Peer Review, Week 6

This was an extremely well-constructs piece, with a notable effort given! I learnt a lot from this blog, and gain a well-rounded understanding of what Whitman was trying to say in his poem. I particularly like the acknowledgment of the poem speaking to ‘the people’, as that is essentially what Whitman would have intended.

Great piece, Jess

Link to blogpost:


Week 5 Peer Review

Annabelle, this was a truly thought provoking piece. I appreciated your succinct personal definition of transcendentalism, as it aided in my own understanding. By reducing the enormity of such a philosophy Into graspable terms makes it easier to apply and adapt to. The idiosyncratic recount was extremely accurate, and shockingly so. You captured the essence of the introductory quote you provided. I would have liked a bit more elaboration in the final paragraph on the importance of admiring nature in living more deliberately – particularly because I enjoyed the blog so much!

Great work,


Link to blogpost:

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.


Image result for walt whitman

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:, 30/8/17

Peer Review 1, Week 4

Link to blog post:

From the opening sentence, I felt welcomed to your blog. The colloquial address, the familiarity of Michael, and the reminiscing gave a personal touch which I found endearing.

I commend the way in which you address the Native American’s relationship to Nature. This was strengthened by your example of the turtle clan, demonstrating the guardian animals that were given to the Native American Tribes. You mentioned that it will be difficult in today’s (pay attention grammatical errors) society to form similar relationships with animals, and went on to say that we can apply the close connection that the American Indians had with the land to me our own lives more meaningful. I feel this was shallowly explored, and perhaps with a little more investigation into how our lives could be made more meaningful by the Native American connection to Nature, this blog would have been elevated that much more. Perhaps taking on their admiration for the environment, their love, and respect for it, that we could appreciate the world we live in on a deeper level, thus making our lives more meaningful. Overall, a good blog. Thanks, Daniel!

Blog Week 4

Interweave your own personal experience with your understanding of Emerson.


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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?

Week 3 Blog – Creative

3/ “The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides”. Use this line from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself to compose your own short poem about what most delights you in and through your own experience of being alive.


‘Pain and Please; delights of living’

Whitman’s delight in being alone

In the rush of the streets

Along the fields –

and hillsides.

The delight in all those things –

Free to immerse yourself,

Serenely alone –

To engage in communal banter

To stroke the fur of companions

To drown in seas of laughter –

To drown in rivers of tears.

Good and bad

Simultaneously delight,

In the paradox which they both exist.

If you prick yourself and bleed

If you find amusement and laugh

When you’re alone and you weep

When you reunite and your heart warms

This is all delightful.

This being alive.

This is human.


Note: For me, the enormity and possibility of emotions and experiences able to be felt within a lifetime are what brings me delight. Whilst pain is unpleasant, it also means you have cared for something enough to be pained by it. To love, to hurt, to cry, to laugh, all mean that you are living. Being human is what delights me.

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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.

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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
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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.

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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  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 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.

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