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English 2020 Essay 1

Modern American Nature Writing

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Your essay 1 will consist of two parts. Both parts open book. For both essays, the format will be the same although the texts will differ. You may complete these on your own time in anticipation of the deadlines indicated on the course syllabus.

I. Identification and Short Essay Portion (identification and short discussion of five individual passages @ 15 pts. each, 75 pts. total—choice of 5-7 options to identify from course readings). Up to three pts. for each correct identification (author and work); up to twelve points for each discussion. Discussions should be about 5-6 sentences long, and should provide good insight into what passage reveals, what ideas are significant, why important, how it fits into the work’s larger purpose, etc.

To prepare: keep up with readings, take note of authors’ names, titles of works, identify key themes/details/arguments/ addressed by each writer and within each work. Prepare notes and review as needed to associate authors’ names with works and with ideas addressed within them.

Example:

Children will not resemble their fathers

And there will be no affection between guest and host

And no love between friends or brothers as in the past.

Sons and daughters will be quick to offend their aging parents

And rebuke them and speak ill to them with rudeness

And cruelty, not knowing about divine retribution;

They will not even repay their parents for their keep—

Hesiod, “Works and Days.” The passage discusses the breakdown of family structures and communities as one of the many disturbing aspects of the Iron Age. The section comes from the passage describing the “Five Ages of Man,” and the poet charts the course of human history from a perfect, care-free Golden Age to the fallen Iron Age of the present. In this final age people are angry, ignorant beasts of burden, and are worn down with cares emerging from the labors they must endure. Their anxieties are enhanced by the ill will they experience with parents, siblings, and former friends, as revealed in the passage.

Identification: 3/3, Essay: 12/12. (Yes, I’ve awarded myself a perfect score for this insightful analysis)

II. Longer Essay portion (one essay @ 75 pts.).

Three options, you will choose one. Your essay should be long and developed enough to provide good insight on the topic and to provide insights on how readers might understand it. For a ballpark figure, envision writing an essay somewhere between about 350-400 words (about 1-1.5 pages), although longer essays are certainly acceptable.

To prepare: review class notes, review readings, look over selected ppt. notes, which are available on D2L. When writing the essay, provide not only direct quotes, but discuss those quotes to flush out their meaning.

Example: This hypothetical question includes the two “texts” discussed in class, the movie trailers to “Grizzly Man” by Werner Herzog and to “Into the Wild,” based on the book by Jon Krakauer. Compare these two personalities with that revealed in any one work of your choosing by John Muir.

English 2020 (American Nature Writing)

Essay I

Short Essay Portion

Essay I: Identification/Short Essay Portion (pages 1-3)

and Longer Essay Portion (page 4)

(note: please submit both portions as a single Word document

to the indicated dropbox when finished)

First Instruction: Please type your name here:

Identification/Explication (15 pts. each, 75 pts. possible). Instructions: To begin, please download this document and type your answers in the spaces provided. In this first section, please identify any five of the eight passages below. Each correct identification (last name of author and work) is worth 3 pts, and should be placed next to “Source.” After you’ve identified the passage, discuss it in a mini-essay of up to five sentences. In the brief explication essay, begin by reading the passage itself, commenting on its basic message and its importance. Then place it within context of the work, and/or in the larger consideration of the relations between individuals and the natural world. Focus on key details, highlighting what passage reveals about connections between the speaker, his/her culture, and his/her views of nature. You might consider what contemporary readers “see” in the passage as well. Each mini-essay is up to worth up to 12 pts.

Note: You are welcome to try your hand at identifying and discussing more than five of the passages; in that case I will read over and score each reply you provide and will calculate your grade based on your five highest scores.

1. At home one should see and hear with more fondness and sympathy. Nature should touch him a little more closely there than anywhere else. He is better attuned to it than to strange scenes. The birds about his own door are his birds, the flowers in his own fields and wood are his, the rainbow springs its magic arch across his valley, even the ever-lasting stars to which one lifts his eye, night after night, and year after year, from his own doorstep, have something private and personal about them. The clouds and the sunsets one sees in strange lands move one the more they are like the clouds and sunsets one has become familiar with at home. The wild creatures about you become known to you as they cannot be known to a passer-by. The traveler sees little of Nature that is revealed to the home-stayer.

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Explication:

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2. To these questions a sufficient answer can, we believe, be found in the expectation that the whole island of New York, would, but for such a reservation, before many years be occupied by buildings and paved streets; that millions upon millions of men were to live their lives upon this island, millions more go out from it, or its immediate densely populated suburbs, only occasionally and at long intervals, and that all its inhabitants would assuredly suffer, in greater or less degree, according to their occupations and the degree of their confinement to it, from influences engendered by these conditions.

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3. How fiercely, devoutly wild is Nature in the midst of her beauty-loving tenderness!—painting lilies, watering them, caressing them with gentle hand, going from flower to flower like a gardener while building rock mountains and cloud mountains full of lightning and rain. Gladly we run for shelter beneath an overhanging cliff and examine the reassuring ferns and mosses, gentle love tokens growing in cracks and chinks. Daisies too, and ivesias, confiding wild children of light, too small to fear. To these one’s heart goes home, and the voices of the storm become gentle.

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4. Father, thy hand  Hath reared these venerable columns, thou  Didst weave this verdant roof. Thou didst look down  Upon the naked earth, and, forthwith, rose  All these fair ranks of trees. They, in thy sun,  Budded, and shook their green leaves in the breeze,  And shot towards heaven. The century-living crow,  Whose birth was in their tops, grew old and died  Among their branches, till, at last, they stood,  As now they stand, massy, and tall, and dark,  Fit shrine for humble worshipper to hold  Communion with his Maker.

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5. I well remember with what a sense of freedom and spirit of adventure I used to take my way across the fields with my pail, some years later, toward some distant hill or swamp, when dismissed for all day, and I would not now exchange such an expansion of all my being for all the learning in the world. Liberation and enlargement—such is the fruit which all culture aims to secure. I suddenly knew more about my books than if I had never ceased studying them. I found myself in a schoolroom where I could not fail to see and hear things worth seeing and hearing—where I could not help getting my lesson—for my lesson came to me. Such experience often repeated, was the chief encouragement to go to the Academy and study a book at last.

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6. These noxious plants have come unbidden to us, with the grains and grasses of the Old World, the evil with the good, as usual in this world of probation—the wheat and tares together. The useful plants produce a tenfold blessing upon the labor of man, but the weed is also there, ever accompanying his steps, to teach him a lesson of humility. Certain plants of this nature—the dock, thistle, nettle, &c., &c.,–are known to attach themselves especially to the path of man; in widely different soils and climates, they are still found at his door. Patient care and toil can alone keep the evil within bounds, and it seems doubtful whether it lies within the reach of human means entirely to remove from the face of the earth one single plant of this peculiar nature, much less all their varieties. Has any one, even of the more noxious sorts, ever been utterly destroyed?

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7. We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.

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8. Among the Indians, the earth and its productions generally were common and free to all the tribe, like the air and water—but among us who have supplanted the Indians, the public retain only a small yard or common in the middle of the village, with perhaps a grave-yard beside it, and the right of way, by sufferance, by a particular narrow route, which is annually becoming narrower, from one such yard to another. I doubt if you can ride out five miles in any direction without coming to where some individual is tolling in the road—and he expects the time when it will all revert to him or his heirs. This is the way we civilized men have arranged it.

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Score Part I:

English 2020, Essay I

Longer Essay Portion

Choose any one prompt from the three below and write in response to it. Please clearly identify the prompt that you’re writing in response to. Then compose (in the space below) an essay somewhere between 300-400 words (roughly between 1.5 and two pages according to standard default fonts), and please use quotes where relevant to develop your points.

1. Compare the use of religious or “spiritual” imagery (as you see it) in any one work by John Muir of your choosing (be sure to identify) with that of any of the other writers we’ve considered (i.e. Olmstead, Beston, Burroughs, Bryant) if you see fit.

2. One of the things that distinguishes nature writing is its frequent emphasis on its “teaching” characteristics. Compare the idea of “Nature as Teacher” as developed in any two of the following works: Burroughs’ “The Art of Seeing Things” or “Nature Near Home” (choose one); Thoreau’s “Huckleberries”; Cooper’s “Rural Hours”; or Beston’s “Outermost House” (selections).

3. Another distinguishing feature of nature writing is in the author’s capacity to reflect intense observation and to find larger meanings in what is observed. Compare the character of observation as is evident in the works of any two of the following writers: Susan Fenimore Cooper, Henry Beston, Robert Marshall, John Burroughs.

Again, when finished: Please save this exam as a single document and repost to the indicated dropbox.

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