic and ideological characteristics. On a voluntary basis, students may decide to give short presentations on one of the texts or central themes of the course. In this case, the oral exam will simply consist of a discussion of the essay which they are meant to hand in at least one week before the exam session.
The extended and detailed program, with specific bibliographic references, will be provided at the beginning of the course in November. The list of primary texts will be provided much earlier, so that students can start reading them before the course starts.
India. Amitav Ghosh, "The Hungry Tide"
Caraibi: Jean Rhys, "Wide Sargasso Sea"
Sud-Africa: J. M. Coetzee, "Disgrace" e "Life and Times of Michael K"
Scozia: Neil Gunn, "Highland River" e Nan Shepherd, "The Living Mountain"
Irlanda: selezioni di poesie di Seamus Heaney, Paula Meehan e Moya Cannon.
Texts to prepare the theoretical frame of the course, inter alia:
Clark Timothy; "The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment"
DeLoughrey Elizabeth and George B. Handley (eds), "Postcolonial Ecologies. Literatures of the Environment"
Flannery Eoin , "Ireland and Ecocriticism"
Gairn Louisa, "Ecology and Modern Scottish Literature"
Garrard, Greg, "Ecocriticism"
Hall, Dewey W., "Romantic ecocriticism: origins and legacies"
Lidström, Susanna, "Nature, environment and poetry : ecocriticism and the poetics of Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes"
Riem Antonella e John Tiemme (eds), "Ecology and Partnership Studies in Anglophone Literatures"
Roos Bonnie and Alex Hunt (eds), "Postcolonial Green. Environmental Politics & World Narratives"
Westling Louise (ed), "The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Environment"
All texts will be available in the Library of the Universtiy of Parma (V.le San Michele 9), although most secondary materials will be provided online in pdf format on the University of Modena digital platform (Dolly). Complete bibliographical references will be provided before the beginning of the course in the detailed syllabus.
In the absence of national norms imposing restrictions, all teaching activities will take place in presence. If, on the other hand, restrictive measures are imposed, upplementary teaching supports will be identified, including video-teaching and recording, always in accordance with the guidelines given by the Universities of Parma and Modena-Reggio Emilia. The didactic activities will be mainly of two types. On the one hand, lectures aimed at introducing the theoretical framework of the course, the main aspects inherent to the historical-cultural context, the authors and the texts. Such introductory classes will rely on both the reference bibliography of the course and additional textual or visual materials that students will find in the Library of the Unit of Foreign Languages and Literatures in Parma, or on the online teaching platform of the University of Modena (Dolly). On the other hand, the activities will include seminars, during which, in accordance with the project of the Master's Degree in Languages, Cultures, Communication, the focus will be mainly on in-depth analysis of specific aspects deriving from the close reading of the selected texts. Therefore, students will be constantly encouraged to participate in the discussions of the texts and the theoretical aspects concerning them through questions posed by the teacher in the forums of the Dolly platform, group work and research to be carried out independently and then shared with their classmates. They will also be spurred to create individual study paths and seek original approaches in the analysis of the themes and issues emerging during the lessons. All the teaching materials (except those under copyright restrictions, which can be borrowed from the library) will be available on the Dolly platform.
Assessment methods and criteria
The knowledge and skills acquired during the course will be assessed through a preliminary essay (for which a list of titles will be provided), and an oral exam, both in English. Both parts of the exam will evaluate the following skills that the student should achieve by the end of his/her learning process:
- oral and written skills in English equivalent at least to C1 level of the Common European Framework, implying the acquisition of the proper lexis for academic literary analyses;
- Specific, in-depth knowledge of writers, texts and contexts in the literary period covered by the course;
- Ability to give individual readings of texts, re-elaborating autonomously the contents of the course, carry out further research on the themes discussed in class, and elaborate personal, motivated opinions on them.
Both the essay topics and oral exam questions are aimed at evaluating the student’s acquired knowledge and skills in re-elaborating what he/she has learnt, and proposing individual interpretations. The assessment of the essay and oral exam will be based on the following criteria:
-failure: no knowledge acquired by the student; improper language, far from the C1 level; no ability to re-elaborate the content of the course, propose individual readings, and articulate personal, motivated opinions;
-pass (18-23/30): minimum knowledge acquired by the student on the authors, texts and contexts discussed in class; on the whole proper language, close to at least C1 level, in spite of some flaws; the student is sufficiently able to re-elaborate the content of the course, express convincing enough opinions, and produce acceptable interpretations of the texts;
-(fairly) good (24-27/30): (fairly) good level achieved in the above mentioned skills and acquired knowledge;
-very good and excellent (28-30/30): all the above mentioned criteria are fully met by the student, who has achieved from very good to excellent results
Expected Learning Objectives
The knowledge and skills expected to be achieved are as follows:
- oral proficiency in both written and spoken English corresponding to the level expected for the year of the Laurea Magistrale attended by students, as well as according to the first language chosen by the student, and, more specifically, full competence in the specific terminology of literary studies;
- knowledge of the texts, authors, contexts and issues examined during the course;
- the ability to study independently, to rework course content in an original way, to build personalized and original study plans, to carry out research using print and digital resources, to express judgments and articulate contents autonomously and with well-structured and convincing arguments.
- ability to engage and problem-solving skills, in individual and group contexts.