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.