• Offered by School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject English
  • Areas of interest History, Literature, Creative Arts
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course

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. develop in-depth analysis and hone skills in high-level argumentation based on theorising and conceptualising ideas of ‘nature’ and ‘retreat’; and
  3. develop a sophisticated critical, comparative and theoretical 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 (1500 words) (25) [LO 1,2,3]
  3. major comparative essay (3000 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 be studying a Masters level program. Incompatible with ENGL2005 or ENGL3021.

Prescribed Texts

Prescribed texts may include:

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)

Preliminary Reading

As per prescribed texts


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
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.

There are no current offerings for this course.

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