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 opens by tracing the classical origins of English landscape theory, looking at garden poems,the pastoral and georgic traditions and the seminal contribution to landscape writing made by James Thomson in The Seasons (1726-30). It then moves on to examine the aesthetic theories of Edmund Burke, William Gilpin and Uvedale Price, who together popularised the beautiful, the sublime and the picturesque as conditioning modes of looking at landscapes.. We will make a site visit to Rougemont Gardens, in a deconstructive spirit of enquiry to investigate whether it is possible to view the environment independently of 18th-century aesthetic concerns.




The second section of the module explores the manifold uses of landscape in 18th-century and subsequent literature. We will examine how the relationship between the external world and the interior imagination changed across major texts by Thomas Gray, Charlotte Smith, , Jane Austen, S.T. Coleridge and their successors.


One of the key aims of the module is to connect the 18th century and Romantic period with modern writers such as R.S. Thomas, Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes, Richard Mabey, Alice Oswald, Robert Macfarlane and Kathleen Jamiee, before examining a prominent postmodern revisitation of 18th-century landscape aesthetics, Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia.



The assessment for the module includes a project which invites students to explore literary responses to places known to them, and discuss their findings with the wider group. Besides weekly seminars, the meetings held on alternate weeks will consist of a lecture or a workshop where students will undertake a range of research-based tasks. 

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 English landscape writing and to set its 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 plus extracts to be included in a reading pack.


Section 1: the Classical Inheritance, including garden literature, Pastoral, Georgic and Graveyard Poetry (indicative authors include Alexander Pope, James Thomson and Thomas Gray).


Section 2: the Beautiful, the Sublime and the Picturesque (Edmund Burke, William Gilpin, Uvedale Price, Richard Payne Knight, William Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft).


Section 3: from Romanticism to Naturalism (Wordsworth, William Hazlitt, Charlotte Smith, Gilbert White, John Clare)


Section: Vanishing Landscape and Landscape Today (Coleridge, Oliver Goldsmith, Philip Larkin, Tom Stoppard). 

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
Presentation157 minutes (individual) or 15 minutes (pair).1-7, 9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Place-based Research Project352000 words1-6, 8-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Essay503000 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
Presentation1000-words essay1-6, 8-9Referral/Deferral Period
Place-based Research ProjectPlace-based Research Project1-6, 8-9Referral/Deferral Period
EssayEssay1-6, 8-9Referral/Deferral Period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

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

 Secondary literature


  • 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


Key words search

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