Sample Syllabus: ENGL 213, Connecting Humans and Landscapes

English 213x- NORTH AMERICA:

Course Description:
This course is an exploration of the natural and cultural landscape of North America for students who wish to study the continent we live on from a variety of perspectives. We will examine writings that combine cultural, environmental and historical views of different people, issues and regions, including the Sonoran Desert and American Southwest, agriculture of the Great Plains, fishing, hunting, and, closer to home, different portrayals and perceptions of Alaska and the Arctic.

This is neither a literature course nor a science course. My intent is to engage you in writing about the sciences with artistic  enthusiasm. If science is the interpretation of natural and societal worlds, then writing is the means by which that is conveyed. We will analyze how writers communicate their ideas and discoveries, and use discussion to think about our own relationship with and conceptions of North America as a unique and interesting continent. In short, this class seeks to draw connections between creativity and scientific objectivity. Through writing, I hope this course will challenge you to think about your relationship with the natural world by placing our study of scientific, logical, ethical and emotional philosophies (logos, ethos, pathos) alongside your own individual interpretations of self in relation to place. Remember: there is no one way to write about natural or social sciences. Writing is a personal venture in creative communication, an exploration less concrete than mathematics, which can be both challenging and rewarding.

Intent and Expectations
For this course, I ask that you take an honest, interested and committed approach. My intent here is to engage you as a reader, a writer and a thinker. I expect that you will challenge yourself to produce work which pushes your academic limits in critical and constructive ways. If you are not honestly engaged and interested in the content of this class or in the topics you have chosen for your writing assignments, your level of enthusiasm and quality of workmanship (and your grade) will reflect this.

I encourage the exploration of topics and issues that are educational for you as well as interesting and important to you. I invite you to utilize a variety of resources and media types in seeking inspiration. Feel free to search the Internet for videos, texts, and ideas; use the library’s vast collection of Alaskan publications; draw upon your own experiences and cultural backgrounds to inspire your work in this course.

This class is intended to be a community of writers and thinkers. The work load is, I hope, challenging as well as fun and rewarding. I expect you to provide constructive critiques of your own work and those of your peers, to participate actively in positive discussion, and to approach the reading and writing with desire and enthusiasm. I expect you to take responsibility for your actions-I have not interested in excuses-rather, I prefer honesty and open communication. I am happy to work with individual needs, but the burden of initiative falls upon you.

I expect that each student will come prepared, having done assignments and readings on time, and ready to discuss the text critically. If, after discussing this syllabus, you feel uninspired, bored, or apathetic, please do yourself and your fellow classmates the favor of choosing a different course. Don’t expect me to drop you from the course if you are failing. That is not my job. Know that what you have to say on a topic is far more interesting than repeating what others have said about a subject. I want you to express your own opinions and ideas, not to regurgitate the ideas of others. Question openly, challenge the material, and expect to usc outside sources and research to resolve questions you have about a topic.
“It dawned on me as it had dozens of times before that everything goes together or we’re in real trouble. “  Jim Harrison

Required Texts

  • Bowden, Charles. Some of the Dead are Still Breathing: Living in the Futllre. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.
  • Simpson, Sherry. The Accidental Explorer: Way finding in Alaska. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2008.
  • Manning, Richard. Grassland: The History: Biology, Politics and Promise of the American Prairie. New York: Penguin Press, 1995.
  • Cook, Sam. Campsights. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992.
  • Clark, Roy Peter. Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Wnter. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2006.

We will also read a selection of essays from. various authors, including:
Terry Tempest Williams, Sigurd F. Olsen, Edward Abbey, Jon Krakauer, Barry Lopez, Leslie Marmon Silko, Sigurd F. Olson and Norman Mclean.

These texts are meant to demonstrate the sort of writing I expect from your own essays. They reflect the contemplative nature of
our various relationships with the North American landscape, and on different levels, seek to combine the study of science and sociology with a literary and recreational imagination.

Some advice:
In this class, I am not going to give you a wad of facts and ask you to memorize them. I ask instead that you take these readings seriously and come prepared. I am interested in your opinion on the texts we read, and you should expect to come away from the books, essays and discussions with new insights, questions, thoughts, and ideas. Some of these readings may seem substantial. If you miss a reading, be honest–don’t try to fake your way through the class. By making an effort to participate and contribute, everyone will be able to make the most out of this class.

“We can have wilderness without freedom; we can have wilderness without human life at all, but we cannot have freedom without wilderness, we cannot have freedom without leagues of open space beyond the cities where boys and girls, men and women, can live at least part of their lives under no control but their own desires and abilities, free from any and all direct administration by their fellow man.”  -Edward Abbey

Your grade is figured on a total of 1000 earned points, which will be distributed as follows:

Participation 200 points
Student Blog 50 points
Reading Responses (6) 100 points
Attendance 100 points
Essay One 100 points
Essay Two Rough Draft 50 points
Essay Two Final 100 points
Final Essay Propasl 25 points
Final Essay Draft One 25 points
Final Essay Draft Two 25 points
Final Essay Finished Draft 100 points
Panel Resentation 50 points
Conferences (two) 50 points
Reading Presentation 50 points

Based on the quality and frequency of in-class contributions, completion of assignments on time, staying on ask during class, and general attitude. Every student plays a vital role in making this class successful. Participation includes outside coursework as well, such as attending Writing Center tutoring sessions and posting on the class blog.

The Blog:
I am not technologically savvy, and when it comes to reading, I’m old fashioned. I prefer books hardcovered, old, pages yellow and smelling of must. Still, I do realize the importance of technology in an ever more connected world, and perhaps one of the most unique ways to get connected in the classroom is through blogging.

This is a chance to connect and converse with other students in this class and in other writing classes. Each week, a different student will post a topic, (link to a scientific article, piece of nature writing, YouTube video, etc.) and fellow students will be asked to comment on this posting. Both your postings and comments will be read by myself and perhaps others. This is a public forum, a casual outlet intended to be generative for the class, and I hope that this sparks creativity and conversation among us. Course documents and links to interesting web sites will also be found here.

“The biological truth is so complex it defies scientific statement. No landscape reveals its foil potential until it has been given its myth by love, work and the art of man. Genius of place is the living relationship between a particular location and the people who derive from it and add to it the aspects of humanness. There is more to the uniqueness of a place than topography and climate, genetics, economics or the politics of its population. It is an integral part of the organic form of man.”  – Rene Uubos

Reading Response Essays:
When Michael Montaigne first coined the term “essai” four hundred years ago, he meant it to mean “an attempt at something.” These informal 500 to 800 word assignments, worth 15 points apiece, hold to that tradition. During the semester, you are required to turn in SIX of these papers. As an incentive, if you turn in all six, you will receive ten free points toward your reading response score. For some responses, prompts will be provided by me. Other weeks, you will be free to write about any topic you choose. You are allowed to turn in up to two responses per week.

I will not hold the same expectations as for the essays. Still, you should expect to write these after having thought critically about the subject matter you are analyzing. I too, dislike reading about mundane topics that the writer is uninterested in. Challenge yourself. He creative and have fun.

Formal Essays:
You will write three formal papers for this class. Don’t think of them as “research papers” driven by a single conclusive thesis statement. These should challenge you to explore a topic through focused questioning, and to develop well balanced, insightful, comprehensible and intriguing written works. Think of these papers as potential academic, creative or journalistic articles. They will also conform to specific academic (MLA and APA) writing formats. Further details will be forthcoming. All essays must have formal citation, be printed on 8 1/2 x 11 paper, 12 point Times New Roman font, double spaced. I expect correct grammar, spelling and punctuation as well.  *Note: If you fail to turn in any of the three essays, you will not pass this
course. This is non-negotiable.

Panel Presentation:
Your final research paper will be presented in front of the class. Each student will have ten minutes to present their findings and thoughts on the research topic they have chosen. The presentation is not a reading of your paper; in fact, this is forbidden. The intent is here is to simulate a presentation as it would exist at a conference of academics or practitioners in scientific and literary fields. Oral and written communication skills have in recent years been two areas prospective employers have indicated as lacking among college graduates. These are an attempt to address this aspect of your academic development and promote your futures. Presentations will be 8-10 minutes long, but should not exceed ten minutes.

Conferences and Research:
We will meet during the semester for individual conferences. This will be a time to discuss rough drafts, the research process, and other concerns. Conferences will take place during class time and will be scheduled in advance. Your final letter grade will be based on the following scale:

A= 1000-910 C = 782-705
A-= 909-900 C- = 704-695
B+= 899-890 D+= 694-683
B = 889-805 D= 684-610
B- = 804-795 D- = 609-600
C+= 794-783 F= 599-

The University docs not recognize a D as a passing grade. It is simple: show up to class, on time; complete your assignments, on time; and participate actively-you’ll get a “good” grade in this coursc.

“[The Inuit] are afraid because they fully accept what is violent and tragic in nature. It is a fear tied to knowledge that sudden, cataclysmic events are as much a part of life, of really living, as are the moments when one pauses to look at something beautiful.”  -Barry Lopez

Other Information:

Late Work:
Papers are due at the beginning of class on the day they are due. For each day that any paper is turned in late, you will lose 25% of your total score. If the first essay is not turned in, you will be dropped from the class. I will not accept papers that are over three days late.

Please attend classes. If missing a class is unavoidable, please let me know in advance. I will give you three absences
for the semester, no questions asked. After three missed classes, you will receive a zero as an attendance score. Further issues with attendance will drastically effect your participation grade as well.

Plagiarism is passing off another person’s work as your own. All writing assignments and essays in this course must
be written by you and specifically for this course. Any sources used and quoted must be properly cited both in your text and in a Works Cited/Bibliography. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come talk with me. ANY PLAGIARISM IN THIS CLASS WILL RESULT IN A FAILING GRADE.

Come prepared for class by completing all assignments and readings. Bring your materials to class each day.  Turn off electronic devices prior to class. This includes cell phones, Ipods and laptops.  If you become unable to complete this course due to illness or other circumstances, only the Director of Composition can assign an Incomplete Grade. Should this become necessary, please see me.

Campus Resources and Services:

Outdoor Adventures
Outdoor Adventures offers an increasing number of outdoor related activities and
events, from skill workshops on cross country skiing and avalanche awareness to
the Banff Mountain Film Festival and the annual winter gear swap. Equipment
for winter camping, skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking and canoeing is also available
torent., 4′ (907)474-6027
Office Hours: Monday-Friday 10am to 5pm. Located in the Wood Center bottom floor, south side of the building.

The Writing Center:
The Writing Center is a resource available for all students to use in papers, resumes, or other documents. It has a computer lab and free printing. There are also tutors who are happy to spen time going over your work with you and helping you become a better writer. It is a great pace to get help with any paper you may be working on. In this cours, you will reviece extra credit points for aby paper where you visit the writing center.

The Writing Center is located on the 8th floor of Gruening.
Monday through Thrusday: 10am–4pm 7pm–10pm
Friday: 10am–12pm
Sunday: 1pm–6pm

Rural Student Services:
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Disability Services:
If you have a disability that may affect your performance in this class, please see me during the first week of the semester to discuss possible accommodations. Also available to you is the Disability Services program, which offers a multitude of services for students with documented disabilities. Feel free to contact this office at 474-5655 or  for more information.

Harassment Policy:
This is a class that celebrates diversity and is intended to be a safe learning environment. We come from a range of backgrounds, language relationships, ethics and understandings. We are here to learn from each other. Harassment in this class will not be tolerated. Some class discussions will touch upon potentially controversial topics. Please approach these in a respectful and engaging manner. If you feel that you are being harassed, either in class or outside of it, I have provided contact information for resources that can help you on campus.

UAF Office of Equal Opportunity
(for formal or informal complaints)
316 Signer’s Hall, Phone 474-6600;
Fax 474-5548
UAF IllIman Resow’ces
108 Administrative Services Center;
Phone 474-7317; Fax 474-5859

Women’s Center (for referral to community crisis and assistance organizations)
112 Eidson Building; Phone 474-
6360; 474-5900

“Say of nature that it conceals with a grand nonchalance, and they say a vision that it is a deliberate gift, the revelation of a dancer who for my eyes only flings away her seven veils.” -Annie Dillard, from at Tinker Creek