Monthly Archives: September 2019

William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience

1. Blake describes innocence and experience as “the two contrary states of the human soul.” What do you think he means by this?
2. Compare the mode of creation described in “The Lamb” with that of “The Tyger.” How are they similar? How are they different?
3. In “London” the speaker says he hears “mind-forged manacles” (line 8) What do you think that phrase means?
4. What differences do you see between the two “Chimney Sweeper” poems?
5. The introductory poem to Songs of Innocence refers to a poet/singer/piper who composes “…happy songs,/Every child may joy to hear.” To what extent does this line describe the poems in Songs of Innocence?

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Mary Wollstonecraft’s, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

After reading A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, I found that Mary Wollstonecraft’s observations on the social attack upon women pertain to be relevant in today’s society. In many countries and cultures around the world, educated women are viewed as a threat. This seen threat has caused certain places and communities to hold restraints on education for women and at times forbid women from learning altogether. As Mary Wollstonecraft suggests in her writing, women are pressed to be obedient creatures as opposed to authoritative figures. She compares women to soldiers in the sense that women are expected to follow orders, stick to an assigned mission, and do their best without questioning their responsibilities.

This perspective reminded me of a moving event of our time that displays the possibilities of what can happen when a woman gets out of her drill line and questions the systems that bind her. Malala Yousafzai was a sixteen-year-old when she took a bullet to the head for fighting for her right to an education. After continuing to speak out about the societal falsity of depriving girls of education, Malala had faced several attempted assassinations. At age 17, Malala won a Nobel Peace Prize for her contributions as an Education Activist, being the youngest recipient.

To me, Malala symbolizes a break in the chain, a strong woman who was able to stand up for what is right. Her bravery and sacrifices have provided countless young women with educations that were merely impossible dreams prior to this breakthrough. Malala proved that women are capable of fighting for what they believe in. She went to the extreme of risking her life for the sake of pursuing an education. Women are not a force to be reckoned with.

Oftentimes, people take things for granted when they are at their disposal. Personally, I have never really sat down and thought of how privileged I am to be educated. I have always understood the power of education but it has become such a regular thing to me that I have never considered what it would be like to not be allowed to attend school. Education and knowledge are powerful tools that help an individual grow and take shape. Taking a look at Malala’s life and the situations of so many other girls, I am lucky to be able to have an education and it has given me the perspective that signing up for school isn’t such an easy thing to do in all places. Growing up in New York, forbidden education has never once been a worry that I have had to consider; had I been living a different life, in a different place, it is possible that my education would be a fatal crime. I can only imagine how helpless one must feel when they are isolated from a pot of knowledge that is crucial in order to be present and sufficiently take part in society.

Wollstonecraft’s argument for a society in which men and women are equal is an argument that has yet to be solved in 2019. I recognize that as a nation and society we have come a long way in terms of gender equality and I am thankful to live in a country where I too get to vote, get to work, and get to be educated. Unfortunately, as a globe, we have miles to go. In present-day Iran, women are getting murdered and arrested for dancing in the streets and for their choice in wardrobe. The perspective in which women are seen as domestic objects has yet to be eliminated from many people’s eyes. No person or gender should be above the other as Wollstonecraft expresses. Equality is a working progress, society’s wheels are turning.

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Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

1. What aspects of women’s lives does Wollstonecraft seem interested in changing? Why?

2. Wollstonecraft quotes Pope’s famous line “Whatever is, is right.” How does she interpret this line? Does she agree with Pope?

3. Do you think women are still raised to be “pleasing”? Why or why not?

4. What does Wollstonecraft have to say about marriage? In her view, what would allow a woman to be a good wife and mother?

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Rosseau “Confessions”

What I took from Rosseau’s Confessions is that this is kind of a reflection of the life he led when he was young. From what he experienced and saw and what he felt and did. He moved around a lot and had a lot of people coming in and out of his life which must not have been easy. Moving around a lot and not having a stable situation does a lot to someone. 

I mean, I definitely did not have as rough of a time as Rosseau had with his father going to prison and his brother leaving but constant change can really effect a young persons mind. Although he does seem to enjoy the attention he gets from basically being an only child I can not imagine the loneliness he might have felt without his parents or brother. 

Perhaps a lot of his rambunctious nature came from his unstable home life. I remember that one of the toughest times during my childhood in which I acted out a lot was when we moved around a lot. There was nothing wrong with my home life per say but the constant change and settling of a new neighborhood.

From what I’ve noticed reading about Rousseau’s jobs and experiences is that he lives kind of nomadically and sporadically, similarly to his childhood. He becomes infatuated with something or his situation in one area and eventually the momentum dies out and he moves on to the next thing in the next city. The same change that molded him as a child follows him into young adulthood. 

What I receive from this is the concept of trend. You see it in all types of people and I see it within myself. Even moving around a lot made growing up hard and made a lasting impact on my life, I find myself not wanting to stay in one place throughout my young adulthood and my future as well. I have no intentions to stay in one place. Whether that be in the U.S or internationally. The idea of moving and new experiences excites me even though it had the opposite effect on me as a child.

What I see from Rosseau is that he has an upbringing that is full of rockiness and uncertainty and that is incorporated into his character as an adult. He seems to just roll with the punches or go where the wind blows him. His life seems to be made up of a lot of inconsistencies. He will lie that he is a catholic in order to be educated and works hard for it but as soon as that work is done, he does a bit of a hiatus. I can relate to that. I am not proud of it but I will have surges of productivity and hard work and as soon as I get one thing done I take a little too much rest and relaxation rather than keeping up my proactive momentum to get more work done.

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Rousseau, The Confessions

1.  What is the narrator’s purpose in writing these “confessions”?  How do you know?

2.  For Rousseau, what is the relationship between feeling and thinking?

3.  How does Rousseau describe his childhood?  What significance can we draw from this description

4. Why do you think Rousseau chooses to include the anecdote about stealing from his employer?

5. Using your own language, how would you describe the narrator, given his self-presentation in The Confessions?

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Edward Sorrentino’s response to “An Essay on Man.” text to world

Literary Work to World

An Essay on Man, by Alexander Pope


            Alexander Pope did not reign to his popularity as a writer for no reason. His first major work as a writer and poet, which was “An Essay on Man,” put Pope on the map as a head figure in the literary world at the time. This poem struck the attention of a lot of people who appreciated good literacy because many were and still are able to relate to this piece of work. “An Essay on Man,” is a statement by Pope on his opinion of how he perceives mankind, and how mankind perceives nature and God.

            The poem, “An Essay on Man,” starts with acknowledgement of mankind’s two most diminishing vices: pride and ignorance. Pope states, “That we can judge only with regard to our own system, being ignorant of the relations of systems and things.” This, in another way of putting it, is stating that mankind’s ignorance makes us blind to how our actions affect the things around us. We fail to consider the consequences that will affect others when we act only for our own self gain. This vice of mankind is again expressed when Pope states, “The impiety of putting himself in the place of God, and judging of the fitness or unfitness, perfection or imperfection.” Again, Pope clearly is saying how man’s pride makes us ignorant in the fact that at times we think that we have omnipotent power over nature. Because of our pride, we become ignorant; and because of our ignorance, we tend to believe that our actions are best, even though they are usually always containing negative affects to the things around us.

            Pope also touches base on how mankind fails to acknowledge our downfalls due to our own actions. Instead, Pope implies that we tend to blame others for the consequences of our actions. He states, “Destroy all Creatures for thy sport or gust, yet cry, If Man’s unhappy, God’s unjust.” Here, Pope goes into more detail rightfully stating that when things do not work out in our favor, most likely due to our own actions, we tend to blame God for our misfortunes. Moreover, Pope also explains what happens when our consequential actions affect the course of nature. He states, “From Nature’s chain whatever link you strike, Tenth or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike.” In other words, a chain reaction occurs to every action we make. The consequences of our actions are ultimately endless, since nature acts as a chain.

            To conclude, our moral educator should be heard by everyone. Alexander Pope is not wrong to write this text. Most would agree with what Pope is trying to express, yet, many fail to do anything about it. Why does mankind continue to allow our two greatest vices affect the decisions we make? The answer is quite simple. Mankind fails to look at how our actions will affect those around us. This is simply because our pride only allows man to think only in a tunnel vision. Consequently, this makes mankind ignorant. If mankind would pay attention to detail rather than the whole, nature would be better off.  This is said best when Pope states, “Why has not Man a microscopic eye? For this plain reason, Man is not to Fly.”

            Ignorance is bliss. However, actions made through ignorance has consequences. And it is never just one event that occurs, it is always a chain reaction, because that is how nature works according to Pope. Because of this, mankind should never get confused about who should be in control nature. Best put, “If plagues or earthquakes break not Heaven’s design, Why then a Borgia, or a Catiline?”

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Alexander Pope, “Essay on Man”

1.  Pope describes the purpose of his poem as “to vindicate the ways of God to man.”  What do you think he means by this?

2. Choose one metaphor that Pope uses to describe the universe and explain its significance.

3.  What would it mean to believe that “whatever is, is right?”  How would that affect one’s outlook or behavior?

4.  According to Pope, what place do human beings have in the universe in relation to other creatures?

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Stephen Deng response to “Bewitched” by Ueda Akinari (text to self)

The short story “Bewitched” by Ueda Akinari tells the sotry of a man who falls in love with a devil in the form of a woman. The story begins with a summary of the family which is when our main character Toyo-o is introduced. he is described as ” a handsome youth with a. predilection for learning and cultural pursuits, typical of life in Kyoto, the nations capital”. The story then progresses to a sudden rainstorm to which our main character has found himself in the center of. After entering an old Fishermans home and steeling for a little bit our antagonist enters the picture who goes by the name “Manago” alone with her maid “Maroya”. He quickly falls for her and gives her his umbrella when she leaves and say that he will pick it up another day. later that night he has a dream that upon entering her home he is treated to food and wine and after getting drunk he lays down beside her and begins to chat to which his dream ends. But after searching all morning and into the afternoon he if left disappointed until he spots Maroya coming towards him he asks her to take him to Managos home to get his umbrella. Reaching the house Toyo-o ” saw that the front gate and the house were huge indeed. The shutters and bamboo blind were just as impressive as he imagined in his dream.”. Meaning everything he dreamed was there. Manago comes out and offers Toyo-o food and wine just like he imagined. After eating and drinking Manago says to Toyo-o to marry her. After saying that he cannot due to the fact that he is still reliant on his parents and older brother. She then gives him. a sword that belonged to her husband. Later we find out that the sword is really one of the many offerings to the gods tat were stolen. After being arrested he convinces the samurai to bring his to the house only to find it the complete opposite of what it looked like the first time he went there this time its old and dilapidated. in addition he learns that the names that she has given are all false there has been nobody living in the home for years now. upon entering the home they see what they believe is a girl but when they approach her a loud clap of thunder shocks them the she is gone. Then they saw all of the stolen goods. later on he is able to get rid of Manago but it takes the form of another girl named Tomiko. they are eventually able to kill both the serpent and unfortunately the girl as well. this story relates to a past experience I have had. I believe the moral of the story is its easy to get into negative things but hard to get out. over the last year I have fallen in to collecting musical albums from my favorite artists. this would turn out to be a bad thing because I just started to buy one album every month or several months in-between. however has new artists emerged I began to like them and would buy whatever was new. It was very hard to get rid of and at times it seemed like I had gotten over it but due to the sudden emergence of money around holidays I would spend all of my money on them much like how Toyo-o was convinced to take Manago back. There were times in the school year where I sacrificed my weekly budget for food for albums. it went on to the point where I was spending hundreds of dollars a month on albums alone. Eventually I was able to stop for a month or two controlling my desires by not looking at the new music videos released by the artists but a sudden emergence of a new artists restarted my album buying. by this time it was about three fourths through the school year and over a thousand dollars on albums alone. After the school year ended I still didn’t stop buying albums. It was only when our family trip to Asia when my thirst was satisfied. my anger for albums were satisfied but at an extreme costs, the way I ended me desire to buy albums was to buy all of them from every artist that I liked. After spending an absurd amount of money it was all over much like the ending of the story where the serpent and the girl died. another moral of the story I believe is that if it’s too good to be true it probably is. An experience that I had in the past was a scam in which I unknowingly participated in. This scam also took place in Asia. When I went shopping I found a few items of clothing that I liked and I asked the shop owner how much it was in English. She then took out a calculator and gave me an absurd price but then lowered it to much lower then I bought it. But after doing some research I found out it was much less then I bought it for the that one of the common scams of china is for them to start off with an absurd price and jack it down but a price which will overcharges you even more so if you are caught speaking English. From these experiences I learned the valuable lessons of if its too good to be true it probably is and its easy to be caught up in negative things but hard to get out.

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Akinari, “Bewitched”

1. Why do you think Toyo-o continues to be involved with Manago even after he suspects that she is a demon of some sort?
2. Why do you think people (both in the 18th century, when Akinari was writing, and in our own day) are attracted to ghost stories or tales of the supernatural?
3. Does “Bewitched” have anything to teach its readers? If so, what? What is Akinari’s message in this text?
4. The text describes Manago as”bewitchingly voluptuous.” What does the character of Manago tell us about feminine beauty?

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Hi, my name is James Pesahov. I am currently a sophomore here at Baruch, and still have no clue what career I would like to pursue. This is a bit frightening considering I have less then a year to really figure out what career I would really like to follow.  I was born in Brooklyn, New York and have lived my whole life there, without ever traveling to the eastern hemisphere until this past summer. I traveled to Israel and Cyprus which really encouraged me to want to travel and explore different parts to the world. Looking at next summer,  I would love to backpack across Europe with a few friends, living in hostels, eating street food, and really immerse myself in the different cultures that I experience.

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