ENG 382 A Nature Writing Fall 2004 (still a work in progress)
Professor: Michael Webster  Office: 129 LHH; Phone: 331-3071
e-mail: websterm@gvsu.edu  Class meets: 6:00-8:50 T, 1041 MAK
homepage: http://faculty.gvsu.edu/websterm/ Office Hours: 11-12 MW and 5-6 T


  • Hinton, David, ed. and trans. Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China. Washington, DC: Counterpoint, 2002. [Recommended text only]
  •  Keegan, Bridget and James C. McKusick, eds. Literature and Nature: Four Centuries of Nature Writing. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2001.
  • Webster, Michael, Course Packet for ENG 382. Allendale: GVSU Print Shop, 2004.
  • Online materials: Blackboard at http://bb.gvsu.edu
  • Schedule of Readings, ENG 382

    Note: Read all introductions to authors and finish all readings before class meets.

    Week 1 [Jan. 6] New Found Lands and Pastoral. (Wilderness or Paradise?) Read the general introduction (1-4) and the introduction to Part I (5-8). Read Silvester Jourdain, "A Discovery of the Bermudas" (26-32), selections from Shakespeare's The Tempest (35, 40), Andrew Marvell, "Bermudas" (125-127), and Bacon, "Of Plantations" (21-23). For pastoral, read poems by poems by Marlowe, "The Passionate Shepherd," Ralegh, "The Nymph's Reply," and Donne's "The Bait" (41-42). For next week, read Marvell, "Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her Fawn" (127-130). Cowley, "The Grasshopper" (111-113), Lovelace, "The Grasshopper" and "The Ant" (114-118), and Shakespeare, sonnet 73 (33).

    Week 2 [Jan. 13] Pastoral, continued: Nature and God (the nature of Nature). Read all poems by Herbert, "Nature," "Virtue," "The Storm," "The Pulley," and "The Flower" (71-74). Also: Margaret Cavendish, " A Dialogue Betwixt Man and Nature," "A Dialogue Betwixt an Oak, and a Man Cutting Him Down" (149-154), and "The Hunting of the Hare" (164-166). Optional: " A Moral Discourse Betwixt Man and Beast" (159-163). Read also Alexander Pope, Essay on Man (236-243—also on Blackboard and in course packet).

    Week 3 [Jan. 20] Pastoral, continued: Gardens. Bacon, "Of Gardens" (16-21), Marvell, "The Mower Against Gardens," "The Mower's Song," and "The Garden" (130-135). Read also the introduction to Part II, "Cultivating the Garden" (177-180), Defoe, selections from Robinson Crusoe (180-191), and Shenstone, "Unconnected Thoughts on Gardening" (296-305).

    Week 4 [Jan. 27] The Sublime, the Beautiful, and the Picturesque (Gilpin). Prose: Burke, selections from A Philosophical Enquiry into . . . the Sublime and the Beautiful (333-37), Gilbert White, selections form The Natural History . . .," Poems by William Blake, especially "The Lamb" and "The Tyger" (395-402) and Goldsmith, "The Deserted Village" (337-347), and Charlotte Smith, "To a Nightingale," "The Return of the Nightingale" (385-386), and "To a Green Chafer" (387). Optional: James Thompson, selections from The Seasons (252-265)

    Week 5 [Feb. 3] Romantics. Read the Introduction to Part III, "All Creatures Great and Small" (422-425). Robert Burns, "To a Mouse" and "To a Mountain Daisy" (407-410), all poems by William Wordsworth including "The Tables Turned," "Tintern Abbey," "Nutting," "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," and "The world is too much with us" (445-455) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge including "The Eolian Harp," "This Lime Tree Bower, My Prison," and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (462-485), and selections from the Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth (457-462).

    Week 6 [Feb. 10] Romantic poets II: Read all poems by Shelley, including "Mont Blanc," "Ode to the West Wind," "The Cloud," and "To a Skylark" (548-558) and John Keats including "La Belle Dame sans Merci," "Ode to a Nightingale," and "To Autumn" (594-600). Read also "Darkness" by Byron (538-39) and by John Clare, "Helpston Green" (560-561), "The Hedgehog" and "The Badger" (567-569), "Pastoral Poesy" and "The Fallen Elm," "The Mores, "The Lament of Swordy Well," and "I Am" (573-585).

    Week 7 [Feb. 17] 19th century prose writers. Emerson, Nature (614-643), especially the Introduction, and parts I and VIII. Thoreau, selections from The Maine Woods (660-668) [continuation of Maine Woods passage] and from "Walking" (packet), selections from Charles Darwin, from The Voyage of the Beagle (643-49) and Origin of the Species (handout), John Ruskin from "The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century" (675-683), selections from "Of the Pathetic Fallacy" (packet), John Muir, from "The Mountains of California" (741-748). [Midterm] http://eserver.org/thoreau/ktaadn06.html

    Week 8 [Feb. 24] Interlude: Chinese and Japanese Poetry Week! I. Read introduction in Hinton (xiii-xxi), all poems by T'ao Ch'ien (5-19), especially "Home Again," the drinking poems, and "Untitled." The notes (271-272) and 'Key Terms" (279-281) are very helpful. Read also Hsieh Ling-yün, poems on pp. 23-24 and 37. Meng Hao-jan, poems on pp. 44, 52-55, Wang Wei, poems on pp. 62-64, 66, 72-73, and whichever others strike you as interesting. Read all poems by Li Po (74-95).

    Spring Break! [March 3-7]

    Week 9 [March 9] Interlude: Chinese and Japanese Poetry Week! II. Read poems by Tu Fu, Han Shan (Cold Mountain), and Po Chü I. Read selections from Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep North (packet).

    Week 10 [March 18-20] Later 19th century poetry: Tennyson, from In Memoriam poems 54, 55, 56, Walt Whitman: "I think I could go live with the animals" (packet) and read all poems of Emily Dickinson (697-705), especially #285, 314, 328, 333, 348, 392, 585, 668, 742, 986, 1084. Hardy, "Nature's Questioning" (749), "The Darkling Thrush" (752), and all poems of G. M. Hopkins (756-761). Read also Jewett's "A White Heron" (761-769).

    Week 11 [March 25-27] Read introduction to Part IV, "The Web of Life" (770-773). Also: W. B. Yeats, "Innisfree" (774) and "The Wild Swans at Coole" (775-76), read all poems of Robert Frost (814-818), Wallace Stevens (831-836), and Robinson Jeffers (846-849). Read also D. H. Lawrence, "Snake" and Whales Weep Not" (839-843).

    Week 12 [Apr. 1-Apr. 3] Imagism. Read "Imagism" in packet. Marianne Moore, "The Fish," "A Grave," "To a Steam Roller," "He 'Digesteth Harde Yron'," "Bird-Witted," "The Pangolin," "Nevertheless," and "The Wood Weasel." William Carlos Williams, "A Young Sycamore." E. E. Cummings, "a wind has blown the rain away and blown," "Spring is like a perhaps hand," "r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r," "mouse)Won," "go(perpe)go," "birds(," "brIght," "!blac," "a- // float," "l(a," "Beautiful," "(hills chime with thrush)," "Me up at does," "t,h;r:u;s,h;e:s," "i / never," and "D-re-A-mi-N-gl-Y" (handouts). Langston Hughes, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" (883-884).

    Week 13 [Apr. 8-10] Prose: Mary Austin, "The Land of Little Rain" (783-789), Aldo Leopold, from A Sand County Almanac (850-857), Loren Eiseley, "The Bird and the Machine" (898-905), Edward Abbey, from Desert Solitaire (979-980), N. Scott Momaday, "A First American Views His Land" (1037-1044), Annie Dillard, from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1061-1064), and Barry Lopez, from Arctic Dreams (1064-1070).

    Week 14 [Apr. 15-17] Read Elizabeth Bishop, "The Fish," "The Moose" (933-939) and "Sandpiper" and "Poem" (handout), William Stafford, "Travelling through the Dark" (handout), Read all of Dylan Thomas (939-942), Gary Snyder (1003-1007), Ted Hughes (1016-1021), Sylvia Plath (1021-1028), and Seamus Heaney (1050-1053).

    Final Exam: Thursday, April 24, 4-5:50 p.m.

    Aims of the Course

    Education, I fear, is learning to see one thing by going blind to another.

    —Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (158)

    All of us place meanings on our environment. For example, when we learn how to drive a car, we must learn the meanings of red and green lights, white and yellow signs and lines, speedometer readings, and a thousand other things. It is possible, as Aldo Leopold says, that concentrating on these meanings will blind us to other ways of seeing or making meaning. (For example, while concentrating on the white lines, we might miss the raccoon scooting under our wheels. More to the point, we may think only car thoughts and never think raccoon thoughts.) Much of nature writing exists to call us out of our world of culture and things and into the other world of nature: grass, trees, animals. As Leopold says in another context, nature writing helps us think like a mountain.

    In this course, we will look at how a variety of people and cultures have written about and experienced nature. We will explore the meanings that they have placed on their environment through asking a number of questions. For example, what does it mean to read and write about nature? What special problems does the study of nature writings involve? What do nature writers and readers hope to accomplish? (For example, do these works ask us to become environmental activists or to become hermits in the woods?) Do these texts have any use? Why are both poetry and nature are often thought of in terms of use? What are some other ways of looking at poetry and nature? In what ways are we apart from or a part of nature?

    As Raymond Williams has pointed out, nature and culture are two of the most complex words in the English language. In other words, these words mean many things to many people. (Write down a definition of nature. Compare with your neighbor's definition. Are they the same?) So this course will also look at how writers' views of nature have shaped the ways they wrote about it. For example, nature has been seen as savage wilderness or as an ordered plan of God, as evil or as good, as fallen and sinful or as paradise. Nature has been seen as a veil that hides spiritual reality or as all spirit. It has been seen as an unfeeling mechanism or as a moral teacher, as a lethal killer or as a tragic victim of human greed. We may be surprised to find that some very old ways of looking at nature will (e.g., pastoral) will reappear in different disguises as we discuss other topics in the course.

    Understanding nature writing involves the intertwined history of literature and nature. Sometimes interpreting literature involves thinking like a detective, and often knowledge of history and literary forms will help us. For example, the more we know about pastoral, the better we can deduce meanings of Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" (9). Learning to interpret literature usually involves asking three kinds of questions: reading and interpretive, and critical.

    (Each kind of question may contain elements of another kind. Thus an analytical interpretation may take into account sensuous aspects like feeling and performance.) The best questions are open-ended—they have no "right" or "wrong" answer, only better or worse answers according to the evidence and reasonings you can bring to back up your opinions. These questions usually contain phrases like "do you think" or "why do you suppose."

    Questions: "The love of wisdom begins in wonder," said Socrates. We learn by asking and working out answers to questions. The study questions in the packet or in handouts are designed to stimulate your thinking and activate your reading, to highlight important issues, and to prepare you for in-class discussion.

    ENG 382 Requirements: Three short two page papers, plus one longer paper after midterm. One of these papers may be a specimen of your own nature writing. We will also have a short (50 minute) midterm and final. Students in groups will also prepare a short (1-2 page) handout on a specific factual topic and will present aspects of the handout in class. (Sample topics: the word "nature" in four centuries; pastoral poetry; the policy of "enclosures"; the Great Chain of Being; the sublime; the picturesque; the "pathetic fallacy"; haiku; Zen poetry; ecology; ecopoetics; ecocriticism.) In addition, you will also write a few short (1-2 page, handwritten, double-spaced) in-class or before-class response papers. I might also give quiz or two to help you keep up with the reading.

    Attendance: Coming to class regularly helps keep you on track and on task. For the most part, this class will be structured around class discussion of questions raised by the stories themselves. You cannot "make up" what you miss in the give-and-take of ideas that happens in the best sort of discussion. The readings in the class will be challenging and interesting, and the classroom is the place to have your questions about them answered. Feel free to talk to me at any time about any aspect of the readings. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it definitely makes the grade go lower. Those who miss more than a week of classes without legitimate excuse will receive a failing grade for the course.

    Grading: Final grades will be based on your papers (roughly 50%) exercises, quizzes, class participation (roughly 20%), and the midterm and final (roughly 30%). I say "roughly" because exceptional performances, both good and bad, will count more heavily, especially in the area of class participation. Because grades are meant to reflect your effort in a course, plagiarism will be punished severely. At the least, you will receive an F for the paper; you may fail the entire course. For more information on the University's policy on plagiarism, see sections 223.00 and following in the Student Code.

    The Writing Center is a place where students can discuss their writing with student consultants prepared to respond to their work. The Writing Center offers assistance on prewriting, drafting, revising previous drafts, editing, and citing sources. Locations:

    Allendale Campus

    201 STU


    Pew Campus

    Grand Rapids

    101B De Vos / 331-6407

    Meijer Campus


    Room 119

    Hours vary: check the Writing Center home page at http://www4.gvsu.edu/wc/

    Word and Image:

    guessed any
    thing(even a
    universe)might be
    so not quite believab
    ly smallest as perfect this
    (almost invisible where of a there of a)here of a
    rubythroat's home with its still
    ness which really's herself
    (and to think that she's
    warming three worlds)
    who's ama

    —E. E. Cummings (CP 827)


    This course is part of the General Education Earth and Environment Theme. Following is additional information to assist you in deciding whether you would like to choose this theme to fulfill your general education thematic requirement. If you select this theme, you must take three courses from three different disciplines

    The Theme and its Purpose.

    This theme will examine the environment from a variety of perspectives, including personal, cultural, regional, national, and global and will range in time scale from "here to now" to billions of years. The purpose of the theme is to increase the student's knowledge of the importance of the environment and to produce citizens who make informed personal and political decisions about the environment. Courses are designed to enable a student to develop a critical understanding of the consequences of human interactions with the environment for humans and other species, the natural world and the earth as a whole. Students will also examine how natural environmental factors affect, and are affected by, social and cultural life.

    The Theme Objectives.

    The objective of this theme is to provide students with perspectives on how humans interact with the biophysical environment:

    1. how humans view and impact the biophysical environment, and
    2. how the biophysical environment impacts humans, their cultures, and their endeavors.
    Skills Objectives

    All courses in a Thematic Group use teaching methods that help students become more proficient in the following skills:

    1. To engage in articulate expression through effective speaking and writing;
    2. To think critically and creatively;
    3. To locate, evaluate, and use information effectively;
    4. To integrate different areas of knowledge and view ideas from multiple perspectives.
    The Linkages Between Courses
    1. A central web site will be maintained, with pages dedicated to each course.
    2. Each year the courses will place emphasis on three general topics: transitions from non-renewable to renewable fuels, water as a renewable resource, and worldviews (nonscientific to scientific, indigenous people, nontraditional poverty and racial).
    3. Each course will read a common essay and discuss the essay from their perspective. "Tragedy of the Commons" by Garrett Hardin (Science, vol. 162, P. 1243-1248) has been chosen.
    4. Each semester a guest speaker will be invited to GVSU to discuss a topic of interest to the theme. All students in the theme will be encouraged to attend.
    5. When appropriate, instructors will provide "guest lectures" between courses.
    6. An ongoing conversation between faculty teaching the courses will be maintained by a meeting prior to or at the start of each semester.
    The Theme Courses.

    ANT 340: Culture and Environment

    This course compares different adaptive strategies of cultures from around the world and seeks to understand the ethical and social values different groups have related to the environment. Attention is focussed on how humans have relied on cultural mechanisms in the past to adapt to and ultimately change their physical and natural environment.

    BIO 105: Environmental Science

    Study of natural ecosystems, their interrelationships, and human impacts; evolution of humans and environmental determinants of their cultures; land use; resource and energy utilization, population trends and causative factors, air and water pollution; and economic factors influencing decision-making are emphasized. Life Sciences Foundation Course.

    ECO 345: Environmental and Resource Economics

    Introduction to market and government influences on environmental and natural resources. Topics include: trends in land development and land-use policies, relationship between land use and environmental quality, regulatory versus market oriented environmental policies, supplies and prices of mineral and energy resources, harvest and protection of forests and fisheries. Prerequisites: ECO 210 or 211.

    ENG 382: Nature Writing

    Focuses on the literature that deals with the relationship between human beings and the natural world. The course includes literary nonfiction, nature poetry, environmental fiction, and other forms of literature that illuminate both human and nonhuman nature. In addition to writing analytic papers, students will try several forms of nature writing. Prerequisite: Completion of freshman writing requirement.

    GEO 300: Geology and the Environment

    Detailed examination of interactions and connections between people and their geologic environment from an Earth Systems perspective. Using case studies and current events, students investigate complex environmental processes and issues related to the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. Students will reach and defend decisions concerning personal, corporate, and governmental actions. Prerequisite: Junior standing and completion of Life and Physical Science Foundations.

    LIB 330: The Idea of Nature

    An historical and cross-cultural examination of how nature has been interpreted by science, philosophy, religion, literature, and art.

    NRM 451: Natural Resource Policy

    Study of how natural resource policy is developed and implemented in the U.S. The evolution of public policies with respect to public land acquisition and disposal, forestry, rangeland, minerals, parks, wilderness, fisheries, wildlife, and water are discussed. Prerequisite: Junior standing.

    P. Currah's MLA Style Guide
    A Handbook of Terms for Discussing Poetry (Harry Rusche)
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