Academic year
2022/2023 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
NA004B (AF:404339 AR:219218)
ECTS credits
Degree level
Educational sector code
2nd Semester
Course year
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This course is part of the Minor in Environmental Humanities, open to students from any bachelor course at Ca' Foscari.
At the end of this course, students will have acquired key competences (methodological as much as content-related) to orient themselves in the study of environmental history, of its sources, from the 1960s up to nowadays, and in order to be able to address more complex readings on the topic.
This course will be in Italian. However, since some texts which I will use are not available in translation, a basic knowledge of English is recommended, even though it is not necessary.
The main aim of this course is to introduce students to the study of environmental history, its multifaceted definitions, various traditions and key authors. The course will take into account some key concepts of past and present environmental history, among which "anthropocentrism", "wilderness", "ecology", "ecologism", "frontier", "resources", taking them into account from a historical perspective and examining their contemporary declinations. Following a series of thematic clusters (climate, resources, natural disasters), the course will problematise the human-nature relationship from the so-called Columbian Exchange and its ecological impacts. The course will cover Italian as much as global dimensions, looking at the social dynamics at stake, as well as at past scientific debates, such as that concerning the introduction of exotic botanical specimens in Europe in the XV and XVI centuries, and more recent ones, such as the querelle on the Anthropocene. It will also dig into the implications, social, political and scientific, of the ecological transformations operated by Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch colonists in South America as much as in South East Asia, and analyse the theological and rational imaginaries connected to the explanation of natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, epidemics). Even though the chronology of this course will be related to the early modern period, many of the case studies taken into account will offer perspectives on the relationship between human beings and nature at our age. Given the introductory nature of the course, and the fact that it can be attended by students from various disciplines, I will use an interdisciplinary approach.

1 Introduction to Environmental History (sources, concepts, periodisation) 6 hours
2. Climate Culture and Society before the Anthropocene (4 hours)
3. Resources, Labour and Inequalities (6 hours)
4. Ecology and Natural Disasters (4 hours)
5. What's the Anthropocene? (6 hours)
6. Decolonising Ecology (4 hours)
Marco Armiero e Stefania Barca, Storia dell'Ambiente (Carocci, Roma 2004)

Rachel Carson, Primavera Silenziosa (Milano: Feltrinelli, 1994)

Carolyn Merchant, La Morte della Natura. Donne Ecologia e Rivoluzione Scientifica (Editrice Bibliografica, Milano 2022)

Joachim Radkau, Storia globale dell'ambiente (Gorizia: Leg, 2020)

Christophe Bonneuil, Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, La terra, la storia e noi. L'evento antropocene (Roma: Treccani, 2019)

Carla Benedetti, La letteratura ci salverà dall'estinzione; Torino: Einaudi 2021

Amitav Ghosh, La Maledizione della noce moscata. Parabole per un pianeta in crisi (Vicenza: Neri Pozza, 2022)

Paul Warde, Libby Robin, Sverker Sörlin, The Environment: A History of the Idea, Baltimora: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018

Jessica Hernandez, Fresh Banana Leaves. Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science (North Atlantic Books, Berkeley 2022).

Students are not expected to know the content of each of these books in detail. Rather, we will be focusing on the main ideas vehiculated in these books, and discuss them in class.
The final exam will consist in an oral examination on the main themes addressed in the course, and on a book, chosen among those which I have proposed. Alternatively, students can agree on specific texts with me. Participation in class will also be evaluated. Students will be asked to give short presentations, alone or in small groups, on topics of their interest. Presentations will have a twofold function: on the one hand, they will help me understand whether students are encountering difficulties of any sort; on the other, they will help students learn how to make arguments and communicate contents to others.
The course will consist in lectures, with the use of ppt and images (and videos!) The first ten/fifteen minutes of each lecture will be dedicated to summarise the main themes of the previous lecture and to announce the themes on the lecture of the day. Students will be asked to intervene and engage in the reading of texts and the interpretation of images and short videos.
Enrolling in the Moodle area related to this course is highly recommended, since I will upload additional material for each lecture there (articles, videos, images)

Students who cannot attend lectures in person are asked to contact me to the following email address:

This subject deals with topics related to the macro-area "Natural capital and environmental quality" and contributes to the achievement of one or more goals of U. N. Agenda for Sustainable Development

Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 02/02/2023