Humans and Nature (Writing Workshop II)

What does this photo tell you about how children experience nature in New York city?
Have we destroyed nature to such a degree that we are no longer natural, that is, part of nature?
Did we first try to tame nature because we were afraid of its wild power, its temper tantrums?
Is it still possible to feel awe and reverence for the beauty of nature?
What would it take to allow humans and nature to cohabit peacefully?
Is the current obsession with domestic pets our last attempt to preserve a semblance of nature in the urban environment?

"The body repeats the landscape. They are the source of each other and create each other. We were marked by the seasonal body of earth, by the terrible migrations of people, by the swift turn of century verging on change never before experienced on this greening planet."

--Meridel Le Sueur

Student webfolios facilitated by computer guru Michael Harkins:

Click here to visit ANDREW BAKSH's horticultural therapy project

Click here to enter the Boolean circle of the Language group investigating how environment affects communication...

Click here to enter the Boolean circle of the Socioeconomic group investigating how environment affects social and economic power struggles among humans...

Click here to enter the Boolean circle of the Health/Disease group investigating how environment affects mental, physical and/or spiritual health or disease...

In this inter-, cross-, and transdisciplinary writing course we will explore these themes and more as we develop research strategies, read fascinating books and articles, experiment with web design and improve our expository and creative writing skills. Students are encouraged to filter the material through their interests, life experience and academic major. For example, literature majors can analyse nature poetry, American essayists and novelists; philosophy majors can explore the dilemmas presented by the new ecological philosophers, comparing them to classical philosophy; health science majors can contrast natural (herbs, nutrition, exercise, meditation etc.) versus synthetic (pharmaceutical) or technological therapeutic modalities or investigate how pollution, as far as back as Ancient Rome has caused disease and spread infections; media studies and sociology majors can analyse how nature is presented to specific cultures; and business majors can explore the vitriolic debate between capitalists and environmentalists about the future of the earth.

Independent Work

Each student is responsible for three big projects: 1) a 15 minute Oral Presentation on your final project, using the audience for feedback and debate, which will then be part of the Cyberperformance; 2) a Webfolio which is a collage of poems, photos, drawings, stories, letters, essays and a synopsis of your final project creatively woven around your thesis topic to be uploaded to the internet; 3) a final 15 page research paper (which will be uploaded as an academic cyber paper for the cyberperformance) on the theme of Humans and Nature involving a specific study or studies of your choice presented in either MLA or APA style, depending on your major. This includes a 3 page bibliography of books, articles, internet sources, interviews, empirical observations, audio-video material from community, library and online sources. Because the core material covers so many different disciplines and paradigms, it is important that students focus their experimental, empirical, descriptive research on a very specific time and place, although theoretical discussion can embrace everything we do in class and more.


Collaborative/Curriculum Work

It is impossible to get an A if you miss more than one class so attendance and participation are more important than anything else. This includes in-class writing exercises every week on the course theme. In addition, students will have weekly reading and writing assignments in literature, philosophy, science etc. as they relate to the Humans and Nature theme. You are expected to use the short papers to help you build your longer projects by filtering them through your experience and interests.

Small Group Presentations

Each section will be divided into three groups, COMMUNICATION, SOCIO-ECONOMICS, AND HEALTH/DISEASE, according to interests, experience and college major. Each group will decide upon several essays, articles, poems or stories to present to the class (the week before presentation is due) for analysis and discussion. Each group webfolio site will consist of:
CONCEPTUAL DILEMMAS: Using Aristotelian and Boolean logic, each of the three groups will conduct an online discussion of how the environment affects communication in the form of linear and non-linear language, how the environment contributes to the disease and spiritual, mental and physical health of humans, or how the environment triggers the social and economic power struggles among humans.

MULTIMEDIA PRESENTATION: Each group will design a multimedia presentation on their web page using graphics, charts, tables, creative writing, photography and/or Shockwave.

SPECIFIC RESEARCH PROPOSALS: Each group will submit at least 10 potential research projects with hypotheses, appropriate links to other research sites online, specific timespace for experimental studies or texts for analysis or concepts for theoretical discussion,isolating problems and analysing kinds of evidence that could be used in solutions.

SURPRISES: The above categories are just suggestions. Creativity is accepting the unpredictable so surprise yourself, each
other and the world with dazzling projects.


Required Reading

The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram
The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
White Noise by Don DeLillo
REFERENCES: Online, a Guide to the Internet, current edition, a handbook in the style of your major, MLA or APA, thesaurus, grammar book, and With Good Reason or any logic book that suits you.
Professor Keefer will either hand out additional xeroxed articles or put them up on the web site. You are also responsible for these readings. However, the main bibliography is your own: a 3 page list that you compile throughout the semester for your final research paper as well as what your small group decides to give the class.

Winter 98 Breakdown: (N.B.The details of assignments and requirements will change every Friday when Professor Keefer molds the syllabus to respond to the needs of the students. All changes will be announced in meatspace but if you are spaced out, the web pages will not change until Friday.) Professor Keefer will hold meatspace conferences on Saturday at 5:15 on the second floor of the Shimkin building in the faculty mailbox room. If you are overwhelmed, frustrated, confused or overflowing with ideas and emotions, please come for a conference instead of screwing up assignments or complaining to the administration. We're still trying to have fun as we expand our learning and develop creativity and imagination in a multidisciplinary approach to the Humans and Nature theme, culminating in group projects, a personal webfolio and a 15 page research paper in the style of your major (APA or MLA):

Take the Plunge!

Photo credit: Murray Schechter et al.

Objectives are to improve writing and oral communication in meatspace, deepspace and cyberspace, develop research strategies, work with the content of a multidisciplinary theme course, and explore mindbody conditioning through Keefer's Brain Gym, training speed, focus, flexibility, coordination, strength training, endurance, balance and posture. Do not be intimidated by speed assignments; there will be times for very slow, thorough, careful reading, Zen-like meditation to develop theta waves for creativity and times when "less is more." Professor Keefer is not a "tornado," but rather a mindbody trainer who wants her students to be as good at high impact, high intensity aerobics and weight lifting as yoga and swimming. The brain works in thousands of ways and traditional/conventional education only develops a few of them, which is one reason why we rarely use more than 10% of our brain. Hopefully college education will cut up a few more valleys, ridges and mountains in the cerebral cortex.

Jan. 24: Diagnostic (speed and focus) analysing several of the shorter argumentative essays on the fate of America's national parks. Creative writing assignment: free associate on natural objects, including a wigwam made by a Canadian eskimo.Read all essays in the packet for next week more thoroughly and begin reading The Spell of the Sensuous. Write a 2-3 page first impression analysis of Abram's book, discussing his thesis. Brainstorm ideas for your final project. Submit your first creative entry for the webfolio on the Humans and Nature theme.
Jan.31: In-class writing (weight lifting) on a theoretical chapter from A Green History of the World. Discussion of last week's assignment and review of the structure of an argumentative essay including logical fallacies, thesis development and control, use of evidence. In-class writing on possible topics for final, expository, argumentative research paper. Introduction to Keefer's multidisciplinary approach including Boolean, Aristotelian and fuzzy logic, homospatial and homotemporal structuring, and the Keefer Brain Gym to oxygenate, model and scaffold Cyberspace, Meatspace and Deep Space. Last half of class in computer lab, looking at web site and surfing the net. For next week, finish The Spell of the Sensuous, write another paper on it with at least 2 other documented sources. Continue brainstorming using the Green essays and anything else you want. Submit webfolio assignment.
Feb. 7: In-class writing on the following Indian song (focus):


the song

I walk here

Division of class into 3 small groups for discussion and planning of extended, specialized bibliographies as well as a few articles for the class to read and the group webfolio. Finish The Spell of the Sensuous and the two papers. Morning section will read Heart of Darkness but afternoon section will read White Noise for expository 2 page paper. Webfolio assignment and group brainstorming are also due for next week as well as personal essay to find the "I" in your work.
Feb.14: In class writing on different styles of rhetoric, logic and mind-mapping. Lecture on Cyberspace, Meatspace and Deepspace as they relate to Aristotelian and Boolean logic as well as the unconscious world of Freud, Jung and homospatial/homotemporal thinking. Small groups work on conceptual dilemmas. For next week, each group must submit an html version of their conceptual dilemmas for website. Read A Natural History of the Senses and let it inspire your webfolio assignment.
Feb. 21: In-class reading and testing on a health science quiz on a general topic that everyone can understand such as stress reduction. Lecture on APA format and how the style and rhetoric differ from MLA. Discussion of conceptual dilemmas, possible research proposals and the respective methodologies and style manuals. For next week submit a group research projects proposal and a group bibliography in the appropriate style manual in html to be uploaded to your group site. Morning section will read White Noise, afternoon section Heart of Darkness. Your 2 page paper should use the reading to focus on your project. Webfolio assignment of your choice.
Feb. 28: In-class writing. Lecture and discussion on humans and nature in a cross-cultural context, analysing how proxemics, urban planning, philosophy, politics, economics all influence how we interact with our environment. Internet research in the computer lab. Analysis of selected academic articles. Group planning of multimedia presentations. For next week, work on your contribution to small group presentations. Finish all reading and writing assignments.
March 7: Small group presentations. Bring tape recorders. Continue analysis of academic papers and styles. LIBRARY STRATEGIES MEETING on second floor of the Bobst library in the East or West room at 2:15 p.m. Both sections can attend for attendance credit and make-ups. Afternoon section will return to classroom for small group presentations and academic paper analysis.

N.B. From now until the end of the semester, you must bring DISCS every week to upload with your selections of interviews, research proposals and discussions, literary critiques, methodologies, photos, poems, sound/multimedia, graphics. Make sure everything is original and related to your final research project. You MUST PROOFREAD all material by cross-editing with members of your group so that there are no spelling or grammatical errors. You must also submit at least 2 pages of formal expository writing every week as part of your research paper. Each student must e-mail Professor Keefer at least once to discuss problems with webfolio as well as research project. She will continue to be available in meatspace for private conferences at 5:15 but some cybercorrespondence is mandatory.

March 14: Small group presentations. Discussion of projects and academic papers. Consultation with a computer shaman.

March 21: Hike, bike, meditate, vegetate and/or ski in your favorite nature haunt anywhere in this beautiful world. Do anthropological research in Ecuador, Arizona and/or the South Bronx!
March 28: Discs and 2-3 pages of expository writing on project due. In-class writing and workshop to collect creative material and graphics for the net and isolate and develop thesis for the final paper. Find your own path in Meatspace, Deep Space and Cyberspace. Work very hard on your individual project. Continue webfolio work, write a rough draft even if it's just several pages, and prepare an outline and 3 page bibliography. Afternoon section in
computer lab.
April 4: Discs, Outlines and 3 page bibliography due. Individual conferences in computer lab.
April 11: Cyberperformance rehearsal. Bring tape recorders. Oral presentations. (Can include audiovisual aids)
April 18: Webfolios should all be uploaded. Cyberperformance rehearsal. Bring tape recorders. Oral presentations. All rough drafts due.
April 25: Cross-editing of final papers and dress rehearsal of Cyberperformance. Bring at least 5 copies. Corrected papers on disc must be uploaded before Friday. If you have problems, come to Innovation center Friday afternoon, May 1 to see Professor Keefer.
May 2: CYBERPERFORMANCE!! We will have the room all day but the official performance is 10 to 11 a.m. Combine webfolio, group and oral presentations and sensory meatspace experiences in an exciting cyberperformance on the big screen in the privacy of the multimedia lab, rm 313 of the Warren Weaver building. Bring friends, family and food. Normal class times.
May 9: Final meatspace draft of final papers due. Bring a self-evaluation, including the grade you think you deserve and why. Course evaluations. Come to class on time in case you are dismissed early.

Click here for a discussion of Green philosophy.

Click here to look at required and optional readings, many complete texts included.

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