History 406—Spring 2011
Readings in American History: American Environmental History
Class Meetings: Tuesdays 7:30-10:25, LaForce 121
Prof. Kathryn Morse, x2436, firstname.lastname@example.org
Office Hours: W 1:30-4pm, Hillcrest 119, except 4/13
F 4-5pm, Starr Axinn 240, except 2/18, 2/25, 4/15
Course description and goals: This is a reading and historiography seminar, designed to introduce students to the secondary historical literature (work by scholars) in one particular field within American history: environmental history. Beyond providing students with in-depth reading in environmental history, and a sense of how this particular field of history has changed over time, this course is designed to introduce students to the some of the methods and practices of historians. We will also focus on developing and practicing skills important to historians (and others): critical reading; clear and concise formal writing; oral presentation; group discussion; habitual curiosity; focused, scholarly research.
Books: The following books are currently available for purchase at the book store, at on-line sellers everywhere. There may be a few books still to get, but I will keep you posted. These books will soon be on reserve at the Davis (Main) library as well. Not everyone will read ALL of these books. In some weeks, half the class will read one, while the other half reads the other in a related pair of books. Other readings will be provided as .pdf or other electronic files on the class server in the “Share” folder.
Donald Worster, Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s
Elliott West, The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado
Thomas Andrews, Killing for Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War
Marsha Weisiger, Dreaming of Sheep in Navajo Country
Karl Jacoby, Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of Conservation
Sara M. Gregg, Managing the Mountains: Land Use Planning, the New Deal, and the Creation of a Federal Landscape in Appalachia
Matthew Klingle, Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle
Michael Rawson, Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston
Annie G. Coleman, Ski Style: Sport and Culture in the Rockies
Joseph E. Taylor, Pilgrims of the Vertical: Yosemite Rock Climbers and Nature at Risk
Steve Lerner, Diamond: A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor
Julie Sze, Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice
1. Your first assignment, always, is to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned reading, and prepared with any additional duties you have been given for that day (oral presentations, group leading, minor research tasks, etc.)
2. Each student will give two oral presentations. The first will be on one of the assigned books (one or two students per week). The student presenting on any given book will also be responsible for starting discussion of the book on the day that we discuss that book. More details will be provided as we begin this process in Week 2. The second oral presentation will be in the final two weeks of the semester, and will focus on the student’s final historiographic essay. More details to follow as we discuss these presentations in clas..
3. Each student will write two brief (~3 page) review essays for two of our assigned books. Usually, the book on which a student gives an oral presentation will also be one of their two books for the review essays. The essays will be due at the beginning of class the week we discuss the book in question.
4. In addition to weekly readings, each student will read and research an individually-chosen topic and complete, in consultation with Prof. Morse, a final historiographic essay (roughly 12-15 pages), based on that reading and research. Students will present an oral version of their essays in our final class meetings. The final draft will be due during exam period, final date to be determined. More details will be announced.
5. Finally, students will, on occasion, be assigned in-class tasks, either individually or in groups, or be asked to research questions for the group for a future class.
Absences: Attendance is required and will constitute a portion of the final grade.
Office hours: I am available to meet with and advise students during the office hours listed above (note the TWO OFFICES). If these two times do not fit your schedule, email me to make an appointment at another time.
E-mail policy: BEFORE you call or email ANY professor with a specific question about details of the course (or about anything), ask yourself this important question: Is there ANY other way to gain this information or answer this question without asking a professor? If so, use that other method!
That being said: Students are welcome to email (or call my office phone) to make an appointment to see me, or to attend to course-related matters that need attention. Please be advised that I do not read and answer email constantly or immediately. I will attempt to return your email or call within 24 hours. If you need to communicate with me immediately (i.e. to change or set up a meeting in the very near future), send an email with the “urgent” exclamation point so that I will look at it quickly.
The above does not apply to true emergencies, such as those involving serious illness, personal crisis, or loss. In the event of such an event, I will respond as quickly as possible. I do assume that you read your Middlebury college email on a regular basis, several times a week. If you do not read your email with any regularity, please remember to ask me in class whether I have sent out any information or updates.
Plagiarism: All students are responsible for reading and heeding the statement on plagiarism as written in the Middlebury College Handbook. If you are unsure what constitutes plagiarism you may re-read the Handbook or another of our class writing resources (see web page), consult a reference librarian, or ask me.
Honor Code: The Honor Code is in effect for all papers in this course. In class, we will discuss what this means for particular assignments and how historians, in particular, approach issues of academic integrity. Please state and sign the honor code on all work.
Intercollegiate Athletics: If you are a member of a team whose schedule will require you to miss class, it is your responsibility to inform me of your schedule, what work you will miss, and how and when you intend to make up that work. I do not regularly check sports schedules or know team departure times, so it is your job to present me with that information, well in advance of the absence itself.
If at all possible, I would like to know at the beginning of the semester, exactly when you will be gone, so as to head off any complications well in advance.
Grading: There is no completely set formula for the determination of grades. The course requires two short review essays, two oral presentations, attendance and participation, in-class exercises, and a final historiographic essay. In calculating final grades, the review essays and the two oral presentations will be weighted to constitute approximately 15% of the final grade (each). General class discussion participation will be weighted approximately 20%, and the final essay about 20%. This is subject to slight variation, and final grades may also take into account improvement (and its opposite) over the course of the semester.
The Fine Print: While this syllabus is not likely to change too much, I may make adjustments as the semester proceeds. Any changes will be announced ahead of time on email and posted on my web page. I will announce changes in class on a week-to-week basis, well in advance of any due-dates. However, if you are not in class to hear such announcements, it is your responsibility to find out about such changes or additions.
Class and Reading Schedule
Week 1: Tuesday Feb. 8: Introduction, in-class reading (handout), book assignments, general discussion of environmental history as a field and plan for the semester. Scheduling issues for Week 2.
Week 2: Date and time change? Read : Donald Worster, Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (Introduction, ch. 1-2; 4-5; 12-14; Epilogue); AND William Cronon, "A Place for Stories: Nature, History, and Narrative," Journal of American History 78: 4 (March 1992): 1347-1376. .pdf in course share folder.
Week 3: Tuesday, Feb. 22 Elliott West, The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado (all).
Week 4: Tuesday March. 1: Thomas Andrews, Killing for Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War (all); Richard White, “‘Are You an Environmentalist or Do You Work for Living’?”: Work and Nature,” in William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground) (.pdf)
Week 5: Tuesday March 8: Marsha Weisiger, Dreaming of Sheep in Navajo Country (all)
AND (possibly) another very short reading TBA.
Week 6: Tuesday March 15: Half the class read: Karl Jacoby, Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of Conservation; other half read Sara M. Gregg, Managing the Mountains: Land Use, Planning, the New Deal, and the Creation of a Federal Landscape in Appalachia
Week 7: Tuesday March 22: Half of the class read: Annie G. Coleman, Ski Style: Sport and Culture in the Rockies. Other half read: Joseph E. Taylor: Pilgrims of the Vertical: Yosemite Rock Climbers and Nature at Risk
BREAK, and thank goodness.
Week 8: Tuesday April 5: Half of the class read: Michael Rawson, Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston. Other half read: Matthew W. Klingle, Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle
Week 9: Tuesday April 12: Half of the class read: Steve Lerner, Diamond: A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor. Other half read: Julie Sze, Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice
Week 10: Tuesday April 19: Readings TBA.
Week 11: Tuesday April 26: Short reading TBA; presentation of final papers.
Week 12: Tuesday May 3: Short reading TBA; presentations of final papers (final copies of papers due during Exam Period, final deadline TBA).