Maps and Legends: (Re)placing Composition
This is an outline of a syllabus for English 101 that focuses on reading, analyzing, and creating community literature and media. We explore the writing of the bioregion via the anthology Reading Seattle, supplementary readings, and visual texts. By doing so, this course approaches sustainability from the viewpoint of learning to value the places in which we live through listening to and telling stories about those places. In short, developing a civic consciousness in one's place-or as Bruce Barcott says in his introduction to Northwest Passages: "All deep history is local...Land that has meaning is much more difficult to destroy. Keep telling stories and the land stays alive. And so do we."
Additionally, "maps" serve as analytical tools for the analysis of readings, as well as invention tools for the essays students create. Because maps tell stories, offer perspectives, and make arguments, maps also act as a metaphor for the writing assignments students are given. Similarly, the writing that students do in this class creates maps to where students have been (writing stories from memory), where they currently are (writing profiles from observations of places), and where they're headed (writing reviews-something to prepare them for English 102).
Context for Use
Possible Use In Other Courses: geography, psychology, music, film, anthropology
Description and Teaching Materials
- "The Map" by Elizabeth Bishop
- "Sunrise and Seamonsters" by Paul Theroux
- An Atlas of Radical Cartography published by the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest Press
- Adbusters magazine
- Reading Seattle: Forward, Intro, and 152-158
- Six-word Memoirs http://www.smithmag.net/sixwords/
Students are asked to choose a significant event in their life that happened in the biogregion. The event should be one that can be remember well enough to narrate and describe. Students will develop and practice storytelling skills in an attempt to engage their audience by telling a memorable and entertaining story that reveals something significant about themselves.
- This American Life http://www.thislife.org/
- NPR: "Making False Memories" http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4486533
- "Everything you wanted to know about Memento" http://archive.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/2001/06/28/memento_analysis/
- City of Seattle Maps http://web6.seattle.gov/DPD/Maps/dpdgis.aspx
- Reading Seattle: 264-274, 49-54, 80-85
- St. Martin's Guide or Concise Guide: "On Being a Real Westerner" by Tobias Wolff and "Calling Home" by Jean Brandt
- Cruddy by Lynda Barry (especially the maps)
- "Lost Mariner" by Oliver Sacks
- Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
- "Shooting Dad" by Sarah Vowell
- "The Wallet" by Allen Woodman
- Memento, A Boy's Life, Girl, Interrupted
Grading Criteria/Questions to Consider: Is it a well-told story? Are there vivid presentations of scenes and people? Is it clear why this story is significant to the writer? Does the essay include a meaningful title? Is it well organized? Are there a significant number of grammar, punctuation, spelling and syntax errors? Has the writer completed a draft and peer review?
Profile: Essay 2 -
Students are asked to choose an intriguing place in their community and based on first-hand observations and note taking, present what they've learned about that place in an attempt to inform and entertain their audience.
- Alki Bye & Bye http://www.cityofseattle.net/parks/Arts/alki.htm (website down)
- City of Seattle Maps http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/toolsresources/
- Reading Seattle: 40-45, 55-58, 65-72, 21-30, 86-90, 127-131, 91-105, 147-151, 241-250
- St. Martin's Guide or Concise Guide: "Soup" by anonymous and "The Last Stop" by Brian Cable
- "I'm From" by Georgia Ella Lyons http://georgeellalyon.com/where.html
- Site Specific: Las Vegas, Dark Days, Vernon, FL, Hands on a Hard-body
Grading Criteria/Questions to Consider: Is there enough information about the place for the reader? Are there vivid presentations of scenes and people? Has the writer offered a perspective on the place? Has the writer chosen an appropriate role for themselves in the essay? Has the writer chosen an appropriate organizational plan (topical or narrative) for their subject? Does the essay include a meaningful title and epigraph? Are there a significant number of grammar, punctuation, spelling and syntax errors? Has the writer completed a draft and peer review?
Review: Essay 3-
The students choose an album by a musician, composer, or band from this bioregion that they'd like to review, then assess the music, giving their readers all of the background information, reasons, and evidence they need to accept their evaluation.
- Seattle Music Map http://www.seattle.gov/filmandmusic/music/seattle-music-then-and-now/music-map-brochure
- Reading Seattle: 283-291
- St. Martin's Guide or Concise Guide: "Documenting Document" by Jason Thornton
Grading Criteria/Questions to Consider: Is what they're reviewing well-presented? Does the writer make a clear, overall judgment? Does the writer use appropriate reasons and convincing support? Does the writer try to anticipate their readers' objections and take into account alternative judgments? Does the essay include a meaningful title? Is it well organized? Are there a significant number of grammar, punctuation, spelling and syntax errors? Has the writer completed a draft and peer review?
Teaching Notes and Tips
"A map is not a territory, it's a mental environment."
- Adbusters magazine
"Words themselves are places to be visited and revisited. What then is a place? . . . Language itself is a city or network of loci."
- Meredith Quarterman
"I don't know who I am, but I know where I'm from."
- Wallace Stegner
Daily Journal Assignments (that include but are not limited to): Six-word Memoirs, Mapping your Life as a Writer, Mapping Past Events, Writing an "I'm From" poem, among others. Please feel free to contact me about these short assignments many of which come out of the "Resources" list.
References and Resources
Here are others:
- Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas http://fearlessideas.org/
- Donahue and Trombold's Reading Seattle
- Axlerod and Cooper's Concise Guide to Writing
- Northwest Passages edited by Barcott (out of print)
- The Rendezvous Reader edited by Carpenter, Gilovich, and Kessler (out of print)
- St. Martin's Guide to Writing (various editions)