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PWR 2EPD: Trekkers, Trampers, and Travelers: Storytelling On The World’s Trails

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Catalog Number: PWR 2EPD

Instructor: Emily Polk

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP)

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent


Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

Rebecca Solnit writes in Wanderlust, A History of Walking: “Language is like a road, it cannot be perceived all at once because it unfolds in time, whether heard or read. This narrative or temporal element has made writing and walking resemble each other.” 

In this class, we will disconnect from our screens and get into the wild on several field trips to local walking spots, as we explore elements of writing, speaking, and walking through the lens of trails—also referred to as tracks or footpaths—locally and around the world. In our classroom, we will explore the rhetoric of wild trails—from the first ones created by indigenous people to hunt, trade and hold ceremonies; to sacred pagan pilgrimages; to routes of historic protest marches; to treks across the world’s tallest mountain ranges, and more. The meaning and mythologies of a trail, much like all our rhetorical practices, are determined by the social and cultural contexts in which it is embedded. Trails have been sites of violence and of freedom; and their usage, over time, has signified both poverty and leisure. Today people walk and march on trails for many reasons—to connect with the earth; as rites of passage; to raise visibility for a cause; to push the boundaries of our bodies and minds, among many others. 

Through readings, in class discussion, and a research project we will consider some of the following questions: What is the role of language in shaping our experiences with and understandings of different trails? What are the rhetorical practices and cultural traditions found on trails around the world? How have histories of violence marked some of the routes we have made and the ways we travel them? How have trails been used as pathways to liberation and justice—for humanity and the more than human world?

Examples of research topics

For this course, you will engage in a quarter-long in-depth research project. Sample research topics include but are not limited to the development of long-distance hiking trails like the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail; the rhetoric of historic marches like Gandhi’s Salt March or MLK’s march to Selma; sacred trails like the 1000-year old Camino de Santiago or the 15,000 year old Mount Kailash pilgrimage or the cultures that emerge on different routes, (think: the movie Nomadland.) You might want to research different myths and legends associated with specific routes, or the histories of segregation and fights for accessibility, diversity and inclusion on trails.  

PWR 2 Assignment Sequence                                                                              

Research Proposal 

(5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words; reflective memo of 250 words): For this assignment, you'll develop and propose a research project that investigates a social, cultural, historic, or geologic issue connected to a specific trail, trek, or march of your choosing. You'll compose your proposal in both written and oral form.

Written Research-Based Argument

 (3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages; reflective memo of 250 words): In the final culmination of your research project, you will share your research-based argument in a written essay. You'll supplement your secondary research with primary research (i.e. interviews and archival research).

Research Presentation

 (10-minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support; reflective memo of 250 words): In this assignment you will give an oral presentation on your project. Presentations will include multimedia components such as presentation slides, audio and video clips, or other visual aids. Presenters will also participate in a Q&A session.

Genre/Modes assignment

(Trail journal/research log): Throughout the quarter you will keep a trail journal where you will record your observations, thoughts, and personal reflections. Entries into your journal will include writing exercises from our field trips, reflections on class texts, memos on your work, peer review, and other life-changing epiphanies. You’ll share excerpts of this journal on our last class.