Summative Entry: American Literature helps me to expand the boundaries of my own experience.

In the first week of this unit, I learnt about the Native American’s sacred connection to the land through studying Oren Lyon’s essay ‘Our Mother Earth’. This essay suggests that above all creations, nature can sometimes serve as a mediator between them and God. This essay also conveyed how the Native Americans felt when they were forced to adapt new ways of living. Furthermore, studying this essay also reminded me of my personal, sacred connection to the Earth.

In week two, we looked at poets that promoted the concept of transcendentalism in their texts such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. In particular, Thoreau’s book, Walden, emphasised the transcendentalist belief that one can attain knowledge and wisdom from nature, away from society that tends to obsess over materialism. Thoreau also highlights in his book that as we grow older we become more exposed to trauma, and thus respond in ways that make us less wiser, as we tend to forget or overlook the beauty in the little things as a result of becoming so caught up in our worries and responsibilities in a digitally run world.

My third blog is a critical analysis on Walt Whitman’s poem ‘Song of Myself’ and Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘There’s a certain Slant of light, (320)’. In short, ‘Song of Myself’ is about how animals or pets can be peaceful and cheerful as they “do not sweat and whine about their condition”, which is something we as humans can all learn from. Dickinson’s poem explores the concept of after life, and how people can accept death for what it is. This is evident in the connotations of “Heavenly Hurt”, this to me seems like a bittersweet moment, if one is attached to life, it can hurt to let go, but death is inevitable, and if one accepts it and believes in Heaven, it can considered to be “Heavenly”.

My fourth blog is what I consider to be one of my best creative entries. It’s in in the form of a letter to the world, written as if I was Huck, and it explores some of the important ideas conveyed in Mark Twain’s novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Ideas include, the importance of freedom, equality, individuality, and nature. In particular, the Mississippi River, as it shifts and directs Huck’s focus on what’s important in life. Furthermore, the Mississippi River not only serves as a transportation to take Huck and Jim from Illinois to Ohio, but it also serves as a symbol of freedom, as the river helps them to escape the systemic racism, abuse, and slavery: “We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up a smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft”.

My fifth blog is what I consider to be one of my best critical entries. It analyses Langston Hughes’ poems Words Like FreedomFreedom, and Theme for English B. After learning that Hughes’ relatives were enslaved African Americans, I understood why he appreciated freedom and liberty so much: “If you had known what I know / You would know why”. In Theme for English B, Hughes explores the importance of unity and pluralism, as he believed that both cultures can be a part of the American identity: “You are white-yet a part of me, as I am a part of you. That’s American”.

In week 7, we studied Robert Lowell and Robert Frost’s poetry, and in my entry for that week I decided to analyse Frost’s poetry since I found myself more drawn to his. When I listened to his poem, A Lover’s Quarrel with the World in the lecture, I noticed how much rhythm, rhyme and fluidity there was in his poem, which is one of the main reasons why I loved reading his poetry. Additionally, Frost cleverly explores certain transcendentalist themes in his poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, as the narrator of this poem appears to have abandoned civilisation in order to try and find contentment and meaning in nature: “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep / But I have promises to keep / And miles to go before I sleep”. The word choice of “sleep” symbolises the death of his old self, as he embarks on a journey, a journey that most people in a material world would never embark upon.

For week 8, we studied how the modernist manifesto broke new ground in literature and art. Out of the many interesting modernist texts that we studied in that week, I was more drawn to T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. This poem raises very insightful ideas in light of Sigmund Freud’s publications at the time this poem was written. It is also interesting to see how this free verse poem can still contain a lot of rhythm without necessarily rhyming all the time, as it almost sounded like music when I listened to an excerpt of Eliot reading this poem. It is also interesting to note that Eliot’s conversion to Anglicanism contributed to his inspiration for writing this poem and many other poems like, Journey of the Maji, as he emphasises the importance of Christianity as a means to find purpose and one’s identity in life, which kind of serves as a sequel to The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

In week 8, we studied William Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying, which explored the complex nature of grief through the contrasting characters of Cash, Darl, and Vardaman. Each character copes with the loss of their mother in strikingly different ways. In week 9, we saw this being effectively illustrated in James Franco’s fantastic film adaptation of As I Lay Dying. The tension between words and thoughts is effectively captured through Franco’s use of camera angles and shots. The music in the film also punctuates the intensity of the plot. Furthermore, the actors of the film contributed greatly to conveying Faulker’s overall message of the novel.

All in all, the works of the poets and authors, studied in this unit has definitely helped me to expand the boundaries of my own experience, as a lot of the messages conveyed in all these texts are relatable in life.

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Blog 9 – Being a better you

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CRITICAL:  What do you think Faulkner might have meant by the caption that is around his neck in the image at the top of this blog?

In my opinion, the caption above encourages the reader to think about their own flaws before judging other people’s flaws, and to allow yourself to become inspired by the good of others instead of trying to compete with them for the wrong reasons. This is because some people have that mentality where they think life is some sort of race or a competition, and I think Faulkner is trying to steer people away from this mentality and realise that it’s about the journey, and that you should want others to succeed as well. Another key message this caption conveys is the fact that everyone is different, and that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, so we shouldn’t always compare ourselves to others. Therefore, it’s best to examine yourself and your progress in things, and know how you can learn to better yourself. The image above also reminded me of another popular image:

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This image illustrates a similar message that Faulkner emphasises in his statement. In relation to success, it’s important to note that one can’t see the full picture, so it’s good to set your own goals, learn from your mistakes by seeing what you can do better next time, and try to be the best version of yourself. Faulkner’s caption may also suggest that you can learn from other people’s mistakes but you should be motivated to set and achieve goals by wanting to be “better than yourself” instead of trying to be better than others. Furthermore, both images can encourage one to help other people when they are struggling, and to celebrate other people’s success instead of feeling resentful.

Peer Review 8

https://annavellablog.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/week-9-faulkner/comment-page-1/#comment-30

Hi Anna,

This is a wonderful entry; I really liked the way you use descriptive, and emotive language to effectively capture those moments with your father’s brother. I find your artwork to be also very expressive and fascinating, which is another reason why I liked this entry. Furthermore, I can definitely see how your writing and employment of particular themes is inspired by Faulkner, so well done.

Blog 8 – The Nature of Grief

CRITICAL: Using tutorial work from this week as a starting point, choose any passage from As I Lay Dying and analyse how the language shows the distinctiveness of the character and reveals the purpose of Faulkner’s writing.

When reading As I Lay Dying, I found that many of the passages explored the nature of grief, and that each character expressed themselves in different ways to cope with grief. Like life, everyone can be affected by the death of a loved one but can cope in strikingly different ways. In Cash’s passage, one can see that Cash appears to be quite detached from his feelings and emotions, as he copes by writing a strict, meticulous guide on how he’s building a coffin for his mother:

I made it on the bevel.

  1. There is more surface for the nails to grip.
  2. There is twice the gripping-surface to each seam.
  3. The water will have to seep into it on a slant. Water moves easiest up and down or straight across.
  4. In a house people are upright two thirds of the time. So the seams and joints are made up-and-down. Because the stress is up-and-down.
  5. In a bed where people lie down all the time, the joints and seams are made sideways, because the stress is sideways.
  6. Except.
  7. A body is not like a crosstie.
  8. Animal magnetism.
  9. The animal magnetism of a dead body makes the stress come slanting, so the seams and joints of a coffin are made on the bevel. His linear thinking is his way of coping with or ignoring his mother’s death.
  10. You can see by an old grave that the earth sinks down on the bevel.
  11. While in a natural hole it sinks by the center, the stress being up-and-down.
  12. So I made it on the bevel.
  13. It makes a neater job.

Here, Cash appears to be very strict with himself, as he doesn’t express his internal thoughts, feelings or emotions, but subtly reveals signs of grief through talking about external matters like his mother’s coffin. This not only shows how Cash is redirecting his grief into building his mother’s coffin but it also serves as a reflection of his love for his mother.

Peer Review 7

https://jessicaandliterature.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/american-writing-critical-6/

Hi Jessica,

I really like this entry because it’s simple and honest, yet very informative. I also like how instead of just making points about Robert Frost’s poems, you’ve effectively compared and contrasted his poetry with Lowell’s poetry, so you’ve definitely explained why you preferred Robert Frost’s poetry. In order to improve this entry, I would list more techniques to explain how Frost explores the themes that you’ve mentioned other than “tone”, and I would include quotes from the poem to support your entry. Nonetheless, this is a well-written entry, so keep up the good work!

Blog 7 – Literary modernism: T.S. Eliot’s poetry

Select the one modernist poem or text that you found spoke to you most directly. Quote the text and tell us how the text moved you.

Out of the many interesting modernist texts that we studied this week, I think T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock was more alluding than the other texts. It was also much easier to read compared to The Waste Land. I found that The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock also contained deeper meanings about really important aspects in life as opposed to William Carlos Williams’ poetry, and that’s not to say that I didn’t admire Williams’ poetry as well, some of his simple poems have a somewhat whimsical quality to them. I just think that Eliot’s poem raises very insightful ideas in light of Sigmund Freud’s publications at the time this poem was written, which is another reason why I was more drawn to his poetry. The video below is an excerpt of Eliot himself reading out his poem that almost sounds like music, it just goes to show that even free verse poems can have rhythm without necessarily rhyming all the time.

In The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, the repetition of “window panes” serves as a symbol of the persona’s translucent view of the world around him, as it is blurred by the suffocating “yellow fog”. The sensual nature of the fog serves as a metaphor for the informal, immoral barriers that prevent individuals from interacting with their own humanity. The symbolic word choice of “yellow” conjures connotations of something sick and diseased, like the “patient etherised upon a table”. This simile suggests that Prufrock, like this patient, is paralysed, as he is unable to love, find meaning or see beauty in life.

The parenthesis, “How his hair is growing thin!” demonstrates the self conscious and overly sensitive nature of Prufrock. Additionally, the decay of Prufrock mirrors the decay of the society around him. Furthermore, the “smoke” that rises from the pipes of lonely men serves as a reference to the alienation and isolation that entrenches divisions between people.

Eliot’s social commentary on the directionless nature of modern society is explored through the character of Prufrock throughout the poem. However, the solution to these existential problems are quite ambiguous in this poem, but knowing a bit about Eliot’s life, one can see that his conversion to Anglicanism inspired him to write another famous poem of his, Journey of the Maji, a poem that explores Christianity as a means to find purpose and one’s identity in life, which kind of serves as a sequel to The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

Peer Review 6

https://rachelmay755.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/blog-5-dear-mr-baldwin-creative/

Hi Rachel,

I really like this entry, as you write with honesty by sharing how you genuinely felt when you read James Baldwin’s short story, ‘Going to Meet the Man’. You clearly and concisely explain why you felt sickened and moved simultaneously while reading Baldwin’s short story, so well done on your sentence structure and word choice! One suggestion I have for you is to elaborate a little more in your final paragraph when you state that he’s “not letting people forget how awful the world once was”, maybe you could include why it’s important for people to know about African American history, and how it’s progressed so far. Also, I would reword your first sentence of the letter and say “Today I read your short story” instead of “a piece of your writing”. Overall, this is a well written letter, so keep up the great work! 🙂

Blog 6 – Robert Frost’s poetry

Write a paragraph that says succinctly which of the two Roberts you preferred and for what reasons.

In week 7, we studied Robert Lowell and Robert Frost’s poetry, and I have to say that I consider both poets to be brilliant, however, I preferred Robert Frost’s poetry. In my opinion, Frost’s language made his poems easier to read and understand than Lowell’s, but at the same, as a reader I still found myself having to go beyond the literal meaning in Frost’s poetry, which was very engaging for me. Another reason why I found Frost’s poetry to be really interesting was because of his incorporation of transcendentalist themes in some of his poems, in particular, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. In this poem, the narrator appears to have abandoned civilisation in order to try and find contentment and meaning in nature: “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep / But I have promises to keep / And miles to go before I sleep”. The word choice of “sleep” symbolises the death of his old self, as he embarks on a journey, a journey that most people in a material world would never embark upon. Additionally, Frost contains more rhythm, rhyme and fluidity in his poetry, which is one of the main reasons why I loved reading his poetry; this is most evident in his poem, A Lover’s Quarrel with the World, which was presented in the lecture.

Peer Review 5

https://jeaglesblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/american-literature-week-4/comment-page-1/#comment-19

Hi Jackson,

I really like this entry because you’ve effectively explained what your experience might be like if you were to be with Huck and Jim. Your description is quite poetical, and it contains a rhythmic quality to it. This is most evident when you state: “The green foliage growing up from the ground seemed to be brimming with life as the animals and plants made themselves scarce, preparing for the night”. Your entry also builds a lot of visual imagery for the reader, which makes it much more engaging. In order to improve this entry, I would make a few adjustments to this line: “It was strange to see two people who lived lives with such a great difference between them interact and coexist in a way that was almost symbiotic, in a way”. I feel like you’ve made a typo by writing “in a way” twice, and I also think that the words “interact”, “coexist”, and “symbiotic” kind of imply the same thing, so I would choose one or two words to get your point across in a more concise way. Other than that, keep up the great work! 🙂

Blog 5 – Langston Hughes’ poetry

*What is Hughes’ attitude to the idea of Freedom in “Words Like Freedom” and “Freedom” *877/878. What is the underlying theme of “Theme for English B”?

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Langston Hughes expresses his appreciation for freedom in “Words Like Freedom” through effective word choice and his use of similes, for instance: “There are words like Freedom” and “There are words like Liberty” suggests that freedom and liberty are not just words to him, as they contain a deeper meaning for him. This is more evident when he states: “On my heart-strings freedom sings / All day everyday”. Here, Hughes implicitly reveals how he doesn’t take freedom or liberty for granted; it is important to note the biographical context of this poem, because like many African Americans, Hughes’ relatives were enslaved African Americans, which explains why he appreciates freedom and liberty so much: “If you had known what I know / You would know why”.

Hughes’ poem “Freedom” is the epitome of what freedom means in my opinion, as he expresses the importance of human rights, and implicitly suggests that the colour of one’s skin shouldn’t impact one’s human rights: “Freedom is a strong seed / Planted / In a great need”. This protestation highlights the fact that the right to freedom is inherent to all human beings, hence the word choice of “planted” and “seed”. Furthermore, it offers insight into the politics of the time this poem was written, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights wasn’t established until 1948.

After reading Hughes’ poem “Theme for English B”, I consider some of the underlying themes to be revolved around a solution to the tension and conflict between two cultures. He does this by emphasising the importance of unity and pluralism, as he believes that both cultures can be a part of the American identity: “You are white-yet a part of me, as I am a part of you. That’s American”.