Monthly Archives: October 2019

Ibsen, Hedda Gabler

–What motivates Hedda to encourage Lovborg to resume drinking?
–Discuss the role of Thea in the play? What function does she serve?
–What role does class play in Hedda Gabler?
–What does Lovborg’s death mean to Hedda?
–Do you feel sympathetic to Hedda? Why or why not?

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Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

1. Who do you think Jacobs envisions as the audience for her autobiography? How can you tell?
2. What does Jacobs add to the understanding of the experience of slavery we gleaned from Frederick Douglass?
3. How does Jacobs attempt to control her own destiny?
4. How does Jacobs description of her hiding spot add to our understanding of her story?

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“Incidents in the life of a slave Girl” by Harriet Jacobs

 

“Incidents in the life of a slave Girl” is a very powerful text that unfortunately is relevant in today’s world as well. “I want to add my testimony to that of abler pens to convince the people of the Free States what Slavery really is. Only by experience can any one realize how deep, and dark, and foul is that pit of abominations” (Preface). Harriet Jacobs’ goal is to educate the free world about slavery, hoping that such horrors will cease to exist, but it seems that the more progressive we became as a society the more we learned to call slavery different names and became more indifferent to the sufferings of others. During slavery in America, people were enslaved in plantations, people nod their heads and draw a clear difference between the world we live in today and the world and cruelty that used to excised.  But the truth is that not everyone is free in 2019.

The ability to choose a profession, place of living, a spouse, sexual orientation, or even the food one might eat is not as easy as one might think. For example, most of the population in the western world do not know who stands behind the everyday food they purchase on a daily basis in the supermarket. Those very people who grow the avocados that we are exposed to year-round, do not know the taste of this fruit simply because they cannot afford it. They are being ripped off by large companies, being enslaved in horrible conditions in their countries, work unreasonable hours from a very young age, even die because of criminal organizations that arose due to the avocado demand in the western world. Everyone wants a piece of the pie, and so the criminal organizations rule the crops and the farmers are their slaves, while the criminal organizations are slaves as well to an even bigger party.  So we are facing a new kind of slavery, modern slavery, where everything is legal on the paper, and where invisible people are more invisible than ever.

 

 

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Narrative of Frederick Douglass

“The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” is not just about slavery. The autobiographic narrative takes on a bigger picture on how society and the world is viewed from the lower class. In society today, there is obviously no slavery, but there is still an imbalance of power in society and in the workforce. Frederick Douglass shows in his narrative how one needs to persevere and overcome challenges in order to achieve a goal. For Frederick, he took advantage of whatever opportunities given to him in order to pursue freedom. In that aspect, I, myself, believe that I need to take advantage of all the opportunities placed in my life to achieve/accomplish my dream of whether finding an amazing job opportunity for a big corporation or whether having an amazing family in the near future.

In the narrative, Frederick Douglass was taught by a mistress, who kindly instructed him and treated him as a human being would treat another. Luckily, Frederick was placed with such a warm-hearted woman that taught him the alphabet; he eventually learned how to read, and he was educationally better off than the poor white children. In connection, I feel as though I need to take the opportunity in school/college. There are professors that are willing to sacrifice their time for students to give in-depth information about a particular subject/field or give advice on what will be asked upon us in the near future. “Every opportunity I got, I used to read this book. Among much of other interesting matter, I found in it a dialogue between a master and his slave (Douglass, 253). Frederick Douglass took every opportunity to read a book when the odds were against him to do so; if he was caught, Douglass would have been in danger… In connection, I feel as though I need to take every opportunity in difficult situations because I believe putting one’s self in a grind, where the odds might be stacked against him or her, will bring out the strongest/best version of himself or herself. In other words, if you are given an opportunity to interview for a major firm and must compete against Ivy League graduates, you should do the best that you can possibly do whether or whether not you are hired for the position. One should analyze and assess himself or herself on what area of improvement is needed and determine his or her strengths and weaknesses. This can also be an experience of a lifetime because I may inform the next generation moving forward to take full advantage of any given opportunity whether or whether not it may be the most challenging of circumstances. In relation, Frederick Douglass took full advantage of reading and grasping all life lessons in hopes of setting himself an example to individuals in the future that life can be difficult, but one can persevere even if the odds are stacked against him or her.

“In the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave,” it is tremendously courageous of Frederick Douglass to take every advantage of the opportunity to read and educate himself during the time of slavery in order to pursue freedom. I need to believe in myself and persevere through obstacles, as well. My task is to take advantage of all the opportunities placed in my life to achieve/accomplish my dream of whether to find an amazing job opportunity for a big corporation or whether to have an amazing family in the near future.

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Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

1. What is the significance of the information Douglass provides about the early years of his life?

2. What does he mean, on p.238, when he describes the first whipping he witnessed as, “the blood-stained gate”?

3. What have you learned from reading this narrative that you didn’t already know about slavery in America?

4. Explain the significance of literacy for Douglass

5. How does Douglass feel about Southern Christianity? Why?

6. How would you describe Douglass’ style as a writer?  Give an example from the text to illustrate your response.

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Shelley – Stanzas Written in Dejection

After reading Shelley’s “ Stanzas Written in Dejection – December 1818, near Naples” I found that the issue Shelley struggles with, is one that many people face. In the poem, Shelley juxtaposes the beautiful paradisal nature of Naples and the emptiness and numbness he feels in spite of being in a beautiful place. Shelley paints a beautiful image of the Naples day. He writes the day is warm with a clear sky, “the city’s voice, itself is soft like Solitude’s” (9). Shelley describes the equilibrium between man and nature beautifully. He contrasts the nuances of nature to certain emotions. Shelley portrays Naples as a perfect place but implies that he is not happy even though he is in “paradise”. Shelley says that he lacks hope, health, peace, content of surpassing wealth, fame, power, love, and leisure. His life is in despair, and he envies the pleasure that others get from the same life.

This reminds me of the society we live in today, where people who struggle with depression aren’t able to experience all the pleasures of life. Regardless of their physical location, people feel an emptiness within them that life is unable to fulfill. Shelley’s poem encapsulates what depression feels like. This poem is relatable to almost everyone in a way, anyone who has felt dejected at some point can relate to this. Shelley writes “Others I see whom these surround, Smiling they live and call life pleasure: To me that cup has been dealt in another measure “(25-27), this quote summarizes the meaning of the poem. Shelley is unable to indulge in the life that others around him have due to his depression. The feeling of dejection that Shelley conveys is shared by many individuals in the world.

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William Wordsworth Analysis

Reading William Wordworth’s poems reminded me both about the stories I have indulged myself in, and also the world around us, despite being written over 200 years ago. Wordsworth, a leader in the romantic poetry movement that filled the 19th century, was an avid fan of nature, its beauty, and its importance to us. As such, many of his poems, including “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”, “Composed upon Westminster Bridge”, “The World is too Much with Us”. The major similarity of these works is their subject of nature, especially through the eyes of humans, and it’s underrated beauty that is usually taken for granted.

In the poem “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”, Wordsworth reminisces the beautiful scenery of the abbey as he revisits it for the first time in years. This connects to a story I read recently, which featured a theme about making memories and sharing them with the ones that you love. The story, “Stone Ocean” has a scene in which a major character dies. In the scene, she tells the protagonist, Jolyne, that she doesn’t have any regrets in terms of her death, was happy to have shared so many great memories with her, and that a life without memories isn’t a life at all. This connects to the way Wordsworth talks about the memories he has made and is currently making with his sister, hoping that she will have those memories too once he’s gone, “When these wild ecstasies shall be matured Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind shall be a mansion for all lovely forms, Thy memory be as a dwelling-place for all sweet sounds and harmonies”(353).

  The poem “Composed upon Westminster Bridge” features a heavy emphasis on the beauty that anything, be it a wondrous view as was the case in the story, or any other event, can bring into our lives. I can connect through this personally, with the discovery of new music or other forms of media and stories, that have moved me in an emotionally powerful way. A recent example I can think of was my discovery of Kid Cudi, in which I listened to his first album that was released a decade ago, “Man on the Moon”. Listening to the album, being able to relate heavily with the subject matter presented in it, has moved me in quite the same way Wordsworth was moved by the beautiful view of London, “Earth has not anything to show more fair: Dull of soul who could pass by a sight so touching in its majesty” (359).

The final poem, “The World is Too Much with Us”, again heavily features nature, and this time also warns us about the effect that humanity’s greed has and will cause to it. This connects very easily to what is going on in the world right now, with climate change starting to showcase various effects, and the wealthy politicians and CEOs that refuse to do anything about it. One such example that occurred recently is the burning of the Amazon Rainforest, which have had devastating effects that are worldwide in its reach. The burning of the forest was also completely man made, fueled by the greed of the people who stand to profit from this, such as the current President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, and even CEOs from America, to name a few, which Wordsworth has warned his reader of, “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours”(359).

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Percy Bysshe Shelley

1. In Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry,” he states that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World.” What do you think he means by this?

2. Compare Shelley’s attitude toward nature with that of Wordsworth. What do these two Romantic poets seem to share and where do they differ in their relationships with the natural world?

3. “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?,” the concluding line of “Ode to the West Wind” is one of Shelley’s most frequently quoted lines. What do you think it means?

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William Wordsworth

–In what sense does “Tintern Abbey” offer readers a “religion of nature”? What are some of the specific ways in which nature works as a substitute for traditional religion?
–Why do you think Wordsworth gives “Tintern Abbey” such a precise and detailed sub-title? What is the significance of this poem’s full titile?
–In the final portion of “Tintern Abbey,” the speaker turns to his “dear friend.” Who is this friend and what role does he/she play in the poem?
–“Composed upon Westminster Bridge” and “The World Is Too Much with Us” are both sonnets. Why do you think a poet might choose to work with such a highly structured form?
–Describe some of the ways in which Wordsworth’s poetry conforms to some of the features of Romanticism that we’ve discussed. What evidence can you find to illustrate this?

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William Blake – Text to Text

Reading Blake, I was reminded of a novel called “My Brilliant Friend”, written by Elena Ferrante.  Ferrantes novel focuses on many aspects of childhood that are similar to Blakes, with violence and physical injury being the main similarity. In My Brilliant Friend, children live in Naples during a time when it is a violent place to grow up. A character writes, “I feel no nostalgia for our childhood: it was full of violence.” Children in the book grow up seeing violence in different ways and are almost immune to the shock of it. Blake is also focused on how children are used by society and the sad way they are almost disposed of, and the parents who “lease them out”. Blake writes about children being used by their parents, and I felt sad when he used the words “weep” instead of “sweep”, because he was showing how little the child must have been, that he had a lisp and wasn’t even able to pronounce the thing he was doing. In Ferrantes work, children also grow up with the expectation that they will start working for their parents from a young age, whether it’s around the house or in the family business, and it is seen as a privilege to continue with school. Children only know the small world that they are in, and they live for each day with passion because of the violence. “Children don’t know the meaning of yesterday, of the day before yesterday, or even of tomorrow, everything is this, now…”. This is similar to the chimney sweeper, where children are living in the small world that they are in, and it is normal to see violence and destruction. 

In “The Chimney Sweeper”, Blake describes the child as being clothed like death. During this time, it was common for children (mostly boys?) to start working as a chimney sweep from the age of five. The injuries and health issues sustained doing this type of work must have been terrible. This struck me as a particularly cruel, since most five year olds I have met can’t even always articulate what it is they want to say, let alone how they feel, and are not physically able to perform hard labor. In “My Brilliant Friend” Ferrante uses working children to convey the sad state that many of them grow up in, and to help the reader understand what it is like to be a child during the time period. Ferrantes novel is set in the 1950’s, and even though there is a huge gap in time between when Blake wrote his poetry, children are treated similarly in both. For Blake to have written multiple pieces about child chimney sweepers, it must have been an absolute epidemic. But I think sometimes for public opinion to shift on issues like child labor, people need to see something in print that forces them to examine the behavior. Setting the agenda is something that a lot of writers and artists help with, and political movements sometimes start with someone writing about something that is seen as acceptable because no one talks about it. Ferrante uses very matter of fact ways to describe the way violence is experienced by children in her novels, and it helps set the tone for the novel and underscores the way that society views children, also as slightly disposable, or not worth thinking about too much. Both texts highlight how childhood varies but is also similar in the way things were for many children, across different time periods and also countries.

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