Course guide 2016-17

In this course guide, we aim to provide an overview of courses that focus on topics related to the environmental humanities. The guide is a work in progress: would you like to include your course here, please contact k.steenbergh@vu.nl. We also warmly welcome course descriptions from other Dutch universities.

Courses at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Faculty of Humanities

Ecocriticism: Early Modern Literature and Visual Culture (Literature and Society)
MA, period 1, 6 ECTS

In this course we explore the changing relation between humans and their natural environment in the early modern period (1550-1700). Even if we associate topics like climate change, overpopulation, air pollution and the exploitation of natural resources more readily with our current time frame, many of these environmental issues first emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We will be reading early modern literature and analyzing visual sources from the perspective of ecocriticism, exploring together how early modern texts and images responded to social factors that impacted the relation between humans and their environment. Developments that we will be focusing on include the explosive growth of the city of London in the period, the beginnings of colonialism, the enclosure of the commons, the Reformation, the rise of empirical science, and changing ideas of the self and subjectivity. We will not only consider the ways in which literature and visual culture respond to these changes, but view text and images as part of the process of change.

Historical Landscape and Archaeological Heritage
MA, period 1, 6 ECTS

In these introductory lectures theoretical, historiographical and practical topics are dealt with, that are connected with the interest and the care for historical landscapes and archaeological heritage. In the theoretical part, among other matters, attention will be paid to recent heritage opinions. The historiographic part treats the history of the archeological heritage policies and the interest in the historical natural and cultural landscape. Practical training contains the programs and legal rules and regulations for dealing with landschapes and archaeological monuments, like methods of valuation and selecting, restoration and  re-destining and preservation. The course consists of lectures. Discussions will be stimulated by image material like tv-documentaries.

This course is intended for Master students Heritage Studies and students of other heritage programs
at a master level and Master students Archaeology of ACASA (VU/UvA). Students with a bachelor in history, geography, archaeology, history of architecture and programs related to heritage may be admitted after approval by the Exam Committee.

Land-locked and Water-bound: The History of Natural Disasters
MA, Period 2+3,  9 ECTS

To the preservation of our planet for future generations is given top priority by local, provincial, national and supra-national authorities. Often discussions focus on sustainability and quality of live. Also attention is paid to threats imposed on mankind. The course will focus on ’nature-induced’ disasters on land and at sea during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, taking for granted that most natural disasters have a human component. How do we describe and explain natural disasters in terms of human and natural agency. How do societies cope with natural disasters? What were causes and consequences of these disasters in terms of collective or individual remembrance, prevention, and landscape management? What can we conclude about resilience of the society?

Biography of Landscape
MA, period 2, 6 ECTS

In heritage practices the disciplines which are dealing with cultural historical heritage (archaeology, history of architecture and
histhorical geography), are confronted more and more with each others’ knowledge in cases of advising about management, preservation and reuse of the historical landscape. The term ‘landscape biography’ can offer a common approach. In the lectures the term will be explained in a theoretical concept and placed in the perspectives of the three disciplines that were mentioned above. Analyzing a number texts the students get acquainted with differing interpretations of the term and they learn to practice it in a topic that is chosen from their own discipline.

This course is intended for Master students Heritage Studies and students of other heritage programs
at a master level and Master students Archaeology of ACASA (VU/UvA). Students with a bachelor in history, geography, archaeology, history of architecture and programs related to heritage may be admitted after approval by the Exam Committee.

Inleiding Landschapsarchaeologie, Period 2+3, 6ECTS
(Introduction to Landscape Archaeology, course taught in Dutch)

Het doel van het vak is de introductie in de landschapsarcheologie: je begrijpt het onderscheid tussen de natuurlijke en de culturele landschapsarcheologie, en kan inzien hoe ze elkaar aanvullen. Aan het einde van het vak ben je in staat om de basisbegrippen van de processen die een rol spelen in de vorming van het land te begrijpen en te reproduceren. Daarnaast dien je aan het eind van cursus het belang in te zien van alle processen en de vorming van het land door de tijd in relatie tot de locatie van archeologische vindplaatsen. Aan het eind van de cursus zal je per geologische factor en/of proces de kenmerken van de
vorming van het land door de tijd heen kennen.

Water in de wereld, BA,  period 4, 6 ECTS
(Water in the World – course taught in Dutch)

In dit werkcollege gaan wij in op de wereldwaterproblematiek vanuit een vergelijkend, sociaal-ecologisch perspectief. We concentreren ons op de periode waarin de groei van de steden wereldwijd een exponentieel karakter kreeg, vanaf ongeveer 1800 tot nu. De geografische focus ligt op Europa (Nederland, Engeland en Duitsland),  USA en Azië (Indonesië,  India en het Midden-Oosten). Hoewel dit thema een lokale aangelegenheid lijkt, is het in werkelijkheid verbonden met mondiale processen die leiden tot milieuproblemen, zoals bevolkingsgroei, globalisering, industrialisering en technologische vooruitgang.  Hoe leidt dit tot vervuiling, verzilting, verdroging en vernatting, en wat zijn de sociale gevolgen hiervan, wat kan eraan gedaan worden om dat te verkomen, ofwel de problemen op te lossen? In hoeverre zijn moderne oorlogen eigenlijk wateroorlogen?

English Literature in a Changing World 2: Utopia/Dystopia
BA, period 4, 6 ECTS

This course covers utopian and dystopian literature and film from the twentieth and twenty-first century. Utopian/dystopian literature provides a fascinating view of the relation between literature and historical change, since it expresses hopes and fears about possible worlds. These fictional works inherently critique the social and political context in which they were written. We will explore these relations between the texts and their historical contexts. Concepts of gender, class, ethnicity, ecology and the environment, technology, and the post-human will play a major role in our analysis.

Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences

Dynamiek van het historische landschap
BSc, 3 credits, periode 4

Bijna alle landschappen in Europa zijn in meer of mindere mate beïnvloed door mensen. In de afgelopen millennia hebben Europeanen onder andere bossen gekapt en aangelegd, veengebieden en heides ontgonnen, allerlei gewassen geteeld, en steden gebouwd. Deze geschiedenis van het landschap en het landgebruik hangt sterk samen met de geologie, bodem, het klimaat, reliëf, en de waterhuishouding. Tegelijkertijd heeft dit gebruik de landschappen van Europa gevormd. De geschiedenis van het landgebruik van de afgelopen millennia, en de wisselwerking met biofysische omstandigheden, bepaalt tot op vandaag hoe landschappen eruit zien, hoe ze gewaardeerd worden, en hoe ze functioneren.

De cursus geeft een overzicht van de belangrijkste cultuurlandschappen van Nederland en de rest van Europa. Op een tijdschaal van enkele duizenden jaren wordt van elk cultuurlandschap ontstaan, ontwikkelingsproces en de huidige toestand behandeld. Centrale aandachtspunten daarbij zijn steeds:

–          Hoe is de relatie mens – natuur en hoe is deze veranderd?
–          Welke externe factoren zijn sturend geweest voor de vorming van Europese cultuurlandschappen?
–          Wat is de betekenis van landschapsgeschiedenis voor de tegenwoordige waarde en het functioneren van Europese cultuurlandschappen?

Ook  wordt bekeken wat die veranderingen voor het huidige cultuurlandschap betekenen in het licht van de huidige klimaatsverandering.

Studenten van buiten de faculteit FALW kunnen contact opnemen met de docent om te overleggen over voorkennis: Dr. Ir. Nynke Schulp – nynke.schulp@vu.nl.

Honours programme

Designing Innovations for Sustainability
Honours programme, period 4-5, 6 ECTS

This interdisciplinary course aims at designing innovative solutions for a more sustainable university through creative team work, solid theoretical and practical knowledge exchange and intensive coaching by experts in sustainability. The course intends to give you the chance to come into contact with the (practical) themes of sustainability by searching for innovative solutions. Besides gaining a sound understanding of sustainability challenges, you will develop crucial professional competences and work together in diverse teams. You will design practical and innovative solutions for sustainability that can be implemented within the VU. The main challenge addressed in this course is:

How to make the VU more sustainable?

To answer this main question each group of students will work within a specific sustainability domain related to the university. These domains are:
– Energy
– Water
– Food
– Waste
– Construction

The ultimate goal of this course is for you to learn to collaborate with experts, stakeholders and peers towards a more sustainable university and develop skills on how to apply the gained knowledge in a practical and professional setting.

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