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Dr. Laura L. Runge
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LIT 4930: Florida Lit and Culture

Class 12 - Wild Heart - Nature Writing

    Wild Heart of Florida - read through page 131 - the end
    DUE: DUE: Post 6 – group B, Response Group A

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

    The Sweet Scent of Pinewoods at Dawn - Jeff Ripple
    Borderland - Janisse Ray
    Brooker Creek - Jeff Kinkenberg
    The Wild Heart of Florida - Susan Cerulean
    The Ugliest Beach in Florida- Julie Hauserman
    Last of the Falling Tide - Carl Hiassen
    Where the Suwannee Meets the Sea - Jeff Ripple
    River of Dreams - Joe Hutto
    A Valley of Inches: The Headwater of the Upper St. Johns River - Bill Belleville
    A Ribbon of Wilderness: The Savannas State Reserve - Ann Morrow
    The Tallahassee - St. Marks Trail - Mary Tebo

    Last class we began to discuss the relationship between language and reality or the representation of nature in essay writing. Today I would like for you to do some research on the authors represented in this collection. This collection includes some of the best known essayists from Florida who continue to publish. Why is this important?

    Continue to use Google My Maps to map the places identified in these essays. What patterns or observations emerge from mapping these places?

    Jeff Ripple’s essay, “The Sweet Scent of the Pinewoods at Dawn,” describes how the narrator listens to the forest with his camera in his hands, “wait[ing] for the forest to tell me in my gut what I will photograph. When it has spoken, when I settle the camera on the tripod and peer through the ground glass, I feel my body drawn through the lens and swallowed by the landscape before me. I become what I see” (59). What is the relationship between the body and the environment? How might it be possible to “become what [you] see”? Imagine visiting a place like this in Florida. How might you embody this type of relationship to nonhuman nature?

    Janisse Ray’s first book, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, combines memoir and natural history to illumine social issues related to class ( Similarly, in her essay, “Borderland,” Ray blends human experience with environmental experience so that one informs the other and so that neither can be completely separated from the other. How does “Borderland” connect environment and humanity? What are the benefits and challenges of thinking about one’s relationship to the environment in this way? What is the “borderland” in this essay?

    How might mapping human experience onto the environment illustrate the concept of our interrelatedness in place?

    In Jeff Klinkenber’s “Brooker Creek,” preserve volunteer LaVonne Ries admits that she has been lost in the Everglades; and yet, her voice sounds “exhilarated” when retelling her experience (79). Why it might feel exhilarating to lose one’s self in a preserve, such as Brooker Creek or the Everglades? What does this feeling of exhilaration tell us about our relationship to the natural world at the end of the twentieth century (Wild Heart of Florida was published in 1999)?

    Comment on this assertion in Susan Cerulean’s essay, “The Wild Heart of Florida”: “So much of Florida is built on the dead: the killed bays, the razed scrub, the buried-alive gopher tortoise. We must deny these things in order to live orderly, guilt-free lives. We remain ignorant. We assume the best. We believe the cheerful corporate literature. We delight in the descriptive names for our streets and malls and subdivisions: the Oaks Mall (trees cut down), Turkey Run (turkeys gone), and so forth. We are guilty first of ignorance, second of strong self-preservation instincts, third of laziness, and for some of us, that adds up to evil intent” (84).

    In “Where the Suwannee Meets the Sea,” the narrator describes images of nature alongside observations of mechanization during a kayaking trip on the Suwannee River. To what extent does Ripple’s essay problematize the policies of federal conservation lands?

    Joe Hutto’s essay, “River of Dreams,” focuses on the ecosystem of the Wacissa River and argues that “the nature of a river is not about ownership but rather about membership and fundamental relationship—geological, biological, and social—with the society of living things” (108). Thinking about the Wacissa River in this essay and other rivers (or bodies of water) described in previous essays, discuss geological, biological, and social relationships. How do the essays in this collection depict the powerful and fragile natures of Florida’s bodies of water?

    Bill Belleville writes of the St. John’s River in “A Valley of Inches” that “the entire process of discovery can be entirely missed, unless you focus on the act of looking—not just where to look, but how” (113). According to this essay, how should we be looking?

    Many of the essays in The Wild Heart of Florida mention Preservation 2000. This article (, published in June 2015, points to the future (or lack of a future) for the program as a result of Florida legislation. Provide examples from the collection of how Preservation 2000 initiatives produced environmental changes. What do the essays in The Wild Heart of Florida convey about the role of government in environmental preservation?

    The last essay of the collection, “The Tallahassee—St. Marks Trail,” discusses how St. Marks Trail is unlike other wilderness sites funded by Preservation 2000. The essay explains that this trail is designed to be accessible to everyone, “‘bring[ing] people together because they’re looking at each other and talking to each other’” (128). How do the essays in The Wild Heart of Florida bring various ecosystems and groups of people together? How might “coming together” rewrite environmental-human narratives?

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