Snow: Art and Science

Spring 2017 - Syllabus


This first-year seminar offers an introduction to the literature, science, and technology of alpine crystals, as well as an exploration of the idea of “winter mountaintop sublimity” as it is addressed from a variety of perspectives.  Our focus will be on reading, writing, and animated discussion about snow and ice crystals as they are featured in prose and poetry (as well as historically in scientific experiments), and we’ll have a field trip this semester to local sites related to our inquiry: The Snowflake Bentley Exhibit in Jericho, Vermont, and the snowmaking facilities of Smugglers’ Notch Ski Area. This seminar will feature daily writing and discussion, four formal essays, including one longer essay with a research component, and individual student presentations in addition to the required field work components.  


 (Common Text: Luong Ung’s First They Killed My Father – first week of classes)

1)      Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (Oxford World Classics) ISBN:  978-0-19-953788-4
2)      Eric Wilson’s The Spiritual History of Ice (Palgrave 2009) ISBN: 0230619711
3)      Ruth Kirk’s Snow (U of Washington P, 1998) ISBN:  0-295-97734-5
4)      The Little Seagull Handbook, 2nd edition, Norton ISBN: 978-0-393-93581-3


      5)  Francis Spufford’s  I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination (Picador 1997)
      6)   M.F. Robinson’s The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture 
(U of Chicago P, 2006)
      7) Robert Macfarlane’s Mountains of the Mind (Vintage, 2004)

H) Individual handouts (provided by me) including poems by:
            Robert Frost, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and
            local contemporary Vermont Poets and essayists

Readings are noted on the syllabus by author’s last name (or a short running title) and page number; students must complete the assigned reading by the date indicated.  Only reading and essay due dates are noted below, but please expect to do lots of writing in this seminar!  I’ll assign specific assignments in class regularly, and these writing exercises aren’t noted on the syllabus.  The 4 longer essays (all noted below) will total approx. 20 pages of writing, and the weekly response papers (noted below as “RP”), and in-class writing will add up to another 35-40 pages of written work. 

Examples of some past guest speakers: 
Prof. John O’Meara talks about snow on other planets
Prof. Sandy Karstens presented on crystal formation with models and props
VPAA Prof. Karen Talentino did a presentation on winter animals (how different mammals adapt to snow, etc.)
Eben Widlund from the Adventure Sports Center and Student Ross Henry’16 presented on backcountry safety and ice climbing.

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