Fifth Blog

TASK: Write a letter to James Baldwin telling him what you think of the power of his writing.

Dear Mr. Baldwin,

I’m writing to tell you what I think about your writing and, quite simply, I think you have a mastery over words and the English language like no one else. You have a talent for bringing images – pleasant or unpleasant – so vividly to life that your readers are left speechless, searching for words. The images you paint are ones that live in your readers’ memories and haunt their thoughts for days after.

This was my experience when I read your short story “Going to Meet the Man”. I had been warned that this was an incredible piece of work and yet, it depicted something so horrific. I had no idea how horrific until I actually started reading it and while I was, my palms started to sweat and the words began to leap off the page and into my mind, conjuring up the scene you were painting in the story. I could start smelling the smells you were describing, seeing the sights you were seeing and feeling the objects and materials you were writing about.

Mr. Baldwin, I don’t know if I’ve ever read something more ghastly or amazing in my life and that is a true testament to your writing skills. However, I would be very remiss if I didn’t tell you how sorry I am for these awful events having occurred in the first place and giving you cause to write about them and reason to describe so vividly such horrors.

Felicity McManus

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Third Peer Review

Suzanne Solaiman – https://suzannes2016.wordpress.com/2017/09/03/blog-4-a-letter-to-the-world/comment-page-1/#comment-90

“Hey Suzanne

What an emotive post you’ve written! I did the same blog topic this week and I’m always interested to see how other people have interpreted the topic. The message about equality and doing what’s right is clearly conveyed here and I like how you write “even if it means going against the status quo” – I think it just brings home how hard it can be sometimes to do the right thing because of how people will judge you or because it’s just not what you’re used to.”

Fourth Blog

TASK: Imagine you are Huck on the raft. Write a letter to the world saying why you want to be where you are and why the world should be different than what it is.

Dear World,

I’ve capitalised the word “world” because I’m now writing to the world as if it were a real, living, breathing, talking person. It’s a real place, why can it not be a real person too? I think it is sometimes. Nature responds when something happens: the leaves rustle and the water ripples when the wind blows, the birds fly south for the winter to find food, bears hibernate when food is scarce, the ground and water freeze over in ice when it gets too cold and fires start when it gets too hot. There’s always cause and effect.

This is why I want to be where I am. Travelling the length of America by river, with no end in sight, no responsibilities to worry about and no one I owe anything to. Discovering the country by water has opened my eyes to how vast the world is and how much more there is to it than the life I was born into. How beautiful, wondrous, incredible and astonishing it all is! This is why I want to be where I am: the opportunities out here are practically limitless and the experiences nothing like I’ve ever known before.

The world should be different than what it is and I can’t really understand why it is the way it is or how it even came to be this way. The world should be a place where people can choose what they want their life to be, instead of just following in their parents’ footsteps or doing what’s expected of them. A place where everyone is equal and no one is lesser than anyone else for any reason. It’s remarkable what travelling with someone like Jim can teach you and, more importantly, what people like Jim himself can teach you. People truly come from all walks of life but they are still people: you just need to take the time to get to know them. That’s the way the world should be. So different from what it currently is.

Huck

Second Peer Review

Naomi Zaki – https://naomizaki.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/blog-post-2-reflective/comment-page-1/#comment-10

“Hi Naomi,
Wow, this is great! I feel like your writing really resonates with what a lot of us feel as we get older, and reflect on the people we used to be and how much we’ve changed since we were children. I think you’re quite right when you describe our vision as “tainted and narrowed” as we get older because we now care about what others think about us and their opinions and beliefs influence us in turn. What a wonderful job you’ve done, well done!! 🙂”

Third Blog

TASK: Give a brief account (in your own words) of why Whitman referred to Abraham Lincoln as “O Captain! My Captain”.

American poet Walt Whitman referred to 16th US President Abraham Lincoln as his captain in his poem “O Captain! My Captain!” because of Whitman’s personal feelings toward the President. The American Civil War was an important event in Whitman’s life and it was during this time that Lincoln was President (hence why Lincoln is the “captain” in Whitman’s poem – he is the captain of the ship that is the United States of America). While initially indifferent to Lincoln, Whitman came to think differently to the President overtime and grew to greatly approve of him.

The poem was written after Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 and Whitman uses the poem to eulogise and mourn him. He asks Lincoln, his captain, to “rise up and hear the bells,” in the second stanza to celebrate the end of the war and his admirable leadership throughout the war, “”for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills; for you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding; for you they call…”. The repetition of “for you” emphasises the deep love the people – and Whitman – had for Lincoln. The third stanza takes on a more somber and serious tone, as Whitman paints the picture of his captain lying dead with “his lips are pale and still” and with “no pulse nor will”. The rhyming couplets further drive this sadness home and makes the reader feel the people’s (and Whitman’s) loss deeper.

lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States. Image from: http://www.brandeis.edu/now/2017/February/lincoln-burt-qa.html

 

First Peer Review

Ngaire Ale – https://ngaireale1.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/appreciation-for-nature/comment-page-1/#comment-331

“Hi Ngaire,
I really like your post and totally agree with what you’re saying. I think you’re so right when you say that the Native Americans’ love and connection to the land stems from their deep spiritual relationship with it and the fact that they use it for everything and rely so heavily on it, whereas white people only see what they can invest in the land and what they can gain from it. I love how, at the end, you bring in what trees and water do for us and how the Native Americans’ connection with the land can definitely be used today and that it would be to our benefit if we took their approach to things. Wonderful work!! 🙂”

Second Blog

TASK: Can you say briefly (in around 250 words) how the thoughts and images of either Emerson or Thoreau (or both) have given you a clearer sense of what it is you are looking for in your own life? Maybe the sentence from Walden might be a catalyst for this: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. (Chapter 2 Where I Lived, and What I Lived For). Or maybe the sentences from Nature captures what you wish for: “I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am a particle of God.” (Chapter 1)

The thoughts and images of Emerson and Thoreau have given me a clearer sense of what I’d like in life as they desired a simpler world and, in turn, a simpler life. When Thoreau says, in Walden, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”, he’s saying that there is more to life than we think and he would like to see what else there is in the world before he dies. He’s saying that there is beauty, wealth and knowledge beyond what we traditionally think as beautiful, rich and knowledgeable and that is all to be found in nature and nature simplifies things for us and also puts everything into perspective. I think we could all use a bit of that in the midst of our busy 21st century lives!

The images of Emerson and the eyeball similarly echo Thoreau’s sentiments. When Emerson says, “I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal being circulate through me; I am a particle of God”, I think he means that when we take a step back from life as we know it, and all we think it means, we can actually learn so much more about the world and what it can offer us and teach us. We can learn more and enrich our lives if we disconnect ourselves from our conscious minds and be a particle of God and feel the world around us, through God’s eyes.

 

First Blog

TASK: Can we apply the Native American sense of the importance of nature to make our own lives more whole and meaningful?

I believe that, by applying the Native American sense of nature’s importance, we can make our lives more whole and meaningful. Many people believe in some sort of a higher power, whether it be God or some other deity, science or something more spiritual that transcends this world. The Native Americans believed in nature and that connection between them and the ground upon which they lived is something that was so deeply entrenched in their lives and made their lives so much better.

Most Indigenous people of any land, the Indigenous Australians included, have a very deep, special and unique connection to their land and believe that because it serves us so much, they should respect it utterly and completely in return and I can’t say I disagree with that. The land gave them everything they could ever need in life (food, water, fire, materials to make shelter) and, as a result of this, their lives were so much simpler and far less complicated. Our lives seem so muddied and confusing because of things like technology and how busy our lives tend to be, as well as today’s consumerism, and we often forget what it is to be human or what our relationships mean and we also forget to be grateful for what we have, instead of always taking for granted like we do.

Applying the Native American sense of the importance of nature can definitely make our lives more whole and meaningful.

Summative Entry

The human and artistic concerns of both the Romantic and Victorian Ages are similar to our own concerns; the response to those concerns – given by poets, novelists, dramatists and artists – can help us live fuller, more meaningful and creative lives in our own times.

This was the focus of this semester’s work in 19th Century Literature and my work and understanding of this unit has led me to believe that our modern 21st century lives parallel the lives of those who lived in the Romantic and Victorian 19th century and that they have something to teach us about living, even though a whole century has passed since their time. Beginning with the Romantics like William Wordsworth, Mary Wollstonecraft and Samuel Taylor Coleridge then ending on dynamic writers like Leo Tolstoy and Oscar Wilde, who defiantly challenged the uptight Victorian society, this semester has definitely been eye-opening and many lessons can be taken away from these writers to live fuller and richer lives.

The works of Wordsworth, Coleridge and other Romantics addressed the importance of nature, how vital the natural world is to our lives and how important it is that we respect it, admire it and care for it as it does for us. Expostulation and Reply and The Tables Turned, both poems by Wordsworth, inspire us to think of how stimulating nature can be if we just simply take the time to appreciate it and take note of how it can inspire creativity as long as you let it, and not just dismiss it as a passing idle thought. The Romantics also teach us that not all knowledge can be found in books and classrooms; some things cannot be taught by other human beings and you must go out into the world and explore it on your own and make up your own ideas and learn from what nature can teach you.

Jane Austen is an author who usually writes with a didactic purpose and certainly teaches her readers a thing or two about how we should really live our lives and conduct ourselves. Through the character of Emma Woodhouse in Emma, she shows her readers that kindness, humility and consideration are the real desirable qualities in people and these qualities should be the way we govern our lives; beauty and money is not everything. In Hard Times, Charles Dickens shows us, through the character of Mr Gradgrind, that even though society has established rules and that decorum must be maintained at all times, it can also be taken too far and that is the way to isolate yourself and to lose meaning in your life.

The artworks at the Art Gallery of NSW also showed parallels between our time and times of the past. Ford Madox Brown’s “Chaucer at the Court of Edward III” (1847) showed us how people interact with each other and how interested they all seem to be in each others’ lives, albeit a bit distracted. Today in 2017, we are all still interested in what’s happening in the world and we like to be kept informed of the latest gossip and yet, we lead such busy lives that we will always be just that little bit distracted.

Later works of the 19th century, including those of George Eliot, Matthew Arnold, Leo Tolstoy and Oscar Wilde, still continue to show similar concerns to ours today. In George Eliot’s Silas Marner, Marner loses his gold and believes the world has come to an end – money is still a vital part of our livelihood today and we hold it in such high esteem that if we lost our money, we’d be panicking too, and so we can relate to Marner. In Matthew Arnold’s poem, “The Scholar Gypsy”, the character of the scholar gypsy runs away from his comfortable life in the city and flees to return to simpler times, when his world was not so filled with distractions and responsibilities that he knew would eventually overwhelm him. We all feel like that, more often than not, and we wonder what it would be like if we could just pack it all in and run away, leaving work, school, university all to someone else to take care of for us. Again, we relate to the scholar gypsy.

Tolstoy writes about how people can change and evolve – that is exactly what happens to Vasily Andreevich in Master and Man: dire circumstances force him to realise his humanity and kindness so he can save both himself and Nikita from dying of hypothermia. Andreevich, formerly a cold, unfeeling and materialistic man, goes through a character development that inspires Tolstoy’s readers to believe that people are indeed capable of changing from monsters into kind and caring human beings. Oscar Wilde makes fun of and criticises late Victorian society in his play, The Importance of Being Earnest, mainly through the character of Lady Bracknell. By placing so much emphasis on Lady Bracknell’s materialism, Wilde is also drawing our attention to how wrong and foolish it is of humans to make connections, especially such meaningful ones like friendship and marriage, on such superficial things like money and position. He inspires us to make connections with people based on things that really matter, like personality and character and thus, showing us how we should really live our lives and leave materialism behind.

The human and artistic concerns of the Romantic and Victorian ages are similar to our own concerns; concerns like responsibility, money, security, character building. This can be seen in the works of Romantic poets like Wordsworth, writers like Jane Austen, Dickens, Eliot and Arnold and artists like Ford Madox Brown. They write and paint the plights of olden times that we still experience today and seeing these beacons of creativity and inspiration provides us, a 21st century audience, with some comfort that everything we feel and suffer is all part of the human condition and that even two centuries ago, people were dealing with the problems we are dealing with today. The response to these concerns, given by poets, novelists, dramatists and artists, can help us live fuller, more meaningful and creative lives in our own times. Austen, Dickens, Tolstoy and Wilde all provide us with characters that we should look to in order to inspire us to change and see how we can really get the best out of life and live it to the absolute fullest.

LINKS TO MY BLOGS:

Creative Blogs: https://felicitymcmanus.wordpress.com/category/19th-century-literature/creative-blogs/

Best Creative Blog: https://felicitymcmanus.wordpress.com/category/19th-century-literature/best-creative-blog-19th-century-literature/

Critical Blogs: https://felicitymcmanus.wordpress.com/category/19th-century-literature/critical-blogs/

Best Critical Blog: https://felicitymcmanus.wordpress.com/category/19th-century-literature/best-critical-blog-19th-century-literature/

Peer Reviews: https://felicitymcmanus.wordpress.com/category/19th-century-literature/peer-reviews-19th-century-literature/

Summative Entry: https://felicitymcmanus.wordpress.com/category/19th-century-literature/summative-entry-19th-century-literature/

 

Eighth Peer Review

Joshua Jenkins – https://joshuajenkins1.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/to-agree-or-not-agree/comment-page-1/#comment-55

“Hi Joshua,
I definitely agree with your blog and your sentiments that Wilde is certainly using the play to make fun of the upper class, their materialism and shallowness. I also think that you make a good point regarding that maybe Wilde is also trying to guide his readers away from the consumerism that concerns people of both the 19th and 21st centuries. You write very clearly with intent and state your views outright, it makes your blogs very easy to read 🙂 Well done!”