• Offered by School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject English
  • Areas of interest English, History, Literature, Creative Arts

This course invites you to engage closely with works of fiction and non-fiction that exemplify and experiment with ‘nature’ and ‘retreat’ as concepts central to American aesthetics. You will be introduced to theories about both ‘nature’ and ‘retreat’, while exploring aesthetic and philosophical experiments with these concepts. You will read the canonical works of nineteenth-century writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Frederick Douglass alongside a variety of twentieth- and twenty-first fiction and non-fiction. In doing so, you will both critically analyse and creatively experiment with words, images and other elements central to how past and present thinkers have conceptualised such topics as being, time, place, self & community, solitude & solace, freedom and the divine while taking a critical stance on issues such as capitalist production and consumption, technological change, war trauma, climate and more.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. define concepts such as ‘nature’ and ‘retreat’ while critically and/or creatively experimenting with how to write and speak about these concepts;
  2. theorise, write and argue about the ways particular texts represent concepts of ‘nature’ and ‘retreat’; and
  3. develop a critical and comparative stance on how specific American texts both represent and shape general ideas concerning ‘nature’ and ‘retreat’.

Indicative Assessment

  1. critical and/or creative concept exercise (20 minutes per weekly in-class written exercise) (25) [LO 1,2,3]
  2. short written exercise (1000 words) (25) [LO 1,2,3]
  3. major critical and comparative essay (2,500 words) (50) [LO 1,2,3]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


130 hours of total student learning time made up from:

a) 36 hours of contact: 24 hours of lectures and 12 hours of tutorials.

b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 12 Units of 1000 level English (ENGL) Courses. Alternatively you may gain permission of the Course Convenor to enrol in this course. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed ENGL2005 or ENGL6021.

Prescribed Texts

N/A Minor Amendments Only

Preliminary Reading

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (Penguin, based on original 1855 edition)

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Herman Melville, ‘Bartley the Scrivener’

Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018)

Michael Finkel, The Stranger in the Woods (2017)

Leave No Trace (2017; director Debra Granik)


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $4080
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $5280
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3427 17 Feb 2025 24 Feb 2025 31 Mar 2025 23 May 2025 In Person N/A

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions