Nature and the natural in the humanities: Teaching for environmental sustainability

Date: 27 April, 2012
Location: Arts 201, Arts Building (R16 on map), University of Birmingham
Event type: Workshop

Location map | Programme

This event is being supported by the Higher Education Academy.

Climate change and environmental degradation are often described as the pressing concerns of the current generation. This workshop aims to explore ways in which lecturers in the humanities can engage with these issues through the study of literature, language, religion, philosophy, history and art. Relationships between humans, the environment, nature and landscape are themes throughout human history in literature, philosophy, art and religion through struggles with and over nature. A wide variety of literature can be read and reread in these terms—for example Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Thoreau’s ‘experiment’ in Waldenand social commentary on the ideology of the rural life such as in Ringuet’s Trente Arpents or even the iconic ‘road trip’ books or movies such as Kerouac’s On the Road. The environment and non-human actors play a key role in religions as objects of worship, sacrifice, uncleanness, food (both permitted and prohibited) and designated sacred spaces. In historical terms the natural environment has informed national identity, foundation myths and is seen as a source of economic prosperity and culture.

This workshop will explore how these themes might inform the university curriculum in the humanities. Papers are welcome in, but not limited to, the following themes.

-  Relationships between humans and the natural environment in literature, culture, history or religion.

-  Language or philosophy and environmental change

-  Animals and other non-humans in literature, culture, history or religion

-  Fictional and historical landscapes

-  Rereading classic texts as environmental texts.

The preservation, protection and reproduction of and reproduction of historical landscapes, e.g. national parks, living history museums.


  • This event is free of charge
  • Please note that there is a cancellation fee of £50 if you do not notify us by Monday 16 April 2012 that you are unable to attend.
  • Lunch will be provided

Time Session
10.00 – 10.30 Registration and coffee
10.30 – 10.45 Welcome and housekeeping
10.45 – 11.45 Nature, Culture and 'Sense of Place' : Environmental stewardship of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the total curriculum
Peter Vujakovic, Canterbury Christ Church University

Sacred Natural Sites and the Spiritual Power of Place
Alun Morgan, University of Exeter
11.45 – 12.45 Ecopedagogy, Enchantment and Consillience : "The raw materials for a new kind of nature literature"
Adrian Rainbow, University of Zürich

'What are these roots that clutch?' Extending Environmental Thought to Urban Landscapes Through T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land
Elizabeth Harris
12.45 – 13.45 Lunch
13.45 – 14.45

A discourse approach to ecological education in the humanities
Arran Stibbe, University of Gloucestershire

Ecological Philosophy and Transitioning to a Post-Peak (Post-) Humanities
Paul Reid-Bowen, Bath Spa University

14.45 – 15.15 Normalising Catastrophe : the Unsustainability imperative
Andrew Stables, University of Bath

Global Environmental Change and the human condition

Bertrand Guillaume, Université de technologie de Troyes

15.15 – 16.00 Plenary discussion
16.00 Close