HISTORY 790

GRADUATE SEMINAR IN UNITED STATES HISTORY SINCE 1877

 

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY

 

Fall semester 2010

Dr. Philip J. Dreyfus

 

Topic: Western industrial societies in general have constructed a categorical distinction between nature and the social order that is by no means universal to all societies across space and time.  In the United States—a land possessed of so much nature and so much of its perceived antithesis—the conceptual separation of human society and culture from the natural world has influenced the ways that Americans have experienced, understood, and used nature, as well as the ways that historians have interpreted and told the story of this engagement.  This seminar will focus on American Environmental History in the nation’s industrial age.  Students will apply their knowledge to a term paper based on primary sources in an area of personal interest.  The class will be framed by the following central questions: What is the field of U.S. Environmental History, why does it exist, and what does it have to offer?  How do we define nature?  Are historians primarily concerned with nature as an objective phenomenon or as a social construction?  What is the relationship between environmental history and environmentalism?  How have the environmental relations of diverse groups of Americans changed over time?

 

Course Objectives:

 

 

Requirements: All students must complete all of the required readings for each week to ensure lively discussion with full engagement by the class. Each student will have the responsibility of initiating class discussion of one of the assigned readings each week.  You will also each make a class presentation on secondary works related to your paper topic; prepare a review essay which will serve as a preliminary investigation into the subject of a term paper; write a term paper based on research in primary sources; present the research paper to the class; and prepare a critique of another student’s paper.  The relative weight of the various assignments appears in the table below.

 

 

Due Date

Assignment

Proportion of Final Grade

By September 16

Term Paper Proposal

None

September 30

Review essay

20%

September 9 – October 21

Class presentations: readings

10%

October 7

Report on primary sources

None

October 28

Research paper – 1st draft

10%

November 4 – December 9

Present research & critiques

10%

December 16

Research paper – final draft

40%

Every week

Class participation

10%

 

 

Grading policies:

 

Recommended Reference Works:

 

Required Texts:

 

All other required readings are available electronically.

 

CLASS SCHEDULE

 

August 26 – INTRODUCTION TO THE SYLLABUS

 

September 2 – WHAT IS ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY?

Reading:

Richard White, “American Environmental History: The Development of a New Historical Field,” The Pacific Historical Review 54: 3, August 1985.

Carolyn Merchant, “The Theoretical Structure of Ecological Revolutions,” Environmental Review 11: 4, Winter 1987.

Donald Worster, “Transformations of the Earth: Toward an Agroecological Perspective in History, Journal of American History, 76:4, March 1990.

William Cronon, “The Uses of Environmental History,” Environmental History Review 17:3, Fall 1993.

Hal Rothman, “Conceptualizing the Real: Environmental History and American Studies,” American Quarterly 54:3, September 2002.

 

September 16 – NATURE, THE WILD, & NATIONAL IDENTITY

Reading:

Roderick Nash, “The American Wilderness,” and “Henry David Thoreau,” chapters 4-5 in Wilderness and the American Mind (Yale, 1967).

William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” in Cronon, editor, Uncommon Ground (Norton, 1996).

Carolyn Merchant, “Reinventing Eden: Western Culture as a Recovery Narrative,” in Cronon, editor, Uncommon Ground (Norton, 1996).

Bruno Latour, “Why Political Ecology has to Let Go of Nature,” in Latour, Politics of Nature (Harvard, 2004).

Term Paper Proposal Due

 

September 23 – ENVIRONMENT AND THE AMERICAN WEST

Reading:

Richard White, “Animals and Enterprise,” in Clyde Milner, editor, Oxford History of the American West (Oxford, 1994).

Donald Worster, “Cowboy Ecology,” and “Grassland Follies,” chapters 3 and 7 of Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West (Oxford, 1992).

Jerome Frisk, "The Theoretical (Re)Positions of the New Western History," in Forrest G. Robinson, editor, The New Western History: The Territory Ahead (U. of Arizona, 1997).

Richard White, "Transforming the Land," chapter 9 of It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own (U. of Oklahoma, 1991).

 

September 30 – INVENTING PARKS – FROM CITY TO HINTERLAND

Reading:

Anne Whiston Spirn, “Constructing Nature: The Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted,” in Cronon, editor, Uncommon Ground (Norton, 1996).

Kenneth Olwig, “Reinventing Common Nature: Yosemite and Mount Rushmore—A Meandering Tale of a Double Nature,” in Cronon, editor, Uncommon Ground (Norton, 1996).

Jennifer Crets, “The Land of a Million Smiles: Urban Tourism and the Commodification of the Missouri Ozarks, 1900-1940,” in Andrew Hurley, editor, Common Fields: An Environmental History of St. Louis (Missouri Historical Society Press, 1997).

John M. Findlay, “Disneyland: The Happiest Place on Earth,” chapter 2 of Magic Lands: Western Cityscapes and American Culture After 1940 (U. of California, 1992).

Review Essay Due

 

October 7 – ROMANCE V. UTILITARIANISM

Reading:

Samuel Hays, “The Conservation Crusade,” “Conflict over Conservation Policy,” and “Organized Conservation in Decline,” chapters 7-9 of Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency (U. of Pittsburgh, 1999).

Roderick Nash, “John Muir: Publicizer,” and “The Wilderness Cult,” chapters 8-9 in Wilderness and the American Mind (Yale, 1967).

Philip Dreyfus “Nature, Militancy and the Western Worker: Socialist Shingles, Syndicalist Spruce,” Labor 1:3, Fall 2004.

Primary Source Report Due

 

October 14 – THE PLACE OF CITIES IN ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY

Reading:

Samuel Hays, “The Role of Urbanization in Environmental History,” in Explorations in Environmental History (Pittsburgh, 1998).

Andrew Ross, “The Social Claim on Urban Ecology,” in Bennett and Teague, editors,

The Nature of Cities: Ecocriticism and Urban Environments (U. of Arizona, 1999).

Robert Gottlieb, “Urban and Industrial Roots: Seeking to Reform the System,” chapter 2 of Forcing the Spring (Island Press, 2005).

Joel Tarr, “The Metabolism of the Industrial City: The Case of Pittsburgh,” in Diefendorf and Dorsey, editors, City, Country, Empire: Landscapes in Environmental History (U. of Pittsburgh, 2005).

 

October 21 – RACE, CLASS, & NATURE

Reading:

Kevin DeLuca and Anne Demo, “Imagining Nature and Erasing Class and Race: Carleton Watkins, John Muir, and the Construction of Wilderness,” Environmental History 6: 4, October 2001. [View Carleton Watkins photos of Yosemite in the 1860s at http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/watkins/thumbnails.html]

Cassandra Johnson and Josh McDaniel, “Turpentine Negro,” in Glave and Stoll, editors, To Love the Wind and the Rain (U. of Pittsburgh, 2006).

Neil Maher, “A New Deal Body Politic: Landscape, Labor, and the Civilian Conservation Corps,” Environmental History 7:3, July 2002.

Michael Bennett, “Manufacturing the Ghetto: Anti-urbanism and the Spacialization of Race,” in Bennett and Teague, editors, The Nature of Cities: Ecocriticism and Urban Environments (U. of Arizona, 1999).

David Pellow, “A Social History of Waste, Race and Labor,” chapters 2-3 of Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago (MIT, 2004).

 

October 28: FIRST DRAFT OF TERM PAPER DUE. Exchange papers.

 

November 4, 18; December 2, 9: PRESENTATION OF PAPERS

Written copies of CRITIQUES DUE November 4.

 

December 16 by Noon: FINAL DRAFT OF TERM PAPER DUE

 

INSTRUCTIONS FOR WRITTEN AND ORAL ASSIGNMENTS

 

Class presentation of readings: Students will complete several readings in common as listed in the schedule above.  All students will be responsible for class discussion of the assigned material. Additionally, each week two or three of you will present your own summaries of a book or several articles that have not been assigned to the class as a whole.  Your summaries should be about 20 minutes long and must include the following:

ü      A summary of the book or articles.

ü      The thesis of the book or articles.

ü      An explanation of the work’s unique contribution to U.S. environmental history.

ü      A series of questions for class discussion that link your individual reading(s) to those of the class as a whole.

 

 

Written assignments must be word-processed, double-spaced, 12-point font, with 1-inch margins on all sides.  Citations must be in footnotes and follow Turabian rules.  Pages must be numbered consecutively.  You will be graded on form and content so edit carefully for spelling, grammar and syntax.  Keep a copy of anything you turn in.

 

Review Essay: This essay will explore the principal historical works related to your term paper topic and may be built on your classroom presentation.  You must use at least three books, with 3 or 4 articles counting as a book.  If you wish, you may add references to the required readings for the class. The title will be REVIEW ESSAY, and should begin with full bibliographic citations for all the works you are reviewing.  Examples can be found in Reviews in American History.  Your essay should consist of 4 to 6 pages of summary and critique, including treatment of the thesis, and 2 pages exploring the relationship of your chosen works to your research paper.  Include 3 or 4 questions arising from your reading that you hope to address in your own research.  Also conduct an electronic search and attach an additional annotated bibliography of up to 10 works by historians that have a bearing on your topic.

 

Term Paper: Start this as soon as possible, and follow the steps below.

1.      An initial un-graded proposal is due September 16.  Write a page or less describing your research interests for this course.  Include as much as you know about relevant primary and secondary sources.  Be ready to give a 2-minute summary in class on the due date.

2.      You will make a 20-minute class presentation of a book or several articles that will hopefully be relevant to your research.

  1. Your review essay is due September 30.  This essay will provide the context for your paper by establishing the historiographic background of your subject.
  2. An un-graded, single page report on primary sources is due Week 6.  This will ensure that you have identified sufficient material to write your paper successfully.
  3. The initial draft of your paper will be due October 28.  Your paper must be organized as follows:

Ø      An introduction (1 page).

Ø      A survey of historiography, derived from your previous work, including an explicit statement of the questions your paper seeks to answer (5 pages).

Ø      The results of your research into primary sources, including narrative and analysis (10-15 pages).

Ø      A conclusion that ties your findings to your initial questions, and indicates questions for further research (2-3 pages).

Ø      A bibliography divided into separate categories for primary sources and secondary works.

Ø      BRING THREE COPIES TO CLASS – ONE FOR ME AND ONE FOR EACH OF YOUR TWO PEER READERS.

 

The revised and final draft of your paper is optional.  You may revise your initial draft according to the suggestions made by your three readers (me and two students), or you may let your initial draft stand as your paper for the course.  If you submit no revised paper, the grade for your initial draft will be your grade for the whole project, and will consequently be worth 50% of your grade for the course.

Your paper will be graded on your treatment of historiography, your effective use of primary sources, the effectiveness of your conclusion, the thoroughness of your bibliography, and the quality of your writing.

 

Part of your grade for the paper will also be based on a 20-minute oral presentation of your findings to the seminar.  Rather than reading your paper, you need to adapt it for the purposes of this presentation.  From November 4 to the end of the semester, each class will consist of three presentations, a break, critiques, and class discussion of the papers and critiques.  Timing is very important to ensure that all goes smoothly.  Practice orally ahead of time to be certain that you do not run under or over the 20-minute time limit.

 

Critiques: I will assign two critics to each paper. A critique is very similar to a book review.  Keep your suggestions constructive.  Develop your critique in 2 to 3 pages of writing, or about 5 minutes per paper.  Consider the thesis, the effectiveness of evidence, the logic of the argument, and the clarity of organization.  Besides presenting your critique to the class, bring two printed copies, one for me and one for the author of the paper. 

 

RECOMMENDED BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/departments/espm/env-hist/us-hist.html