people on a benchWeek 4: Reading cultural landscape studies


You now have your first 2 essays under your belt. Congratulations! This week we get a little more in depth in the art of reading and writing about cultural landscapes. Each of the readings and lessons below will move you down the road to a place where you will feel ready to write your own cultural landscape study (essay 3, due at the end of next week)! If you have any questions as you work through the assignments, please email me or post your questions to the Lounge.


  • take note of your progress building strong grammar skills: identifying and correcting fragments, comma splices, and fused sentences
  • practice using sensory detail and spatial organization in descriptive writing
  • learn techniques to analyze features of a landscape for cultural and historical meaning
  • read cultural landscape studies to get a sense of how authors construct this type of essay

Assignments & Instructions

  1. View the lesson on Descriptive Writing. Description will be an important element in your upcoming essay. 

  2. Read the excerpt from McTeague. Pay close attention to descriptive and organizational details as you read and take note of my pop-up comments; they will help you to identify and learn from Norris' descriptive techniques. Then, write a descriptive paragraph creating a modern version of Norris' panorama of life on a Western street. You may choose to describe a street in Santa Rosa as seen through a window at Starbucks, or a sidewalk scene in a small town. You decide, but make sure that you describe the "panorama" of life that you see in a meaningful way. And it must be public cultural landscape you describe rather than your back yard or a natural forest. Imitate Norris' style and techniques. Experiment with changing times of day, or move from a wide-angle view to a close-up view; play around with spatial organization, and use plenty of sensory detail (sights, sounds, textures, odors). Post your descriptive paragraph to the discussion forum. Then, read and respond to 2 or more descriptive paragraphs posted by your classmates (link to discussion is at the end of the reading). (10 points possible)

  3. Read the lesson on "Reading the Landscape" (no reading response required, though the information in this lesson will be essential to you when you write your third essay)

  4. Read "Streets and Yards of East L.A." by James Rojas. Then, when you are finished with your reading, answer the discussion questions in the discussion forum (link to discussion is at the end of the reading). (5 points)

  5. Read "K'Mart Has a Loveable Disorder," by Hank Stuever. Then, when you are finished with your reading, go to the discussion forum and answer the discussion questions (link to discussion is at the end of the reading). (5 points)