Modern American Nature Writing

English 2020 Essay 1

Modern American Nature Writing

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Your essay 1 will consist of two parts.  Both parts open book.  For both essays, the format will be the same although the texts will differ.   You may complete these on your own time in anticipation of the deadlines indicated on the course syllabus.

  1. Identification and Short Essay Portion (identification and short discussion of five individual passages @ 15 pts. each, 75 pts. total—choice of 5-7 options to identify from course readings). Up to three for each correct identification (author and work); up to twelve points for each discussion. Discussions should be about 5-6 sentences long, and should provide good insight into what passage reveals, what ideas are significant, why important, how it fits into the work’s larger purpose, etc.

To prepare:  keep up with readings, take note of authors’ names, titles of works, identify key themes/details/arguments/ addressed by each writer and within each work.  Prepare notes and review as needed to associate authors’ names with works and with ideas addressed within them.


Children will not resemble their fathers

And there will be no affection between guest and host

And no love between friends or brothers as in the past.

Sons and daughters will be quick to offend their aging parents

And rebuke them and speak ill to them with rudeness

And cruelty, not knowing about divine retribution;

They will not even repay their parents for their keep—


Hesiod, “Works and Days.” The passage discusses the breakdown of family structures and communities as one of the many disturbing aspects of the Iron Age.  The section comes from the passage describing the “Five Ages of Man,” and the poet charts the course of human history from a perfect, care-free Golden Age to the fallen Iron Age of the present.  In this final age people are angry, ignorant beasts of burden, and are worn down with cares emerging from the labors they must endure.  Their anxieties are enhanced by the ill will they experience with parents, siblings, and former friends, as revealed in the passage.

Identification:  3/3, Essay:  12/12.  (Yes, I’ve awarded myself a perfect score for this insightful analysis)

  1. Longer Essay portion (one essay @ 75 pts.).

Three options, you will choose one.  Your essay should be long and developed enough to provide good insight on the topic and to provide insights on how readers might understand it.   For a ballpark figure, envision writing an essay somewhere between about 350-400 words (about 1-1.5 pages), although longer essays are certainly acceptable.


To prepare:  review class notes, review readings, look over selected  ppt. notes, which are available on D2L.  When writing the essay, provide not only direct quotes, but discuss those quotes to flush out their meaning.

Example:   This hypothetical question includes the two “texts” discussed in class, the movie trailers to “Grizzly Man” by Werner Herzog and to “Into the Wild,” based on the book by Jon Krakauer.  Compare these two personalities with that revealed in any one work of your choosing by John Muir.

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