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LIT 6394: Literature of Place: Florida

Class 10: Water and Plants

GUEST LECTURER: Mark Rains, Associate Professor of Geology, on Florida Geology and Place

Reading Assignment:

    Selections from Wild Heart, "A Valley of Inches" by Bill Belleview
    Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat," in The Florida Reader in course docs
    Post #9

Class Objectives:

    Dr. Rains'lecture
    Discuss Florida's unique geological history as embedded in place
    Discuss Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat"

Notes and Discussion Questions:

Our main event this week will be the lecture and discussion with Dr. Mark Rains, Associate Professor of Geology at USF. As with our other lectures, Dr. Rains will present and discuss between 60 and 90 minutes. In between his lecture and the discussion, I will ask you to reflect for about five minutes and write the following things:
  • Write down one thing that surprised you or caused you to wonder.
  • Write down one thing that you don't believe or that challenges what you thought you knew and requires more information.
  • Write down a question inspired by what you learned or a direction that it leads you to think about.

    I will be recording this event for future use.


    The essay by Bill Belleville offers us a view of Forida in geological time. Specifically it reads the landscape of the St. John's River basin for signs of its history. What surprises you about this essay?

    If you looked around your back yard, could you read signs of Florida's geological history? What would your reading look like?

    According to the editors of the Florida Reader, Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat" "was read as an adventure celebrating a victory over nature rather than a warning about nature's capacity to disrupt human dreams" (167). In what sense can this be read as a victory over nature? In what sense might we prefer to read it as a warning about nature's capacity to disrupt human dreams?

    In this section on water and plants, what role does water play in the narrative? How is this (or is this) a characteristic of Florida literature?

    All of the men of the story are nameless, except for Billie, who doesn't survive. What is the impact of this literary choice?

    Examine the use of the feminine abstractions for Fate and Nature in the story.

    How is this a representation of Florida? What theories of place might help you dissect it as such?

    If we no longer read this as a story about victory over nature, what forms of ecocriticism might apply?

    Examine the historical contexts for the piece, which is marked by its relation to a real event. How do the politics of the Cuban effort to become independent of Spain affect the "adventure" story?

    We will be visiting the site of this story on our field trip to Ponce Inlet Lighthouse (formerly Mosquito Inlet). What questions might you ask of such a visit?


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