Environmental Humanities Graduate Certificate

Open to graduate students from all departments and schools, including the sciences, the Certificate in Environmental Humanities trains graduate students to integrate methods of the humanities into cross-disciplinary environmental research. Through a shared seminar, two elective courses, and participation in labs and colloquium, students learn to use skills, knowledges, tools, and archives of the humanities to advance pluralist, collaborative approaches to environmental issues.

Certificate Requirements:

Twelve credit hours:

  • 3 hour seminar ENVH 6000: Introduction to Environmental Humanities
    • offered in Spring 2021 by Mary Kuhn (English)
  • 6 hours of electives
    • At least one course from outside the student’s home department
    • EH-themed courses will be listed on website; or, with permission, students may add an EH component to other graduate courses
    • EH electives may also count toward the degree requirements of ones’ program
  • Three semesters of 1-hour participation in EH research colloquium and/or transdisciplinary lab

Students will be assigned a faculty mentor from outside their department to advise course selection and approve credit requirements. The EH faculty mentor may be available, but is not required, to participate on the examination or thesis committee for master’s students and on the dissertation proposal and defense committees for a doctoral student.

Each candidate will publicly present their research in some form, as approved by their EH adviser. Whether in website or podcast form, or a talk or workshop, each graduate of the certificate program will have experience formulating their research for broad public engagement.

Questions? Email Enrico Cesaretti or talk with any EH faculty member

Application Requirements:

▪ Two-page statement of intellectual and professional goals for work in the Certificate
▪ UVA graduate-level transcript;
▪ Academic writing sample; and
▪ Endorsement of participation from the applicant’s DGS

Send applications to Enrico Cesaretti (efc4p@virginia.edu). Applications will be reviewed by a committee of EH faculty and recommendations sent to GSAS.


ENVH 6000: Introduction to Environmental Humanities (3 credits), Spring, 2023

Introducing the questions, methods, and arguments that organize work in the environmental humanities (EH), this graduate seminar is open to MA and PhD students from any discipline, including the sciences and social sciences. The seminar’s primary objective to is to advance graduate student capacities to use skills, knowledges, tools, and archives of the humanities to advance pluralist, integrated understandings of environmental issues. In support of that purpose, the seminar develops critical reflection on methodological questions in EH about disciplinarity, collaboration, innovation, and public engagement.

This seminar runs in coordination with the regular EH research colloquium, which features transdisciplinary research from within UVA as well as leading EH figures from outside the university.


Fall 2022

Charlotte Rogers- SPAN 7850 Caribbean Environmental Humanities (M 3:30-6:00: NCH 209)

Michael Allen- RELH 3105 Hinduism and Ecology (MW 2:00-3:15)


Previous Courses

FALL 2021 

Max Edelson – HIST 5501: Historical Geospatial Visualization. Topic: Working with Historic Maps.  


Enrico Cesaretti – ITTR 4010/ENVH 6010 Narrating (Un-)sustainability: Ecocritical Explorations in Italy and the Mediterranean

(course open to both undergraduate and graduate students) (Tue.-Th. 12.30-1.45 NAU 141) 

This course focuses on the potential fictional and non-fictional narratives have to convey messages that are relevant to our ethical and environmental awareness, and to help us imagine alternatives to existing systems of knowledge and distributions of power. While expanding the notion of text to include material formations (landscapes, bodies, matters), we shall learn about the origins and general objectives of (material) ecocriticism, its theories and methodologies, and various approaches to the notion of sustainability. Focusing on Italy as a geographical sensor that may help enlighten the situation of other places globally, we’ll address a selection of “material narratives” (i.e. the interlaced stories co-emerging simultaneously from places, literature, artworks, films, and documentaries) which contribute to shape our environmental consciousness, affect our ethical attitude in the era of the Anthropocene, and help enact forms of ecological resistance and cultural liberation. 

By the end of the course, students will be able to: approach literary, visual and material texts as forms of environmental inquiry; appreciate the transnational and interconnected nature of ecocritical inquiries, and the fact that the topic of sustainability includes not only economic or techno-scientific but social, cultural, ethical, and aesthetic-artistic dimensions; assess how various forms of situated narratives may contribute to an increased awareness of global environmental dynamics; deepen a sense of respect, engagement and responsibility for their local environments in relation to global ecosystems; learn about alternative (Southern/Mediterranean) approaches to address ecological and sustainability problems (i.e. ‘slowness’, ‘de-growth’, ‘the Commons’ etc.).  

SPRING 2022 

Michael Allen – RELG 3416: Sustainability and Asceticism 

(u.g. course with a potential graduate section) 

“A policy which does not ask for changes or sacrifices would not be an effective policy,” President Carter once controversially declared. To what extent does the pursuit of sustainability require personal sacrifice? How can people be encouraged to consume less, or in less destructive ways, when long-standing patterns of behavior and cultures of consumption prove resistant to change? This course explores the relationship between sustainability and asceticism (from the Greek root askein, “to train, exercise”), or self-conscious practices of sacrifice and restraint, with a focus on South Asian religious traditions. Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain thinkers offer sophisticated accounts of desire, consumption, and human flourishing, and these accounts will form the basis of class discussion and debate in the first half of the course. We will situate these materials in historical context, but we will also assess their relevance to contemporary sustainability projects.   

 The second half of the course will move from classical to modern sources, beginning with a look at the role of asceticism in the thought of Gandhi. We will then read E. F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful, with special attention to his idea of “Buddhist Economics.” We will look at the work of the contemporary environmental activists Sunderlal Bahuguna and Satish Kumar, who were influenced by Gandhi as well as by Schumacher. We will conclude the course by considering experiments in sustainability: we will consider examples of intentional communities in the U.S., and we will consider a case of sustainable development in South Asia, analyzing Bhutan’s use of a Gross National Happiness index.   

Over the course of the semester, students will also undertake an “ascetic experiment” of their own choosing. The only criteria are that the experiment must be (a) related to sustainability, (b) feasible and safe, and (c) challenging enough that you will be tempted to give it up. Examples include: adopting a vegan diet, trying to go low-waste or zero-waste, line-drying clothes, minimizing the use of heating and air conditioning, etc. 


Dorothy Wong – EAST 5863 East Asian Art, Landscape, and Ecology

This course introduces the principal concepts of nature and ecology in East Asian philosophical traditions—Daoism, Shinto, Buddhism, Confucianism. These concepts have profound impacts on the relationship between humans and their natural environment and have inspired and informed art forms such as landscape paintings, religious temples and shrines, garden architecture, and tea houses. The course also explores how these ideas can contribute to the modern discourse on environmental ethics and sustainability. 


Mary Kuhn – ENGL 5000 (number TBD) – Plants and Empire

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