Week 5

Week 5

There are often numerous layers within a piece of writing: a layer of fiction, a layer of reality, a layer made of the writer’s personality and one constructed by the writer’s culture.   The archetypal “masked” figure is a good symbol to use to help us understand this concept. A mask is on the surface. It is a culturally constructed, mapped surface that is understood by the person wearing it, but it isn’t necessarily the same as what is found underneath.

In much the same way, the natural world and our connection to it and our interactions with it are culturally constructed, mapped, and understood by moving across it. The way in which European-Americans and indigenous Alaskans construct and understand this surface, however, are sometimes very different, and yet, ultimately, the Alaskan and Yukon environment shapes the people in it in unavoidable ways.

This week, pay attention to the way that the mask shapes the person who wears it. In other words, think about how Alaska and the Yukon territories shape those who live there, even when those who live there are trying their hardest to shape the environment.


Reading Assignment

In The Last New Land read pp. 249-324

Also, download and read this essay, “Pioneer of the Alaska Highway,” which appeared in the October 2008 issue of Alaska Magazine.


The author, Bryr Ludington Harris is an Alaskan author living on the Kenai Peninsula.   She has kindly agreed to answer questions from you about the research she did, her writing process, and any other inquiries you might have for her in the comments section below. Feel free to quote from her answers in your own blog entry, just remember to cite your source.


Blog Entry 3

Do some research on one of your favorite writers so far and discuss the ways in which the writer discovers something about himself or herself by writing about landscape.

Start thinking about the topic by considering these questions: How do writers make a connection between the exterior landscape of Alaska and their internal psychological or emotional landscapes? Why is landscape such a prominent feature in Alaska writing?

All blog (or website) entries should display the following qualities:

  • Entries should consist of at least one visual and 3-4 paragraphs of writing.
  • Writing must be appropriate for a 300-level English course (good grammar, spelling, and punctuation and an educated level of academic inquiry).
  • You must in some way refer to what you’ve been reading in the weeks leading up to the blog entry. This can be in the form of quotes, references, or any extra information you might be able to find on the author or work.
  • If you use a web-source for photos, additional media, quoted text, or any other source material you must cite the source and link to it.


Discussion 4: Follow the instructions below.

Go to our Google+ Community and do the following:

1. Try to answer one or more of these questions by either responding to my G+ Community post (it’s been tagged with the category “4: Resources”) or creating your own shared post with a link to examples, photos, videos, or any other media you find on the web.

2. Respond to one or more of your classmates who have posted in Discussion Category 4: Resources (categories are located on the left hand side of the Google+ Community) in a thoughtful way.