Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module SPAN2181: Nature and Culture Across the Atlantic

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Spanish)

SPAN2181: Nature and Culture Across the Atlantic

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The module aims to engage students in the varied discussions and representations of nature that have emerged in the Iberian Peninsula since the early modern era and have continued throughout history on both sides of the Atlantic, in Latin America and Spain. Taking as its cue the intellectual exploration of nature, the module seeks to explore the many ways in which philosophers, scientists, artists, writers and filmmakers have sought to represent the natural world. From the concept of nature in Spanish ballads and the more-than-human worldviews of Indigenous peoples, to enslaved people across the Atlantic, plantation narratives in Latin America and the contemporary Spanish reframing of rural ecologies in film and literature; the module is designed to foster a rich and critical understanding of how nature and culture are mutually constructed.


  • The module covers the intellectual discussions of nature that have taken place both in Iberian peninsula and Latin America since the early modern era, as well as the literary, artistic and cinematic representations of the natural world in the different cultures.
  • The module will engage broadly with the concept of nature, including the discussion of the role of humans and animals in depicting the natural world, the significance of flora in scientific and artistic depictions, the exploitation of land, bodies and peoples; and the tensions that emerge between rural and urban lifestyles.
  • The module will be taught in English and will be available to students taking either second-year beginners or second-year post A-level Spanish.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module, students will develop:
  • An understanding of the key issues surrounding the concept of nature as a cultural and linguistic construct
  • A knowledge of the different cultural and artistic productions of nature
  • An appreciation of the multiple environmental issues presented in literature, art and cinema.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students are expected to:
  • Identify the common tropes used to portray nature in different cultural media
  • Compare and contrast the different intellectual and artistic debates around the significance of nature in culture
  • Gain an understanding of how the environment has been a central issue in the different cultural productions across the Atlantic in the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students should be able to:
  • Discuss in-depth cultural productions from a variety of perspectives
  • Have a greater understanding of the importance of literature, art and cinema in the formation of the intellectual concepts
  • A greater proficiency in research management, including the search and analysis of primary and secondary sources
  • Have a broadened sensibility to environmental issues.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • A weekly general lecture will deliver key information on the module; a fortnightly seminar with smaller groups will allow for individual presentations and active discussions
  • The summative essay is based on topics covered during the Michaelmas Term.
  • The examination covers the work carried out in the Epiphany and Summer Terms and tests the understanding of topics under controlled conditions
  • The mixture of summative essay and final examination responds to requests from students for this mode of assessment

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly 1 Hour 20
Seminars 10 Fortnightly 1 Hour 10
Preparation and Reading 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Short Argumentative Essay Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Argumentative Essay 1,000 words 100% Yes
Component: Research Paper Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research Paper 1,500 words 100% Yes
Component: Exam Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Writen Examination 2 Hours 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:


Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University