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Notes Towards Day 1 (Wed, Sept. 4): Experiencing, Introducing, Listening, Planning....

Anne Dalke's picture

I. go outside for 10 minutes:
be silent. observe. write. return.

II. Wendell Barry, The Silence

"I cannot stand ...mute/but must say....
the world lives/ in the death of speech/
and sings there...."

what was our experience?
what are our words?
go 'round and say....

observing (=interacting w/) the world...
looking for the words to describe the experience...
what are these words?
what are their effects?
how to (re)arrange them?

how have others done this?

III. a touchstone:
"It doesn't make sense to have English departments anymore....The traditional model in education has been cosmopolitanism. I've come to prefer a concentric and bioregional approach to makes sense -- educationally -- to begin with local writing; then you expand, adding layers of knowledge -- and not just literary knowledge....we're trying to teach a form of attention to the landscape, to the whole environment, human and natural" (John Elder)

So, we will begin with local experience (and over the course of the semester, expand out from here, looking @ what this place was 150 years ago; and imagining what it might be 150 years from now). We have started by orienting ourselves to this campus (how many students spend 4 years here w/out ever learning where they are?). We will do more of this before Thursday....

IV. But let me first give you some general instructions for the semester.
These are all on our course homepage.
Bookmark this url!
Check it weekly for (evolving, changing) assignments; you can do this w/out logging in.
N.B. it's an overfull "syllaship," and will be trimmed...
(note also a second e-sem on this topic, w/ many shared readings and assignments....).

To access the readings and post your reflections
(much of our reading and writing will be on-line) you will need to
register for a Serendip account. DO THIS TONIGHT; THE PROCESS IS NOT AUTOMATED.

What's unique about this course is that -- besides talking w/ each other in person,
and handing in one piece of more formal writing each month,
and having a couple of conferences about your writing --we will be meeting virtually,
once on Thursdays, again on Sundays, in an inbetween space: our on-line/class forum @

By 5 p.m. each Thursday, you'll do a short on-line posting here describing your "outside" experiences,
reflecting on their relation to our readings and discussions; by 5 p.m. every Sunday you'll respond to
a more directed prompt from me, aimed @ getting you to work on your ecological writing.
Both postings are more deliberate than speaking in class, less formal than written work:
an excellent place for showcasing revisionary thinking.

Once a month you'll write a longer, more "formal" paper that you'll also post on-line.
Also, twice during the semester (once before fall break, once before your
final project is due) you'll meet with me to discuss your writing.

What is (probably) also distinct about this course is the form of evaluation:
I will not grade any of your individual projects. At the end of the semester,
you will review all your written work and evaluate what you've done in class.
Guidelines for that process, as well as the checklist of my expectations, are all on-line
(they are not mysterious: be present in class and conferences,
contribute in-person and on-line, post your web events on time,
be responsive to instruction, engaged in the conversation...).

N.B.: my belief in education as a collective endeavor,
our shared responsibility for each other's learning,
the selfishness of silence....

Immediate assignments:
By 5 p.m. tonight,
register for a Serendip account.
By 5 p.m. Thursday, follow these instructions for exploring Bryn Mawr,
log on to our on-line course conversation, introduce yourself,
and answer the survey questions (feel free to post this as a
response to others' answers, or to post yours independently).

By 5 p.m. Sunday
Henry David Thoreau, Walking 1851; rpt Project Gutenberg, 2008--through
paragraph 14 ("It will never become quite familiar to you...")
and then take a Thoreauvian walk around campus: locate its center, explore its boundaries
(what marks the edges of this place?). "Saunter," "ruminate," and "seek new prospects,"
as Thoreau advises.  (What trees can you climb, "borders" can you cross, "present" might you enter?
What "useful ignorance" will you "diffuse" thereby?)
Then write 3 pp.
reflecting on what you experienced,
and post the essay in our on-line course conversation. This will be your
web "event" #1.

By classtime Monday, review the two accounts
(campus exploration and Thoreauvian walk) each of us has provided on-line.

Come w/ some thoughts about the differences-and-similarities
between Thoreau's and your own exploration...

What else?
Questions about any of these details of "course-keeping"?
reminder that links to all these pages--on-line course forum,
syllabus, instructions for posting, a growing file of my "notes
towards class discussion" --are available as links from our course home page @