Emails Sent to 460 Class List Server

This page contains an archive of major emails sent to the 460 list server during Fall 2015.

Long Email with Suggestions about Final Paper for 460: Please Read Carefully (sent 11/13/17)

Friends--

The deadline for your final paper is now a week away, and we four section leaders have been meeting with many of you over the past couple weeks to discuss your topics and brainstorm different approaches to the assignment. Because it's a new assignment for all of us, we're learning different ways of thinking about it as a result of our conversations with you, and I wanted to pass along a few insights and suggestions that have emerged as a result.

  • Our initial prompt suggested that you're to imagine that the Smithsonian Institution will soon be launching a new museum of American Environmental History on the Mall in Washington, DC, and that you've been asked to prepare one of the exhibits there. As the syllabus says, "Choose a single important organism or tool or technology, or a single set of relationships or processes or environmental transformations, that deserves to be analyzed and interpreted in this new museum, and write an illustrated interpretive essay that could serve as an exhibit in the museum." That's still the core of the assignment, but in talking with some of you, we've realized that not all of you are equally familiar with museums of this type, which may be heightening your anxieties about this assignment. If that's the case, you're welcome to think of what you're writing not as a museum exhibit (which typically consist of several panels of interpretation with images or objects displayed on each panel), but rather as a set of several web pages or as a multi-part blog post. These all pretty much amount to the same thing, and if one genre feels more comfortable to you than another, feel free to pick whichever one you prefer.
  • Please remember that your paper should not be just a random collection of facts and details about your theme. You need to organize your materials to build an argument, construct a narrative, or both. Presumably if your theme is important enough to deserve inclusion in a national museum of environmental history, you should explain to museum visitors why they should care about it and the most important things they need to know about it.
  • Notice that the prompt refers to an "illustrated intepretive essay." This means that we're expecting your essay to synthesize your understanding of your chosen subject to make it accessible and engaging to an ordinary musum-goer (or web-surfer or blog-reader). That's more important to us than that you do original research or come up with an original argument of your own (though we do expect the words you write to be your own--see the warnings about plagiarism below, and in the syllabus). The illustrations you include as part of your essay (which, remember, do not count against the total page count) will most likely be historical documents--texts, images, objects, etc.--but you're welcome to research these in whatever ways you prefer. If you take the time, we believe you'll benefit enormously from spending some time in physical libraries and archives (not just the Historical Society, but also, depending on your topic, Memorial Library, Steenbock, Wendt, and others)...but you're also welcome to research digitally. Indeed, reading multiple Wikipedia entries relevant to your topic and then moving sideways toward other sources may in many cases be a good way to gather initial ideas for what you want to synthesize in your essay.
  • In general, your paper will be better (and easier to write) if you have abundant information about your topic. Trying to write the paper based solely on things you've heard in lecture is not likely to yield a successful paper. You'll learn much more and get much more out of the assignment if you do some serious rummaging to find lots of interesting information about your topic. You can do that in physical libraries, or online, or, ideally, both. The more information you have at your fingertips, the more you'll have to say, and the more choices you'll be able to make about what the visitor to your museum display (or the reader of your website or blog) is likely to find most interesting.
  • For physical libraries, search MadCat to identify Library of Congress call numbers where published materials about your topic are shelved together--then go to those locations in the relevant libraries to see what's sitting on those shelves (not just a single book, but that shelf). Remember that when you're searching for illustrated books with historic images relating to your topic that oversize books (the ones most likely to have pictures) are shelved on larger shelves (though with the same general call numbers) than the regular library sequence.
  • An especially rich source of illustrated materials are popular magazines that have published stories relating to your topic. To find these, check out the venerable database called The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, which has been indexing American popular magazines since the start of the 20th century. You can access it electronically via the search box on the UW Libraries website https://www.library.wisc.edu after selecting Databases from the drop-down menu. Try searching it for your topic; you'll probably be pleasantly surprised by what you find, much of which can't easily be located via a Google search. When you've found some articles that look interesting, you can either look for them online on the library's website, or, maybe more interestingly, look at the articles in hard copy (often with better access to images) in the physical library.
  • To search for images to illustrate your paper, don't forget Google Image -- https://images.google.com -- which is a very quick and easy way to find illustrative material, though you may have to work a while to find historic images. (Remember that the Tools setting on Google Image lets you limit your search in various ways; two settings to consider using are the ones for Size, which enables you to find higher resolution images that will look better when you print them, and the one for Usage Rights, which allows you to select images that you're allowed to reuse without violating copyright.) For many topics, some of the best historic images can be found looking through relevant entries on Wikipedia, which have the advantage that you're generally allowed to reuse them under the Creative Commons license.
  • Remember that you need to provide citations for any sources on which you rely in writing your paper, including illustrations. Please use the Chicago Manual of Style's formatting for notes, which you'll find summarized on the UW Writing Center website at this link: https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/DocChicago_Notes.html ; a convenient printable PDF with all of the information on this page, well worth downloading, is available here: https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/PDF/chicago_turabian_uwmadison_writingcenter_june2013.pdf You can use either footnotes or endnotes, whichever you prefer. If you need to know the formatting for a kind of document not listed in this brief summary, you can also access the full Chicago Manual of Style under the Databases dropdown menu of the UW Libraries website.
  • A citation form you're likely to want to know that isn't included in the Writing Center's summary is for photographs and other images, which generally follows this pattern: Photographer's name, title of photo, date of photo, name and location of gallery that holds it (or the publication where you found it), with URL if you accessed it online. This sequence results in a citation that for a gallery photo might look like this:
    Dorothea Lange, Black Maria, Oakland, 1957, printed 1965, gelatin silver print, 39.3 × 37 cm, Art Institute, Chicago, http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/220174
    and for a magazine photo might look like this:
    McCurry, Steve. Afghan Girl. December 1984. Photograph. National Geographic, cover, June 1985, as accessed on Wikipedia s.v. "File:Sharbat Gula.jpg", last modified September 24, 2015 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sharbat_Gula.jpg.
    It's not always possible to include all this information, but do the best you can. The basic principle is that the reader should be able to find the source you used with the information you supply.
  • One way I've been encouraging students to approach this assignment is to imagine that you're responsible for organizing a single room in this new museum (or, less dauntingly, a single wall in that room). As a visitor to the museum walks into that room, or starts examining the contents of the wall, they need something at the beginning to identify the topic or theme on which the room or wall will focus, suggesting both why this topic is important to American environmental history and why it has intriguing insights to offer. Since you only have a very limited number of pages to cover your topic (5-6 pages of text, with as many illustrations as you choose to include), your exhibit (or website or blog post) will likely have only 3-5 "panels" to identify aspects of your topic that are especially important or intriguing or insightful. I've encouraged students to start by brainstorming many more possible "panels" than they'll actually be able to write about, and then select the 3-5 panels that best meet the following criteria:
    1) is the material on this panel of major importance to the visitor's understanding of this topic?;
    2) does the panel offer an especially intriguing or surprising or insightful perspective on the topic that might not have occurred to the visitor before?;
    3) do you have great illustrative material (texts, images, objects) to include as visual accompaniments for your text?

    If you keep these questions in mind when you choose the 3-5 panels on which your paper will concentrate, you'll likely make good choices.
  • Although you're welcome to organize your paper in whatever way seems best suited to your topic, one obvious approach would be to start with an introductory paragraph or two that explains to the reader the topic/theme you've chosen, why it's important to American environmental history, and the kinds of issues your exhibit will explore, doing your best to "hook" the visitor reader to want to read more. You can then proceed through your 3-5 panels/pages/sections, exploring each subtheme in turn, typically with one or more illustrations to accompany each panel. In many cases, it may make sense to organize your panels chronologically, by period, but there may be other organizational principles that are better suited to your particular topic. You decide.
  • It's best if you can try to have a full draft completed at least a day or two before the assignment is due (the more time you have, the better) so you'll be able to revise and improve your initial draft. It's almost always helpful to print out the draft so you can read and revise it in hard copy before returning to your digital text for the next round of revisions. I'm also a big fan of reading your work out loud, since your ear can hear problems with your prose that your eye may not see. Finally, if you can recruit friends who are willing to read your draft to offer suggestions about things they find confusing or about which they'd like more information, their comments can guide you toward revisions that can significantly improve your paper.
  • Since you're likely to have gathered notes and materials for this assignment from many sources, all of which you should document if you include them in your final paper, remember how important it is not to simply copy and paste other people's words--or even just paraphrase other people's words--in writing your own paper. Doing so is plagiarism, and is a very significant academic sin. The words you give us should be your own. If you'd like to refresh your understanding of what plagiarism is and how to avoid it, see the Writing Center's helpful web page at https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/QuotingSources.html and Yale's more extensive discussion at https://ctl.yale.edu/writing/using-sources/understanding-and-avoiding-plagiarism.

Sorry to go on at such length, but we've had lots of questions from lots of students, and this seemed like the quickest and easiest way to share answers with all of you at once.

Please remember that we genuinely do intend this assignment to be fun, both for you and for the would-be visitor to the exhibit you're preparing. If it's not feeling that way to you, you may be approaching it in an unhelpful frame of mind. Focus on what's most interesting and intriguing and important about your chosen topic, convey those things to the visitor/reader, and hopefully the resulting energy will make you feel better about the paper.

Good luck! We're really looking forward to reading your papers.

No Additional Historical Society Tours (sent 10/19/17)

Friends--

After trying to find a time that made sense for scheduling an additional tour at the Historical Society for our final paper assignment in 460, I'm sorry to have to report that we were unable to locate a time that worked for more than a very few students--not enough to justify the extra labor on the part of Historical Society staff to host another such gathering.

So, with regrets, I'm writing to report that the tours we've already scheduled are the only ones that will be available for students in our course. If you're one of the handful of students unable to make those work for your schedule, please make a point of talking with a student who did take one of the tours to get a sense of the kinds of topics they covered.

Have a great weekend, and I'll see you next week.

Bill

Doodle Poll for Scheduling an Additional Wisconsin Historical Society Tour (sent 10/16/17)

Friends--

A number of you have indicated that you're unable to make any of the already scheduled times for tours of the Wisconsin Historical Society in preparation for our final paper in History/Geography/Environmental Studies 460. Since the tour is likely to be very helpful for that assignment, the Society's staff have agreed to schedule one more tour for us at one of the following times:

Monday 23 Oct., 11:00 am-12:00 pm

Tues. 24, Oct., 6:00 pm-7:00 pm

Fri. 27 Oct., 2:00 pm-3:00 pm

Sat. 28 Oct., 1:00 pm- 2:00 pm

To try to decide which of these will work for the largest number of 460 students, I would be very grateful if those of you who cannot attend one of the already scheduled tours would indicate your availability on the following Doodle poll:

http://doodle.com/poll/nq9idkq6iivgp244

Please indicate ALL the times you could attend; the poll is set up so you can indicate preferences by marking times as "Yes," "No," and "If Necessary." I'll try to choose the time that works for the largest number of you.

Again, if you cannot attend one of the exist tours, please fill out this poll at your earliest convenience. We'll make a decision about an extra tour sometime in the next couple days, probably so it can be announced in lecture on Wednesday.

Thanks!

Bill

Reminders for This Week's Exam, Sections, and Tours (sent 10/15/17)

Friends--

I know you've been busy studying for tomorrow's midterm exam, and hope you're feeling good about your preparations for it. Since our discussions this week will be moving right on from the exam to spend time brainstorming about the final paper, I'm writing to remind you of various things we'll be doing this week:

1) To restate the obvious: the midterm exam is tomorrow during our regular class time from 2:30-3:45pm in 2650 Humanities. Please try to arrive a little early so you can settle in before we start the exam.

2) If you have a McBurney accommodation for the exam, you'll be taking it in the conference room in the History Department's offices in 3211 Humanities, on the floor above our lecture hall in the corner of the building nearest Memorial Library.

3) Please remember to write your name, section leader's name, and section time on every piece of paper you submit with the exam: the exam itself (which you'll fold in half and put inside the blue book), along with the blue book(s) you turn in.

4) PLEASE remember only to answer 10 (that's TEN) of the matching questions, NOT all 12. Every wrong answer counts against you, so there is NO rational reason to answer more than 10 (though it does make sense to answer 10 even if you have to guess at the last couple).

5) If you haven't recently reread the exemplary blue book essays from the 2015 midterm exam, linked from the bottom of our course web page, it might be a good idea to do so before the exam to think about strategies for outlining your blue book essay. Remember that we encourage you to spend 5-10 minutes (no more than that!) outlining your essay before you start writing. If you do so, please leave your outline in the blue book so we can look at it if we need to do so.

6) We'll be returning and commenting on your first paper in section this week as a way to get you started thinking about ways of improving your writing for the final paper. If you have writing questions lingering from that assignment, please come prepared to share them in section.

7) We'd like to brainstorm in section this week about your final paper, so please also come prepared to share your current thinking about the kind of topic you have in mind for that assignment. If you haven't recently reread the prompt in the syllabus for the final assignment, please do so before section, and come with thoughts and questions to share.

8) Don't forget that the staff of the Historical Society has arranged this week and next for special tours of their collections specifically targeted on this assignment. The times of the tours are listed in our syllabus and on the course web page, but here they are again so you can make sure to get one of them on your calendar.

Wednesday, 18 Oct, 4:00-5:00pm

Thursday, 19 Oct, 4:00-5:00pm

Monday, 23 Oct, 4:00-5:00pm

Tuesday, 24 Oct, 9:00-10:00am

Wednesday, 25 Oct, 4:00-5:00pm

They do a great job with these tours, and you will not regret taking one if you can possibly squeeze it into your schedule.

9) Finally, our reading for the week after next, David Stradling's Conservation in the Progressive Era: Classic Texts, is one of the best of the semester. It's short but dense, a wonderful collection of primary documents relating to the history of the Progressive conservation movement. Since you have no other readings this week, you might as well get started on it early if you're so inclined. I've just loaded the notes for Wednesday's lecture, and you'll likely find them helpful for your reading of Stradling.

I think that's all for now. See you tomorrow!

Bill

New Note Sheets Loaded, and a Reminder about the First Paper (sent 9/24/17)

Hi, everyone. This is just a quick note to let you know that I've just finished major revisions to the two note sheets for this week's lectures, which should be much more helpful to you than past versions. In particular, I've added a number of live URLs to the notes for Wednesday's lecture on romantic writers and painters, making it much easier for you to examine for yourself a number of the images I'll be showing in lecture. I hope you find those helpful.

Please remember too that your first paper is due at the start of lecture a week from tomorrow, on Monday, October 2. Tomorrow's lecture should be especially useful in helping you think about things you may want to write about. If you've misplaced your copy of the assignment, it's linked from the course web page, and also directly downloadable from this link: http://www.williamcronon.net/courses/460/handouts/460-first-paper-higginson-needful-things.pdf.

Please be sure to come to section this week having completed your reading of Changes in the Land and having given some creative thought to what you'd like to write about for your paper. The more ideas and questions you have for brainstorming about that assignment in this week's discussion section, the better.

See you tomorrow!

Bill

Reminders Before First Lecture (sent 9/6/17)

Friends--

Today is our first lecture for History / Geography / Environmental Studies 460, "American Environmental History," and I want to send along a few quick reminders before we meet:

1) Our first discussion sections will begin meeting NEXT week, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, September 12-14. If you have a Wednesday or Thursday section, you should NOT attend that section this week.

2) Remember that outline notes for each lecture will be available prior to each class on our class home page at http://www.williamcronon.net/courses/460/. (You should bookmark this page and visited it regularly, but you can also usually find it by searching for the phrase "Cronon 460" in Google) Since you're not allowed to use screen-based devices during lectures, you may find it helpful to print out these notes beforehand so you can bring them along to lecture and make notes on them yourself. I will try always to have updated notes on the course web page by the night prior to a given class to give you time to do this.

3) Remember that today's lecture is based on a published lecture of mine if you're interested in reading it. You'll find it linked from our course home page. The lecture is highly illustrated and probably more interested to hear first, so I would encourage you to read the essay after the lecture rather than before.

4) Our first assigned book in the class is my own Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. We will spend two weeks in September reading it, and your first paper assignment is partly based on it, so you should make sure you have access to a copy. It arrived at the University Bookstore yesterday, and can of course also be ordered online; reserve copies are available at the library.

5) Remember that you cannot take this course if you're not enrolled in a discussion section that fits your schedule and that you can actually attend. Being registered for a section you cannot attend gives you no claim on any other section in the course. If you're in this situation, please drop the section in which you're registered and keep a close eye on the Registrar's website to see if space opens up in a section you can attend; if you see one, move quickly to add it to your schedule. As of this moment, it looks like there are four sections that have open seats.

6) If you are interested in transferring to Section 301, the Honors/Grad section which I myself teach from 8:30-9:45am on Wednesday mornings, please email me by no later tonight to explain your reasons for wanting to enroll in that section. There are very few seats available (you cannot see these online), but I'll authorize a few transfers probably tomorrow, so it's imperative that you contact me today if you're interested.

7) Finally, I want to warn you that our classroom, 2650 Humanities, will be very near its total capacity. The course is almost fully registered, and there are also many auditors who are hoping to attend lectures. I've already started turning away many would-be auditors, but be forewarned that finding a seat is likely to be a challenge all semester long. I'd encourage regular students to arrive at least 5-10 minutes early just to make sure you get the seat you want.

I think that's all for now. See you this afternoon!

Bill

Introductory Email with Details about the Start of the Semester (sent 8/29/17)

Friends—

Welcome to History/Geography/Environmental Studies 460, "American Environmental History," in which you are currently enrolled. We're delighted you've decided to join us for the semester!

FIRST LECTURE ON WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6:

Please read the following carefully so you'll be ready for the first time we meet for lecture, on Wednesday, September 2, from 2:30-3:45pm in 2650 Humanities--as well as for your first discussion section, which will be held during the week of September 11.

FIRST DISCUSSION SECTIONS WILL BE HELD ON SEPTEMBER 12-14:

Discussion sections are a very important part of this course, so please be sure to attend regularly right from the start!

IMPORTANT: SWITCHING SECTIONS:

If you are currently registered for a section in the course that you cannot actually attend, you must drop that section and register for another section that you are able to attend. You cannot simply switch sections informally, and you can only change to a section that has available openings. Be forewarned that being registered in a section you cannot actually attend gives you NO claim on any other sections of the course, so there is no incentive to remain registered in a section you know you cannot attend. Remaining in such a section prevents other students from registering for it, so you will be doing everyone a favor if you drop that section as soon as possible. If you're still trying to find a section that will work for you, you should check the Registrar's website for 460 as frequently as you can between now and the second week of the semester to see if anything opens up; if it does, you should grab the open slot that works for you as quickly as possible. That is the only way you'll be able to take the course. Section leaders will NOT permit students to attend sections in which they are not actually registered.

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN THE HONORS / GRAD SECTION 301:

If you are an Honors undergraduate or a graduate student not already registered for Section 301, which I myself teach from 8:30-9:45am Wednesdays, and if you would like to be considered for permission to transfer into that section, please send an email to me at wcronon@wisc.edu at your earliest convenience (and no later than right after the first lecture) so I'll know of your interest and your reasons for being interested in the Honors/grad section. I'll make decisions about admitting a few more students into that section sometime next week shortly after the first lecture. The sooner you can be in touch with me if you're interested in transferring, the better.

COURSE WEBSITE AND SYLLABUS:

We have a course page on my personal website at http://www.williamcronon.net/courses/460/ which you'll want to get to know well. Handouts will appear on it with outline notes for each individual lecture, along with many other resources relating to the course. I've just uploaded and provided links to the full syllabus, which you'll find formatted both for printing and for on-screen viewing. The HTML version of the syllabus can be accessed at http://www.williamcronon.net/courses/460/460_syllabus_fall_2017.html, which I'd urge you to read carefully as soon as possible (but remember, that is NOT the best version for printing). It gives a comprehensive overview of all assignments, including the required books that are on sale at the University Bookstore in case you want to try to acquire copies at more favorable prices. Printed copies of the syllabus will be available for everyone at the first lecture. A PDF version is available from the course web page as well, and I've also attached a copy of that PDF to this email so you'll have it right away.

EMAIL COMMUNICATIONS:

As you can probably already tell, we rely heavily on email to communicate with students in 460, so please get in the habit of checking email regularly for communiations like this one. (Most won't be nearly as long as this one!) We archive all of the most important of these emails on the course website at

http://www.williamcronon.net/courses/460/460_emails.html

which is accessible along with everything else via the course web page at

http://www.williamcronon.net/courses/460/

...another good reason to make sure you bookmark this last link and visit it regularly. Give it a try now and you'll find this email already there.

That's all for now. We're looking forward to seeing you soon. Welcome aboard!

Bill Cronon

and the rest of your section leaders

Rachel Boothby

Carly Griffith

Ben Kasten