Ashton Nichols Syllabus

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ENGL 379 Thoreau, Leopold, Abbey, McKibben

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English 379 – – – – -Thoreau, Leopold, Abbey, McKibben – – – – – Nichols

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Required Texts:

Walden, or Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau, G. W. Zouck

The Portable Thoreau, Henry David Thoreau, Penguin

A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold, Ballantine/Random House

The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays, Aldo Leopold, Wisconsin

Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey, Touchstone/Simon Shuster

The Monkey Wrench Gang, Edward Abbey, Harper Perennial

The End of Nature, Bill McKibben, Anchor Doubleday

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, Bill McKibben, Times Books

(–class handouts and assigned web readings)

Course Aims and Learning Goals:

One of the best was to study any body of literature is by way of master practitioners of the craft of writing. These writers emphasize the role played by nonhuman nature in a wide range of human activity. They also interrogate the ways that human interactions with nature (plants, animals, geology, landscapes) have affected human life and the natural world. Some of these authors have environmentalist or preservationist agendas at times; others are more interested in the philosophical and cultural implications of human understanding of and impact on the natural environment. We will set their literary works in dialogue with scientists and nature writers of the past two centuries and will examine the current importance (as well as the controversial aspects) of their wide-ranging ideas.

We will also emphasize the role played by literature in the development of our own assumptions and values. The course will focus attention on critical approaches and literary methods and will help students develop more sophisticated research skills as they move toward the senior-seminar year. We will work to answer a series of questions about the relationship between the natural world and the human beings who have defined and affected that world. Our guides will include four (4) writers and eight books (8) as well as references to other ecocritics, poets, novelists, essayists, and ourselves. We will examine the current importance (as well as the controversial aspects) of environmental ideas, and we will emphasize the role played by literature in the development of our own assumptions and values. We will hone students’ research skills (abstract, annotated bibliography, research paper) in preparation for their work in English 403 and 404

Useful Websites for Thoreau, Leopold, Abbey, McKibben:

Henry David Thoreau:

https://www.walden.org/thoreau/

Aldo Leopold:

https://www.aldoleopold.org/about/aldo-leopold/

Edward Abbey:

http://www.abbeyweb.net/

Bill McKibben:

http://www.billmckibben.com/

Charles Darwin Online:

http://darwin-online.org.uk/

http://www.victorianweb.org/science/darwin/index.html

Course Requirements

Students will come to class prepared to discuss the assigned readings for each day. Discussion will form a central part of class work, and students will sign up for two (2) discussion introductions based on our weekly reading schedule. Students will be evaluated on the basis of class participation, two critical essays (8-10 pp., 12-15 pp.), and a comprehensive take-home final exam. (Your first essay will ask you to select a chapter from Walden and write your own interpretation of this chapter. Your second essay will ask you to write a research essay that explains why at least two of these authors are essential to an understanding of environmental literature.) Class participation will include written exercises and discussion introductions.

Two (2) unexcused absences will be grounds for lowering your grade in the course. The first essay will allow you to work closely with a single text; the second will require that you provide a critical context for research into works by several authors. Assignment sheets for both essays will be distributed at least three weeks before the essay due dates. Here are the departmental writing guidelines you will need for each essay:

http://www.dickinson.edu/info/20111/english/748/writing_guidelines

The class will emphasize research skills and methods useful for scholarly research and writing, both in class and through your work with the C.A.L.M. Lab workshop, if this is your first 300-level course. The comprehensive final exam will be composed entirely of essay questions.

Grading Based on These Percentages:

Class participation (10%) Two (2) Discussion Intros (10%) Essay 1 (20% Essay 2 (30%) Final Exam (30%) = 100%

Students must complete all of the assigned work in order to pass the course.

Readings for Thoreau, Leopold, Abbey, McKibben             

January 23 M   Our syllabus —Our syllabus as a Text—-Our class as a Dialogue

26 H   Thoreau, Walden 5-99
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30 M    Walden 99-189

Feb. 2 H  Walden 189-271
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6 M  Walden  271-end 

9 H   Portable Thoreau xi-73
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13 M   Portable Thoreau 73-163

16 H     Portable Thoreau 163-190 and 469-499
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20 M    Sand County Almanac  3-101

23 H     Sand County Almanac  237-end
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27 M   River of the Mother ix-47  Workshop draft of ESSAY #1

March 2 H    River of the Mother   47-106
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6 M    River of the Mother 123-128 Essay #1 due (interpretation of one chapter in Thoreau’s Walden)

9 H    River of the Mother 181-209 and 301-320
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13 M  Spring Break

16 H   Spring Break
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20 M    Desert Solitaire xi-95

23 H   Desert Solitaire 95-end
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27 M   Monkey Wrench  xv-98

30 H   Monkey Wrench 98-205
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April 3  M Monkey Wrench 205-311Research abstract for Essay #2 due (start of class)

6 H  Monkey Wrench  311-end
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10 M  Monkey Wrench  P.S. 2-25

13 H   End of Nature, Part I             _______________________________________________________________

17 M  End of Nature, Part II Annotated Bibliography for Essay #2: (start of class )

20 H   Eaarth xi-47
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24  M  Eaarth  47-213

27 H Eaarth  213 -241 __________________________________________________________

May 1 M Summary and Exam writing; identifications, short answers, essay questions)

4 H Last Class and Discussion of Take-Home Final (Class evaluation): ESSAY #2 DUE
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Friday, May 12, 5:00 p.m. Take-home due Kaufman 192 – (NO LATE EXAMS)
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Calm Lab (only if this is your first 300-level class in the English Department)

If this is your first 300-level class in the English Department, you need to make sure that you registered for English 300, the “Critical Approaches and Literary Methods Laboratory,” colloquially known as CALM Lab. Please make sure you have registered for this lab (in the way that you regularly register for a class), enrolling in English 300.

The syllabus for that lab includes two class meetings (in the evening) and written assignments connected to these meetings. If you have questions about the CALM Lab, please contact Chris Bombaro [bombaroc@dickinson.edu] in the Waidner-Spahr Library. She is the instructor for the CALM Lab and can answer any questions you may have. I will work closely with her on your CALM lab sessions and will attend at least one of the evening classes.   

Academic Honesty

The Dickinson plagiarism policy will be strictly enforced. This class adheres to the college’s Community Standards, which clearly state: “Students are expected to do their own work. Work submitted in fulfillment of academic assignments and provided on examinations is expected to be original by the student submitting it.” Please review the Community Standards document for more information. Students have failed to graduate from Dickinson on-time based on academic honesty issues in 404; please do not hesitate to ask me any questions you may have about citation, documentation, or academic honesty in relation to your thesis.

Statement on Disability Services

In compliance with the Dickinson College policy and equal access laws, I am available to discuss requests made by students with disabilities for academic accommodations. Such requests must be verified in advance by the Coordinator of Disability Services who will provide a signed copy of an accommodation letter, which must be presented to me prior to any accommodations being offered. Requests for academic accommodations should be made during the first three weeks of the semester (except for unusual circumstances) so that timely and appropriate arrangements can be made.

Students requesting accommodations are required to register with Disability Services, located in Academic Advising, first floor of Biddle House.  Please contact Marni Jones, Coordinator of Disability Services (at ext. 1080 or jonesmar@dickinson.edu ) to verify their eligibility for reasonable and appropriate accommodations.   

     Questions to Consider

Are human beings just the result of random evolutionary processes over time? Is that all they are?

“Be fruitful and multiply.”–Is that a good idea? Is that a waste? Does evolution necessarily conflict with the religious teachings of Christianity? Can the two viewpoints–religious and scientific–be reconciled?

Why does Christianity say that God cannot be a part of the natural world? What problem/s does that pose for literature?

What is the connection between environmentalism and planetary climate change?           

Why has thinking about the nonhuman world had such a powerful impact on poets and novelists over the past 150 years?

When do poets and scientists think in similar ways? When do they think in different ways?

 Is AIDS natural? Is spinal bifida? Is death? Is nature “good”? Is anything “natural” ever “evil”? _______________________________________________________________
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                   What Writers Have Said About the Nonhuman World

“In looking at the objects of Nature while I am thinking, as at yonder moon dim-gleaming through the dewy window-pane, I seem rather to be seeking, as it were asking for, a symbolical language for something within me that already and for ever exists, than observing anything new. Even when the latter is the case, yet still I have always an obscure feeling as if that new phenomena were a dim awakening of a forgotten or hidden truth of my inner nature.” (1805)–Coleridge, Anima Poetae

“A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because he has no Identity–he is continually in for–and filling some other Body–The Sun, the Moon, the Sea and Men and Women who are creatures of impulse are poetical and have about them an unchangeable attribute–the poet has none; no identity–” Keats, Letters

“How much virtue there is in simply seeing! . . . We are as much as we see . . . Every child begins the world again. . . I saw this familiar–too familiar–fact at a different angle, and I was charmed and haunted by it . . . Only what we have touched and worn is trivial,–our scurf, repetition, tradition, conformity. To perceive freshly, with fresh senses, is to be inspired . . . The age of miracles is each moment thus returned.” –Thoreau, Works

“In a Romantic poem the realm of the ideal is always observed as precarious–liable to vanish or move beyond one’s reach at any time. Central Romantic poems like “Ode to a Nightingale” or “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” typify this situation in the Romantic poem, which characteristically haunts, as Geoffrey Hartman has observed, borderlands and liminal territories. These are Romantic places because they locate areas of contradiction, conflict, and problematic alternatives.” –Jerome McGann, The –Jerome McGann, The Romantic Ideology

What Critics Have Said About Nature

“Ecocriticism can be further characterized by distinguishing it from other critical approaches. Literary theory, in general, examines the relations between writers, texts, and the world. In most literary theory “the world” is synonymous with society–the social sphere. Ecocriticism expands the notion of “the world” to include the entire ecosphere. If we agree with Barry Commoner’s first law of ecology, “Everything is connected to everything else,” we must conclude that literature does not float above the material world in some aesthetic ether, but, rather, plays a part in an immensely complex global system, in which energy, matter, and ideas interact.” –Glotfelty and Fromm

Ashton Nichols: Kaufman 192, Class meetings: 3:00 M H, Office Hours: M H 11-1:30 p.m. and by appt., Classroom: K 178   

American Nature Writing: Environment, Culture, Values

ENST 111 / ENGL 101                                                       Fall 2018  _________________________________________________________

American Nature Writing:

Environment, Culture, Values

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Required Texts: 

American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. Ed. Bill McKibben, Library of America

Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism: Toward Urbanatural Roosting, Ashton Nichols, Palgrave Macmillan

Walden, or Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau, G. W. Zouck

A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There, Aldo Leopold, Ballantine/Random House

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, Edward Abbey, Touchstone/Simon Shuster

The End of Nature, Bill McKibben, Anchor Doubleday

Course Objectives & Learning Goals: 

What does American nature writing have to do with the environment, culture, and values? A great deal. What does great literature have to do with nonfictional observation of nature? A surprising amount. Our course will survey writings by a wide range of authors: young and old, male and female, northern and southern, black and white. We will set these works in dialogue with environmental questions of the past two centuries: wilderness and species preservation, appreciation of wild nature, pollution. The course will also study language, literary styles, and the link between literature and “environment, culture, and values.” Our texts will be literary and scientific. Our contexts will be environmental, ethical, and ecological. We will work to answer questions about the relationship between the natural world and human beings who have defined and affected that world. Are humans just part of nature? Are we distinct from nature? Is nature beautiful and benign (sunsets, daffodils, puffins) or ugly and destructive (hurricanes, AIDS, death)? How and why should we preserve nature? Why is climate change considered the major challenge facing the modern world? We will try to understand how literary texts reflect the context of the times in which they were produced and also the times in which they have been received by readers. Our guides will include novelists, essayists, and ourselves. We will examine the current importance (as well as the controversial aspects) of evolutionary ideas, and we will emphasize the role played by literature in the development of our own environmental assumptions and values.

Useful Websites for American Nature Writing at Online Syllabus

http://blogs.dickinson.edu/syllabus/2017/01/25/american-nature-writing-environment-culture-values/

Romantic Natural History

http://blogs.dickinson.edu/romnat/

Nature Writing (1791-2009) 

https://sites.google.com/site/thoreauandwilderness/American-Nature-Writing

Berkeley History of Evolution

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/history_01

Walden Woods

https://www.walden.org/

Edward Abbey

http://www.abbeyweb.net/

Aldo Leopold

https://www.aldoleopold.org/about/aldo-leopold/

Bill McKibben

http://www.billmckibben.com/

Urbanatural Roosting Web Portal

http://blogs.dickinson.edu/urbanaturalroosting/

Required Work:

 Students will be required to read carefully and come to class prepared to discuss all assigned work. Reading quizzes and in-class writing will contribute to discussions. Discussion will form an important part of your evaluation in this course. More than two (2) unexcused absences will be grounds for lowering your grade. You must complete all required work in order to pass this class.

Grading Based on the Following Scale:

Class participation 10% (includes group work):
Short essay (one work) 20%: Long essay (authors/works) 30%: Final exam 40% : Total = 100%

The short essay (4-5 pp.) will ask you to analyze a single text. The longer essay (9-10 pp.) will ask you to connect at least one work to the culture in which it was produced. The final exam will be cumulative. I am available during office hours and by appointment to discuss the course, our readings, your writing, or your grade. 

Academic Honesty

 The Dickinson plagiarism policy will be strictly enforced. This class adheres to the College’s Community Standards, which clearly state: “Students are expected to do their own work. Work submitted in fulfillment of academic assignments and provided on examinations is expected to be original by the student submitting it.” Please review the Community Standards document for more information.

Accommodating Students with Disabilities

Dickinson College makes reasonable academic accommodations for students with documented disabilities. Students requesting accommodations must make their request and provide appropriate documentation to Disability Services in Biddle House. Because classes change every semester, eligible students must obtain a new accommodation letter from Director Marni Jones every semester and review this letter with their professors so the accommodations can be implemented. The Director of Disability Services is available by appointment to answer questions and discuss any implementation issues you may have. Disability Services proctoring is managed by Susan Frommer at 717-254-8107 or proctoring@dickinson.edu. Address general inquiries to Stephanie Anderberg at 717-245-1734 or e-mail disabilityservices@dickinson.edu.

 Professor Ashton Nichols: K 192  

Class meetings: 1:30-2:45 p.m. M TH

Office Hours: M & TH  12:00-1:30 p.m. W 12:00-1:30 p.m. & by appt.  Classroom: Kaufman 186

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Readings for American Nature Writing    

September 3 M  American Nature Writing–our syllabus as a text) [Deb Peters]

6 TH American Earth, xvii-xx, xxi-1, and Thoreau Journal’s 1-8

10 M  Walden, Thoreau Introductions, 5-10, 11-21 and 22-98

13 TH  Walden 99-188

17 M Walden  189-284

20 TH Walden  285-end Writing About Literature: Assign Essay #1

24 M George Catlin, Lydia Sigourney, Susan Fenimore Cooper, Table Rock 37-61

27  TH  Walt Whitman, George Perkins Marsh, P. T. Barnum 62-83

October 1 John Muir, W. H. H. Murray, Frederick Law Olmstead 84-125

4 TH  John Burroughs, Gifford Pinchot 145-180

8 M  N. Darling, Don Marquis 224-238 (pictures) Workshop Essay #1 due in class

11 TH   Sand County Almanac Introduction-136

15 M  Sand County Almanac 137 (“Thinking Like a Mountain”)-end   Assign Essay #2 

18 TH  Jane Jacobs, Rachel Carson, Russell Baker 359-380 + Darwin (Outline Below)

22 M FALL PAUSE

25 TH  Lynn White, Paul Erlich, Garrett Hardin 405-412, 435-450

29 M Philip Dick, 451-453, Blade Runner Trailer “She’s a Replicant”  Film Clip

November 1 TH Desert Solitaire Introduction-150

5 M Desert Solitaire 151-end

8 TH Gary Snyder 473-479, Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye 489-492 + Big Yellow Taxi  Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)

12 M Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard 505-549

15  TH  N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko 570-590, Linda Hogan 809-14

19 M  A Fierce Green Fire: film in class

22 TH  THANKSGIVING

26 M Alice Walker 659-671, Cesar Chavez 690-696

29 TH Urbanatural Roosting xiii-xxiii, 3-101

December 3 M Urbanatural Roosting 103-212

6 TH   The End of Nature xiii-xxiv + 1-81 [You Tube: Bill McKibben at Dickinson & Global Warming: David Letterman talks with Bill McKibben. 08/31/10]

10 M The End of Nature 82-end (Final set of pictures, 736-737) [YouTube: Do the Math]

13 TH Exam Review–Essay #2 due in class


December 20, Thurs, 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.  FINAL EXAM IN CLASSROOM K186

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Terms to Consider

TEXT: n.1. main body of matter in a manuscript, book, newspaper, distinguished from notes, appendixes, headings, illustrations. 2. the actual, original words of an author or speaker. 3. any of the various forms in which a writing exists. [ME, ML text(us) wording, L: structure (of an utterance), texture.]

CONTEXT:  n. 1. parts of written or spoken statement that precede or follow a word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect. 2. circumstances that surround a particular event, situation, etc. [late ME, L context(us) joining together].

LITERATURE: n. 1. writing regarded as having permanent worth through its intrinsic excellence. 2. The entire body of writings of a specific language, period, people, etc. 3. the writings dealing with a particular subject: the literature of ornithology.

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Nature and Humans: Questions to Consider

Are human beings just the mere result of random evolutionary processes over time? Is that all they are?

“Be fruitful and multiply.”–Is that a good idea? Is that a waste?

Is AIDS natural? Is spinal bifida? Is death? Is nature “good”?

Does evolution necessarily conflict with the religious teachings of Christianity? Can the two viewpoints–religious and scientific–be reconciled?

Nature could not care less about you or me? Or could it?

                                                   * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *                                                                Darwin and Darwinism

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–“You can’t wash the slugs out of your lettuce without disrespect to your ancestors.”–Ruskin

–“The growth of a large business is merely survival of the fittest.” –John D. Rockefeller

What were the scientific implications of Darwin’s theory?
I. The principle of natural selection determines the survival of species.
II. Species have not existed forever in their present form: Galapagos endemism.
A. Each life form on earth is undergoing continual change.
B. These changes result from chance mutations.
III. The earth and life on earth have existed for an inconceivably long time. (Lyell,
Principles of Geology, 1830)
IV. A record of the earlier stages of evolution can be found in fossils and in the anatomy
of living creatures. (Chambers, Vestiges of Creation, 1844)
What were the wider implications of the theory?
I. Natural laws
A. The laws of nature are subject to change because the material conditions that
govern those laws can change.
1.) cooperation: symbiosis or parasitism?
2.) competition: the fittest?
B. There are no “ideals” in nature or natural form.
1.) what is “right” is what succeeds over time.
2.) evolutionary success: shark, horseshoe crab, cockroach
3.) evolutionary  failure: dinosaur, human brain (?)
II. Theology–“It is just as noble a conception of the deity to believe he created primal
forms capable of self-development.” –Canon Charles Kingsley
A. Man is no longer viewed as unique
1.) end-product of creation?
2.) human’s “mental moral and spiritual qualities evolved by precisely the
same processes that gave the eagle its claws and the tapeworm its hooks.”
B. Doubts about the Biblical account of human origins and fate emerge.
1.) 4004 B.C. vs. billions of years
2.) Adam and Eve vs. The Descent of Man
3.) creation as a continuous and self-modifying process
4.) destruction as likewise ongoing and accidental.
III. Social Darwinism
A.  All sciences are historical
1.) science always subject to revision (non-Euclidean geometry)
2.) no laws, only theories (quantum physics)
3.) science is “true” based on best possible evidence
4.) science is never about faith; it is only about knowledge
B. Social order is a “struggle for existence.”
1.) revolutionary change: Marxist ideology
2.) laissez-faire capitalism
3.) do the ends always justify the means?