(VS 052 – Section A:  No. 90210)


Time:  Tuesdays/Thursdays  12:30-1:45 p.m.                                                                    Fall 2003

Place:  Torrey 203


Professor Frank Bryan          

Tel:                656-0570

Office:           Room 540 Old Mill Building

Office Hours:  Tues. and Thurs. 9-11 am, Wed. 1:30 – 2:30 pm, and by appointment

Web Page:




                                          Date                         Weight

           Hour Test                 October 7                 20%

           Hour Test                 November 11            20%

           Paper Due                 December 12             40%

           Final Exam                December 19             20%





Course Philosophy


           This course is intended to immerse you in Vermont. As an introduction to a vast and complex subject (an entire society), it seeks to whet the appetite for further study—the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake and, importantly, scientific research and exploration that can be used to help make the planet a better place.


           I hope to make it the kind of course I wish I could have taken when first I began (what has become) a life-long career in the study of Vermont.


           Hear this: because Vermont is a small state it is often derided with a “so what?” by those whose perspectives focus on “bigger things” like nations, Congress, or continents or “bigger ideas” like freedom, equality or progress. Don’t be intimidated by this. It is because it is small that Vermont provides such a uniquely accessible laboratory for intellectual exploration. In a very real way Vermont is more complex than vast societies because its complexities are more apparent, more immediate and therefore open to judgment and consideration.


           Example: Recently Howard Fineman of Newsweek opined that Howard Dean had had an early advantage in his race for the Presidency because he had been unemployed since giving up the governorship of Vermont in 2002 and had time to organize. Besides, said Fineman, “There wasn’t a lot to do as governor of Vermont anyway.” (I’m paraphrasing.) I argue there is more to do as governor of a small state than a big state. The governor of New York could leave for a week and few would know he had gone! But in a place like Vermont her absence would be immediately noticed. In a small state you are expected to be more intimately involved as governor and you are given less bureaucratic help to do the job. Being governor of Vermont requires a different set of skills than being governor of New York. But the job itself is at least equally and (I would argue) can be more complex and demanding.


           Consider the following: What better place to study civil liberties than in Vermont, the state which passed the nation’s first “civil unions” law? What better place to study geology and its linkage to the human condition than in the Green Mountains? What better place to study women’s issues than a state like Vermont where people and events are so accessible? For that matter what better place to study wild game management, literature, or politics? Is there a better place to study the impact of history on current events than in Vermont—a  place where history is treated as a religion from town to town and put within reach of everyone?


In short, in the study of Vermont students have a first-hand opportunity to approach the complexities of knowledge and research as they have in few other states.



           As every scholar knows the first step in learning and research is to “delve into” one’s subject matter—to “walk the fence line” of the project and get a “feel” for its parameters, its idiosyncrasies, its connections to other realities, its soul.


           This is my invitation. 


Course Design


           There is only one area in which I am trained and qualified to offer a full, college level course on Vermont and that is political science. On the other hand I am qualified to offer this course (as are many others) because I have spent forty years reading about Vermont, studying its history, its topography, its society, its resources, its policies and its people. Most of all I have lived here since I was four days old. Moreover (again like many others) I am a Vermont fanatic. Literature and the arts take on a special meaning for me when they have a Vermont connection. For me Vermont is like the best of lovers. She is my friend and my passion.


Lectures: Accordingly, this is a lecture course whereby I prepared introductory lectures on a wide variety of subjects that I feel will provide a mosaic on Vermont and stimulate and challenge your curiosity about the great ideas and continuing problems that have charmed and perplexed the human race, that will whet your appetites for further study, and will seduce you into your own love affair with Vermont. Thus first and foremost this course uses a traditional “lecture/participation” format. I do the lecturing. You do the participation.


Readings: To prepare you to participate readings are provided. This is where the experts come in. I will place these on reserve in the library and on e-reserve. There are only two required “texts.” Both are inexpensive paper backs. The first is the Vermont Owner’s Manual which, even though I am one of its co-authors (along with Bill Mares), I am not afraid to say is the best quick (real quick) read about Vermont I would assign to anyone beginning a study of the state. The second is Charles Fish’s “In Good Hands” a book about “the keeping of a family farm.” It is the best single book I know of that combines the history, technology, physiology, and community of Vermont’s most enduring symbol of our special ecology of society and planet—the family farm.


Research: You will be required to do a short research paper (15-20 pages) in which you “adopt a town” and write me a story about it. This will be, however, a documented story that demonstrates you have familiarized yourself with a wide variety of research resources (from original documents to secondary sources to personal interviews) used by Vermont scholars. This paper will be organized to also demonstrate you have applied what you have learned in class to your story about your town. A fuller explanation of how this will be done will be provided in class.


Attendance: You get three “cuts.” I advise you to reserve them for “personal days” (weddings, family crises, religious obligations, etc.) If you “sleep in” three times and then come to me with a personal emergency, I’ll give you a pass for the emergency of course but will also dock you retroactively for one of your “sleep ins.” Since this is a Tuesday/Thursday class we only have about thirty of them and each one is important. Therefore for every absence past the three “personal days” I will delete two (2) points from your grade. Thus if you have four absences (3 free and 1 other) and your final grade is 88 (B+) I will reduce it to 86 (B). On the other hand I will add 2 points to your score for perfect attendance (no absences at all for any reason) and 1 point for two absences or less.



VS 052 A  90210



NOTE:  ER = Electronic Reserve, HCR =  Hard Copy Reserve, SC = Special Collections


Lectures:       NOTE:  Charles Fish’s In Good Hands should be read in its entirety for the exam on October 7.


Sep. 2            Lecture          The Course: “A Lover’s Quarrel”


Sep. 4            Lecture          Owning Vermont: Myths and Reality

Reading:         Frank Bryan and Bill Mares, Vermont Owner’s Manual


Sep. 9            Special Collections


Sep. 11          Lecture          A Green Mountain Paradigm

                     Reading:         Frank Bryan and John McClaughry, The Vermont Papers

                                                     Chapters 2 and 3  ER, SC


Sep. 16          Center for Rural Studies


Sep. 18          Lecture          Rock Solid: Above the Optimum Climatic Area

                     Reading:         Christopher Klyza and Stephen Trombulak, The Story of Vermont:

A Natural and Cultural History Chapters 1 and 2, ER, SC

                                          William Haviland and Marjory Power, The Original Vermonters,

                                                     Chapter 2, ER, SC


Sep. 23          Lecture          History I—The First Frontier

                     Reading:         Earle Newton, The Vermont Story, Chapters 2-8,  SC

                                          Ralph Nading Hill, Contrary Country, Chapter 3, ER, SC


Sep. 25          Lecture          History II—The Great Dark Age

                     Reading:         Harold Fisher Wilson, The Hill Country of Northern New England,

                                                     Chapters V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX, ER, SC

                                          Hal Barron, Those Who Stayed Behind, Chapters 5, 6, Conclusion,

                                                     ER, SC


Sep. 30          Lecture          History III—Post War Vermont

                     Reading:         Frank Bryan, “Life in a Rural Technopolity,” in Mueller and Hand,

In a State of Nature, ER, SC

                                          Neal Peirce, “Vermont” in The New England States, ER, SC


Oct. 2            Lecture          In Good Hands:  A Review Lecture

                     Reading:         Be sure to have finished Fish, In Good Hands





Oct. 7            Hour Test


Oct. 9            Lecture          Vermont Today: Myths and Realities

                     Video:            Portrait of America


Oct. 14          Lecture          Culture: Tough Sledding on Hard Ground

                     Reading:         Robert Pike, Tall Trees and Tough Men, Chapters 4, 10, 19,

                                                     20, 21, and 24, ER


Oct. 16          Lecture          Culture: Wood Chucks and Flatlanders

                     Reading:         Bryan and Bill Mares, Real Vermonters Don’t Milk Goats, SC

                                          George Aiken, Speaking from Vermont, Chapters 1-4, ER, SC

                                          Keith Jennison, Vermont is Where You Find It, SC


Oct. 21          Lecture          Vermont in Poetry

                     Reading:         Paul Eschholz, “Roots of Vermont Literature,” Vermont Life, ER

Paul Eschholz, “The Soul of a Place,” Vermont Life, ER

Robert Frost, “Death of a Hired Man,” “The Pasture,” “The Wood-Pile,”

“Mending Wall,” and “The Road Not Taken,” ER

                                          Hayden Carruth, “Hayden Carruth: A Poet” by Geof Hewitt, “Johnny

                                                     Spain’s White Heifer,” “Marshall Washer,” and “Crow’s Mark” ER

                                          James Hayford—will be handed out in class

                                          David Budhill, “Why I Came to Judeville,” “Beaudry’s Lawn Sale,”

                                                     “Journey for the North,” “Raymond Kills a Deer,” “Grace,” and

                                                     “Doug,” in Judeville, ER





Oct. 23          Lecture          Vermont in Fiction

                     Reading:         Howard Mosher, “Alabama Jones,” in Where the Rivers Flow

North,  ER, SC

Howard Mosher, “Where the Rivers Flow North,in Where the

Rivers Flow North,  SC


Oct. 28          Lecture          Vermont in Non-Fiction

                     Reading:         Dorothy Canfield Fisher, “A Look Around our Mountain Town,”

“Let the Bridges Fall Down,” “A Stranger, an Outsider,” and

“The Soldier’s Return,” Memories of Arlington, Vermont, ER, SC

Joe Sherman, “Slamming Looms and Rocky Farms,” “An Introduction to

the Nineties,” “Fred, Farms, and Foot,” “The Shape of Our Times,”

“The Wild and the Tame,” and “Sprawl is Us,” in  Fast Lane on a Dirt Road, ER, SC


Oct. 30          Field Interviews


Nov. 4            Lecture          Writing About Your Town

                     Reading:         Frank Bryan, “Townscape Newbury,” Vermont Magazine, ER


Nov. 6            Lecture          Review



Nov. 11          Hour Test





Nov. 13          Lecture          Politics: Women’s Role

                     Reading:         Madeleine Kunin, Chap. 1 and 3,  Living a Political Life,  ER, SC

                                          Frank Bryan, Chapter 8,  “The Question of Equality: Women’s Presence” in Real Democracy, ER, HCR





Nov. 18          Lecture          Politics: Town Meeting

Reading:         Bryan, Chapter 12, “A Lover’s Quarrel,” in Real Democracy, ER, HCR


Nov. 20          Field Interviews


Nov. 25          Lecture          Politics: The State

                     Reading:         In Michael Sherman’s Vermont State Government Since 1965:

                                          Chapter 2, D. Gregory Sanford and William T. Doyle,

“The General Assembly,” ER, SC

                                          Chapter 5, John H. Fitzhugh, ”The Executive,” ER, SC

                                          Chapter 10, John Dooley, “The Judiciary,” ER, SC



Dec. 2            Lecture          Issues of our Time: Education Finance

                     Reading:         Garret Keizer, “Seeking Our Welfare,” “A Promised Land,” “The Future

Farmers of America,” “Souls in Prison,” and “Dust and Ashes,”

in No Place But Here, ER, SC


Dec. 4            Lecture          Issues of our Time: Civil Unions

                     Reading:         David Moats, “Civil Unions in Vermont: Public Reason Improvised,” Perspectives on Politics, ER


Dec. 9            Summary and Review


Dec. 19          Final Exam