Week 12 Peer Review, Tara Michelle Briggs

QuestionIn your own words explain what you sense is the real difference between the fictional worlds of George Eliot, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.

Hi Tara, I feel like you captured the different between these authors extremely well. I particularly liked your analysis of Eliot’s work as being concerned with what it is to be human. I find that Eliot captures the most important issues of humans. You still maintain to celebrate the authors whilst analysing them which is good. Many people tend to ‘knit-pick’ the authors and in doing so put down their work. Your concluding statement, which I 100% agree with is probably my favourite: ‘All three of the aforementioned authors are noteworthy, interesting and important. Whilst they express differing views and fictional worlds, all contain intelligent ideas which maintain relevance even in a modern context.’ I enjoy this because that’s what makes these authors so remarkable: their ability to withstand the continuum of time in capturing the essence of human nature. This makes them just as relatable now, as they were in the 19th Century!

Good work.

Link to post: https://taramichellebriggs.wordpress.com/2017/05/08/blog-7-topic-1/


Week 11 Critical/Creative

Assuming the role of Oscar Wilde, say in a paragraph or so what you were trying to illustrate about the way of life of the rich in late Victorian society.


The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde
Image from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-1WPFBTqq4 

Pomposity. The way of life for the rich in late Victorian society was ridiculously pompous. It was about celebrating your money. Boasting about your money. Talking about your money. All without actually saying how much money you had. It was in the detail. Rich Victorian society relied on your party observing the amount of money you spent on such event: the food, the decor, the outfit you were wearing. It was immediately about building your character, not for self-fulfilment or the purpose of another, but for the purpose of building a reputation. It was the difference between serving scones, and cucumber sandwiches, from serving bread and butter. It is in the name of yourself that defined who you are. For, it is the importance of being Earnest. The irony in the name of the play itself can tell you about the lives of the rich in late Victorian society. It wasn’t exactly about being earnest in the sense of being steady, committed, devout, heartfelt, zealous, or sincere, but merely being known as being those things. Perhaps if you speak fast enough, or boisterous enough, or refined enough, people may not be able to notice what you are truely like underneath. For these people, the surface was all that mattered. Everything was fodder. The essence of the soul was something you couldn’t see, so why bother with it?

Summative Entry

The human and artistic concerns of both the Romantic and Victorian Ages are similar to our own concerns; the response to those concerns- given by poets, novelists, dramatists and artists- can help us live fuller, more meaningful and creative lives in our own times.

Image from: http://avidly.lareviewofbooks.org/2013/12/12/25-nineteenth-century-literary-characters-to-consider-inviting-to-your-holiday-party/

Romantic and Victorian Age literary artists have both human and artistic concerns that reflect our own in contemporary society. The ideas of both time periods are able to transcend the boundaries of time as they capture the essence of the human condition. It is the engagement with what is essentially human that allows the readers of contemporary audiences to live fuller, more meaningful and creative lives. It is in Austen, Dickens, Eliot, Tolstoy and Wilde that we observe parts of ourselves and our own culture.

Wordsworth began our literary journey. With his Romantic encouragement to feel, and engage with ourselves and with nature, we are able to immediately see the similarities between ourselves, the people in this library where I write this blog post, and those in the early nineteenth century. There is so much preoccupation with knowledge, logic and regurgitation of fact, that we lose the spirit, the love, and the passion that should fuel our lives. Romantics often look to nature. They draw out its beauty. There is something in its magnificence and simplicity that we are able to then engage with our own nature; our inner being. Artists often do this. See https://vzengl200.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/week-7-blog-post-art-gallery-creative/  for a creative exploration of Eugene Von Guerard’s Milford Sound (1877-79), which highlights in his artwork the tenets Romanticism and its concerns with nature. Like Wordsworth says ‘Our bodies feel, where’er they be, / Against or with our will.’ (Expostulation and Reply, 281). Feeling is inevitable, and suppressing it can only lead to devastation. Fooling yourself out of thinking, or being aware of those feelings, may place you next to Emma, in Jane Austen’s Emma.

Austen is one that alerts us to the importance of recognising feeling. We often preoccupy ourselves – Emma preoccupying herself with matchmaking – with quotidian tasks that we often exert all our energy on. But why? We focus on our jobs, school, cleaning, washing, filling up petrol as a way of distracting us from our feelings. Emma teachers us that we only fool ourselves in these circumstances, and distance ourselves from that goal of absolute happiness. Such warning should be headed for our contemporary society.

Dickens too forewarns the dangers of a lack of emotion. The depressed attitude of Lousia says so much. Head her warning, and you should be fine. Mr. Gradgrind and his insistence on the inundation and reiteration of facts is something not so different today. We see it in the HSC, in exam times, in everyday work, in these weekly blog posts: the lack of depth and interaction with information, but merely the parroting of information. Facts, facts, facts. Cissy Jupe is the one that makes us acknowledge the importance of fun, of imagination. See https://vzengl200.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/week-5-blog-3/ for an in-depth critique of the preoccupation with facts.  If you imagination yourself as a circle, only so much should be filled with fact, so much of imagination, and so much of love and hatred. It’s all in the balance. Without one, we would be like Pac-Man, with an insatiable appetite for fulfilment. No one could forget the echoing sound of Mr Sleary’s lisp once you’ve put down the novel: ‘They can’t be alwayth a learning.’ With people today working in order to pay rent, buy food, earn a promotion, we think to Coketown and the similar economic concerns at the forefront of their society. We must not forget to be amused and to love.

Then again, because this consuming interest in money is so ingrained in many from late eighteenth to early nineteenth and into the twenty-first century, could this preoccupation ever be erased from humanity? Probably not. But George Eliot does attempt to display the detrimental effect it has on the soul. It’s when people have reached this financial stability, and we can call them privileged, that we can see a little bit of their human essence dissipate into the wind. Those struggling, the working class, are the ones who appreciate love, and that’s where their spirit comes from. You see this in the transformation of Silas Marner, where his literal stash of gold is his everything, only until he feels the love of young Eppie, that she then becomes his gold, his most prized possession.

Tolstoy similarly acknowledges this deterioration of the soul. I’m not sure about you, but my boss, coworkers, aunties, uncles, all show similarities to Ivan Ilych. They’ve let the evils of the world control them, and take away their life. Our preoccupations with money and promotion,, like Ivan, often detract from our liveliness. Like Eliot, it is in the working class, seeing Gerasim (from The Death of Ivan Ilych) and Nikita (from Master and Man) that we see how the soul really shines: in those free from these evils.

Wilde similarly satirically identifies these follies. Wilde acknowledges such preoccupation with greed, self-promotion, money, reputation – that is all too common today! – and turns it into humour. Not only are English audiences amused by this, they’re laughing at their own ridicule! Perhaps we are too self-involved to recognise our own follies. Perhaps Wilde is highlighting the stupidity of it all. How stupid it is to worry about the things that only superficially matter!

But a las! Will we ever fall out of such trap? The trap of materialism, superficiality, greed, gluttony, all the worst of it? Will we ever eventually learn from these timeless authors, and recognise that the meaning of life, the worth of our soul, lies beyond that we can physically touch? Given our track record, probably not. But then again, that is what makes us essentially human.

Best critical: https://vzengl200.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/week-5-blog-3/

Best creative: https://vzengl200.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/week-7-blog-post-art-gallery-creative/

Peer Review, Wk 10, Danielle Gatt

Link to post:


The Question: Describe a moment in your life where, like Marner you have been horrified, shocked by the loss of something that has been desperately dear to you. (In Marner’s case it was his gold)

This was an extremely captivating piece. Perhaps because I feel you described a similar situation to my own during high school. You set the scene impeccably. This notion of pride is an extremely dangerous one, and I like that you capture the cockiness that it leads to. Having completed Ext2 English as well, there is a certain amount of expectation. The expectation for you to receive good marks, but as well as you ‘expect’ to receive the best marks. When this isn’t the case, there is nothing to describe that gut wrenching feeling. This was extremely emotive. I was completely shocked coming out of your piece. Thank you for this reminder. It is definitely a warning to head.

Week 10 Blog Post – Critical

What can you find out about Tolstoy’s belief in the value of the working class?

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, or just Leo Tolstoy, values the ethics and camaraderie of the working class. Essentially, Tolstoy depicts the working class as the most human. This is illustrated in Tolstoy’s short stories, The Death of Ivan Ilych, and Master and Man.

In The Death of Ivan Illych, it is through Ivan Illych’s proper and illustrious life that we are able to identify the dangers of being privileged. The only generation of love that occurs is between Ivan, his money and his promotions. It is only during times of suffering that the true nature of the human reveals itself. His wife, Praskovya Fyodorovna shows very little sympathy for Ivan’s slow, painful death. The only sorrow found is in the cessation of income after his death. It is in social or economic gain that Tolstoy suggests we begin to lose our soul (something that the working class still maintains): “It is as if I had been going down-hill while I imagined I was going up. And that’s really what it was. I was going up in public opinion, but to the same extent life was ebbing away from me”(122). Here, we are able to see that in both childhood, before the influence of life taints the soul, and the working class, there is a kind of humanity: “It seemed to Ivan Ilych that Vasya was the only one besides Gerasim who understood and pitied him.” Tolstoy suggests that Vasya, Ivan’s son, and Gerasim, his servant, a working class man, were able to conjure empathy for his pain. Neither of them saw the monetary value, or devaluing in his death, what is meant for work or promotion, but singularly, the suffering of a man before death. Ivan notes that “There, in childhood, there had been something really pleasant with which it would be possible to live…but the child who had experienced that happiness no longer existed.’ Gerasim was the only one to care for the dying Ivan – not even the self-obsessed, greedy, wife. He “was sitting at the foot of the bed dozing quietly and patiently”. When commanded to “go away”, Gerasim refused and insisted that it was “all right, sir. I’ll stay a while.” This caring nature is absent in all other characters within the short story, and Ivan knew this, as he felt immense “loneliness in the midst of a populous town.” Thus, in his privileged social circle, Ivan Ilych observes a selfishness, whilst in his observations of the working class, Tolstoy portrays charitable creatures, humane and caring.url.jpgImage from: https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwiVkYzulofUAhVDgLwKHR2UAgAQjhwIBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.encyclopediaofukraine.com%2Fdisplay.asp%3Flinkpath%3Dpages%255CT%255CO%255CTolstoyLeo.htm&psig=AFQjCNHSTIcA3o5hzQz8PKDIx6O1DT6XYA&ust=1495668865783833

This humane characteristic is similarly exhibited within the character of Nikita, in Tolstoy’s short story Master and Man. We are presented with a master and his servant, and in the same way that The Death of Ivan Ilych displays this relationship, we are able to discern the contrasting qualities of the authority figures and the working class. Vasily Andreevich is a materialistic, greedy man, who is juxtaposed to Nikita, a soft, gentle, compassionate being. Tolstoy’s belief that the working class are humane and show camaraderie is evident in Nikita’s relationship with the horse. This camaraderie is mirrored in Gerasim’s affection towards Ivan. Nikita, who would often speak ‘to the horse just as if to someone who understood the words he was using’, and who ‘quite seriously and fully explaining his conduct to Mukhorty’, the horse, shows that he is gentle and open. The working class do not possess the same materialistic nature that often higher classes do. It is this lack of greed that allows them to be fully human. They are removed of the evils of the soul that often gnaw at the side until nothing is left. When these evils are removed, the soul is able to be whole. It is when Andreevich loses these disagreeable preoccupations that he is able to experience a ‘strange and solemn tenderness’. In the selfless moment when he kept josh ‘coat-skirts down around Nikita’s sides’, in an attempt to protect him from the cold, does he encounter this ‘peculiar joy such as he had never felt before.’ It is in the death of his materialistic self that he is able to acquire this new self, reboot with the values that Tolstoy believes the working class bestow. It is as Nabakov states as being the ‘Tolstoyan formula’, of which is applicable to both Andreevich and Ivan: “Ivan lived a bad life and since the bad life is nothing but the death of the soul, then Ivan lived a living death; and since beyond death is God’s living light, then Ivan died into a new life – Life with a capital L.’ This is evident when Ivan states ‘In place of death. there was light.’ This is the same transformation that Andreevich undergoes.

Tolstoy’s belief in the value of working class is evident in his characterisation of the personalities within his short stories. It is in the comparison between privileged society and the working class that we are able to decipher his praise of the working class in their ability to remain essentially human. This is possible through the withdrawal of the evils or money and stature within society.

Creative, Wk 9 Blog Post

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

Dear Godfrey,

Eppie is a wonderful girl. She has grown to become mature, loving, caring and open to all people, no matter their walk of life. She has come to love Marner. She has come to love the working people. She has come to love her simple life. It is obvious that this need to have her in your life is not a decision based on your own want. You do not want her because you love her. Nor, do you want her because you feel it’s the right thing to do. More so, you want her to want you, to fulfil the hole that your negligence has dug in your soul. This request to have her live with you and you be her ‘rightful’ father, is not out of love for Eppie, your biological daughter, but out of love for your wife. Nancy cannot have children. I feel that knowing you have conceived a daughter and not included her in your life has deprived Nancy of a potential stepdaughter. Godfrey, you could provide Nancy with a daughter, but you would be tearing away the daughter of Marner. Yes, she is a product you have manufactured, but she is not a daughter you have loved.

In your avoidance, spurning, ‘if I pretend it’s not there it never happened’ attitude – whatever you want to call it – you gave Marner life, hope and spirit. You gave him gold. To forcibly remove someone’s gold, you must never have held such prize yourself. Whilst your choice is simultaneously selfless and selfish, it still is not one that affects only yourself. Selfless in the way you are going through the actions for Nancy. Selfish in the way that you are taking the joy of a man’s life away from him. Even worse! You are doing so through bribery! Flaunting your materialistic goods is a shallow way to allure someone into your home. You may be able to attract a bird with shiny objects, Godfrey, but you cannot win over the heart of a child with luxuries.

Please do what is right, and respect the child’s wishes. If Eppie wants to engage and connect with her biological father, then that is great. I would be immensely happy for you and Nancy. However, if she feels that her foster father’s love is too well-earned and shows her loyalty to him, then you must not be angry. You must understand. If I am wrong, and you do love this child, then you will respect her wishes and love for a distance.

Perhaps one day you will find your own gold.

Best wishes,


Peer Review Felicity McManus, Wk 9

Felicity, I loved your blog! Your mix of short and long sentences made for an engaging, entertaining read. I particularly liked how you referred to the future in the industrial revolution as a ‘calamity that is swiftly approaching.’ To heighten the passion and emotion in your piece, I would add some exclamation marks (i.e ‘Well, to hell with convention.) It was an imaginative way to advise your friends on your departure from conventional education. I also appreciated your acknowledge of the positives of conventional education but also highlighted that it simultaneously holds restrictions.

Great blog!


Link to blog: https://felicitymcmanus.wordpress.com/ 

Week 8 Blog, Critical

Take one stanza from the Scholar Gypsy and carefully explicate its meaning saying how you think the language and form (stanza shape) contribute to the stanza’s power and effect.NSRW_Matthew_Arnold

Image accessed from https://wn.com/the_scholar_gipsy 

The seventeenth stanza, lines 161-170, in Matthew Arnold’s Scholar Gypsy highlights the qualities of the Scholar Gypsy’s life, that those in Arnold’s times, and even our contemporary time, are without. These qualities of the Scholar Gypsy are accentuated through the use of the alliterative ‘f’ sound: ‘Fresh’ (162)… ‘Firm’ (163)… ‘Free’ (164). This draws the reader’s attention to the liberation of life that the Scholar Gypsy lives. He is ‘fresh’, untainted from society’s established values and demands. He is ‘Firm’, dedicated, decisive, in his ability to know, understand, and take action for what he wants and believes. He is also ‘free’ from the constraints and mechanical, monotonous duties of the everyday civilian. It is through the stanza’s structure that the responder is forced to stop and contemplate these things. The contrast between the long lines between lines of 161- 165, we are met with a shorter, exclamatory utterance in line 166: “O life unlike to ours!” This induced pause acts as a summative message, almost didactic, to urge the meaning of the poem. Here, Arnold reinforces that his life is markedly different to the one we lead. It is this contrasting short sentence that marks as a separator between the first and second halves on the stanza. In the first, we are presented with the Scholar Gypsy’s life. In the second Arnold illustrates how we live our life, and thus, in this transition, the audience is able to explicitly see the distinctions between our life and the Scholar Gypsies. Arnold illustrates the constancy of the life we lead: our continuous movement towards something. This ‘something’ is unknown, it is some sort of purpose in our life that may justify why we worked hard. He states: ‘Of whom each strives, nor knows for what he strives.’ Whilst we are offered two views in this stanza, there is an amalgamation between the two, achieved through the rhyming scheme. Arnold uses a strategic rhyming scheme of ABCBC ADEED that unites both the first and second halves of the stanza.

Matthew Arnold’s deliberate use of poetic devices allows for a powerful delivery of meaning. It is in the stanza form that his ideas of the Scholar Gypsy and the beauty of his life juxtaposed to our own that are firmly expressed.

Peer Review, WK 7 Suzanne

Suzanne, this was an excellent recap of our excursion to the art gallery. I love the analysis of your chosen artworks, and how they reflect their culture. Your focus on the position of women in society is a unique one, that I would not have thought of myself when thinking about our visit. I loved how to chose two juxtaposing artworks. By doing this you really capture the multitude of women’s roles and their diversity.
I would have liked some sort of preamble or question at the top of the post just to know where this post was going. Some further linking between literature and artwork could have been made.
Nonetheless, your analysis of the paintings was great!
Victoria 🙂

Link to post: https://suzannes2016.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/blog-5-art-gallery-highlights/comment-page-1/#comment-63

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