CItizens of the Streets: Dispatch 1 “Framing Landscapes”
As mentioned in the syllabus, a side writing project (short, non-peer reviewed) will be a series of small assignments called “Citizens of the Streets,” inspired by the journalistic work of Paul Salopek who is walking the “global trail of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age”. Throughout his walk, Salopek records the stories of the places and people he intersects with during his journey. Find out more about Salopek’s writing at the following links: http://outofedenwalk.nationalgeographic.com/ and http://outofedenwalk.nationalgeographic.com/about/.
In a similar vein, you will be tasked with the assignment of recording some of your own walks in order to think thoughtfully about the topics, ideas, themes, etc. that emerge from your movement. Your introductory “Walk Home” was one of these initial walks. Now, you will be creating two more of these walks over the remaining weeks of the summer semester. These walks should not only focus on details and descriptions, but should also use those details and descriptions to put forth a thesis or claim. See more on how to do this type of work in the directions for your first dispatch below.
Dispatch 1 Description:
For your first dispatch, I want you to take a walk–any walk, even imaginatively–and reflect on the landscape that you observe around you by focusing on a specific structure you encounter during your walk. This single structure can be natural ( a river, a stream, a tree, a flower); it can be urban (a sign, a building, a poster, a car, an atm); industrial (a piece of machinery, a lamppost, a barricade, a fence); etc. In other words, the structure must be a singular object–i.e. something with shape that is not human or animal. I want you to use this structure (and your description of it) to reflect on some larger argument or claim. For example, in Paul Salopek’s entry “These Barren Plains Hold a Mystery No One Can Crack” (link to the article here “These Barren Plains”), the description of clusters of round rocks in western Kazakhstan becomes a reflection on how we make scientific or mythological sense of the environment around us. There is a beautiful argument emerging in Salopek’s details about the difference between hard scientific “facts” and the human observational or spiritual understanding of the landscape. In his description, Salopek shows how these two ways of knowing the landscape can be blurred, and that no one is more powerful or more accurate than the other. At the end of his essay, Salopek even ends on a note (similar to Linda Hogan) that knowledge about the environment often comes from listening more closely. When you are creating your own description of the landscape and structure that you observe on your walk, you will also need to craft an argument from those details.
A quick note on details. As you are writing, pay attention to using descriptive language. Notice how Salopek stays with his details when he observes the rock formations:
“They lie clustered by the dozen—by the hundreds, by the thousands. They are ruddy red, yellow-ochre, tan, black-gray. They feel iron-hard under the fingertips. Many appear to be almost unnaturally perfect: flawlessly round, as if produced by machines.”
“The spheres appear unexpectedly, as if dropped from the sky. They perch on hilltops. They lurk in ravines. They lie scattered across the steppe like colossal billiard balls. They resemble cannonballs, or minimalist New York public art, or prehistoric eggs. Sometimes the stones appear in ragged lines, like necklaces of massive beads, snaking for miles across the plains.”
Salopek uses strong verbs–”clustered, perch, lurk, scattered”–to give action and movement to his observations. He also uses similes, “cannonballs,” “public art,” or “necklaces,” to make us think about these rock formations in surprising ways. You can try to employ some of these writing features in your own work as a way to bring uniqueness and creativity into your language and details.
Requirements for Posts & Replies:
Your post should be roughly 200-300 words and should include an image (embedded and sized appropriately). Post to D2L discussion board. Quick note–make sure if you copy and paste your work that it fits within the comment box, so we don’t have to scroll horizontally on D2L.
To complete your reply, please choose one of your peer’s posts (choose one that does not yet have a reply so everyone is covered). Point out what you see is your peer’s focus and larger argument. Then, specify what you think is the most compelling description that your peer creates. Finally, find some type of connection between your own post and your peer’s. You can stretch if you have to…this is an attempt to communicate across different landscapes!
What I am looking for:
● Details: I am looking for strong descriptions and details.
● Argument: I am looking for a connection between the details and a larger claim or thesis
● You will have 2 of these due one now, and one right before our last unit. The 2 combined will be worth 25% (similar to a unit grade)
The most compelling argument from then post is that we should not underestimate the contribution of anything in our lives. The author was able to explain how the bridge was helpful despite the unappealing look. The post was able to provide a quality description, which supports the idea all structures are important in life. The diagrammatical representation was also clear in understanding the need for the bridges in transforming the lives of many people in the area.
I think the post of the author is closely related to my discussion which involved the observation of a tall skyscraper which provided insights about the future. It is because the post gives clear insight on how the bridge inspired the author to appreciate all things in life. Similarly, I was able to appreciate the skyscraper due to its ability to inspire a good future. Many people were ready to observe the tall skyscraper to observe the skylines which depict the struggle for the future. I appreciate the contribution of the author’s post in explaining the ability of the bridges to connect people making life more convenient.
Most importantly, the post starts by describing the walk along a trail. The author was able to use relevant phrases and verbs to describe the nature and importance of the bridges. From reading the post, I could take the get the picture of bridges and the immediate environment due to the color description provided in the post. For example, it states that even though the color does not harmonize with the woods, it aligns with the color of rocks. Such color description was appropriate in getting a clear view of the nature of rock cliffs aligning with the bridges. Therefore, I agree with the details and ability of the author to identify the thesis argument accordingly.