Rachel Carson stands alongside a select group of writers whose work resulted in fundamental public reconsideration of commonplace practices that had been assumed to be benign. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906) is probably the only book that has had as much impact on public attitudes and government policy as Silent Spring (1962). Not long after she published that book, the federal government created the Environmental Protection Agency, and it’s not an understatement to say that Silent Spring helped to launch the modern environmental movement. In short, Carson achieved a singular accomplishment in the history of persuasion. But what factors in the way she wrote this book made it so powerful then and make it so compelling for readers today, fifty years after its original publication? And what factors in American life in the early 1960s played a role it eh positive and negative reception of the book? To answer those questions and others, the class will read Carson’s classic in its entirety while discussing strategies for active, critical reading and using those strategies to examine Carson’s deployment of various rhetorical strategies. Since we know that arguments do not take place in a vacuum, I plan to make numerous resources available to the class that will help us understand the public Carson’s book was intended to persuade.
For this assignment, I want you to identify a particular persuasive strategy that Carson employs in Silent Spring and argue for or against the effectiveness of this particular strategy on her original audience, on contemporary readers, or on yourself as an individual reader. Your thesis might address why Carson’s argument worked so well with Americans in the early 1960s—a time when attitudes towards authority (and towards women scientists) were much different from those of today. But it might just as easily focus on why Carson successfully engages you (or fails to engage you) as an individual reader in 2013. That is, your thesis must include not only specific key ideas that pertain to elements of persuasion found in Silent Spring, it must also specify a particular audience as well. In addition to citing directly from Silent Spring, you must cite a minimum of two additional sources; those sources might be found on your own or they might be from materials made available to the entire class.
Imagine that you have been asked to contribute an article in a collection of student essays titled 50 Years After: College Students’ Perspectives on Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. The editor has asked you to keep the length to between 1400 and 1800 words. You will need to include a Works Cited page. Assume that your readers have not read Carson’s Silent Spring, but avoid unnecessarily long summary. Please cite your sources in MLA
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