Ashton Nichols Syllabus

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English 212 * * * * * * * * Professor Nichols

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 ENGL 212/211  

Writing About Nature

Spring 2015

 

 Required Texts:

Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Harper Perennial. 2007.

                                   Fergus, Charles. Wildlife of Pennsylvania. Stackpole Books. 2000.

Hacker, Diana. A Pocket Style Manual 5th edition. Bedford St. Martin’s. 2011.

Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac. Ballantine. 1986.

 Nichols, Ashton. Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism: Toward Urbanatural Roosting. Palgrave Macmillan. 2012.

–all in paper, all in these editions

 Course Aims and Learning Goals:

This course is designed to improve your skills as a writer of expository prose by emphasizing the genre of nature writing. We will concentrate on a variety of writing problems and techniques, emphasizing specific skills necessary to a wide range of writing tasks: description, narration, analysis, and interpretation. In all cases, our focus will be on the natural–or nonhuman–world and human connections to that world. Discussions of essay reading assignments will be supplemented by workshop sessions and individual tutorials and fieldtrips. Students will have the opportunity to critique one another’s work and to compare their essays to works by nature writers of the past two centuries. The course aims to concentrate your attention on all of the precise stylistic details that can lead to effective writing.

This class will also make use of a new pedagogy–or teaching method–known as “blended learning.” So-called blended learning takes advantage of the multitude of electronic tools and techniques now available, both inside the classroom and out, to assist teachers in teaching and students in learning. From email chains to the WWW (World Wide Web), from YouTube to Spotify, and from chat software to international video clips, learning that blends traditional teaching techniques with the range of e-media now available offers a range of new possibilities for the creation, evaluation, and transmission of knowledge.

We have also been chosen to receive computer tablets (Apple I-Pads) on loan from the College’s IT Service for each student during the entire semester. We use the tablets for access to open as well as library owned e-resources. Benefits of these resources will include cost savings for you, a rich array of open access and library sources, and the devices even encourage more use of traditional primary and secondary source materials. A liaison librarian–ours is Brenda Landis (landisb)–will assist us in identifying open access and library resources for our classes. Dickinson’s Library Database directory (including many full-text scholarly databases, streaming film collections, statistical sources, and digitized primary source collections) is available to you from the following link: http://www.dickinson.edu/homepage/584/ You should also see–and bookmark the direct link to the databases themselves: http://libguides.dickinson.edu/az.php.

NOTE: As a result of our grant-funded emphasis on blended learning and our loaned tablets, these learning resources will produce the need for students to be externally evaluated at various points during the semester. All students in English 212–Writing About Nature–will receive extra course-evaluation forms through their email. The Center for Opinion Research (COR) at F&M is developing pre- and post-course surveys for our class and other courses being offered at Dickinson this semester. The plan is to have all of this information delivered to you via your email; I ask that you please complete these surveys as soon as possible after you receive them. This results of your work in this program will make future classes at Dickinson better for you, for your classmates, and for many students who will come after you. Thanks in advance for your help with this project.

Electronic Tools for Writing About Nature

A streaming, edited blog of examples of the finest contemporary and current nature writing:

http://naturewriting.com/

A site that describes the functioning of naturewriting.com (above):

http://naturewriting.com/about.php

A list of the best examples of nature writing:

https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/nature-writing

Paul Evans offers his analysis of effective nature writing:

http://www.discoverwildlife.com/competition-article/how-be-nature-writer

British author Richard Mabey defends nature writing against a recent attack:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jul/18/richard-mabey-defence-nature-writing

A good overview of the genre:

http://grammar.about.com/od/mo/g/natwriterm.htm

A blog-site from the Henry David Thoreau birthplace historic site in Concord, Mass., near Walden Pond (your professor is a contributor):

http://thoreaufarm.org/theroost/

An interview with Bill McKibben via YouTube:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofodxNPwOHM

A provocative article from Salon.com: the author argues that “nature writing is over”:

http://www.salon.com/2013/07/28/wild_might_take_place_outdoors_but_its_far_from_a_wilderness_memoir_partner/

Essay Requirements:

–All essays must be typed: one-inch margins, double-spaced

 –Assignments will specify a precise length for each essay

 –Essays must be stapled or paper-clipped together

 –Title page must include title, author’s name, and date

 –Essays are due in class at 3:00 p.m. on the date indicated in the syllabus

 –Final essays must be brought to class

 –NO LATE PAPERS (or drafts) WILL BE ACCEPTED

See also Web Sites for Nature Writers: http://blogs.dickinson.edu/syllabus/?s=212

 Grading:

Essay   1      2      3    4   Rev #1   In-Class   Journal    Exam-Rev #2


                      10     10   10   10      20            10                  10                   20   = 100%

Students must complete all of these requirements to receive credit for the course.

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Class Meetings, Reading, & Essays Due: 
M Th 3:00 p.m., Kaufman 178 _________________________________________________________

January 19 M First class. 3:00 p.m.-4:15 p.m. Kaufman 178. Our syllabus as a text.

22 Th Blended Learning and IPads in and out of class (an introduction)

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26 M  Essay #1 due (a natural object: assignment sheet attached).

29 Th  Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac. xiii-xix, pp. 3-137. Good nature writing?

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February 2 M  In-class exercise (sentences from student essays). Hacker, “Clarity,” pp. 1-19

5 Th  Essay #1 revised (a natural object). Hand in for a final grade. Workshop.

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9 M Aldo Leopold, pp. 138 to end. Hacker, “Grammar,” pp. 20-56.

12 Th Annie Dillard pp. 1-148

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16 M  Annie Dillard pp. 149-end

19 Th Vocabulary. Bring nature journal to class. Hacker, “Punctuation,” pp. 57-78

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 23 M Survey nature writing journals online.

26 Th Essay # 2 due (narration) Workshop. In-class: “To see the wind with a man his eyes.” Hacker, “Mechanics,” pp. 79-90

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March 2 M Charles Fergus, Wildlife of Pennsylvania. Pick a single CAPITALIZED SECTION from this book [ex. COYOTE, ELK, PUDDLE DUCKS, WILD TURKEY, LAND SALAMANDERS, POND AND MARSH TURTLES, WATER SNAKE]). At the start of class, bring up a single-screen, double-spaced page about why your chosen entry in Fergus’s book is well-written, using examples of language as details; be prepared with notes on your IPad to tell the class why your entry is well-written.

5 Th Fergus, continue with examples in class. Submit Fergus paragraphs electronically.

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9 M    SPRING BREAK

12 Th SPRING BREAK

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16 M Bring a well-written paragraph about nature from the web to class (on you IPad, linked to a page we can all access on our IPads, not a writer we are reading this term—submit your paragraph–electronically–at the end of class today).

19 Th  Your field journal as a text. Bring you best paragraph so far, typed out on your IPad and sent via email to everyone in our class before class today.

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23 M More paragraphs from IPad journals.

26 Th Essay #3 due: analyze Leopold’s or Dillard’s style. Animal rights: class positions.

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30 M Ashton Nichols xiii-xxiii and 1-101

April 2 Th  Ashton Nichols 103-end

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6 M   Fieldtrip to Farm – meet at Kaufman CSE lobby (next to Public Safety)

9 Th  Field Trip to Reineman Sanctuary — meet at Kaufman CSE lobby

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13 M  Essay #4 (bring draft notes for Essay #4) Hacker, Glossaries, pp. 231-249

16 Th (No class: Research and Writing Day for Essay #4 and Revision of #2 or #3)

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20 M Debate and discuss animal rights thesis statements: Animal rights online.

23 Th Blended Learning: A Conclusion

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27 M   1st Revision Due in class at 3:00 P.M. (Essays 2-4)

30 Th Last Class, Essay #4 due (animal rights: interpretation)

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May 8 Friday FINAL EXAM (2nd Revision) due in Kaufman 192 by 5:00 p.m.

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Professor Ashton NicholsKaufman 192 M TH 11:00 a.m.- 1:30 p.m. and by appt.

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ACCOMODATING 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.

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. Please do not hesitate to ask me any questions you may have about citation, documentation, or academic honesty.

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NATURAL HISTORY FIELD JOURNAL

For our “Writing About Natural History” class, you will keep your own natural history journal. It begins when you receive your “loaner” tablet IPad and ends on the final day of classes, when it will be handed in to me for the last time–electronically. This journal will describe, narrate, analyze, interpret and otherwise create an experiential and intellectual record of your experiences with the nonhuman world during our entire semester. This field journal will have no length requirement; it must, however, be complete. This journal can include days in Carlisle, days away from Carlisle, dreams you have had, solo experiences, group experiences, and conversations with your family and friends (Spring Break, week-ends, etc.)

You are encouraged to share your journal with your classmates, with other students, with professors, or with your family. You should feel free to ask me for advice or suggestions during the term, and you should feel free to copy “commonplace” selections into your own journal (that would mean quotes from Annie Dillard, Aldo Leopold, Charles Fergus, or your humble professor, as well as reading you are doing in any other class or simply on your own); just make sure that you always indicate when the words you write down in your journal are not your own. Consider all of our texts, classes, and discussions as source material for your own journal writing. Writing is a social and cultural practice. Your own writing always benefits when you see yourself as part of a reading and writing group of interested literate individuals.

I may collect these journals at any time during the semester. I may ask to see the journal—individually or collectively—on any day, maybe next Thursday! I may ask you to read aloud from your journal on any day our class meets. I may ask you to make use of your journal for additional formal or informal writing exercises. In short, this writing will be an ongoing component of your work for this class. In addition to your four formal (graded) essays and two formal revisions, this journal will form the basis for the bulk of your writing during the term. Let your journal be influenced by the other writing we do in and for class. Let your style be influenced by the readings we are doing and reading that you are doing for your other classes. Take advice from your classmates, or ignore it; take advice from me and your other professors–or ignore it!

Keep your journal in your IPad in a way that can be sent to classmates and to me in all or in part. We will share these journal electronically in class, and you will submit them to me that way. It must be written in your IPad tablet in journal format. Your journal should be work that you will want to read aloud–and will read aloud–to the class, or language that someone else could read aloud. I will collect these on Thursday May 30 for the last time and will hand them back to you after I have graded the Final Exam essays.

Let me know if you have questions.

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 Essay #1

 A Natural Object

Spend at least one uninterrupted hour observing a natural object. The object can be large (star, sun, cloud, mountain), small (grain of sand, flower, ant, leaf) or in between (stream, tree, turkey vulture, rock). Your object should be one that had not been shaped or visibly affected by humans. You should observe it as carefully as possible. Do not engage in any other activity during your observation. No Walkmans or electronic devices!

What did you learn as a result of this experience? Write a three to four typed pages essay that explains to the members of our class what you knew at the end of this hour that you did not know before your observation began. Write with care and attention to the precise details of your experience. Your essay should have a thesis (a central controlling idea) and a clear organizational principle (chronological, psychological association, logical progression). Avoid errors of grammar, syntax, and spelling. Proofread you work carefully.

This essay is due at the start of class on Monday, January 26 at 3:00 p.m. It should be typed, double-spaced, and should have a title page that includes a title that you have composed, your name, and the date. All essays in ENGL 212 will still be submitted in traditional paper format (typed, page numbers, stapled or clipped) for purposes of our regular workshop classes upon the submission of each essay.

This paper will be returned to you with my comments but no grade quickly; you will then revise and resubmit it for a final grade on

NO LATE PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED

The Natural History Mosaic: English 212 and Independent Study/Research

Thanks to Tony Moore–Dickinson staff writer and editor–for several great news stories about the Mosaic:

Mosaic Classes:

http://www.dickinson.edu/news-and-events/publications/dickinson-magazine/online-features/2012-13/Mosaic-Afield/

Crabs and Ooker on the Bay:

http://www.dickinson.edu/news-and-events/publications/dickinson-magazine/online-features/2012-13/Crabbing-with-Ooker/

Fossils in the Quarry:

http://www.dickinson.edu/news-and-events/publications/dickinson-magazine/online-features/2012-13/King-Phillip-Came-Over-for-Good-Soup/

Hawks and Eagles on the Ridge:

http://www.dickinson.edu/news-and-events/publications/dickinson-magazine/online-features/2012-13/Raptor-Shadows-on-the-Sleeping-Blue-Lady/

and here is how it all started:

http://www.dickinson.edu/uploadedFiles/centers/community_studies/content/Natural

20History20Sustainability20Mosaic[1].pdf

Students collect butterflies and other insects outside of the new CSE (Center for Sustainability Education) offices at Dickinson College, under the guidance of Prof. Gene Wingert

           Writing About Natural History

                       (Part of the Natural History Mosaic Program)

 

The group gathers beneath Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the largest terrestrial predators in the history of life on earth. He seems to have been able to eat up to 500 pounds of food in a single bite.

Required Texts:

Hacker, Diana. A Pocket Style Manual 5e.

Harrison, Ralph. The Elk of Pennsylvania.

Leopold, Also. A Sand County Almanac.

Warner, William. Beautiful Swimmers.

Welch, Craig. Shell Games.

Fergus,Charles. Wildlife of Pennsylvania.

Your last name, first name. Natural History Field Notebook.

Online dictionaries: Oxford English for advanced definitions: http://www.oed.com

Merriam-Webster for regular use: http://www.britannica.com/  Dickinson website.

Handouts and required written classroom exercises

Are “wild” animals different when seen in sight of human habitation?

 Course Aims and Expectations:

This course is designed to improve your skills as a writer of expository prose by emphasizing the genre of natural history writing. We will concentrate on a variety of writing problems and techniques, emphasizing specific skills necessary to a wide range of writing tasks: description, summary, narration, argumentation, analysis, and interpretation. In all cases, our focus will be on the natural world, natural history, and human connections to that world. Our numerous field trips to museums and field experiences in the wilds of Pennsylvania will form the basis of much of our writing. You will keep your own natural history journal that begins today and ends on the final day of classes, when it will be handed in; this journal will record, analyze, and otherwise create an experiential and intellectual document of your experiences with the nonhuman world during our entire semester. So, some of your writing will take place in the field or near the field, some more of it in the library or at your desk. Discussions of essay reading assignments will be supplemented by group workshop sessions and individual tutorials. Students will have the opportunity to critique one another’s work and to compare their essays to works by natural history writers of the past and present. The course aims to concentrate your attention on the precise stylistic details that lead to effective writing.

Why is it that human beings like to preserve and present dead animal bodies “as if” they were alive?

 Essay Requirements:

–All essays must be typed: one-inch margins & double-spaced

–Assignments will specify a precise length for each essay

–Essays must be stapled or paper-clipped together

–Title page must include title, the author’s name, and the due date

–Essays due in class at 2:00 p.m. on the syllabus indicated date

–NO LATE PAPERS (or drafts) WILL BE ACCEPTED

Certain wild creatures, like the iconic snowy owl from Harry Potter, become powerful cultural symbols for entire generations. Professor Nichols saw seven (7!) of these remarkable birds in a rare “eruption” near the Flathead Indian reservation in Western Montana, far from their usual range nearer the Arctic.

Web Sites for Nature Writers

Dickinson Writing Center

English Department Writing Guidelines

Online Resources for Writers

Virginia Commonwealth University Nature Writing Web Links

 Grading:

Grades will be based on the following distribution:

Essay   1    2    3    4       Revision   In-Class   Journal   Exam-revision    Writing 
    :                    .          10  10  10  10             20            10          10               20              = 100%

Students must complete all of these requirements in order to receive credit for the course.

 Class Meetings, Readings, & Essay Due dates: 
(T Th 2:00 p.m., K 152)

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August 27: First class meeting of full Mosaic 10 a.m.-12 noon. Kaufman 152

28 Tu Syllabus and in-class writing exercise: what is “nature”? what is “natural history”?

Students measure forearms and heights in order to compare Homo sapiens with other creatures to whom we are related: those with a spine and with a radius and an ulna (or comparable bones).

30 Th   Essay #1 due (a natural object: assignment sheet attached). Provisional grade is dropped if it goes up on September 14 version (see below).

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September 
  4 Tu   Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac. xiii-xix, pp. 3-137. What is good nature writing?

6 Th    In-class exercise (sentences from student essays). Hacker & Sommers, “Clarity,” pp. 1-18

Recently hatched stinkpot turtles (coincidentally, one for each student) will soon be released back into a pond in the “wilds” of Wildwood in Central Pennsylvania.

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11 Tu  Hacker & Sommers, “Grammar,” pp. 19-53, Aldo Leopold, pp. 138 to end

14 Th  Essay #1 revised (a natural object). Hand in for a final grade. Workshop.

15  Saturday SUSQUEHANNA RIVER TRIP

Mosaic students on the Susquehanna clean-up with the local chapter of the Sierra Club.

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18 Tu CHESAPEAKE BAY TRIP (be reading and finish Beautiful Swimmers)

Captain Wes, after decades as a waterman on the Bay (out of Smith Island), shows the students the intricacies of the crab-pot, before baiting and setting.

20 Th  CHESAPEAKE BAY TRIP (discuss Beautiful Swimmers)

Paige Sanford of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) discusses the fish menhaden’s remarkable adaptations: mouth size, eye-spot, v-tail, and more.

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25 T     Vocabulary. Bring natural history journal to class with Bay writing. Hacker & Sommers, “Punctuation,” pp. 55-74

A dubious student receives a “crab-hat,” thanks to vigorous grabbing by the Chesapeake Bay blue crab; Professor Wingert looks on with concern.

27 Th    Read and bring The Elk of Pennsylvania booklet to class for discussion  * * *  Whistlestop Bookshop Reading, Prof. Nichols 4:30 p.m. * * *

28 Fr   ELK COUNTY TRIP

A remarkable photo, in which a bull elk mistakes a bronze statue for a rival and attacks. Nature and culture, together again. (PA-DCNR)

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October 
2  Tu SMITHSONIAN, D.C., Trip. Pick a single exhibit space (write a two-page journal description of why the display is effective for the viewer)

Students have the rare experience of a behind-the-scenes tour with David Bohaska in the Vertebrate Paleontology department at the Smithsonian; they were treated to an up-close-and-personal tour of T. rex, Triceratops, Apatosaurus fossils, and many others in the deep basement of the museum.

How does it feel to lean against a shelf in the Smithsonian basement and suddenly notice what it contains: (Montana, Tyrannosaurus rex toe bones, United States National Museum). Very cool!

4 Th  NO CLASS  Essay # 2 due (narration) (submit electronically to me by 3:15 p.m.)

One drawer behind the Smithsonian scenes contains this remarkable piece of mammoth skin and fur. Thawed out from a glacier that held it for many millennia, this specimen allowed Dickinson students and professors to touch an organic piece of evolutionary history.

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9 Tu    In-class exercise: “To see the wind with a man his eyes.” Hacker & Sommers, “Mechanics,” pp. 76-87

Titanoboa, the largest (prehistoric) snake ever discovered, was 50 feet long and weighed more than a ton when he roamed the jungles of South America more than 50 million years ago. His vertebrae dwarf those of any living snake, and he could gobble up full-sized crocodilians without ill effects. He was discovered in a fantastic fossil-site full of turtles–as big as a living-room rug–and post-dinosaur lizards much larger than any alive today.

11 Th  Charles Fergus, Wildlife of Pennsylvania. Pick a single CAPITALIZED SECTION from this book [ex. COYOTE, ELK, PUDDLE DUCKS, WILD TURKEY, LAND SALAMANDERS, POND AND MARSH TURTLES, WATER SNAKE]). At the start of class hand in a single double-spaced page about why this entry in Fergus’s book is well-written, using examples of language as details; then be prepared with notes to tell the class why your entry is well-written.

A Triceratops skull towers in the unbelievable basement of the Smithsonian.

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16 T    FALL PAUSE (No Class)

18 Th  Craig Welch, Shell Games. 1-115 Discuss

Trilobites were one of the most widespread and successful creatures ever to live on earth. They roamed the seas for over two hundred million years, finally disappearing as part of a mass extinction as the Permian era ended. Today, they remain only as fossil specimens in museums, private collections, and numerous geological sites around the world.

19 F   STATE MUSEUM IN HARRISBURG

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23 T   Craig Welch, Shell Games 116-240. Hacker & Sommers,  “Research,” pp. 88-103

The Mosaic class caught three large snapping turtles during its project to protect the painted turtle from the slider. As a recent paper notes: “Sliders [have been] released from captivity, mainly as a result of the pet trade. Sliders are aggressive omnivores and are likely to compete for food, nest sites and basking sites with many species of native aquatic and terrestrial turtles.”*

25 Th  Your field journal as a text. Bring you best paragraph, typed with copies for 12.

26 F   HAWK-WATCH AT WAGGONER’S GAP

The Waggoner’s Gap rock-pile, one of the premier hawk watching sites on Pennsylvania’s spine of the Appalachian Mountains. No experience equals the sight of a peregrine falcon or a golden eagle coming in low along the ridge, racing south on the winds of autumn.

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28 S    JOSEPH PRIESTLEY’S HOUSE IN NORTHUMBERLAND, PA

The Joseph Priestley House in Northumberland, PA, just up the Susquehanna River from Dickinson College. This drawing–the Lambourne Plan (1800)–was only rediscovered in 1983 in the Royal Society Archives in London; the house remains substantially the same today. It contains the laboratory in which Priestley identified carbon monoxide and the room that once housed his library of over 1,500 volumes, one of the largest in America at the time.

Priestley’s apparatus, some of which is now on display in the Archives of Dickinson College.

29 M   PITTSBURGH: PHIPP’S CONSERVATORY (ARBORETUM)

The Carnegie Museum not only has T. rex skeletons; it has THE T. rex skeleton: the holotype, the skeleton example from which Tyrannosaurus rex (“tyrant lizard king”) was named back in 1905. We were lucky enough to be able to touch the serrated teeth and jaw of that remarkable fossil.

30 T    PITTSBURGH: CARNEGIE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Living birds are not related to dinosaurs; they ARE dinosaurs. The DNA record and other morphological evidence about the origin of feathers, warm-bloodedness, and other characteristics (look at any bird’s claws, its skin, and its skeleton) prove this beyond debate.

Dr. Dave Berman, the Carnegie Museum’s Permian tetrapod expert, shows us the oldest bipedal creature on earth, a specimen (white box) he and his colleagues discovered at a quarry in Germany.

31 W   PITTSBURGH: NATIONAL AVIARY

Steller’s sea-eagle, the largest eagle in the world, as close up as the class was able to see him at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.

November 1 Th  Essay #3 due: analyze Warner’s or Welch’s style. Animal rights: class positions, debate and discuss

Feeding time in the rain forest at the aviary; a little worm on the extended palm is all it takes.

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6 T    Essay (bring draft notes for Essay #4) Hacker & Sommers, Glossaries, pp. 259-278

8 Th  NO CLASS  Critique with a classmate or visit the Writing Center.

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13 T    Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac. xiii-xix, pp. 3-137. Link to your own experiences this term. In-class writing.

The ur-text, the foundational document, of all modern American nature writing.

15 Th  Aldo Leopold, pp. 138 to end. Link to what you have learned this term. Discuss.

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20 T    FINAL CLASS Essay #4 due (animal rights: interpretation)

*   *   *   *   *   *

The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny.  .  .  . “The question is not “Can they reason?” nor, “Can they talk?” but, “Can they suffer?”                                                   –Jeremy Bentham (1789)

Jeremy Bentham, founder of utilitarian philosophy and an early animal rights advocate. Here is Bentham’s “auto-icon” (his “skeletonized” remains plus a wax head, preserved forever in the lobby of University College London). Bentham suggested that such a utilitarian use of his dead body would be helpful to future college decision makers; they could look at this suit of clothes–inhabited by the remains of the great man–and think, “What would Jeremy do?” Surely one of the strangest natural history specimens in the world.                                           (Photo credit: Michael Reeve)

*   *   *   *   *   *   

22 Th  Thanksgiving (No Class)

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29 Th  1st Revision Due in Kaufman 192 2:00 P.M. (Essays 2-4)

30 Fr  Draft of IR/IS projects due

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December 13 Th  FINAL EXAM (2nd Revision) Kaufman 192 by 5:00 p.m.

14 Friday Final IR/IS due FINAL MOSAIC DINNER

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Professor Ashton Nichols Kaufman 192, East College 305.

What about “animals” that are tens of millions–or hundreds of millions–of years old?

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 Essay #1

 A Natural Object 

Spend at least one uninterrupted hour observing a natural object. The object can be large (star, sun, cloud, mountain), small (grain of sand, flower, ant, leaf) or in between (stream, tree, turkey vulture, rock). Your object should be one that had not been shaped or visibly affected by humans. You should observe it as carefully as possible. Do not engage in any other activity (conversation, writing, reading, etc.) during your observation. No Walkmans allowed!

What did you learn as a result of this experience? Write a 750-1,000 word (three to four typed pages) essay that explains to the members of our class what you knew at the end of this hour that you did not know before your observation began. Write with care and attention to the precise details of your experience. Your essay should have a thesis (a central controlling idea) and a clear organizational principle (chronological, psychological association, logical progression). Avoid errors of grammar, syntax, and spelling. Proofread you work carefully.

This essay is due at the start of class on Thursday, August 30, at 2:00 p.m. It should be typed, double-spaced, and should have a title page that includes a title that you have composed, your name, and the date

NO LATE PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED

Sometimes creatures–like this eye-spotted luna moth–are appreciated by humans primarily aesthetically: for their physical beauty, their incredible colors, or shapes, or sizes. Notice the ragged tears on the wing-edges, signs of the wear-and-tear of normal life in the field.* (*selected photos thanks to Emily Stanley)

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Sometimes it is hard to believe that the colors of living things are all “natural.”*

NATURAL HISTORY FIELD JOURNAL

For our “Writing About Natural History” class, you will keep your own natural history journal. It begins today and ends on the final day of classes, when it will be handed in to me. This journal will describe, narrate, analyze, interpret and otherwise create an experiential and intellectual record of your experiences with the nonhuman world during our entire semester. This field journal will have no length requirement; it must, however, be complete. Do not let us find that you have no entry about our trip to the Chesapeake Bay. Do not give your readers half-a-page about the largest herd of elk east of the Mississippi. This journal should accompany you on all of our trips away from Dickinson and Carlisle.

You are encouraged to share your journal with your classmates, with other students, with professors, or with your family. You should feel free to ask me for advice or suggestions during the term, and you should feel free to copy “commonplace” selections into your your own journal (from Thoreau or Annie Dillard Emerson, from Wordsworth or William Warner); just make sure that you always indicate when the words you write are not your own. Consider all of our texts, classes, and discussions as source material for your own journal writing. Writing is a social and cultural practice. Your own writing always benefits when you see yourself as part of a reading and writing group of interested literate individuals.

I may collect these journals at any time during the semester. I may ask to see the journal—individually or collectively—at any time. I may ask you to read aloud from your journal on any day our class meets. I may ask you to make use of your journal for additional formal or informal writing exercises. In short, this writing will be a key component of your work for this class. In addition to your five formal (graded) essays and two formal revisions, this journal will form the basis for the bulk of your writing during the term. Let your journal be influenced by the other writing we do in and for class. Let your style be influenced by the readings we are doing and reading that you are doing for your other Mosaic classes. Take advice from your classmates, or ignore it; take advice from me and your other professors.

Keep your journal in a separate notebook that can be handed in to me or can be shared among your classmates at any time. It must be written in ink (longhand or printed), or printed out on computer sheets that can be included in a journal format. You can keep your rough notes or drafts elsewhere. Your journal should be work that you would want to read aloud to the class or that someone else could read aloud. I will collect these on November 20 for the last time and will hand them back to you by the end of term.

Let me know if you have questions.

The predator-prey relationship is almost as old as the animal kingdom; it must have been a very early evolutionary adaptation, designed to insure another source of nutrition: feeding on one’s own kind–animals–as opposed to plants (leaves) or minerals (salt).*

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Visible evolution: a Smithsonian display presents the remarkable alteration of a toothed-whale’s teeth into baleen, the filter feeding devices now used by today’s baleen whales.

A giant ground sloth, of the kind that roamed North and South America during the Pleistocene, over 10,000 years ago, still standing his ground in a display at the Smithsonian.

Natural History Mosaic

Independent Research/Independent Study

Fall 2012

(A course credit in the Natural History Mosaic Program)

The class gathers around the Smithsonian’s iconic bull elephant; at 8 tons and 14 feet tall, it is an astonishingly large example of an African elephant. He has stood in this lobby since 1959.

Course Aims and Expectations:

This credit—the 4th of your credits for the Natural History mosaic—will allow you to deepen you knowledge of one of our topics under the guidance of one or two professors. You will pick a topic during the first week of the semester, refine that topic during the early weeks of the semester, and then spend the remainder of the fall term preparing your final research or study project. The course will also provide an opportunity for peer editing and comment as well as regular interactions with your supervising professor/s.

Requirements:

Because of the faculty teaching assignments for the semester, seven of you will work primarily with Professor Nichols, two each primarily with Professors Key and Wingert. Those of you who know that your topics are primarily scientific (lab based, primary research, specimens, data collection and analysis) will need to decide whether your focus leans toward paleontology and marine biology (Professor Key or terrestrial biology and environmental science (Professor Wingert). Those of you whose work will fall in the disciplines of history, literature, cultural studies—and the like—will automatically work with Professor Nichols. A number of you may by assigned to Prof. Nichols but consult regularly with Prof. Key or Wingert.

Does “wilderness” become a different space once human beings arrive there? Can there be any true wilderness left once the earth has been completely mapped, and charted, and photographed, and Googled?

Possible Independent Study Projects

Independent Study is a broad, literature-based investigation involving synthesis of already published literature and write up based on your own thesis statement and careful textual research. Possible ideas might include:

Prof. Nichols:

Professor Nichols’s Romantic Natural History hypertext website reveals how much scientists cared about poetry and poets cared about science in the century before Darwin’s Origin. See: http://blogs.dickinson.edu/romnat/

–history of a museum (Smithsonian, Carnegie) or collection within a museum (animal halls, fossils, rocks and minerals)

–critical biography of an author (Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard)

–history of several natural history books or a series of field guides (Peterson Series, National Geographic, Audubon)

–essay about H. D. Thoreau (as a naturalist or a writer) or a more general biography

–architectural and/or historical study of the Joseph Priestley House 1794-1804

–essay about John James Audubon: his life, his fieldwork, his artistry

A happy entomologist shows off her careful (and sustainable) collection.

Prof. Key:

–the role of mass extinction in the history of biodiversity

— was T. rex a predator or a scavenger

— some aspect of the evolution of humans

— develop a new display on paleontology, evolution, or biodiversity (or a combination) for our new Kaufman museum

The first natural historian, Pliny the Elder. Pliny died while on an excursion to gain a close-up view of the great eruption of Vesuvius in August of 79 AD.

Possible Independent Research Projects:

 Independent Research is a focused investigation involving actual specimens, data collection, data analysis, and write up. Possible ideas might include:

Prof. Key:

— biology or ecology of estuarine animals (e.g., Chesapeake Bay blue crab)

— evolutionary or paleoecological process (e.g., relationship of shark tooth shape to ease of penetration or mammal stride length vs. speed

–paleoenvironmental interpretation of clam fossil slab by modeling of clam shell behavior in a wave tank)

A bug-box collected under environmentally sustainable conditions.

Prof. Wingert:

— comparison of barn owl diet with long-eared owl

— nitrogen comparison of two streams: one stream in a deer impacted area and the other in a healthy forest

— egg counts in Gray tree frog females

— macro assessment of three streams: one in a residential area, the other in agricultural area, and a control stream in a forested environment

You will pick a topic that will be approved by the professors by Friday August 31 and fill out the necessary registration form for the Registrar. This class will have regularly scheduled meeting times—9:00 a.m. Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. Friday–but it will only use that time for the first several weeks of class. Then you will be working largely on your own and with individual meetings with your assigned professor (seven with Professor Nichols, two each with Professors Key and Wingert). We may have borderline research/study projects that will be shared between professors. We will keep these time slots open for individual meetings as the semester progresses.

August 29 9 a.m.  What is an Independent Study or Research Project: How does it work?

31  1:30 p.m. Final decision and registration for your Independent Research/Study course

September 5 9 a.m. First meeting to plan schedules for semester

7   1:30 p.m. Individual meeting with professors

12  9 a.m. Individual meetings with professors

27 Th **Whistlestop Bookshop Reading, Prof. Nichols 4:30 p.m.***

c. November 28  15 minute oral presentations

November 30 F  First draft of Independent Study/Research project due

December 14  F Final  version due

Let us know if you have questions.

Why is NATURAL HISTORY so important? (Click on this image–above–to appreciate the significance of natural history collections and collecting in the 21st century.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * 

The Mosaic class gathers around a bust of Spencer Fullerton Baird, 19th-century student and professor at Dickinson who was later the second Secretary of the Smithsonian. Taught to draw birds by John James Audubon, Baird took two boxcars full of natural history specimens with him to Washington, D.C., from Carlisle, PA. He was responsible for making the Smithsonian the nation’s great museum; its collections grew from 6,000 to 2,000,000 specimens during his tenure. Some of his birds are still visible. (Professor Key smiles at lower right.)

Ashton Nichols, K 192, EC 305

see also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZqNrk4h7N0

and:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBr9pTItVX0&feature=relmfu

 * * * * * * * * * * * *

Eller’s sketch of Tangier Island, Virginia, drawn from Port Isobel, the tiny uninhabited island where we stayed while studying the Chesapeake Bay. Tangier was named by Captain John Smith in 1608 for its resemblance to the coast of North Africa.

Academic Accommodation:

Dickinson College makes reasonable academic accommodations for students with documented disabilities. I am available to discuss the implementation of those accommodations.  Students requesting accommodations must first register with Disability Services to verify their eligibility. After documentation review, Marni Jones, Director of Learning Skills and Disability Services, will provide eligible students with accommodation letters for their professors. Students must obtain a new letter every semester and meet with each relevant professor prior to any accommodations being implemented.  These meetings should occur during the first three weeks of the semester (except for unusual circumstances), and at least one week before any testing accommodations. Disability Services is located in Biddle House. Address inquiries to Stephanie Anderberg at 717-245-1734 or email disabilityservices@dickinson.edu. For more information, see the Disability Serviceswebsite: www.dickinson.edu/disabilityservices.

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers [and sisters].” (apologies to Shakespeare)

American Nature Writing: Environment, Culture, Values

ENST 111 / ENGL 101                                                       Fall 2018  _________________________________________________________

American Nature Writing:

Environment, Culture, Values

__________________________________________________________         

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

  •  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

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

  ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

                  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

–“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?

 

Natural History Sustainability Mosaic II 2016

ENGL 212: Writing About Natural History

Steller's sea eagle, the largest eagle in the world, as close up as the class saw him at the national Aviary in Pittsburgh.

Steller’s sea eagle, the largest eagle in the world, a close genetic relative of North America’s own bald eagle and golden eagle.

 

 Required Texts:

Fergus, Charles. Wildlife of Pennsylvania: And the Northeast.

Hacker, Diana. A Pocket Style Manual 5e.

Harrison, Ralph. The Elk of Pennsylvania. (Wingert)

Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.

Leopold, Also. A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There.

Nichols, Ashton. Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism: Toward Urbanatural Roosting.

Warner, William. Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Put your last name, first name here. Natural History Field Notebook.

Online dictionaries: Oxford English for advanced definitions: http://www.oed.com

Merriam-Webster for regular use: http://www.britannica.com/  Dickinson website.

Handouts and required written classroom exercises

ConnorAsh

A bemused Connor Liu meets a stunned Captain “Crab-Hat” Nichols on the deck of the Chesapeake Bay boat Susquehanna.

Course Aims and Expectations:

This course is designed to improve your skills as a writer of expository prose by emphasizing the genre of natural history writing. We will concentrate on a variety of writing problems and techniques, emphasizing specific skills necessary to a wide range of writing tasks: description, summary, narration, argumentation, analysis, and interpretation. In all cases, our focus will be on the natural world, natural history, and human connections to that world. Our numerous field trips to museums and field experiences in the wilds of Pennsylvania and beyond (Virginia, North Carolina) will form the basis of much of our writing. You will keep your own natural history journal that begins today and ends on the final day of classes, when it will be handed in; this journal will record, analyze, and otherwise create an experiential and intellectual document of your experiences with the nonhuman world during our entire semester. So, some of your writing will take place in the field or near the field, some more of it in the library or at your desk. Discussions of essay reading assignments will be supplemented by group workshop sessions and individual tutorials. Students will have the opportunity to critique one another’s work and to compare their essays to works by natural history writers of the past and present. The course aims to concentrate your attention on the precise stylistic details that lead to effective writing. 

Horned Devil

The horrendously beautiful hickory horned devil–one of the largest caterpillars in North America–soon to become a regal moth: a.k.a. the royal walnut moth.

 

Essay Requirements:

–All essays must be typed: one-inch margins & double-spaced

–Assignments will specify a precise length for each essay

–Essays must be stapled or paper-clipped together

–Title page must include title, the author’s name, and the due date

–Essays due in class at 10:30 a.m. on the syllabus indicated date

–NO LATE PAPERS (or drafts) WILL BE ACCEPTED

Trilobites are one of the most widespread and successful creatures ever to live on earth. They roamed the seas for over two hundred million years and finally disappeared as part of a mass extinction as the Permian era ended. Today, they remain only as fossil specimens in museums, private collections, and in various geological sites around the world.

Trilobites are one of the most widespread and successful creatures ever to live on earth. They roamed the seas for over two hundred million years and finally disappeared as part of a mass extinction as the Permian era ended. Today, they remain only as fossil specimens in museums, private collections, and in various geological sites around the world.

Web Sites for Writers and Nature Writers

Dickinson Writing Center

English Department Writing Guidelines

Online Resources for Writers

Virginia Commonwealth University Nature Writing Web Links 

Marcus

Captain Marcus Key piratically surveys the horizon; Smith Island (pop. c. 140) is in the distance (behind Cecilie Macpherson and Joshua Reider).

Grading:

Grades will be based on the following distribution:

Essay   1   2   3   4       Revision   In-Class Journal Exam-revision    Writing 
    :                         10  10  10 10             20            10          10               20                = 100%

Students must complete all of these requirements in order to receive credit for the course. 

Class Meetings, Readings, & Due dates:(T Th 10:30 a.m., K 152)

_____________________

August 29 M: 9:30 -10:20 First class meeting of full Mosaic, Introduction, Kaufman 152

August 30 Tu: 10:30 a.m.-11:45 Syllabus in-class writing: what is “nature”? What is “natural history”?

September 1 Th: Continue with in-class writing and online nature writing.

_____________________

6 Tu   Essay #1 due (a natural object: assignment sheet attached). Provisional grade is dropped if it goes up on September 22 version (see below). 
 

8 Th   Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac. xiii-xix, pp. 3-137. What is good nature writing?

The ur-text, the foundational document, of all modern American nature writing.

Here is one of the unarguable ur-texts, that is to say, a foundational document, of American nature writing . . .

The ur-text, the foundational document, of modern American nature writing (and a literary masterpiece, to boot).

. . .  and a great literary masterpiece, to boot. Sadly, Leopold died before it could be published, fighting a grass fire on a neighbor’s property.

 

______________________________________________________

13  Tu   In-class exercise (sentences from essays). Hacker & Sommers, “Clarity,” pp. 1-18

15 Th  Aldo Leopold, pp. 138 to end, Hacker & Sommers, “Grammar,” pp. 19-53,

______________________

Elizabeth Kolbert's book has become that surprising entity in the literary world: a scientific text that has become a bestseller -- because of the quality of its writing and the importance of its ideas about homo sapiens's human impact on the nonhuman species around us; the news is not good.

Elizabeth Kolbert’s book has become that surprising entity in the literary world: a scientific text that has become a bestseller — because of the quality of its writing and the importance of its ideas about homo sapiens’s human impact on the nonhuman species around us; the news is not good.

20 Tu  9:00 a.m. Class Visit: Discussion with nine (9) students in the Natural History Sustainability Mosaic II with Dr. Ashton Nichols, Dr. Marcus Key, and Gene Wingert, in Kaufman 152: Elizabeth Kolbert is The New Yorker’s nature writer and author, most recently of The Sixth Extinction: and Unnatural History: Bring two (2) written or typed-out questions for our guest, based on your reading of her remarkable work. Like Bill McKibben (The End of Nature) and John McPhee (The Control of Nature) before her, Kolbert’s book began as a series of essays in the magazine

22 Th  Essay #1 revised (a natural object). Hand in for a final grade. Workshop.

____________________________

27 Tu No class (begin work on Essay #2)

29 Th  Vocabulary handout. Hacker & Sommers, “Punctuation,” pp. 55-74

____________________________

JackiePuffer

Jackie Geisler meets her new and sandpapery friend, Mr. Puffer Fish (Tetraodontidae Sphoeroides maculatus: the spotted spherical pufferfish). 

October 4 T  CHESAPEAKE BAY TRIP (Beautiful Swimmers, first half)

Mud bathers enjoy the Smith Island Special.

                         Mud bathers enjoy the free Smith Island Special.

6 Th    CHESAPEAKE BAY TRIP (finish Beautiful Swimmers for thorough discussion)

_____________________________

A remarkable photo, in which a bull elk mistakes a bronze statue for a rival and attacks. Nature and culture, together again.

A remarkable photo, in which a rutting bull elk mistakes a bronze statue for a mating rival and attacks. Nature and culture, together again.

11 Tu ELK COUNTY TRIP  Read and bring The Elk of Pennsylvania booklet

13 Th  Finish Sand County Almanac (for class discussion)

14 Fri   Essay # 2 due (narration: submit electronically)

Are "wild" animals different when seen in sight of human habitation?

Are “wild” animals different when they are seen within sight of human development and habitation, as here in Montana?

______________________________

18 Tu   FALL PAUSE (NO CLASS) 


20 Th  In-class exercise: “To see the wind with a man his eyes.” Hacker & Sommers, “Mechanics,” pp. 76-87   Charles Fergus, Wildlife of Pennsylvania. Pick a single CAPITALIZED SECTION from this book [ex. COYOTE, ELK, PUDDLE DUCKS, WILD TURKEY, LAND SALAMANDERS, POND AND MARSH TURTLES, WATER SNAKE]). At the start of class hand in a single double-spaced page about why this entry in Fergus’s book is well-written, using examples of language as details; then be prepared with notes to tell the class why your entry is well-written.

________________________________

23 Sunday: Depart for Kiptopeke, 10:00 a.m., Kaufman parking lot.

25 Tu  Depart Kiptopeke for fossil sites near Jamestown, VA

Jackie Geisler's remarkable megalodon tooth, a remarkable rarity spotted by her watchful eye!

Jackie Geisler’s astonishing C. megalodon tooth, a remarkable rarity spotted by her watchful eye along a James River beach site!

26 Wed  Return to Carlisle from Virginia

27 Th Hawks plus fossils plus assignment of Essay #3.

_________________________________

November 1 T   Your field journal as a text. Bring your best paragraph, typed with copies for 12. Hacker & Sommers,  “Research,” pp. 88-103

3 Th Continue field journals until nine (9) are complete. Vote.

__________________________________

8 T    Essay #3 due, analyze Leopold’s or Kolbert’s writing style.

10 Th  Animal rights: class positions, debate and discuss

The Joseph Priestley House in Northumberland, PA, just up the Susquehanna River from Dickinson College. This drawing--the Lambourne Plan (1800)--was only rediscovered in 1983 in the Royal Society Archives in London; the house remains substantially the same today. It contains the laboratory in which Priestley identified carbon monoxide and the room that once housed his library of over 1,500 volumes, one of the largest in America at the time.

The Joseph Priestley House in Northumberland, PA, just up the Susquehanna River from Dickinson College. This drawing–the Lambourne Plan (1800)–was only rediscovered in 1983 in the Royal Society Archives in London; the house remains substantially the same today as it was when Priestley lived and died there in 1804. It contains the laboratory in which Priestley identified carbon monoxide and the room that once housed his library of over 1,500 volumes, one of the largest private libraries in America at the time.

__________________________________

15 T    Essay #4 (bring draft notes for essay) Hacker & Sommers, Glossaries, pp. 259-278

16 Wed   Depart for Pittsburgh–Phipps Conservatory on arrival

17 Th  Carnegie Museum of Natural History (all day).

18 Fri   National Aviary and return to Carlisle

___________________________________

22 T   Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism xii-101. Link to your own experiences this term. In-class writing. 


24 Th  THANKSGIVING

humpback

Whales are among the most amazing creatures on land or sea. Originally land mammals, they lost their legs and returned to the oceans more than 50 million years ago. They are more closely related to cows and to camels than to any of the fish species that surround them.

___________________________________

29 T   Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism: Toward Urbanatural Roosting 104-208. Bring two (2) questions for the author

DECEMBER 1 Th  FINAL CLASS Essay #4 due (animal rights: interpretation)

2 Fri  Draft of IR/IS projects due 5:00 p.m. K 192

___________________________________

8 Th  1st Revision Due in Kaufman 192 by 2:00 P.M. (Essays 2-4)

___________________________________

13 Tu 1:30 p.m. Presentations of IR/IS project results

December 14 Wed  FINAL EXAM (2nd Revision) due in Kaufman 192 by 5:00 p.m.

16 Friday Final IR/IS due 5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m. FINAL MOSAIC DINNER (Creekside Farm: 580 McClures Gap Rd.)

JoshAmanda

Josh Reider and Amanda Turner survey the crab-pots, complete with cull-rings and floats.

___________________________________

Professor Ashton Nichols

Office Hours T Th 1-3 p.m. Kaufman 192, ext.1660

HornedDevil2

                   Can’t get enough of this guy; what a face!

********************************************  

Essay #1

A Natural Object

Spend at least one uninterrupted hour observing a natural object. The object can be large (star, sun, cloud, mountain), small (grain of sand, flower, ant, leaf) or in between (stream, tree, turkey vulture, rock). Your object should be one that had not been shaped or visibly affected by humans. You should observe it as carefully as possible. Do not engage in any other activity (conversation, writing, reading, etc.) during your observation. No Walkmans allowed!

What did you learn as a result of this experience? Write a 750-1,000 word (three to four typed pages) essay that explains to the members of our class what you knew at the end of this hour that you did not know before your observation began. Write with care and attention to the precise details of your experience. Your essay should have a thesis (a central controlling idea) and a clear organizational principle (chronological, psychological association, logical progression). Avoid errors of grammar, syntax, and spelling. Proofread you work carefully.

This essay is due at the start of class on Thursday, August 30, at 10:30 a.m. It should be typed, double-spaced, and should have a title page that includes a title that you have composed, your name, and the date.

NO LATE PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED

Jeremy Bentham, founder of utilitarian philosopher and early animal rights advocate. Here is Bentham's "auto-icon" (his "skeletonized" remains plus a wax head, preserved forever in the lobby of University College London. Bentham suggested that these utilitarian uses of dead bodies would be helpful to future college decision-makers who could look at this suit of clothes inhabited by the remains of the great man and think, "What would Jeremy do?" Surely one of the strangest natural history specimens in the world. (Photo credit: Michael Reeve)

Jeremy Bentham, founder of utilitarian philosopher and early animal rights advocate. Here is Bentham’s “auto-icon” (his “skeletonized” remains plus a wax head, preserved forever in the lobby of University College London. Bentham suggested that these utilitarian uses of dead bodies would be helpful to future college decision-makers who could look at this suit of clothes inhabited by the remains of the great man and think, “What would Jeremy do?” Surely one of the strangest natural history specimens in the world. (Photo credit: Michael Reeve)

NATURAL HISTORY FIELD JOURNAL

For our “Writing About Natural History” class, you will keep your own natural history journal. It begins today and ends on the final day of classes, when it will be handed in to me. This journal will describe, narrate, analyze, interpret and otherwise create an experiential and intellectual record of your experiences with the nonhuman world during our entire semester. This field journal will have no length requirement; it must, however, be complete. Do not let us find that you have no entry about our trip to the Chesapeake Bay. Do not give your readers half-a-page about the largest herd of elk east of the Mississippi. This journal should accompany you on all of our trips away from Dickinson and Carlisle.

You are encouraged to share your journal with your classmates, with other students, with professors, or with your family. You should feel free to ask me for advice or suggestions during the term, and you should feel free to copy “commonplace” selections into your your own journal (from Thoreau or Annie Dillard Emerson, from Wordsworth or William Warner); just make sure that you always indicate when the words you write are not your own. Consider all of our texts, classes, and discussions as source material for your own journal writing. Writing is a social and cultural practice. Your own writing always benefits when you see yourself as part of a reading and writing group of interested literate individuals.

I may collect these journals at any time during the semester. I may ask to see the journal—individually or collectively—at any time. I may ask you to read aloud from your journal on any day our class meets. I may ask you to make use of your journal for additional formal or informal writing exercises. In short, this writing will be a key component of your work for this class. In addition to your five formal (graded) essays and two formal revisions, this journal will form the basis for the bulk of your writing during the term. Let your journal be influenced by the other writing we do in and for class. Let your style be influenced by the readings we are doing and reading that you are doing for your other Mosaic classes. Take advice from your classmates, or ignore it; take advice from me and your other professors.

Keep your journal in a separate notebook that can be handed in to me or can be shared among your classmates at any time. It must be written in ink (longhand or printed), or printed out on computer sheets that can be included in a journal format. You can keep your rough notes or drafts elsewhere. Your journal should be work that you would want to read aloud to the class or that someone else could read aloud. I will collect these on November 20 for the last time and will hand them back to you by the end of term.

Let me know if you have questions.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Henry David Thoreau and an admirer, standing in front of a replica of his cabin near the lapping shores of Walden Pond outside of Concord, Massachusetts

Natural History Sustainability Mosaic II

Fall 2016

(NOTE: The second meeting for a discussion of pre-registration for fall will be held on Tuesday, March 22 at 4:45 p.m. in Kaufman 152 to discuss signing up for classes in the fall and other details of the program)

A dubious student receives a "crab-hat," thanks to vigorous grabbing by the Chesapeake Bay blue crab.

Students fashion a “Crab Hat”–on a skeptical victim–near Tangier Island on the Chesapeake Bay.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

 Natural History Sustainability Mosaic II

Fall Semester 2016

____________________________________________________________

Three professors have just been approved for the Natural History Sustainability Mosaic II in the Fall Semester of 2016. Students who are interested in this exciting opportunity should consider applying. This Mosaic represents a new and improved version of a Mosaic we offered in 2012. Here are the details:

The three professors–Ashton Nichols, Environmental Studies and English; Marcus Key, Earth Sciences; and Gene Wingert, Biology–will use the entire semester to introduce students to exciting versions of paleontology, nature writing, and field biology. Students will enroll in three (3) classes (one in each subject, including a “W” and a laboratory science credit), and an Independent Study for their fourth credit:

1)     ENST 310 Special Topics/BIOL 401 Special Topics (Natural History with Lab): Wingert

2)     ERSC 307 Paleontology with Lab: Key, QR or DIV III lab science requirement.

3)     ENGL 212 Writing About Natural History: Nichols, W

4)     Independent Study or Research credit in BIOL, ENGL, ENST, or ERSC: Key, Nichols, Wingert

In addition to coursework, numerous field trips–several overnights–will enhance the experience of this unified teaching semester. Since students are only enrolled with these three professors, they will not have a regular schedule; instead, all of the Mosaic students will work with all three of the Mosaic professors in shared enterprises that will call for varying time schedules and commitments each week.

The Carnegie Museum not only has T. rex skeletons; it has THE T. rex skeleton, the holotype, the skeleton example from which Tyrannosaurus rex ("tyrant lizard king") was named back in 1905.

The Carnegie Museum houses the “holotype” T-Rex; that is the first specimen–1905–fossil on which the scientific designation of this animal as a new species (Tyrannosaurus rex [“tyrant lizard king”] was based).

Field trips will include the world-class Carnegie Mellon Natural History Museum and the National Aviary in Pittsburgh; a Chesapeake Bay Foundation trip to live near Tangier and Smith Island in the middle of the Bay (crabbing and oyster dredging, wet and dry hikes, aquatic research, and more explorations); an Elk County Study Center residency, where we will study the largest elk herd east of the Mississippi (over 750 animals); a journey to North Carolina and Virginia to dig fossils in a world famous quarry pit and also to observe astonishing numbers of hawks and eagles in their annual autumn raptor migration at the southern tip of the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) Peninsula; as well as day-trips to the State Museum in Harrisburg, where students will prepare actual specimens for the museum’s collection, and much more. In addition, students will engage in other field experiences that include saw-whet owl banding at King’s Gap, turtle trapping in Wildwood Park, local hawk-watching at Waggoner’s Gap, a Susquehanna River clean-up trip in canoes, and a tour of the remarkably well-preserved 1804 Joseph Priestley House (he discovered oxygen) on the banks of the Susquehanna River.

A remarkable photo, in which a bull elk mistakes a bronze statue for a rival and attacks. Nature and culture, together again.

Students will take no other classes during the fall of 2016, since they will receive a full four-credit semester based on three (3) classes with professors and a self-selected independent study (for one [1] credit) on a subject related to natural history, with one professor. The Natural History Sustainability Mosaic II represents a remarkable example of what can happen when three professors, with different strengths and different interests, come together to share their expertise and enthusiasms with a group of equally committed students. The Mosaic will use place-based, as well as classroom, learning as valuable ways of engaging student interests while conveying a wide range of academic and intellectual content.

For now, you need only let us know if there is a chance you might be interested in this Mosaic for the Fall 2016 semester. Early in February, we will have meetings and an official application period (the program will be competitive). There is an additional fee for this program because of the numerous field trips. This fee has already been offset by generous grants from the Community Studies Center (CSC) and the Center for Sustainability Education  (CSE), and the remaining student fee will be $ 400.00 per student. (Financial Aid can be applied to this cost.)

Here is our web-blog and syllabus from our first 2012 Mosaic for more details:

http://blogs.dickinson.edu/syllabus/2012/08/23/english-212-writing-about-natural-history/

All you need to do for now is to send your name to (nicholsa@ dickinson.edu) and let us know that you have an interest in this Mosaic for Fall semester 2016. We will then call a meeting for all interested students to begin applications.

CanoeNatHistStudents celebrate environmental clean-up (in canoes) of the Susquehanna River.

Sometimes creatures--like this luna moth--are appreciated primarily aesthetically: for their remarkable physical beauty, their incredible shapes, or sizes, or colors.

Sometimes creatures–like this luna moth–are appreciated primarily aesthetically: for their remarkable physical beauty, their incredible shapes, or sizes, or colors.

American Nature Writing: Environment, Culture, Values

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

ENST 111 / ENGL 101                                                                        Fall 2015  

American Nature Writing: Environment, Culture, Values

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, Aldo Leopold, Ballantine/Random House

Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey, Touchstone/Simon Shuster

The End of Nature, Bill McKibben, Anchor Doubleday

 

Course Aims and 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 the natural world? 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 this range of works in dialogue with major environmental questions of the past two centuries: wilderness and species preservation, appreciation of wild nature, pollution. The course will also be a study of language, of literary styles, and most of all 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 a series of questions about the relationship between the natural world and human beings who have defined and affected that world since 1800. Are humans just a part of the natural environment? 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 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.

See Useful Websites for American Nature Writing:

http://blogs.dickinson.edu/syllabus/2014/01/09/american-nature-writing-environment-culture-values/ 

Romantic Natural History

Nature Writing (1791-2009) 

Berkeley History of Evolution

Walden Woods

Edward Abbey

Aldo Leopold

Bill McKibben

Urbanatural Roosting Web Portal

 

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 will be 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: 10:15 a.m. -1:30 p.m. T TH & by appt.  Classroom: TOME 115

Readings for American Nature Writing

August 31 M  American Nature Writing–our syllabus as a text (+Web)

September 3 TH American Earth, xvii-xx, xxi-1, and Thoreau Journal’s 1-8

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

10 TH  Gillen D’Arcy Wood in Class, handout + video

[Gillen Darcy Wood YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EI9tS4_nl7A]

10th Thursday, 7:00 p.m. D’Arcy Wood Lecture (Required) Stern Great Room

14 M Walden 99-188

17 TH   Walden  189-284

21 M Walden  285-end Writing About Literature: Assign Essay #1

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

28 M Walt Whitman George Perkins Marsh, P. T. Barnum 62-83

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

5 M  John Burroughs, Gifford Pinchot 145-180—Mark Ruffalo & Ramsay Adams to class [YouTube: 1) Mark Ruffalo speaks out against fracking PBS & 2) Mark Ruffalo Speech at Dickinson College 2015 Commencement, & 3) Ruffalo Dickinson Interview] Be ready with questions after Mark and Ramsay’s presentation.

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

12 M  Sand County Almanac Introduction-136

13th Tuesday, 5:00 p.m. Egbert Leigh Lecture

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

19 M FALL PAUSE

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

26 M Lynn White, Paul Erlich, Garrett Hardin 405-412, 435-450

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

November 2 M Desert Solitaire Introduction-150

5 TH Desert Solitaire 151-end

9 M 473-479, 489-492 + Big Yellow Taxi  Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)

12  TH  Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard 505-549

16 M  N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko 570-590, Linda Hogan 809-14

19 TH  Alice Walker  659-671, Cesar Chavez 690-696

23 M Urbanatural Roosting xiii-xxiii, 3-101

26 TH  THANKSGIVING

30 M  Urbanatural Roosting 101-212

December 3 TH The End of Nature xiii-xxiv + 1-78 [YouTube: Bill McKibben at Dickinson & Global Warming;  Do the Math with Bill McKibbenDavid Letterman talks with Bill McKibben. 08/31/10

7 M  The End of Nature 82-end

10 TH   (Final set of pictures, 736-737) Exam Review–Essay #2 due in class


December 17, Thursday, 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.  FINAL EXAM IN CLASSROOM

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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

Nature and Humans: Questions to Consider

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

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

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

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

5) Nature doesn’t care less about you or me? Or does it?

Darwin and Darwinism:

 –”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?

  1. Natural laws
  2. Laws of nature subject to change because material conditions governing laws change.

1.) cooperation: symbiosis or parasitism?

2.) competition: the fittest?

  1. 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 (?)

  1. Theology–“It is just as noble a conception of the deity to believe he created primal forms capable of self-development.” –Canon Charles Kingsley
  2. Man is no longer viewed as unique

1.) end-product of creation?

2.) human’s “mental moral and spiritual qualities evolved by precisely thesame processes that gave the eagle its claws and the tapeworm its hooks”

  1. 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?

C.) Evolutionary psychology

1.) human neural processes evolved by the same means as all organic life.

2.) the human mind is thus the dynamic result of constant evolutionary change.

 

Ashton Nichols

  
Ashton Nichols

The Walter E. Beach ’56 Distinguished Chair

in Sustainability Studies

Department of English, Dickinson College


Blogs & Websites:

Urbanature, August 2008-present

Thoreau, Wilderness, and American Nature Writing, January 2009-

A Day in the Life of the Digital Humanities (2009)

Dickinson in the Galapagos (2002-03)


Links  to Selected Class Syllabi on the Web:

English 403: Thoreau and American Nature Writing . . . . . . .Fall 2013

First-Year Seminar: Thoreau and American Nature Writing . Fall 2013

English 404: Senior Thesis: Critical Writing Workshop. . . Spring 2011

English 360: Ecocriticism . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Spring 2011

English 101: Small Poems, Big Ideas. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . .Spring 2011

English 370: Romantic Orientalism and Its Critics. . . . . . Spring 2010

English 101: British and American Nature Writing. . . . . . Spring 2010

English 220: Critical Approaches and Literary Methods . . . Fall 2009

English 379: Thoreau, Wilderness, American Writing . . Spring 2009

English 403: Frankenstein and Other Romantic Monsters . Fall 2008

First-Year Seminar: The Myth of Frankenstein . . . . . . . ..Fall 2007

English 404: Senior Critical Writing Workshop. . . . . . . Spring 2004

English 403: Revolutionary Romanticism . . . . . . . . . . . . .Fall 2003

English 101: Romantic Natural History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall 2003

English 101: Romantics and Victorians. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall 2001

English 212: Writing About Nature  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall 1999

English 399: Wordsworth and Hardy in Hyperspace . . . . Fall 1996
Link to “Thomas Hardy’s World”


Link to Selected Essays on the Web:

1) “Thoreau and Urbanature: From Walden to Ecocriticism” Neohelicon: Actos Comparationis Literarum Universarum 36:2 (December 2009): 347-55 Budapest: Springer, 2009

2) “Romantic Ecomorphism,” “Ecomorphism and Ecoromanticism,” “Wilding and Roosting,” “Romantic Natural History,” “Emerson and Infinity,” “Urbanature.” Romantic Circles Invited Blog Posts, with Tim Morton (UC-Davis) and Kurt Fosso (Lewis and Clark). Thematic Thread: Ecocriticism, 9-12/2008. [http://www.rc.umd.edu/blog_rc/]

3)“Roaring Alligators and Burning Tygers: Poetry and Science from William Bartram to Charles Darwin”
(from The Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 149:3 2005 )

4)“The Loves of Plants and Animals: Romantic Science and the Pleasures of Nature”
(from Romantic Circles Praxis Series on “Romantic Ecology,” November 2001)

5)“Romantic Rhinos and Victorian Vipers: The Zoo as Nineteenth-Century Spectacle”
(from A Romantic Natural History: 1750-1859)

6)“The Anxiety of Species: Toward a Romantic Natural History”
(from The Wordsworth Circle 28:3 (1997): 130-36)

7)“Hyping the Hypertext: Scholarship and the Limits of Technology”
(Loyola University Chicago electronic publications, October 1996)


Publications with Additional Web Links:

Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism: Toward Urbanatural Roosting (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

“Nichols offers a provocative new approach to understanding the role of humankind in a post-natural, post-industrial world. Grounded in a perceptive reading of Romantic natural history, this book moves beyond the conventional nature-versus-culture dichotomy toward a more inclusive concept of ‘urbanatural roosting.’ Along the way, Nichols makes important contributions to our scholarly understanding of British Romantic poetry, American environmentalism, and the history of science.”—James C. McKusick, author of  Green Writing: Romanticism and Ecology

“Ambitious, learned, experimental, and thoroughly readable,  Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism  posits ‘urbanatural roosting’ as a vital twenty-first-century mode of ecological thinking. Perhaps this is what the Chinese might call the ‘tian ren he yi’ (the harmonious unity of the universe and man) of the new millennium. An inspired (and inspiring) book!”—Scott Slovic, editor of  ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment

“Part lyrical memoir, part literary and cultural history, part philosophical meditation, Nichols’ compelling new book is above all an eloquent, erudite, and impassioned manifesto for a new way of thinking, writing, and living more self-consciously, equitably, and sustainably on this earth. Stressing both the historicity of ‘wilderness’ and the naturality of the city, Nichols envisages the collaboration of scientific knowledge, urban design and the artistic imagination in the crafting of thriving ‘ecomorphic’ townscapes as part of a wider practice of sharing and caring for all of earth’s diverse, yet all more or less humanized places and spaces.”—Kate Rigby, Monash University and author  of Topographies of the Sacred: The Poetics of Place in European Romanticism

Romantic Natural Histories: William Wordsworth, Charles Darwin and Others (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)

  The Revolutionary “I”: Wordsworth and the Politics of Self-Presentation (Macmillan / St. Martin’s, 1998)

The Poetics of Epiphany: Nineteenth-Century Origins of the Modern Literary Moment (Alabama, 1987)

“Mumbo Jumbo: Mungo Park and the Rhetoric of Romantic Africa,” Romanticism, Race, & Imperial Culture (Indiana, 1996)
  
“Face to Face with Wild Dophins,” Sea Stories: An International Journal of Art and Writing (2006-07) 
 

“In the field there is an animal,” “Open Season,” and “Animate Nature”: poems in Terrain and Best of Terrain (2002)



Current Research:

A Romantic Natural History: 1750-1859:
A website designed to survey literary and natural history resources from the century before Charles Darwin


Curriculum Vitae (C.V.): Courses, Publications, Presentations


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Send an e-mail message to nicholsa@dickinson.edu