Nature Writing & Ecocriticism

In British Studies at Germersheim we have a particular interest in Nature Writing and Ecocritical Literature. We are also interested in the transnational circulation of these forms of writing through translation, particularly from English out into other languages.

Nature Writing can be defined as a kind of literature that fuses scientifically precise observations of non-human nature with lyrical, emotional and autobiographical language. To phrase it in the words of British writer Mark Cocker, it is a “poetry of fact”. As such, it aims at transforming readers’ perspectives on the natural world. Central to this is the idea that “wild nature” is to be found right on our doorsteps – that is, in our everyday encounters and experiences. Nature Writing fosters resonance with non-human nature and thus invites readers to care for the other parts of the natural world. It not only has an aesthetic, but also an ethical and political dimension. Accordingly, it can be understood as “lyric activism” (Jos Smith).

Important voices of British Nature Writing were Gilbert White and John Clare in the 18th century, W.H. Hudson in the 19th century and J. A. Baker and Richard Mabey in the 20th century. The 21st century is seeing a significant expansion of the field. Among the most prominent writers are Robert Macfarlane, Kathleen Jamie, Mark Cocker, Helen Macdonald and Amy Liptrot. The boom in Nature Writing speaks to its increasing relevance in the face of mass extinction and climate crisis. The loss of biodiversity also entails a loss of our linguistic and cultural ability to phrase the natural world in words – it causes ecological illiteracy. Just as language gives value and meaning to the world, Nature Writing has made it its premise to rescue, preserve and refine the language we employ towards the non-human.

The research field of Ecocriticism is not only interested in non-fictional Nature Writing as defined above, but also in Ecopoetry and Ecofiction. Central to all these fluid genres is the idea of an environmental, ecological narrative and the reflection on the relationships between humans and the other parts of life.

Projects

Summer term 2020: “Teaching Creative Nature Writing and Translation” in the undergraduate seminar “Field Notes from a Small Planet: Translation of Recent British Nature Writing” (see: Publications: Sonderausgabe "Lehrprojekt: Nature Writing und Übersetzung.")

Publications

Kalinowski, Katharina Maria and Melina Lieb. "Birches Like Barcodes: Responses to Robert Macfarlane's Masterclass." Arcadiana 22 January 2021. <https://arcadiana.easlce.eu/2021/01/22/birches-like-barcodes/>.

Sonderausgabe "Lehrprojekt: Nature Writing und Übersetzung." 06|magazin 2021. <https://www.06magazin.de/artikel/studium/>.

Lieb, Melina. “Teaching Creative Nature Writing and Translation.” Arcadiana 8 September 2020. <https://arcadiana.easlce.eu/2020/09/08/teaching-creative-nature-writing-and-translation/>.

— “Lehrprojekt: Nature Writing und Übersetzung.” Arcadiana 8 September 2020. <https://arcadiana.easlce.eu/2020/09/08/lehrprojekt-nature-writing-und-ubersetzung/>.

Further Links

European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture and the Environment (EASLCE) <https://www.easlce.eu/>.

Association for the Study of Literature and Environment UK and Ireland (ASLE-UKI) <https://asle.org.uk/>.

Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) <https://www.asle.org/>.

Arcadiana: A Blog about Literature, Culture and the Environment. <https://arcadiana.easlce.eu/>.