Ashton Nichols Syllabus

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Archive for January, 2014

404 Senior Thesis Critical Writing Workshop



Required texts for this class will be copies made by each student of sets of three (3) different draft materials (approx.10-15 pp. each set) for distribution to members of the class well before our weekly workshops. These copies will be returned to their authors (with comments) by each student before the end of each workshop week. In addition, students should familiarize themselves carefully with the following useful web-links as they begin research and writing:

Research Guidance: Waidner-Spahr Library

MLA Format and MLA Citation Guide

Scholarly and Academic Research: Finding Journal Articles

Google Scholar: link to wide-ranging scholarly web resources


This course will seek to extend the work we began in 403 into a weekly research and writing workshop. The workshop will let each student develop, research, and write a major essay on an approved literary topic. In addition, students will provide input for each other throughout the semester through discussion comments and written comments on draft materials. Each student will read and research as widely as necessary in order to conceive, develop, write, and accurately document a coherent and well-focused thesis essay of 35-50 pages. Students may make use of the full services of the Waidner-Spahr Library, outside libraries, and the Writing Center in order to complete this project.


Students will be required to attend all classes, hand in all written work on schedule, and complete the final course project no later than Monday, APRIL 21 at 5:00 p.m. Students will read and comment on other students’ work based on the attached schedule (pp. 2-3). Each student will be responsible for meeting all of the deadlines included on this schedule. Students preparing draft materials for each week’s workshop will be required to have copies of those materials in the mailboxes of members of the class (and the professor) no later than the Friday before the workshop. Students receiving these draft copies will then be required to return them to their authors by the Thursday following the workshop. Each student will participate in two full-class workshops with his or her own work and one workshop with only the members of his or her workshop group. The final project will be 35-50 pages of your written text, not including title page, endnotes, or works cited, prepared in Times New Roman font, 12 pt. type, and one-inch margins, prepared in the correct MLA format (see copies of PMLAMLA Handbook, the Purdue online OWL, and earlier 404 projects in the English Department or the Waidner-Spahr Library). Note that MLA style has changed in recent years, and you are responsible for adopting the most recent version (it describes the form of each “work” cited at the end of the citation: Print, Film, DVD, Videodisk, etc., and web sites by the date constructed and the date consulted, without URL.) Here is a site from Cornell University’s library that offers one of the simplest and most direct versions of current MLA format and “Works Cited” style:


Grades will be based on the following scale. All written and workshop components of the course must be completed in order for you to pass the class (i.e. you cannot skip one of your own work-shopping or draft sessions or of your classmates):

Workshop Comments/       Draft                 Final
Participation                       Materials           Project
20%                                   30%                  50% =  100%

Do not hesitate to contact me during the semester to discuss our workshops, your research, your writing, or your grade.

Workshop Schedule and Deadlines


21 T       Workshop: bring a draft prospectus for every class member (15 copies)
23 TH   Prospectus comments due in mailboxes (HUB#s and Nichols)                      24 F       Final Prospectus copies due in mailboxes               ________________________________________________________

28 T     Workshop: Final Prospectus critiques and approval                                               30 TH  Final reflections on prospectuses and project plans (e-mails)                                    31 F       Group #1 drafts due in mailboxes        ________________________________________________________

Feb 4  T  Workshop Group #1 (full-class discussion)
6 H        Class comments returned to Group #1
7  F         Group #2 drafts due in mailboxes

11 T     Workshop Group #2 (full-class discussion)
13 TH     Class comments returned to Group #2
14 F     Group #3 drafts due in mailboxes

18 T     Workshop Group #3 (full-class discussion)
20 TH       Class comments returned to Group #3
21 F      Group #1 drafts due in mailboxes

25 T     Workshop Group #1 (full-class discussion)                                                   27 TH Class comments returned to Group #1                                                              28 F      Group #2 drafts due in mailboxes ______________________________________________________

March 4 T Workshop Group # 2 (full-class discussion)                                                               6 TH   Class comments returned to Group #2                                                                                 7 F   Group #3 drafts due in mailboxes


SPRING BREAK 8-16 ________________________________________________________

18 T   Workshop Group #3 (full-class discussion)
20 TH    Class comments returned to Group #3
21 F   Group #1 drafts due to Group #1 only

25 T    Workshop Group #1 (Group #1 only: McClures Gap Road)
27 TH      Group #1 comments returned to Group #1
28 F     Group #2 drafts to Group #2 only

April  1  T   Workshop Group #2 (Group #2 only: McClures Gap Road)
3 TH        Group #2 comments returned to Group #2
4       Group #3 drafts to Group #3 only

8 T      Workshop Group #3 (Group #3 only: McClures Gap Road)
10 TH      Group #3 comments returned to Group #3

11 F-21 M Writing, editing, and printing (have a finished copy in hand by Friday April 18) ________________________________________________________

April 21, Monday, PROJECT DUE: (one unbound copy to EC 305 by 5:00 p.m.) NO LATE PAPERS*

Friday, May 2 at 3 p.m. An unbound copy for the archives and a bound copy for the English department must be submitted to the English department academic coordinator–Kelly Winter-Fazio–by 2 p.m. on the last day of classes – (make sure the date and professor’s name are on the cover sheet of these copies) 

Official guidelines on the departmental 404 lateness policy and College policies:

By uniform English Department policy, all final drafts of 404 theses are due on Monday, April 21nd , at 5:00 PM.

Late submissions will be subject to severe penalties on the thesis grade. Lateness is a very serious matter in 404. The simple answer to this problem is to submit all of your work (draft materials and final thesis) on time (or early!). Here is the Departmental Policy on lateness as well as other general rules for 404:

Rules for Senior Thesis in English at Dickinson 

1. The final draft of the senior thesis:

A. Should be a minimum of 10,000 words and a maximum of 15,000 words (35 to 50 pages), not including apparatus (works cited, acknowledgements, etc.), in 12-point Times New Roman typeface with 1” margins. Word count must be appended to the document upon submission.

B. Should correctly follow MLA format, including the works cited pages.

2.  Students must submit three copies of their final paper.

One final copy for grading by 5 p.m. on Friday of the 12th week of classes. (If this date is a College recognized religious holiday, the due date will be 5 p.m. the Monday following.) This copy should be double-sided and given directly to the instructor.

 By department policy, late papers will receive a grade of F.

Two additional copies, due by 3 p.m. on the last day of classes, to Kelly Winters-Fazio, the English Department Academic Coordinator. 1) One copy left unbound on acid-free paper for the college archives for permanent retention. This copy of the paper should be double-sided and printed out on acid-free paper to ensure its longevity. This copy should be left unbound and placed in an individual envelope or folder with the student’s name on the tab.
 2) One bound copy to be housed in the English department. This copy of the paper should be double-sided and bound by the Print Center. You may choose a colored cover sheet for the front and back cover page.

3.  All three copies should be fully paginated, including any acknowledgments, preface, appendices, and works cited.

4.  The title page of all three copies of the paper should include full title, author, date of submission, and the name of the 404 instructor.

5.   Grades for English 404 will not be submitted until ALL copies of your 404 paper are received.

Academic Honesty

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

Statement on Disability Services

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

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


Final Advice

As you begin research and writing, consult the bibliographic materials you have already used in 403. Remember that many of our texts for that course included useful bibliographies. Continue to read widely, but remember that you will reach a point within the first three weeks of the semester where you will need to begin writing work-in-progress materials for the class. In addition, remember that the library and I for advice and guidance. Do not overlook the possibility of extending your research into libraries beyond Dickinson and Carlisle through interlibrary loan or personal visits (especially over Spring Break). This work is supposed to represent the culmination of four years at Dickinson and also of all of your work as an English major. Make this a piece of work of which you and I and the English department can be proud.

Also remember that this course is not just about your own research and writing. You are expected to be an active participant in the workshop process. This means that you will need to read work by your classmates with care, make comments on the draft materials they provide, and speak up in our weekly sessions with useful comments and suggestions for improvement. This aspect of the course will form an important part of your own grade (20%). By the end of the semester, I will ask each of you to comment on those members of the workshop whose comments were most helpful and those whose comments were least helpful as the semester proceeded. When this course succeeds, it does so as a shared effort. By the end of the semester, our goal should be that each student has produced a successful piece of work–whatever the final letter grade–and that the class has produced a series of projects we will all be pleased to send to the Dickinson library. Imagine coming back to Carlisle with your grandchild in fifty years to see the product of your spring 2011 labors. Also imagine picking up an academic book in the future and seeing your thesis referred to as a source for a high-powered scholarly argument. Now, get serious about your most important single piece of academic work at Dickinson. Now, get busy!

Professor Ashton Nichols, Class: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday
Office Hours:  T TH 10:30 a.m. 12 noon and by appointment                 Classroom K 178


American Nature Writing: Environment, Culture, Values

Planetary Living for the New Millennium

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: 

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 Address general inquiries to Stephanie Anderberg at 717-245-1734 or e-mail


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]

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 


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


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


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.


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