English 380: Ecolit: Reading and Writing the Landscape--Exam Preparation

Write exams in large blue books only.

Part I--50%

You choose four of seven quotations to comment upon. For each of the four, do at least four of these six activities, combining them into an integrated short essay.

1.State author and title
2.Paraphrase or summarize
3.Relate to personality of the author
4.Relate to one or two other readings for the class
5.Link to an experience you had in nature--include specifics of time, place, and occasion
6.Mention some striking language and what makes it so

Sample quotation:

One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

Sample answer:

This is from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. He states that the opportunity we have to see the stars at night provides a regular encounter with reality that transcends our normal life and that we forget this because it occurs so frequently. Were such an experience to be more rare we would accord it greater value. Emerson's personality as ex-preacher and prophet is shown in his transcendental message and persuasive oratory. Like Thoreau or Wordsworth, who directly inspired him, he seeks to draw readers beyond the absorbing but often trivial concerns of daily life. I rarely pay attention to the stars for more than a minute at a time, except when I sleep out and find them looking down on me as I lie on my back. I like the last phrase "admonishing smile," which suggests an earnest but loving parent urging their child to grow up.

Part II--50%

Three of the topics below will appear on the exam. Write a unified essay of about 500 words on one of them. Support all general statements with specific examples. If you want this essay to count for GWR, write "GWR" on the outside of your Blue Book.

1."As a poet I am continually frustrated by dull accumulations of biological statistics and data that seem to have no relation to the living landscape they describe. But then as a scientist, I am often appalled by my own ignorance of the precise working of my environment…my poet sees a part of the landscape and ties it to broad, cultural continuums of of mythology, history and art. Seeing the same thing, my scientist wants to pull it apart and see how it works."

Baxter Trautman, Spirit of the Valley

Discuss the relationship between the poetic imagination and scientific observation in at least three writers considered by this class and in your own experience in nature.

2. And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,

Our minds and hearts to bless--

Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,

Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood

May teach you more of man,

Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

William Wordsworth, "The Tables Turned"

Specify what Wordsworth might mean by the "ready wealth," the "spontaneous wisdom," the "truth breathed by cheerfulness" and the understanding "of moral evil and of good" that Nature can teach. Refer to at least three writers and two landscapes you have read in this class.

3. Fair quiet, have I found thee here,
And Innocence thy Sister dear!
Mistaken long, I sought you then
In busie Companies of Men.
Your sacred Plants, if here below,
Only among the Plants will grow.

Society is all but rude

To this delicious Solitude.

Andrew Marvell, "The Garden"

Discuss the significance of delicious solitude vs. busy company in the writings of three authors read this quarter and in connection with your own experience of nature.

4. Describe ways in which reading nature writers and writing about nature yourself has enhanced your understanding and enjoyment of the landscape. Discuss specific passages from at least three writers and three passages of your own writing.

5. In a widely quoted essay… first presented here at Cal Poly… the cultural geographer Yi-fu Tuan described the sense of place: "Place supports the human need to belong to a meaningful and reasonably stable world, and it does so at different levels of consciousness, from an almost organic sense of identity that is an effect of habituation to a more conscious awareness of the values of middle scale places such as neighborhood, city and landscape, to an intellectual appreciation of the planet earth itself as home." It's fitting that our place in the world is where he presented that idea, since it is so rich and expansive. But this legacy also creates a responsibility for all who inherit it. As Wendell Berry warns, "Without a complex knowledge of ones place, and without the faithfulness to ones place on which such knowledge depends, it is inevitable that the place will be used carelessly, and eventually destroyed."

Cal Poly Land Website: http: polyland.lib.calpoly.edu/Overview/ThisProject/Goals.html

Discuss the meaning and value of "a sense of place" as developed in three of the following authors: Vergil, Thoreau, Cooper, Muir, Austin, Oliver, Trautman and Berry. Relate this discussion to the sense of place that you have developed for Cal Poly Land and to a sense of custodianship that goes with it.

6. ALL that I serve will die, all my delights,
the flesh kindled from my flesh, garden and field,
the silent lilies standing in the woods,
the woods, the hill, the whole earth, all
will burn in man's evil, or dwindlein its own age.
Let the world bring on me
the sleep of darkness without stars, so I may know
my little light taken from me into the seed
of the beginning and the end, so I may bow
to mystery, and take my stand on the earth
like a tree in a field, passing without haste
or regret toward what will be, my life
a patient willing descent into the grass.

"The Wish to be Generous" by Wendell Berry

Death is often described and reflected upon by nature writers. Compare and contrast treatments of this theme in three of the following: Thoreau, Austin, Oliver, Berry, Troutman. Relate them to reflections of your own brought on by observation of the landscape.