Arts and Humanities

Arts and Humanities
How do artists represent Nature and our relationship to it?
What have some well-known authors, artists, musicians and philosophers thought about Nature?
To what extent are humans natural and to what extent are they formed by culture?

We have also thought about how several artists and philosophers have considered human’s proximity to and distance from nature as well as relationships between Human Nature, Nature, Culture and Progress. We have read Annie Dillard’s In the Jungle, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and Richard Holmes The Age of Wonder. We have looked at paintings by Thomas Cole, John Constable, J.M.W.Turner, Asher Durand, and Caspar David Friedrich. We have listened to Igor Stravinsky’s seminal work Rite of Spring. We are now reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays “The American Scholar,” “Nature” and “Self-Reliance,” and sections of Henry David Thoreau’s essay Walden. After that, we will consider a selection of Emily Dickinson’s poems, and a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne. We will view Agnes Varda’s film The Gleaners and I and a variety of animated short films including, among others, Das Rad, Tout Rien and Rabbit.

For this synthesis essay, you will write about Nature, Culture and Progress by thinking about a pithy aspect of Rousseau’s Second Discourse that you find interesting and connecting it in some way to three or four of the other works that we have read, looked at or listened to. (The ideas you present in your essay are yours alone—you do not need to do any outside research.) Choose three or four of the texts/films by different authors/filmmakers and write about them in a way that seems meaningful to you in terms of our course’s themes—please see the list on the syllabus. In other words, do not choose more than one essay, poem, story, or film by each author/filmmaker. You must include one of the animated films in your discussion.
You may compare, you may contrast, you may compare and contrast; you may argue—the organizing principle is entirely up to you. The only requirements are that you discuss some aspect of Rousseau and three or four other pieces; other than that, the choices are yours.

Keep in mind the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote, “Trust thyself;” in other words, be original in your ideas—remember that “shopping around” on the Internet for an essay topic is equivalent to idea theft. Also remember that any use of more than three words from another text must be cited.
Your essay should be 6—8 pages (that is approximately 1500—2000) and you should use the check sheet below to avoid common pitfalls.

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