"I am a Minnesotan by birth and a traveler in wild places by vocation and compulsion." -Paul Gruchow

Eng. 150

Rhetoric as Inquiry (Natural Disaster Narratives)
Spring 2012

This course is designed around a theme of natural disasters and their role in forming local identities.  We will start the course by looking at Jonis Agee’s novel The River Wife to discuss the 1811 New Madrid Earthquakes, using the lens of literature to give us a unique view into how this particular disaster formed these particular characters and created plot.  From there, we will create an oral history project that centers on our own historical narratives.  We will read excerpts from David Laskin’s The Children’s Blizzard and Ted Kooser’s poetry from Blizzard Voices, as well as read excerpts from Timothy Egan’s National Book Award winning book on the Dust Bowl.  The goal of this project is to find our own place in the stories of this place.  The final writing project of the semester will shift into current disasters of our own making, focusing on conservation and prevention, taking our own views and looking outward beyond the Great Plains.  We will read Erik Reece’s The Lost Mountain, about mountaintop removal, and we will consider the current Keystone XL threat to the Ogallala Aquifer, as well as other disasters-in-progress (such as fracking in the northeast, Mississippi Delta wetlands destruction, and more).  Our purpose in this class is to develop a greater understanding of the natural world and its effects not only on us as human beings right now, but actively inquire how the events of the natural world have affected not just historical expressions, but we will also explore also and how those find their expression and purpose in current times. 

Rhetoric as Inquiry (Place-Based)
Spring 2011, Fall 2011

This course is designed around a theme of place-consciousness and location.  We will focus our inquiry this semester on the broader subject of “home and away,” a lens through which we will develop a way of looking at what surrounds us, physically, intellectually, and emotionally.  We will focus, broadly, on curiosity and we will use that curiosity to seek answers to the questions that arise.  We will explore the ideas of quest, how movement and stasis can lead us to a greater understanding of where we are and who we are.  We will use Paul Gruchow's book Grass Roots: The Universe of Home to write a personal essay (in the manner of Phillip Lopate's definition) that explores an aspect of a place we are connected to.  In the second project, we will use various authors to help us understand the language of a place.  The final project will explore Mark Tredinnick's book The Blue Plateau as we write an essay that explores how humans have shaped place and how place shapes humans.  The goal of the course is to become more aware of what surrounds us, so we can live more deliberately wherever we are.