Effective Term: Subject Area Course Number:  english 472 Cross-listing: (See Note #1 below) Course Title

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University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Curriculum Proposal Form #3

New Course

Effective Term:
Subject Area - Course Number:  ENGLISH 472 Cross-listing:

(See Note #1 below)

Course Title: (Limited to 65 characters) Nature Writing

25-Character Abbreviation: Nature Writing

Sponsor(s): Alison Townsend

Department(s): Languages and Literatures


Consultation took place: NA Yes (list departments and attach consultation sheet)


Programs Affected:      

Is paperwork complete for those programs? (Use "Form 2" for Catalog & Academic Report updates)

NA Yes will be at future meeting
Prerequisites: English 101 and English -102 
Grade Basis: Conventional Letter S/NC or Pass/Fail
Course will be offered: Part of Load Above Load

On Campus Off Campus - Location      

College: Dept/Area(s): Languages & Literatures/English

Instructor: Alison Townsend

Note: If the course is dual-listed, instructor must be a member of Grad Faculty.
Check if the Course is to Meet Any of the Following:

Technological Literacy Requirement Writing Requirement

Diversity General Education Option:

Note: For the Gen Ed option, the proposal should address how this course relates to specific core courses, meets the goals of General Education in providing breadth, and incorporates scholarship in the appropriate field relating to women and gender.

Credit/Contact Hours: (per semester)

Total lab hours: 0 Total lecture hours: 48

Number of credits: 3 Total contact hours: 48
Can course be taken more than once for credit? (Repeatability)

No Yes If "Yes", answer the following questions:

No of times in major: 1 No of credits in major: 3

No of times in degree: 1 No of credits in degree: 3

Proposal Information: (Procedures for form #3)

Course justification:

The proposed course, Nature Writing, is an intensive writing workshop that provides students with an introduction to the history, theory, techniques and practice of nature writing in its many forms. Though aspects of nature writing are touched upon in other classes (such as Creative Writing, Creative Nonfiction, American Literature, etc.) in the department, there is currently no course available for students who wish to focus on writing about the natural world.

In the twenty-first century, nature writing, long an important strand in American literature, has achieved a place of increasing prominence and urgency as we struggle to work out our relationship with the environment. As concerns about global warming, poisoned waters, disturbed and vanishing habitats, animal extinctions, ozone depletion, and exhaustion of nonrenewable resources escalate, nature writing has, as Alison Deming and Lauret Savoy note, "moved beyond narratives of solitary encounter in the wild to explore how people and cultures have been shaped by and have shaped the land... [bearing] witness to the wounded relationship between people and the creation and [exploring] how literature might have political agency."

This prominence is reflected in the development of the popular nature essay/book and the unprecedented amounts of nature writing published by literary journals such as Ecotone, Isotope, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Under the Sun, Riverteeth: A Journal of Narrative Prose, The Missouri Review, New Letters, and Prairie Schooner (to name just a few), as well as more mainstream publications, such as Orion, Audubon, Smithsonian and Discover. So prominent is the genre that it was recently the featured subject in Poets and Writers. In addition to being the focus of organizations like ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment), the genre is a major component in a number of MFA programs in Creative Writing and the focus of several important summer creative writing conferences and institutes. It is also included in many Environmental Studies programs (such as that at Middlebury College) and is a foundation course in Environmental Humanities programs (such as those pioneered at the University of Utah by Terry Tempest Williams).

At UW-Whitewater, student response to opportunities to write about nature within the context of another class (such as Creative Nonfiction, World of Ideas, Advanced Writers Studio, or, in Women's Studies courses such as Women's Voices, Women's Lives,) has been overwhelmingly positive. Several students in these classes have gone on to win either departmental or College writing awards for pieces that grew out of nature-based assignments. A number of them have asked for a class devoted specifically to nature writing.

Nature Writing will both supplement and diversify our current English Creative Writing- emphasis curriculum, as well as providing a venue for Literature-emphasis and Professional Editing and Publishing-emphasis students to study – and experience – a genre that has informed so much of our literature, from Emerson and Thoreau, to Carson and Leopold, to Williams, Oliver and Dillard. Nature Writing will enhance students' mastery of writing in the undergraduate curriculum, helping them meet skills objectives as defined by the Department, and inaugurate skills that will prepare them for both graduate school in creative writing and real world scenarios, such as internships or jobs in environmental writing. Less tangibly, but no less importantly, Nature Writing will empower students by helping them see that the natural world is inextricably linked with identity and culture. This kind of awareness can develop ecological literacy and help influence the fate of the earth.

Nature Writing has been designed as an elective course for English Majors or Minors with a Creative Writing, Professional Writing and Editing, or Literature Emphasis in the Department of Languages and Literatures, as well as a Humanities elective in the proposed Environmental Studies/Environmental Sciences major (currently in development under David Travis). In the latter capacity, in particular, the course will build an important bridge between the humanities and the sciences, enhancing and strengthening interdisciplinarity in the College of Letters and Sciences. It will also be of interest to Liberal Arts English majors and minors seeking a better understanding of this genre/tradition, to secondary English Education majors and minors seeking to better understand/apply the genre in the high school curriculum, to majors in Biology, Education, History, Psychology, Social Work, and Women's Studies who can apply it in their fields, and to students from other disciplines interested in exploring nature writing.
Relationship to program assessment objectives:

Nature Writing complements and extends our current genre-based creative writing workshops, satisfying the departmental goal of offering English-Creative Writing emphasis majors (and those in other sub-majors) a more comprehensive curriculum. It expands the department's ability to help Creative Writing-emphasis majors (and others) meet skills objectives in "adapting both content and style to audience, purpose, medium, and occasion by utilizing appropriate formats and diverse stylistic techniques." As noted above, it also prepares students for writing internships and writing in Environmental Studies.

Nature Writing fills an important curricular gap. Besides providing students with a thorough introduction to this multi-faceted, interdisciplinary area of study, Nature Writing discusses the forms and issues surrounding this still-evolving genre, and considers the composing process through assignments in several different sub-genres. The course addresses all of the department’s current curricular goals for the English-Creative Writing emphasis major objectives/assessments (with obvious applicability to other sub-majors in English):

  1. Nature Writing enhances and expands the following subject matter objectives/assessments for the English-Creative Writing emphasis major:

  1. “Students…should be able to describe “structures and functions of the English language, using appropriate rhetorical, grammatical and stylistic terminology.”

  2. “Students…should be able to “identify the major periods and their characteristics in British and American Literature, and to explain the contributions of major literary figures to the development of literatures, its themes, genres and techniques.”

  1. Nature Writing enhances and expands the following cognitive development objectives/assessments in the English-Creative Writing emphasis major:

  1. “Students…should be able to analyze and interpret the techniques and themes of literary works.”

  2. “Students…should be able to trace the development of literary genres, themes and

techniques through literary history to the present, and relate literary works to their

historical, social and cultural mileau.”

  1. “Students …should be able to discern and evaluate the cultural diversity and the ethical, aesthetic and humanistic values embodied and expressed in literature.”

  2. “Students…should be able to apply to area other than literature the analytical, critical,

relational and communication processes developed through the study of literature.”

  1. Nature writing enhances and expands the following skill objectives/assessments in the English-Creative Writing emphasis major:

  1. “Students…should be able to conduct research in literature, language and related

areas, synthesizing research with their own ideas.”

  1. “Students…should be proficient at writing clear, concise prose that is logically organized, developed and supported, and free of significant grammatical, usage and other errors.”

  2. “Students…should be proficient at creatively formulating and expressing ideas, and at adapting both content and writing style to purposes, medium and occasion by utilizing appropriate formats and diverse stylistic techniques effectively.

  3. “Students…should be proficient at applying the processes, principles and techniques of effective writing in evaluating and editing the work of others.”

Finally, because Nature Writing weaves together historically distinct strands in English studies (creative writing, literature, and composition), it has the potential to unify and enhance students' ability to articulate their experience about quite varied aspects of the discipline. Nature Writing asks students to develop their critical writing skills, as well as preparing them for graduate school in creative writing, work in environmentally-based internships and jobs in environmental writing. As noted above, it also builds an important bridge between the humanities and the sciences, enhancing and strengthening interdisciplinarity in the College of Letters and Sciences.

Budgetary impact: Nature Writing will be taught as part of the regular Department rotation (alternating years with Creative Nonfiction) by current staff. Anderson Library contains many of the titles on the course list. Acquisitions will be made through funding that is currently available. The course will meet in existing classroom space.
Course description: (50 word limit)
An intensive writing workshop that provides students with an introduction to the history, theory, techniques, and practice of American nature writing in its many forms.
If dual listed, list graduate level requirements for the following:
1. Content (e.g., What are additional presentation/project requirements?)

2. Intensity (e.g., How are the processes and standards of evaluation different for graduates and undergraduates? )

3. Self-Directed (e.g., How are research expectations differ for graduates and undergraduates?)

Course objectives and tentative course syllabus:
Course Objectives:

--to discuss the basic history and tradition of nature writing in America, and become familiar with what various practitioners, scholars, and critics in the field have to say about this genre, particularly as it pertains to contemporary nature writing.

--to analyze the genre in a wide range of readings selected from poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, as well as areas of theory that investigate how nature writers approach the task of creating their work.
--to write about the literature under discussion in critical overviews, focused explications, and

oral presentations.

--to equip students with strategies and techniques for brainstorming, drafting, writing and revising their own creative works-in-progress.
--to provide them with the critical expertise and technical language to help them better critique works-in-progress.
--to articulate a personal, critical, and environmental aesthetic through discussions of our readings and responses to one another's writing in small and full-class workshops.
--to experience (and document) the diversity and interconnectedness of the natural world, considering how identity and culture are shaped by the land.
--to explore the potential power and problems involved in writing about nature and how to make such material of interest to the broadest possible audience.
--to compile a body of creative writing about the natural world.
Syllabus: See pilot course syllabus below.
Bibliography: (Key or essential references only. Normally the bibliography should be no more than one or two pages in length.)
Background Bibliography and Readings (Selected):
I. Primary Sources
Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire.

Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses.

Cass Adams, The Soul Unearthed: Celebrating Wildness and Personal Renewal Through Nature.

Chris Anderson, Edge Effects: Notes from an Oregon Forest.

Lorraine Anderson, Sisters of the Earth: Women’s Poetry and Prose about Nature.

Lorraine Anderson, Scott Slovic, and John O'Grady, (eds.) Literature & the Environment.

Doug Aberly, Boundaries of Home: Mapping for Local Empowerment

Mary Austin, Land of Little Rain.

David Landi Barnhill, At Home on the Earth: Becoming Native to Our Place.

William Bartram, Travels.

Rick Bass, The Deer Pasture.

---------, Wild to the Heart.

---------, Winter.

Frank Bergon (ed.) The Wilderness Reader.

Henry Beston, The Outermost House.

John Caddy, Morning Earth.

David Carroll, The Year of the Turtle.

Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us.

Leonard Charles, et all, Home: A Bioregional Reader.

Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle.

Alison Deming, The Monarchs: A Sequence.

----------------, Temporary Homelands.

---------------- and Lauret Savoy, The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, & the Natural World Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm.

----------------, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

----------------, Teaching a Stone to Talk.

Loren Eisley, The Immense Journey.

Gretel Erlich, The Solace of Open Spaces.

---------------, A Match to the Heart.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays ("Nature," etc.).

Robert Finch and John Elder, The Norton Book of Nature Writing: The Tradition in English.

Waverly Fitzgerald, Living in Season: The Passions and Pleasures of the Season (e-zine).

Susan Griffin, Women and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her.

Paul Gruchow, The Necessity of Empty Places.

John Haines, Living off the Country: Essays on Poetry and Place.

-------------, The Stars, the Snow, the Fire.

Daniel Halpern and Dan Frank, The Nature Reader.

Frances Hammerstrom, Walk When the Moon is Full.

Jim Harrison, Just Before Dark.

Linda Hasselstrom, Land Circle.

Hannah Hinchman, A Trail Through the Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place.

Linda Hogan, Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Natural World.

Linda Hogan (with Deena Metzger and Brenda Peterson), Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women & Animals.

Edward Hoagland, Red Wolves and Black Bears.

Sue Hubbell, A Country Year: Living the Questions.

Cathy Johnson, The Naturalist's Path: Beginning the Study of Nature.

Joseph Wood Krutch, The Desert Year.

Sandra Kynes, Whispers from the Woods: The Lore and Magic of Trees.

Clare Leslie, The Naturalist's Sketchbook: Pages from the Seasons of a Year.

---------------, Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a New Way of Seeing the World Around You.

Laurie Lawlor, This Tender Place.

Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac.

Ann Linnea, Deep Water Passage.

Ben Logan, The Land Remembers.

Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams.

--------------, Crossing Open Ground.

--------------, Of Wolves and Men.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It.

Susan Chenak McElroy, Why Buffalo Dance.

John McPhee, Coming into the Country.

Peter Matthiessen, Sand Rivers.

--------------------, The Snow Leopard.

John Hanson Mitchell, Ceremonial Time: Fifteen Thousand Years on One Square Mile.

N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain.

Susannah Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush.

Kathleen Dean Moore, Riverwalking.

John Muir, The Wilderness World of John Muir.

Gary Nabhan, The Desert Smells Like Rain.

Richard Nelson, The Island Within.

Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography.

Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems.

Scott Olsen and Scott Cairns, The Sacred Place: Witnessing the Holy in the Physical World.

Sigurd Olsen, The Singing Wilderness.

Robert Pack and Jay Parini, Poems for a Small Planet: Contemporary American Nature Poetry Brenda Peterson, Living By Water.

Michael Polan, Second Nature.

Robert Michael Pyle, Wintergreen: Listening to the Land's Heart.

Pattiann Rogers, Firekeeper.

Scott Russell Sanders, Living in the Middle.

Peter Saver, Finding Home: Writing on Nature and Culture from Orion Magazine.

David Sobel, Beyond Ecophobia.

Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water.

Gary Synder, Earth House Hold.

Starhawk, The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature.

Edwin Way Teale, A Walk Through the Year.

H.D. Thoreau, Walden (and excepts from Journals).

Mitchell Thomashaw, Ecological Identity: Bringing the Biosphere Home.

Stephen Trimble, Words from the Land: Encounters with Natural History Writing.

David Rains Wallace. The Dark Range: A Naturalist's Night Notebook.

Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place.

Edward O. Wilson. Biophilia.

Ann Zwinger, Down Canyon.

--------------, The Near-Sighted Naturalist.
II. Secondary Sources
Alexander Adams, Eternal Quest: The Story of the Great Naturalists.

John Bakeless, The Eyes of Discovery.

Connie Barlow, Green Space, Green Time: the Way of Science.

Marcia Bjornerud, Reading the Rocks: An Autobiography of the Earth.

Paul Brooks, Speaking for Nature.

Ernest Callenbach, Ecology: A Pocket Guide.

Joni Chancer and Gina Rester-Zodrow, Moon Journals: Writing, Art, and Inquiry Through Focused Nature Study.

Susie Criswell, Nature Through Science and Art.

Bill Devall and George Sessions, Deep Ecology: Living as If Nature Mattered.

Joseph Kastner, A Species of Eternity.

Annette Kolodny, The Lay of the Land: Metaphor as Experience and History in American Life and Letters.

---------------, The Land Before Her.

Edward Lueders, Writing Natural History: Dialogues with Authors.

Thomas Lyon, The Incomperable Lande.

Christian McEwen and Mark Statman (eds.), The Alphabet of Trees: A Guide to Nature Writing.

John Murray, Writing About Nature.

Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind.

Orion Society, Into the Field: A Guide to Locally-Focused Learning.

----------------, Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities.

----------------, Stories in the Land.

David Petersen, Writing Naturally: A Down to Earth Guide to Nature Writing.

Robert Richardson, Henry David Thoreau: A Life of the Mind.

Emma Wood Rous, Literature and the Land: Reading and Writing for Environmental Literacy.

Wallace Stegner, On the Teaching of Creative Writing.

David Suzuki, The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature

Stephen Trimble (ed.), Words from the Land: Encounters with Natural History Writing.

Frederick Waage (ed.), Teaching Environmental Literature.

  1. Online Field Guides, etc. (selected)

Plants and Animals: www.enature.com.fieldguides

Birds: www.birds.cornell.edu.AllAboutBirds

Insects, Spiders, Arthopods, etc.: http://bugguide.net/node/view/15740

More on Insects and Spiders: www.cirrusimage.com/

Project Budburst (interactive, online phenology): www.windows.ucar.edu/citizen_science/budburst/

Journey North (online phenology, interactive site): www.learner.org/jnorth
(Online sites for astronomy and geography will also be included)
The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is dedicated to a safe, supportive and    non-discriminatory learning environment.  It is the responsibility of all undergraduate and graduate students to familiarize themselves with University policies regarding Special Accommodations, Academic Misconduct, Religious Beliefs Accommodation, Discrimination and Absence for University Sponsored Events (for details please refer to the Schedule of Classes; the “Rights and Responsibilities” section of the Undergraduate Catalog; the Academic Requirements and Policies and the Facilities and Services sections of the Graduate Catalog; and the “Student Academic Disciplinary Procedures (UWS Chapter 14); and the “Student Nonacademic Disciplinary Procedures" (UWS Chapter 17). 
Course Objectives and tentative course syllabus with mandatory information (paste syllabus below):
Note: This course was taught as a highly successful pilot in Fall 2007, in the English 490/Writing Workshop slot (topics vary). The syllabus from that course appears below.


ENGLISH 490/590

Instructor: Alison Townsend

Office: 421 Heide Hall

Office Phone: 472-5056

Office Hours: TR 10:00-11:00, & by appointment.

Don’t be shy about asking for time outside class.

English Program Phone: 472-1036 (messages)

Home Phone: (608) 873-8304 (in emergencies only, please)

E-mail: townsena@uww.edu


“Man knows that he springs from nature and not nature from him. This is an old and very primitive knowledge. – Loren Eisley

“The earth is not a mere fragment of dead history, a stratum upon stratum like the leaves of a book, to be studied by geologists and antiquarians chiefly, but living poetry like the leaves of a tree, which precede flowers and fruit – not a fossil earth but a living earth. – H. D. Thoreau
“When we try to pick out anything in Nature, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” -- John Muir
“Show me a man’s environment, and I will tell who he is.” Boris Pasternak
“Suddenly, from behind the rim of the moon in long, slow-motion movements of immense majesty there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of mystery. It takes more than moment to realize this is Earth – home.

--Edgar Mitchell, Apollo astronaut, on seeing the earth while walking on the moon

“The natural world has become a practice, a teaching, the place where I can make peace with my own contradictory nature, the place where we can all make peace with our own contradictory natures. I write about what I know, and I am inspired by what I don’t know – which is enormous. I believe in the longing for unity, that we may in fact be asking for a new way to think about science but are in reality asking for a new way to think about ourselves.

--Terry Tempest Williams

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This creative writing course focuses on the art and craft of nature writing and how the tradition has been represented in English. After a brief historical and literary overview, we will focus primarily on style and technique in twentieth century American examples, looking at a wide range of authors. Though our primary text, The Norton Anthology of Nature Writing, focuses on essays, we will look at other genres as well. Our readings will serve as both inspirations and models for our own creative work. We will work through a series of exercises about nature, many of which may serve as springboards for longer pieces. We will keep a place journal, and write four personal essays, as well as reflective responses to our reading, and participate in an on-going dialogue about the role that nature writing plays in shaping a culture responsive to environmental realities. Since nature writing is, by definition, an outdoors activity, we’ll spend time writing outside on campus. Everyone will also select a spot of their own to observe and write about over the course of the semester in his/her place journal. We will take a field trip, journeying north to Baraboo, to visit Aldo Leopold’s shack and the International Crane Foundation, see a film or two, and have two guest speakers. We will meet in small group workshops and in individual conferences to exchange ideas, discuss our essays, and cheer one another on. I see this course as an exploration, one in which we all learn from one another and this beautiful and endangered planet.

  1. To come together as a diverse, questioning, and celebratory group of readers and writers, to explore and share our experiences of the natural world and the many places where that world intersects with human culture.

  2. To become more familiar with the tradition of nature writing in English.

  3. To deepen and extend our writer’s voice, compiling a body of work about the natural world.

  4. To develop our skills in drafting, revising, editing, and commenting on writing – our own and that of others.

  5. To explore the creative process and learn more about ourselves – as writers and human beings, considering how identity and culture are shaped by the environment.

COURSE FORMAT AND PROCEDURE: Our primary focus will be on our composing process, with emphasis on drafting, responding to, and revising each piece of writing that we produce during the semester. To this end, we will alternate between small group writing workshops in which we receive peer and instructor response to our work in-progress, frequent in-class writing, and craft discussions about our reading. This means we will each be part of an on-going small group/workshop with whom we exchange and respond to writing on a frequent basis. At least once a week, we’ll begin class with a writing exercise. Be forewarned. I do not lecture! While I will always be there to help focus and guide discussions of our reading, I expect and require that you participate. We will take turns opening the discussion.
REQUIRED TEXTS: (available at UWW Bookstore)

The Norton Book of Nature Writing, edited by Robert Finch and John Elder

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, by Terry Tempest Williams

A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold

This Tender Place: The Story of a Wisconsin Wetland, by Laurie Lawlor

Xeroxed course reader for English 490 (contains many essays, etc.)

RECOMMENDED TEXTS: If you don't already own one, it's worth investing in a good desk dictionary (such as Webster's New Collegiate) and a thesaurus (such as Roget's International or The Rodale Synonym Finder). These are invaluable resources and belong in every writer's library. Given the focus of this course, a field guide or two might also be in order. Check Anderson or your local library.
You should also purchase a sturdy two-pocket folder in which to keep drafts, revisions, peer response sheet and notes from me. The contents of this folder will become the basis for your portfolio (see below). Please label your portfolio clearly so that I may easily identify it as yours.
ATTENDANCE: Two words say it: essential and required. One of the most important things we will do this semester is to come together as a community of writers who listen deeply and help hear one another into speech, into the true stories we each need to write. That means that everyone's voice is valuable -- and necessary to the workshop process. You may have TWO absences, after which your grade goes down one full point for every absence. THREE unexcused absences will seriously compromise your grade for the class. Serious illness, a death in the family, or other legitimate life crises don’t count against you. But please be in touch and let me know what is going on.
GRADING: Portfolios are the standard method of assessment in creative writing. The portfolio you assemble during the semester is designed to allow you the most opportunity to revise. I will conference with you individually at mid-semester, and I will ask you to write self-evaluation letters about your process and progress at the end of the semester. I am known for the amount and depth of my written commentary and will provide detailed evaluations of your work, with concrete suggestions for revision. Your grade will be broken down as follows:
By mid-semester – Two essays (minimum, 5 pp. each); various short exercises: 30%

By end of semester – Two additional essays (5 pp. each) and one significant revision: 35%

Place Journals: 20%

Class participation – Includes attendance, commitment, reader-responses, etc: 15%

GRADING SCALE: A= 90-100; B= 80-80; C=70-79; D= 60-69; F= 60 and below.

WRITING ASSIGNMENTS: As Wright Morris said, "The more you write, the better you get." Expect to do a lot of writing this semester. Our writing assignments explore various approaches to nature and are, to some extent, keyed to what we will be reading. Formal assignments consist of four essays (minimum of 5 pages each; they may be longer) and your semester-long place/field journal. In addition I will give you a number of short in-class assignments, aimed at giving you an opportunity to both play and practice ways of writing about the natural world. Some of the in-class assignments focus on craft (openings, closings, figurative language, etc.) and others focus on the more intangible qualities nature offers us (such as beauty and spectacle, turmoil and order, mystery and predictability). All formal assignments MUST be typed (double-spaced, 12-point font) and clearly labeled with your name, date, and the assignment number/topic (i.e., "Essay #1: Nature Autobiography). Informal assignments can be handwritten in your journal.
PORTFOLIOS: Your portfolio is the single most important part of class and should contain all drafts, revisions, learning logs, self-assessments, essays, and commentary on your essays. It is due at the end of the semester. The portfolio provides a way to gather a body of work, to assess your own process/progress, and to revise as much as possible.
PLACE/FIELD JOURNALS: Besides being an important genre in their own right (one that segues especially naturally to the essay form), journals are an excellent way to gather material and practice writing. There is a long history of the journal form in nature writing. Thoreau wrote Walden based on material in his journals. Lewis and Clark kept a journal to record their journey west. Darwin kept a journal during his voyage on the Beagle. More recently, writers like Annie Dillard and Barry Lopez have used journals as the basis for subsequent books (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Arctic Dreams). Journals are also contemplative, a way of focusing, going deeper, and noticing things we miss at first glance. When we observe, we must sit still, absorb the setting and deeply see. Artist and nature writer Hannah Hinchman calls the journal “…an accumulation of moments of true wakefulness.”
I’d like you each to identify a special place that you’d like to observe, explore, think about, meditate on, and write about over the course of the semester. It can be a favorite spot on campus, a garden, a corner of your yard or neighborhood, what you see outside your window, or a nearby “natural area” such as the UWW Nature Preserve or a county park. If you live near the Kettle Moraine, great. But it’s important to realize that you don’t have to think big here. For many years, for example, while living in Southern California, where the natural world and human culture bump especially tightly up against one another, I kept a journal about a corner of my yard, amazed at how much “wildness” I witnessed there.
So think small and manageable, look for what naturalist John Hay calls “local wilderness.” In selecting your place for in-depth observation, keep in mind that it needs to be easily accessible (and safe!). Taking a cue from writer Suzanne Ross, consider some of the following ideas: Allow your place journals to be both informal and improvisational, like life, a record of your observations, process, and consciousness as you attempt to know and be at home in this place. Describe what you see, what changes, what remains the same. Try to identify (or at least describe) plants and animals (including humans) that inhabit or move through this place. If it feels right, draw or sketch your observations. You may want to speculate about the history of this place (or try to imagine its future) through your observations of it in the present moment. Observe external occurrences (weather, sounds, smells, and sights) and well as internal states, such as your response to your surroundings and what is going on inside you; the two are interconnected. Contemplate. As you track and study various phenomena, you will create a record and begin to develop a finely tuned sense of place. If you risk sitting still long enough to fully experience nature, the journal can be your way in. (Note: some of the suggestions above are from other nature writers, teachers, and practitioners in the field)
I ask that you write AT LEAST two, one-page entries each week about a place of your choice. While I will make suggestions of things to write about, you should feel free to address those observations and questions that concern you in this journal, for you are, ultimately, the audience for it. You may (and should!) use your journal as a seedbed for your other writing. It should also be a place for you to ask questions and move toward answers about nature, place and culture -- it should provide you with a safe haven in which to explore issues that arise in class, workshop, and your own life. I will check your journal at the end of the semester, but at that time you can staple, clip, or otherwise limit my access to sections you want to keep private by covering them. Please bring your journal with you for class discussion and writing workshops, as I will occasionally ask you read from it. We’ll try to hear from everyone’s journal throughout the semester.
REFLECTIVE-RESPONSES: Wright Morris also said, "Good writers are good readers." For the writer, reading is truly part of the process of writing. Though this is a writing-based class, we will also do a lot of reading in our genre, with an eye toward stretching ourselves as writers. As writers, one of the best ways to engage with assigned reading is by focusing on our writerly response, by asking not just "What does that mean?" (which is not unimportant) but also, "What does that mean to me? How does that help me grow and/or understand my own writing? What sort of literary and aesthetic questions does it raise?" To this end, we will write brief, meditative responses to our readings and turn them in (1-2 pages, typed, double-spaced) each week. I would like you to bring both your heart and your intellect to bear on these responses. Address how a piece touches/inspires you and try to make some observation about craft (language, point of view, structure, imagery, etc). It is even fine to try imitating a paragraph or two, and then reflect on what you've noticed in the process. My one caveat in responses is no negatives. If you just don’t like a piece of writing, explore what it is about it that makes it slow, inaccessible, unappealing. I "grade" reader-responses on a "check" basis (i.e., check, check plus, check minus), with check being satisfactory, check plus outstanding, and check minus unsatisfactory.
Note: I know there is a lot of reading in this class, but it’s crucial to our development as writers. I have tried to arrange the workload so that most the heaviest reading occurs relatively early in the semester.
CLASS DISCUSSION: There are many levels of comfort and volubility in a room of 25 people. That said, I’d like to encourage everyone to take risks, speak out, ask questions, offer opinions and look within. There are no right or wrong answers in a class like this, only mutual exploration, and everyone’s perspective is important. As Margaret McFadden has noted, “People go to nature for different reasons – for solace, sanctuary, renewal, for wisdom, insight, wonder…[and] to learn something about ourselves as individuals.” If we think of the discussion as a lake fed by many springs, we all have something to contribute -- and something to learn from our contribution. To help spur us on (and give us something to fall back on), I’d like everyone to bring two questions about each cluster of readings. These can focus on craft or content.
FIELD TRIPS: You can’t write about nature without going outside! To that end, I have arranged for an experience “in the field.” We’ll take our major field trip on Saturday, October 6, 2007. We will travel by bus to Baraboo to visit Aldo Leopold’s shack in the morning, then visit the International Crane Foundation in the afternoon. Cost for the trip will be approximately $12 (the Leopold Foundation charges an entrance fee; I have secured funding to cover the entrance fee at the Crane Foundation). This trip will take all day, so plan ahead. Closer to home, I’d also like to take a trip to the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, a center for sustainable agriculture and farming, and spend time writing in their gardens. It’s about 25 minutes away, so we’ll need to extend class into the later afternoon if we do this. Finally, we’ll meet at least once on the UWW Nature Preserve and Prairie. We’ll discuss as a class whether we want to go anywhere else. Possibilities include Kettle Moraine State Park or the University of Wisconsin Arboretum in Madison.
LEARNING LOG: Part of our job as writers involves developing a keen awareness of our own creative process and how that process is affected/informed/enhanced by what we read, our conversations with other writers, moments of illumination while we are writing, peer and instructor feedback, etc. To this end, I ask that you keep a "learning log" of your own creative process as we move through major formal assignments. This should consist of a brief (several paragraphs to a page) meditation on your process composing the pieces you hand in. It should be typed and stapled behind the creative work. I think you will find the log a valuable exercise -- and one that will be of assistance as you revise. I will provide guidelines for ways to think about your own composing process.
WORKSHOP PROTOCOL: We can write as powerfully as we can talk -- provided that we feel safe. The role of the workshop is, at all times, to be supportive, empowering and respectful. Writing can be a lonely business. Our job, as workshop participants, is to help each member of the class build on his/her strengths and develop his/her unique and precious voice. We will work in small group workshops, though we will also do a number of spontaneous exercises involving the entire class. I will conduct a peer workshop training session at the beginning of the semester, and pass out guidelines to help you develop and articulate both a personal aesthetic and an empowering response procedure.
VISITING WRITERS: Terry Tempest Williams, one of America's most famous naturalists and nature writers, will be visiting our campus on Tuesday, October 6, 2007. She will visit our class that day and give a reading at McGraw Auditorium at 7 P.M. You are REQUIRED to attend this reading, so try to plan ahead for it. Wisconsin writer and naturalist Laurie Lawlor will visit our class on Tuesday, November 13, 2007. She will give a reading (time and place TBA), which you are also REQUIRED to attend. We may have one more visiting writer, Madison haiku poet, Cliff Dillhunt. I also highly recommend the reading by Terri Jentz, author of Strange Piece Paradise on Monday, December 3, at Young Auditorium, 7 P.M. While not a nature writer per se, she’s a great nonfiction writer well worth hearing.
OTHER LITERARY ACTIVITIES: As many of you already know, The Muse is the UW-Whitewater campus literary and arts magazine. I encourage you to submit and consider joining the staff. It is an excellent opportunity to meet other writers and learn how a literary magazine is put together. The Muse is funded and judged by students and distributed free of charge. I will announce Muse meetings and deadlines. There is also a Works In-Progress Cafe held at the Fern Young Terrace on selected Tuesday afternoons. The Cafe provides a wonderful opportunity to read your work aloud and connect with other writers in the community. I encourage you to attend at least one Cafe. I also encourage you to read at the open mike. I will announce Cafe dates as they become available. I will also keep you apprised of visiting writers on campus.
PLAGIARISM: I expect and require that you do your own work. Cheating, plagiarism, the use of unauthorized material or any other form of academic misconduct will result in an F for the class and/or other penalties as permitted in Chapter 14 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code. If you turn in an assignment written to satisfy an assignment for another/previous class at UWW, you will receive a zero for that assignment.
UNIVERSITY STATEMENT: The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is dedicated to a safe, supportive and non-discriminatory learning environment. It is the responsibility of all undergraduate and graduate students to familiarize themselves with University policies regarding Special accommodations, Misconduct, Religious Beliefs Accommodation, Discrimination and Absence for University Sponsored Events. (For details, please refer to Undergraduate and Graduate Timetables, the "Rights and Responsibilities" section of the Undergraduate Bulletin; the Academic Requirements and Policies and the Facilities and Services sections of the Graduate Bulletin; and "Student Academic Disciplinary Procedures" [UWS Chapter 14]; and "Student Nonacademic Disciplinary Procedure" [UWS Chapter 17].
CLASS SCHEDULE: The following is intended as a map of the journey we will take during the semester. As is the case on any journey, we may sometimes deviate from the map. You should keep this schedule with you and consult it weekly to be aware of your upcoming responsibilities for class. Any changes will be announced in class. If you are absent, you are responsible for getting the assignment and completing it on time. All written work (reflective responses, exercises, 5-page essays, etc.) is due at the beginning of class. I expect you to do your reading BEFORE you come to class on the day for which it is assigned. I reserve the right to make changes if necessary.
Unless otherwise specified, readings are from our main texts, The Norton Book of Nature Writing (referred to a NBNW), Refuge, Sand County Almanac, and This Tender Place. If we are discussing an essay on e-reserve, please print out a copy and bring it to class. It is crucial that you have them with you to refer to. You should write one response a week, to whichever writer in each cluster of readings you desire. Our reading is heaviest in weeks 3-5, and then again in week 9, when we will be covering full-length collections. You may want to read ahead.

Week 1

T 9/04 -- Introduction to class. Individual introductions: Refuges and Sanctuaries, Past and Present. In-class writing. Read for next time: Excepts from A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman (course packet), “Seeing” by Annie Dillard (packet). Bring a natural object (feather, stone, shell, etc.) to class next time. Select the place you plan to observe and begin your journal (2 entries per week).
R 09/06 -- Brief discussion of Ackerman and Dillard. In class writing exercise: “O Taste and See!” Using the Five Senses to Write about Nature. Hear excerpts from Alison’s place journal.
For Tuesday: Read intro to Norton, “The Naturalist’s Trance,” excerpt from Trimble’s Words from the Land (in packet), and two chapter reprints “Journal Writing” and “The Essay,” from Writing About Nature by John Murray (in packet). Read also White (pp.35-50), Bartram (64-76), and Dorothy Wordsworth (64-70) in NBNW. ESSAY #1 ASSIGNED.
Week 2

T 09/11 -- Craft discussion of assigned readings. Read Emerson (pp. 410-151), Thoreau (pp.168-205 and 211-223), and E.B. White (pp. 440-449) in NBNW.

R 09/13 – Discuss Emerson and Thoreau, and White. Writing Exercise: Openings. Read Whitman (pp. 223-229), Burroughs (244-250), Muir (250-268), Hopkins (282-286).
Week 3

T 09/18 – Meet at UWW Nature Preserve (weather permitting). Brief discussion of Whitman, Burroughs, Muir, and Hopkins. Writing Exercise: A Walk Through the Prairie: Levels of Observation and Listening to the Land. Don’t forget to bring 4 copies of your essay to class on Thursday for workshop.

R 09/20 – WORKSHOP #1. Share drafts of essays in small groups. Begin reading Sand County Almanac (forward, pp. 3-8 and “Part I: A Sand County Almanac,” pp. 95-116; and “Wisconsin,” pp. 129-133 for Tuesday.
Week 4

T 09/25 – ESSAY # 1 DUE. Film: Aldo Leopold: Learning from the Land. Begin discussing Sand County Almanac. Read “Thinking Like a Mountain,” pp. 129-133; “The Upshot,” pp. 165-226 (concentrate on “Wilderness” and “The Land Ethic” in the last section). Also read handouts on cranes as assigned.

R 09/27 – Discuss Sand County Almanac and handout materials on cranes. Read first half of Refuge (3-152) for Tuesday. Writing Exercise: Becoming a Voice for the Earth (if we have time).
Bring a painting or photo of a natural area to class on Tuesday (consider photographers like Ansel Adams, painters like Charles Russell, or even a less representational artist who works primarily from the natural landscape, like Georgia O’Keefe. Your own photos will also work, as long as they are clear and detailed.).
Week 5 -- Field Trip this week

T 10/02 – Discuss first half of Refuge. Finish reading Refuge for Thursday. In-class writing exercise: Word Pictures.

R 10/04 – Discuss second half Refuge. Please prepare two questions about Refuge, nature writing, the creative process, or environmental activism to ask Terry Tempest Williams on Tuesday.
Saturday October 6, Field Trip to Aldo Leopold Shack/Leopold Foundation & the International Crane Refuge. We’ll talk more about what to bring along before the trip, but be sure to take your journals, pack a lunch, and wear appropriate clothing for the weather. Writing Exercises while there: (1) Making Contact with the Earth and (2) Animals as Metaphor.

T 10/09 – Terry Tempest Williams Visits Class. Williams reads at 7 p.m. on October 9th in McGraw Auditorium. You are required to attend.

R 10/11 – Read-Around #1. If we have time we will do a writing exercise (figurative language). Read Austin (pp.320-326), Woolf (343-345), and Beston (366-375) for Tuesday.
Week 7

T 10/16 – Discuss Austin, Woolf, Beston. Read Olsen (432-435), LeSueur (448-452), Maclean (457-465) for Thursday. Writing Exercise??

R 10/18 – Discuss Olsen, LeSueur, and Maclean. In-class Writing Exercise. The Language of the Land. Bring 4 copies of Essay #2 to class for workshop on Thursday.

Week 8

T 10/23 – WORKSHOP #2. Read Carson (pp. 479-485), Eisley (pp.485-494), Thomas (pp. 533- 538) and Hay (pp. 539-545) for Thursday.

R 10/25 – ESSAY # 2 DUE. ESSAY #3 ASSIGNED. Craft discussion of assigned readings. Writing Exercise -- Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: An Exercise in Creative Memory. Read in NBNW as assigned.


T 10/30 – Individual Conferences with Alison (no class)

R 11/01 -- Catch-up day. Writing Exercise (character and dialogue)? Film: View excerpt from Planet Earth series? Read the first half of This Tender Place for Tuesday.
Week 10

T 11/06 – Discuss first half of This Tender Place.

R 11/08 – Finish discussing This Tender Place. Writing Exercise: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

Week 11Friends of the Library Reading Series: Laurie Lawlor (time and place TBA). You must attend.
T 11/13 – Laurie Lawlor visits class. Please bring two questions for her about the book, nature writing, etc. Read Stegner (pp. 504-519), Abbey (614-627), Erlich (handout, “The Solace of Open Spaces),
R 11/15 -- Craft discussion of assigned reading. Writing Exercise: Earth Prayers.

Week 12

T 11/20 -- WORKSHOP #3

R 11/22 -- NO CLASS. HAPPY THANKSGIVING VACATION! Classes resume Tuesday 11/27. Over the break read Nelson (pp. 797-810), Grover (891-899), Dillard (867-891), and Momaday (pp. 737-742).
Week 13

T 11/27 -- ESSAY #3 DUE. ESSAY #4 ASSIGNED. Discuss assigned readings. Writing exercise (TBA). Read Lopez (pp. 900-923 and handout, “Apologia”), Sanders (pp.924-929), Hogan (pp. 966-971, and poetry handouts), Deming (pp. 937-943)

R 11/29 -- Discuss assigned readings. Writing Exercise: Your Relationship with Nature – Writing Your Sense of Mystery. Read Erdrich (1043-1047), Kingsolver (1068-78)), Pollan (1078-1090), and Bass (1114-1119) and handout, “The Deer Pasture.”

Week 14 -- LETTERS AND SCIENCE LECTURE SERIES: Terri Jentz: "Strange Piece of Paradise: Violence Hiding in Plain Sight." 7 P.M., Monday, Dec. 3, 2007, Young Auditorium (highly recommended).
T 12/04 – Discuss assigned readings. Writing Exercise: Closings. Read as assigned for 12/11.

Week 15

T 12/11 -- LAST DAY OF CLASS: PORTFOLIOS, SELF-EVALUATION AND ESSAY #5 DUE. Final writing exercise, course evaluations, celebration and summing up.

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