Teaching Environments

Ecocritical Encounters

by Roman Bartosch (Volume editor) Sieglinde Grimm (Volume editor)
©2014 Conference proceedings 265 Pages


The essays in this collection seek to bring together current developments in ecocriticism and the pedagogical practice of teaching English at all levels, from primary schools to Higher Education. They cover theoretical and practical discussions of the nexus between the sciences and the humanities and maintain that the notion of the two cultures be refused for good, they argue for the inclusion of particular texts or theoretical perspectives, and they suggest ways to teaching environments on different levels of language competence and in the context of historical and transdisciplinary encounters with ecology, nature, and animals. Despite this variety, they share some common threads and engage with questions that are highly relevant for teaching in general and have acquired even more relevance in our rapidly changing and posthumanist teaching environments: How do we raise consciousness without preaching? What kind of critical attitude is required for the empowerment of our pupils and students? How do we actually imagine encounters between the sciences and the (post)humanities, and which texts, what kind of texts, and which approaches will prove most fruitful?

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Works Cited
  • Introductions
  • Teaching Environments: How ‘Green’ Can—and Should—A Classroom Be?
  • Works Cited
  • Where Foreign Language Education Meets, Clashes and Grapples with the Environment
  • Introduction
  • Point of Departure: Germany and the Environment
  • Environmental Behavior and Socio-Ecological Research
  • Contact Zones and the Greening of Foreign Language Education
  • Providing a Theoretical Framework
  • Works Cited
  • Beginnings: From Picture Books to Young Adult Fiction and Film
  • Ants, Bees, Bugs, and Spiders: Insects in Children’s Literature
  • Animal Stories for Children
  • Insects in Children’s Books: A Short Survey
  • The Depiction of Insects in Children’s Literature: A Classification
  • Insects as Representation of “Otherness”
  • Friendship between Children and Insects
  • Kafka’s Metamorphosis as Intertext
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Teaching a Poetics of Failure? The Benefit of Not-Understanding the Other, Posthumanism, and the Works of Shaun Tan and Wolf Erlbruch
  • Works Cited
  • Ecocritical Sensitivity with Multimodal Texts in the EFL/ESL Literature Classroom
  • According to children’s literature expert Peter Hunt, when discussing children’s literature
  • 1. The nonhuman environment as a presence
  • 2. Humanocentrism – the only legitimate way?
  • 3. Accountability to the environment as an aspect of the storyworld
  • 4. The environment as a (healing) process
  • Works Cited
  • When Pigs Cry—Teaching the Gaze, Materialities, and Environmental Ethics with Babe
  • Teaching Environments
  • A Pig Called Babe
  • Animals in the Classroom, Animals in the Film
  • Story Matters
  • Negotiations of Difference
  • The Eyes Have It
  • Bringing home the bacon
  • That’ll Do, Pig: or What’ll Pigs Do?
  • Works Cited
  • Transdisciplinary Encounters I: Approaching the ‘Two Cultures’
  • Pedagogy and the Power of the Ecoliterary Text
  • Conscientization and Praxis
  • Context: Science and Scientific Pedagogy
  • The Power of Literature—The Power of Story and Narrative
  • Ecopedagogy, Ecoliteracy, and Effective Ecopedagogic Principles of Learning
  • Case Study: Ecoliterary Texts
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Scientific Encounters in Literature—How the ‘Two Cultures’ Can Profit from Each Other In and Outside the Classroom
  • Introduction
  • What Do Scientific Encounters in Literature Include?
  • The Development of Scientific Encounters from the Nineteenth to the Twentieth Century
  • Science Fiction in the Classroom
  • Moving away from Dystopias
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Transdisciplinary Encounters II: Historizing Environmental Discourse
  • The Fall of Man and the Corruption of Nature: A Medievalist Perspective
  • Teaching the Environment:
  • The Fall of Man and the Degeneration of Nature
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • “A Deathless Love for the Natural and the Free”: Nature, Masculinity and Whiteness in 19th-Century America
  • Nature/Nation, Nature’s Nation: 19th-Century Ambiguities
  • The Rise of “Natural Manhood” and American Nationalism
  • The Vanishing Wilderness and Masculine Renewal
  • Works Cited
  • Teaching Cultural Ecology from German Romanticism to the Present: E.T.A. Hoffmann, Gottfried Keller, and W.G. Sebald
  • E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (1817)
  • Gottfried Keller, Pankraz der Schmoller(1856/1873-4)
  • W. G. Sebald, After Nature/Nach der Natur (1988)
  • Works Cited
  • Internet
  • Debate
  • The Function of Criticism. A Response to William Major and Andrew McMurry’s Editorial
  • Works Cited
  • Response of William Major and Andrew McMurry
  • Works Cited
  • The Case Against Agenda
  • Works Cited
  • Ecodidactics? A German Perspective
  • A Meta-Perspective: German Neohumanism
  • Pedagogical Implications
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • List of Illustrations
  • List of Contributors

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Greg Garrard

Imagine for a moment that teaching were valued as highly as research in universities. Taking England as our example, we have to admit that, even after much of the direct funding was replaced by loans, there is a colossal amount of cash devoted to it: in 2012-13 HEFCE, the funding agency for England, will disburse £3.8 billion in teaching funds, but none will depend on teaching quality and only £19 million of it will be linked to pedagogical priorities. Efforts to find out if the money has been well spent are less than halfhearted. HEFCE does not advertise the cost of the National Student Survey, which is designed to ascertain students’ ‘satisfaction’ with their education, but the Daily Telegraph claimed in 2010 that IPSOS Mori was paid “more than £2 million” to run it. Given that it would take me fifteen minutes to design an identical questionnaire on SurveyMonkey, this seems an absurdly large sum. Given the importance of the information collected, on the other hand, it seems suspiciously cheap.

The maxim of the neoliberal public sector is: “By their audit processes shall ye know them,” though what ye shall know is less the activity itself than the political value attached to it. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED), the Big Brother of education in the UK, sends beady-eyed inspectors into every classroom and nursery and childminder’s lounge in the land at a cost of £200 million every year. Higher education is barely glanced at by comparison: unlike its predecessor the Teaching Quality Assessment, which put assessors in lectures and seminars like a nascent OFSTED for HE, the Quality Assurance Agency spent £12 million in 2010-11 largely checking paperwork and talking to hand-picked students. Like the NSS, the cost is too high for what it does and far too little for what needs doing. Compare the miserly allocations for teaching enhancement in universities and the minute investment in gathering student feedback with the costs of assessing proposals for, and outcomes of, research funding. The Research Assessment Exercise,1 which determines the distribution of around £1.5 billion in HEFCE funding, was considered good value by a Higher Education Policy Institute report because the process cost only £100 million over seven years, less than 1% ← 7 | 8 → of the funds disbursed. The far more expensive peer review system employed by the research councils cost about £2 billion over the same period, or 10% of the grant. There is no exact analogy when it comes to teaching, but if we consider the NSS to be the primary means by which the effectiveness of HECFE’s huge grant is assessed the cost of ‘review’ is just 0.0005%. In reality, it is even less than that, because the NSS includes questions about university administration and student’s union facilities as well as teaching, assessment and feedback. Going (a fraction more than half-seriously) by the cost of review, audit and evaluation, the figures show research excellence is twenty-five times as important as institutional ‘quality assurance’, and 150 times as important as happy students.

No doubt priorities differ slightly between university systems. American universities, for example, take student evaluations into account when making decisions about tenure—but everyone knows a published monograph matters more. Many academics enjoy teaching and some of them excel at it (a fortuitous outcome since few have received any training in it whatsoever) but we all talk about “teaching load” whereas no one refers to their “research load.” League tables such as the Times Higher Education World University Rankings include a score for teaching that is based on “reputation,” as if anyone could make a meaningful judgment about the quality of teaching in a university where they neither studied nor taught. The Open University is renowned amongst serious pedagogues for its world-class teaching materials and innovative approaches to student learning, but somehow doesn’t make the THE’s Top 100. Where universities have feared to tread, the Internet has rushed in with the dreaded ratemyprofessors.com. Instead of a meaningful system of accountability and improvement for university teachers, the website collects scores for “easiness,” “helpfulness,” “clarity,” and… “hotness.” Not a mention of intellectual challenge, although many students do comment positively on such matters.

In ecocriticism, at least, the importance of teaching has long been acknowledged. In fact, one of the earliest textbooks in the field was aimed at teachers (Waage 1985), and there have since been quite a few publications on ecocritical pedagogy, most of them from the United States (Gaard and Murphy 1998, Murphy 1995, Crimmel 2003, Christensen, Long, and Waage 2008, Garrard 2012), including one specifically on secondary education (Matthewman 2010). There are at least two good reasons for this: environmental education is quite generally taken to imply a non-traditional approach to teaching, including outdoor learning and place-based education; and ecocriticism seeks social change as well as deeper understanding of literature. While we might dream that our research output will inspire people outside academia, it is much more likely to be our teaching that constitutes our best claim to environmental activism. So it is with especial pleasure that I recommend Roman Bartosch and Sieglinde Grimm’s collection of essays. Not only is it the first new collection of essays on ← 8 | 9 → ecopedagogy from continental Europe in this decade; it is also uniquely wide-ranging, taking in language teaching, children’s literature and historicist modes of interpretation. Crucially, though, the editors ensure that the collection questions the moral mission of ecocriticism, rather than taking it for granted: they include both a critique of agenda-led teaching from Pamela Swanigan and a spirited debate sparked by critical comments from Andrew Major and Andrew McMurry, originally in the Journal of Ecocriticism. Eco-pedagogy, or ecodidactics as it is known in Germany, needs to question theory as energetically as it reconsiders the practice of the classroom. Can we be preachers as well as teachers? And does the urgency of environmental crisis rule out the slow processes of reflection and questioning the liberal tradition in education promotes? This collection presents articulate responses to these questions that we hope will inform your own.

Works Cited

Christensen, Laird, Mark C. Long, and Frederick O. Waage. Teaching North American Environmental Literature, Modern Language Association of America Options for Teaching. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2008.

Crimmel, Hal. Teaching in the Field: Working with Students in the Outdoor Classroom. Salt Lake City: U of Utah P, 2003.

Gaard, Greta Claire, and Patrick D. Murphy. Ecofeminist Literary Criticism: Theory, Interpretation, Pedagogy. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1998.

Garrard, Greg. Teaching Ecocriticism and Green Cultural Studies. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Matthewman, Sasha. Teaching Secondary English as if the Planet Matters: Taylor & Francis, 2010.

Murphy, Patrick D. Literature, Nature, and Other: Ecofeminist Critiques. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Waage, Frederick O. Teaching Environmental Literature: Materials, Methods, Resources: Modern Language Association of America, 1985.

1 Now replaced by the Research Excellent Framework (REF), which is almost identical.

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| 13 →

Teaching Environments:

How ‘Green’ Can—and Should—a Classroom Be?

Roman Bartosch & Sieglinde Grimm (Cologne)

Although many reports and studies pessimistically agree that by far, not enough has been done to mitigate the looming environmental crisis, and that time is indeed running out, the recent years have seen a noteworthy change with regard to the role the humanities and arts have been assigned in these troubled times. Only six years after Sylvia Mayer and Graham Wilson’s publication Ecodidactic Perspectives on English Language, Literatures and Cultures, the notion that “[t]he environmental crisis [...] is, in fact, a cultural crisis” (Mayer & Wilson 2006: 1; see also Buell 1995: 2 and Kerridge 1998: 4) seems to have become received opinion. Since the 1970s, UNESCO reports have been speaking of “environmental education” and, in contrast to a common understanding of such an educational objective in terms of an education aiming at scientific or engineering knowledge, the 2002 UNESCO report cited by Mayer and Wilson maintains that the “movement towards sustainable development depends more on the development of our moral sensitivities than on the growth of our scientific understanding” (cited in Mayer & Wilson 2006: 1).

Six years later, as we are writing this introduction, much more has changed. The recent report on education for sustainable development (UNESCO 2012) states even more clearly that education, a change of attitudes and, more generally, human ethical relationships with the biosphere and non-human others must precede any technological or scientific ‘fix’ of the crises ahead. Numerous studies and collections of essays, such as Greg Garrard’s superb Teaching Ecocriticism and Green Cultural Studies, Sasha Matthewman’s Teaching Secondary English as if the Planet Matters and Laird Christensen et al.’s Teaching North American Environmental Literature have underlined the relevance of the humanities and arts in this respect. However, there might be good reason in remaining skeptical. While the fact that the humanities and arts have joined endeavors at mitigating or adapting to environmental change and invest intellectual energy in questions of environmental justice and posthumanist ethics, the turn towards consciousness-raising and environmentalist agendas in education seems strangely at odds with the critical distance that many of us hold ← 13 | 14 → to be important. As Axel Goodbody has argued, a governmental and/or environmental agenda to foster ecological thinking “goes beyond the remit of the academic, and could be seen as coming dangerously close to attempts by industrial lobbies and political interest groups to manipulate public attitudes and behaviour by associating their aims with popular values” (Goodbody 2012: 14). This is why Goodbody, following the UK-based environmentalist report Common Cause, advocates the “moral obligation” for NGOs “to work transparently, inclusively, and reflexively” and, in short, “to ‘democratise’ the way cultural values are shaped” (14). We would like to second this claim and add that the academic enterprise of ecocriticism, just as much as the larger educational context of teaching English in what could be called an ‘environmental classroom’, should realize that it has the very same moral obligation.

It was therefore the aim of the conference “Teaching the Environment,” from which many of the essays presented in this volume stem, to not only bring together scholars from diverse academic fields in order to engender multiple encounters—which we hope are still palpable in this book. That environmental crises require a truly inter- or transdisciplinary as well as a transnational framework is little more than a truism. We have, moreover, sought to bring together scholars with quite different approaches and notions about the question of what is to be done; scholars who, on the one hand, understand literary and cultural studies to be inextricably linked to the ethical questions with which ecocriticism became associated from its very start, as well as scholars who look critically at the naturalizing tendencies of environmentalist discourse, or at an often apocalyptic rhetoric that turns ‘the environmental crisis’ into something that inevitably restrains, for instance, democratic values and procedures, if only for the greater common good. We are happy to have been part of a conference where such debates had ample space while, at the same time, the general atmosphere was one of constructive collaboration, unbiased openness for dialog, yet also considerate concern about our main topic: the relevance of teaching in the context of environmental crises. In this context, Kylie Crane has pointed to the fact that “in the light of postcolonial studies and, more generally, postmodern thought, it has become increasingly difficult to consider identity, or text, as singular” (see her contribution in this volume) and that, if we want to seriously consider the multiple classrooms about which we are speaking, the title Teaching Environments might be more apt and more open for the polycentric attitude that Greg Garrard has identified at the core of ecocritical-pedagogical endeavors (see Garrard 2012: 2). We have, thus, gratefully accepted her suggestion.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (January)
Ecocriticism Human-Animal Studies Ecopedagogy
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 265 pp., 11 b/w fig.

Biographical notes

Roman Bartosch (Volume editor) Sieglinde Grimm (Volume editor)

Roman Bartosch teaches English literatures at the University of Cologne. He has published on postcolonial and posthumanist theory and in his research focuses on literary theories, especially new formalism, reception aesthetics and hermeneutics. His book on ecocriticism and postcolonial fiction was released in 2013. Sieglinde Grimm has taught at the University of Cologne (1992 to 2001), the University of Prague (1996), at Cambridge University (1998) and at the University of Frankfurt (2002 to 2003). From 2006 to 2009, she has taught at a Gymnasium in Bonn. She is now Professor of German at the University of Cologne and works on German literature of the 18th century (Hölderlin), and on literary Modernism (Kafka and Rilke) as well as on pedagogy, intercultural learning and cultural ecology from a didactical perspective.


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