Essay 1

For your first essay, I want you to continue to explore the question: What is nature?

The kind of thinking I am asking you to write your way into is NOT best served by the traditional academic paper or the 5-paragraph essay, but by the popular essay, which allows a combination of personal voice, storytelling, and philosophical thought. We will be talking more about this in class next week. (Keep in mind the examples I passed out, the essay by Mary Oliver and the essay about Katrina.) You may want to read the online journal Watershed, which is edited by Brown and RISD undergraduates. Watershed is an excellent source of contemporary nature writing/environmental essaying.

You should remember that the essay moves between personal experience and ideas, from concrete to abstract, from intimacy with the reader to confrontation with difficult issues. Graham Good, a scholar of the essay as a form, says that "in the essay, the writer finds a pattern in the world, and the world finds a pattern in the writer"; you may wish to keep this in mind.

If you are having trouble starting:

  1. Begin by commenting on a passage/moment from a relevant text e.g. from Worster or Grizzly Man.
  2. Or, begin by telling an interesting and relevant anecdote.
  3. Or, begin by proposing a new idea.
  4. Or, continue your blog entry where you left off.

I encourage you to be bold and to try something you may never have attempted before.

The goals of this essay are:

  1. To explore your ideas.
  2. To develop a personal voice.
  3. To interact with relevant texts or other sources.

(See the description of the grading criteria at the end of the syllabus for more information about these goals.)

This essay should be 5 standard pages long, or contain at least 1500 words (if you are experimenting with the shape of the words on the page.)

The rough draft of this essay is due in Ses #6. Please bring 3 copies for peer review.

The final draft of this essay is due in Ses #8, in class.

Remember to write down your questions about this assignment and bring them to class.

Essay 2

For this essay, which is twice as long as the first (3000 words/10 pp), I am asking you to enter the nature writing tradition.

As we have discussed, readers of the classic nature essay expect:

  1. A strong personal voice, conveying dense sensory detail and personal observation.
  2. A scientific and phenomenological account of particular places or non-human beings.
  3. An account of the people in that place, if there are any.
  4. An account of the intersection of nature and culture in that place/with those non-human beings.

Many of you have already started to write this kind of essay in Essay 1. Therefore you may choose to extend Essay 1, using your final draft as a new rough draft, or you may choose to begin a new piece.

The rough draft, with 3 copies for peer review, is due in Ses #11. The final draft is due in Ses #15.