Projects in Reading and Writing

TOPIC: Where the Wild Things Are: Landscapes and Animals in the American Imagination

INSTRUCTOR: L. Ottum

7401 10:10-11:00A MWF SE 140

Since most of us will never get to travel around the globe and see the Earth's varied environments with our own eyes, our concept of what many different environments and the organisms that live in them are like is almost entirely informed by the way these places are portrayed in popular culture. Pop culture teaches us which parts of nature are "beautiful" and which are "dangerous"; it tells us which parts of nature are "wild" and which animals are "majestic." Most importantly, popular images of nature shape our understanding of how and why the natural world is "valuable." In this course we will explore this central question: how do pop culture images of environments and animals guide our sense of which environments are worth preserving?

We will read articles that provide perspectives on American environmental attitudes, and we will write papers in which we use these articles to help us examine nature in movies, on TV, in magazines and advertisements, and on the web. In addressing these texts, we will uncover some of the consequences, good and bad, of understanding "nature" and the "environment" the way we do in contemporary America.

It is important to note that while this course features a focused topic of inquiry, it is still first and foremost a writing class and is designed to fulfill your University composition requirement. As such, it is constructed to enhance your analytical thinking, reading, and writing skills. Its primary purpose is to introduce you to college level academic writing and to equip you with the skills you need to produce high-quality analytical arguments.