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LIT 4930: Florida Lit and Culture

Class 11 - Wild Heart - Nature Writing

    Wild Heart of Florida - read through page 56
    DUE: Post 6 – group A, Response group B

Class Objectives:

    Analyze representations of Florida nature
    Discuss the essay form
    Address the research question: What role does nature play in Florida places?

Notes and Discussion Questions:

    The Wild Heart of Florida

    "Restorying" Florida - Susan Cerulean
    From "A Land Remembered" Patrick D. Smith
    The Curse of the Medallion - Randy Wayne White
    A Florida Marriage - Lola Haskins
    Through an Open Window - Renee Ripple
    The Bird and the Behemoth - Archie Carr
    Islands in Time - Don Stap
    A Life in the Scrub - Al Burt

    I want to draw your attention first to the form of the writings for today. Mostly essays in nonfiction, these short pieces have a different structure and form from fiction and poetry. What is the relationship between nonfiction and the natural world -- the Florida -- it represents? (Hint: this is not an easy question.)

    Because we are dealing with mostly nonfiction, these essays are located in actual, mappable places in Florida. Using Google My Maps, note the places identified in these essays. What patterns or observations emerge from mapping these places?

    Randy Wayne White’s essay, “The Curse of the Medallion,” begins with a lightning storm and ends with a final reference to the Calusa medallion curse. What are the “curses” in this essay and how does this essay weave together human and environmental “curses”?

    Using specific examples from one or more of the essays in our reading, discuss instances of hope and despair. To what extent does the environment (and humanity’s relationship to it) offer hope for recovering what is lost or preserving what remains?

    In “A Florida Marriage,” the description “after-image” (23) and the metaphor about marriage separation (25) connect us to the significance of impending losses (or absences) of Florida wildlife species and their habitats. How might “after-image” and marriage separation contribute to our understanding of our role in Florida’s ecosystem? How do Haskins and other essayists in The Wild Heart of Florida define humanity’s role in the environment?

    In Renée Ripple’s “Through an Open Window,” the narrator recalls how she once “memorize[d] the moment” of an experience with nature: “the wind stinging my eyes, the cold penetrating my mittens and boots and numbing my fingertips and toes, my skin contracting inside my snowsuit. An oddity occurred then, perhaps a revelation. It still haunts me. A tiny, gray sparrow was sitting on the chain-link fence . . . .[then] the little bird fell, solid as a rock, into the snow on our side of the fence . . . .I hurried to the spot. The little bird, though, had disappeared” (27-8). Using specific examples from the essay, in what ways are we called to witness appearances and disappearances? How might our witnessing contribute to the future?

    Thinking about the history of the snowy egret’s evolution in Archie Carr’s “The Bird and the Behemoth,” discuss the interrelationships between species and habitats. After reviewing the essays that we have read to this point, find other examples of species and/or habitats that have been forced to adapt? What happens when a species cannot learn to acclimate to a changing environment? To what extent does this change ecosystem relationships?

    Recall theories of place construction -- in particular the impact of mobility on place -- in Cresswell’s chapters 3 and 4. How might the ever-increasing mobility of human populations affect Florida wildlife species and their habitats?

    The importance of the scrub’s ecosystem to Florida and the role of fire in maintaining this ecosystem are discussed in multiple essays. Comment on the role of human intervention. Using examples from the essays we have read thus far, discuss other descriptions of human intervention in the Florida environment. To what extent is human intervention in the environment helpful or harmful?

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