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Modern/Contemp. Studies: Eco-criticism/biopolitics


Admission requirements

Bachelor-degree in Humanities.


“… it is necessary to renew visions and aesthetics relating to the earth” (Edouard Glissant)

When, in the seventies of the last century, environmentalism began to grow into a loud, inescapable social movement , the fields of art and literature witnessed the emergence of ecocriticism. During its first decades, ecocriticism was a predominantly North-American approach. Today, it has developed into a richly diverse, booming field, in which European and postcolonial ecocritical approaches may take their inspiration from theories as widely divergent as evolutionary theory, posthumanism and semiotics. One issue unites ecocritics, though: the conviction that the relation between human beings and the environment, between nature and culture, has to be radically rethought. Art and literature play an important role in that re-imagination. In this course, we will discuss how art and literature explore the changing ways in which artists and theorists give meaning to nature. For some, nature appears as a mystic unity or a web of interconnections, of which human beings are a part. Some ecocritics embrace these imaginations of nature as wholeness and interconnectedness as an enabling new vision; they work from a deep commitment to environmental issues, and a marked distrust of textually inclined poststructuralis theories. Other ecocritics, in contrast, build on the poststructuralist critique of the dualisms nature/culture, and they develop posthumanist and/or new materialist readings of environmental art. They will be more interested in art works that bring out the intertwining of nature and politics, or that evoke nature as the zero point of life, the ungraspable site of the “real.” This course is especially interested in the latter perspective. We will look at inspiring, scandalous and disturbing artistic and theoretical efforts to relate nature to sex, death, the “real,” and matter. We will test the productivity of exhilirating new (or not so new) approaches such as marxism, phenomenology, psychoanalysis, evolutionary theory, Deleuzian new materialism, and queer theory. We will do so through the close reading of novels, poems, land art, landscapes, and sometimes very challenging art work. One of the main art forms we will discuss is bio-art: a highly controversial art practice that works with living material (animal or human cells and tissues). However, we will also venture out into the open, to engage with what this course is all about: the environment, the surroundings, nature, or the earth.

Course objectives

Students know the most important ecocritical approaches in the world;
students have a sharp insight into some of the important debates in the field, and can take an independent position within those debates;
students show that thay are able to produce well structured analyses, and well argued interpretation of a series of art works that relate to the environment and to nature.


Thursday 10.00 – 13.00, LIPSIUS/001

Mode of instruction

Tutorial, lectures.

Assessment method

Final paper (70%). One presentation, one mid-term short essay (each 15%).


Yes, see Blackboard.

Reading list

Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin. Postcolonial ecocriticism; Greg Garrard, Ecocriticism. Separate texts by Georges Bataille, Lawrence Buell, Greta Gaard, Elizabeth Grosz, Félix Guattari, Ursual Heisse, Bruno Latour, Timo Maran, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Dana Phillips, Londa Schiebinger, Krysztof Ziarek, and others.


Via uSis.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Dr. I. Hoving