Skip to content

Journal

A writer’s journal or notebook is a great resource for the combination of literary writing, philosophical thinking, and scientific observation that we will be encountering and enacting in this course on environmental writing. Just consider Thoreau, our primary model, who wrote about the journal in his journal (2 million words worth):

Associate reverently and as much as you can with your loftiest thoughts. Each thought that is welcomed and recorded is a nest egg, by the side of which more will be laid. Thoughts accidentally thrown together become a frame in which more may be developed and exhibited. Perhaps this is the main value of a habit of writing, of keeping a journal, — that so we remember our best hours and stimulate ourselves. My thoughts are my company. They have a certain individuality and separate existence, aye, personality. Having by chance recorded a few disconnected thoughts and then brought them together into juxtaposition, they suggest a whole new field in which it was possible to labor and to think. Thought begat thought. [Thoreau, Journal, January 22, 1853]

The gist of the journal assignment in this course, and my expectations for the journal, are the following:

You will be required to keep a journal. You will use this journal to respond to reading before and after classes; you will use the journal in class (so have one available at all times)–for in-class responding and thinking; you should also use the journal, at your own pace, for observing and exploring your possibilities for your own writing–the final project for this course and beyond (other venues and publications).

How much to write? I am looking for a level of engagement that is necessary for deliberate reading of our authors and the essay genre and for deliberate writing in the genre that you are working toward (your final project). So, I suggest an entry (some response) for each assigned reading as well as thoughtful use in class. Going beyond that should only help you better prepare for active participation in class and thoughtful writing.

How to write in it? Mostly up to you. The writing is not supposed to be finished, need not be edited. [the blog postings you will do, which can emerge from your journal, are where you can start to give more attention to the shape of your writing and thought.] I recommend you use as a template for response to reading a “commonplace” structure we will also use at times in class discussion.  Commonplace is a journal form in which the writer quotes from what s/he is reading, notes some initial response, for possible later use in an essay. This is the basic form I have in mind for a commonplace entry–something you can adapt and build upon:

[1]Philosophy (the ideas of the writing)

Quote a passage (1 or 2 sentences) that provides a good example of the logic or argument in the essay, its primary idea, perhaps its “thesis.” What do you notice about the way this or other philosophical aspects of the essay works? Add a note about the passage and your initial response to it that you might bring up in class and/or return to for further thinking in your blog later in the week.

[2]Rhetoric (the organization and effects of the writing)

Quote a passage (1 or 2 sentences) that provides a good example of the rhetoric in the essay. What do you notice about the way this or other rhetorical aspects of the essay works? Begin to make note of particular rhetorical elements that catch your eye. Once again, add a note about the passage and your initial response to it that you might bring up in class and/or return to for further thinking in your blog later in the week.

[3]Poetics (the language and style and aesthetics of the writing)

Quote a passage (1 or 2 sentences) that provides a good example of the poetics in the essay. What do you notice about the way this or other poetic aspects of the essay works? Begin to make note of particular figures and linguistic elements that catch your eye. What elements of this writer’s poetics or craft might you like to emulate, use as a model for your final project?

 

I will not be grading your journal. However, I will expect you to have it for class work and whenever we conference. In particular, whenever you have questions and ideas about reading and your writing (your blog, your writing projects), which I expect all to have, I will likely say: what have you been tracking in your journal? what have you been working on?

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: