RHE 309K: Rhetoric of the National Parks
“There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children's children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”
– President Theodore Roosevelt, Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter
The dominant discourse surrounding our national parks consists of grand claims about their majesty, purity, and importance to humanity. And yet, since their inception, the national parks have also sparked fierce disagreements about land rights, the treatment of indigenous peoples, accessibility, environmental stewardship, the role of the federal government, and more. Just this January, the National Parks Service and Badlands National Park tweeted inconvenient truths about topics such as climate change – tweets that were hastily deleted, and then continued on new “rogue” Twitter accounts – thereby reviving debates about the role of the parks, the values they uphold, and their place in our national consciousness.
Together, we will trace how people have argued for the creation, maintenance, and utilization of America’s national parks, and how those arguments have been critiqued and challenged. Our course materials will provide history, context, rhetorical concepts, research advice and writing skills to support your personal research into present-day disagreements and controversies surrounding the parks. You will research one controversy throughout multiple writing assignments (two major papers, one of which will undergo revision, several short writing assignments, and a final project). The course will culminate with a final project in which you will advocate a position your chosen controversy. You are encouraged to be creative with the form and format of these presentations (possibilities include park brochures, promo videos, photograph series, and ranger talks), which will be accompanied by a formal write-up.
Annotated Bibliography 15% Rhetorical Analysis 10% Rhetorical Analysis Revision 15% Final Project 15% Final Project Revision 20% Oral Presentation 5% Short Writing Assignments 15% Participation 5% Peer reviews: Mandatory
-Ken Burns, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” (documentary series; free streaming available through UT Libraries or Amazon Prime)
-Andrea A. Lunsford, John J. Ruszkiewicz, and Keith Walters, Everything’s an Argument (available for purchase at the Co-op)
-The Little Longhorn Handbook (available for purchase at the Co-op)
Additional readings will be provided on Canvas. Possible readings include excerpts from This is the American Earth by Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall, and Nature Writings by John Muir. In addition to in-class and assigned readings, students will conduct individual research on a National Parks-related controversy of their choice.