Summative Entry

“America is a nation of paradoxes.”

It’s hard to fathom that my journey with American Literature is coming to an end…how time flies!

American Literature has definitely been one of the more challenging units I have undertaken and for that I am thankful. To immerse myself in a sea of knowledge that I have not yet explored is every Literature student’s dream. I have had my eyes opened to new cultural experiences as well as cultural injustices. I have explored the lavish language of poets that I have never come across before and have been blessed to hear their stories.

Though this unit was amazing to learn about, I also found it deeply moving and rather emotional.  The injustices African American peoples had to face (and still face) are atrocious to read about, but sadly it is a familiar story mirrored by Australia’s own Indigenous peoples.

This unit really highlighted how “America is a nation of paradoxes”. In our very first class, we discussed what it meant to be American. This entailed a model of Americans who wished to live in harmony with their morals and values. However, many Americans held morals and values that were somewhat questionable. Many Americans were pro-slavery and saw class systems as an appropriate way to fuel inequality between white people and people of colour.

Therefore, how can there be harmony when people retain these sorts of morals and values?

 The answer is there can’t.

American was and still is, a predominately Christian country that strives to follow the teachings of Jesus and the Bible. Many view the teachings as the correct path to follow in order to live a life decided to God. 

But how can you call yourself a Christian when you exploit, enslave and belittle another person? 

That goes completely against the teachings in the Bible. The teaching of ‘Love one another; as I have loved you’ is the crème de la crème of all teachings. However, the injustices inflicted upon people of colour shows the complete opposite of this. This in itself, is a paradox. The idea that men were created equally did not exist, despite the fact that many Americans believed it did and because of this, called themselves good Christians.

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn encapsulated this idea. Twain was critical of the brutality and violence he saw everywhere around him: epitomised in the institution of slavery and by the recent civil war. I enjoyed delving into this novel. It highlighted the fact that nobody is born a racist, rather, racism is something that is developed and often passed on by society. 

Another artist I was thrilled to learn about was Du Bois. He was the most profound African American intellectual of his generation. Du Bois documented what it was like to be black in the American century. He wasn’t afraid to express his thoughts on society and didn’t feel the need to conform to its shackles either. Du Bois’s courage inspired me to compose my own text ‘Voice of Angels’ which contains similar ideas that Du Bois himself championed. It is people like Du Bois who shaped history due to their yearning for change.

Overall, American Literature has been a knowledge-filled unit to partake in. I have very much enjoyed the blogging process, as well as being able to peer review. I loved reading my peer’s thoughts and reflections on the unit as well as hearing their opinion on my own work. I believe peer reviewing is one of the best ways to learn, and I can see this through my continuous improvement in blogging this semester. I feel empowered by the knowledge I have gained and grateful that I got to share this experience with an array of budding writers.

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Peer Review 4 – Alexandra Nematalla

Hi Alexandra,

May I begin by stating what an encapsulating poem you have written.

Your poem clearly mirrors elements of that of Dickenson’s and I love how you’ve included the ideas of nature and its ability to enrich, as well as the constraints of religion. These ideas have been masterfully demonstrated through the lines “As nature can be run by chance But humanity is tied to clergymen.”

I like how you have refrained from using grammar. It made the poem flow quite beautifully and made me as the reader feel as if I was part of the story.

However, my favourite aspect of the poem was how you “desired to convey the strength that can be observed in a small insect that transcends humans strength,” through the Phasmatodea. This was a beautiful idea and once again, I feel as if I am in the poem observing this insect with its “fluorescent green hands” holding “firmly to the branch.”

Really great job Alexandra. Not only have you produce a beautiful piece of writing but you have also taught me what a Phasmatodea is!

https://s00240376.wordpress.com/2019/09/01/emily-dickinson/comment-page-1/?unapproved=77&moderation-hash=57efa131d8e3444db845b6e6111eaa8f#comment-77

Blog 5-Stories on Trains

Using any one of Faulkner’s 15-character voices as a guide, create a paragraph in the voice of a character totally different to yourself. Think about people you might have overheard on the train or bus, or someone you might have seen randomly on a street corner. Invent their life, their consciousness in a paragraph. 

My head vibrates against the train window as the mechanical beast shifts in its tracks. The window is cool against my cheek. I shut my eyes and listen to the bustling commotion that takes place in the stomach of the train.

School children are laughing, happy that their school day has come to an end. People are taking phone calls. Two in English, two in Mandarin and one in Hindi. In the distance, I can hear a small child asking her mother how far away their stop is. “How many stops now mummy? Oh, is this ours? How do you say that, Syd-en-ham?”

I love people watching, especially on trains. Each person is like a novel. Each has their own unique story and each person is at a different chapter in their life. I take joy in guessing people’s stories and observing them in the present moment.

As I turn my attention back to the train carriage, I observe a young Asian girl face-timing her family. She seems happy to see them, but also sad. Though I cannot understand her language, I can read her expressions, and I wonder to myself what her story is.

I then spot a lady, I would say in her early 30’s, with a notepad and paper creating the most amazing sketch. She too is observing those around her. She sketches the exhausted businessmen that sit opposite her. One has his arms folded and head down, perhaps he is thinking more than sleeping. The other has his head back and nose in the air, like a pompous gentleman (which I’m sure he is).

The train pulls up to my stop and I take one last look at the array of stories that are seated in front of me. I wander off home, intrigued by what stories I’ll read tomorrow.

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Google Images

Peer Review 3- Caitlin McCartney

Hi Caitlin,

I found your blog this week to be really inspiring.

Despite the fact you struggle to write poetry, you put yourself out there and made yourself vulnerable. I believe every great writer whether it’s Pound, Eliot or Cummings has had to push themselves out of their comfort zone in order to produce something amazing.

I will start with your poem. Though not long in length, I still found your poem was effective in expressing its message. I can see your passion and concern for the environment seep through the words of your poem as well as your desire for others to share the same view as you, “yet I wish the others wouldn’t let her go.”

The image attached to your blog was also a great inclusion. It allows the reader to think and to be appreciative of all the things that the planet provides for us.

I also enjoyed reading about Williams and Pound and the era in which they existed. You explain the era as a time “characterised by exploring the boundaries of what could or couldn’t be considered art, music, dance or poetry which lead to numerous new movements being formed.”

Your knowledge of American Literature is evident in your blog this week, as well as your understanding of the different language techniques adopted by different writers.

 

Well done!

The others…

Blog 4- The Lavish Language of Eliot

Select the one modernist poem or text that you found spoke to you most directly, analyse it and explain how the text moved you.

T.S Eliot’s poem The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock addresses the ideas of alienation and the inadequacy of language to explain existence. Eliot’s use of language to highlight these ideas is tragically beautiful. He is able to masterfully reflect the mundane activities of life through his use of vivid and uncomfortable language such as “like a patient etherised upon a table”. Though this line makes me feel rather uneasy, it also makes me appreciate the array of colorful language that Eliot was able to conjure up.

Though Eliot’s poetry is often nihilistic, it resonates with readers because it represents the internal struggle that all human beings face. Every person has questioned their purpose and their religious or spiritual beliefs. Every person knows what it feels like to be alone at some point or another. And every person has been in a situation where they weren’t able to find the words to articulate how they feel. Eliot’s poetry moves me because he touches upon what many tend to shy away from. He explains how life can often become clouded with questions and emotions while also highlighting the fragility of the soul. Through his masterful language and open and honest approach to writing, Eliot’s poetry has the power to move even mountains.

Please find an analysis of the main ideas from The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock below:

Alienation:

The metaphor of paralysis ‘like a patient etherised upon a table’ is closely aligned with other patterns of imagery that operate in the poem. Throughout the poem, there are images of restriction and entrapment which encompass more specific metaphors like the insect metaphor. All these reveal the persona’s own sense of entrapment and his inability to escape social mores and routines. The insect metaphor ‘And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,/When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall’ reveals the persona’s state of anguish. He sees himself as being painfully pinned by convention, controlled by external factors.

In the closing scenes of the poem, Prufrock lists out the pathetic questions that life now has to offer. Instead of the dramatic and dynamic ‘Do I dare disturb the universe’, which encompasses the great metaphysical questions of life ‘What is the meaning of life and how should I live fulfilled?’, it is replaced with ‘Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare eat a peach?’ The mermaids he hears singing are part of the closing sea imagery and represent all the sensual and instinctive longings that he desired in his life, but now states ‘I do not think they will sing to me’. Accepting his inability to act upon his desires he metaphorically drowns amongst the ‘human voices’ that he had criticised earlier in the poem, accepting the social roles that are comfortable yet alienating.

 Inadequacy of language to explain existence:

If the title suggests a potential happiness and involvement in life, it is immediately undercut by the epigraph from Dante’s Inferno. The imagery of hell parallels Prufrock’s own inner hell of isolation and lovelessness. Just as Guido is imprisoned in a flame, Prufrock’s inner self is imprisoned in a world where he cannot tell of his feelings and desires.

The form of the poem is fragmented in the sense that different scenes of his life are juxtaposed with no sequential fluidity. The opening stanza is set in the back streets of the irrefutable part of town and then is juxtaposed with an upper-middle-class cocktail set, ‘In the room the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo’. The persona is actively engaged in the first stanza, walking the streets and is a part of the action. The second and third stanzas do not have his active presence but are rather his meditation on the world around him. There are certainly keywords and images that link the poem and form a narrative, but the effect is cinematic, with readers given juxtaposed scenes like in a film rather than a flowing conventional narrative. Many of the scenes are from everyday life, but his repression by social conventions are conveyed predominantly through metaphor and imagery. The journey promised in the opening line ‘Let us go then, you and I’ is not a physical journey to make ‘his visit’, but a journey into Prufrock’s mind, following his stream of thought as he agonizes over what he desires and of his inability to carry out any decisive action to achieve these desires.

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Peer Review 2- Ethan Hua

Hi Ethan,

I just want to start by saying that this is one of the most entertaining blogs I have read and I really hope there is a sequel!

You have encapsulated what I image Donald and Boris to be like to a T. You have a great sense of humour and creativity and the way you paint Donald Trump and his use of hand gestures creates vivid imagery for the reader. I like the motif of his hands and how they start off as “a wet pancake flopping in the wind”, this was gross but great, and then you proceed to describe his hands as “performing their signature gesture as if he were up against a brick wall.” This was a really great line, it was clever and creative and the use of the pictures throughout your blog added that extra element of humour.

I also really liked your title of “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb”. It was a highly appropriate title that was fitting for the characters and once again added humour to your blog.

Well done Ethan!

“Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dumb”

Blog 3-The History of African-Americans

Does Alice Walker believe that the “Everyday Use” of the old quilts is protecting or destroying tradition? Remember from the Introduction that we are told that Alice Walker resembles each of the characters in her narrative.

The remarkable poem ‘Everyday use’ by Alice Walker was set in the late 60’s or early 70’s. “This was a time when African-Americans were struggling to define their personal identities in cultural terms.” Terms like “Negro” were slowly being removed from the vernacular and instead, were being replaced with “Black”. There was “Black power”, “Black Nationalism” and “Black Pride”. Many African-American individuals were looking to rediscover their African roots and were ready to discard and deny their American heritage, which was packed with stories of suffering and injustice. “In ‘Everyday Use’, Alice Walker argues that an African-American is both African and American and to deny the American side of one’s heritage is disrespectful to one’s ancestors and consequently, harmful to one’s self.” She used characters such as Mama, Dee (Wangero), and Maggie to illustrate this idea.

‘Everyday Use’ concentrates on the relationships between women from different generations and their lasting legacy, as symbolised in the quilts they fashion together. There is a powerful connection between the generations, yet Dee’s lack of understanding of her history shows how these relationships are vulnerable too. The bond shared by Aunt Dicie and Mama, the seamstresses who crafted the quilts is remarkably different from the bond between Maggie and Dee, sisters who barely interact with one another and who share almost nothing in common. Just as Dee struggles to comprehend the significance and legacy of her name which has been passed along through many generations, she also struggles to understand the significance of the quilts, which contain swatches of clothes once worn or owned by at least a century’s worth of ancestors.

“The quilts are pieces of living history, documents in fabric that chronicle the lives of the various generations and the trials, such as war and poverty, that they faced.” They also serve as a testament to the family’s history of pride and struggle. Due to the limitations placed on Mama by poverty and lack of schooling, she considers her personal history to be one of her greatest treasures, with her house containing an array of handicrafts given to her by her extended family. “Instead of receiving a financial inheritance from her ancestors, Mama has been given the quilts. For her, these objects have a value that Dee, despite professing her desire to care for and preserve the quilts, is unable to fathom.”

The reader is able to grasp the significance of the quilts and how they represent the bonds between family through the way the narrator describes the process of making the quilts:
“They had been pieced by Grandma Dee and then Big Dee and me had hung them on the quilt frames on the front porch and quilted them.” These quilts aren’t just the creation of one single individual labouring away—“quilting for the Johnson women is an activity that involves bringing different generations together, as the narrator had to co-operate with her sister and mother to create the quilts.”

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http://www.luminarium.org/contemporary/alicew/davidwhite.htm

https://www.sparknotes.com/short-stories/everyday-use/quotes/page/2/

 

Peer Review 1- Anna Castagnella

Anna, may I just begin by saying what a powerful blog you have written.

From your very first line, you had the reader hooked as you ask them to ponder what it means to live deliberately. I also liked your response to this question, it was thoughtful and emotional. I could tell before I read about your car accident that you were someone who had endured a traumatic experience that allowed you to truly appreciate what it means to be alive.

You incorporate the content we have learnt in class really well, and demonstrate a thorough knowledge of Thoreau and his ideas. I enjoyed reading your analysis on the line “when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” and I wholeheartedly agree with your interpretation.

I like how you speak about pondering existential ideas such as, “questioning the meaning of life” and “whether or not [you’re] even doing it right as if there is a correct way to live.” You connect well with your audience here as these are universal thoughts that every individual stumbles across at some point or another.

The line “You do not truly acknowledge the frailty of life until it is almost taken away from you” was a very frightening but captivating line and I thank you for sharing this scary journey with me. It allowed me to realise just how quickly life can be taken away and how you must cherish being alive every moment you have.

To conclude your blog, you encourage your audience to live a life they are proud of and I think this is a really lovely sentiment to end with.

Well done Anna!

https://literaturewithanna.art.blog/category/american-literature/

Blog 2- Voice of Angels

The ideology of individualism is a common theme in Walt Whitman’s work. It is a concept that flourished in the U.S during the early 19th Century – “a democratic response to the new class of industrial wage-workers.” Whitman encouraged individuals to “exercise self-ownership and value original thought.” Throughout his poetry, we are able to witness his feelings on the importance of self-expression and non-conformity. It is these ideas that have inspired me to write my own poem on the constraints of society and one’s ability to break free from these shackles and realise the importance of self-expression.

 

I celebrate and sing myself

For I am the voice that they all wish to silence

The forest fire that burns behind my eyes

Cannot be tainted by your judgement

You tell me I cannot hum to the rhythm of originality

Because you believe that even the moon rises simply because the sun tells it so

And that the heavens cry because it is what mother instructed

And stars explode because they have shone too bright

You’re paralysed by the shame, judgement, and fear that arises from speaking out

But let me ask you one thing

Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?

Open your mind, before you open your lips

And allow yourself to be consumed in the beauty of free thought

And once you have conquered that, allow your tongue to tango with free speech

And once you hear the voice of angels

Your soul will be free!

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https://www.gradesaver.com/walt-whitman-poems/study-guide/themes

https://www.google.com/searchbiw=1237&bih=665&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=0IhoXbTPIobiz7sPyrXgA4&q=do+not+conform&oq=do+not+conform&gs_l=img.3..0l10.23826.26913..27080…3.0..0.254.3261.0j9j8……0….1..gws-wiz img…….35i39j0i67j0i10i24j0i24.ugxJEL1jzJE&ved=0ahUKEwi094GNxankAhUG8XMBHcrfBeAQ4dUDCAY&uact=5#imgrc=8UhN144kECMjmM:

Blog 1- Why do we feel so free in Nature?

I want you to cast your mind back to the last time you truly felt free.

Where were you? What were you doing? And what did it feel like?

Were you standing on a vast stretch of beach, alone, with nothing but the wind whispering her calming melodies into your ears as you felt the sea salt hugging your skin?

Or

Was it as a child, when you climbed the trees, among the ever-changing leaves? As you reached the top, you surveyed the land which felt as if it all belonged to you. At that moment you ruled the world, you were truly free.

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I believe the reason we feel so free in Nature is because like humans, Nature is so incredibly diverse. In Nature, we do not feel judged for being different. Nature is so diverse in all her glory. We are surrounded by large trees and slim trees, short trees, and tall trees. In a sea of yellow flowers, you may spot a pink one, a mutation of its kind. However, in Nature, we do not say, “This is weird or wrong”, just because the flower is a different colour. We do not say, “What a fat tree that is”.

No.

Instead, we exclaim “How Beautiful!” We appreciate the brilliance and diversity of Nature. Nature is so expansive and varies so greatly, yet it all manages to work together in such harmony. It is perhaps something humans can observe and learn from.

Today, our busy lifestyles are measured by deadlines, hours, minutes and seconds which seem to disappear before our very eyes. Clocks teach us to “abandon the natural rhythms of our bodies and the Earth and conform to a schedule rooted in our economic system.”

However, Nature demonstrates a healthier way of living.

Trees and plants grow s-l-o-w-l-y. Wombats graze calmly and all of Nature conducts itself at its natural pace. When in Nature, individuals allow themselves to lose their concept of time and adapt to the natural rhythm of Nature. As Emerson, himself said “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience”.

Whether you call her God, Gaia or Mother Earth, Nature allows us to be at one with this powerful and divine presence. It allows us to connect with our own spirit and the spirit of natural world. We feel as if we can truly begin to understand ourselves once we connect with our spirit. Emerson stated that “Nature always wear the colours of the spirit”. I believe this is the reason we feel so peaceful and happy in the presence of Nature. This is why Nature heals, as she allows us to find our soul, our purpose and our humanity, which allows us to live a life full of meaning and happiness.

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https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/549650329503137140/

https://www.ecowatch.com/10-reasons-why-you-feel-so-good-in-nature-1881977943.html