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Chesapeake Semester Humanities:

A Humanistic Perspective on the Chesapeake

Course Coordinator: Professor Sean Meehan, English [116 Goldstein]

See not with the eye of science—which is barren—nor of youthful poetry which is impotent. But taste the world & digest it. It would seem as if things got said but rarely & by chance—As you see so at length will you say. When facts are seen superficially they are seen as they lie in relation to certain institution’s perchance. But I would have them expressed as more deeply seen with deeper references—so that the hearer or reader cannot recognize them or apprehend their significance from the platform of common life—but it will be necessary that he be in a sense translated in order to understand them.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal [September 20, 1851]


Wonder lies in the bay and its watershed in full measure. It is nothing alien or mystical, or reserved for the expert. It is a different way of looking at things, a scarcely plumbed literature awaiting only skillful enough translation and properly attuned ears, to which these essays may contribute a bit.

Tom Horton, Bay Country [1987]


Course Focus:

Our section of the Chesapeake Semester offers a humanistic perspective on the Chesapeake Bay, the focus of your intensive study this fall. One way to think about this part of the course would be the most familiar: just as you will be exploring the organic life of the Bay from the perspective of the natural and social sciences, so too you will encounter, in both readings, discussions, and your various field experiences, cultural artifacts of the Bay in terms of music, philosophy, the visual arts, and writing. However, we will also emphasize that to develop any understanding of the Bay, be it scientific or poetic or philosophical or anthropological, the student must learn to see and hear and think and write, as Thoreau puts it, with deeper references. Writing and thinking and creating are also organic endeavors. In this sense, our course is an exploration not just of the humanities of the Bay—arts, ethics, literature, writing—but of the humanistic understanding that you will bring to all the components of the Chesapeake Semester, that you will demonstrate (we expect) in your final project, and that you will translate (we hope) into your future studies and endeavors beyond this course and the college.

Course Materials:

Tom Horton, Bay Country

Additional readings will be provided by instructors or made available to you in print or pdf

Notebook for journaling and sketching

WordPress blog

Eyes, Hands, Mind


Course Perspectives, Goals and Keywords:

There are three perspectives that we will focus on as we develop our broader Humanistic perspective on the Chesapeake.

Ethical Perspective: an understanding of philosophical principles that inform the ways we develop moral consideration and make ethical judgments of value. These are ways of thinking and valuing that you will develop across the Chesapeake Semester and encounter in course readings and discussions.

Rhetorical Perspective: an understanding of rhetorical principles that inform the ways we express, communicate, and argue from our experiences and persuade others of our ideas and beliefs, enhancing the ways we think and, importantly, rethink those ideas and beliefs. These are ways of communicating and expressing that you will develop across the Chesapeake Semester and encounter in the course readings and discussions.

Aesthetic Perspective: an understanding of artistic principles that inform the ways we perceive, represent, and even create the environment. These are ways of seeing, hearing, and feeling that you will develop across the Chesapeake Semester and encounter in the course readings and discussions.

The goals for this course are to gain a better grasp on these perspectives through our readings, discussions, and field experiences; to engage and intersect these perspectives with other perspectives and issues across the Chesapeake Semester, in your Social Science and Natural Science courses the range of interdisciplinary experiences you will have; to your grasp of, and engagement with, these perspectives in the work you produce in the writing assignments and for the final project.

Key intersections we will be considering at various points in Chesapeake Humanities:

  • Nature and Culture
  • Science and Belief
  • Local and Global
  • Pattern and Chaos

Keywords you will encounter:

  • Aesthetic
  • Anthropocentric and Ecocentric
  • Ethics
  • Instrumental Value and Intrinsic Value
  • Irony
  • Love
  • Moral Consideration
  • Rhetoric
  • Seeing
  • Sentience
  • Wilderness


These keywords and intersections make for good material to explore in your blogging and stalking.


Questions for Debriefings

For each Journey, we will ask you to carry two general questions with you into the field and be prepared to discuss your response to them in the debriefings when you return. In addition, your responses to these questions provide great material for you to incorporate into your blog and the Stalking writing assignment.

Question 1: What is an Ethical, Aesthetic, and/or Rhetorical Perspective that you encountered during the journey? Make a connection between a perspective that you encounter in the field (in a person, a place or site, an issue or problem) and an element of ethics, aesthetics, or rhetoric you encountered in class readings and discussions.

Question 2: Horton’s Bay Country covers many aspects of the Chesapeake that you are encountering in the field; however, it is almost thirty years old. Make note of any element of the Chesapeake that you encounter that Horton also writes about. What does Horton get right in his discussion? What needs to be updated or revised?

In addition to these two questions for each journey, you might be given additional questions in class discussion more specific to the Journey or a particular issue discussed in the course at that point.



Blog: 20%

Stalkings: 45%

Final Project Essay: 25%

Participation: 10%


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