To succeed in this course, you must complete the following requirements, which are worth a total of 1000 possible points. For more information on this point system, see the section on grades.
Attendance and Participation (50 points): This course will function as a seminar and will involve equal amounts of independent study and collaborative learning. You should consider it the intellectual equivalent of the Minnesota State Fair, or the "Great Minnesota Get-Together." Each week we will assemble for 2-1/2 hours (with a 15-minute break), bringing with us the results of our independent reading, thinking, and writing. In class I expect to encounter various kinds of exhibitions, demonstrations, creative activities, thrill rides, and fireworks (not to mention exotic foods, the wonders of technology, and occasional singing and dancing). In short, I expect only the best of what you have to offer. Your mind, your courtesy, and your sense of humor should all be operating in top form. Your regular attendance and active participation are, therefore, required. If you know in advance that you are going to be absent on a particular day, please let me know. Participation in any field trips held during class time is required; field trips held outside of class time are optional.
To help us get started, I would like you to submit a 1- to 2-page intellectual autobiography, explaining who you are, where you've been, and where you're going. I am particularly interested in the intersection of your physical travels with your intellectual ones. Please also explain your expectations for this class and how I can help you fulfill them. Use this as an opportunity not only to enlighten me about your personal story but also to establish your own focus for the semester. Please bring your autobiography to the second class meeting. It will not be graded, but its submission will count toward your attendance and participation score.
- Weekly Email Responses (100 points): Another important part of this course is the series of email responses you will write over the course of the term. These email responses serve three purposes:
These responses should be approximately 300 words long (one printed page, double-spaced) and should be thoughtful, considered reactions to the authors and arguments we are reading for that week. I encourage you to refer to the insights of other members of the class, but your responses should be based primarily on your own attention to and engagement with the texts. If you occasionally wish to write a bit more, feel free to do so, but aim for quality over quantity.
- they provide you with an opportunity to gather your thoughts in preparation for our class meetings
- they allow you develop your thinking from week to week
- they function as first drafts for your final project
Email responses are due by 9 a.m. every class day, with the exception of the days when you will be submitting your literature reviews and the day when you will be leading discussion (you will submit a discussion guide instead). If you wish, you may also choose not to submit a response for one additional day. Because we all need time to read and process these responses before class, late and missing response papers (beyond the noted exceptions) will receive no credit. Please plan your reading accordingly. Email responses should be submitted to the class email list (address TBA). I will give you periodic updates regarding your performance in this portion of the course
- Leading Discussion (50 points): For one class meeting, you will work with one or more other students to lead class discussion of the text(s) assigned for that day. You may approach this assignment in any way you wish, but you will be expected to provide a 15-minute introduction and to direct our conversation in the ways you find most appropriate. Discussion leaders should consult with me before they plan their presentation and submit a discussion guide by email instead of their normal responses.
- Literature Review (300 points): To familiarize yourself with the scholarship on both rhetoric and biodiversity, I would like you to review potential research sources for your final project in three different formats: book, journal, and web site.
Using the "Selective Bibliography of Recent Work Related to the Rhetoric of Biodiversity" (37K PDF file) as a starting point, you should select one web site, one journal, and one book to review. These reviews are due on Sept. 30 (web site), Oct. 28 (journal), and Nov. 18 (book). Each review should be approximately 600-800 words long (2-3 printed pages, double-spaced) and should include both summary and analysis (you may use my recent review [84K PDF file] of Christopher Belshaw's Environmental Philosophy as a model).
Each review will require a slightly different approach, as follows:
- Web site review: Your review should identify the site's author/owner and URL, describe its purpose and content, and evaluate its worth to you, your fellow students, and/or its intended users.
- Journal review: Your review should identify the journal and its location(s) in the University Libraries, explain how long it has been published and how often it appears (monthly, quarterly, etc.), describe its editorial mission, summarize the contents of a sample issue, and characterize (as best you can) the kind of intellectual and/or disciplinary community it serves (and has thus helped to create). To do this, you certainly need not read every article the journal has ever published (!), but you should scan a representative sample from its earliest issue to its latest, looking for continuities and changes in editorial focus, the authorship and subject of articles, and the structure of each issue (if applicable).
- Book review: Your review should identify the book's author, title, and publication information; describe its purpose and content; and evaluate its worth to you, your fellow students, and/or its intended readers.
- Final Project (500 points): Given the diversity of disciplines represented in this course, I will work individually with each of you to develop a final project appropriate to your interests and the goals of this course. Possibilities for this project include:
I also encourage web-based, collaborative, and mixed-media projects. In other words, I would be disappointed if you did not make plans to use this final project to fulfill some other academic goal--whether that be a programmatic requirement, a conference presentation, a dissertation chapter, a journal article, a professional report, or some other achievement worthy of mention.
- a traditional seminar paper, 16 to 24 pages long
- a research prospectus for a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation
- a syllabus for an undergraduate lecture course or seminar, with detailed discussion of pedagogical rationale
- a review essay on a major theme of this course, similar to what you might submit for an oral or written preliminary exam
A detailed three-page proposal for your final project is due on Nov. 4. This proposal should consist of a one-page summary of your intended subject and method and a two-page annotated bibliography of 6-8 key books and/or articles related to your project. (Your annotations need not be extensive; 50-100 words each is a good target.) The project itself is due on Dec. 16. I would be happy to review abstracts, outlines, and partial or complete drafts, with sufficient notice. Late projects will be accepted only by prior arrangement.