BA Modern Language and Business & Management (French) / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Wild and Tamed: Nature in French Culture and Politics

Course unit fact file
Unit code FREN30842
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by French Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


In this course we will study the ways in which humans have interacted, represented, conceptualised, modified, and enjoyed nature and the environment. We will see how the idea of nature has shaped the French national identity, how diverging views on nature have impacted politics in France, and how the future of nature is inseparable from the future of humankind. We will study French vs. English conceptions of nature, nature and the French colonial empire, as well as nature and the French Revolution, Green politics, and the modern ‘Return to Nature’ movement. We will analyse the revival of natural spaces in major urban centres in the French-speaking world like Paris and Montréal.  Finally, we will discuss the future of nature as represented in science fiction. Sources will vary from historical documents, films, documentaries, literature, interviews as well as political texts and maps. See weekly syllabus below. 


To provide an overview of the idea of nature from the 17th century to the present 

To familiarize students with the idea of nature in French culture  

To provide students with key concepts of ecocriticism and environmental humanities 

To understand the concept of urban nature 

To introduce students to the history of ecology and politics in France 

Knowledge and understanding

Analyse a variety of sources related to nature and the environment¿ 

Study nature documentaries and literature related to the environment  

Understand the forces underpinning Green politics and green cities in the Francophone world 

Intellectual skills

Use appropriate terminology to study representations of nature in a variety of discourses

Use suitable skills and appropriate terms to analyse the construction of the idea of nature 

Develop a critical understanding of Green politics

Practical skills

Express ideas logically and elegantly in oral and written French

Communicate strategically 

Synthesise complex ideas 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Refine critical skills

Develop original ideas and engage with existing theories

Improve public speaking and group participation

Employability skills

Confidence in written and oral expression Advanced communicating strategies Synthesis of complex ideas Time management

Assessment methods

Assessment task  

Formative or Summative 


Weighting within unit (if summative) 

Case study of Francophone urban area 




Final essay 




Rationale for case study 




Plan for final essay 




Feedback methods

Feedback method  

Formative or Summative 

In class discussions 


Written feedback on rationale for case study 


Written feedback on essay plans 


Recommended reading

A range of primary and secondary sources will be available in French and in English. Here are a few examples: 


Primary sources: 

  • Arthus-Bertrand, Yann, Home, (documentary film) 

  • Laurent, Mélanie and Cyril Dion, Demain (documentary film) 

  • Leboulanger, Camille, Malboire, L’Atalante, 2018, (novel) 


Secondary sources: 

  • Emanuele Coccia, The Life of Plants, Polity, 2018 

  • Bousé,Derek, Wildlife Films, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000 

  • Posthumus, Stephanie, French Ecocritique: Reading Contemporary French Theory and Fiction ecologically, University of Toronto Press, 2017 

  • Rumpala, Yannick, Hors des décombres du monde. Ecologie, science-fiction et éthique du futur, Champ Vallon, 2018 

  • Vrignon, Alexis, La Naissance de l’écologie politique en France, une nébuleuse au cœur des années 68, Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2017 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jerome Brillaud Unit coordinator

Additional notes

All lectures and seminars in English. Readings available in English and French.  

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