What’s it about? My Geographies of Enthusiasm 3rd year undergraduate module so far…

Since 2003 I’ve been thinking about and researching ‘enthusiasm’, something I’ve described elsewhere as an emotional affiliation that influences our actions, passions and performances in the world. Last year I was given the opportunity to design a new 3rd year undergraduate module on a topic of my choice. I picked Geographies of Enthusiasm.

I wanted this module to be about exploring all the things that don’t often get air time in other parts of a BA/BSc in human geography, namely the individual and collective passions of the students who enrol. Of course, other modules draw on the interests and passions of our students revealing the situated and embodied nature of their learning and knowledge, but I wanted my students to be able to understand and apply some of the theories that help make sense of their enthusiasms. The key to the module is unlocking my students’ attachments to the world around them and passing that on wherever they go next.

Where to begin? Well, I took all of the research projects I’ve been involved in, the people I’ve worked with and those I love reading, and the feeling I wanted to create on the module and began creating a structure and reading list. I showed this to my long time collaborator Tara Woodyer who said: ‘Hil, this is interesting, but this is far too much material. What’s the one thing you want them to really take home?’ What advice, eh. By the end of the afternoon, I’d established the take home that I could return to each week was:

The world is more-than-rational and our doings ‘do’ things in the world

It took quite a while to get to this point, and I still have plenty of tinkering to do, and it has already changed, but the outline fits together a bit like this:

Module outline

Whilst the module handbook exists complete with references, I am writing the module week by week. So far, the first four weeks have played out as follows:

Week 1: the module started by exploring the concepts that enable us to make sense of enthusiasm – namely emotion and affect in the emotional geographies/geographies of emotion literature. I also touch on non-representational theory and more-than-representation. Returning to some history of geographical thought from the 1st year – we explore how space was made for ‘geographies of enthusiasm’ in the discipline. The attached seminar ‘being emotional’ involves a trip to The Museum of English Rural Life to explore emotions and rationalities in space.

Week 2: began with a re-cap of the emotional geographies and affect. This module is my students first real encounter with them. Then moves into conceptualising enthusiasm ranging from sociological models, cultural/media studies and geographical research. Using my own story from undergrad to now as the mechanism. Lots of examples from my research: technology enthusiasm; enchantment; architectural enthusiasm; wetland birds; climate change; citizen science; tree health. The attached seminar – being enthusiastic – involves thinking about the assessment – specifically using an object to discuss their own enthusiasm in the context of a chosen cause, activity or interest. What enthusiasm does.


Week 3: started with enchantment – what I’m using to describe the ‘mood’ of the module but also geography as a discipline with space for enthusiasm. We discussed enchantment in the context of everyday life and then I moved on to introduce ideas of curiosity, magic and play. We devoted quite a bit of the session to ‘playing’. The attached seminar – being a storyteller – involved telling stories with meteorites. This week also involved creating an enthusiasm manifesto for the module – what are the actions, passions and performances that influence our participation in the module.

playmeteoritesenchanted take

Week 4: **TODAY** is about accessing the embodied practices and relationalities in enthusiasm through ideas of making and creativity. Using the example of Tunnock’s caramel wafers, we consider industrial production, craft as practice, vital and lively materialities and the creative practices of geographers. In the second half of the session, we’ll attend in more detail to craft as practice through making something with play-doh and the artistic residency from the Moving Into Care team. The attached seminars – being a maker – follow on later this week and early next week, one down at The Museum of English Rural Life looking at craft objects and making heritage crafts, and another on making and making-do in amateur theatre.

I’ll compile some week-by-week blogs shortly to share more details on each session. But my first couple of reflections are:

  1. being yourself when lecturing is an absolute MUST for me. Students have enjoyed hearing my experiences in/through human geography.
  2. our knowledge is performative and does things in the world, and it can do things for our students too.
  3. the process is just as important as the ‘content’
  4. ‘amateur creativities’ and ‘impassioned knowledges’ aren’t quite right, basically the sessions on making, craft, citizen science (amateurs as experts) and architectural enthusiasm/urban exploration need to become the more empirical sessions but need a new umbrella label.
  5. The politics of enthusiasm can’t wait until the last lecture – it has be there throughout ‘in tension’ – the idea that all of this is very positive and happy needs further examination.
  6. Can’t recommend weekly student feedback enough when developing a new module from scratch.
  7. I’m LOVING IT!

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