ESPM 160




Study Guide







Films and Videos


Films emphasize the environmental history, nature, and ecology of various North American regions, how Indians used the land and its resources, the impact on the land by Europeans since Columbus, African American slavery and sharecropping, and the conservation and environmental movements. Films are coordinated with the lectures and readings in ESPM 160 and illustrate the themes of the course. The film series counts as 15% of your course grade.


1. Attend 8 out of 10 film weeks. Sign list in class each week. Films will be shown on Fridays, except for weeks 14 and 15 (Wed). Films are available for viewing and review in the ESPM Resource Center, 260 Mulford Hall, but viewing them there does not count toward the eight to be viewed in class.

2. Write 5 one-page, single-spaced, critical response papers on the topics listed below (3 points each). See due dates below. Write your section day and time and T.A. on your paper. See film paper guidelines. You may not hand in a paper written by another student or a paper for another course. The instructors will not read beyond one page.

Week 4. A Son of Africa: The Slave Narrative of Olaudah Equiano.

Account of a victim of the slave trade who recalls the horror of the passage, slavery on a Virginia plantation, life at sea, and whose autobiography makes a powerful contribution to abolition. (28 min.)

Week 5. Old Sturbridge Village.

Life and work in nineteenth century Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts, as reconstructed and reenacted. (30 min.)

Week 6. Response Paper #1 due

Paper #1: Choose topic 1 or 2

1. Compare and contrast the portrayal of Olaudah Equiano in the film "Son of Africa," with Equiano's own portrayal of his enslavement in Major Problems, chapter 4, document 8.

2. Compare and contrast the portrayal of farm life in the film "Old Sturbridge Village," with that revealed in the documents and essays on farm life in Major Problems, chapter 5.

Week 6. Talking with Thoreau.

Imagined conversations with Thoreau at Walden Pond as visited by David Brower, B.F. Skinner, Rosa Parks, and Elliott Richardson. (29 min)

Week 7. Homecoming.

The relationship between African Americans and the land they have worked since the Civil War as sharecroppers and farmers. (56 min.)

Week 8. Lecture, no film.

Week 9. Response Paper #2 due

Paper #2: Choose topic 1 or 2

1. Compare and contrast the portrayal of Thoreau in the film "Talking with Thoreau" with the portrayal of Thoreau in the documents and essays in Major Problems, chapter 6.

2. How have African Americans used the land since the Civil War and how have they dealt with challenges facing them as revealed in the film "Homecoming" and Major Problems, chapter 7.

Week 9. Battle for the Great Plains.

Indian/white encounters on the Great Plains; environmental transformation of the plains. Jane Fonda, narrator. (55 min)

Week 10. The Wilderness Idea.

John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and the battle over the Hetch Hetchy Valley of California (with Roderick Nash, William Cronon, Annette Kolodny, Michael Cohen, Stephen Fox, and others. (58 min.)

Week 11. Response Paper #3 due

Paper #3: Choose topic 1 or 2

1. Should the Great Plains be returned to the buffalo? Defend your answer using materials from the film "Battle for the Great Plains" and the documents and essays in Major Problems, Chapter 9.

2. Should Hetch Hetchy (O'Shaughnessy) dam be decommissioned and the valley be restored? Defend your answer by using materials from the film "The Wilderness Idea" and the documents and essays in Major Problems, chapters 10 and 11.

Week 11. Yosemite: The Fate of Heaven.

1851 diary of a California militiaman recounting first visit to Yosemite and encounters with Chief Tenaya and Miwoc Indians read by Robert Redford juxtaposed with present day campers and managers of Yosemite National Park. (58 min.)

Week 12. Veteran's Day, No film.

Week 13. Response Paper #4 due

Paper #4: Choose topic 1 or 2.

1. How should Native Americans and the National Parks be interpreted within the parks themselves? Draw on the film "Yosemite: The Fate of Heaven" and Major Problems, chapters 10 and 11.

2. What is wilderness? How and where should it be preserved? Draw on the film "Yosemite: The Fate of Heaven," and Major Problems, chapters 10 and 11.

Week 13. Rachel Carson and Silent Spring.

Rachel's Carson's life and work; writing and reception of Silent Spring. (58 min.)

Week 14. Wild By Law: Bob Marshall, Aldo Leopold, and Howard Zahniser.

Dust bowl, New Deal conservation, tourism, wilderness issues, Wilderness Act of 1964; Leopold and Zahniser's sons and daughters; historians and environmentalists William Cronon, Roderick Nash, Wallace Stegner, Max Oelschlager, Baird Callicott, Floyd Dominy, and David Brower. (58 min.)

Week 15. Response Paper #5 due

Paper #5: Choose topic 1 or 2

1. Assess Rachel Carson's impact on the environment. Draw on the film "Rachel Carson and Silent Spring" and Major Problems, chapter 13.

2. How have the national parks been changed by tourism? Draw on the film "Wild by Law" and Major Problems, chapters 11 and 14.

Week 15. Cadillac Desert, Part III.

Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert (1986) as portrayed in film, focusing on water in California's Central Valley. (58 min.)