Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Question of the Opportunities

First Year Research & Writing Award

This Award honors excellence in research and writing of first year students at Keene State College.  First-year students are invited to submit papers that represent their best research and writing from any 100 level Integrative Studies Program course, including ITW. 

If you would like to submit your essay for this award, please let me know and I will give you the Application Cover Sheet, and I will work with you to submit the essay. The instructions are below. As you will see, the submission process includes a 750 – 1000 word essay in which the author reflects on and describes their research and writing process. This reflection could be readily derived from (or be a version of) your portfolio cover letter.

Information about the First Year Research & Writing Award

Papers may be on any topic but must include the use of information sources to support the author’s main ideas.  Papers must be a minimum of 2,500 words and include a bibliography or works cited page. In addition, submissions must include a 750 – 1000 word essay in which the author reflects on and describes their research and writing process. Submissions will also include a statement of support from a faculty member that directly addresses the quality of research and writing demonstrated in the paper.

Submissions will be judged by a panel of four faculty including two library faculty.  One first-place prize of $400 and two $50 honorable mentions will be awarded at the Opening Convocation in August 2019.

This award is generously funded by Credo Reference, a research database company that promotes knowledge building, problem solving and critical thinking to give people the information skills necessary for success throughout their academic, professional and personal lives.  The three winning papers and reflective essays will be shared with Credo Reference so that they may evaluate them to better understand the research processes of first-year students who are effective.

In addition, the three winning papers and essays will be published and made available in the Keene State College digital archive, The KSC Commons

The Writing Portfolio

The Writing Portfolio

The portfolio will include 1) a cover letter that describes what you have learned in this course and 2) all of the writing (with my comments and feedback) listed in the sequence below.

Cover Letter

A reflection essay on the work that you have accomplished this semester. This reflective cover letter will 1) explain your strengths and weaknesses as a writer coming into the course; 2) describe what you have learned in the course, about the course theme, writing, and yourself as a writer; and 3) consider the relevance and applicability of what you have learned in the course.

The Writing Project 

  • Final Version of the Essay will move a reader from a simple to a more complex understanding of your subject will require you to get a reader interested in your perspective.
  • Second Version of Essay will demonstrate your thinking has moved from a more simple to a more complex understanding of your subject.
  • First Version of Essay will answer the following question: How does what we know about this subject help us better understand the fullness and complexity of our place in the world?
  • Research Installments There are two research installments. Each of the written research installments has two parts: 1) a narrative summary of what you have read and how that reading has furthered your thinking and writing and 2) an annotated works cited page (in a sentence or two, summarize the argument or purpose of each piece of writing) with at least five entries.
  • Statement of Purpose and Motivation This statement of intent will be two single-spaced pages in length and will answer the following questions: In what ways has the book you read inspired your area of interest? What specifically are you planning to investigate? Do you have one or more questions you hope to answer in your research? What is motivating your inquiry?

Reading as a Writer 

Include the title of your book and a one-paragraph summary of what you learned in reading the book. Consider both what you learned about your yourself as well as what you learned about the world

  • Rationale: a one-page single-spaced essay that explains why you chose the book. 
  • Quotations: two pages of single spaced quotations that demonstrate your ability to choose significant passages from an extended narrative or sequence of essays
  • Page About a Page: one-page description that addresses what is being said and how it is being said.
  • Summary: a two-page single-spaced essay that offers an accurate and detailed summary of the salient themes, content threads, argument(s), conclusion(s) in the book
  • Commentary: a two-page single-spaced description of something in the book that you find of interest that includes analysis (textual and contextual) to explain why it might be of interest to others
  • Book Review (Optional) 3-5 page review of the book to complete sequence

Narrative Essay about your experiences writing in school

The first piece of writing you composed in this class

**

The description of Thinking and Writing, and the learning outcomes in writing, reading, critical thinking and information literacy, will likely be useful for composing the cover letter.

Thinking and Writing offers students the opportunity to explore how critical and creative thinking, researching, writing and evaluating quantitative information inform scholarly endeavors. The learning outcomes for this foundational course in the Integrative Studies Program (ISP) are for students to 1) demonstrate skills and ways of thinking that are essential for all students as they move through the academic curriculum and 2) write about an issue of special interest by focusing on a creative and complex question, investigating the question with critical analysis of readings, research and data, and using appropriate research techniques in documentation. More information about the ISP is available at the Keene State College Integrative Studies Program.

Thinking and Writing is organized around the following list of learning outcomes in writing, reading, critical thinking and information literacy:

Writing Outcomes

  • Use writing for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating.
  • Understand writing as a process that requires sustained thought over time and permits writers to use later invention and re-thinking to revise their work.
  • Formulate an original, complex and debatable claim, thesis, or hypothesis relating to the course theme or topic and develop that claim, thesis, or hypothesis in a semester-long researched writing project.
  • Cultivate disciplinary and interdisciplinary expertise necessary to question sources, develop ideas, and offer interpretations.
  • Incorporate sources appropriately.
  • Write with syntactical and grammatical competence (syntax, grammar, punctuation, and spelling).

Reading Outcomes

  • Use reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating
  • Analyze and evaluate the rhetorical features of peer and published texts (audience, thesis or main argument, quality of evidence, structure)
  • Understand the importance of reading in academic inquiry and research

Critical Thinking Outcomes

  • Move beyond initial reactions to an issue, topic, or idea toward a deeper understanding of the complexity of the issue.
  • Examine an issue, topic, or idea within a broader context, (for example, where does this issue sit within a larger social, political, or historical framework?).
  • Examine an issue, topic, or idea from more than one perspective (for example, reading not just those authors who support the writer’s position or viewpoint).

Information Literacy Outcome

  • Understand research as a multi-stage, recursive process that includes finding, evaluating, analyzing, reflecting on and synthesizing appropriate primary and secondary sources.

How do I end my paper?

1. Consider a conclusion that

  • leaves the reader with a memorable restatement or an explanation of why the argument matters
  • places the claim or purpose in a larger context

2.  Here are a few ways to conclude:

  • Summary (but more than restatement): take on the “so what?” question
  • Revisit claim (that is, do more than restate, as your reader is now more informed about the paper’s subject)
  • Relate to your reader (“Now it is up to you,” With this information, consider. . .”)
  • Use one of your sources, whether primary or secondary, or even turn to a new source, to capture the main point or nail down its significance
  • Say something new: point to broader implications, further lines of research or inquiry, unanswered questions, actions to take based on information provided in the essay

3. Some Examples

The purpose of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writing is not to convince a reader of anything. If there is one lesson to be learned from studying Emerson it is to never be definite about anything. Complacency in thought leads to limitations. Conformity attempts to suppress the individual. Emerson himself is never settled in his reasoning:

The deeper he went and the more he tried to grapple with fundamental conceptions, the vaguer and more elusive they became in his hands. Did he know what he meant by Spirit or “Over-Soul”? Could he say what he understood by the terms, so constantly on his lips, Nature, Law, God, Benefit, or Beauty? He could not, and the consciousness of the incapacity was so lively within him that he never attempted to give articulation to his own philosophy. His finer instinct kept him from doing that violence to his inspiration. (633)

With respect to social reform, Emerson knows that his greatest contribution is never to be settled in his own beliefs, and never to aspire to be settled. He will not tell his audience what to think. Telling people what they want to hear is never his purpose. The true action of Emerson’s life lies in his ability to provoke individual thought and action in others. One can only act off of one’s own convictions, and Emerson’s convictions are found in his beliefs that language grabs hold of interest, and inspires a person to think.

*

Longfellow’s attention to the aspects of fatherhood, and the roles that the father plays in society and in the home, are important in the changing culture of the family in nineteenth-century America. Longfellow was not afraid to show the development of the paternal figure during his time—even including in his poems flawed fathers and fathers managing households. In the nineteenth century, writers gave little attention to fathers or fatherhood, and there was a relative decline in the significance of fatherhood as well (Griswold 13). Longfellow’s contribution was to break out of these barriers and offer his readers poems that speak to fathers and the paternal roles that were being disregarded by so many.

*

From the beginning of his career to this most recent work, John McPhee defines nature as a place where people are. His portraits and place-based profiles of people consistently challenge the reader to think in regional terms; and his regional perspective offers readers an indispensable repository of human attitudes toward the natural world. In his more recent books about geology, he invites readers to think about the natural world in unfamiliar ways. For Bailey, McPhee’s later work is most importantly “about nature seen as completely as we can see it.” The consequences of McPhee’s project as a nature writer, from this point of view, are significant. For McPhee’s essential lesson as a nature writer is that our understanding of the natural world is something we must continue to shape as we broaden and deepen our inherently limited human perspectives.

*

A.R. Ammons insisted that the earth is not damaged and does not need to be saved. “If we would get off, it would recover itself beautifully in 25,000 years,” he explained in his interview with Schneider. He concluded that there is therefore really no reason to be concerned about the planet, “It can recover, but what we’ve done to it may cause us to eliminate ourselves.” His point is not that we should abandon responsible conduct as members of an ecological community. Rather he underscores that we know very little about the climate and the possibilities of the earth as a total complex. “It would be foolish of us to say definitively. We might even be doing some good and not know it. We may be stalling off the next ice age by raising the temperature a half a degree. Who knows? We don’t know.” For Ammons it is impossible to think nostalgically about the natural world. “I don’t think you can go back at all. I think that the only way to go is forward.”

When Ammons died from complications of cancer on February 25, 2001, he left behind a body of work that speaks to the distinctive role of poetry in a culture of entertainment, and information. Ammons believed that poetic discourse was a source for clarifying the possibilities of human life. As he explained to William Walsh, the poem “is a verbal construct that we encounter, learn from, make value judgments with, and go to sort out possibilities in relation to our own lives in order to try to learn how to live.” Ammons’s poetics accepts our desire for a more intimate and responsive relationship with the world in a more encompassing, if less certain, definition of what it might mean to live in the world on which our own existence depends.

Moving from One Place to Another

Every piece of writing has a beginning, middle and end. But how does your writing move from one place to another? Following the steps below will help you 1) “see” the structure of your essay, 2) determine whether or not your thinking is actually going somewhere (“developing”) and 3) build in steps that move your argument (and your reader) to a different place from where you started. If step three proves difficult, then you may want to return to the all-important questions: Where am I going? Where do I want to take the reader?

Write a one-sentence summary of each paragraph in your essay.

Example:

  1. Introduction to concept of deviance and the use of deviance to understand acts of nonconformity.
  1. Discussion of the idea that deviance is part of human development and achievement
  1. The importance of looking at deviance from a neutral rather than a biased point of view.

Break your one-sentence summary outline into parts or sections.

Example:

  1. Introduction to subject of paper and inquiry, outline of key questions and debates, importance and consequences of observing deviance differently (paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
  1. Examples of scholarly thinking that links deviance and creativity, examples of creative persons who have also spent time “behind bars” (paragraphs on Socrates, Galileo, Thoreau, King, Mandela)
  1. Deviance and the scapegoat figure, Columbine, Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold and the music of Marilyn Manson.
  1. Write a transition from each part of the paper to the next.

Examples:

“So while we see that Manson belongs to the Church of Satan, we must also note his Episcopalian membership as well, which is something very few of us take the time to discover” (Lowry 54).

“After laying the foundation of seemingly negative deviant contexts, we can turn the tables in hopes to better understand the other half, the positive effects of deviation.”

Examples taken from sample essay “Positive Deviance: Unmasking a Common Phenomenon,” Think, Write, Learn: A User’s Guide to Sustained Writing Projects, Phyllis Benay, Kirsti Sandy and Collie Fulford, eds., Littleton, MA: Tapestry, 2008. 92-100.

Having an Idea: Claims to Fame

Writing Projects Update: Most of you are struggling. Many of you are stuck. These difficulties are expected.

There are ways to begin moving through the challenges you are facing. First and foremost be clear that this course requires thinking and writing. And that is exactly what you are being asked to do.

Below you will find 1) a reminder about the area of inquiry in which all of your projects are developing: the search for wildness. While we spent most of the first weeks of the class exploring this term and concept, it is important that you have wrestled with this concept and come to terms with the presence of this search in our lives. I also include below 2) a framework for moving from a topic to a question. As you continue your process of seeking information you will be refining your area of interest. Remember that your area of interest is precisely that: what you are interested in. Without a genuine interest and motivation you are going to have a very, very difficult time with the work you are doing in this class.

Searching for Wildness: The search is to demystify the world as it is.

Enacting a deliberate and sustained effort to understand the changing flow of phenomena both within our selves and in the world around us.

The acceptance of the place where we are: what we know, and what we can know, is never certain and always provisional, no matter how persuaded we and others might be by common understanding of certain phenomena.

This course web site has numerous explanations of wildness and resources for you to consult. Here is another, from a now familiar writer, Gary Snyder, from the “Preface” to his collection of poems No Nature:

No Nature. Human societies each have their own nutty fads, mass delusions, and enabling mythologies. Daily life still gets done. Wild nature is probably equally goofy, with a stunning variety of creatures somehow getting by in all these landscapes. Nature also means the physical universe, including the urban, industrial, and toxic. But we do not easily know nature, or even know ourselves. Whatever it actually is, it will not fulfill our conceptions or assumptions. It will dodge our expectations and theoretical models. There is no singular set ‘nature’ either as ‘the natural world’ or ‘the nature of things.’ The greatest respect we can pay to nature is not to trap it, but to acknowledge that it eludes us and that our own nature is fluid, open, and conditional. (v)

We have also talked about E.O. Wilson’s concept of “biophilia” and here are two provocative comments from his most recent book, The Meaning of Human Existence (2014):

“We are self-made, independent, alone, fragile, a biological species adapted to live in a biological world” (26)

We exist as a result of millions of years of biological evolution: “For the real human story, history must comprise both the biological and the cultural” (28).

We have also talked about, with the help of others, the intellectual history of oppositions between nature and culture, nature and nurture, primitive and civilized, raw and cooked, and so on. You can continue thinking about wildness as well. Please, take advantage of the resources I have compiled for you on the course web site. You may also want to become familiar with the recent writing by professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Marc Bekoff, on “rewilding.” His application of a practice in wildlife conservation to human life is potentially very useful for some of your projects. Need to talk? Set up an appointment with me.

Moving From a Topic to a Question

In class we will use the first two steps in an Argument Template (adapted from Booth, Columb, and Williams, The Craft of Research). Name your topic and then see if you can articulate the question you are hoping to answer.

Topic: I am seeking to understand/investigate/learn more about _____

I am seeking to understand/investigate/learn more about human intuition (or direct or unmediated experience/consciousness of the world) and its relationship to belief

Question: I want to understand

I want to find out why people continue to believe in creation stories to explain the origin of and their place in the world

Below are two examples of projects that are on the move. In each of these cases the project is explicitly aligned with the larger questions about wildness and has moved from a general area of interest to a more specific question the student has defined and is trying to answer.

Area of Interest: “Industrial Tourism”

from Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (1968), Chapter 5: “Polemic: Industrial Tourism and the National Park”:

“Industrial tourism is a threat to the national parks. But the chief victims of the system are the motorized tourists. They are being robbed and robbing themselves. So long as they are unwilling to crawl out of their cars they will not discover the treasures of the national parks and will never escape the stress and turmoil of the urban-suburban complexes which they had hoped, presumably, to leave behind for a while.”

“Take off your shoes for a while, unzip your fly, piss hearty, dig your toes in the hot sand, feel that raw and rugged earth, split a couple of big toenails, draw blood!  Why not?  Jesus Christ… roll that window down!  You can’t see the desert if you can’t smell it….  Turn that motor off.  Get out of that piece of iron and stretch your varicose veins, take off your brassiere and get some hot sun on your old wrinkled dugs!”

“Why is the Park Service generally so anxious to accommodate…the indolent millions born on wheels and suckled on gasoline, who expect and demand paved highways to lead them in comfort, ease and safety into every nook and corner of the national parks?”

Topic: I am seeking to understand/investigate/learn more about what Edward Abbey calls “Industrial Tourism”

Question: I want to find out how tourism has diminished the deeper (and more transformative?) experience offered by places we designate as wild areas or wilderness

Sources: Books: Daniel C. Knudsen, Landscape, Tourism and Meaning; Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind; Essay: Walker Percy, “The Loss of Creature”

Area of Interest: Loss of Wildness

Topic: I am seeking to understand/investigate/learn more about the problem of losing wildness in our lives

Question: I want to find out why young people appear to be unaware of the consequences of losing touch with themselves and the world around them

Sources: Books: Jack Turner, The Abstract Wild; John Krakauer, Into the Wild (Christopher McCandless); Film: Werner Herzog, Grizzly Man (Timothy Treadwell); Poem/Performance: Buddy Wakefield, “My Town”; Article: Standardized Testing; Report: Study of media use by 8-18 year old children in US.

So what?

Open the Google Doc. 

Write your name

Compose a one or two sentence idea that is motivating the thinking and writing of your essay. You may use a sentence (or sentences) you have already written, or you may compose a new sentence or sentences.

Do do this, you may want to go back to last week when I asked you 1) to write out one paragraph that describes in the most specific way possible what you have learned so far about your subject and to 2) use what you have learned about your subject and ask yourself, what can you now say that is less familiar, less obvious, less known, about your subject?

More on McCandless

In an essay published on a New Yorker blog Jon Krakauer returns to the question about the death of Chris McCandless. In How Chris McCandless Died he writes the following:

Fast forward to a couple of months ago, when I stumbled upon Ronald Hamilton’s paper The Silent Fire: ODAP and the Death of Christopher McCandless, which Hamilton had posted on a Web site that publishes essays and papers about McCandless. Hamilton’s essay offered persuasive new evidence that the wild-potato plant is highly toxic in and of itself, contrary to the assurances of Thomas Clausen and every other expert who has ever weighed in on the subject. The toxic agent in Hedysarum alpinum turns out not to be an alkaloid but, rather, an amino acid, and according to Hamilton it was the chief cause of McCandless’s death. His theory validates my conviction that McCandless wasn’t as clueless and incompetent as his detractors have made him out to be.

The comments that follow Karakauer’s most recent New Yorker piece are another indicator of how this story remains alive in people’s lives. Hamilton’s essay is of interest as well.

No Nature

“Human societies have their own nutty fads, mass delusions, and enabling mythologies. Daily life still gets done. Wild nature is probably equally goofy, with a stunning variety of creatures somehow getting by in all these landscapes. Nature also means the physical universe, including the urban, industrial, and toxic. But we do not easily know nature, or even know ourselves. Whatever it actually is, it will not fulfill our conceptions or assumptions. It will dodge our expectations and theoretical models. There is no single or set “nature” either as “the natural world” or “the nature of things.” The greatest respect we can pay to nature is not to trap it, but to acknowledge that it eludes us and that our own nature is also fluid, open, and conditional…

An open space to move in, with the whole body, the whole mind. My gesture has been with language.” 

–Gary Snyder, from the “Preface,” No Nature: New and Selected Poems (1992)

*

“Science and some sorts of mysticism rightly propose that everything is natural. By these lights there is nothing unnatural about New York City, or toxic wastes, or atomic energy. . . . “

“So we can say that New York City and Tokyo are ‘natural’ but not ‘wild.’ They do not deviate from the laws of nature, but they are habitat so exclusive in the matter of who and what they give shelter to, and so intolerant of other creatures, as to be truly odd. Wilderness is a place where the wild potential is fully expressed, a diversity of living and nonliving beings flourishing according to their own sorts of order.”

–Gary Snyder, from “The Etiquette of Freedom,” The Practice of the Wild (1990) 

Wild and Precious

“Books are to be call’d for, and supplied, on the assumption that the process of reading is not a half-sleep, but, in highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast’s struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay—the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or framework. Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does.

—Walt Whitman, “Democratic Vistas”

This morning I am thinking about the conversation we had on Tuesday. I am thinking about reading and what we make with the words of others.

The passages that you chose from the readings—Henry David Thoreau, Walking  (1862), Gary Snyder’s “The Etiquette of Freedom” (1990), and William Cronon The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature (1995)—offered a path through rough conceptual terrain. Your selection of of sentences, from one of the chosen texts that I had asked you to share before we talked, in particular, and our in-class work from those passages to make meaning, uplifted me in the best way possible: I learned from your selections to make connections across the three essays, and to find meaning in those connections.

What did I learn? Well, it started when Jonathan was explaining why he chose the opening anecdote in “The Etiquette of Freedom.” In class, I expressed my gratitude for Jonathan’s attention to the first section of the essay “The Compact.” Here are the two sentences Jonathan picked out:

That took my breath away. Here was a man who would not let the mere threat of cultural extinction stand in the way of his (and her) values

Coyote and Ground Squirrel do not break the compact they have with each other that are must play predator and the other play game (4)

Louie, the old Nisenan man who Snyder and his friend had come to visit, takes Snyder’s breath away because of his dignity, pride, and values. After the first sentence, and the paragraph that follows, there is a section break. The next sentence follows. One thing leads to another.

But what was that thing? And what does it lead to? The compact elaborated in the paragraph that begins with the second sentence above—the compact between coyote and Ground Squirrel, the baby Black-tailed Hare and the predator with wings and talons—is set alongside the opening story of the Nisenan man. This is precisely where Cloe’s choice of language (from the same paragraph) offers a path between the first sentence and the second sentence:

We can appreciate the elegance of the forces that shape life and the world, that have shaped every line of our bodies—teeth and nails, nipples and eyebrows. We also see that we must try to live without causing un-necessary harm, not just to fellow humans but to all beings. We must try not to be stingy, or to exploit others. There will be enough pain in the world as it is. (4)

Let’s isolate in this passage, first, appreciation. Specifically, let’s notice that the appreciation is for “the elegance of the forces that shape life and the world, that have shaped every line of our bodies.” The elegant forces that shape life and world, yes, but also in the act of appreciation seeing that the principles of  the agreement (the compact) include an attempt to live without causing unnecessary harm, to not be stingy, or to exploit the gift of life.

Cloe includes the following sentence, too, that makes possible another connection as we keep thinking and making:

To be truly free one must take on the basic conditions as they are—painful, impermanent, open, imperfect—and then be grateful for impermanence and the freedom it grants us…

This was the rich and dense sentence that we paused to consider in class. It is a sentence that, when we notice it, both guides us into the essay and prepares us for the sentences that will follow, such as the example from near its conclusion. “The lessons we learn from the wild become the etiquette of freedom” (25). We talked in class about the distinction between what we understand to be freedom and “true freedom. We acknowledged that the language above reminds us that what we call freedom is an illusion unless we “take on” the “basic conditions” of life: “painful, impermanent, open, imperfect.” Let us not deceive ourselves with what we assume to be freedom, Snyder implies here. Gratitude for the fact of impermanence is perhaps most succinctly put by another poet, Mary Oliver, who asks at the end of her poem “A Summer Day, “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? / Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”

What I learned from the passages chosen by Jonathan and Cloe, then, was a deeper appreciation for the values that might lead to what is unfortunately a less-then-common way of thinking and being in the world:

With that freedom we improve the campsite, teach children, oust tyrants. The world is nature, and in the long run inevitably wild, because the wild, as the process and essence of nature, is also an ordering of impermanence” (5).

Here freedom becomes a practice that finds its form in a life of improving the place where when comes to rest, of sharing and passing along the collective understanding of wisdom of the world, and of countering the tyrants that fetter the mind and who seek to shape lives and the world in their image. In this passage, too, Snyder defines wild—“the process and essence of nature,” also defined as “an ordering of impermanence.” In the final passage Cloe takes from the essay the point is made again, that wildness. . .is the world” (6).

With a working definition of wildness we come more prepared to take up what we are calling “searching for wildness.” One way of saying it is that the search is to find answers to the questions we are asking about ourselves and the world. The practice of wildness is seeking awareness–of the essence and the process of the world—that is, that elusive essence (who am I?) and the processes of which we are a part (where am I? What is going on?)

Now back to the essay. Having worked from particulars, made connections, and used those connections to make meaning, we can think with Snyder about what it means to recognize our bodies (“our bodies are wild”), to occupy our minds (“language is wild”), and to resolve to be whole. That is, by reading Jonathan and Cloe’s selections we think these thoughts, making meaning and sharing what we discover. Too, we can glimpse Thoreau’s singular insights in the 1860s about our condition (his speaking “for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil”), and we can appreciate more deeply the paragraphs that Peyton brings to our attention that conclude William Cronon’s essay:

Thus it is that wilderness serves as the unexamined foundation on which so many of the quasi-religious values of modern environmentalism rest. The critique of modernity that is one of environmentalism’s most important contributions to the moral and political discourse of our time more often than not appeals, explicitly or implicitly, to wilderness as the standard against which to measure the failings of our human world. Wilderness is the natural, unfallen antithesis of an unnatural civilization that has lost its soul. It is a place of freedom in which we can recover the true selves we have lost to the corrupting influences of our artificial lives. Most of all, it is the ultimate landscape of authenticity. Combining the sacred grandeur of the sublime with the primitive simplicity of the frontier, it is the place where we can see the world as it really is, and so know ourselves as we really are—or ought to be. (Paragraph 27)

The task of making a home in nature is what Wendell Berry has called “the forever unfinished lifework of our species.” “The only thing we have to preserve nature with” he writes, “is culture; the only thing we have to preserve wildness with is domesticity.” Calling a place home inevitably means that we will use the nature we find in it, for there can be no escape from manipulating and working and even killing some parts of nature to make our home. But if we acknowledge the autonomy and otherness of the things and creatures around us—an autonomy our culture has taught us to label with the word “wild”—then we will at least think carefully about the uses to which we put them, and even ask if we should use them at all. just so can we still join Thoreau in declaring that “in Wildness is the preservation of the World,” for wildness (as opposed to wilderness) can be found anywhere: in the seemingly tame fields and woodlots of Massachusetts, in the cracks of a Manhattan sidewalk, even in the cells of our own bodies. As Gary Snyder has wisely said, “A person with a clear heart and open mind can experience the wilderness anywhere on earth. It is a quality of one’s own consciousness. The planet is a wild place and always will be.” To think ourselves capable of causing “the end of nature” is an act of great hubris, for it means forgetting the wildness that dwells everywhere within and around us. (Paragraph 53)

Henry David Thoreau, Gary Snyder, William Cronon–each in his own way exploring ideas and inviting us to think with them about values that arise when we begin finding out where we actually are in this world. Here is another offering from Snyder, in the 1960s,  the poem “For the Children”:

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us,
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

Those last three lines bring us full circle to the values we first encountered at the opening of the essay.

Reading for Wildness

Henry David Thoreau, Walking (1862)

Kasey

“I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for SAUNTERING, which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre,” to the Holy Land, till the children
exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander” (1). Kasey

“We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return– prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms” (1). Kasey

“He is sort of fourth estate, outside of church and state and people” (1) Joanna

“No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence which are the capital in this profession” (2) Jolie

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least–and it is commonly more than that–sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements” (2). Jolie

 “Living much out of doors, in the sun and wind, will no doubt produce a certain roughness of character–will cause a thicker cuticle to grow over some of the finer qualities of our nature,
as on the face and hands, or as severe manual labor robs the hands of some of their delicacy of touch. So staying in the house, on the other hand, may produce a softness and smoothness, not to say thinness of skin, accompanied by an increased sensibility to certain impressions” (3) Kasey

“How womankind, who are confined to the house still more than men, stand it I do not know”(3) Joanna

“Perhaps we should be more susceptible to some influences important to our intellectual and moral growth, if the sun had shone and the wind blown on us a little less; and no doubt it is a nice matter to proportion rightly the thick and thin skin. But methinks that is a scurf that will fall off fast enough — that the natural remedy is to be found in the proportion which the night bears to day, the winter to summer, thought to experience. There will be so much the more air and sunshine in our thoughts” (4). Pheobe

“I walk out into a nature such as the old prophets and poets, Menu,Moses, Homer, Chaucer, walked in. You may name it America, but it is not America; neither Americus Vespueius, nor Columbus, nor the rest were the discoverers of it.”(5-6) Joanna

“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright” (7) Jolie

“For I believe that climate does thus react on man–as there is something in the mountain air that feeds the spirit and inspires” (11). Jolie

“The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the World. Every tree sends its fibers forth in search of the Wild. The cities import it at any price. Men plow and sail for it. From the forest and wilderness come the tonics and barks which brace mankind” (12). Pheobe

Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild (1990), focused on the first chapter, “The Etiquette of Freedom.”

“That took my breath away. Here was a man who would not let the mere threat of cultural extinction stand in the way of his (and her) values” (4) Jonathan

Coyote and ground squirrel do not break the compact they have with each other that are must play predator and the other play game (4) Jonathan

“We can appreciate the elegance of the forces that shape life and the world, that have shaped every line of our bodies—teeth and nails, nipples and eyebrows. We also see that we must try to live without causing un- necessary harm, not just to fellow humans but to all beings. We must try not to be stingy, or to exploit others. There will be enough pain in the world as it is (4). Cloe

“Wild and free/’ An American dream-phrase loosing images: a long- maned stallion racing across the grasslands, a V of Canada Geese high and honking, a squirrel chattering and leaping limb to limb overhead in an oak. It also sounds like an ad for a Harley-Davidson. Both words, profoundly political and sensitive as they are, have be- come consumer baubles…

To be truly free one must take on the basic conditions as they are—painful, impermanent, open, imperfect—and then be grateful for impermanence and the freedom it grants us…

With that freedom we improve the campsite, teach children, oust tyrants. The world is nature, and in the long run inevitably wild, because the wild, as the process and essence of nature, is also an ordering of impermanence” (5). Cloe

“Wildness is not just the “preservation of the world,” it is the world.” (6). Cloe

William Cronon The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature. From Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, New York: Norton (1995)

“The more one knows of its peculiar history, the more one realizes that wilderness is not quite what it seems.” (Paragraph 2 1st sentence) Lindsey

“If one saw the wild lands of the frontier as freer, truer, and more natural than other, more modern places, then one was also inclined to see the cities and factories of urban-industrial civilization as confining, false, and artificial.” (Paragraph 24 2nd sentence) Lindsey

“This was no casual stroll in the mountains, no simple sojourn in the gentle lap of nonhuman nature. What Wordsworth described was nothing less than a religious experience, akin to that of the Old Testament prophets as they conversed with their wrathful God. The symbols he detected in this wilderness landscape were more supernatural than natural, and they inspired more awe and dismay than joy or pleasure. No mere mortal was meant to linger long in such a place, so it was with considerable relief that Wordsworth and his companion made their way back down from the peaks to the sheltering valleys. Lest you suspect that this view of the sublime was limited to timid Europeans who lacked the American know-how for feeling at home in the wilderness, remember Henry David Thoreau’s 1846 climb of Mount Katahdin, in Maine. Although Thoreau is regarded by many today as one of the great American celebrators of wilderness, his emotions about Katahdin were no less ambivalent than Wordsworth’s about the Alps.” (Paragraph 12) Peyton

The removal of Indians to create an “uninhabited wilderness”—uninhabited as never before in the human history of the place—reminds us just how invented, just how constructed, the American wilderness really is. To return to my opening argument: there is nothing natural about the concept of wilderness. It is entirely a creation of the culture that holds it dear, a product of the very history it seeks to deny. Indeed, one of the most striking proofs of the cultural invention of wilderness is its thoroughgoing erasure of the history from which it sprang. In virtually all of its manifestations, wilderness represents a flight from history. Seen as the original garden, it is a place outside of time, from which human beings had to be ejected before the fallen world of history could properly begin. Seen as the frontier, it is a savage world at the dawn of civilization, whose transformation represents the very beginning of the national historical epic. Seen as the bold landscape of frontier heroism, it is the place of youth and childhood, into which men escape by abandoning their pasts and entering a world of freedom where the constraints of civilization fade into memory. Seen as the sacred sublime, it is the home of a God who transcends history by standing as the One who remains untouched and unchanged by time’s arrow. No matter what the angle from which we regard it, wilderness offers us the illusion that we can escape the cares and troubles of the world in which our past has ensnared us. (Paragraph 25) Peyton

“As Turner described the process, easterners and European immigrants, in moving to the wild unsettled lands of the frontier, shed the trappings of civilization, rediscovered their primitive racial energies, reinvented direct democratic institutions, and by reinfused themselves with a vigor, an independence, and a creativity that the source of American democracy and national character” Raymond

“Thus, in the myth of the vanishing frontier lay the seeds of wilderness preservation in the United States, for if wild land had been so crucial in the making of the nation, then surely one must save its last remnants as monuments to the American past—and as an insurance policy to protect its future.” Raymond

“If the frontier was passing, then men who had the means to do so should preserve for themselves some remnant of its wild landscape so that they might enjoy the regeneration and renewal that came from sleeping under the stars, participating in blood sports, and living off the land” Raymond

Thus it is that wilderness serves as the unexamined foundation on which so many of the quasi-religious values of modern environmentalism rest. The critique of modernity that is one of environmentalism’s most important contributions to the moral and political discourse of our time more often than not appeals, explicitly or implicitly, to wilderness as the standard against which to measure the failings of our human world. Wilderness is the natural, unfallen antithesis of an unnatural civilization that has lost its soul. It is a place of freedom in which we can recover the true selves we have lost to the corrupting influences of our artificial lives. Most of all, it is the ultimate landscape of authenticity. Combining the sacred grandeur of the sublime with the primitive simplicity of the frontier, it is the place where we can see the world as it really is, and so know ourselves as we really are—or ought to be. (Paragraph 27) Peyton

The task of making a home in nature is what Wendell Berry has called “the forever unfinished lifework of our species.” “The only thing we have to preserve nature with” he writes, “is culture; the only thing we have to preserve wildness with is domesticity.” Calling a place home inevitably means that we will use the nature we find in it, for there can be no escape from manipulating and working and even killing some parts of nature to make our home. But if we acknowledge the autonomy and otherness of the things and creatures around us—an autonomy our culture has taught us to label with the word “wild”—then we will at least think carefully about the uses to which we put them, and even ask if we should use them at all. just so can we still join Thoreau in declaring that “in Wildness is the preservation of the World,” for wildness (as opposed to wilderness) can be found anywhere: in the seemingly tame fields and woodlots of Massachusetts, in the cracks of a Manhattan sidewalk, even in the cells of our own bodies. As Gary Snyder has wisely said, “A person with a clear heart and open mind can experience the wilderness anywhere on earth. It is a quality of one’s own consciousness. The planet is a wild place and always will be.” To think ourselves capable of causing “the end of nature” is an act of great hubris, for it means forgetting the wildness that dwells everywhere within and around us. (Paragraph 53) Peyton

Reading as a Writer

The activity of reading is a complex process involving the formation of and testing of inferences about the internal relations of the work and about the external relations between the work and the world. Much of the activity of reading remains tacit; that is, we do it for the most part without being conscious of what we are doing.

marginalia
Marginal notes and annotation on section XLVII of Ezra Pound’s Cantos

Summary: the reader formulates a brief restatement that omits concrete details, in the case of a narrative, in order to isolate the significant actions and formal divisions in the work. We summarize a text so that we have a sufficient understanding of the character(s) and action(s) of the work.

Marginalia: the reader is focused on her response to the work—what springs to mind and into body in the course of your reading. Its purpose is to register your feelings and thoughts as you read to examine, deepen and perhaps change them. We respond to texts in the mode of marginalia when we draw on our own emotions, life experience and intellectual competencies

isaac_newton-marginalia
Isaac Newton’s marginal notations

Annotation: the reader brings to the work factual information from an external source. Its purpose is to clarify apparent ambiguities, obscurities and references. We annotate—or at least we should—when a term or reference in the text slows us down, confuses us or presents an interpretive problem

1880_marginalia2
marginal notes and annotation

Explication: the reader proceeds word-by-word, phrase-by-phrase, line-by-line, with the intent of describing the work’s formal features—the lexical, grammatical, syntactic and sequential choices of an author. Its purpose is to generate awareness of the formal features of a work so as to be more accountable to how the work is put together. We explicate to make explicit the immediate indices of our attention—the lexical, grammatical, syntactic choices of an author; we analyze, relying on all the previous modes—marginalia, annotation and explication—to communicate to your reader something interesting and significant about the passage(s) under discussion

Analysis: the reader isolates one or more elements of the work for closer attention. We use analysis to separate the work into parts, or into cause and effect relations, in order to probe different relations, to generate questions, and more fully understand the whole.

Interpretation: the reader sets forth one or more meanings of a work according to a programmatic set of assumptions or ideological beliefs. We interpret in order to make a persuasive case for a meaning of the work.