Monthly Archives: September 2013

Bible and Sustainability Writing Project

The next writing project will be due Sat. Sept. 21 at Noon (this is pushing back the original date on the syllabus to give you some extra time).

It will be a 700-word reflection on the Bible and Sustainability (that’s approximately 2 pages double-spaced, but use the word count, and meet that minimum without exceeding 720 words including the bibliography).

Please focus on how our biblical readings shape, parallel or contradict the sense of sustainability found in The Lord of the Rings so far.

You should draw on our readings in the Bible (Genesis and the Sermon on the Mount and John 1), in Tolkien (the Foreword, the Prologue, and the first chapters of the book that we will have read thus far), in Davies, and in Dickerson and Evans. Since this is a short reflection, don’t try to cover all of the Bible and Tolkien readings, but focus on no more than a couple key passages from each as examples to analyze.

This assignment should be posted on your blog but will involve using MLA Style and a Works Cited page rather than hyperlinks. (MLA style involves parenthetical citation (Davies 13) and a bibliography entitled Works Cited. For details see

Please title your document with your last name and then “Bible and Sustainability,” such as “Jones Bible and Sustainability.” Within the text of the document, also then craft a short title for the text itself.

Rules for late work and accommodations are on the syllabus; you will be able to re-write once, if it receives a passing grade, for up to 10 points more than your initial grade on a 1-100 scale.

In your reflection, you’ll want to use a style of an introductory paragraph with a thesis, and body paragraphs each with a topic sentence and at least one source citation. So this will be more formal than the Wikipedia-style assignment, but you’ll also want to avoid the first person (I or we). Avoid a five-paragraph theme model; don’t indicate your points in the beginning and then go through them in the body. Instead, try to weave your focus into the structure through the thesis and topic sentences, as indicated below.

A basic structure for the opening paragraph

  1. Begin with a specific word-picture example from one of the primary texts (the Bible or LotR).
  2. No later than the third sentence get to your thesis.
  3. After your thesis, include a couple backup sentences supporting it with points of evidence and citations.
  4. End the paragraph with a “statement of significance”: why your reader should care.

The thesis sentence should include two declarations linked by a “because” or “so/thus/therefore” conjunction. (This is called an enthymeme in Classical rhetoric.)

Body paragraphs should start with either the topic sentence or a specific example, but should get to the topic sentence by the second sentence.

The topic sentence of each body paragraph should have a clear link back to the opening thesis sentence. It should be structured similarly.

At the sentence level of writing, please follow Orwell’s rules of writing as discussed in class and posted on the seminar blog (active sentences and shorter words when possible, etc.).

Please be in touch with any questions, and feel free to schedule an appointment while you are working on your writing.


Presentation rubic

For Monday we’ll be doing presentations of your “eco-wiki” projects.


1. Keep presentations to 4 minutes or under each. Prepare an outline or script and practice so that you meet the time limit.

2. If you use PowerPoint (which is optional), no more than four slides, try to avoid using a lot of text, and don’t just read from the slides (use key concepts or background).

3. Your presentation will be rated on:

–Clear focus of ideas being presented

–Good eye contact and posture (body language)

–Engaging style (awareness of audience), including attentiveness to time limit

–Coherent, confident communication (such as avoiding ums and uhs and likes)

Looking forward to your presentations, thanks!

Topics and meeting times for “eco-wiki” blog, week of 9/2

TUES. (9/3)  

Lynn White and responses (Natalie, Tues. 2 p.m.)

Definitions of sustainability (Kristin, Tues. 2:20 p.m.)

Classical views of Nature 1, Plato and Stoics (Peter, Tues. 2:40 p.m.)

WED. (9/4)

Ecological fantasy writing and film (Dan, Wed., 10 a.m.)

Environmental humanities (Katie, Wed., 10:20 a.m.)

Urban agrarianism (Luke, Wed., 1 p.m.)

Amish and Mennonites and technology (Laura, Wed. 1:30 p.m.)

Classical views of Nature 2, Aristotle, Lucretius/Epicurean (Annmarie, Wed., 3 p.m.)

Deep Ecology and Dark Ecology (Christian, Tues, 3:20 p.m.)



An acronym helpful in thinking about environmental humanities, MNEMS is short for mnemonics, or the art of remembering. Memory is an important part of ecology from an humanities standpoint, as it involves our context for experiencing our world.

The five elements of MNEMS involve aspects of writing, communicating, and symbolizing, which help link us as storytelling and reasoning creatures to the symbolic networks of life itself.






Writing Guide: George Orwell

George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language” includes some helpful writing tips, including:

“A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: 1. Could I put it more shortly? 2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? ….

“When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose — not simply accept — the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one’s words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”