Literature of Wilderness

Professor: David Robertson
Institution: University of California Davis
Course Number: 184

Literature of Wilderness
ENGLISH 184
WINTER 1995

David Robertson, Instructor
Stephanie Sarver, TA
Mark Hoyer, TA

ROBERTSON
Office: 312B Sproul
Office Hours: M 10:15-11:30, W 2-4, and by appointment
Office Phone: 752-0698
e-mail: [email protected]
To leave messages, call 756-2896 between 7 A.M. & 9 P.M.

SARVER
Office: TB 195, Room 18
Office Hours: W 1-2
Office Phone: 752-8208
e-mail: [email protected]

BOOKS:
Margaret Atwood, SURFACING
Mary Austin, STORIES FROM THE COUNTRY OF LOST BORDERS
Robinson Jeffers, SELECTED POEMS
Jack Kerouac, DHARMA BUMS
Leslie Marmon Silko, CEREMONY
Gary Snyder, PRACTICE OF THE WILD
Lew Welch, RING OF BONE
READER (Navin’s)

PAPER/S:

OPTION A: TWO FIVE PAGE PAPERS
#1: Due BEFORE CLASS Monday January 30
May be rewritten: Rewrite due: BEFORE CLASS Wednesday February 22
(Note: Paper must be turned in on time in order to be rewritten)
(TOPIC TO BE HANDED OUT ON WEDNESDAY JANUARY 11)

#2: Due BEFORE CLASS Monday March 6 (may not be rewritten)
(TOPIC TO BE HANDED OUT ON WEDNESDAY JANUARY 11)

OPTION B: ONE 10 PAGE PAPER
Creative non-fiction + literary critical paper [+photographs optional] on Putah Creek/Cache Creek Watershed. Due BEFORE CLASS Monday March 6 (may not be rewritten)

Required contents:
1) personal experiences in watershed
2) personal reflections on experiences in watershed
3) personal reflections must include serious conversation with two  authors read in class
SEE SNYDER AND ROBERTSON FOR MODELS
Optional contents: Photographs

SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR PAPERS:

Papers are to present your own readings of the works in question.  Therefore, you are not permitted to read published interpretations. These are not research papers.

Any paper that ends before the beginning of page 5 (assuming 300 words per page) will be penalized by one full letter grade.

Late Policy: one-third of a grade for each DAY. Saturday-Sunday counts as one day. Note that no late rewrites will be accepted.

Exceptions are made for illness and emergencies.

RE-WRITE

The first paper may be re-written. The grade on a re-written paper will be the average of the original grade and the grade on the re-write, with the benefit of the doubt going to the re-write. If the grade on the re-write is lower than the original grade, it will not count. WARNING: A higher grade on the re-write is not automatic.

Procedure: You MUST turn in the original paper with the re-write. Put the original on top, the re-write beneath it, and staple the two together. No comments will be made on the re-write. No late rewrites will be accepted.

EXAMS: Midterm Exam on Friday, February 10 (1 hour)
Final Exam on [See Schedule] (1 hour)

THESE ARE THE ONLY TIMES THE EXAMS WILL BE GIVEN. PLEASE CHECK
YOUR SCHEDULES TO MAKE SURE YOU CAN MAKE THEM. Both exams will consist of two parts:

A. identifications
B. one one-page essay on the following model:

According to Robertson, [term/idea] used by [author] in [text] means . Do you think this is a good interpretation? Why?/Why not? What do you think it means? Main reason why.

GRADES: Two papers = 25% each
Two exams = 25% each

HIKES: Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpais (date to be arranged)

Various afternoon hikes to Putah Creek Reserve (dates to be arranged)

————————————————————-
ASSIGNMENTS:

January 6. Introduction to the class (Sarver & Hoyer)

UNIT 1: The Idea of Wilderness in Major Literary Texts
January 9 & 11. Read:
THE BIBLE
Exodus 16-24
I Kings 18-19
Hosea 1-3
Plato (in READINGS)

[Also for January 11 read a plot summary of or review:
Conrad, HEART OF DARKNESS
Shakespeare, The Tempest
Faulkner, The Bear]

UNIT 2: Mountains
January 13, 18, & 20. [January 16 is Holiday] Read:
Petrarch (in READINGS)
Wordsworth (in READINGS)
King (in READINGS)
Muir (in READINGS)
Kerouac, DHARMA BUMS, pages 35-94: sections 6-12
Robertson (in READINGS)

UNIT 3: Of what does the soundness in nature consist?
January 23 & 25. Read:
Jeffers, 37, 45, 55, 56, 72, 77, 94, 102, 107, and 108
January 27 & 30 & February 1. Read:
Austin, LAND OF LITTLE RAIN

FIRST PAPER OF OPTION A DUE JANUARY 30

UNIT 4. How do human beings access the soundness of nature?
February 3, 6, & 8. Read:
Snyder, PRACTICE OF THE WILD, chapters 1-4

MIDTERM EXAM FEBRUARY 10

February 13, 15, & 17. Read: Thoreau, “Walking” (in READINGS)
Austin, “Walking Woman” (in LOST BORDERS) Emerson, excerpts from
NATURE (in READINGS)

UNIT 5. Test case: Place: Mt. Tamalpais
February 22 & 24. [February 20 is Holiday] Read:
Kerouac, DHARMA BUMS

RE„WRITE DUE FEBRUARY 22

February 27. Read:
Robertson, “Formal Opening of Mt. Tamalpais” (in READINGS)
March 1. Read
Robertson, “Real Matter, Spiritual Mountain”
March 3 & 6. Read:
Welch, pages 65-97 & 119-137 in RING OF BONE

SECOND PAPER OF OPTION A DUE MARCH 6
OPTION B PAPER DUE MARCH 6

UNIT 6. Test case: Gender: Women March 8 & 10. Read:
Atwood, SURFACING

UNIT 7. Test case: Native Americans
March 13, 15, & 16. Read:
Silko, CEREMONY

————————————————————-
ENGLISH 184
LITERATURE OF WILDERNESS

PAPER TOPICS

OPTION A. (Two five page papers)

Paper #1. Choose ONE:

EITHER: In “The Beauty of Things” Robinson Jeffers announces an explicit poetics: “… to feel/Greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the natural/Beauty, is the sole business of poetry.”(p.94) Would Lew Welch, on the basis of the assigned readings, agree with this statement? What would Welch say is the relationship between natural beauty and poetry? What would he claim is the sole (or main) business of poetry? Note: you are free to use poems by Welch other than those assigned, but you do not have to.

 OR: In “Walking” Thoreau says that “in Wildness is the preservation of the World.” (p.224) Consider the Pocket Hunter, Seyavi, and Winnenap from Land of Little Rain. Take them one at a time. How extensively would they agree with Thoreau? If they would significantly disagree, what word (or phrase) might they substitute for “Wildness” in the above sentence? Justify your choice. Remember that you need, first of all, to establish what you think Thoreau means.

Paper #2. Choose ONE:

EITHER: Both Surfacing and Dharma Bums end with their main characters alone in nature, the narrator of Surfacing on an island and Ray as a lookout on a lonely mountain peak. Compare their experiences, with particular attention to what they learn, if anything. Do their respective experiences have anything to do with gender differences? Do their respective experiences seem to prepare them to re-enter the social/political world?

 OR: Read “The Woman Who Married a Bear” in Practice of the Wild (pp. 155-161). (You may but do not have to read Snyder’s commentary.) Using this story as a touchstone, explore the “going wild” episode in Surfacing. Discuss what process the narrator is going through and what she gains. To get started, you might consider what messages emerge from the “Bear” story. For example, what does this tale tell us about the relationship between humans and non-human nature? What does it tell us about human nature? Then go on to consider how Atwood’s story engages the same issues.

OR: Snyder proposes a “practice of the wild.” Tayo in Ceremony undertakes a “practice” of some sort. To what extent does his “ceremony” conform to Snyder’s “practice”? Would Silko recognize Snyder’s “practice” as a valid “ceremony,” that is, as a valid way to achieve wholeness? What about the other way around, would Snyder recognize Tayo’s “ceremony” as a valid “practice”?

OPTION B. (One ten page paper)

Choose ONE:

EITHER: Write an article for The Atlantic Monthly/Sierra/Outside Magazine (or other magazine intended for the general reader) on your experiences in the Putah Creek and/or Cache Creek watersheds. This article must include the following:

a) “creative” non-fiction about your experiences
b) reflection on the “nature”/”wild nature” you encountered in the watershed in light of the issues raised in this class
c) an extensive (that is, 2-4 pages) intellectual conversation with one author assigned in this class.

This article may but does not have to include photographs or other art (such as drawings, watercolors). Check with me if you wish to include such art.

 OR: Prepare a Unit for English 184 (let us say, on the model of Unit 2: Mountains) on Animals OR Plants. You may choose one genus (such as Ursus or Ouercus) or one type (such as carnivores or conifers) or simply animals in general or plants in general. The unit should consist of actual readings for about two weeks of classes. The major part of the paper should be devoted to an explication of your rationale for choosing these particular readings together with a lengthy discussion of how you would teach them and what you would want your students to learn in this unit.

Copyright © 1996. This document may not be reproduced in whole or in part, in any form, without written permission from its author(s). This document has been edited for electronic publication and does not appear in its original form.