American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide



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WebQuest: Thinking Like a Transcendentalist

Overview: In this WebQuest, you will explore the history of journaling in the United States, look at Walt Whitmanís notebooks, consider Annie Dillardís famous journaling work, and study resources that provide insights for your own work as a journaler. 

Step 1: Consider why Linda and Patricia are taking this approach to teaching Transcendentalism.

Read John Elderís essay, "Teaching at the Edge." Elder is co-editor of The Norton Book of Nature Writing and is a director of the Orion Society.

Step 2: Explore the history of journaling in the United States.

Learn about the history of spiritual journaling in the United States. Quakers were especially fond of keeping spiritual journals. The most famous Quaker journaler was John Woolman. Skim this page about his life (and be sure to read the paragraph on journaling in the introductory section). If you would like to read more about Quaker writers and journalers, see Street Corner Society.

Learn about the history of keeping journals to record the exploration and discovery of place. View Lewis and Clarkís journals online. You can also view parts of the journal via a searchable database.

Step 3: Explore Walt Whitmanís notebooks.

Follow this guided tour of the Library of Congressís project, "Poet at Work: Recovered Notebooks from the Thomas Biggs Harned Walt Whitman Collection."

Step 4: Learn about the life and work of Annie Dillard.

Get your bearings by visiting this New York Times feature on Annie Dillard.

Read David Bowmanís short essay, "Nature Girl" (from Salonís Brilliant Careers series).

Read Grace Suhís interview with Dillard: "Ideas Are Tough; Irony Is Easy."

Read Dillardís essay, "Write Till You Drop."

Skim the following essays, and choose two to read carefully.

Bennett, Michael, "Urban Nature: Teaching Tinker Creek by the East River"

Carley, Burton, "Annie Dillard: Getting a Feel for the Place" (The Journal of Liberal Religion)

Elliott, Sandra Stahlman, "The Mysticism of Annie Dillardís Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"

Lavery, David, "Noticer: The Visionary Art of Annie Dillard"

Lavery, David, "Unlicensed Metaphysics: Annie Dillard Revisited"

Smith, Pamela A., "The Ecotheology of Annie Dillard: A Study in Ambivalence"

Step 5: Think about your own life as a journaler.

Skim all of the following pieces, and choose two to read carefully.

The Naturalistís Journal

Introduction to Nature Journal Writing

Nature Writing Journal

The Naturalistís Notebook

Keeping a Travel Journal (from Journeywoman)

McEwen, Christian, "Inside a Stone: Nature Writing in a City Classroom"

Kaiser, Robert Blair, "The Way of the Journal" (from Psychology Today)

Ferguson, Tom, "A Psychological Journal as Self-Care: An Interview with Ira Progoff"
Journal Prompts

As always, at least one of your journal entries this week should be in response to the WebQuest. Here are some possible prompts to get you started on that task (but you arenít limited to these starting points!).

Journal Prompt #1: If you have been a lifelong (or longtime!) journaler, consider the history of your journals. When and why did you begin keeping journals? How have your journals changed over time? In what ways has your journaling been a useful practice to you? Do you ever "lapse" from journaling? Why or why?

Journal Prompt #2: If you have never been a journaler (or have been a very sporadic journaler), how do you feel about the prospect of keeping a journal? Excited? Anxious? Nervous? Not wanting to bother with another task in your life? Reflect here on what you imagine might happen this semester as you begin keeping a journal on a regular basis.

Journal Prompts for Tinker Creek, Chapter 1 ("Heaven and Earth in Jest")

Journal Prompt for Tinker Creek, Chapter 4 ("The Fixed")

Journal Prompt for Tinker Creek, Chapter 6 ("The Present")

Essay Question: Drawing from your reading of Dillard, other Transcendentalists, and the links above, write an essay in which you discuss the history of spiritual journaling. When and why did this practice emerge? How has it changed over time (particularly from the Transcendentalist movement to the contemporary period)? You will want to examine closely at least one journaler (such as Dillard). As always, be sure to include resources from the WebQuest. See the Essay Guidelines for more detail about research, sources, length requirements, and documentation. Essay due to Dr. Tate via email by Wednesday, January 30, at 3:00 p.m.

"American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide" was produced by students in ENGL 446, American Transcendentalism, and ENGL 447, American Literature and the Prominence of Place: A Travel Practicum. These courses were team-taught in the Department of English at Shepherd College, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit "About This Site." © 2003 Linda Tate.