Environmental humanities

Always ecologize!

No study of culture is complete without a study of the broader surround within which culture takes place. The Environmental Humanities understand that “nature” is a pressing object of study for disciplines like English which have traditionally focused on “culture” as an exclusively human enterprise, neglecting to account for the ways that culture is ecologically embedded and composed in relation with animals/animality, with the materialities of specific places, with inanimate as well as animate actors and artifacts … in short, with the more-than-human.

The Department of English has notable strengths in the Environmental Humanities, including in the areas of posthumanism, literary ecocriticism, animal studies, critical regionalism, and eco-theatre. The concentration of faculty and students interested in environmental matters makes the department one of Canada's leading centres for the Environmental Humanities. Particular faculty interests include environmental poetry and drama, biopolitics, cultural politics of climate change, Renaissance horticulture, and rural/wild literature.

Typically the Department offers at least one graduate seminar each term on an environmentally oriented topic. Recent seminars have included "Signifying Canines: Mimesis, Animals, Markets," "Climate and Change on the West Coast,” “Life and Death in BC: Animals and Hunting in West Coast Literatures,”, “At the Edge of the Human: Plant and Animal Life in Early Modern Literature,” “Poetry Nature Knowledge Gender” (on medieval literature),  “Becoming Human in the Middle Ages,” "Poetry Northwest, 1950-80," and "Forest Fetish: Reading the Nature of the West Coast."  Future graduate seminars include "Zoo-Texts: The Trace of the Animal in Contemporary Literature and Theory."

Environmental Humanities matters are addressed in courses across all periods and genres, but the department regularly offers a specialized undergraduate course on literature and environment (ENGL 478: Special Studies in Literature and Environment), the topic of which varies each year. Recent topics have included “Thinking Through Nature,” "The Environmental Gaze: Literature, Film, Theory," "A History of Nature Writing,” and “The End of the Human." Graduate students in our department are able to base individual directed studies (ENGL 590) on undergraduate courses, which has been done regularly with ENGL 478.

 The research cluster in Environmental Humanities enjoys strong ties with the department's MA concentration in Literatures of the West Coast and with the interdisciplinary program in Cultural, Social, and Political Thought (CSPT). In 2014, members of this cluster helped to organize the annual conference of the Western Literature Association, which was held in Victoria. In 2009, the Department hosted the biennial conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE). Faculty members have also served on the executive of the Association for Literature, Culture, and Environment in Canada (ALECC); helped organize ALECC's first three conferences; and published books and articles on environmental matters in leading venues in Canada and the U.S.

The department welcomes applications from prospective MA and PhD students interested in environmentally oriented topics in the full range of historical and geographical contexts. We also support student interest in interdisciplinary research.

Nicholas Bradley (American, Canadian, ecocriticism, poetry)

Misao Dean (Canadian, animal studies)

Erin Ellerbeck (Renaissance Studies)

Iain Higgins (environmental poetry, Canadian, medieval)

Eric Miller (poetry, 18th century)

Allan Mitchell (medieval, theories of objects and ecologies)

Richard Pickard (18th century, Canadian, ecocriticism)

Sheila Rabillard (environmental theatre)

Nicole Shukin (Canadian, theory, animal studies)

  • Animal studies (Dean, Shukin)
  • Canadian literature (Bradley, Dean, Higgins, Pickard, Shukin)
  • Drama (Rabillard)
  • Medieval literature and culture (Higgins, A. Mitchell)
  • Ecocriticism (Bradley, Pickard)
  • Eighteenth-century studies (Miller, Pickard)
  • Poetry (Bradley, Higgins, Miller, Pickard)
  • Posthumanism (A. Mitchell, Shukin)
  • Theory (A. Mitchell, Shukin)
  • June 2009: ASLE conference ("The Fate of Place")
  • August 2010: ALECC conference ("The Ecological Community")
  • January 2011: Interdepartmental colloquium, UVic
  • Future: Reading group in EH; graduate student research symposium; participation in events organized by ALECC and NiCHE (Network in Canadian Environmental History); visiting speakers.