Module GEG-30014
Inspirational Landscapes

A 3rd-year module for Geography, Physical Geography and Human Geography.

Module leader: Peter Knight
Additional Tutors:  Miriam Burke (visiting artist)  plus guests including Daniel Allen, Richard Waller... 
Classes:   Weekly 2-hour lecture-workshops  (weeks 1-10) 
Credit Value:  15 Credits (single module)
Assessment:   100% coursework. 
Links: Keele VLE resources  -  module web page  -  Facebook Group

Online Module Handbook 2013-14 

Scroll down the page for set reading, schedule of classes, assessments, etc.

Introduction to the module

The idea of landscape is at the heart of Geography. In this module we look at landscape both through geographers’ eyes and also through the eyes of artists, poets, explorers, novelists, composers… By looking at landscape from different points of view and placing the Geographer's viewpoint into a broader context we hope that you see landscape in new  ways, and therefore start to see more. This module explores landscape from a variety of different perspectives to see how the big ideas of Geography tie together in the context of this broad context of landscape, art, science and culture. The module has been awarded a Keele University Teaching Innovation Award and is unique in being taught jointly by a Physical Geographer, Human Geographers, and a visiting artist. The module is suitable for students from all parts of Geography including the Physical Geography, Human Geography and Geography degree routes at Keele.

In weekly lecture-workshops we use short case studies of a wide range of landscapes to identify and explore different ways in which landscape can be inspirational in scientific, artistic and other cultural contexts including film, literature and music.  "Inspirational Landscapes" is extreme geography: pushing out the limits of our appreciation and understanding of geography as a discipline and of landscape to help students in the final stages of their degree to explore the boundaries of the subject and to develop new ideas about how people see, and are inspired by, the world around us. 

The assessment is mainly project-based, and students can submit work either as a conventional written report or in a multimedia format including sound, video, sculpture... whatever is most appropriate for their project. Students are free to tie the project directly to their own interests in areas such as music, film or literature or to adopt a more traditional geomorphological, historical, cultural or applied approach to landscape.

"When I first started I was a bit unsure of the relevance, but it was the most enjoyable class I had and it taught me a lot about thinking outside of the box, looking at other people's perspectives and not just assuming that my own thoughts were right."
(former student writing on the Facebook discussion board)
"A fantastic module to end on as it gives you the choice to produce work based on your strengths and interests." 
(student  on VLE discussion board)
"Things I found easy: wanting to come to the lectures!"    (student feedback , March 2009)


Aims of the module

  • To explore landscape from a variety of different perspectives (physical and cultural) to see how the big ideas of Geography tie together in the context of this overarching theme.
  • To explore relationships between the physical environment and human creativity in both science and popular culture. 
  • To examine the ways in which the physical landscape has been an inspiration to both artists and scientists.
  • To examine contrasting representations of landscape in science and in cultural media such as literature, film and music. 
  • To provide a module in which students can explore the boundaries of the discipline of Geography: both internal (for example between physical and human geography) and external (for example where geography meets the creative arts). 
  • To provide a new type of module for Keele Geography students, with the opportunity to combine lecture-based learning with a piece of independent project work that can include multimedia components.

Intended Learning Outcomes for students

  • Systematic understanding, based on coherent and detailed knowledge of case study examples, of ways in which the geographical landscape is represented in science and in cultural media such as film, literature and music.
  • Ability to recognize and critically evaluate different representations of landscape in scientific and cultural media.
  • Ability to initiate and carry out a project that explores in depth, and communicates in an appropriate geographical style, the inspirational role of landscape and the ways in which landscape is represented in one media type or genre.

"The class was amazing... best class through the whole of Uni" 
(student writing on VLE discussion board)

"I wouldn't recommend it to those who are stuck in their ways about geography because unless you're willing to open up to new ideas then you won't benefit." 
(student writing on VLE discussion board)



Course content

In weekly lecture-workshops we will identify ways in which landscape is central to the discipline of Geography and then use short case studies of a wide range of landscapes to identify and explore different ways in which landscape can be inspirational in scientific, artistic and other cultural contexts. Specific content will to some extent be decided by the students in discussions during the first few classes.

Assistance with projects will be provided by the presentation of sample mini-projects as case studies during the lectures, and there will be workshop sessions during which students will receive peer review and support. Students can also approach staff individually as required for one-to-one support. Individual feedback will be provided on the assessed project proposal before students write up their projects.

This provisional list of sessions may evolve as the course progresses, and is intended to serve only as a loose outline. Students are welcome to sugest additional topics or activities. Further information including lecture notes, links and readings will be placed on the VLE. Discussions about the course are encouraged either on the VLE or, better still, through the facebook group where former students can join in.

Draft Schedule for 2013-14


Week 1. (PGK) 
What’s it all about? 
What are inspirational landscapes?  What are our key themes and topics? Landscapes in spaces and places and faces. T.S.Eliot - exploration. Rudyard Kipling. Marcel Proust. Different views: D.W.Meinig - The Beholding Eye.  What is Landscape? John Constable. Jackson Pollock. Monument Valley. Ansel Adams. Markus Hartel. Capability Brown. People. Buildings. Sky. The future. Written, cinematic, created, natural, seen, heard, touched, felt? Is landscape seen or seen from? Cultural image, mode of social engagement. W.G.Hoskins (landscape = symphony), Mahler (symphony = everything). W.H.Auden, Face as landscape. Landscape as face. Reading landscape. Natasha Bedingfield. John Wayne. Sergio Leone. Torres del Paine. Uluru. Science and scientists inspired by landscape. Edward Elgar. How do landscapes inspire? Thomas Hardy. Landscape and Geography. “The skin of the Earth”. Activities: post your own “inspirational landscape” item or link onto Facebook Page. How the module works. Nuts and bolts: reading, assessment etc. The projects.

Week 2. (PGK) 
We begin by being lost. 
Ensuring that everybody knows the value of being lost. Solnit, R.  (2006) “A Field Guide to Getting Lost”. Walter Benjamin. Julie Mehretu. Advice about the coursework project.  Student ideas of Inspirational Landscapes. Mapping Inspirational (and inspired) Landscapes. Being Lost. Maps. Our course “map”. The importance of tying our own ideas back to literature and theory (other people’s experiences) as well as to our own experience. W.G.Hoskins and the meaning of “landscape”. Landscape as process, as tension, as currency. Reading. The “core texts”, how and what to read.Your projects (and project proposals): what we expect; your ideas; our advice; previous students’ projects (examples). How to make progress on your project proposal. Items from the Facebook discussions. 

Week 3. (PGK with Daniel Allen) 
Natural, Created and Cultural Landscapes.
Geographical theories; spaces, places, scales, boundaries, movements; Animal Landscapes. Animal Geographies. Carl Sauer.  Cultural landscapes. J.B.Jackson. Yi Fu Tuan. Embodied landscapes, power, identity and gender in landscape. Literary and Cinematic Landscapes defining spaces, places etc. eg Bronte Country etc. and other imaginary representations. Landscape extracts from "Blade Runner" and "Once Upon a Time in the West". Spaces, places, scales, boundaries, movements. Yi Fu Tuan. Barry Lopez - “Arctic Dreams”. Sergio Leone. Walt Disney. Cormac McCarthy. Distinction between Home and not home. Homesick / farsick. Crowds vs emptiness. Change over time. Evolution. Transition. Degradation. Conservation. Space-shrinking technology. Landscapes represented in film and music.  Pierre Schaeffer - “Musique Concrète.

Week 4. (PGK with Miriam Burke)
Space, Place Art and Music.
The artist's viewpoint.  Introducing Miriam, and how her work and the work of other artists intersects with our “landscape” theme encouraging you to have new ideas and explore them.  Artistic methodologies. Turner, Friedrich, Katie Patterson. Spencer Finch. Roni Horn. Sophie Calle. Land Art. Richard Long. Robert Smithson.  Sound in the landscape. Aboriginal Songlines.  Soundtracks to landscapes. Antoine de St. Exupery.   Landscapes represented in film and music.   Marcel Proust “In Search of Lost Time”. “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. Anthony and the Johnsons - “Another World”. Peter Gabriel - “Solsbury Hill”. Theme tunes for “Earth” and for “Home”?

Week 5. (PGK with Dr Alex Nobajas) 
Home, Sleep, Death and the Cold North.
Metaphysical, imaginary and terrestrial landscapes. Heaven and Hell. Cemetery landscapes. The River Styx. Dante Alighieri - The Divine Comedy. Gustav Doré. Hieronymus Bosch. Pieter Brueghel the elder. The Aboriginal Dreamtime. Hamlet - “To be or not to be…”.  Landscapes of sleep; Sleepy Geographies. People in the landscape. Polar landscapes: cold, silence, sleep and death. Scott’s polar expedition. Hypothermia. Captain Oates and The Blizzard. Derek Mahon - “Antarctica”. W.H.Auden - “Journey to Iceland.” Responses to Landscape: Science and Religion… and Art. Polar landscape art. Cape Farewell.

Week 6 (PGK and Miriam Burke) 
Mountains:  comfort and the lure of the sublime.
Creative workshop. The Sublime. Edmund Burke. Immanuel Kant. Arthur Schopenhauer. Castree (2004): The Geographical Sublime. Total-perspective vortex. Mervyn Peake - “Suddenly, walking along the open road”.  The Romantic movement. Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Wagner’s Flying Dutchman overture. Civilisation. The myth of the countryside. English country landscape. Mr and Mrs Andrews.  BBC “Mountain” video? Remnants of Everest / Storm over Everest video. Scott’s expedition journal. The motivation to exploration. Adventure. Extreme Sports. Spiritual Landscapes.

Week 7. (PGK with Dr Daniel Allen) 
Frontier Landscapes and Wilderness
Frontiers in the Physical Environment. Coasts, boundaries, divisions, the surface of a body. Fractal Geometry. How long is the coastline of Britain? The wilderness (Yosemite). John Muir, Hetch Hetchy debate, William Cronon. Terra Nullius. The American West(ern).  John Ford. The Searchers. Monument Valley. F.J.Turner’s “Frontier Thesis”.  Frederick Remington. Reading the (American) landscape. J.B. Jackson. Jeffersonian Agrarian Myth . National Identity. Heimat. Wilderness, boundary and “otherness” in literary landscapes. Representing landscapes in literature. Italo Calvino: "Invisible Cities". Science fiction:  the final frontier. “Things you people wouldn’t believe” (Blade Runner). Cowboys and Aliens.

Week 8. (PGK with Miriam Burke)
Rivers and watery landscapes  
Imaginary-art exercise. Rivers & watery landscapes. Rivers as routeways and barriers. River as boundary: physical and psychological. Rivers as transport, and as agents of change: Physical and Human geographies. Restore Hetch Hetchy campaign. W.H.Auden “River Profile. W.M.Davis: river profile. Watery themes in literary Geography. “A river runs through it”. “The Wind in the Willows”. Water-inspired architecture: Le Corbusier. Video extract: Robert Perkins “Into the Great Solitude”. Oceans. Water-inspired art. Art activity with Mim. Sophie Calle. The Space Chair (Simon Faithfull).

Week 9. (PGK with Richard Waller)
The sea and the sky
Seeing the world from different points of view: science, emotion, aesthetic. Reminder: Proust, Kipling, Eliot. Pablo Neruda: “The skin of the Earth”. The relative location of people and sky. Systems approach: energy, materials, forms. Meteorology. Atmosphere. Clouds. Sky as landscape. Polluting the sky. Revisiting D.W.Meinig. Cultural climatology. John Thornes. John Constable. Claude Monet. Joseph Priestly and the invention of air. Networks and systems in space. Inspirations to knowledge. Thomas Kuhn and scientific revolutions. Academic and cultural “turns”: the oceanic “turn”. Antoine de St.Exupery - early aviator. Exploration. Case study from RIW on seeing things differently from a glider… and a kayak. Aerial photography: the view from above.

Week 10. (PGK with Miriam Burke)
Extreme Geography: this is the end
Combining Art, Science and Geography: Miriam's story. The "right order" art exercise. The European landscape Convention. World Heritage Sites. UNESCO designated heritage landscape. Official and rebel geographies. Total Geography. Lifelong learning in Geography. Confidence and expertise. About the online test. Students’ Inspirational Landscapes from the VLE. Project advice. Additional content in this final session will depend on student input/queries during course.

The module is assessed entirely by coursework: there is no end-of-year exam.
  • 20% - An on-line test requiring short answers to questions related to core material from lectures and set reading. Test to be completed at the end of the course. Deadline: to be completed by 11.59pm Friday  2nd May. 
  • 20% - A project-proposal (maximum length  1000-words plus full reference list) to be submitted in class, week 5. (12 noon 28th Feb, 2014)
  • 60% - A project, which can be written up as conventional text (expected length 2500-3500 words) or presented partially in other media such as video, (project content equivalent to 2500-3500 words of text, including at least some textual write-up). To be submitted to Geography Office for anonymous assessment. Deadline: 4pm Tuesday of the first week after the Easter Vacation (week 11). (4pm 6th May 2014). 
Further information and advice about all elements of the coursework will be provided in class and/or on the VLE

The top-scoring project in this module so far was by Sean White, who scored 90% for a short film and accompanying workbook. Sean's aim was to "appreciate the experiences from our personal history within landscapes which come together and form a sense of place". His method was "to digest a range of text, art and media that deals with the subject of landscape, record them in the workbook, and use them to produce a short film documentary." 

The examiners called it a "beautiful film and a fascinating workbook demonstrating both original ideas and engagement with Geographical literature".

Previous student projects have included:
  • Impact of the Malvern Hills on Elgar's music
  • Video diary of a walk in Wordsworth's footsteps
  • Photomontage of the experience of Dovedale
  • Influences of Indian landscape on fashion design
  • Johnny Depp: face, costume and landscape
  • Landscapes of Lord of The Rings
  • Landscape design for computer games
  • Disney morality enforced by Disney landscape
  • Use of landscape images in advertising
  • Thomas Hardy and the "Wessex" landscape

"The freedom the course gives you to explore Geography is really beneficial to my degree...    forcing me to think outside the box" (student feedback, March '09)


Recommended Reading

There are many relevant books in the library that students will find helpful for this module. Each student will find specific reading relevant to their particular interests and their "take" on the themes in the module, and will develop these individual interests as they pursue their project. You should take a look at as many as possible of the books listed below and focus on those that provide you with the most relevant material for your approach to the module.

The following texts provide a solid background and a context of Geographical theory  that students can use as a starting point and as a source of reference. Multiple copies of these texts are available in Keele Library.

Matthews, J.A. and Herbert, D.T. (2008) Geography: a Very Short Introduction (OUP, Oxford)
Direct link: this item in Keele Library
(we will use this to identify key themes as a jumping-off point for the module)
Harrison, S. (ed.) (2004) Patterned Ground: Entanglements of Nature and Culture. (Reaktion, London)
Direct link: this item in Keele Library
(short case studies that illustrate specific topics and approaches )
Clifford, N.J. et al. (ed.) (2009) Key Concepts in Geography (2nd ed.) (Sage, London) 
Direct link: this item in Keele Library
(more depth on some of the key themes  than the other  books)

Wylie, J. (2007) Landscape. (Routledge)

Direct link: this item in Keele Library
(more depth on some of the key themes  than the other  books)

There are many other books in Keele Library directly relevant to this module. For example:
de Botton, A (2003) The Art of Travel (Penguin)

Dear, M. (et al.) (eds) (2011) GeoHumanities: Art, History, Text at the edge of Place. (Routledge)

Hawkins, H. (2014) For Creative Geographies. Geography, Visual Arts and the Making of Worlds. (Routledge)

Daniels, S. (et al.) (eds) (2011) Envisioning Landscapes, Making Worlds. Geography and the Humanities. (Routledge).

Urquhart, T. (2004) For the Beauty of the Earth (Shoemaker and Hoard)

Howard, P. et al (eds) (2012) The Routledge companion to landscape studies (Routledge)
Gregory, K.J. (2000) "The Changing Nature of Physical Geography" 
NB Chapter 10: Cultural Physical Geography. pp254-271.
Buckland, D. (et al.) (2006) Burning ice; art & climate change.
Rhodes, F. (et al.) (2008) Language of the Earth.  also available as e-book here

Monbiot, G. (2013) Feral: searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding.
Ede, S. (2005) Art and Science also available as e-book here
Lopez, B. (1999) Arctic Dreams. (Harvill)
Ring, J. (2011) How the English made the Alps. (Faber and Faber)
Meinig, D.W. (ed) (1979) The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays. (Oxford University Press).
Cosgrove, D.E. (1998) Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape (University of Wisconsin Press)
Daniels, S. et al (2011)  Envisioning Landscapes, Making Worlds (Routledge)
Try doing a "keyword" search for "landscape" in Keele Library online catalogue

Additional reading material will be suggested in association with specific lecture topics, and students will be encouraged to find additional sources relevant to their project work. The nature of this module is such that there is no set textbook. This module is an opportunity for you to expand the boundaries of your geographical knowledge in areas that are of particular interest to you. The reading can be chosen and tailored by the student in the context of their specific interests. Specific readings and course content that will be assessed in the on-line test will be explained in lectures. 

Examples of the kinds of paper that may be of interest, and are relevant to specific sections of the lecture course, include:

Allen, C.D. (2011) "On Actor-Network Theory and Landscape". Area 43, 3, 274-280. Available in hard copy or e-journal at Keele
Thornes, J.E. (2008) "Cultural climatology and the representation of sky, atmosphere, weather and climate in selected art works of Constable, Monet and Eliasson." GeoForum 39 (2), 570–580.
Housefield, J. (2007) "Sites of time: organic and geologic time in the art of Robert Smithson and Roxy Paine." Cultural Geographies 14, 537-561 (This talks about Land Art, which is an important topic at the cross-over between art and geography, which we will consider in lectures)
Buchmann, A. et al., (2010) "Experiencing Film Tourism: authenticity and fellowship." Annals of Tourism Research 37 (1), 229-248  (This talks about how the filming of " The Lord of the Rings" affected New Zealand tourism)
Couper, P. and Yarwood, R. (2012) "Confluences of human and physical geography research on the outdoors: and introduction to the special section on "Exploring the outdoors". Area 44 (1), 2-6.  (This introduces a special section of Area volume 44 that includes several relevant papers). Paper copy available in Keele Library:
Cartographic Journal 48(4) 2011 - Special Issue on Cartographies of Fictional Worlds 

Flenley, J. (2007) For the Beauty of the Earth. Stimulus: The New Zealand Journal of Christian Thought & Practice. Vol. 15 Issue 4, p21-25. Keele Library Link:,url,uid,shib&db=a9h&AN=27661018&site=ehost-live


Additional learning resources

This module is supported by additional resources on the Keele VLE, including selected lecture notes, links to relevant websites, and a module discussion board. The online test that makes up 20% of the module will be administered through the VLE so it is essential that you all access these resources. There is also a Facebook group that some students from previous years have joined. It would be great if we could get some discussion going between present and former students in that group, so please do join if you are on Facebook. If you are on Twitter you may want to keep an eye on @PKGeog, as I occasionally tweet useful links and tips there, too, although those are not official parts of the module.

If you need help:
Staff will be available throughout the course to provide help and support.  There will be opportunities for individual and group discussions within the timetabled classes and students can contact staff for individual support outside classes whenever they wish. 

NB: Not everybody likes this module:

"...many people would prescribe this module as a new challenge, however, for the final module of my third year I don't feel like I need to be enlightened or have my mind opened to a new way of thinking about Geography." (student  on WebCT discussion board May '09)

If you feel that way, don't do this module!


Module Leader Contact:
Dr Peter Knight, William Smith Building room WS1.40, e-mail: