The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

George Catlin, from “Letters and Notes on the Manners,
Customs and Conditions of the North American Indians. . . ”

  1. What are some features of Catlin’s descriptions of the buffaloes? Which of their habits does he describe, and what seems to be his opinion of them?
  2. According to Catlin, what are reasons for the buffalo’s imminent disappearance? What does he think of these changes?
  3. How does his prose reveal his attitudes and opinions of this topic?
  4. Which scenes are especially striking? In the dramatic scene of the old buffalo’s death, who is the attacker?
  5. What is the effect of his final vision of the slaughter and death of the buffalo? (143) Is his use of reverie in this scene effective?

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, 1835

  1. Do you think Emerson has been reading Wordsworth? What are some similarities? What are some differences? Do you think he is a “deep ecologist”? A “social ecologist”?
  2. What are some features of Emerson’s style? What kinds of metaphors does he use? How would you compare his style with that of Ruskin?
  3. What does Emerson oppose to tradition? What are some of his definitions of “nature”? From what is it differentiated? (146

    How is landscape different from land and conceptions of ownership? What is the relation between “nature” and traditional conceptions of divinity, according to Emerson?
  4. What is the importance of the perceptions of children? (147)
  5. What features does he ascribe to nature? What scenes create an especial sense of solitude? Which parts of nature cheer the viewer, and why?
  6. Why do you think he is attracted to “the distant line of the horizon”?
  7. What is “the “occult relation between man and the vegetable”? Is nature a “higher power,” or a reflection of ourselves, or both? Does Emerson believe that humans project their own emotions onto nature? (148)
  8. Do you believe all of his ideas about nature are consistent, and if not, is this important?

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