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 Freedom, Freedom, 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.