• 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
  • Course convener
    • Dr Monique Rooney
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2021
    See Future Offerings

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]

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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.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and 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). You can find your student contribution amount for each course 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

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
3760 22 Feb 2021 01 Mar 2021 31 Mar 2021 28 May 2021 In Person N/A

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