Photo: Stuart Allen's Lake Berryessa Line

The Putah-Cache Bioregion Project:

Adjunct Writing Syllabus

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English 102-10
Winter 1998

Course Description

As an upper division writing class, English 102 is predicated on the assumption that you have already developed the writing skills necessary to your discipline. The goal of this course is to improve your skills in solving a variety of conceptual problems--particularly those that arise when you apply ideas from one discipline to another--and presenting those solutions in writing.


Each assignment will include grading standards relevant to the assignment. These will always reflect your skills on three levels: substantial content, clear and logical organization, and use of correct English.

Short Assignments 20%
Documentary Essays 25%
Analytical Essays 45%
Class Participation 10%


The work of this class falls into three categories: 1) defining in concrete terms what the bioregion is, 2) examining theories of bioregional practice, and 3) considering the conceptual structures we use when we attempt to discuss such definitions, theory, and practice.

The class schedule takes us through each of these steps, progressing from the concrete to the abstract; however, because of our interdisciplinary orientation, we will find ourselves plunged into conceptual issues from the outset.

Some assignments will be reportorial/documentary, others will consist of argued analysis that will be drafted, peer edited, and revised. Some due dates are set, others are related to the events to which you will be responding.

The assignments are described below, followed by a detailed schedule for 1/13 to 1/22. I will give you descriptions and schedules for subsequent weeks as we go along.

Lateness Policy

Assignments due for class discussion will not be considered after the due date and you will receive a grade of F. Final drafts of essays will lose one third grade point per day late.

Assignment Descriptions

I. Reportorial

1. Class Synopsis. Each student will be responsible for writing up one of our class discussions. This synopsis will be read aloud by the student in the subsequent class to give us a starting point for that day's discussion. It should be no more than two pages long, and should identify the issues under discussion, the points of view expressed, and conclusions drawn.

2. Event report. Each student will be responsible for giving an account of a bioregional event: one of the Friday seminars or some other meeting to be agreed upon between us. You will not just report on what went on; you will also talk directly to or interview the speaker or key individuals involved, which means that in advance you will need to read materials written by or related to those individuals. The resulting essay will then include not only an account of the event, but a review of the readings and the questions you prepared.

II. Documentary

These two assignments deal with the bioregion along two axes: horizontally, or in terms of the landscape as it spreads out around us, and vertically, through time, as it holds layer after layer of history.

1. "Four Mountains."

We will begin with writing assignments in which you define your sense of the bioregion and your area of expertise within it.

2. "Inscriptions." See essay prompt.

The second essay of this type will focus on the bioregion as an historical site, whether the history you are most interested in is ecological, biological, social, or political.

III. Analysis

1. You will write an essay considering the various definitions of bioregional practice and their viability.

2. You will write an essay considering the idea of the "sacred," an abstract term used to justify a wide variety of practices.

3. You will write an essay considering the traditional dichotomy between "nature" and "technology" that underlies much social and environmental critique.

Documentary Essay 1: "Four Mountains"

Essay assignments and class activities

For Tuesday, January 13, read Hillerman, "The Very Heart of Our Country." For Thursday, January 15, following the model presented by Hillerman's piece, write a two-page essay that considers what you think the equivalent for the Navajo's four "mountains" would be for this region as you conceive of it. You can go beyond the parameters we discussed on 1/8, or work far within them. Discuss what you think is the equivalent of the "heart" of this "country" and why.

We will discuss these essays in class; you'll get this back with a grade on Tuesday.

For Tuesday, January 20, write a one-page essay explaining how your field of study is applicable to the bioregion. You might do this by showing the importance of what you study to the health of the region. You might be able to draw on actual experience, or you may be considering applications that might be made in the future.

We will discuss these statements in class; I will return them graded on Thursday.

After these two discussions write an additional one to two pages in which you consider the kinds of "landmarks" you chose in Assignment #1. Are they really "-marks" on the "land-"? Are they natural or cultural phenomenon? (Think carefully about this. Your "four mountains" may be both.) Reflect upon your choices. What do they say about your conceptual orientation, is it related to your field of study? This is what we will discuss in class on Thursday, 1/22.

You should not just add new pages, however; the combination of the first two parts, revised, and this final self-critique should comprise a coherent four-to-five-page essay. Your total grade on that essay will take the first two into account, yet will represent the quality of the end result.

Schedule, Jan. 8-29

1/8 "Where You At?" Exercise Read Hillerman, Berg essays
1/9 Peter Berg seminar
1/13 Discussion of Berg's bioregionalism
Discussion of Hillerman for Assignment #1
Due Thursday
1/15 Discussion of "Heart of This Country" essays Field of study statement due Tuesday
1/16 Rob Thayer seminar
1/20 Discussion of Field of Study statement Compose final section of essay
1/22 Discuss final section of Four Mountains essay Complete essay due Tuesday, 1/27
1/23 Robert Bailey seminar Read Snyder, Muller, Sayen, Aberley

Documentary Essay 2: "Inscriptions."

Essay assignments and class activities
See essay prompt.

For this essay, you are going to interpret some set of "marks" upon the land from an historical perspective. You can take one of the "four mountains" or "heart" of your first essay, or you can chose a new site. Your focus will be the multiple layers of "inscription" at that site, the multiple marks left by generations of interactive forces: human endeavor, the movement of elements such as earth or water, the life cycles of all kinds of living things. In contrast to combining a set of points on the landscape as you did in "Four Mountains," in this one you will describe the layers of impact as you discern them at one location. We will begin our in-class work on this when we discuss Conzen and Lewis on 2/3.

Identify and begin to take notes on your site by 2/5!

You should be considering the subject of this essay long before those dates!

Here are some ways to go about this:

Visit a site that is significant to someone who is not in your field. Discuss with them what forces they see at work there, past and present, and then consider the site from your own disciplinary perspective. It might be that students within the class can work together on this.

Pick an intersection of some kind: a bridge, a crossroads, a trailhead, a city block, a small town main street, an animal trail in a plowed field, a vacant lot.

Notice place names that appear in what you read or hear. Keep track of these and then visit the place. Talk about what it's said to be, and by whom, and what it seems like to you.

What you want is one location that bears a multiplicity of "marks." Your essay will describe those marks and offer an interpretation of what they mean.

For 2/5, bring in a one-page description of the site and the significant inscriptions upon it that you will be interpreting. These will be the basis of our class discussion.

I will collect them and return them with a grade on Tuesday, 2/10.


2/3 Discussion of geographical history via Conzen and Lewis
Description of site due Thursday
2/5 Discussion of sites for "Inscription" essay

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