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Notes Towards Day 7 (Tues, Sept. 25): Having Fun @ Home!

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping

* naming: how far can we get?

* weather prediction for noon: 68 degrees, clear, 0% chance of precipitation, 9 mph winds-->

* Sarah C is situating us in the Adirondack chairs in front of English House;
Hannah's in charge for Thursday--tell us now/by end of class where we will be then?

* limitations/suggestions for her/others? (not sitting on grass? lower temperature limit?)

* I have put up a posting that is "sticky @ the top" of our course forum
it lists who is in charge when, and it also asks you to reflect afterwards on your day (or of course any other day when you have a thought!): what/how does it matter that we are outside? (my senior's challenge: if it doesn't matter, we should just go in!). Alex, Sarah and wanhong did this already ... important evidence-gathering for ecological literacy (= reading the world, not "just" the word): "damp grass...some frightening insects... exciting to realize, as we had class outside and could see the world in whole, that the universe is spinning around us."

* we are also going outside deliberatively @ least one other time each week:
what do we want to tell one another about our first bout of "nature writing"-->
recording y/our "site sit": hard to stay still? hard to write about it?

Some keynotes:
a group of you talked about the experience of being calmed:
mtran: I enjoy being in an open space…finding more colors
Alex: my personal Vermont
Hannah: peaceful, thoughtful, present in space
Zoe: bad mood…slowly calmed down
Susan: need to bring peace outside…inside
SaraL: I am an important part of the environment and the ecosystem…
I focus on unwinding from the busy week and spend some time on myself….
wanhong: we are a part of the environment in other people’s lives,
and we had the right, responsibility and power to make some change
Sarah C:
integral to our ecological disaster in the present-day world, is the sheer pace of our life

others of you described what you did/the steps in the process:
mbackus: @ wedding in the Adirondacks (connected more, in an undirected experience!)
psychological time I experienced was longer than the physical time
alone in a place lined with sectioned window panes--> not alone--> left
Cahier: I barely touched the soil. I sat on a tree branch and listened….I will work my way up the branches.
Rochelle: to cut off vision would be to cut off the safety-net sense, and it would force me to analyze the world though a different lens….the more time I spent feeling the more internally focused I got.
Shengjia: nature deficit disorder…amazing, approachable stars…How much more I am missing?

what about the forms of your writing? surprisingly unvaried
Barbara and CMJ wrote poems ("rheomodes"?); the rest of you wrote in fairly conventional prose….
there are no rules here, but I do invite (urge!) you to try out
varieties of "green grammar"! wild language! play...!

Here's some of Joan Maloff's advice, from "Teaching the Trees":
1. Get up, go out ("shake off the forces that would keep you safe in the company of others")
2. Love nature ("love the wild things and feel that they are loving back"--biophilia)
3. Sit down, write words ("know when to sit down at your desk, and when to get up from it")
4. Find your own fresh voice ('writing evolves")
5. Read a lot, but don't read everything ("the words of others are like feathers--w/ the right number of them you can soar...but w/ an excess it is difficult to get off the ground")
6. Tell a story and put yourself in it ("be a person telling it")
7. Don't fear the science (wonderful stories--symbiosis of wasp and virus--told too dryly)
8. Be humbled by complexity ("be the voice that tells us what we don't know")
9. Try to save the world ("nature writing is more than an excuse to spend the time pleasantly....
trying to save some of this beautiful, complex, joyful place is the most important work there is...")

This is very different advice than Bohm's and Goatley's advising us against human-centricity; it suggests organizing your stories around your own experience, placing yourself there, attending to your own voice.
There are many experiments possible over the next few months--please try a range of them. I've done my second one; you must also repeat this experiment again by this Sunday night (a reminder that most of you might still/next time "type in your own topic").

II. I asked you all to e-mail your keyword assignments to your writing partners....
alexb2016 <--> Barbara
Cahier <--> CMJ
Hannah <--> mbackus
mtran <-->Rochelle W
Sarah C <--> Zoe
Shengjia-Ashley <--> Susan
wanhong <--> Sarah L

..and to come to class having read your partner's paper, ready to identify her claim (most, not all, of you did that for her, though sometimes I found myself picking another line....) and what evidence she gives to support it --as well as ready to describe to her what interests you in her essay, and where you got lost. WE ARE NOT CORRECTING GRAMMAR FOR ONE ANOTHER, but giving feedback about "what works" (and doesn't!).

Let's pair up to have these conversations....

Alex: reality
Barbara: city
Clare AND Sara L: sustainability
Elizabeth: soil
Hannah: space
Maddie: ecology, economics
Minh: conservation, preservation
Rochelle: home, habitat
Sarah C: intellectual, practice (or practical), and organic
Shengjia: nature, society, organism
Susan: resilience, diversity, interaction
Wanhong: acupuncture
Zoe: permaculture

Alex,  Elizabeth, Minh, Rochelle, Sara L?

Barbara: The idea that city itself keep people away from nature is very wrong.

Clare: This idea is crucial to existence; however, it is theoretical; nothing can truly be sustained indefinitely.

Hannah: If space was always defined and thought of as a substance with mass, then people would be more aware and conscientious about it and more aware of their space on earth and the natural environment which would lead to a better appreciation for earth.  

Maddie: The societal representation and implication of the words ecology and economics present them as two completely different subjects, connected only by the shared, “eco”; however the denotations of the words show just how much they have in common on a very literal level.

Sarah C: It is beyond the scope of this paper to begin to make the argument that our current ecological crisis is linked to the Cartesian separation of mind and body; but I am proposing the thesis that if that is indeed the case, as I believe it is, then we need a language which will help us begin to heal that split.

Shengjia: My fear for the power of nature and my reliance on human connections has hindered me to understand the true meaning of nature, get close to nature and to myself.

Susan: If ecolinguists want people to pay more attention to the environment, then they should change the way we think and our expression of language will change, but it does not work the other way around.

Wanhong: In general, acupuncture could not be analyzed by scientific machines or figures because it has an untangible system that works to balance human’s physical body, emotion and nature

Zoe: Words need to be experienced and/or visually observed to understand their true meaning and multiple sources are necessary to acquire a well-rounded meaning of a particular word.

III. Turning to the words-and-graphics of Alison Bechdel
who will speak (only to ESem'ers!) in Goodhart Hall @ 7:30 this Thursday, w/ a "dessert event" after

I heard her @ the Free Library in Philadelphia last spring, and it was quite the
show--I think it  will be interesting, informative, and entertaining --so come!
I"ll be there (am also lunching w/ her....;)

Your next Friday writing assignment
(which you will mail to Anne and a new writing partner...)
3 pp. reading Bechdel's graphic novel "ecologically":
what does it "foreground" and "background" about the natural world,
as the "environment" in which this family psychodrama emerges?
What difference does "physical location" make in the story she tells?

This is not the usual way of reading this graphic novel;
in English classes, the focus is often on its "meta-textuality,"
the way it is structured as an echo/reworking of the novels of James Joyce, especially....
but! this is our focus in this class, so that will be our lens....

You can/should do this by focusing on a single image or page--
do NOT try to interpret the whole novel!

But let's start @ the level of overall plot...
do you understand what's going on?
Where are you confused?

Let's locate this psychodrama, help each other begin to brainstorm our papers,
by thinking/talking  (some more!) about maps as representational forms.
Where does the first map appear?
Let's "locate" this psychodrama geographically,
and help each other begin to brainstorm our papers,
by thinking/talking (some more!) about maps as representational forms.

Where does the first map appear?
pp. 30-31: "narrow compass of my father's provincialism"
p. 34: why is the map hanging over her bed? (what does this suggest?)
p. 43-4: map of the human body? (cf. Shengjia's paper about unpredictable "nature" inside us?)
p. 65: is that a map on the wall?
p. 76: function of the sky chart?
what can we learn by looking @ pp. 126-127?
why does she repeat the "solipsistic circle" on p. 140?
(how does this representation differ from that on p. 30?)
same questions re: the range of maps on pp. 144, 146-147 (in cf. w/ pp. 126-127)?

what else might we say about the role of the natural world in this novel?
the snake, p. 114, 116, 143;
the dream of the missed sunset, p. 123;
the pollution, p. 128;
the plague of locusts, p. 155-157;
the storm, pp. 175 f. (esp. the aerial view, p. 179);
the version of the story that "my father died while gardening"....?

Come to class on Thursday ready to do some (more) close reading:
pick a single page (or single frame) for us to read and interpret together--
not one you've figured out--but one that you can't!....that puzzles you