Week 11 Blog, Faulkner Continued

CRITICAL: How do you understand Faulkner’s extraordinary statement in his Nobel Prize speech “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself … alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat” ?

William Faulkner exposes the danger of many writers; the ‘lust’ of it, rather than the love of writing. The essential notion that Faulker puts forward in his Nobel Prize speech is the immortality of the human condition. This can be evidenced today: the long lasting classics that feature in the classroom, or on the bookshelf in your home library, are the one’s that innately capture what is is to be human. Humanity is not circumstantial. It is not dependent on external events, monitory value or commodity. It is the inner self. It is love, feeling and emotion. It is pain, hardship and guilt. Faulker acknowledges this drift, the loss of connection to the soul. Worldly devastation and preoccupation has society fearing for the world, rather than the self. He states “There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up?” 

There is an admirable statement within Faulkner’s Nobel Prize speech that highlights the writer’s ability to manipulate the emotions of the reader:

‘The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.’

Faulkner acknowledges the power of writing. To write about emotion is to teach emotion, to remind the reader of the importance, perhaps even the existence of emotion. To remind them the eternal power of the human. For, as Faulkner says, the human is immortal.

Week 8 Blog

1/ Write a paragraph that says succinctly which of the two Roberts you preferred and for what reasons.

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Whilst both Robert Frost and Robert Lowell are incredible writers, with incredible talents for the construction of poetry, it is Robert Frost who I gravitate more heavily towards. Frost’s writing is extremely entertaining to read, particularly owing to the song-like rhythmic effect of his poems, that mimic the pattern of music. Frost adopts an unpretentious, quotidian style with his approachable word choice, which encourages a broad spectrum of readers. In his work, whilst deceptively simple, he is extremely ambiguous, adding to the cleverness of his construction. Often, he alludes to the ineffable: the things beyond descriptions, the indescribable. It is his description of the ineffable, that transports readers to the edge of silence; a spiritual place, not God, but a place of renewed understanding, that brings an alternate interpretation of reality. It is Frost’s attempt to discover something nourishing and nurturing within reality. The greatness of Frost, is his ability to address both the ineffable, something beyond words, and his ability to capture the everyday human experience, extraordinarily. In this way Frost celebrates the ordinary life and celebrates the extraordinary notion of what life and living is. His appreciation of the (some would call) ‘mundane’, things, life, nature, squabbles amongst friends and family, is what aligns his work with the Transcendentalists. Something poignant, that captured my interest in Frost whole-heartedly, was his belief that “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom…it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life.” “The Figure a Poem Makes” (250-251). This sentiment runs true for so many of the poems I have enjoyed and is the reason I love the form so much. Ambiguous in its nature, poems bestow a rhyming quality that enchants you whilst you read, whilst adopting your own, personalised meaning to the poem. Therefore, upon reading, you are entertained. Upon leaving, you have circumnavigated your brain, leaving with a greater clarification of your own life. Poetry allows for individual interpretation, and thus, gives everyone opportunity to gain clarity within their own lives.

It is for the above reasons, that I prefer the work of Robert Frost.

Image from: https://williambertrand.fr/robert-frost-poems/

Week 7 Blog – Critical

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BALDWIN- How does Baldwin through his language technique succeed in immersing his reader in the experience of his characters? Chose any section of his amazing story “Going to Meet the Man”

When you read a piece of writing, it is, unfortunately, true that we discern the writing quality and entertainment factor within the first couple of lines, or first couple of pages – if we’re generous. James Baldwin, American social writer, essayist, and critic, produces powerfully captivating work that often commentates on social issues within America. He does this whilst maintaining a calm demure in order to efficiently communicate the, often concerning or contentious, issue. Within his 1965 text, Going to Meet the Man, Baldwin’s powerful language techniques immerse the reader in the experience of his characters.

Within the opening section of the excerpt provided by The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Baldwin immediately captures audience engagement with his use of dialogue and questioning of “What’s the matter?”. This insinuates to readers the presence of an issue, and the desire to unearth the presented predicament. The character’s aversion to the question also invites further speculation into the scenario, prompting additional reading. It is through the use of the vernacular that we are captivated. The American slang becomes our adopted reading voice; the colloquialism makes the text an inviting, playful piece, with an undeniable hidden meaning. The controversial topic is made more approachable through the conversational tone that is employed. We are offended, yet entertained by the narrator’s remarks. Repetition and rhetorical questioning capture reader attention, particularly with the profane word choice of ‘nigger’ in the example: ‘The niggers. What had the good Lord Almighty had I mind when he made the niggers? Well. They were pretty good at that, all right. Damn. Damn. Goddman.’ The gyration between short and compound sentences implements a fast paced rhythm, mimicking that of a conversation. This engenders an amicable relationship between the reader and writer. Particularly with the delicate content matter, we feel, through his writing style, that we, as readers, have been entrusted with this information.

In the narrator’s conflicting attitudes towards coloured women, we are able to identify a conflict within himself. One opinion, anaphorically exhibited, again, with the use of rhetorical questioning to encourage reader engagement, is that ‘They were animals, they were no better than animals, what could be done with people like that?’ This is then contrasted with an opposing notion that ‘the image of a black girl caused a distant excitement in him, like a far-away light.’ The simile manifests the sense of yearning. In this society, it is typical to be against the welfare of African Americans, however, it appears that he, conflicted, is attracted to them.

In this masterful piece Going to Meet the Man, within only an excerpt, we are able to identify Baldwin’s ability to immerse readers into his story through his skillful literary techniques. We are submerged into the world of the narrator and empathise with his world.

Image from: http://www.warscapes.com/blog/ferguson-haunted-james-baldwin

Week 5 Blog – Critical

5/ Create your own topic that weaves your impressions of either Whitman or Dickinson (or both) into a paragraph that expresses your sense of what is personally important about these two artists.

WALT WHITMAN

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Walt Whitman: legendary, the father of American poetry, a self-referred ‘kosmos’. Whitman, in his radical experimentation of free verse and new style, expressed what is personally important to him, something under-appreciated by society, something that should be celebrated daily: himself. For Whitman, the human body was an example of the magnificence and beauty of nature. In his acclamation of the body, the self, he critiques the way in which we celebrate higher, omniscient beings. Whitman subverts the typical elements of religion, and instead of bowing to a higher being, in the presence of embellished Churches, on particular days of the week, through certain prayers and hymns, he celebrates spirituality everyday. Within himself, through himself, outside himself. This line is epitomised in the lines: “Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch’d from / The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer, / This head more than churches, bibles, and all creeds.” Whitman acknowledges the beauty of the self. This is something, that even in contemporary society, people struggle with; to be proud of the body, and to not scour the surface of your skin for a blemish to fix. A strikingly powerful line from part 3 of Song of Myself captures this impeccably: “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.”

It is this utter acceptance of self, a true contentment, that Whitman admires in the qualities of animals. In part 32 of Song of Myself, Whitman anaphorically lists the things which he commends in the lives of animals, simultaneously critiquing the materialistic society that himself, that we, live in:

‘They do not sweat and white…They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins, / They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,/ Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things.’ There is a sweet relief from consumption that the animals have. It is this appraisal of self, the contentment of self, a happiness with the self, that Whitman is gnawing at here. Why do we not do these things? Why are we so fixated on materialistic goods that apparently make the self look better? Why are we fixating on modifying the self? We need to celebrate the raw nature of the human: ‘Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding.’

For me, Whitman displays a refreshing outlook on life. My impression is that the materialistic woes, the hierarchical struggles and the oppression of religion are all faculties the detract from what should truly be celebrated in life: the human. The human in its purest form. For, the human is beautiful, content, miraculous.

Image: “Walt Whitman, age 35, from the frontispiece to Leaves of Grass, Fulton St., Brooklyn, N.Y., steel engraving by Samuel Hollyer from a lost daguerreotype by Gabriel Harrison” quoted: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Whitman, 30/8/17

Blog Week 4

Interweave your own personal experience with your understanding of Emerson.

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Image from: bretqxnardella.tk

 

Having been brought from the shadows and into the light that Emerson has shed with his transcendental ideological way of thinking, I now find myself basking in such elucidation. In contemporary society, nothing is not nonconformist. Everyone has unconsciously or consciously configured their lives into the moulds designed by societal expectation. The advocation for individualism that is a key aspect of Transcendentalism has highlighted this lack of individualism in my everyday life. I look on Facebook, when I’m out in public at the shops, at work, or even in the car driving to and from university. The people in the cars beside me, the woman in front of me in the queue, they are, we are, all variations of another: inherently the same, with a few minor quirks to distinguish Tom from Thomas.  Emerson captures this thought impeccably within The American Scholar (1837), when he states: ‘In the right state, he is, Man Thinking. In the degenerate state, when the victim of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or, still worse, the parrot of other men’s thinking’ (244). To avoid such devastating fate, Emerson goes on to anaphorically demand us to ‘walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds…” (256). It appears that in order to achieve such individuality and sense of self, one must look tonature: ‘nature and the soul come from “one root” – “study nature to “know thyself” (The American Scholar, 246). It is now, that I can validate that utterly wholesome sensation that I experience when being alone, in complete solidarity, in, for example, Hyde Park. Is it the grandeur of the mature trees, with their thick trunks boasting age-achieved wisdom, or the clean air seems to filter the mind from impurities? It is in this space that I am able to think strongly, to think clearly, to think deliberately. It is acknowledging this, that I am able to comprehend Emerson’s words ‘Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary…” (250). Living is the public servant who serves its Master Thought. To live strongly, wisely, holistically, one must, therefore, think strongly, wisely, holistically. I find when I am alone, I am truly myself. Untainted from the influence of society. Here, I feel in control of my own thoughts, paradoxically alone, with the companion of nature. Whilst physically by myself, I feel connected to much more than myself. Spirituality runs high in this environmental encounter. I contemplate my thoughts and send them out to higher beings. Is it God? Mary? Jesus? I’m not sure, however, I feel as connected, or even more so, to God in this outdoor haven, than I would in the dusty pews of a Church, overheating under the rays of the stained glass windows. I am comforted by Emerson’s thoughts on Man’s ability to perceive spiritual Truth, to find God in the solitude of nature. Now knowing what Transcendentalism is, what Emerson’s thoughts were, and identifying these aspects in my own life, I cannot help but ask, am I, or have I been, this whole time, unconsciously, a Transcendentalist?

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