“Finding Nature at the Mall”: Guiding Questions

In this chapter from her book Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America,  author Jennifer Price raises a number of questions by looking at the contradictions inherent in experiencing nature in a retail space, especially that bastion of consumerism, the modern mall.

 

In this chapter, Price presents us with a typical academic argument, and as such, her analysis is a great model for your own, so pay attention to her writerly moves. Think back to Humble: in his book, he argues that the college essay is not a persuasive paper, that sometimes we don’t need to convince the reader to believe that our stance on a topic is the right one. One of the most fruitful things a scholarly argument can do is change the conversation, get us to look at the conversation in a new way, or direct our attention to something she feels isn’t being discussed yet. Price does that.

Use the following questions to guide your reading of Price’s chapter for Tuesday:

Questions Regarding Price’s Public Space Analysis (i.e., Her Writerly Moves):

  • Consider how Price “reads” the retail space of The Nature Company. What kinds of features or details does she notice or describe?
  • How does Price use her descriptions of the space she’s analyzing to support her claims?
  • How does Price link information about context (e.g., history, culture, consumerism, etc.) to her arguments about nature at the mall?

Regarding the Larger Conversation Price is Joining:

  • According to Price, what is the cultural and historical context out of which stores like The Nature Company arose (i.e., what was happening in America that gave rise to the development and success of this company)?
  • How has capitalism changed the way we experience, or are encouraged to experience, nature?
  • Is it possible to experience nature at the mall?  If so, how?  If not, why do we attempt to do so?  (Consider some of the contradictions about experiencing nature at the mall that Price observes in her chapter.)
  • Why do shoppers, including Price herself, have mixed feelings about buying products from stores like The Nature Company?
  • What does a place like The Nature Company say about our  ideas about nature? Or about how we value nature (or don’t) in our modern world?
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