MA Film Studies

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Critical Ecologies

Course unit fact file
Unit code SALC61082
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


That climate and ecological crises are also cultural and social crises has been argued by scholars working in an emergent interdisciplinary field known as the ‘Environmental Humanities’ (EH).  EH ‘brings the insights and approaches of the humanities - centering on questions of meaning, value, and ethics - to bear on some of the most pressing challenges of our time’ (Gorman, et al, 2019). Taught by academics from across the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures in collaboration with colleagues from Manchester Museum, this course will introduce students to some of the central questions and concepts of EH.

Students will be invited to think about ‘critical ecologies’ in two, interrelated ways: (1) As addressing  climate and ecological crises with the tools offered by disciplinary expertise; and (2) As requiring us to think beyond such disciplinary perspectives, as we also become aware of the historical forces that shaped them. Indigenous ways of knowing, relating and being in the world is one approach students will be introduced to in order to do this. This will allow students to begin to develop informed, diverse ways of thinking about the complex, diverse human and multispecies relations that are at stake in the histories and futurities of climate crisis.


The aims of this course are:

  • to introduce students to some of the key texts and concepts from Environmental Humanities
  • to introduce students to diverse source materials  (different media, genres, objects) as we discuss key concepts
  • to read a range of knowledge and disciplinary traditions, including works of traditional knowledge, critical and theoretical sources
  • to engage with objects from the Manchester Museum collections
  • to develop skills of critical thought, speech, and writing in relation to ecological and climate crisis
  • to develop teamwork skills (through group discussion and work on field trips)
  • to develop flexible and creative thinking in response to the interdisciplinary ethos of EH and demands of environmental crisis


This is a course taught by a team of staff from different disciplines across SALC in collaboration with Manchester Museum. Students will engage with a range of ‘key concepts’ and bring them into conversation with objects from the Museum’s collections. The following is indicative of the kinds of topics that will be addressed in a given year.

  • Stories: The power of dominant narratives , forms and tropes used to frame and communicate climate crisis (e.g. ‘progress’, ‘innovation’, ‘sustainability’, ‘resilience’, ‘adaptation’, ‘green’, ‘apocalypse’, ‘crisis’);
  • Temporalities: Rethinking temporal modes (deep time, histories futurities) from an EH perspective, beginning with a critical consideration of the term ‘Anthropocene’ (considering questions of social justice - and expanding into alternative temporal paradigms, e.g., ‘slow time’, ‘soil time’, ‘plant time’, ‘ethical time’; ‘techno-futurity’); 
  • Ecologies: Introducing work on multispecies relations (e.g., challenging anthropocentrism; drawing on work from critical animal and plant studies; rethinking terms like ‘environment’ or ‘nature’);
  • Indigeneity, wisdom traditions and stewardship: Interrogating dominant modes of thinking about climate crisis (e.g., traditional ecological knowledge (TEK); Indigenuity; cultural revegetation; kinship; reciprocity)
  • Speculative/ Action: Considering ways of responding to climate crisis (e.g., experimental, playful, speculative and activist modes);
  • Emotions and Practices: Introducing work on affective and ethical responses to climate change (e.g., ‘eco-grief’, ‘solastalgia’, ‘petro-melancholia’; ‘response-ability’; practices of care)

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

Feedback Method Formative or Summative
In person response by peers and instructor of spidergram presentation Formative
Ongoing informal feedback by peers on BB Formative
Written feedback by instructor on final assessment Summative


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 22

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Anke Bernau Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Please Note: This unit is only available as free choice to students within the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

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