Master in Literature, Landscape and Environment
The MA Literature, Landscape and Environment examines how literature reflects and shapes the way in which we see the landscape and the environment and it gives students the opportunity to study the kind of analyses that are becoming increasingly important to the direction of modern English literary studies.
The MA draws upon our staff's internationally-recognised expertise in the field; our location in a World Heritage site; and it offers tremendous opportunities for students to access unique regional resources.
"The first hour was allotted to making themselves comfortable, for they complained of having a very dirty walk, as they came on foot from Snow-Hill, where Mr Branghton keeps a silver-smith's shop; and the young ladies had not only their coats to brush, and shoes to dry, but to adjust their head-dress, which their bonnets had totally discomposed."
Fanny Burney, Evelina (1778).
"The casual glimpses which the ordinary population bestowed upon that wondrous world of sap and leaves called the Hintock woods had been with these two, Giles and Marty, a clear gaze. They had been possessed of its finer mysteries as of commonplace knowledge; had been able to read its hieroglyphs as ordinary writing."
Thomas Hardy, The Woodlanders (1887).
These scenes, from two novels over a hundred years apart, both depend upon ways of reading the landscape. Burney's depiction of the Branghton daughters depends on the reader being able to decipher the social geography of London: the women have come from the mercantile middle-class City to the elite and fashionable West – and on foot too rather than by coach – and their aspirations of fashionability are subtly derided. Hardy's portrait of Giles and Marty as themselves readers of the landscape also implicates the reader of the novel with the suggestion that we, unlike them, have no longer such an innate and Edenic ability to read the world of 'sap and leaves'.
Ever since Raymond Williams' seminal study The Country and the City, literary critics have become increasingly conscious of the way landscape is represented. This has gained considerable momentum with the spatial and environmental turns of the 1990s and the rapid growth of ecocriticism – literary criticism focused on the representation of the natural world and environmentally-conscious writings. Literary heritage tourism and the use of computer mapping techniques within literary studies as well as within cultural geography are more recent developments which this MA will exploit. It will enable students to address such questions as: how does literature debate humanity's relationship with 'Nature'? How do the conventions of representing various landscapes change over time? What makes 'the country' or 'the wild' what it is? How is 'the city' characterised in literature? How does literature represent environmental destruction? Is it influenced by modern environmental movements?
Course Structure and Content
The programme aims to provide students with an excitingly wide range of issues and approaches in relation to the representations of various kinds of landscapes. Subject to validation, it will present:
- a mix of thematic topics, types of landscape and regions;
- a balance between literature pre- and post-1900;
- a range of methodologies (e.g. Marxism, historicism; ecocriticism; archival research; mapping technology);
- although its main focus is literary, inevitably – given the subject – material culture or real places may also be examined (e.g. the iconography and design of an English Country Estate; the materiality of the London Lord Mayor's show; the Eden Project; the specific topography of journeys or locales).
Teaching and learning on the taught modules will primarily be via seminars, but the programme will also include opportunities for research skills workshops, presentations, field-work and independent research associated with the Dissertation or Project. Assessment will be via essays, proposals, and a final Dissertation or Project.
The programme will consist of one 30-credit research methods module; three 30-credit core modules; one 60-credit dissertation / project module.
- Research: Methods, Resources, Dissemination: Enables students to make the transition from undergraduate work to researching and writing English studies at postgraduate level. This module will be an introduction to postgraduate-level research strategies alongside the focused study of literary texts.
- Core Modules: In order that we can offer as wide and varied a programme as possible the core modules below will act as a ‘shell’ module: each will consist of two themed strands. Opportunities for field trips and/or directed research trips may be offered as an alternative to seminars, depending upon the nature of the thematic strand.
- The Country and the City in History:Topics will be selected from this indicative list:
- The politics of place in early modern literature;
- Civic and national consciousness in early modern literature;
- Staging the nation in early modern London;
- The city and the country estate from Marvell to Austen;
- Transforming poetry: industry in landscapes of the eighteenth century;
- Colonial landscapes and the metropolis in the eighteenth century;
- Romanticism and Ecocriticism.
- Environmental Writing and Ecocriticism:Topics will be selected from this indicative list:
- Place and Ecology;
- 20thC. American nature writing;
- Postwar British nature writing;
- Representations of Canadian wilderness;
- Colonial / postcolonial natures;
- Contemporary environmental fictions;
- Globalising environments;
- The environmental tradition in English literature.
- Chorographies - Case Studies in Region or Place:Topics will be selected from this indicative list:
- Georgian Bath;
- Environmental writers of south-west England;
- Early modern London;
- Gothic London;
- Modernism and rural / suburban London;
- Postcolonial London;
- Writing Los Angeles;
- Twentieth-century Dublin;
- Hardy and Wessex;
- Wordsworth’s lakes;
- Literary journeys.
- The Country and the City in History:Topics will be selected from this indicative list:
- Dissertation / Project: Students can opt for either a traditional written Dissertation or the Project. The Project offers students the opportunity to create a different output, and it can take the form of an applied research or knowledge-transfer type project (for example, the use of cultural geography mapping techniques). This module will also include the opportunity to further pursue links with external organisations and some refresher workshops on research skills.
Teaching Methods and Resources
The MA is founded upon our staff's expertise and substantial publications record in the areas of ecocriticism, contemporary environmental writing, early modern London, postmodern American cities, and literary journeys in modernist/postmodernist literature. One of the programme's staff is chair of the UK branch of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment: its journal Green Letters is published via the Artswork project at Bath Spa University. The MA draws upon and is supported by three research centres: Book, Text and Place 1500-1750; Contemporary Writing; Writing and the Environment and students will become members of the research centres and, therefore, part of the School's research culture.
Our Library offers access to high-quality electronic resources such as Eighteenth-century Collections Online (ECCO), Early English Books Online (EEBO), British History Online, and GEOBASE. Students will also be to able to gain access to research libraries such as the British Library and the Bodleian Library. We also have established links with bodies such as the Science Museum collection at Swindon and Bath Central Library, as well as our close connections with archives at the city of London (for example, the London Metropolitan Archives, the Guildhall Library, and the Centre for Metropolitan History at the Institute of Historical Research).
In addition, the MA draws upon Bath Spa University's location in a World Heritage Site and in a region with many unique literary and historical associations. The region has specific associations with writers from the past: for example, Coleridge, Nether Stowey and the Quantock Hills; Hardy, Dorchester and 'Wessex'; Pope, Fielding, Burney, Austen and Bath. The South West has also been a fruitful locale for contemporary environmentally-conscious writings and is the location of the landmark ecology programme, the Eden Project. The region is also blessed with many fine examples of that iconic vision of the English landscape, the landscaped country estate. In the immediate region one can find, for example, Stourhead, Prior Park, Dryham Park and Bowood House, in addition to our own campuses at Newton Park and Corsham Court. Stourhead (NT), for instance, offers a learning space with talks and access to archival material, and has welcomed the prospect of students shadowing the estate guides. We are also uniquely positioned to build links with other regional organisations; for example, environmental organisations (such as the RSPB or the Forestry Commission), country estates, the National Trust, English Heritage, Bath Preservation Trust, archives at Dorchester (Hardy) and places of literary heritage tourism (such as the homes of Austen, Hardy, T. E. Lawrence, Coleridge, John Cowper Powys).
Typical career destinations include:
- Traditional English postgraduate destinations (e.g. Higher Research degree programmes, public and private sector research careers, book and publishing industries).
- Environmental sector and 'Green' careers (e.g. advocacy, communications, charities, education, internships, ecotourism, urban planning).
- Heritage and tourism sector (e.g. charities and trusts, visitor centres, private estates, local government, planning, management, communications)
- Creative industries (e.g. radio, TV, cable and satellite broadcasters, book publishing, web media, news and magazine media).
We expect all applicants to have a good honours degree (2:1 or above), in an area of literary studies or a related humanities subject.