Blog 1 – Spiritual connection to nature

GENERAL: Create your own topic on any aspect of the literature we have been exploring over the last two weeks. Where possible try to link it to your own personal experience.

The Native American’s sacred connection to nature is apparent in Oren Lyon’s essay ‘Our Mother Earth’. This is evident in the word choice of “Creator” throughout the essay, suggesting that above all creations, nature may sometimes serve as a mediator between them and God. Furthermore, the narrator’s contrast between his homeland and New York City highlights the difficulties indigenous people have to face in order to settle outside of their homes, and adapt new ways of living due to oppression.

Studying Lyon’s essay took me back to when I studied Australian literature last year in regards to the indigenous people of Australia, as they also had a strong sacred connection to nature, and had to experience the same hardships the Native Americans experienced. Additionally, the Navajo Chant below that was discussed in Week 2’s lecture, shows how the Native Americans value nature, as it can add significant meaning to one’s life: “The mountains, I become part of it… The herbs, the fir tree, I become part of it. The morning mists, the clouds, the gathering waters, I become part of it. The wilderness, the dew drops, the pollen… I become part of it”. This powerful chant shows how humanity can be interconnected with the natural environment.

As an Orthodox Christian, studying all of these texts resonated with me as it reminded me about my personal, sacred connection to the Earth. The video below encapsulates it perfectly and shows how some spiritual people can view the natural environment around them. Although, I don’t think you have to necessarily be religious to have a sacred connection to the Earth, this is just my personal take on how I connect with nature.

Best Critical Entry

Blog 3 https://suzannes2016.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/blog-3-charles-dickenss-prayer-for-coketown/

It is apparent that Dickens outlines the many wrongs of Coketown in his novel, Hard Times, through syntax, imagery, word choices, and several other literary devices. Dickens’s sentence structure is very lyrical and repetitious to emphasise the quotidian lifestyles of people in Coketown:

It contained several large streets like one another, and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound up the same pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and tomorrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next.

The word choices of “same”, “every day” and “equally” gives the reader an impression that there is no sign of individuality within the community of Coketown, and that they’re almost like a machine, as they are programmed to do the same things in the same way every day. This also builds visual imagery of a dystopian society, similar to George Orwell’s novel 1984. Another example of visual imagery is when Dickens utilises a metaphor to establish the gloomy atmosphere of the town: “serpents of smoke”, the word choice of “serpent” and “smoke” could also symbolise some form of evilness that lurks in the town.

The employment of elongated sentences throughout the chapter establishes a prayer-like tone, the idea of this passage being a prayer is reinforced in the last elongated sentence that ends with a reference to the glory be: “world without end, Amen”. Another reason why this passage is almost like a prayer, is because he critiques the monotonous atmosphere of the town through elongated sentences, so when the reader reads these long sentences, it is hard to pause and breathe. This makes it seem like Dickens is preaching and praying for the town, revealing a sermonising quality in the novel.

 

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles, and Roland John. Hard Times. 1st ed. Harlow, Essex, England: Longman, 1995. Print.

Best Creative Entry

Blog 4 https://suzannes2016.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/blog-4-a-letter-to-mr-gradgrind/

Dear Mr Gradgrind,

It has come to my concern that you are encouraging your daughter to marry someone she does not love, and you are encouraging her to marry for materialistic reasons. You have completely misunderstood what a real relationship and marriage should be like. Real relationships manifests through love, comfort and trust which create a deep connection between two people. You cannot call it a marriage when you are arranging it out of a desire to gain wealth or status. Your twisted belief that one cannot be emotional and passionate in life is making you lust after meaningless things in life, and now you are unfairly controlling your daughter to do the same. Mr Gradgrind, I urge you to rethink your morals, values and decisions that will have detrimental affects to Louisa’s life. You have lost the essence of what it means to be human and what marriage was intended for.

Furthermore, I have to make a point and say that even though Sissy Jupe is your servant, it is you and your daughter who I feel sorry for, because she was raised in a much more carefree environment and consequently has much more imagination, compassion, and freedom than you. Again, please consider rethinking your thoughts and actions, and free Louisa.

Sincerely,

Suzanne

Summative Entry

In the first week of this unit, I learnt about Mary Wollstonecraft’s important contribution to first wave feminism, as she advocated for women’s right to an education in her essay, ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’. After reading Jane Austen’s novel ‘Emma’, I noticed how Austen implicitly explored socio-cultural issues in relation to women’s rights and the objectification of women that existed in the 19th century. This is evident in characters like Emma and Harriet, as Emma spends most of her time trying “match make” instead of pursuing an actual career, and Harriet obsesses over Mr Elton’s unrequited feelings for her, revealing Harriet’s inability to recognise her own self-worth or to focus on something else that doesn’t revolve around pleasing men.

My third blog is an analysis of Charles Dickens’ description of Coketown in his novel ‘Hard Times’, and I consider this to be one of my best critical entries. I point out how Dickens’ uses powerful imagery and tone, as well as other literary devices to highlight the quotidian lifestyles of the people in Coketown. When Dickens’ uses a metaphor to establish the Orwellian atmosphere of the town: “serpents of smoke”, the word choice of “serpent” and “smoke” could symbolise some form of evilness that lurks in the town.

My fourth blog is what I consider to be one of my best creative entries. It’s in the form of a letter to Mr Gradgrind expressing my concerns for his daughter’s wellbeing, as his character is presented with a money minded and cold hearted personality. As a result of this, he doesn’t believe in the true meaning of relationships and marriage, and consequently encourages his daughter, Louisa, to marry for materialistic reasons. I then urge him to learn from Sissy Jupe’s positive outlook on life, as she was raised in a much more carefree environment and consequently has much more imagination, compassion, and freedom than Mr Gradgrind.

A few of the paintings I studied during my excursion to the Art Gallery of NSW, gave me insight into the historical context of the Romantic period, such as the variety of social classes and how the social status of a woman can affect her role in society. This is evident in how women are depicted as royal like figures through their pose and posture, as well as other techniques in Frederic Lord Leighton’s painting ‘Cymon & Iphigenia’ and Sir Lawrence Alam-Tadema’s painting ‘Cleopatra’. Contrastingly, women are depicted as working citizens and are connecting with one another in Leighton’s other painting ‘Winding the Skein’ and Edwin Long’s painting ‘A Dorcas Meeting’. This shows that women in the working class are much more productive than the upper class. These paintings also suggests that it’s not all about beauty, and that women are capable of pursuing professional careers, and are needed in a working society, which implicitly reveals the socio-cultural issues that existed in the 19th century as women weren’t granted the right to an education.

In week 8, I wrote a critical/creative blog that explored the ideas of John Newman’s essay, ‘Knowledge its Own End’, and related it to Sir Ken Robinson’s famous Ted talk, ‘Does school kill creativity?’. Newman argues in his essay that universities should aid students who are talented in all sorts of subjects and that institutions shouldn’t give praise just to subjects like mathematics and science, as all faculties are just as important in humanity. Similarly, Sir Ken Robinson argues that schools shouldn’t discourage students who are gifted in the creative arts, and explains how the education system only assists students whose strengths are in maths and science. Robinson concludes his speech by suggesting that as a society we must embrace a child’s creativity and imagination by educating their whole being. Therefore universities and schools must assist students by providing a diverse range of subjects and emphasising importance equally on each faculty.

My last blog is in the form of a letter to Eppie, a wonderful character from George Elliot’s amazing novel, ‘Silas Marner’. In the letter, I express my thoughts on what family means to me, and my thoughts on her wise choice to stay with Silas, as he was a true father to her throughout her life. Furthermore, I think that George Elliot presents their relationship to be very meaningful for both characters, emphasising that the real “gold” in one’s life is found in love and compassion within families.

All in all, the works of the poets, authors, and artists studied in this unit definitely explore the human and artistic concerns of the Romantic and Victorian ages, which are similar to our own concerns. Studying their works also help us to lead fuller, and more meaningful and creative lives in our own times, as the socio-cultural issues presented in the works of these writers and artists are still relevant in today’s society.

Blog 7 – A letter to Eppie

CREATIVE

Write a letter to any one of the following four characters telling them what you think of their choices in chapter 19 of the novel: Godfrey, Silas, Nancy and Eppie

Dearest Eppie,

I just want to start off by saying that I think you and Silas bring out the best in each other, and it really warms my heart to see the genuineness of Silas’ fatherly love, as well as your loyalty and care towards Silas, and this is the main reason why I think you have definitely made the right choice to stay with Silas.

Reading about your story made me think about a very important question in life. I asked myself, what is the true meaning of family? I then remembered a famous quote I heard years ago that really resonated with me and answered my question:

Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.

I am sure you will love this quote too. Furthermore, I want to send my best wishes to you and your family. God bless, and take care.

Yours sincerely,

Suzanne

Peer Review 6

https://jamievoblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/blog-5-lightning-flow/comment-page-1/#comment-30

Hi Jamie,

I really like how you’ve thoroughly explained why you liked this painting. I found that your ideas and interpretation of the painting was very interesting to read. However, it was quite hard to follow as there were several sentences that needed to be separated into different paragraphs. Also, “emphasized” is spelt “emphasised”. Other than that, keep up the good work!

Peer Review 5

https://joshuayoussef.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/first-blog-post/comment-page-1/#comment-14

Hi Joshua,

I really like how you’ve concisely explained your personal view of how humans can become wise and intelligent. As an education student myself, I find that wisdom and intelligence isn’t all about knowledge, although they do go hand in hand sometimes, it is not the same thing. I have to also slightly disagree with your interpretation of the poem. I agree that nature plays a big role in educating a person, but saying that: “wisdom and intelligence are not found in books and scrolls but only in nature” is a bit extreme. I think this poem is aimed at someone who is completely buried in books and does not bother broadening their horizons by exploring nature as well. So I think a balance of studying books and the outside world is important to gain necessary knowledge in life. Nonetheless, keep up the good work! 🙂

Blog 6 – Does the education system weaken one’s creativity?

CRITICAl/CREATIVE

Create your own topic based around any of the issues presented this week. You are of course encouraged to draw on your own personal experience in your blog.

Studying John Newman’s essay, ‘Knowledge its Own End’, reminded me of a famous Ted talk that I recently watched in my educational psychology unit. Newman argues in his essay that universities should aid students who are talented in all sorts of subjects and that institutions shouldn’t give praise just to subjects like mathematics and science, as all faculties are just as important in humanity. Similarly, Sir Ken Robinson argues that schools shouldn’t discourage students who are gifted in the creative arts, and explains how the education system only assists students whose strengths are in maths and science.

It was interesting and insightful when Robinson talked about a famous and successful dancer Gillian Lynne. At the age of eight, she was told that she had a learning disorder because she couldn’t stop fidgeting in class. When Hill and her mother went to a specialist, the specialist recommended that she should go to dance school. When Hill went to dance school, she met likeminded people who had to move to think and she loved it: “She’s been responsible for some of the most successful musical theatre productions in history, and she’s a multi-millionaire. Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down”. Therefore, teachers and the government should be aware of how children and adolescents can learn through different ways and develop different passions.

Picasso once said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. Robinson reinforces this idea when he states that people don’t grow into creativity, they grow out of it, or rather, they get educated out of it. Robinson concludes his speech by suggesting that as a society we must embrace a child’s creativity and imagination by educating their whole being. Therefore universities and schools must assist students by providing a diverse range of subjects and emphasising importance equally on each faculty.

Peer Review 4

https://vzengl200.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/week-7-blog-post-art-gallery-creative/comment-page-1/#comment-16

Hi Victoria,

Your creative description of this painting is superb! Your excellent use of word choice and sentence structure built a lot of imagery which made your blog very engaging to read. I think you’ve explored the intent of this painting which is to show how humanity can be so insignificant to nature, and yet they exploit it through deforestation, plastic waste etc., all for commercial gains. Humanity needs to acknowledge the fact that they depend on the planet in order to survive and it is not the other way around. Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog this week, keep up the fantastic work!

Blog 5 – Art Gallery of NSW: Highlights

During my visit to the Art Gallery of NSW, I learnt a lot about 19th century art and how some of the paintings were inspired by literature.

A few of the paintings I liked also gave me insight into the historical context of the Romantic period, such as the variety of social classes and how the social status of a woman can affect her role in society. This is evident in how women are depicted in Frederic Lord Leighton’s painting ‘Cymon & Iphigenia’ and Sir Lawrence Alam-Tadema’s painting ‘Cleopatra’ in contrast to how women are depicted in Leighton’s other painting ‘Winding the Skein’ and Edwin Long’s painting ‘A Dorcas Meeting’.

It is apparent that the men in these two paintings are admiring the beauty of the women around them which reflects the women’s royal like status. The women’s pose, posture and environment in both paintings also reflect their royal like status and show that women in the upper class were not productive, as they didn’t have to work. In contrast, the women of the middle class in the paintings below are working and are compassionately cooperating with one another, which shows that women in the working class are much more productive than the upper class.

These paintings also suggests that it’s not all about beauty, and that women are capable of pursuing professional careers, and are needed in a working society, which implicitly reveals the socio-cultural issues that existed in the 19th century as women weren’t granted the right to an education.