Crossing Brooklyn (Bridge)

ii. Choose one of the stanzas from Walt Whitman’s poems (in LEO) and discuss how it has amplified or enhanced your understanding of a particular place or event seen in today’s travels through New York. Try to imitate the style of your poem by writing one stanza which describes the place or event that you have chosen to focus on.

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Part 3, stanza 1

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,

I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,

Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,

Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,

Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d,

Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,

Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

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Brooklyn was an incredible experience, that Whitman’s ‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry’ enhanced immensely.  It was not crossing the river by ferry, but by walking across the bridge, that the same enchantment that Whitman described was emulated. First published in 1856 as “Sun-Down Poem” in the 2nd edition of Leaves of Grass, then later “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”, in 1860, Whitman has foreshadowed the constancy of the Brooklyn bridge and its ability to connect people, place and purpose.  Whitman notes ‘yet with the swift current, I stood yet hurried, / Just as you look on the numberless masts of shops and thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.’ It is within these two lines that the experience of crossing the river has withstood the continuum of time. Within 2018 on my travels to New York, ‘I stood yet hurried’ amongst the bustling of people making their way across the bridge, whilst still in the moment. This oxymoronic statement perfectly emulates the atmosphere of the crossing. People are caught in the beauty of the journey, yet focused on their destination. This process has been one that Whitman describes as the ‘impalpable sustenance of me.’ Th
is deification, a disintegration into New York, as a place, yet as a living entity. It is these people who cross, from place to place, who travel, live and work, that constitute New York, and animate it into the being that it is. It is amazing to acknowledge that even in the 1860s, ‘other will enter… Others will watch… Others will see…’. As an ‘Other’, I have entered, watched and seen the beauty that lies between New York and Brooklyn. It’s a combination of the water, the expansive sky, embedded with tall towers, the bustle of the city, the Statue of Liberty. As you view this piece iconography representing freedom, it marries well with the freedom of the individual in this action of crossing the Brooklyn (bridge). Whitman celebrates the individual: ’Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!’ I feel that this poem highlights the brilliance of New York, of the people that constitute it, and the timelessness that this amazing city has.

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(Image was taken on my visit to Brooklyn Bridge #nofitler)


My attempt to emulate Whitman in my description of Brooklyn Bridge:

Crossing Brooklyn Bridge

It avails not, time nor place – distance avails not,

For it was yesterday, today, tomorrow, or in the hundred years forward,

You would feel the breeze whip through your hair, the refreshing chill on your face

You would feel the vibrations of the hurrying cars beneath your feet, a comforting hum,

You would feel the air, fresh and free as you inhale, a breath of liberty

You would feel the city, as you see it, the tall buildings of promise, for more for you to see.

As you cross the Brooklyn Bridge, many run, many dance, many stroll, many bustle

Whatever their cause, they cross

Whatever their destination, they cross.

And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence have more to see,

When you cross that Bridge of liberty.

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Great Minds Think Alike; Benton and Fitzgerald

Choose a painting that you have explored at MET and discuss how it has amplified your understanding of the literary themes and forms that we have been exploring

The 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald aims to critique American society for their values and ideals during this period. Give or take a few years, between 5 and 6 to be precise, it appears that Fitzgerald was not the only one to acknowledge America’s follies. Thomas Hart Benton’s ‘America Today’ (1930-31), proudly – I say proudly due to its 10 panels, with dimensions of 92 x 117 in – exposes both the beauty and hardship of life within America. Both artists accentuate the struggling society as well as the attractiveness of 1920s-30s American lifestyles.

The allure of The Great Gatsby for many is the extravagance that Gatsby himself promotes through his parties. His parties are very prestigious, owing to Gatsby’s own reputation: ‘You must know Gatsby” (11), however, Fitzgerald critiques these attendees to Gatsby’s gatherings by comparing them to the fickle moth: “There was music from my neighbour’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whispering and the champagne and the stars” (39). These social festivities were a fad or phase that would eventually pass, but for the moment captured the attention of the petty and materialistic guests. They were an accessory to be worn, to show off for their fellow socialites. These behaviours are subtly being criticised by Fitzgerald in his attempt to acknowledge the dangers of materialism in the transforming American society. It is the cycle of industrialisation and materialism that both Gatsby and Benton capture in their works.

If you were to imagine the ambiance of one of Gatsby’s soirées, I wouldn’t look further than panels ‘b’ and ‘c’ of Benton’s ‘America Today’. Within panel ‘b’, the colours are golden and lavish. The subjects are vibrant and alive. These animated figures are featured wearing sultry red dresses dancing close with their companions, eyes swooning at barmen,  and entertainers being celebrated in a likewise manner to Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’ (1508-1512).  This allusion to such a great work highlights the similarity of adoration for these entertainers and lifestyles they promote. The tone of the work darkens as you enter into the next panel, ‘c’. This shift in tone adds an ominous sense of danger, a forewarning of the potential disasters this lifestyle can cause. It turns dirty, almost illicit.
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Panel ‘c’ 92 x 117 in

This dangerous tone transcends into the darker aspects of American life. The harder, more strenuous work that is often out-shone amongst the bright lights of cabaret and parties. The mechanic, the industrial yard works, the dirty, the penniless. This is epitomised within Benton’s panels ‘d’ through to ‘i’, and encapsulated magnificently in the deliberately smaller panel ‘j’. These panels exhibit the laborious tasks that are essential within the developing world. The juxtaposition of panels between ‘i’ and the 8 x 97 in of ‘j’ accentuates the overlooked nature of those within the American society struggling money and a comfortable livelihood. The hands are powerfully painted to capture the urgency and desperation as they grapple for money, food, and the featured coffee.

These elements are epitomised within Fitzgerald’s character, George Wilson. He, like panel ‘j’ is often overlooked in its power. Mr. Wilson is a humble man, who does not bestow the negative characteristics of Tom Buchanan or Gatsby, but lives life to work and earn money, and to love his cheating wife. The hardship he endures is captured within Benton’s industrial panels, as well as the hardship he endures over his wife’s yearning for the luscious lifestyle. With little to claim for himself, Mr. Wilson follows God, and reiterates “God sees everything”. This omnipotent God emulates the nine panels of Benton’s. “God sees everything,” just in the way that these enormous, all-encapsulating panels observe the many facets of American life; it ‘sees everything.’


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Benton’s ‘America Today’, as I observed it and analysed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York ,amplified my understanding of the literary themes within F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

I Dream a Dream – The American Dream

Choose one of the performances that you have seen and detail what you think it suggests about the American Dream.  In your post, make sure that you compare the musical with the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.

The American Dream. You say it with a slight sigh of aspiration; the hope, the longing, the dream. However, for something so all-consuming, many people take on board the American Dream in many ways. Some celebrate the working man, other aspire to the glamorous lifestyle, others don’t know which way’s up and head in all directions. For A Bronx Tale, the very masculine musical held at Longacre Theatre, on Broadway, the American Dream glorifies the powerful man. (Please note: the themes within the musical are drastically different – in my opinion – to those represented in the film. All themes addressed are in accord with the musical version). In such appraisal of power, the working man appears to be put down and slightly condescended. The interesting character of the working man, who many can identify with, is more complexly developed within Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman, whereby the struggles of the working man are empathetically attended to.

Impressionable ‘C’, Calogero, idolises Sonny, a mafia-gang type leader who urges that ‘it is better to be feared than loved.’ C’s father, Lorenzo, an amicable bus driver, struggles to build a luxurious life, but what he does construct is one of love and content, managed through his humble earnings. However, when compared to the monetary income of Sonny, it is apparent to C that ‘the working man is a sucker.’ The power of Sonny is evident when they become companions, and C revels in the advantages of Sonny’s feared nature; “everything’s free, and I like it’. This influential nature of Sonny spurs from his moral attitude shaped by Niccolò Machiavelli. Machiavelli states: “It is much safer to be feared than loved because …love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.” The American Dream the characters of Sonny and Calogero aspire to here is one of great respect from community members. It is the attainment of reputation and power that is sought.

Such power and reputation are sought by Willy Loman, within Miller’s Death of a Salesman. A mentally unstable father, with connotations of a working-class man that derive from his surname “Low Man’. He aspires to be a reputable salesman, however, like Lorenzo, acknowledges the hard work often. goes unnoticed when ‘the wonder of this country, [is] that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being liked!’ Biff, Willy’s son, however, acknowledges the powerful disintegration of the soul this search for the American Dream can cause. He rejects such dream with the burning of his college shoes: Bernard: ‘He was so proud of those, wore them every day. And he took them down in the cellar, and burned them up in the furnace…. I’ve often thought of how strange it was that I knew he’d given up his life.’ This disintegration is evident in Willy’s mental state, and his taking of his own life at the end of the play. His son states: “I’m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have – to come out number-one-man.’ The American Dream is acknowledged and is subject to interpretation by audiences on the positives and negatives of this life path.

What both the musical and play do, however, highlights the potential of the human, with or without this Dream. Both of which acknowledges an individual’s talent, thus urging the individuality and uniqueness of every person. Within A Bronx Tale, it is constantly reiterated that ‘the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.’ This is mirrored by Biff within Death of a Salesman: ‘I’ve always made a point of not wasting my life, and over timeI come back here I know the all I’ve done is to waste my life.’


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Therefore, whilst both acknowledge the American Dream, its highs and pitfalls, both didactically promote the human potential. We, as audiences, come away with the slightly cliché notion, of do what you love and you’ll do well. Which is essentially all we can hope for in life.

J.D. Salinger; not much has changed between 1945 and 2018.

Catcher in the Rye

i. Write a paragraph in the style of J.D. Salinger – and using Salinger’s style of narrator –  describing a location in New York that gave you a new understanding of the novel. Briefly say what this new understanding is.


BROADWAY


Everyone bustles down to Broadway. I don’t know if it was the lights, the crowds, or the pushy salespeople on the side of the street that drew them in; ‘Do you like comedy?’ ‘Big-Bus Tour?’ I walked with my head down, eyes fixed on some very important stone ahead of me, so as to give the impression I was incredibly busy, and all. It usually worked. They would glance towards you, pamphlet in hand. Then when they saw that incredulous look of determination on the very important stone, their hands faltered and pushed the pamphlet into some other poor suckers face. You can’t blame them I guess. They’re just working. Fingers freezing, noses chilled, trying to keep warm in a New York winter on the streets of Broadway. They’re just working, is all. These people don’t seem too intelligent, but I’m sure they know their ass from the elbow. At least it’s an honest kind of living. Go out, work, bring in the commission. Some are phoneys. Gotta watch for those. But really, half the time its the customer that’s the phoney. Why would you be buying off street sellers on Broadway? They’re never the locals. They’re some awful out of towner, probably from Australia. They come and inhabit our city momentarily until the next flock migrate in. In one comes, out goes another, in one comes. So really, it’s there fault the streets are so damn crowded. You could tell they weren’t from here; walking on the wrong side of the streets, making Broadway more mobbed and messy than it already was, sporting an unnecessary amount of layers, and bearing a smile that showed too much excitement for, I will sneer, Broadway. There was a long line that came halfway down the block. I peered my head to see what show would cause such a commotion. The Book of Mormon. I laughed. Hopefully, Trey Parker could teach these phoneys a thing or two. I continued walking, swivelling my shoulders, quickening my step so as to not get in anyone’s way.

“Look at all these lights! Aren’t they grand?” A little girl exclaimed. Sounded British. I walked off Broadway and onto Times Square, where this girl no doubt was excited by one of the brightest golden arches of McDonald’s she had ever seen. Isn’t it grand?

I decided to walk straight. Straight towards Central Park. Out of the hustle and bustle that is the international conglomerate of Broadway. Boy, I couldn’t get off Broadway fast enough. I wanted to see the ducks.


New-York-Broadway-compressed.jpg“Broadway was mobbed and messy.” 125

It was only upon visiting New York that I understood many of the descriptions that Holden Caulfield presented to us. I could have written about the carousel, or Central Park (and the varying seasons it experienced within the span of ten days), or the stairs at the MET where he met Phoebe or the zoo. But one striking thing that Holden pin-pointed was how ‘mobbed and messy’ Broadway was. Broadway, as it continues into Times Square was a constant crowd of locals and tourists. This bustling, 24/7, lit up city life, was, what I would call, phoney. When Holden talks of people lining up to go to the movies, or plays, opera, etc., I resonate with his assumption that they do it purely because. With no apparent reason, want or need, but to do it for the sake of saying that they’ve done it. By the end of the trip, I too, could not wait to get off Broadway. This juxtaposition between the places of, for example, Central Park and Broadway, however, did give rise to a greater appreciation of the quieter places in New York. From visiting Broadway, I understand what Holden means about the phoneys of the city and of his time. Because, unbeknownst to Holden, the phoneys are still there.

The Book of Mormon; Critiquing the Capitalist economy on which we rely

 

Blog on the morality of Broadway

“The narrative of the American musical critiques the very capitalism that it relies on to make a profit to survive. Therefore, this is a hypocritical industry that smugly challenges the power that comes with success, while enjoying the financial rewards and fame associated with Broadway”. Discuss this statement in view of one of the musicals studied in this course. 

THE BOOK OF MORMON

I noticed upon both entering and exiting the theatre, the comments of audience members; “It was even better the second time!”, “I would definitely see this again!”, “The performance was much different than the one I saw in London – perhaps better!”, “I’m going to bring my friend to see this.” The Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Broadway, New York City, was lit with spectacular lights, sprawling with excited tourists and locals, all of which sat and enjoyed the satiric humour that comes with any creation of Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. (If you aren’t familiar, the crude humour owes to the creators of satiric television South Park, to give you some context). Having read the script, scrupulously analysed the ironic nature of the text, I wonder if these audience members are aware of the ridicule they are susceptible to as they sit in the audience and laugh at jokes, indirectly pointed at themselves.

Funnily enough, if it weren’t for these vulnerable, naive participants of theatre, the writers of such magnificent show would have no naive participants to satirise. This is where we enter into the vicious cycle of the presence of the capitalist economy that is necessary for Parker, Lopez and Stone to critique the very capitalist economy it relies on.

If you look beyond the comedic relief of Gotswana, the Ugandan doctor with ‘maggots in [his] scrotum’ (34), you begin to see the harsh circumstances under which the people of Africa live. Uganda, contrary to popular belief, is ‘NOTHING like The Lion King – … that movie took a LOT of artistic license.’ To play on the omnipresence of Disney in the American household, the writers play on the characters of Mufasa, and the uplifting song ‘Hakuna Matata’, with Mafala and his counter song ‘Hasa Diga Eebowai’, which, unfortunately, does not mean ‘no worries for the rest of your days’. This ‘problem-free philosophy’, is a song that highlights the harsh conditions of Africa, and in English translates to ‘Fuck you, God!’ (19). This picturesque sublime that is no doubt burned into the imaginations of Americans of a  bronze sunset spanning over a sparse land, is replaced by the facts that; “We’ve had no rain in several days…And eighty percent of us have aids… Many young girls here get circumcised, their clits get cut right off” (18). This crude humour forces audiences to acknowledge the reality of Africa, however often drifts over the heads of the audience due to the mater in which it is presented; through the catchy songs of the musical.

Many sit and think the entire play satirises Mormons. I’m American, not Mormon. This play has nothing to do with me! And yet, do you not drink the sweet liquid from the Starbucks cups featured in the Spooky Mormon Hell Dream? The notion of consumerism, of which all active participants of society are a part of, is being satirised here. Thus, the American culture, the active, successful economy of America, fuelled by Disneyland, the franchising of Starbucks and this omnipotent American Dream of success, is being critiqued. The notion of religion itself is likened to a profitable commodity in the way in which it is sold to consumers. Parker, Lopez and Stone liken the preaching of the Mormon religion to an infomercial, selling you something, for something, with a catch; ‘And if you order now, we’ll also throw in a set of steak knives!” (40). The musical cleverly satirises the lack of evidence provided by such religion, that adherents must believe, just because: “Oh God why are you letting me die / without having me show people the plates? / They’ll have no proof I was telling the truth or not / They’ll have to believe it just cuz / oh. I guess that’s kind of what you were going for. [37]” Such notion can be extended to American culture itself, which ties back to the instilled representation of Africa that the Americans initially had.27658610_1819347918099635_1167656000_n.jpg


The cult of the American is indirectly attacked within The Book of Mormon. However, such consumerist behaviour that we are critiquing, is necessary in order for it to be critiqued. Because, if no one were to attend the shows, how could we mock our audience?The popular culture of Broadway, the allure of comedy and capitalism capture the audience, and they are released, some slightly wiser, some slightly offended, some are happy-go-lucky looking for a post-theatre feed. That is the beauty of the musical. 

Waitress

Walking down from the hotel, getting amongst the hustle and bustle of the crowd as you get your bag checked, tickets scanned, and make your way to your seats, you’re completely drawn into the experience of the musical. Even more so drawn in when the lights dim, the audience quietens and you are consumed by the fantastic theatrical abilities of the cast, and stage management that has allowed the show to be the successful piece of entertainment that it was. The songs were catchy, the singing was extraordinary, the comedic relief was amusing, and it was ultimately, a very good night out. However, behind the goal to entertain is a somewhat hidden agenda that this musical seems to endorse. If I were instructed to enjoy this evening, I can easily oblige with a yes. However, when instructed to Choose a theme that has some resonance with American life or culture and comment on the way this is explored within the musical version of Waitress, I have a longer, more complicated retort.

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The American Dream is a notion that underpins the aspirations of American individuals. Waitress, in its musical form, seems to confront such issue more prominently than its film counterpart. In my opinion (and please be aware these are my own opinions, feel free to disagree with any said notions), Act 1 of this musical appears to critique any such successful outcome that this Dream promises. ‘My mother, the Dreamer, nothing’s impossible, child’, is sung, only to be contrasted by the line ‘But dreams are elusive’. Jenna’s dream of opening her own pie shop are discouraged, as they ‘ain’t no Sara Lee’, as commented by her demeaning, arrogant husband.  The monotony of the familiar life is endorsed, and welcomed as it brings comfortably, further discouraging the attempt for success in accordance with the Dream. The routine the waitresses undergo within the Diner, is monotonous, yet stable, outlined within the musical number “Opening Up”. It is to stereotyped roles that the individual should conform to; in this case, the stereotypical domesticated woman. The generational relationship between mother and daughter passes on the hobby (or duty?) to make pies: ‘Momma, it’s amazing what baking can do’, ‘Like Momma, like daughter.’ The pie appears to be representative of women, their multilayered personas hidden behind their domestic role: ‘She is all this baked in a beautiful pie’ (Act 2, “She Used to Be Mine”). Whilst Jenna seemingly rejects the maternal nature expected of women within this stereotype at the outset, she inevitably succumbs to the pre-destined maternal women in the birth of her child. It was only through the love for the child that she was able to detach from Earl. By extension, it was only from Joe’s inheritance of the diner that she was able to open her own pie shop. Therefore, removed from the male figure or the child, she is still ultimately, the stereotyped domestic woman. The film’s ending promotes the successful attainment of the American Dream, however, under analysis, still appears to critique the notion of the Dream. For, whilst Jenna appears liberated, she remains confined to the stereotype of women, the Capitalist economy, and the male-dominated environment.

Therefore, after further inspection, my enjoyment of the musical is slightly tainted, nevertheless still present. Whether or not the audience, intoxicated by joy whilst immersing themselves in the musical, noticed these underlying themes, is another issue.

Tad bit jet-lagged, tab bit cold

Day 1 was a slight ride off. Arriving around 7pm at the hotel did, however, give me a chance to roam around the constantly lit Times Square. Whether it was a Peanut M&M dancing in your periphery, a shining STARBUCKS sign, or someone pushing a comedy show on your, it was definitely an animated space. After a resfreshing walk through the unfamiliar temperatures nearing 0ºC, we returned to our beds at a very responsible 11pm. Only to be ready and alert at 1:30a.m. Welcome, jet lag.

The next day’s weather urged me to reconsider my definition of ‘cold’. With a frozen nose, and numb lips and fingers, I’m surprised I still bestow all my extremities. The snow was an amazing experience; darting at your eyes as it blew horizontally towards you, melting as it hit your coat. We had an extremely informative lecture from Nick Burns (Byrnes? Forgive me for mispelling, but with a dictated lecture, all I can do is guess and hope for the best), who gave a well-rounded recap on the history of New York itself, and the writers of this amazing place.

Eyelids struggling after a restless night sleep, we made our way to lunch to an exquisite place, Bread and Butter. Let’s rewind – on a side note, the bacon at breakfast was ridiculously declicious. If you’re watching fat, maybe skip it, but you only live once, so I say eat this glorious bacon.
Back to lunch. We enjoyed out healthy meal, and ventured into the maze that was Macy’s. Overwhelemed by size, we decided to leave and peruse the shops on the side streets. I think sometimes these meanderings and saunters down each street gives you more of the New York experience than gallivanting to Rockefeller Centre (I intend to visit there nevertheless).

The harsh winds and nippy weather led us back to the hotel room for a much needed nap. Groggy and disoriented, we went for dinner at a BBQ place (got the charcoal chicken style sandwich – highly recommend).

So far, this blog edges on ‘foodie’, but tomorrow the MET and Waitress await, and I am ridiculously excited for it.

Ciao!

The Pre-Game

It’s like making a dog meow or a cat bark.
It’s like chucking an Australia, climatised to a Southern Hemispheric summer, into the blizzards of New York.

This HUMA318 New York trip has been something that I’ve been excited about ever since it was a mere possibility, mentioned in a lecture once upon a time. Queue the application process, and a hop, skip and a jump, and it’s the morning of our flight. I know I’ve forgotten something – just don’t ask me what, I know I’ll be cold, and I know I’ll complain that my buttocks is sore approximately 4 hours into this 19-hour journey (excluding stopovers).

But overall, the magic of American Literature overcomes all of these worries. For Heaven’s sake, it’s NEW YORK. Who hasn’t dreamed of walking around Central Park, and wondering where the ducks go during Winter (Holden Caulfield, I talking about you), or living it up n lavish parties (if only they were hosted by Gatsby himself), or being dazzled by the entertainment Broadway has to offer (if the performance doesn’t live up to the work of Trey Parker, I’ll be highly disappointed).

The art, at the MOMA and the MET, the New York accent, the food, the music, the shopping. How can I not be excited?

Nervous-excited is probably a more accurate description of my emotions right now. My tapping right leg can vouch for that.

 

Summative Entry

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

Beyond contemporary life, where we sit amongst endless technology, devices, distraction and lack of humane interaction, is an alternate one, one fuelled by emotion, experience and passion. It sits within the words written by renowned American writers. American Literature has been shaped by a multitude of national events. Not only have these emotions moved the people of the time, but aid in the reevaluation of my own experience.

The study Native American Literature allowed me to view nature from an alternator perspective. Having been familiar with colonial settlement within Australian, I drew upon the same empathy to relate to the experience of the Native American Indians in America. With similarities found in the work of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, to Native American writers such as Zitkala Ša -Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, despite the disparity in their background, the message of nature and spiritual nourishment is profound in all works. What Dickinson taught me was that spirit, the Church, all things Divine or heavenly, can be found wherever you find them. This notion was also seen within the Transcendental ideology.

Transcendentalism was perhaps the highlight of the unit for me. With its powerful philosophy, it has infiltrated my life through the works of Emerson, Thoureu, and perhaps, most powerfully Walt Whitman. Whitman’s attitude towards religion allowed to expand the boundaries of my own experience. In his attitude toward the Church, viewing ‘Faith’ as a ‘fine invention’ has urged me to ‘unscrew the locks’, to remove the confinements of the instilled rules of religion, and view spirituality as an omnipresent entity. His celebration of the self has allowed me to reevaluate my insecurities and rather than shun what I dislike, but to embrace them. His words: ‘“Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any man hearty and / clean / Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less familiar / than the rest”, within part 3 of Song of Myself, was a personally powerful reading that has changed my attitude toward myself. I am grateful for that.

Another person also inspired by the work of Whitman, was Robert Frost. As I have struggled myself with finding the right path in life, whether it be choosing a degree, choosing a career, and am still struggling with answering those questions, Robert Frost provided a poetic answer to those by providing an empathetic response to this challenge individuals, myself included, face when navigating their lives. In his relatable, quotidian style of writing, free from pretentiousness, his writing gave a sense of compassion to the everyday reader. His endeavours to capture the ineffable were inspiring. This American poet reminded me why I loved poetry as a primary school student, a high school student, a tertiary student, but moreover, as a person. His belief on poetry, that “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom…it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life,” mirrors my own. This clarification is achieved by the multiple possibilities of interpretation that poetry allows for an audience. One person never interprets a poem exactly the same. This has broadened my writing experience, not only in this unit, but others as well.

Poetry and I have an amicable relationship. T.S Eliot, who I met in high school and whose writing I was extremely fond of, was able to expand within this unit. American Literature produced extremely moving works from modern poets. Eliot’s poetry captured life after the war with The Waste Land, impeccably, but moreover, he captures the essence of human experience. His poems’ fragmentary nature help to picture the fragmented nature of humans. Taking this into my own experience, I am able to identify with the schisms of my self and have Eliot to thank for that. The modernists, in their writing, have critiqued modernism itself; industrialisation, consumerism, materialism. These issues have not been wavered, and are present in the contemporary world today. They have consumed humanity and replaced it with a functioning human replica, devoid of soil.

William Faulkner, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, aims to recapture humanity. Faulkner reminds us of the importance of both unpleasant and pleasant emotion, and the power it has in writing. So often the world, my world, focus on the material or economic gain, rather than spiritual gain. Faulkner instigated my own meditation on my motivations for what I want in life; were they materialistic? Were they selfish? Was I doing it for my own heart?

The power of American Literature is undeniable. The works of renewed authors have protruded into my existence and probed at every experience. They have urged considerations and reconsiderations of my own livelihood, allowing a greater appreciation of nature, spirituality and human experience.

Examples of blog posts that demonstrate how much American Literature has expanded my experience are linked below:

Best creative: https://vzengl200.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/blog-week-6-creative/

Best critical: https://vzengl200.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/blog-week-4/

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