Discussion 1: Alaskan Identity

Alaskan Identity

First, take a moment to introduce yourself to your classmates. As you will be talking to each other all semester, maybe include an interesting detail about yourself or some way for us to remember you. Then consider the following:

Say, “I’m from Alaska,” and instantly you’ve piqued interest in your audience. Alaska inspires an array of images and notions in both those from the state and those from outside of it. These are notions of open space and wilderness, of extreme temperatures and rugged landscapes,  and of people who live in such environments. In John Haines’ chapter “Of Traps and Snares,” Haines discusses one pastime, trapping,  that has held our imaginations for generations. Even if the modern world were to collapse, Haines writes, “…with a good axe in hand, a gun, a net, a few traps — life will go on in the old, upstanding ways.” There is a romantic simplicity to the hardship of the woodsmen lifestyle Haines describes.

The lifestyle that Haines describes might be the same lifestyle that Christopher McCandless sought when he walked into the woods. The young man was looking to test himself, to get away from civilization, and to capture and understand some very Alaskan–or very American–dream. In his essay, “Death of an Innocent,” Jon Krakauer follows  the tale of this young man whose romantic ideas of Alaska lead to his tragic death. Krakauer chronicles  the circumstances that lead up to McCandless’ decision to walk into the woods, and makes the case for McCandless as simply a young man testing himself, whose luck ran out.

For discussion, read the following two essays:

“Of Traps and Snares” by John Haines (Located in our class’s blackboard site)

Death of an Innocent‘ by Jon Krakauer

Then answer the question below. Remember that your response should be unique, well written, and approximately 2 paragraphs worth of content, divided into at least 5  entries.  It should also clearly show that you have read the assigned essays by quoting or otherwise referring to them.  Reading and responding to other students’ comments is also part of the discussion.

Discussion Question: First, don’t forget to introduce  yourself, and your connection (or lack there of) to Alaska. Second, discuss the following questions: what Alaskan identities do we cherish and nurture? Do you feel connected to ideas of hardship for the sake solitary open space in the way that both Haines and McCandless connected with? Are these legitimate ideas with which to connect?

These discussion questions are a starting ground. Please take them wherever the conversation leads on our Slack discussion board. Now that you’ve read the discussion questions, time to take the leap! Head on over to  slack. Follow the email I sent you, then choose a log in name that easily identifies you (for my grading purposes), and find our team, which is “engl111ak_UX1.” You’ll find discussion #1 on the top left. See you there!

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