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Final Project: from compost pile to publication

December 1, 2018

As you begin to compost and develop your final project, an exploration into environmental writing, your own small Walden, you can look back to the heuristic I introduced for the Dillard project, the particle-wave-field: a way to think ecologically about rhetoric and rhetorically about ecology. Use this to generate and organize some initial ideas, and to move between simple and complex. Other creative structures you might remember and put to use for exploring and shaping ideas: Wendell Berry’s examples of what makes for a good solution (“Solving for Pattern”); Buell’s 4 categories for what makes a literary work environmental; Thoreau’s various projects in Walden; our rubric for writing (clarity, complexity, etc.).

In proposing your project, you will identify a mentor: a guide for how you might work your way into an environmental issue or problem, what you might learn from them as writers and as environmental critics. Remember all that we have read. And related: keywords.

You can also think about audience, where and for whom you might publish your work beyond this class. Remember how we began long ago, with Thoreau at the beginning of Walden, thinking about his audience.

You all will be publishing the final project on your blog–and then linking it to the Class Magazine I will set up on my blog. So, that is your most immediate audience. Here is a look at the Magazine from years past. Some specific projects from former students:

Caroline Harvey, “The Bodies of Shipyard Landing”: combines her own Dillard-esque exploration of a neighborhoo, with reading and reflection on Dillard and some critical perspective from Buell.

Mike Hudson’s “In the Forest with a Living Ghost,” a nature essay detailing his encounters with owls–and an example to demonstrate that you need not discuss course material (such as Dillard or Buell in the essay you create–the preface is the place for that).

Other venues and models to consider:

Literary House: Warner Prize

Washington College Review (and other campus publications)

Orion Magazine: submission guidelines

Environmental Humanities

Edge Effects


A Photographic essay, such as Fraking Rachel Carson.

or inspiration from this site that published a collection of 21st-century American landscape photography.

A hybrid web text/exhibit/science experiment: Natural History of the Engima (think Thoreau’s echoing of Goethe’s natural philosophy of the leaf).

Video projects. There are the full-length documentaries, of course–a burgeoning venue for exploring environmental topics: Grizzly Man; Food, Inc; King Corn; The Cove…

But as a beginning, think of a smaller video project to begin exploring a topic or perspective.

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