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