INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Stephen A. Norwick. Although I was trained as an environmental scientist and not a literature scholar, I have been teaching this course for more than twenty years. I am personally very interested in the way people feel about Nature. I enjoy literary prose, landscape painting, and poetry. I am especially interested in the relationship between all of the above and practical applications to political problems, environmental interpretation, and general education.
Henry David Thoreau's WALDEN 1854
John Muir's THE MOUNTAINS OF CALIFORNIA 1894
Mary Hunter Austin's LAND OF LITTLE RAIN 1903
Aldo Leopold's SAND COUNTY ALMANAC 1949
Edward Abbey's DESERT SOLITAIRE 1968
Annie Dillard's PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK 1974
PURPOSE: to read six of the most beautiful, powerful, heartening, humorous, puzzling, and (I hate to use this word, but it is true of these books though it is rarely true of any thing or any other book) inspirational books in the English Language. These books happen to be about the natural environment, and that is probably not an accident. The purpose of these books is to describe and inspire love of the natural world. The purpose of this course is to read these books.
CLASS PROCEDURE: I have prepared a collection of material which you will need for this course. It is for sale at: COPY CENTRAL, 6650 Commerce Blvd., Rohnert Park. The packet is sold to you for the cost of reproduction. I do not make a profit. Please buy it and use it. The store may run out of copies at some times so call ahead 707/585-2336 to make sure they have copies in stock.
The collection contains a bibliography of environmental literature, some class notes about landscape paintings and some essays by yours truly. There is a set of questions for each week's reading. The schedule which follows lists the dates on which the reading for each set of questions should be completed. You should write one to two pages (typed, twelve point type, single spaced) for one question. You must substantiate your ideas by making reference to specific passages by page and line number. Bring the questions, your answer and your copy of the text to class. The questions are the nicest way I know to force everyone to read the assignment. If you are unable to complete the assignment, please come to class and participate as best you can. Late assignments are acceptable but they can not be given full credit except in unusual cases where the answers are substantially different from any comments made in class.
I will give a short lecture at the beginning of each class. I will often show my amateur photographic slides of the actual places described in the texts. I will show slides of landscape paintings and artful landscape photography from the region and the historic period of each of the books which we will read. Most of the time in class will be spent discussing the books. I will collect and read your answers at the end of each class. There will be no examinations and no term papers in this course.
PARTICIPATION: Answering questions when called on, and in open discussion in class is important for you to practice expressing yourself, and you will help the rest of us with your ideas.
GRADING: The purpose of the questions is to help you understand and enjoy the books. Most of the questions do not have a right or wrong answer. A good answer is based on a careful reading of the text, and a thoughtful examination of your own feelings while reading. You will usually be able to find three to five examples in the text to show that your answer reflects what is in the book. Do not try to think up answers to please the teacher. The best answers are often political, spiritual, poetic, or symbolic interpretations. I will not grade your opinions but I will grade how you support your answer with a well written and well reasoned argument using citations from the text. Some good answers are not so much well reasoned as poetically associated with the text.
Some people just want to read freely and rapidly, and they do not want to spend a lot of time answering questions about the books. I understand that completely. If you are not an Environmental Studies major and if you do not want to read the texts closely, you may take this course for Credit - No Credit. I think this is a good idea, and I hope that many of you will do so. Be sure that you do not already have too may courses as Credit. If you are unsure, see your academic advisor. Unfortunately, there is a new (stupid) rule on our campus that people may not take courses for CR in their major.
Oral Participation 20%
Completeness of written answers 20%
Depth or originality of written answers 20%
READING ASSIGNMENTS: The following is a schedule of class topics for the whole semester. Please finish the reading before each class, and answer one question very fully. some people want to answer all of the questions, especially if they can get extra credit, but I can only read one question per person per week or I will go nuts. Some questions are easier than others, when in doubt, take the question which is most interesting TO YOU. I give more credit for partial answers to hard questions than for full answers to easy questions.
If you do not do the reading, please come to class anyway. Never skip class because you have not done the reading or the work. I WILL be disappointed but DO come. If you will tell me quietly before class or hand me a note that you have not done the reading I will not call on you and save us both some embarrassment. If you attend class then I expect you to go and do the reading and to think of things to say which were not covered in class. If you miss class without a medical or other significant excuse, you can still get full credit for the reading and writing by turning in your answer before the weekend.
There is No Final Exam. We have have a potluck dinner on the date which would be the final exam starting at 7 pm with a short illustrated lecture. Our official FINAL TIME is 8 pm
The hours for this course are listed in the schedule of classes as 7 to 9:40 pm. We will stop promptly. We will take a long break in the middle of class. I will provide tea and coffee and herb teas for the break, but I would like you to bring an old cup for your own use. We can put your name on it and it can be kept in the tea room this semester. On some occasions it would be good to have some sweet food to eat at break to keep all of us wide awake - if you are one of those people who indulges in various forms of sugar, the drug of choice of our simian ancestors.