Literature and the Wadden Sea

Overview and course objectives

The Wadden Sea coast is an iconic landscape for Frisian, Dutch, German and Danish culture, history and imagination. As the largest area of tidal mudflats in the world, it is also a critical site for the protection of biodiversity and monitoring environmental change. However, for many people based away from the Wadden Sea, it is first and foremost a tourist destination. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on this, as people flocked to nature reserves and domestic or nearby tourist destinations in greater numbers than before, meaning stressors for nature reserves intensified. The question of whether narratives about the Wadden Sea, which can raise awareness and foster positive attitudes towards the area, but may also encourage more travel, are a force for good for the region remains unresolved. Courses based on this website may aim to reclaim the Wadden Sea coast as an imaginative terrain that is of great significance for the environmental cultural imagination in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands while also critically evaluating different narrative interactions with the region. Courses are likely to use primarily cultural resources – literature, poetry, art, history – but may also use less traditional methods in literature education, such as a field trip or creative work to approach the Wadden Sea as a natural and cultural space and give students the opportunity to recognize their stake in this unique landscape as citizens of a connected world.

Courses based on this website can raise the profile of the Wadden Sea as an iconic landscape that is valuable well beyond established groups of conservationists and local residents. They can stimulate attention for the ideas and imaginaries that inform human interactions with the Wadden Sea and the environment at large. The Wadden Sea is at the heart of many discussions about the environment today, including sea level rise, natural resource use and coastal management. By equipping students with the knowledge and skills that will allow them to contribute to these discussions as cultural stakeholders, courses based on this website can work towards reinforcing the position of cultural studies and knowledge in debates about the Wadden Sea.

Because the Wadden Sea is a highly complex area, knowledge from different disciplines is key to understanding the region. Several units on this website are suitable to collaborations with colleagues in departments other than literature, including, but not limited to archaeology, biology, classics, ecology, geography, heritage, and history. Furthermore, not all knowledge relevant to the Wadden Sea is best or most easily found in universities. In many different ways, courses based on this website may productively liaise with visitor centres or other (public facing) organisations focussing on the Wadden Sea. They may be aware of local issues that can be engaged with in the course as part of problem-based learning, and may themselves benefit from input from students, both in discussions with students and in projects executed by students in collaboration with non-academic organisations. You can find resources on visitor centres and other organisations on the website of the International Wadden Sea School.

The overarching goal of all units on this website is to teach students to understand their position in the world around them, to engage with it critically and to reflect on the role of language in their relation with the environment. Below is a list of possible course objectives that may apply to courses based on this website.

Students will

  • become familiar with the corpus of literary texts about the Wadden Sea in the Danish, German or Dutch language.
  • gain an overview of key terms and methodologies for the study of literature and the environment, and insights into the current debates and developments in the fields of ecocriticism and environmental humanities.
  • establish a repertoire of representative philosophical, theoretical and artistic works dealing with questions of culture and the environment, e.g. space and place attachment, biodiversity, temporality and/or representation.
  • learn to apply theoretical insights in ecocriticism and environmental humanities to the study of literature, film, and other media.
  • learn to situate specific works in a comparative framework.
  • learn to speak and write critically about the ethics and politics of human-environment relationships in questions of culture and the environment, e.g. space and place attachment, biodiversity, temporality and/or representation, using specialised terms and academic vocabulary.

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