English 380: Ecolit: Reading and Writing the Landscape--Exam Preparation
Write exams in large blue books only.
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 or narrator
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
So, by fate impelled,
Speed all things to the worse, and backward borne
Glide from us; even as who with struggling oars
Up stream scarce pulls a shallop, if he chance
His arms to slacken, lo! with headlong force
The current sweeps him down the hurrying tide.
This is a passage from Vergil's Georgics. The narrator declares, with an extended metaphor, that rural life is often like rowing upstream, against the current, since fate or nature constantly confronts us with adversity like storms, floods, drought and diseases. The farmer can never rest, relax or cease to struggle against challenging odds. This is the narrator speaking in a pessimistic, wintery mood as he offers sobering advice. In other places he celebrates the joys and freedoms of rural life. This bleak view of the human condition corresponds to a "hard primitivist" outlook also found in the Genesis story of the fall from paradise into a world of difficulty which is nevertheless accepted and affirmed as bringing out the best in humanity. Similar sentiments are expressed by the Duke Senior in the speech about the sweet uses of adversity and in Mary Austin's Land of Little Rain, in which the rigors of life in the desert are exposed and affirmed. Spending long cold winters in the British Columbia forest trying to stay warm under a leaky roof with only wet wood for the stove gave me a strong taste of being up against that current; so does becoming more vulnerable to respiratory infections as I grow older. The breaking point in the battle against the current is beautifully expressed in the exclamation in the next to last line, followed by the inexorable pulse of the rhythm that ends the passage.
Part II--50%Three of the following six questions will appear on the final exam. You will write an essay of about 500 words on one of them. This essay can also serve as the GWR, if you write GWR at the top of your bluebook
1. Personification is a both a rhetorical device and way of experiencing the world. Discuss ways in which three or more ecoliterary texts read this quarter use personification to invigorate descriptions of nature and to express love between the writer and non-human reality.
2. Ecoliterary writers often describe natural cycles of change and recurrence found in nature--days, months, seasons, ages--and use these cycles to structure their writings with beginnings, middles and ends. Compare and contrast such uses of temporal patterning in at least three of the following works or writers: Genesis, Ovid's Metamorphosis, Vergil's Georgics, Thoreau, Leopold, Austin, Snyder, Goldsworthy.
3. 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.
4. 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: Thoreau, Muir, Austin, Leopold, Berry, Snyder, Goldsworthy. 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.
5. Death is often described and reflected upon by nature writers. Compare and contrast treatments of this theme in three of the following: Schubert-Mueller (Die Schoene Muellerin), Thoreau, Austin, Oliver, Berry, Goldsworthy. Relate them to reflections of your own brought on by observation of the natural world.
6. "I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute Freedom and Wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and Culture merely civil,to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society...Life consists with Wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him. One who pressed forward incessantly and never rested from his labors, who grew fast and made infinite demands on life, would always find himself in a new country or wilderness, and surrounded by the raw material of life. He would be climbing over the prostrate stems of primitive forest trees." Thoreau, "Walking"
Discuss the attraction of wild vs. civilized or rural vs. urban as a central theme of ecoliterary works we have considered in this class. Make reference to your own experience and to specific passages in at least four of the following writers or works: the Bible, Vergil, Marlowe-Ralegh dialogue, Wordsworth, Thoreau, Austin, Oliver, Berry, Snyder and Goldsworthy.