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Exploring Cape Cod

3 credits ENGL 181B (GH or US) and 1.5 credits RPTM

“Over the past four hundred years the Cape’s landscape and its people have probably inspired more memorable writing than any other nonurban area of comparable size,” writes Robert Finch of Cape Cod.  In “Exploring Cape Cod” (ENGL 181B) we will come to understand why the Cape has stirred the imagination and talents of so many—from indigenous people who lived there for millennia before the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620; to Henry Thoreau, who hiked the Cape in five visits there and wrote down his impressions of it; to Henry Beston, who built his “Outermost House” near the Nauset Inlet in the 1920s; to John Hay, who came to the Cape after World War II to learn to be a writer and stayed to become one of its most eloquent writers.  Add to this mix a number of contemporary writers—Elizabeth Bradfield, Annie Dillard, Robert Finch, David Gessner, Mary Oliver, and Heidi Jon Schmidt—and you have the basics of the classroom portion of the course.

Outside the classroom, the class will travel in Cape Cod during Thanksgiving Break, where we will live, work, and study for a week at the Massachusetts Audubon’s Wellfleet Wildlife Sanctuary, an 1100-acre nature preserve on Cape Cod Bay.  We will venture out to hike in the footsteps of Thoreau, Beston, and John Hay, and to take a boat into Cape Cod Bay to learn about seabirds and their migration.  We will spend time talking with some of the writers whose work we read in class.  We will explore the marshes and the beaches, and help sea turtle researchers working to save stranded turtles.  We will travel to and explore historic villages, windmills, and lighthouses, spend a day at Land’s End, in Provincetown.

For another perspective, check out writer Robert Finch's reflection on his time spent with the Fall 2015 English 181B class here.

Class Meetings and Field Trip

Class meets each Tuesday of the semester from 6:00 to 8:00.

Through Wednesday of Thanksgiving break: Travel to Cape Cod for a week of exploration and adventure with staff from the Massachusetts Audubon’s Wellfleet Wildlife Sanctuary (