Imaging Nature (AHV2010)

StaffDr Joao Florencio - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

In this module you will:

  • Examine the major theories and debates that have supported different Western visual engagements with ‘Nature’ (or the lack thereof), such as discourses on Enlightenment, aesthetics or contemporary ecological thinking
  • Develop an understanding of the complexity of the relationship between ‘Nature’ and ‘Culture’ and how it has been played out in the realm of images. This will be done by tracking visual themes, tropes, and conventions associated with ‘Nature’ throughout modern history and across various media – from painting to film, scientific illustration to photography, television to satellite imagery
  • Develop critical knowledge of the roles played by different modes of looking and image-making in both establishing ‘Nature’ as the ‘great outdoors’ of ‘Culture,’ and in troubling such view
  • Develop the necessary critical and analytical skills to probe the fragility and historicity of past and present understandings of ‘Nature’ and investigate how they have circulated between so-called ‘high art’ and more popular domains of visual culture

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Critically evaluate the dominant concepts and debates informing representations of ‘Nature’ in art and visual culture
  • 2. Analyse coherently and convincingly visual artefacts, both historical and contemporary, in relation to the philosophical, historical, and cultural framings of ‘Nature’ that marked the context of their production
  • 3. Identify the ways in which art and visual culture has played a crucial role in defining, reproducing, and/or troubling different understandings of ‘Nature’ from the 1800s onwards

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Independently research, present, and critically evaluate relevant visual artefacts in relation to the wider cultural, political, and intellectual contexts of their production and reception
  • 5. Critically engage with relevant scholarly texts and relate them, convincingly and coherently, to historical and contemporary visual practices

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Demonstrate adequate research, bibliographical and academic writing skills, and the capacity to construct a coherent argument grounded on visual analysis and scholarly literature
  • 7. Demonstrate basic proficiency in information retrieval and analysis
  • 8. Demonstrate the ability to work collaboratively, orally and/or in written form, towards the development, research, organisation, and articulation of ideas within limited time frames

Syllabus plan

Lectures will be structured thematically in order to address important themes pertaining to ideas and representations of Nature at the intersections of art history, visual culture, literary theory, and philosophy. Major themes addressed by the module will include:

  • What Is ‘Nature’?
  • ‘Nature’, Science and Modernity
  • Visual Cultures of Environmentalism
  • Visual Culture After ‘Nature’

Further to the above:

Seminars will serve to analyse and discuss in detail particular core readings relative to the overall theme of the module.

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 teaching101 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching71 hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching4Field trip
Scheduled learning and teaching1Individual tutorial time
Guided independent study128Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Mini essay750 words1-7Feedback sheet with opportunity for follow-up tutorial
Oral presentation5-10 minutes1-8Oral peer-feedback and feedback sheet with opportunity for follow-up tutorial

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
Essay1002500 words1-7Feedback sheet with opportunity for follow-up tutorial

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-7Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Boetzkes, Amanda. The Ethics of Earth Art. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.
  • Cronon, William, ed. Uncommond Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Co, 1996.
  • Demos, TJ. “Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology.” Third Text 27, no. 1 (2013): 1–9.
  • Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature. Boston: James Munroe & Co., 1836.
  • Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgement. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
    • “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” and “Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History” in Kant: Political Writings, ed. H.S. Reiss. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • Latour, Bruno. We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Leopold, Aldo. A Sandy County Almanac. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Miles, Malcolm. Eco-Aesthetics. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.
  • Mitchell, W. J. T. Landscape and Power. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1994.
  • Morton, Timothy. Ecology Without Nature. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2007.
  • Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. New York: Longmans, Green and Co, 1910.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE –

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Key words search

Nature, Western, art, visual culture, West 19th century, 1800s