ENVI 266
Reading Water Spring 2021
Division I Writing Skills
Cross-listed MAST 266
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Class Details

Water has such profound and far-reaching influence on individuals, societies, and the planet that it simultaneously risks going overlooked and appearing clichéd. Human beings are made of it and need it to live, yet will die if immersed in it. It is venerated by cultures around the world, yet most people either cannot access clean water, or don’t know where their clean water is piped in from. It covers the earth’s surface, and has shaped it over eons, yet scientists are still not sure how it came to be here in the first place. This wide-ranging influence also presents challenges for traditional academic structures; thinking about water demands crossing times, spaces, and disciplines. This course will explore the wide-ranging and diverse ways water impacts individuals, cultures, and the environments they call home by drawing on a range of content: hydrology, literature, political theory, storytelling, geography, and more. To do this, we will also develop and examine methods of critically reading as “non-experts”–reading scientific articles as rhetorical objects and reading for scientific principles in literature, for instance–to explore what interdisciplinary thinking opens up (and inhibits), and thus how to effectively engage with and create interdisciplinary work. The goal here is not to define water’s cultural or scientific importance, or to determine which disciplines “best” combine to explain water, or to come up with humanities-based solutions to “the water crisis.” Rather, these texts, and the water that flows through them will help us explore the opportunities and limits of human perceptions of the other-than-human world. It will help us consider the extent to which those perceptions both shape, and are shaped by, a seemingly simple molecule. And it will help us imagine epistemologies and ontologies that account for the ways water simultaneously flows through us, around us, and through the deep geological history of the planet. Course Texts: Tristan Gooley — How to Read Water (selections) Vandana Shiva — Water Wars (selections) Luna Leopold — Water, Rivers, and Creeks (selections) Richard White — The Organic Machine Linda Hogan — Solar Storms Marc Reisner — Cadillac Desert Jesmyn Ward — Salvage the Bones John McPhee — “Atchafalaya” Emmi Itäranta — Memory of Water Brenda Hillman — “The Hydrology of California”
The Class: Format: seminar; This class will be remote, meeting synchronously. The class will be primarily discussion-based, and will ask students to lead and structure discussions. Students will have questions, reflections, and insights prepared before class, and use those to drive our in-class activities.
Limit: 20
Expected: 20
Class#: 5023
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: 100pg of reading a week, give or take. Approx 20-25 pages of written work throughout the semester.
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: Preference to majors, and then to sophomores and juniors, respectively.
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENVI 266 Division I MAST 266 Division I
WS Notes: Students will write four papers of increasing complexity that will require workshopping and drafts. Each of these papers will receive forward-looking writing feedback from me. The first paper centers on paragraph-level stylistic choices, the second on argument/evidence connections, the third on genre, and the final paper synthesizes these writing skills. In addition, students' final grades will allow for revision of earlier papers to encourage and assess growth of writing skills.

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