Wow. I want to begin by saying that I continue to be impressed by all the things the state of Nebraska has to offer. I wish the rest of the nation could see the incredible sites and meet the great people of this state. When I first decided I was going to pursue my graduate studies in Nebraska, I heard every single stereotype of the state from everyone I talked to. Sometimes I felt like people were trying to make the state look bad to me so I would decide to go somewhere they preferred. Their opinions obviously didn’t stop me from moving here; I prefer to make my own opinions of things through firsthand experiences anyway. I’m glad I moved here, and I hope to take the many positive things in this state back with me when I go home and tell my friends all about the great state of Nebraska.
One thing that continued to open my eyes this week were the sites in the web tour. I am most impressed by the Prairie Plains Resource Institute. The many locations they have preserved for visitation are incredible. I’m not quite sure how I would structure visiting these locations into a course since I realize students only have so much time in class and are only willing to devote so much time outside of it, but I think it would be a great learning experience. I think students could write essays on their experiences with the locations and what they learned from having those experiences. I know I would learn a lot, seeing as I feel as though I still know little about the Midwest.
On a side note, I would love to go to the Nebraska Crane Festival some year. The pictures on the website look stunning!
John Price’s “The First Miracle of the Prairie” made me realize how unlikely it would be for me to take on the same experience alone. I always joke with my friends that I fear nature, though I actually find it beautiful and wish I could explore more of it. I suppose I just fear the wildlife elements and possibly getting hurt, but most of these fears are irrational. Price’s experience, at the beginning, is exactly as I picture mine would be. A person who has “never camped alone in any vast natural place like that, ever,” exploring for the first time (Price 2). I think I would similarly have issues settling in at first. Again, I don’t think I could ever do something like this alone, and I’m not quite sure why I feel this way.
I also thought the stories of Euro-American settlement were important in understanding the place Price describes. I think we must learn about the past before being able to appreciate the present. I often wish for more hours in a day so I wouldn’t feel rushed to get everything I want to do done. I feel like the fast-paced media world has ruined my patience in appreciating my surroundings. I have trouble staying or doing one thing for very long, and I think it’s awful. Like Price said, I do often rely on “nature writers” who I expect to “call attention to what is unique and worth saving in our environment, to write places in our collective consciousness” (Price 15). I guess this is my way of making up for not exploring these places myself, or finding the time to do so.
“Matfield Green” was striking. I never thought about disappearing communities, though I guess they have always existed. I guess I’ve just been a “big city” or “worldly” girl for so long, I forget about the little guy, so to speak. One section I felt a small connection to, however, was when Jackson discusses the program collections at the Country Club (98-99). For years, I collected every program, flyer, and ticket from every show, performance, or movie I was a part of or went to. Until the day I lost my purse (and “my life”) during my sophomore year of college, I kept everything. I still have every one of those things in my bedroom closet in Muscle Shoals, but I definitely don’t collect things the same anymore. I liked to pretend that someday I would have children (and grandchildren) to show these “old” programs to and they could relive some of my experiences with me, like families do on television. I think we can learn a lot from old programs and papers, like Jackson does. In fact, I go back through my collections from time to time and learn something new every time. It’s like looking at old pictures of days or moments of your life, in a sense.
Finally, Thomas Hothem’s “Suburban Studies an College Writing: Applying Ecocomposition” covers the lost feeling I also get at the idea of being “face with the task of writing on environments like lakes, rivers, forests, etc.,’ because these things are ‘not a huge part of many students’ lives growing up” (36). They definitely weren’t part of mine, but I do think promoting awareness of our environment is important.
The section on the place writing process, again, reminds me of my place writing course at Alabama last semester. Similarly, we read works by writers like Stegner and were asked to write our own place descriptions from those models (Hothem 43). By writing these descriptions, I gained a lot of insight on the places and began to think of them in ways I never really had before. Similarly to Hothem’s descriptions, my classmates and I exchanged our work every other week and took turns commenting on our thoughts on each other’s place descriptions. We worked on cleaning up our writing, but also making our descriptions make more sense to the outside reader, our audience. I think one thing that makes this type of writing difficult, at least for me, is the idea of who my audience is. How deep do I need to go in my descriptions to convey these locations to a person who may not have an idea of, say, where in the world Muscle Shoals, Alabama is? How much can I assume the reader knows, especially when dealing with producing content for the web? These questions boggled my mind last semester and continue to do so today.
I’m also glad Hothem touched on media analysis. In my future teaching, I would really enjoy a focus on media analysis in the study of composition. I especially liked Spigel’s idea of television as a “‘picture window’ onto the world, a discursive space through which the family [can] mediate the contradictory impulses for a private haven on the one hand, and community participation on the other” (Hothem 52). I agree that television “contributes to the prevailing sense of what is others ‘normal’ and disseminates language” just from my firsthand experiences (53). Television taught me English, in a sense. My mother loves telling the story of how she and I would watch Wheel of Fortune daily, and I would learn my alphabet. Before reading became my primary consumption of knowledge, I learned from television shows. I watched shows like The Cosby Show and The Brady Bunch for years (I still do) and imagined families to be like these traditional, wholesome ones. I learned about traditional American family life, or at least, what I thought it to be from these depictions. I expected every American mother to make cookies and lemonade for their children, and for parents to read them bedtime stories every night. Many times, I wished my parents would do these types of things, though today, I realize they aren’t necessarily realistic.
While I’m still trying to figure out how I would incorporate media analysis into my teaching, I know this path is one I’d like to pursue. I would particularly like to include social media as well, though these ideas are still vague in my head. I would also like to incorporate these media depictions in a comparison to real places themselves. Perhaps a revelation on how to go about these ideas will hit me soon.