This Blessed Plot: Landscape and Literature in the Eighteenth Century and Beyond (EAS3407)

StaffDr Andrew Rudd - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module aims to introduce you to the richness and variety of literature produced about the British landscape and the natural environment over the eighteenth century, one of the most turbulent historical periods. A key contention of the module is that landscape writing is never only about landscape; it is also about politics, history, gender, sexuality and empire. The module therefore familiarises you with the critical tools necessary to analysis these forms of writing, among them formal interpretation, identity studies and ecocriticism.


The module introduces the classical and Biblical origins of landscape writing and then guides you through a selection of key texts, including works by Alexander Pope, James Thomson, Robert Bloomfield, Thomas Gray, William Gilpin, Anna Seward, William Wordsworth, Charlotte Smith, Gilbert White, Erasmus Darwin and John Clare. The characteristic feature of the module is that we will read the eighteenth-century texts alongside more recent works with a view to identifying continuities and developments in how we write (or struggle to write) about nature. In previous years, these have included works by Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Alice Oswald and Robert Macfarlane, but you are strongly encouraged to introduce for debate material of your own choosing.


ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a close and thorough knowledge of English landscape writing.
  • 2. Demonstrate an ability to relate English landscape writing to other textual forms and genres, and to the of historical and philosophical contexts with which it engaged;
  • 3. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the critical approaches that have been used in the analysis of English landscape writing.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate an advanced ability to understand literary texts and to set their concerns and modes of expression within historical context.
  • 5. Demonstrate an advanced ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history;
  • 6. Demonstrate an advanced ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas and to apply these ideas to literary texts;

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Through seminar work and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills and an ability to work both individually and in groups;
  • 8. Through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 9. Through research for seminars and essays, demonstrate advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.

Syllabus plan

Reading for the module consists of a number of core texts included in a reading pack and available on ELE.


The first part of the module consists of an introduction to the Pastoral and Georgic modes as they were conceived in the eighteenth century, together with the issues raised by these idealised forms of landscape. We then consider eighteenth-century innovations such as graveyard poetry, the cult of ruins and the aesthetics of the beautiful, the sublime and the picturesque.


The module then turns to more introspective, botanical and scientific realisations of landscape and responses to the natural world in Romantic poetry. To put the principles of the module into practice, we will complete a picturesque walking tour of Rougemont Gardens in Exeter.


Towards the end of the module, presentations of research towards the final essay will take place.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching33Seminars
Guided Independent Study33Study group preparation and meetings
Guided Independent Study70Seminar preparation (individual)
Guided Independent Study164Reading, writing and essay preparation

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentation357 minutes (individual) or 15 minutes (pair).1-7, 9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Place-based Research Project or Essay654000 words1-6, 8-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Presentation2000-words essay1-6, 8-9Referral/Deferral Period
Creative Response or EssayEssay1-6, 8-9Referral/Deferral Period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:


Texts as above, plus extracts available on module ELE site.


Secondary literature


  • John Barrell, The Dark Side of the Landscape: The Rural Poor in English Painting 1730-1840 (1983).



  • Stephen Copley and Peter Garside (eds.), The Politics of the Picturesque: Literature, Landscape and Aesthetics since 1770 (1994).


  • Richard Feingold, Nature and Society: Late Eighteenth-Century Uses of the Pastoral and the Georgic (1978).


  • Tim Fulford, Landscape, Liberty and Authority: Poetry, Criticism and Politics from Thomson to Wordsworth (1996).


  • John Goodridge, Rural Life in Eighteenth-Century English Poetry (1995).



  • Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (1991).


  • Mark Overton, Agricultural Revolution in England: The Transformation of the Agrarian Economy, 1500-1850 (1996).


  • Christiana Payne, Toil and Plenty: Images of the Agricultural Landscape in England, 1780-1890 (1993).


Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Landscape, gardens, nature, eighteenth century, Romanticism, sublime, beautiful, place