Sunday, May 27, 2012


School is over.  Let summer promptly begin!  I have all of the time I want to do only the things I want, but even so I haven't used it for any of those things yet.  It could be that I have just been enjoying the lack of stress, or I could be being lazy.  The jury's out.

Next week I'm going to West Point for a few days, and I'm pretty worried.  I'm not sure I can keep up with all of the exercise they will be expecting of me there, but if I have difficulties then at least I'm only there for a few days.  The camp is just to help me decide whether or not I would want to go to West Point once I graduate. 

One thing that is really bothering me right now is all of the camps my dad is making me go to this summer.  So far, there are four total.  I just want my summer to myself, is that too much to ask?

On a slightly deeper note, I haven't been nearly sad enough lately.  I cannot write music if I am not properly miserable, and for the last few weeks I've been quite happy.  There's a certain friend of mine who, for some reason or another, makes me miserable when I'm around him.  I really want to see him, but it's strange.  It's like a craving for a poison.  It doesn't make much sense, but without this certain poison I can't create.  Maybe I'll call him, but if I do then it's with the knowledge that I'll feel terrible because of it.  I can't be happy no matter what I do, so I might as well make something out of it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Something New

Now that this blog's original purpose is over, I suppose I can start using it however I want. I no longer need it to post literary reflections, or write journals about slightly frustrating prompts.  I can write whatever I want, and I can totally use personal pronouns.  The point now is to keep my life sorted out in my own mind, and maybe share some of the things I create with whoever should happen to stumble upon them. 

Today is the first day of finals, and I am not as worried about it as I usually am.  I have already taken all of my AP tests, which takes a lot of the pressure off.  The only finals that should be any kind of problem are in physics and pre-calc, but even then I can't get myself to take them seriously.  Maybe all of the stress I've been under over the last few weeks has finally desensitized me to stressful situations.  I guess a person can only take so much worrying before they give up, and let be what will be.  Anyway, I am really enjoying the calmness of it.

On top of all the studying I need to get done this weekend, for once in my pitiful life I have a lot of social type things planned.  What I'm really looking forward to is playing at the high school graduation.  I mean, we have to play Pomp and Circumstance around a million times, but we are also playing a few of our concert pieces.  I love playing in the band so much.  It's not even that I love playing saxophone so much as that I love being a part of creating music, and when the rest of the band is in tune and playing everything well I think that I could play saxophone for the rest of my life, as long as I am playing with other people who care about the music.

But then reality hits me like the terrible person it is.  Everyone expects too much of me for me to become a musician, and I expect too much of myself.  I know I can do something really great with my life, and being a musician would be wasting a lot of my talent.  Not to mention how hard it is to make a living as a musician.  It's only in really big cities that musicians get paid, and even then only for performances.  I just have to keep music as a cherished hobby.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Journal 31

On Wednesday I went to the National Guard base in Springfield to job shadow some of the people there.  It may not have been the most exciting three hours of my life, but I feel like I am much more informed now on my possible career choices.  I spent some time talking to some of the engineers there, and learned that the National Guard engineers mostly work on building construction and maintenance.  This is not really what I am interested in, but at least it let me know for sure that the National Guard is off my list of possibilities.  I then spent some time talking to a former recruiter/current engineer.  He let me know how I should go about getting where I want to be in the military and talked a little bit about what a person has to do while on reserve.  Of course none of this had yet occurred to me, so I am very glad to have had this conversation.

I also spent some time talking with an officer in the National Guard.  I am planning to become an officer in the Army or Navy, so I was really interested in what she had to say about it.  She told me that she had enjoyed her time before becoming an officer more because as an officer, she now has to spend more time planning and less time actually training.  This really made me think that I might be getting myself into something I will not really enjoy around a year from now, so I think I should really talk to some officers in other branches of the military before I make any decisions.

To conclude, I realized that I need to get more information about what my duties as an officer will be and about what will be expected of me during the years I am on reserve.  I realized that I was not quite as well informed about my future career choice as I had thought.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Favourite Poem

My personal favorite poem by Walt Whitman is "When Last in the Dooryard Lilacs Bloomed." The poem is just so sad and beautiful that even with its abnormal length, I still wish it was longer. The poem was written about the death of Abraham Lincoln, who Whitman greatly admired. He writes about Lincoln's death as one would the death of a great friend, and because of this the poem has a very sweet sort of melancholy. I really love how sad the poem is, even though it is sort of a contrast to all of the joy contained in Whitman's other poems.

In one part of the poem that I particularly love Whitman describes death as his companion, walking on one side of him, and the knowledge of death as the companion on the other side. As he and his sad companions are out, they listen to the sad song of a bird, whose song Whitman interprets in his verses. This part is particularly sad for me, and the imagery is so vivid that I can easily imagine myself there. He also writes about death as a peaceful release from the troubles of the world, and sings a brief praise of it.

I know it may be a bit shallow, but I also like the poem because of its mention of lilacs. When I lived on Lake Petersburg, there were lilac trees all around the house, and they made the entire place smell beautifully. I never really liked them until a year or two after we moved away, but now when I smell them they remind me of my home, and I love them because of it, even if it does make me very sad now. The poem makes me wonder if I am not the only person who has sad associations with lilacs. Also, the way lilacs smell is so sweet and unique that they are perfect for a tender poem about the death of a friend.

Monday, April 2, 2012

... yeah.

So here begins yet another blog about the writing of Walt Whitman, or rather this time about Walt Whitman himself. His poem "Chanting the Square Deific" at first sounds totally and unreasonably arrogant, but when more thought is put into it it is easy to understand what he was trying to convey about his self, and likewise about all people.

The first impression of arrogance is true. Whitman was proud, and felt that he was great and special, and whoever grudges him for that feeling is wrong to do so. Everyone feels that they are special and great, but no one admits it because it sounds conceited. Really, for most people it is conceited, but not for Walt Whitman because he really was as good as he saw his self.

Then he goes on to elaborate on the four sides that make up his character, the sides that make him who he is. At first he presents his self as time, personified something like God the father. He passes judgment on all who sin, in the end taking their lives. He has no mercy, only justice.

Next he presents himself as Christ, caring for the suffering, and suffering himself to spread his love for humanity. He also here writes of his immortality. Even though he may die, his words and ideas never will because they are so important.

Here in the third stanza Whitman departs from typical Christian views and includes the devil in his diety. This may look bad on the surface, but Whitman was not writing about ideals, he was writing about his self. He may have been proud, but he was not too proud to admit that there was some darker and more warlike aspects to his character. He does not portray Satan as all bad either, implying that he had sympathy for those who were oppressed (Oliver).

Lastly, he takes into account that "Holy Spirit" that Catholics and perhaps many other denominations are accustomed to. He describes it as "life", which should not be taken as lightly as some people would. "Life" does not describe the physical quality of being alive in this poem. instead it describes the emotion that being alive inspires. A person can spend entire days trying to describe just how that emotion feels, but the best anyone ever comes up with "I feel alive." That is okay. Whitman would have understood.

Whitman is explaining all of the different sides of his personality in this poem. He sees that these different sides are present in everyone else as well, although perhaps not in the same proportions. No person is one thing all of the time, and as arrogant as comparing his self to Gods sounds, the comparison is an accurate way to describe his character.

Oliver, Charles M. "'Chanting the Square Deific'." Critical Companion to Walt Whitman: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. April 3, 2012. CCWW082&SingleRecord=True.

Whitman, Walt. "Chanting the Square Deific." The Walt Whitman Archive. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. .

Journal 29

When it comes to myself, I am clueless. There is something of a duality to my nature, and because the two sides seem very much to be opposites, I am sort of confused about the subject. One side is very peaceful, very much a Transcendentalist. I sit outside and admire the way leaves look when the sun shines through them, and I read books about ideas and philosophies. There are times when I feel completely happy (althought that is not a strong enough word), both contented and excited at the same time because the world is so beautiful and life is so incredible and wonderful. Then there is the hamartia of that side of my character, and it causes me pain so intense that it is hard to bear. That fatal flaw is that despite the lack of thought I am surrounded by on a daily basis, I still care about the people around me. I want to hate them because that would be much easier to deal with, but instead I find myself wishing they just stepped outside their mindless chatter to think for a little while. A little bit of thought can make all of the difference between being a person who knows what they really care about and one who would be depressed by their lives if they thought about it, so perhaps it is better that they do not think. As it is, thinkng has become a painful habit to get into because so few people do it. If you are not careful, you step too far away from normal almost-thoughts, and forever alienate yourself from the people around you. That is my hamartia, that I am alone and that I care about it.

The other side of my self is stoic and strong, whose motto is that if one must have failure and weakness, it had better never be admitted. I read books about the world and how it works, and no matter what make time to practice the precise art of hitting things. My other side does not dislike conflict, but this side thrives on it, craves it. Anything to be fought is not only precious, but sacred. I fight though work I do not understand, I fight through exhaustion to finish what I start. The people and events that would cause me pain as a Transcendentalist do not even register in this side of me. This is the side that takes the other side's pain and makes something out of it. This is the side that keeps me going when I have had three weeks of a bookbag that would break a lesser student's shoulder, and equally heavy subjects to learn from the books inside. If I am alone, this side glorys in it. One person against the world. That, my friends, is a fight.

Some things do not change between the two sides of my nature. I always have the same political ideas, and always the same taste in books and music. Sometimes my ideas about people in general change, but that is probably due to the change in attitude more than anything else.

Maybe without both sides I would be unbalanced. I have no use for intermediates, and always alternate between poles. Maybe the different sides just reflect the different sides of life that I enjoy. I enjoy both thought and conflict, the pen and the sword so to speak. No matter what part of life I am observing, I always admire the... there are just no words to adequately describe that feeling that comes from knowing that you are alive and the world is beautiful. Knowing you are able to observe, and appreciate, and feel. And to a lesser extent, that I have poured my entire soul out in a blog no one will read.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dickinson again #pullingmyhairout

Emily Dickinson's poem "I have not told my garden yet" is one of the saddest poems one could imagine Emily Dickinson writing, but apparently she did not care because she wrote it anyway. It is about a woman who knows she is going to die, but cannot tell the places she goes about it. The places are personified because Dickinson felt such a strong connection with them, and in her solitary life they meant more to her than most people did.

Emily Dickinson really loved nature, especially her garden, and spent a lot of time in it. She never really left the grounds of her house, so she did not exactly have much of a social life. These places that were important to her became like friends to her. Just as one would have trouble telling a friend about something as terrible as that, Dickinson has trouble with the feeling that her favorite places will some how find out about it.

Even in this really depressing poem, it is clear that Dickinson is not really too hurt about death. She was a very free thinker, and instead of describing death as resting or ceasing to exist, she describes it as walking (Dickinson 16). She felt that death was not just sitting around bored, but was an active state with engaging things to do. What Dickinson thought those things were can only be guessed at, but it was clear that even though her death saddened her, she still had hope about what was coming next.

In the first stanza of the poem, Emily Dickinson says “The MURMURING of bees has ceased; but murmuring of some posterior, prophetic, has simultaneous come”(Dickinson). When the sound of the buzzing of bees stops, it is in winter. Winter is when the bees go into their nest and do not come out into the brisk air(Dickinson). And even, many bees die, and leave their larvae to be the next generation when they hatch in the spring. In saying that the bees no longer murmur, Emily Dickinson is saying that the end of spring has come. However, she is also saying that there is now a new murmur that has come at the same time that the murmurs of the bees left. This is referring to the beginning of winter(Dickinson).

The second and final stanza says, “The lower metres of the year, when nature’s laugh is done, the Revelations of the book whose Genesis is June” (Dickinson). It is saying that the last months of the year are present and nature is no longer bright and vibrant like in wonderful summertime. When referring to Revelations, that means ending, and when referring to Genesis, she means beginning. She is saying that the beginning of the summer is June, but it has now come to its end. Winter is here (Dickinson).

This poem uses many symbols and round about ways of stating something that could be simply stated in plain words (Dickinson). But the almost cryptic word choice makes this poem intriguing and neat. Also, Dickinson uses many words that relate to the Bible. She uses words like prophetic, Genesis, and Revelation. This is interesting, for Dickinson faced an inward battle between relying on God and relying on herself (Dickinson).

"111. The Murmuring of Bees Has Ceased. Part Two: Nature. Dickinson, Emily. 1924. Complete Poems." 111. “The Murmuring of Bees Has Ceased.” Part Two: Nature. Dickinson, Emily. 1924. Complete Poems. Web. 28 Mar. 2012. .

Dickinson, Emily. "I Have Not Told My Garden Yet, by Emily Dickinson." Poetry Archive. Web. 27 Mar. 2012. .

Journal 28

Emily Dickinson's poem "I heard a fly buzz when I died" is a poem about a dying person whose last thoughts are iterupted by a fly flying somewherer near her. The poem does a really good job of conveying Dickinson's spirituality and unique way of looking at death. Despite her religion, she thought very freely about death, and because of that was prone to a little uneasiness at the prospect of dieing, not knowing in the least what it would be like. This uneasiness is conveyed in the poem using a fly as a symbol for it.

As the main character of this poem is lying, aboiut to die, she goes throught an important series of thoughts in her attempt to comfort herself and get used to the idea of dieing. She first thinks about her religion, and the hope it offers to those who die of meeting God and spending eternity in heaven. Once comforted by this thought, she decides what to do with her things on earth and who to give them to. She is trying to deal with death in the most rational possible way, but the fly in the room keeps distracting her and leading her thoughts astray.

The fly in the poem is what keeps the feeling from being peaceful. The fly buzzing around is distraction and confusing to the woman, which gives the poem an eerie sort of stillness instead of the comfortable release the fourth line of the poem would suggest death to be. Because of this, I think the fly is a symbol for the poets fear and uneasiness about death. Even though there are pleanty of comforting thoughts for her to think and her business on earth is taken care of, she still can not help herself from feeling very uneasy about death. The uneasiness is there at the beginning of the poem, and is still there at the end. She describes it as being between her and the light, the light being the comfort and ease in death.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Journal 27

Many of Emily Dickinson's poems were written to the tune of church hyms and other religious songs. This is not at all surprising, considering her deeply puritan childhood and her own religious devotion. Generally speaking, there is a sort of continuum between musicians and poets, and rarely do you ever see a musician with no appreciation for poetry or a poet without a fondness of music. Generally, a poet will almost sing their poem as they are writing it to keep a steady rhythm. All things considered, it really only makes sense that some of her poems would sound like popular church music.

Honestly, I wish I had taken the time to read more of Emily Dickinson's poetry before we started discussing it. I have only read a few of her more popular poems so far, but I can already tell that the way she writes takes a lot of time to become easily understood. The language she uses is different from the type of language I hear every day, and she uses a lot of symbols. She puts her verbs in places that most people would not, like after a predicate adjective. The symbols themselves make the poetry a little bit difficult to understand at first, but they also make it much more interesting.

Dickinson spent her entire life trying to decide how life works. Her philosophy is quite literally her life's work. She believed that every aspect of a person's life was connected to every other aspect. One could not have religion without love, or love without loneliness, or loneliness without some consideration of death. A great deal of her poems start out on one theme but end on another that seems entirely different at first. Through reading the poem, Dickinson can share how the two are really connected despite the original impression of their not being at all related. It really is amazing how well thought out all of her poetry is, and even stranger is that she did not want them to be published.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Yet another Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson is another one of the authors that literary critics with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are driven up a freaking wall by because they are unable to put her definitivly into a literary period. She is one of the poets that they just lable as being "between," or simply call a dangerous anarchist because she does not fit into their pretty little groups. The fancy critics like to say that she belongs somewhere in between the Realist and Modernist stlyes, but this is utterly bunk and should really be ignored.

The Realist writers were seeking to recreate the world exactly as it was in their books and poetry (Werlock "Realism"). This means that their works were often depressing and never exactly happy because in life, happiness is the most easily forgotten feeling. In the humble opinion of one certain commentator on literature, they made their stories unrealistic by including so few of the happy things that happen all of the time in a person's life, but that is a rant for another night. Back to the main point, Emily Dickinson does not really fit well into this genre. As much thought as she gave to death, she did not think of it as depressing like the Realists did. She approached it as one does an interesting subject for consideration, not as some horrible fact of life that literature seems incomplete without. With other topics that are generally sad she takes the same approach, sometimes being optomistic. Instead of writing about strife, she writes poetry about hope, and such optimism can be rather hard to find in the Realists' works.

With the Modernists Emily Dickinson fit even worse. Modernists were consumed by the notion that society was some great and terrible beast without reason, and that the best a person could do was try to adjust to it (Werlock "Modernism"). In the eyes of a modernist author, a real, thoughtful person does not really have a place in the mindless society created after the first world war. Dickinson could not agree less, even on a bad hair day in one hundred degree heat around three hours before the ice cream man normally comes. She firmly believed people had a place and a purpose, and wrote her entire body of poetry trying to figure out just what they were and how they fit together (Aiken). She believed that certain events and feelings really had meaning, unlike the Modernists who felt like helpless children drowning alone in some stormy sea.

Like Whitman, Dickinson did not really belong even remotely to either the Realist period or the Modernist period, but instead fit somewhere along side the Transcendentalists. She had her little differences with Transcendentalism, but the great majority of her philosophy agrees with theirs. She believed that life was meaningful and beautiful, and while she might have been a little cryptic at times, at least she had enough faith in people to believe they would be able to decipher it, which is more that the Realists and Modernists could say for themselves.

Aiken, Conrad. "Emily Dickinson." In A Reviewer's ABC. New York: Meridian Books, 1935. Quoted as "Emily Dickinson" in Harold Bloom, ed. Emily Dickinson, Bloom's Major Poets. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 1998. (Updated 2007.) Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc.Web. 12 Mar. 2012. BMPED04&SingleRecord=True.

Werlock, Abby H. P. "modernism." The Facts On File Companion to the
American Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009.
Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 12 Mar. 2012.

Werlock, Abby H. P. "realism." The Facts On File Companion to the American
Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom's
Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 12 Mar. 2012.

Monday, March 19, 2012

As much as I love Whitman, this is really a bit much.

Now the fatigued writer of these blogs is to explore the style of Walt Whitman, and give reasons for why he really has his own genre in American literature. While Whitman's work is a wonderful source of things to talk about, it shortly becomes old when the philosophical side of his poetry is ignored. Even so, some people think putting authors in their particular group is important, and that opinion demands respect no matter how foolish it is.
The poetry of Walt Whitman falls somewhere between the Realism and the Modernism period according to some people who think they know something about the literary arts. These people would define Realism as the attempt to portray life as it is in literature (Werlock "Realism"). The good, the bad, and the pratical, so to speak. They would define Modernism, the literary period that followed it, as literature focusing on individuals being lost in the world that they find themselves without a place in due to the changes of society (Werlock "Modernism").
It is really apparent that Walt Whitam came no where near fitting in to the Realism catagory, and from reading his poetry one can easily infer that he would not want to. He saw the reality of life as wonderful and beautiful, even the sadder parts of it. There was no such thing as pratical. The things most people would consider pratical, Whitman considered a useless waste of time. Instead of working and making social connections in high places, he wrote about wandering about in nature and drifting from place to place (Whitman). He rejected social rules in every form, and sought only to be his self. The realist crowd would certainly have had a difficult time with him in their midst.
As poorly as he fits into the Realist camp, he fits only a little better into the Modernist group. He shares with them the appreciation of the free will of individualism, and likewise rejects with them the notion of one supreme God. However, the point of the Modernist literature was to represent the horrible decadence they thought people had fallen into (Werlock "Modernism"). Whitman could not have been more different. He saw even the lowest members of American society as some of the highest and best people in the world. With such opinions, what could one possible want to change? Many Modernist writers sought government enforcement of what they thought was right, like the Socialism promoted by writer Upton Sinclare in his novel, The Jungle, for instance. Whitman was a big fan of individual freedom, and government intrusion on it would not have gone over well with him. He wrote entire epic poems about how beautiful the average American was, and about how beautiful the freedom of this country is.
To conclude, Whitman fit into neither group at all, and to say that he fit in between them is equally rediculous. If anything, he was similar to the Transcendentalists, considering his love of nature and rejection of governments. Even then he was certainly his own writer.
Werlock, Abby H. P. "modernism." The Facts On File Companion to the American Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 12 Mar. 2012. CASS589&SingleRecord=True.
Werlock, Abby H. P. "realism." The Facts On File Companion to the American Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 12 Mar. 2012. Gamshrtsty0575&SingleRecord=True.
Whitman, Walt. "Contents. Whitman, Walt. 1900. Leaves of Grass." Great Books Online. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. .

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Whitman (again)

Walt Whitman is a very unique poet, and his stlye is completely his own. He does not belong to any literary period because he is absolutely unique. That being said, he does have many things in common with Transcendentalists. In his poem "When last in the Dooryard Lilacs Bloomed" this is particularly easy to see.

In "When Last in the Dooryard Lilacs Bloomed," Whitman writes about death, his understanding of it, and even personifies it multiple ways all in one very long poem. He writes about a certain bird singing in the forrest as one of his teachers about death, and he hears in its song important thoughts about it. This is similar to Transcendentalists in that they thought that observing nature was the best way to learn about life and morality. Emerson specifically wrote about this in "Nature" (Wayne) Even though Whitman was not a Transcendentalist, he still shared this importannt aspect of their philosophy with them. He also uses nature symbolically, like most poets and writers, though I must admit that I think whitman does a much better job than other writers.

Also shared with writers like Emerson and Thoreau is the way Whitman used his own meter in his poetry. Free verse poetry was not taken seriously before Whitman, but he used it anyway because it was how he thought he was best able to express his self. In Emerson's "Self Reliance" he wrote that a good person is one who does what they think is best despite how other people view it. Whitman followed this advice and became the first serious and well known poet to use free verse in his poetry. Before Whitman, poems had a rhyme scheme, but Whitman did not want to use one, and today a rhyme scheme is a sort of optional thing. He was a great pioneer in poetry, and changed the way most people view it because it was what he thought was best.

Emerson, Ralph. "Self-Reliance." Ralph Waldo Emerson Texts. Web. 15 Feb.

Wayne, Tiffany K. "Nature." Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo
Emerson:ALiterary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New
York: ChelseaHouse Publishing, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online.
Facts On File, Inc.Web. 15 Feb. 2012.

Whitman, Walt. "192. When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard BloomÂ’d. Whitman, Walt. 1900. Leaves of Grass. Web. 11 Mar. 2012. .

Emily Dickinson

One of the first things to know about Emily Dickinson is that she did everything in her power to avoid letting other people influence her writing. Around her twenties, she started spending less and less time around people, untile by the end of her life he rarely left her house and garden (McChesney). Her greatest goal in writing poetry was to understand her own soul and the connections between different aspects of life. To do this, she spent time thinking all alone. Even with her wish to escape from influences, she still had a lot in common with Transcendentalists.

One of her most famous poems about hope, she compares it to a little bird that somehow manages to keep singing despite terrible surroundings. In the last stanza, she mentions that even though it weathers such difficult circumstances, it never asks for anything to keep it going. The way she compares hope to an aspect of nature is very similar to some of Emerson's writings. In "Nature" he writes about it as the best teacher of morality, and as support mentions that many stories used to illustrate morals are about events in nature. Emily Dickinson uses nature to illustrate an emotion quality, so in that way the two authors are similar.

Another way that Dickinson is similar to Emerson is in her reclusive nature. Dickinson's lifestyle is like Emerson's phliosophy put into practice. Emerson wrote in "Self Reliance" that good people should form and hold their own opinions despite whatever criticisms they may bring about. He also wrote about the detrimental effects of society on an individual as such. Emily Dickinson spent her entire life thinking and forming opinions, and rejected what ever criticism she found unhelpful (McChesney). She also withderw from society almost entirely to work on her soul searching and her poetry. She put Emerson's philosophy in "Self Reliance" into practice and because of it she was able to write thousands of wonderful poems.

Dickinson, Emily. "Hope Is the Thing with Feathers." Web. 11 Mar. 2012. .

McChesney, Sandra. "A View from the Window: The Poetry of Emily Dickinson." In Harold Bloom, ed. Emily Dickinson, Bloom's BioCritiques. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 2002. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 11 March, 2012. BCED03&SingleRecord=True.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Jack London

Jack London wrote the short story "To Build a Fire" about a man in Alaska who is traveling all by his self in a freezing winter. He does very well for a while, but he accidentally steps on thin ice and from there slowly freezes to death. His story is very interesting, and perhaps may have been influenced by Transcendentalists in some manner. However, he treats nature differently that writers like Emerson did, and there is little that can be inferred about his thoughts concerning individualism from the story.

In "To Build a Fire" nature is the antagonist. The man in the story is trying to overcome the bitter coldness of an Alaska winter and return to is camp, or else freeze to death on the trail. He is in conflict with nature, it is his opponent. The Transcendentalists were all about nature. Emerson wrote that nature is the thing that preserves a persons individuality, and teaches them the moral lessons of life (Wayne). To Emerson, nature is the best friend a person could possibly have. There is clearly a very big difference between the way the two authors saw nature, and it is rather unlikely that Emerson influenced London in that respect. One thing the two do have in common in relation to nature is their respect for it. London saw its power in taking life, and respected it for that. Emerson saw its beauty, and had an equal respect for it. They had different reasons for the feeling, but both had it.

London's philosophy about individualism is a little bit difficult to tell from the story. His main character remarks that he should not have traveled alone, but that is more a reasonable matter of safety than a remark on philosophy. That the main character was all by his self in his fight against nature might be telling, but also telling may be that he ended up freezing to death. Really, it could go either way.

London, Jack. "To Build a Fire, by Jack London." The World of Jack London 2012®. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. .

Wayne, Tiffany K. "Nature." Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson:A
Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Chelsea
House Publishing, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc.Web. 15 Feb. 2012.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Edwin Arlington Robinson's writing is very pessimistic and cynical. Instead of writing about what a person can do to make their life better, he writes about what it is that people do wrong. There is very little in his most famous two peoms that really relates to Transcendentalis at all. He writes about the common aflictions people have in their own lives, and how they are the cause of their own misery, while the Transcendentalists were not conscerened with that sort of thing.

In the poem Richard Cory, Robinson writes about a very rich gentleman who seemed to have everything going for him in his life, but for some crazy reason decided to kill himself. The theme of the poem seems to be that it is really rediculous to feel sorry for yourself when other people may have it so much worse than you. Transcendentalists write with great optimism about how great life can be, like in Emerson's "Nature" (Wayne). Robinson seems to view life as some ordeal to get through with as little pain as possible, or at least that is the most that can be gathered from the four stanza poem. There is a really big difference in the way the two writers feel about life in general.

Another big difference between Robinson and Emerson is that Robinson does not seem too concerned with nature in the least. Nature is one of the subjects where, if a poem was picked at random, chances are that it would contain some refrence to nature in it. Robinson's peotry is strange in that there is no refrence to nature in it, which, come to think of it, might have something to do with why his out look on life is so pessimistic. Emerson thought that nature was what kept a person all good and moral inside, and without any connection to it life got all misterable and junk. Thinking about it, the lack of nature might be why Robinson has such depressing poetry.

Robinson, Edwin Arlington. "Richard Cory." Web. 05 Mar. 2012.

Wayne, Tiffany K. "Nature." Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson:A
Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Chelsea
House Publishing, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc.Web. 15 Feb. 2012.

Anton Chekhov

The Darling by Anton Chekhov is a story about a woman who entirely depends upon other people for her happiness in life. She is totally empty when she has no one to love and no one's opinions to reflect. The story can somewhat be related to Transcendentalism because of the way it treats individualism and how a person should best live their life in relation to it.

Olenka is a woman who can do absolutely nothing all on her own. She needs other people to give her something to think and something to do. She has no interests on her own. She is not complete in herself, and Chekhov presents this characteristic in a rather unfavorable light. In his short story she spends long stretches of time empty and unhappy, and smothers the people she attaches herself to. Emerson wrote in his essay Self Reliance about how a person should be able not only to form their own opinions, but also be able to hold them even when other people consider them wrong. The two writers are in agreement on the manner of people's associations with each other. Relationships with people are great, but a person should have at least a sense of themselves as an individual, if nothing else.

"The Darling" is a story about individualism (or the lack there of), and there is little else to comment upon in it. Chekhov writes in the Realist style, so his story is very straight forward and the theme is very apparent. He does not mention nature at all because it does not influence the theme he is trying to relate. Though Transcendentalists like Emerson would argue that nature plays a great role in how a person does or does not have a self, it did not seem necessary to Chekhov (Wayne). The story gets its point across without anything added or to make the reader feel artistic and sophisticated. How bland.

Chekhov, Anton. "The Darling by Anton Chekhov." The Darling by Anton Chekhov @ Classic Reader. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. .

Emerson, Ralph. "Self-Reliance." Ralph Waldo Emerson Texts. Web. 15 Feb. 2012.

Wayne, Tiffany K. "Nature." Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson:
A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Chelsea House Publishing, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc.Web. 15 Feb. 2012.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chief Joseph

Chief Joseph's speech at his surrender to the United States government is a relatively hard thing to compare to Transcendentalism. As was mentioned in a previous blog, it is a very difficult thing to compare a philosophy to a speech because the speech gives the person doing the comparing so little to work with in comparison to everything crammed into an entire philosophy. Even with such difficulties present, it is clear that Chief Joseph shared an appreciation for freedom with the Transcendentalist authors Emerson and Thoreau.

Chief Joseph led his group of followers all the way from Oregon to Montana, a journey of over one thousand miles, in attempt to escape from the United States government. He did not think that the government would take good care of his people, and on top of that he wanted to be free from a government that had no reason to respect. He wanted freedom. This is very similar to Thoreau's thoughts about how government should work. He believed that a person shouuld be able to choose not to be governed by other people if they should want to or think it was the right thing to do. Thoreau even went to jail once because he would not pay a tax to the American government.

The way Chief Joseph writes about his people shows that he really cares about them a great deal, and that he was willing to try escaping to Canada to ensure they had their freedom really is a good example of that. A person can not help but to feel a great deal of sympathy for him because he tried so hard to give his people the freedom they deserve, but still had to give up in the end. Half of his tribe died on the attempted journey to Canada, and Chief Joseph's speech is terribly sad because of it. He made a great sacrifice in trying to gain freedom, but he was still unable to accomplish his goal.

Chief Joseph. "Chief Joseph." Welcome to Georgia State University. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. .

Thoreau, Henry. "Thoreau's Civil Disobedience - 1." The Thoreau Reader. Web. 25
Jan. 2012.

Edgar Lee Masters

Spoon River Anthology is a collection of poems written by Edgar Lee Masters. The poems were written by dead members of a fictional town, and were about their lives and their deaths. Some were happy, some sad, some religious, and some written by the wicked. When comparing them to transcendentalism, it becomes clear that Masters received some influence from their writings, though perhaps in an indirect manner.

In addition to describing the relationships people had with other members of his town, Masters also writes with a specific individualism in certain poems. According to Temple Cone, the Spoon River Anthology is sort of about finding a good balance between individuality and the relationships with other people that exist in Spoon River. Transcendentalists like Emerson really thought that the individual should not be influenced by other people at all, and wrote about such things very often (Emerson). The way Masters mixes individuality with community shows that he was probably influenced by the Transcendentalists, though it was either not very strongly or he was influenced by a person who was influenced by Emerson and Thoreau (second hand transcendentalism).

Along with his inclusion of individualism in his writing, Masters also uses a fairly unique writing style in his poems. The short little stories are written in free verse poetry. The style of writing without a set meter or any rhyming was first made popular by Walt Whitman, but was still quite new when masters chose to use it. The Transcendentalists often did controversial things, like spending a night in jail as Thoreau did. Free verse poetry was still very new and likely not well accepted when Masters chose to use it, but like the great and powerful Thoreau, he did what he thought would be best without much thought of whether it would be accepted.

Masters was also influenced by Walt Whitman, who was somewhat influenced by the Transcendentalists. In Master's poem about a poet, he writes about how small the writer's poetry seems in comparison to Whitman's poems. He writes with a portion of the same feeling Whitman does, and if it was possible to describe it well enough to make it understood then people would stop writing stories and spend all of their time writing about it. However, as it has not been found to be possible yet, people use stories as a vessel for the emotion they just can not describe.

Cone, Temple. "Spoon River Anthology." In Kimmelman, Burt, and Temple Cone, eds. The Facts On File Companion to American Poetry, vol. 2. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 1 March, 2012. CTAP0520&SingleRecord=True.

Emerson, Ralph. "Self-Reliance." Ralph Waldo Emerson Texts. Web. 15 Feb. 2012.

Thoreau, Henry. "Thoreau's Civil Disobedience - 1." The Thoreau Reader. Web. 25 Jan. 2012.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Like most authors of his time, Mark Twain had certain things in common with the Transcendentalists that wrote in the Romanticism period of literature. He shared with the Transcendentalists a deep love for nature, and a great appreciation for the spiritual feelings nature can inspire. He also shared a certain disdain for science that countered a love of nature which was also found in some of Thoreau's writings.

In "Two Views of the River" Mark Twain writes about one twilight he particularly remembers that was viewed from a river boat. He writes about all of the luminescent colors that were reflected on the water, and also about the delicate little agitations on the river's surface. That particular sunset really inspired a great wonder of nature in him, so he always remembered it. The Transcendentalists also had an appreciation for nature, and saw it as a way to go beyond the scences to understand the world (Wayne). They were filled with awe and wonder at it, just as Twain was during the sunset on the river.

After doing his best to describe the memorable sunset and the feelings it inspired in him, Twain wrote about how his view of nature had changed since then. He no longer took notice of briliant colors that painted the surface, and only saw the underwater features of the river when he looked at the disturbances on its top. Learning about how the river workes ruined his wonder at its beauty, because once he knew why it was so, he did not have to wonder over it. At the end he seems to say that he would rather had kept his wonder than gained his knowledge. This is very similar to Transcendentalists, because they were seeking to gain knowledge about life through nature, not knowledge about nature itself. Once Thoreau looked too deeply into the scientific side of nature he had the exulted feeling that comes with a love of nature less and less (Harding).

Harding, Walter. A Thoreau Handbook by Walter Harding: pp. 131-173 (New York University Press, 1959). © 1959 by New York University Press. Quoted as "Thoreau's Ideas" in Harold Bloom, ed. Henry David Thoreau, Bloom's BioCritiques. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 2003. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. BCHDT05&SingleRecord=True (accessed February 29, 2012).

Twain, Mark. "Two Views of the River." Web. 29 Feb. 2012. .

Wayne, Tiffany K. "Nature." Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson:
ALiterary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Chelsea House Publishing, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc.Web. 15 Feb. 2012.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane is one of the Realist writers that became popular after the Romanticism authors. The Realist authors did their best to portray everything they wrote about as completely honestly as possible. This was a big change from the Romanticism writers, who loved everything exotic and novel, and who tended to write very dramatically. Despite their differences, the Realist author Stephen Crane and the Trancendentalist authors Emerson and Thoreau had a decent amount of things in common with each other.

One of the most important thing between the two styles is the focus on honesty. The Realist authors wanted to express things as being exactly the way they were, without adding anything to over glorify. The Romanticism writers also had a strong focus on honesty in their writings, and wrote about the world and society exactly as they saw it. Crane does nothing to make the Civil War glorious in his novel The Red Badge of Courage, and in fact it must have taken an effort to write about such an average person as the protagonist of that book, who runs from the first battle he sees. Thoreau wrote in the essay Civil Disobedience about going to jail and how a person should not really need the government. These were very radical ideas, but because of his honesty he wrote about them anyway.

Another similarity between the Realist Stephen Crane and the Trancendentalist Emerson is that both had similar uses for nature in their writing. After the protagonist in The Red Badge of Courage runs from his first battle he goes to a forest, away from the society of other people to collect his thoughts (Crane). Emerson wrote about nature as the thing that keeps a person in touch with morality (Wayne). Both of these writers use nature as a place to go when serious thought and reflection.

Despite the really huge change between the Realist and Romanticism, the two styles really had a decent amount of things in common.

Crane, Stephen. "The Red Badge of Courage." By Stephen Crane. Search EText, Read Online, Study, Discuss. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. .

Thoreau, Henry. "Thoreau's Civil Disobedience - 1." The Thoreau Reader. Web.
25 Jan. 2012.

Wayne, Tiffany K. "Nature." Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson: A
Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Chelsea
House Publishing, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc.
Web. 15 Feb. 2012.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Kate Chopin

The writing of Kate Chopin is very similar to transcendental writings in a few good ways. Like Emerson and Thoreau, Chopin greatly valued freedom, and like those transcendentalism writers valued the freedom of the individual. Also similar to Emerson and Thoreau is the way she puts some focus of the focus in her writing on nature. It would be fairly safe to assume from these similarities that these two Transcendentalists had something of an influence on Chopin's writing.

"The Story of an Hour" is a very interesting short story about a woman who is told her husband is dead. After a short cry, she becomes very happy with the news because now she is entirely free to do what she wants. As she is returning from the room she entered to cry in, her husband walks in the door and she dies of a heart attack from the shock of it. She was really overjoyed to be free of her controlling husband, and was looking forward to all of the time she would be able to spend doing just what she wanted. Transcendentalists like Thoreau thought an individual's freedom was the most important thing for a person to have, and wrote all about it in his essay Civil Disobedience. The two are similar because both value the freedom of an individual.

Another similarity between the Transcendentalists and Kate Chopin is the way they write about nature. When the wife in "The Story of an Hour" is looking out her window at the sky and clouds, she tries not to think but through her focus on the natural world outside her window she comes to the realization that she is free. Emerson wrote in his essay Nature that nature is the way to get to a higher understanding of things, especially spiritual things (Wayne). These two authors are similar in their treatment of nature because both see it as a vessel to reach an understanding or realization.

Chopin, Kate. ""The Story of an Hour"" Virginia Commonwealth University. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.

Thoreau, Henry. "Thoreau's Civil Disobedience - 1." The Thoreau Reader. Web. 25
Jan. 2012.

Wayne, Tiffany K. "Nature." Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Chelsea House Publishing, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. CCRWE0289&SingleRecord=True.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Willa Cather

In Willa Cather's writing the effect of Trancendentalism is terribly apparent. The way she writes about nature and how she treats right and wrong in her book O Pioneers! are extreemly similar to the Trancendentalist philosophies on those same issues. The writers of that time period, most specifically Emerson, must have been very influential to Cather.

The book O Pioneers! is about a family's attempts at happiness in the wild Nebraska frontier. Despite the incredible hardships she has to face, the main character, Alexandra, has a deep love for the wild prarie, and at the end of the book when she is worn out with life and feeling as though she will never be free again she returns to her home after a short visit to the city. She then says that she feels at peace with the world when she is in her open country (Cather). This is very similar to the Trancendentalist theory that nature is the place where a person can return to purity. Emerson wrote that nature is the model of morality and supported this theory with the fact that many stories illustrating good morals deal with nature (Wayne).

Another aspect of Cather's writing that is similar to Trancendentalis is her view of right and wrong. When Marie and Emil are killed together by Marie's husband for being lovers, she paints the most beautiful picture of a pair of deaths that anyone could imagine. Honestly, a person would be very hard pressed indeed to think of a better way to die. She does not write of their sin or lack of morality, but instead writes of their love for each other (Cather). The Trancendentalists did not put so much stress on the accepted right or wrong actions, but on what an individual thinks is right (Emerson). This is similar to Cather's treatment of ethics because althought what the two lovers did was wrong by conventional standards, she does not write of it as if it were so.

Cather, Willa. "O Pioneers!, by Willa Cather. Read It Now for Free! (Homepage)." Page By Page Books. Read Classic Books Online, Free. Web. 18 Feb. 2012.

Emerson, Ralph. "Self-Reliance." Ralph Waldo Emerson Texts. Web. 15 Feb. 2012.

Wayne, Tiffany K. "Nature." Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson: A
Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Chelsea
House Publishing, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc.
Web. 15 Feb. 2012.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ambrose Bierce

An Occurrence at Owl creek Bridge is a really interesting short story wirtten by Ambrose Bierce. There is a fair amount of Trancendentalist influence in it, especially the way the author describes nature and how the main character views right and wrong. Between the two of these, it is fair to say that the author was probably very influenced by writers like Emerson.
In An Occurrenece at Owl Creek, the thoughts that went through Peyton Farquhar's mind before he died often had a lot to do with nature. Before the sergeant steps aside to allow Farquhar to hang, Farquhar's thoughts are mostly centered on the nature around him, like the peice of driftwood below him. He even neglects to think about his family until the very last moment before he starts to fall (Bierce). In his flash forward, he spends a lot of time noticing and appreciating the nature around him. When he reaches the bank of the creek, he takes special attention to the sand, and compares it to precious gems (Bierce). This appreciation of nature is very similar to Trancendentalism because people like Emerson thought nature was the best means to spirituality (Wayne).
Another way Bierce's main character is similar tot he Trancendentalists is that his morals are not really so conventional. He believes it is right to do things that under normal circumstances would be wrong because he is doing them for his country (Bierce). In Emerson's Self Reliance, he writes about how a person should do what they think is right, even if another person might think it is wrong. The key similarity between the two is that they both allow for different moral standards in different circumstances.
The ending of An Occurance at Owl Creek is very strange, and deserves some mention. After reading the story of how Farquhad escapes the Union soldiers and returns home to his wife, the reader finds that the entire story was only a flash forward, and that Farquhad's neck breaks when he reaces the extent of the rope. This is a very creative, but also pretty sad way to end the story. Before he was hung, his thoughts were on the nature around him until they turned to his wife at the very end. While he was falling, his thoughts were on nature and the perils of his imaginary way home until the end, when they again turn to his wife.
Bierce, Ambrose. "Fiction: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." Fiction: Welcome to The EServer's Fiction Collection. Web. 15 Feb. 2012.
Emerson, Ralph. "Self-Reliance." Ralph Waldo Emerson Texts. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. .
Wayne, Tiffany K. "Nature." Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Chelsea House Publishing, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. CCRWE0289&SingleRecord=True.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee wrote a lot of letters to his wife and son during the Civil War. He wrote one to his son that was short, but filled with good principles. Like the Trancendentalists, he had appreciation for freedom, but in a different way than writers like Thoreau.

Thoreau thought the individual's rights were more important than anything else in a government, and that on no account should they every be violated. Robert E. Lee thought that the rights of the states were the most important thing to consider. He wrote that he would defend the rights of any state that was treated unfairly. Unlike Thoreau who thought an individual should be able to step outside the government to protect their rights, Lee thought it would be the worst case scenario for some of the state to try secceding the Union. He respected the country as a whole, collective unit.

A similarity between Robert E. Lee and Emerson is that both valued honor in thier lives. Of course, both men had a different opinion on what constituted honor. Emerson thought it had much to do with holding one's own opinion, no matter what pressure was put on them to change their mind or do something they did not want to. Lee thought honor consisted of being honest and doing the right thing as it appears to the doer ("Robert"). In the latter part he is not very far from most Trancendentalists.

Another similarity between the Trancendentalists and Lee was that neither was at all fond of slavery. Lee said that he would have gone through the entire Civil War all over again just to have it ended ("Robert"). Emerson was a strong defender of John Brown after his raid on Harper's Ferry (Wayne). Yet again, there is a big difference between the two when a deeper look is taken. Emerson did not like slavery because it denied the slaves their freedom, where Lee was opposed to it because it kept the south in a relatively primitave economic state.

Emerson, Ralph. "Self-Reliance." Ralph Waldo Emerson Texts. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. .

Lee, Robert. "Lee's Letter to His Son." Web. 14 Feb. 2012.

"Robert Edward Lee." Web. 14 Feb. 2012. .

Thoreau, Henry. "Thoreau's Civil Disobedience - 1." The Thoreau Reader. Web.

Wayne, Tiffany K., ed. "John Brown and Ralph Waldo Emerson." Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Chelsea House Publishing, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 14 Feb. 2012. CCRWE0159&SingleRecord=True.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth's speech at the Women Right's Convention at Akron, Ohio remains one of the bes appeals for women's rights ever recorded. It ties the lack of freedom the slaves had with the lack of rights women have, and makes a very strong emotional effect because of it. It can also be related to Trancendentalism because of the way her speech is asking for more freedom and rights.
Trancendentalists like Thoreau wanted to be free of every association that he did not want to have, especially to the government its self. Sojourner Truth wanted to be associated with the United States government, and wanted to be properly treated by it. She wanted to be able to vote and participate in the government that represented her. This is somewhat similar to Trancendentalism because she wanted to be treated as everyone else's legitimate equal.
Thoreau wrote in his essay Civil Disobedience that slavery was a discredit to the integrity of the United States. Sojourner Truth was also clearly opposed to slavery. The unfair deprivation of freedom enraged both of the two people, which is one of the similarities between the two philosophies.
It is a little bit difficult to compare a philosophy with a speech because speeches tend to revolve entirely around one topic. That only leaves one topic to compare with an entire philosophy. Things can still be inferred from a speech though, like that Sojourner Truth was a very religious woman, considering that she was able to argue about theology with ministers of several different denominations (Truth). This is dissimilar with Trancendentalists because they were spiritual but not religious.
The difficulty with comparing Sojourner Truth to Trancendentalists like Thoreau is that Truth only has one five paragraph speech in which she lays out her thoughts, and it is impossible for a person to infer a great deal about her philosophy from those paragraphs (Snodgrass). The only obvious similarity between her and Thoreau is that they both though slavery was wrong.
Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. "'Ain't I a Woman?'." Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2006. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. EFL009&SingleRecord=True.
Thoreau, Henry. "Thoreau's Civil Disobedience - 1." The Thoreau Reader. Web.
25Jan. 2012.
Truth, Sojourner. "Ain't I A Woman." Sojourner Home Page. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. .

Friday, February 10, 2012

African American Gospels

Three African American gospels that have a similar theme to each other are "Go Down Moses", "Keep Your Hands on the Plow", and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." They are all very spiritual and very religious, and quite honestly there is very, very little in them that has any relation to Trancendentalism at all.

Trancendentalists were spiritual in their own way, but they did not believe in God as the super human creator of all things. The African American gospels are based on the Bible, which portrays God as the amazing and all powerful being. "Go Down Moses" specifically tells the tale of Moses versus the Pharoh in the Egyptian desert, the message of which is at the end, being that even if not free in life, a person can be free in heaven (Huff). "Keep Your Hands on the Plow" tells a story of Paul and Silas being thrown in jail and the story of Jesus washing Peter's feet.

The theme in each of the gospels is that if a person just keeps going, keeps working, salvation will come. For the African American slaves who sang these hyms, they promise freedom from their bondage. In this sense of their meaning they are similar to Transcendentalism, because the highest goal of men like Thoreau was to be free of everyone, and to be ruled by no one other than himself. He prefered going to jail to aditting the United States of America had a legitimate right to control him. The slaves wanted freedom too, but insead of being free from a government, they wanted to at least start being free of the people that owned them.

The Trancendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau did have a tiny little bit in common with the slaves that sang these three gosples, but it really was nothing more than a love of freedom, which most people in the civilized world share. It is hard to compare really religious songs to really political essays because they tend to focus on very different themes, and almost always have a different point of view when they do happen to touch upon the same subject.

"Go Down Moses." Web. 11 Feb. 2012.

Huff, Randall. "'Go Down, Moses'." The Facts On File Companion to American Poetry, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 11 Feb. 2012. CPAP0149&SingleRecord=True.

"Keep Your Hands On The Plow." - Lyrics and Music to All Your Favorite Gospel Songs. Web. 11 Feb. 2012.

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Lyrics." Scout Songs: Song Lyrics for Boy Scouts Songs, Girl Scouts Songs, and American Patriotic Songs. Web. 11 Feb. 2012.

Thoreau, Henry. "Thoreau's Civil Disobedience - 1." The Thoreau Reader. Web. 25
Jan. 2012.


Is there really any poet quite as wonderful to read as Whitman? No matter how cynical a person is, the way Whitman writes about people makes them easy to love, and makes it easy to think well of them when they probably do not deserve it. In the time between reading the poetry and having someone dissapoint expectations the world seems like a really good place to be because of the way he writes.

Whitman is a little bit hard to compare to anyone else who has ever existed, but it is possible. Like the Trancendentalists, Whitman saw God differently than most people. The Trancendentalists believed in God as a spirit inside everyone instead of a supreme being. Whitman saw God as a supreme being, but he also saw everyone else as a supreme being equal with God. In one poem he writes "Have you thought there could be but a single Supreme?" (Whitman 12).

Whitman is a little bit strange on his ideas about individuals and collectives. The Trancendentalists were absolute lovers of individual freedom, and saw individuals as the basis of society. Whitman had a sincere love of individuals, but he also loved all individuals, which made it seem like he favored collectives. In the same poem as quoted above he writes "All is eligible to all, All is for individuals" (Whitman 14-15).

Unlike Emerson and Thoreau, Whitman loved all people, so he had no dislike of society. He appreciated the city as well as the country. It might have had something to do with Whitman's love of all people. The trancendentalists were picky about people, so they prefered to be alone instead of around everyone. Whitman loved everyone, so he wanted to be around everyone. He had a strange balance of thinking everyone was equal and that he, as a poet, was better than everyone else. These thoughts naturally conflict, but as Whitman wrote "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself."

Whitman loved nature as well as society, and wrote a good deal of poetry on the subject. Longabucco saw a parallel between the way a poet sees nature and the way a reader sees poets. The subject being considered is simple on the surface, but very deep and complicated underneath.

Longabucco, Matt. "'The Proof of a Poet'—Walt Whitman and His Critics." In Bloom, Harold, ed. Walt Whitman, Bloom's BioCritiques. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 2002. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 10 Feb. 2012. BCWWh03&SingleRecord=True.

Whitman, Walt. "1. (Leaves of Grass [1860])." The Walt Whitman Archive. Web. 11 Feb. 2012. .

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


When looking at the Gettysburg Address, it is a little bit daunting to have to compare it to Trancendentalism. To be quite honest, the real problem is that the two do not have very much in common. Considering everything, this could turn out to be a rather interesting analysis.

One of the few things Lincoln's beliefs had in common with Trancendentalism is that both had a great appreciation for freedom. The greatest goal of the Trancendentalist was to be free from the impressions of other people, and do only what an individual thinks is right, regardless of what is thought about them (Emerson). Lincoln's ideas about freedom did not really reach all of the way to the individual, but he had a strong belief in Democracy none the less. He chose not to compromise before the civil war because he thought it would betray the democratic principle he was elected by, and fights the war so that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people "shall not perish from the earth" (Lincoln 402). One could say that Lincolns ideas about freedom are more collective than the Trancendentalist's individual freedom.

Like Thoreau, Lincoln also found slavery to be a moral wrong, and wrote of a lynching of a mulatto as "most highly tragic of anything of its length that has ever been witnessed in real life" (Barzun). He wanted slavery to be ended, but true to his belief in a more collective freedom, he did nothing about it until it would be thought right by more people than would think it wrong (rule of the majority). Thoreau however, thought that this was precisly what was wrong with government (he preferred the rule of the individual), and this marks the splitting point between Thoreau and Lincoln.

Another big difference between Lincoln and the Trancendentalists is that Lincoln never had the distaste for society that Emmerson and Thoreau had, or if he did he never wrote about it. The Trancendentalists idolized nature, and from his writings, it would seem that Abraham Lincoln idolized God, considering he mentions Him in most of his famous speeches.

Barzun, Jacques. "Lincoln the Literary Genius." The Saturday Evening Post, Vol. 231, No. 33 (14 February 1959): 30, 62–4. In Bloom, Harold, ed. Enslavement and Emancipation, Bloom's Literary Themes. New York: Chelsea Publishing House, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 8 Feb. 2012. BLTEAE011&SingleRecord=True.

Emerson, Ralph. "Self-Reliance." Ralph Waldo Emerson Texts. Web. 09 Feb. 2012. .

Lincoln, Abraham. "The Gettysburg Address." Comp. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Ph.D. and Douglas Fisher, Ph.D. Glencoe Literature. American Literature ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 97-99. Print.

Thoreau, Henry. "Thoreau's Civil Disobedience - 1." The Thoreau Reader. Web. 25
Jan. 2012.


Douglass's wirtings were almost entirely about the abolitionist cause, and how wrong slavery was. Therefore, all we are able to see of his philosophy is his ideas about slavery, and any matter that can relate to it. Even with this restriction, it is possible to see similarities between Douglass's philosophy and Emmerson's and Thoreau's.

All three had the belief that men should be free at the core of their thoughts. Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau is all about how the individual should be free to govern themselves based on their own ideas of right and wrong, and not follow someone else's consience. Douglass is mainle concerned with securing more basic libertys for his people, the African American slaves. They have no right to vote or participate what so ever in the government that rules over them, not to mention that they are considered property instead of people.

Where Emmerson and Thoreau had no real interest in organized religion or any conventional ideas about God, Douglass accepted Christianity. However, he was not afraid to speak out against the church when he thought it was wrong, unlike Puritans and other such people with absolute faith that their church is infallible. He openly denounced Christians with proslavery opinions and beliefs as hypocrites, which was basically calling out every Christian in the South (bold strategy, my friend) (Trolard).

Another difference between Douglass and the Trancendentalists is the Douglass never gave much thought to nature, while the Trancendentialist were focused on nature as the way to fix the evils of society. Douglass prefered to work within society to fight for his cause, instead of seperating himself from people (which would have made no sense at all, because if you are wanting recognition from a government you really should not ignore that government). He wanted to change society so it would recognise his most basic rights, while the Trancendentalists wanted to change society so it would accept that they just wanted to be left alone.

Another difference is that the Trancendentalists had a certain naievity to them, which Douglass had no share of. Thoreau believed that if people were left to govern themselves, they would do a good and fair job of it. Douglass had seen what evils people were capable of first had in his time as a slave, and thought that government was necessary to control those evil impulses from being carried out. He still had his scruples about the government, calling our Independance Day "a sham" (Douglass 337), but he sees that it is the best means to his end.

Douglass, Frederick. "The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro." Comp. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Ph.D. and Douglas Fisher, Ph.D. Glencoe Literature. American Literature ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 97-99. Print.

Thoreau, Henry. "Thoreau's Civil Disobedience - 1." The Thoreau Reader. Web. 25
Jan. 2012.

Trolard, Perry. "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself." In Barney, Brett, and Lisa Paddock, eds. Encyclopedia of American Literature: The Age of Romanticism and Realism, 1816–1895, vol. 2, Revised Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2008. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 8 Feb. 2012. EAmL0671&SingleRecord=True.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau is like a strange throwback to the Rationalist writings of Revolutionary period. Unlike most Romanticism writers, he does not focus on emotion and nature, but rather on reason to make his writing sensible and interesting. Of course, on closer inspection his writing does share many characteristics with other writings of the Romanticism period. Even so his work bears the distinctive mark of the Transcendentalist style. The philosophy in Civil Disobedience is really interesting as well, and it sort of makes a person feel a little bit better about humanity to read it. It reminds them that they are not the only ones who think in such a manner.

Civil Disobedience is a rationalization of when and why people should defy their governments. Thoreau writes that "Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice." This is meaning that by following unjust laws people are made to act unjustly. The question then becomes whether or not it is better to break the law for justice or follow it for safety. Thoreau makes a compelling argument that a good person would break the law in such cases. This is an appeal to reason where in other Romanticism works there would be an appeal to emotion.

One of the characteristics of Romanticism that it does have is a value for purity and innocence. One of the reasons Romanticists tend to focus so much on nature is because they see society as a great corrupter of the soul. Civil Disobedience is about seperating one's self from one of the most important parts of a society, its government. In this Thoreau is very much in step with Romanticism style writers even though he does not write about nature specifically.

Transcendentalists had great respect for the individual and thought that people were best before corrupted by society. This is typical Transcendentalism because it is entirely about the rights of an individual to step out from under the rule of a government and allow them to rule themselves. Thoreau writes about how a man is best governed by his own conscience, and that government only comes in the way of that by passing laws contrary to it and claiming money that does not belong to it.

The philosophy in Civil Disobedience is about as wonderful as it can get. It places the focus not on what would be the best for the most people in a society, but on what would be best for each individual. It would be wonderful for the rights of individuals not to be subject to the tyranny of the majority. In some instances government is necessary, as in the case of criminals with no care for morality, but with most good people it would be far better if the government would leave them to themselves. Imagine the freedom and liberty that would be possible to people if the government worked that way. Is it not a wonderful thought?

Graves, Roy Neil. "Individual and Society in 'Civil Disobedience'." McClinton-Temple, Jennifer ed. Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2011. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 24 Jan. 2012. ETL1130&SingleRecord=True.

Krueger, Christine, ed. "Romanticism." Encyclopedia of British
Writers,19thCentury, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2002.
Bloom'sLiteraryReference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 16 Jan. 2012.

Thoreau, Henry. "Thoreau's Civil Disobedience - 1." The Thoreau Reader. Web. 25 Jan. 2012.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Journal 26

I really have not given much thought to when it is or is not okay to break the law. There are plenty of absurd laws, and a great number of laws that are unfair and seek to protect special interest groups and industries with good lobbyists. With this in mind, I do not think it is always wrong to break the law. However, when it becomes a choice between two evils it becomes a little bit more complicated.

The real question is whether or not it is okay to steal from someone in a situation of life or death. When I say that this is the real question, I take for granted that hurting another person is always wrong. In a normal situation, there should be help available from a variety of sources. People could go to their families, charities, and other organizations made to help people in dire situations. In the absolute worst case possible, when there really is no other choice, I think it could be acceptable, but still be wrong.

This is all assuming that the person in said situation is dying of starvation through no fault of their own. If they were just lazy and did not want to work, then I think they have no excuse to steal from other people who worked hard. It is only acceptable if some unavoidable tragedy or natural disaster deprived them of the fruits of their labor.

It is a really specific sort of situation where I could understand why a person would steal. It is my personal belief that a person only has a right to what they have worked for and earned, and has absolutely no right to ask anything of anyone else. Even with my black and white view of right and wrong, I can understand why someone would steal in a few situations. Please do not misunderstand me, I still think it is wrong, but I can give them a little bit of sympathy in certain situations.

Friday, January 20, 2012


The Minister's Black Veil by Hawthorne is a pretty crazy tale. It has many traits of Dark Romanticism, like the solitary protagonist and the pessimistic view of human nature. It is far more focused on emotion that reason, like other works in the Romanticism style. It also has a deep psycological effect that is a little hard to describe.

According to Christine Kruger, one of the defining features of Dark Romanticism is the solitary, dark protagonist. This is very apparent in The Minister's Black Veil. The main character, Mr. Hooper, spends his entire life alone behind a black veil. That must be the definition of dark and solitary, after all, the veil is black. The solitary protagonist shows up a lot in Romanticism writing, and The Minister's Black Veil is certainly no exception.

The really dark, pessimistic view of human nature and humanity in general is the destinctive quality of Dark Romanticism. The theme of The Minister's Black Veil is that people all have evil spots on their souls, and no one truly wants to acnologe it. Because the entire theme is about the hidden darkness within everyone, the story definitly fits in with other works of Dark Romanticism.

The emotion in The Minister's Black Veil is really important. During the story, the reader has trouble deciding whether to like the minister for his kind service or distrust his because of the ominous blcak veil he wears. A pretty good deal of the story described the different emotions the black veil inspired in different situations. When he is ministering a funeral, the reader feels affection for how sympathetic he is toward the mourners of the dead woman. When he is at a wedding, the reader gets suspicious toward him for making such a joyous occasion into a dark and suspenceful one.

James Mellow writes about the difference between a mask and a veil, and its importance in the story. A mask completely changes the perception of a person, and makes it seem totally different. A veil just covers something, maybe just one small aspect, from view. It still allows the person to be viewed as it is, but just hides something from view. This is important because even though just one aspect of Hooper is hidden by a veil, it completely changes the way people see him, as if he was wearing a mask.

The psycology in the story of The Minister's Black Veil is really interesting, in that the veil effects people in two ways, both with the same effect. When people see the veil covering their minister's face, it makes them think that there is some deep sin on his soul, so they start to avoid and fear him. The other, more important thing they think of when they see the veil and think of hidden sin, they are reminded of their own secrets they hid deep inside and try hard not to recall. They are afraid to see him and be around him because it reminds them of this, and they really, really do not want to be reminded.

Hawthorne,, Nathaniel. "The Minister's Black Veil, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1836." Eldritch Press. Web. 20 Jan. 2012. .

Krueger, Christine, ed. "Romanticism." Encyclopedia of British Writers,19th
Century, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2002. Bloom's
LiteraryReference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 16 Jan.

Mellow, James R. Nathaniel Hawthorne in His Times (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980): pp. 60–61. Quoted as "Hawthorne's Veil" in Harold Bloom, ed. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bloom's Major Short Story Writers. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 2001. (Updated 2007.) Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 16 Jan. 2012. BMSSNH16&SingleRecord=True.

Journal 25: the egg mcmuffin of journals about fear

This being the third journal I have been assigned about fear, I am beginning to grow frustrated. One can only write about a single subject for so long before it has been beaten to death, and there remains nothing more to be said. It might be a it easier if the assignment had been more specific, like the previous two were, but no, I am merely to write about fear in some sense or other.

Do not misunderstand me though, I really do appreciate the feeling of fear. Like sadness, it is one of those rare feelings that can completely fill a person without any other feelings mixed with it. Happiness is rarely ever complete and perfect, there is always something bitter, or something missing in it. With fear, and even more so with sadness, the feeling is found frequently without anything to mar it. I would suppose this is because of all feelings, happiness is the most easily forgotten. Although this happens little with fear, in sadness the perfection gives it beauty, and the beauty of it causes me to be happy (which is a little bit confusing, considering the jist of what I just said was a lack of happiness makes me happy).

That brings me around to something that troubles me from time to time. Why is it people always forget me when I do not make sure to remind them I exist? Does that happen to everyone, or just to me? In one relationship I was in, the guy promised he would call me back the next day or the day after, but it would happen that the next time I spoke to him was a week later when I called him. He said he just forgot about it. In another, a friend of mine would tell me he would talk to tomorrow, only to call me a month later. Is it just me? Am I just so uninteresting and plain that people cannot seem to keep me in mind? You can see why this bothers me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Poe (but a different one this time so don't have a kiniption)

The Pit and the Pendulum is another really good example of Dark Romanticism by Edgar Allen Poe. Among other things, it has frightful scenarios and a lot of suspense. Like most other Dark Romantic works, it has torment, although it is a little bit unique in having literal torture in it. Another characteristic of Romanticism in the short story is the exotic setting.

Dark Romanticism style writing tends to focus on the darker side of human nature according to Christine Kruger (the all knowing master of absolutly everything to do with Dark Romanticism, which is admittedly really not much). This is very much present in The Pit and the Pendulum. There really are not many thoughts more disturbing than those of holy men become tormentors and executioners, but human nature would have us go to extremes such as this to try keeping people that threaten to change things from being able to do so. That is the reason for the plot of Poe's short story, and definitely makes one look a little bit more cynically on humanity.

There is also a strong element of emotional suffering in Dark Romanticism. The protagonist of Poe's story has to watch his death slowly descend upon him, waving back and forth on its way down. The protagonist becomes frenzied as it gets closer, and even starts laughing at one point (Poe 270). His emotional distress is so great it sounds a though he might have even loses his wits for a while.

The exotic is really something of an ever present characteristic of Romanticism. It seems that almost every Romantic work has at least a touch of it somewhere. Spain during the inqusition is fairly exotic, and death via pendulum and collapsing walls are up there as well. The exotic elements of The Pit and the Pendulum are historic, which is a bit unique for Romanticism, as most exotic things and happenings have something to do with fairy tales.

Psycologically the important thing about the death planned for the protagonist is the time he has to spend thinking about it. He had hours to think about the slow pain, the ways he could have escaped, and all of the things he will never get to do because he is about to be sliced in half by a deadly pendulum. That is pretty much all that it takes to unnerve a person. Having nothing to do but think your fate over for a few hours, being able to take absolutly no action to speed it or prevent it is really terrible when given thought.

An interesting point of view proposed by Charles May is that the reason everything seems so terrifying to the protagonist is because he keeps falling in and out of dreams. Like when he is being carried down into the dungeon, he cannot quite decide if the descent was a dream or a memory (Poe 264). May suggests that some parts of the protagonist's story are nightmares whose memory is mistaken a memory of real events.

Krueger, Christine, ed. "Romanticism." Encyclopedia of British Writers,
19th Century, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2002. Bloom's Literary
Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 16 Jan. 2012.

May, Charles E. "Alternate Realms of Reality." In Edgar Allan Poe: A Study of Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991, pp. 96–97. Quoted as "Dreams and Reality in the Story" in Harold Bloom, ed. Edgar Allan Poe, Bloom's Major Short Story Writers. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 1998. (Updated 2007.) Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 18 Jan. 2012. BMSSEP39&SingleRecord=True.

Poe, Edgar. "The Pit and the Pendulum." Comp. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Ph.D. and Douglas Fisher, Ph.D. Glencoe Literature. American Literature ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 97-99. Print.

Journal 24

A time when I was frightened? To be quite honest, there have not been many. Most of the time I would appear to be frightened I am merely startled by something that has happened suddenly. When I was younger, I was frightened by the supernatural things in horror movies I would glimpse. For around a year I would jump onto my bed because I was afraid of something grabbing me from underneath it. When I randomly scattered garlic cloves around my room, I quickly ceased being afraid though (I kid you not, I really did that). I understand it sounds childish and superstitious, but it made me feel much better, and even seemed reasonable at the time. Since then fears have been few and far between, save for one.

My deepest, most guarded fear is that I will spend all of my life in central Illinois or somewhere like it, and be stuck there alone. It terrifies me down to my core. Try as I may, I cannot imagine anything even slightly worse. I cannot bear the thought that my entire life will be spent with no excitement, no thrilling interest, and with no one who understands. When ever I think of it I get a strange, nauseous feeling that stretches all of the way up my throat, and I start panicking. When I say that I panic I mean that I truly panic. Had I less control of myself, I would begin fidgeting compulsively. The panic is one of the reasons I get so restless and need to take extensive walks. It is a rather vehement emotion, and sometimes it quite overcomes me when I spend too much time in thought over it.

So, now I have shared my deepest and only fear with the entire internet, to be read by no one. That is just the slightest bit depressing when one starts to think about it. I have barley even mentioned it to my closest friends, and here I am, spelling it all out where the entire world can see it, but no one will.