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ACE2475 Literary Gardens (online only)

Started 6 Feb 2024

Sorry! The enrolment period is currently closed. Please check back soon.

Full course description

Course Overview:

Gardens and writing have be entwined since the serpent found a home in the tree of knowledge. This course will explore literary gardens across genres: the vivid descriptions, their meanings and the characters found within them. From Kublai Khan’s Garden of Earthly Delights to Alice Walker’s Mother’s Garden students will study a range of texts that use these areas of natural endeavour to represent or explore themes such as love, heritage and the human condition. Books and gardens are carefully tended plots that share the desire to retreat from the harsher outside world. In following these paths through literary escapes we will also look at the very real horticultural creations of writer gardeners such as Vita Sackville West. This course will encourage students to read texts critically, to learn the basics of ecological literary criticism, and to explore and enjoy the herbaceous borders of imagination.

Course Practicalities:

This course will run on Tuesday mornings over 8 weeks 10.30am – 12.30pm, 6th of February to the 26th of March, 2024.

Location: Online over Microsoft Teams.

Closing date for applications: Monday 29th of January 2024.


Course Content:

Week 1: Classic Gardens: Circe and Sappho. Gardens in Greek and Roman literature (selected in class readings).

Week 2: Shakespearean Gardens (selected in class readings).

Week 3: Young Gardens: Tom’s Midnight Garden, The Secret Garden, The Selfish Giant. Read The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde

Week 4: Lady Gardens: The Bronte sisters, Austen (selected in class readings). Read Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim

Week 5: Sexy Gardens: Art and Literature (selected readings in class)

Week 6: Distant Gardens: Read Cerebus Blooms At Night by Shani Mootoo

Week 7: Writers’ Gardens: Vita Sackville West (Sissinghurst), Emily Dickinson (The Homestead). Read My Garden (Book) by Jamaica Kinkaid

Week 8: Modern Gardens: concrete and space (selected reading in class).



Students will be given selected readings throughout the courses. The only texts that are recommended in full are: Elizabeth Von Arnim's Elizabeth and her German Garden (available at and Shani Mootoo's Cereus Blooms a Night (available at


Course Lecturer:

Dr. Emma Bidwell has presented courses for ACE for a number of years including ones on The Mitford Sisters, Belle Epoque, Jane Austen and Irish Women’s History. She also lecturers on the Women’s Studies Masters course, works as a freelance proofreader and manages the Wild Atlantic Pool and Fitness Centre in Baltimore. 


Entry Requirements:

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement.

Contact Details for Further Information:


Please note our refund policy as follows:
100% refund  if student cancels before course commencement
100% refund if student's course is cancelled due to insufficient numbers. 
If the student cancels after the first week of the course - full refund minus €50 processing fee 
If the student cancels after the second week of the course - no refund