Wilderness and the American Mind
goals | texts| requirements | assignments | calendar | grades | final | outcomes

Joseph Vincent Siry, Ph.D.,

U.C. Santa Barbara, Emory University, & Washington and Lee University.


            Office: Beale Bldg. –Park Ave. side– room 105.                          

Phone: 407.646.2648

Office Hours:    T–1:30-2:30, W–1:00-3:00, Th–2:30-5:00.                           

Web site URL:   http://myweb.rollins.edu/jsiry


Goals of the Course


Wilderness is among the most definitive, contested, and compelling concepts shaping our nation’s history. For those of you seeking a challenge this may be a most rewarding inquiry into the origins of our wildlife heritage and the future legacy of nature protection. Working reciprocally in this course we will explore several tiers of this subject, focusing specifically on how questions about American geography, biodiversity, and an urgent need for conservation raise concerns over the character of our people, the tensions among facts, opinions, and illusions, the moral cognizance required to act with some urgency to preserve wild places, and the bequest we ought to leave to subsequent generations.


We will also analyze verbally and in writing a sample of the arguments presented by some of the country’s most stimulating authors, including Roderick Nash, Wallace Stegner, Rachel Carson, Terry Tempest Williams, Aldo Leopold, William Faulkner, Garrett Hardin, Annie Dillard, Michael Pollan, and Bill McKibben.


Students should arrive alert in class with three to five questions having read the assignments before that meeting and ready to discuss our texts and pose arguments the assigned readings raise for you.


More practically, participants will have opportunities to hone their skills in reading analytically, in verbally conveying their views about ecological restoration in a supportive setting, and in expressing your ideas in writing as you learn throughout the term. Especially in our class, I would hope, now and again, you will experience the delight and enjoyments of being moved by the profound power of ideas and articulate prose to lift your spirits, amend your behavior, nourish your more curious sensibilities, and even move you to sensibly act as a means to improve both yourself and our world.


What to do? | Policies | Assignments | How I judge | Calendar

Rocky Mountains


Texts, other authors (Stegner, Hardin, Dillard, Leopold,) e-mail I send, & class web site as assigned:

            Terry Tempest Williams,            An Unspoken Hunger

            Bill McKibben,                          The End of Nature

            Roderick F. Nash,                     Wilderness and the American Mind

            Lynn Margulis,                          Symbiotic Planet

            William Faulkner                       The Bear [on-line version]


Course Requirements [see page four about what you must complete]:

  1. Regular, punctual attendance with alert, vocal, & active participation in class work.


B.    Preparation for and improvement in participation by bringing the texts & /or assigned questions answered to class and working groups for analysis on meeting days; by verbally sharing the free-writing we do in classes. Meeting with me for a conference about your work.

  1. Two, –thee to four page– exploratory narrative essays – on an assigned topic a week before the discussion of the assigned readings is scheduled on which the essay is based.
  2.  One, –six to eight pages– Final paper with footnotes, bibliography, tables and pertinent photographical or artistic representations with the appropriate citation of its source and a phrase explaining their purpose concerning the protection of wildlife and fisheries.


Grades: all assignments are graded with careful attention to each of these criteria:  {CLIFS}

            1. C      clarity, coherent concepts, spelling, grammar, & logical consistency.

            2. L      length & development of your examples, key ideas, arguments, or presentations.

            3. I       informative value of your evidence from the class texts, library research, or interviews.

            4. F      frequency of details, or stories from the lectures, journals, notes, & readings.

            5. S      sufficient elaboration examined in a thesis; introduction, summary, & conclusion.


                                                              grade scales

The names and phone numbers of two other students in the class:


1. _____________________________  2. ___________________________


What to do? | Policies | Assignments | How I judge | Calendar | Texts


My policies:

I am here to encourage you to excel in learning new concepts and practicing your writing and speaking abilities in an effort to create meaningful discourse. My purpose is to feed your inquiring intellect with significant ideas in a consistently coherent and challenging manner. I anticipate you will raise questions and actively work together to overcome any challenges the course material may pose for you in achieving an excellent level of expression and performance based on an improved understanding of the readings. I encourage you to discuss ideas, passages, and assignments with me in a scheduled conference and visit during my office hours.


Active learning

Keep in mind that participation in this course involves not only alertness but also listening respectfully without interrupting other speakers who are presenting their views on the assigned readings. I do ask you what other's say, so paying attention to classmates and me is a sign of respect that I do reward in all my classes. Only one person can speak at a time, so be alert. The use of electronic media for other than class purposes is so rude that it is treated as an absence if you are texting, surfing, e-mailing, or digitally inattentive to our class discussion. My outcome: you consistently contribute your analyses verbally in class to enrich our discussion.


Late papers

One reason for writing is so that you can rewrite to correct your errors. Submit all assigned work during the class on the day any assigned work is due. Late papers cannot earn equal credit as those received on time in fairness to those punctual students. This is also because we discuss the importance of what you have discovered and expressed in class that very day the essay is due. Always back-up your work as you write, start at least a week before, and always keep a printed copy of your notes on the material you turn into me.


Paper format

The look of a college paper is always a professional document with an accurate date and page numbers indicating when the work was completed. I ask you to place a cover page with your name, phone number, essay title and an abstract of two to three sentences covering the substance of your essay for purposes of privacy because I make extensive comments on your work. Spelling and grammar errors are unacceptable. All papers are to be typed double spaced in either Arial or times new roman font and should have one inch margins and 22-23 lines to the page as a minimum.


Academic honesty and plagiarism

Cheating or copying without proper citation is called plagiarism and is the most serious academic offense of novices and professionals alike. By the use of words or ideas that are not your own and are either: 1) insufficiently acknowledged, or 2) not acknowledged at all you commit the offense. The consequences are that you can fail the assignment, or even the class, since every offense is a violation of the College’s honor code. As such, I am obligated to report such violations to the Deans office.


Formal papers.

The class is focused on your writings. Essays should be have a title based on your contents, with its principle author’s full name and phone number, date completed, and with page numbers on the upper right hand corner. The essay should follow the style and content of papers in the Rollins Undergraduate Research Journal and it should be double spaced, 12pt font (either Times/Times Roman or Arial) and at least 5 pages long, excluding the Literature Cited page and any notes, figures, photos, or graphs you may use–Do ask Suzanne Robertshaw, in TJs, for Instructions to Authors). 


Endnotes or footnotes are preferred rather than parenthesis with author, date, and pages. The final review paper for the term must be handed in no later than 17 April 2012 .  Of course you are very welcome to hand it in earlier, on April 10, and you are also encouraged to discuss ideas with me and submit a draft for my review & comments before final submission on the due date. I anticipate that the best parts of your papers will be presented in class. I make comments on the final stage draft and return the paper to you for revisions that are due May 1, 2012 or earlier for a grade.


What to do? | Policies | Assignments | How I judge | Calendar





Month and days


17        What is your favorite wild area or creature? Verbal presentation prep for 26-31.

19        Introduction: “The habitat Problem: What is “waldsturben?

24        Nash and Williams -- What is wilderness; strictly speaking?   Nash, pp. vii-43.

26        Eroticism, Boundaries & “Appetites”                 Williams, pp. 79-96.

31        Mapping your wild places draw & verbally compare Williams to Nash on places.



2          Romanticism and Transcendentalism             Nash, pp. 44-107.

7          Making Sense of preserving wild areas           How wild are you?Essay draft due.

9         Muir and the battle to save the wild canyon    Nash, pp. 108-181. Field trip option

14        Nash & Stegner compared and contrasted      Nash, pp. 182-199.

16        Biological realities as a limitation­–species     Nash, pp. 200-237. Margulis, 1-31.

21        Essay due –How wild are you?  oral presentation of the readings used in your essay.

23        A philosophy of protection--oral presentation. Nash, pp. 238-271. Margulis, 33-72.

28        2 views Nash Alaska & Pollan: a dialectic     Nash. pp. 272-315, Pollan, pp. 104-127.



1          Mid-term --compare Nash & Pollan w/ Stegner & Leopold’s views—short essay drafts due

            Field Trip to Chelonian Institute, Oviedo, or Environmental Ed. Center, Seminole, Fla.                                                             

     3-11 Spring Break                            No class meetings

13        The End of Nature? Mckibben & Nash Nash article on the future of wilderness

15        Challenges of economics & technology,   McKibben. pp. 3-46, Williams, pp. 132-140.

20        Fern Creek kids & us–"Where in the World are all the Animals." Game play

22        Adaptability & Myths    Nash 342-378.  McKibben. pp. 47-91, Dillard

27        Envisioning an Ecological Community        Contrast Essay draft paper due

29        Photographing ecological costs of enterprise  McKibben, pp.95-138, Williams, pp. 97-131.

29         Contrast Essay final paper due Contrast Nash with McKibben, Williams & Margulis,



3          Criticisms of Bureaucratic views of wilderness Williams, pp. 133-145.

5          Climate change (contrasting views)         McKibben, pp. 63. Margulis 88-127

8          Field Trip to Chelonian Inst, Basic Factors: Nash, Williams, Margulis & McKibben

10 Essay due: Values of wildlife protection due to climate change from all the readings. √

12        Day off in lieu of fieldwork day start the reading of Faulkner's The Bear.

17        The wild frontier verbal presentations for discussing: Faulkner's The Bear.

19        Symposium on how air pollution is redefining wilderness–threatening to preserve wildlife areas.

24        Class Workshop: Environmental Ed. Center, Seminole, Fla. Observing loss of wildlife ranges.

26        Verbally summarize a value of the wild legacy about some place we all share.

May 1  End of term for T-Th classes: Revised essay, map, geology & values analysis due. √


May 7th, 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM, Oral presentation of the thesis, arguments & evidence from the above essay on: "What sorts of actions are needed to protect our remaining natural areas so as to avert further loss of biological diversity and wildlife ranges?" Final exams are comprehensive based on all of the assigned readings you must use from the course.


Outcomes: You, with practice, are able to articulate seven to ten reasons how a specific place is of significance to protect for wildlife preservation, water conservation, and restoring ecological health.


What to do? | Policies | Assignments | How I judge | Calendar





Each of these means of evaluating your achieving the outcomes of the class is worth 20 percent of your grade.


Assignment details:

  1. Growth in your preparation for and participation in the class by using the web site, bringing the texts, and /or assigned writings to class for analysis on our meeting days, by holding a conference with me before mid-term, or by verbally sharing the free-writing we do in classes with other participants, during class time.

      Many days we do free-writing based on what you were assigned to read for class, be             prepared to read passages for credit in class that day and then incorporate your ideas into       essays.

      All essays are rewritten after they are initially due. I keep track of everything you write and       the frequency of references to the assigned readings and outside sources.  20%.


  1. Two, – two to four page long, – exploratory narrative essays – on an assigned topic based on the assigned readings, a week before the concepts from the texts are discussed in class.                                                                                                                            40%.

      b1- So what is wild in you and us all? Draft 2/7 final Due February 21

      b2- How do Nash, Stegner, Pollan and Leopold differ and how do they diverge?

      Is there a  matrix of how necessary wild areas are even for opposing reasons? 

      Draft 3/1 Due March 29.


  1. One, – seven to nine pages. – Final paper with footnotes, bibliography, tables and pertinent photographical or artistic representations with the appropriate citation of its source and a phrase explaining their purpose. Due April 17 (in draft)–revised and due for grade May 1.
    1. photographical stage: ideal versus reality–should be done by 3/29
    2. map stage:      

                                              i.     Where is this place's physiographical region and watershed? done by 4/5

                                             ii.     Geologically, in time (How and where did it originate)? done by 4/10

    1. Thesis stage: of what significance in terms of heritage & values now?            20%.


  1. May 7th, 8 to 10:00 AM, Oral presentation of essay on: What sorts of actions are needed to protect what is left of our natural areas so as to avert further loss of biological diversity and wildlife ranges?
    1. Based on your final essay–photo, map & work project describing a place's ecological integrity that should be "forever wild."
    2. The corrected essay (C.3 above) is resubmitted on May 1, and a seven-minute verbal presentation is expected from you to cover what you learned.

      Final exams are comprehensive: you must attend or risk failing the course-         20%.

            Because this is comprehensive you should reveal an understanding of all the assigned readings.


What to do? | Policies | Assignments | How I judge | Calendar



Outcomes for this course on wilderness principles:


A. You can verbally interpret written expression with both supporting and contradicting evidence.

B. Participants will examine and explain in writing and orally the meaning of graphical, maps, photographical, and artistic expressions of natural values as externalities.

C. Having read the material assigned, you can describe the competing values of heritage, economy, and science for reserving land from settlement, grazing, intensive agriculture, or industrial uses.

D. Having used pertinent web site material from myweb.rollins.edu & mediasite, you will verbally and in writing accurately portray the roles of water, watersheds, energy, atmosphere, and landscape in the protection of wildlife, fisheries, or agricultural (natural assets) sources of biological wealth.


Changes in the Schedule

If alterations of this published schedule must occur I will announce them in class; a revised syllabus will be explain extensive changes should that become necessary. If you are absent, telephone one of your classmates to ascertain that day’s announced changes, if any.


What to do? | Policies | Assignments | How I judge | Calendar