Overall, an amazing feast of student talent in reflecting on how 19th Century Literature can shed so much light on core issues of human experience in the 21st Century. Thank you All!!
Here is one student Alicia Ticchio reflecting on her semester, writing during the Covid 19 Pandemic, when all studies were on-line using Zoom technology! Thank you Alicia:
This semester I feel has been a bit of a roller coaster. Yet I think that studying this topic in literature was a saving grace. I was introduced to the everlasting art and literature of the Romantic and Victorian ages. I discovered that although the works were produced centuries ago, they are very much still relatable to the concerns of the 21st century….Overall, blogging has been an experience that has excited me in times where it was very much needed. It allowed me to explore my peers work, enabling me to view others understanding of the works we studied. In doing so, I feel I was more enlightened towards appreciating the power that poetry has in illustrating societal issues that are very much relevant today. I was able to heighten my appreciation for my natural surroundings and learnt to keep my mind kind and happy. Although it is unfortunate that these issues of ignorance towards nature are still prevalent today, I think it is wise to note that poetry is just one example that illustrates that there are people who care about our environment and self-wellbeing. https://aliciaticchio.wordpress.com/2020/05/18/my-summative-entry/
And students were inducted into the art of the Enlightenment to show them how dramatically transformative was the ideology of the Romantics. Here is Dylan reflecting on how an Enlightenment depiction of a pug dog embodied so much of what the Romantics hated! Thank you Dylan: https://dylanversola.home.blog/2020/04/05/3-critical-blog/
Students studying Shakespeare this semester have been asked to write a response to the global situation as perceived by Hamlet or Ophelia. This has led to some extraordinarily creative and heart filled descriptions of global condition from the perspective of our 2020 university students. Enjoy:
Write a prose soliloquy in which you are either Hamlet or Ophelia commenting on the world around you in 2020.
The entirety of a women’s life in this contemporary world is at odds; with herself, her lover and her duty. It is as if she presents two bouquets at the altar. The first, a highly constructed and carefully manufactured bouquet of ever-glowing, silvery lined Gardenia’s. There is an assortment of Daisies, that outreach their limbs, fighting over the attention of the bride’s original master. The father, her original master, is pleased with this reminder of his sweet child’s innocence and purity that is held in this bouquet. Beaming at the altar, like the way Daisy’s beam towards the sun, stands his daughter who is the epitome of his hope and investment.
But there! There, o’ there lies her eager Groom. The clouds veil the penetration of the sun rays as his eyes follow up her laced gown to the second, more daring bouquet. The dripping scarlet hues of the roses fall within the bouquet, like the blood of a sacrificial lamb. The carnations bow their head, promising drunken pleasure to the groom as they display their wine-like colour at the altar. The Bride stands as an object who is ready to obey.
If the Bride obeys as I had done to both my masters, her lungs will be ignited by the rush of her last breath. The lungs, the fertilisers for her sweet life are imploded with droplets of anguish. Her heart will pound with the tsunami of obedience towards what her masters seek from her. The women that allow for submissiveness to overflow the desires of their hearts secure a fate for themselves. If you sacrifice your truest self for obedience, your garments will float on the riverbanks and your aspirations will seep into the soil of the earth.
A master, however, in this world is not merely as clearly divided as I experienced in my lifetime.
The master for you, dear men and women, gleam from the rays of your devices. These rays hypnotise you into a sense of conformity to what Instagram or Facebook begs of you to show.
The master for you, dear men and women, is the demanding Soldier of your workplace ordering you to do overtime whilst your sweet child sings themselves to sleep with a lullaby.
The master for you, dear men and women, is each minute decision made that removes you from your truest self.
The stream of opportunity will flow for the one who triumphs over the masters in this world.
For whoever throws their bouquets of obedience over their head, will celebrate the unity between themselves and their souls at the altar.
It’s bushfires and viruses and cunning toilet paper runs. It’s climate change and Trumpism and healthcare systems trumped by capitalism. It’s advertising fear and scrounging for hope. It’s the globe and the floorboards on this stage are wired with so much worry it feels as though we’re about to fall through, a feeling I’m afraid we’ve all heartily acclimated to.
In this month’s craze, we’ve all been struck down with terror of the plague!
We move through global emergencies like we churn through diet fads, reminding ourselves not to eat too much because we need to panic buy the rest tomorrow when, across the sea, others are starving. That’s dramatic irony for ya, eh?
The media sends the hordes into frenzied hysteria; I pity them honestly (I pity myself, too). But would we prefer a climate of oblivion or hyper information? Is there even a difference between the blur of too much and none at all? Perhaps the sea of news articles and broadcasts is some sort of blissful ignorance within itself. Perhaps we like to distract ourselves from our lives with the lives of everyone else – or more precisely, the lives of strangers in jeopardy and the lives lost inevitably.
HAMLET sneezes into his elbow and begins to wash his hands
Well, you learn to switch yourself off…fall asleep walking through these masked and crowded streets, trying to fade from the facts and the fear. To best describe it: you’re in a large pool with the rest of the world’s population and everybody’s drowning–helpless, flailing and floundering, delirious with panic from this perpetual doggy-paddle. But if you stop swimming, stop floating, you sink beneath the surface and find a weightless, purring calm. It’s pleasant; it is eerily familiar, like the womb before the knife to the belly of Banquo’s mother.
Sadly, we must all come back up for air one time or another and, by the time we resurface, the next apocalypse has tagged you and Kim Kardashian in its Facebook status.
Oh, what a year thus far! Three months in and already it feels like the world has come crumbling down. January, what we thought as the beginning of the new year, a time of change and resolutions, oh but no! Rather a scorching hellfire. Raging bushfires, toxic air, thick blanketing smoke. Our lungs, our precious lungs! Oh, how they suffered. Then, of course, February. The gates of hell remained open, pouring destruction all over our nation. The month of floods, oh how mother nature was so cross with us! Our beloved earth, who cares for us so tenderly, oh how we failed you! But alas, what can we do? What can I do? I am nothing but helpless, a tiny speck, a grain of sand amongst this vast ocean.
And the disease! Oh, how this coronavirus is so close. For the fear looms over me. Am I next? What can I possibly do to protect myself? It’s too late! Countries in lockdown, entire nations divided over toilet paper, oh how the world has gone absolutely mad! Madness I say!
Two thousand and twenty (2020), must you have brought forth hysteria to the start of a new decade? Not even a quarter through the year and we are almost undone, hanging by a thread, about to snap. No bandages to patch us up just yet. Oh two thousand and twenty (2020), for I hope you offer us assistance. We are in need, the world has come undone! Ridden with madness, controlled by selfish desire and not a shred of light in the horizon.
Please, two thousand and twenty (2020), for I ask you to save us. Save us from your reckoning and help us to understand the consequences of our actions. For we are the result of our undoing. But, my woes are yours and yours mine. We can only hope the final three-quarters of the year are a time of rebuilding and saving. Saving us from ourselves.
Why has mother nature scorched, destroyed and abandoned our dreams for the new decade? a decade that was most anticipated and one that promised change. Fire, rain and wind have made us tremble with every step. Why must she torture the innocent without a thought and not teach those who remain selfish how to look after our world? And yet, my mind is torn, I cannot fully blame her for the destruction we have seen as we are our own enemies and are the causes of our own misfortune. The physical landscape shook all around us and yet human kind agitates us more than we can admit. Nature heals and re builds itself into the most mesmerizing landscapes ever seen. If only we could do the same! More and more I am disappointed with the direction our world is taking, the disregard of basic human rights for those less fortunate, the toxic politics and fanatic addiction to money that fills our news feeds. One cannot escape the screens that control our minds, if we would only look up and appreciate the natural beauty of our world. Trees once blackened have already begun to sprout colours of green and yellow, water nourished the earth when it needed it most. From this, hope is born and we should aim to grow as a society and show compassion and strength in times of hardship. Amongst this chaos I have never felt so grateful for the things I am able to achieve and that my eyes have been so lucky to admire. Where around the world suffering, poverty and abuse encapsulate the lives of many- the selfish need to slow down and work with each other. Stop! I say! and take a look.
This is one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays that brings into focus the talent that enabled him to show the world how art could be redemptive. This is the story of chaos created by human emotions (jealousy in particular here) and the way that art can be an agent in resolving some of the pain created by madness. Enjoy our next two weeks together on this play.
Today we began exploring the period between 1837 and 1901. This was a time of huge industrial expansion and a widening rift between those who had everything and those who had nothing. This lecture explores the way these concerns was expressed in the literature of the age.
Hello All, here you can find the slides we used for our Zoom lecture (available in LEO) and you can also find an audio version of the same lecture (in 2 parts) – enjoy!
In the tutorial this week we looked closely at the way Shelley, both in his poetry and his prose exemplified the Romantic’s belief in the divine power of poetry, connecting the human spirit through landscape to the creative force in the universe. Shelley’s ideas in his “Preface” give voice to this amazingly optimistic point of view that it is the poetic imagination, the way of seeing the world through the lense of poetry, that can undermine the mechanistic ways of seeing that have brought the planet to its knees. See the poet Adrienne Rich on this topic at https://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/nov/18/featuresreviews.guardianreview15
You are welcome to create your own topic centring on any aspect of our visit to the State Library. Here are a couple of additional topics : *What impression did you get of the importance of Shakespeare to Australia from our visit to the State Library? *Write a short poem in tribute to one of your favourite singers/ actors/ creative artists – in which you compare your “hero” to one of the constellations. *How has your love of Shakespeare been enhanced by your “virtual” visit to the State Library and to the Shakespeare Room?
Here is the fabulous Zoom Tutorial that we had on Hamlet this week. Wow, so much covered and such great ideas based on your observations of the play last week. How lucky were we to get into the theatre before everything shut down. We can now spend our time studying and preparing for when we re-open. And remember we are all meeting up again next Wednesday at 3pm via Zoom. Simply click on the Zoom link below the tutorial:
The first assignment you have is entirely voluntary and is designed to give me a chance to look at your writing skills and give you some direct feedback. It is a short 200 word piece that is a review of the play you saw last week (and believe it or not your were just about the last group to see the play before it shut down!- today).
In the outline it says: The first assignment is entirely voluntary. For those who want to do this I will look at and correct the writing of all submissions – and they can be submitted either as a blog on WordPress OR as a Word document which could be lodged in the assignment box in LEO. I will show the class tomorrow how to do both of these things. Voluntary Blog post 1 – Due Tuesday March 24. Write a short review (200 words) of your visit to the Opera House. What comments do you have about the play, the actors, the lighting, the scenery… What did you enjoy most? Did you find the play relevant to our own times? – I am going to accept this as a blog or as document which you can upload into LEO. I will show you in the lecture tomorrow how to create a blog account- if you would like to go down that path. I will also show you where to “drop” your Word assignment if you decide to go down that path.
Assignment 1: Short Quiz 1: Hamlet- based on reading, watching and performance. Multiple choice and true/false questions. Date and Time: One hour after class on 01/04/20
The details of this assignment are simply that you will be tested on your reading of the play and many of the questions will be related to passages that we go over in class in the next couple of weeks.
HERE IS A SIMPLE GUIDE TO CREATING YOUR OWN WORDPRESS BLOGGING SPACE.
SIMPLY GO TO https://wordpress.com/create-blog/ and follow the prompts to creating your own FREE blog. Don’t be tempted to spend any dollars to upgrade your site. You don’t need any upgrades to have a powerful and functional blogging space. You will need an email address in order for WordPress to check that you are bone-fide. So don’t start the process until you have an email address. Once you have set up your blog you will need to send my your URL which is based on the name you chose for your blog. For example mine is https://michaelgriffith.wordpress.com – yours will come out as something similar. When you send my your URL I will be able to look at your writing there and suggest corrections. This is a space also where you will be able to share your wise words with the rest of the world.
Hello All, well this is the beginning of our totally on-line teaching for Shakespeare. And we begin with a short video (myself lecturing you from home) and from there we will turn to audio focussing more closely on the key sections of the play.
Having worked through all these pieces, keep your ears and eyes open for what is happening in the tutorial this afternoon. There will be a discussion forum, but there will also be an experiment with Zoom to see how we can all link up with this interactive platform. See you then….. MG
Today we began with introductions from everyone in the class. So great to meet you all: Stephen, Patricia, Mei(Wei?), Glen, Ken, Alan, Brendan, Branko, Benjamin, Gretta, Ian, David, Michael, Jimmy and Bert!
From there we went into a brief introduction to the difference between the three main genres of literature: drama, poetry and prose. From there we began talking a little about Hamlet, about how this play mirrors the world, even today.
And on this same afternoon we wandered down to the Sydney Opera House to see Hamlet. The event began with a great introductory talk by Miranda, an actress with the Bell Shakespeare Company and an Arts Educator. Here is the recording of that event:
This week the lecture moved from a consideration of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 146 and its relevance to Hamlet through to a survey of how the language of drama is a very specific literary genre and how, in the case of Shakespeare, it embraces ALL the genres. Enjoy!
First Blog Topic- Questions:
1/Post a review of your overall impressions of the Bell Shakespeare production of Hamlet. Include things like: interpretation, casting/acting, lighting, stage effects… Be very economical in your blog. Stick to the point and try to stay within the word limit.
2/Are there any key differences between the Globe Shakespeare and the Bell Shakespeare productions of Hamlet? Be very economical in your blog. Stick to the point and try to stay within the word limit.
3/Write a prose soliloquy in which you are either Hamlet or Ophelia commenting on the world around you in 2020.
Thank you Jess for taking this lecture! Students had a great time working through some of the texts in the workbook with you and being introduced to the language of the theatre. They began to understand terms like mise-en-scene and the ways in which the language of the theatre is language with many bells and whistles added to it! A great start!
Are you in agreement with Dorothy Wordsworth’s reactions to S.T. Coleridge’s domestic life? Say why you agree or disagree.
“Wise Passiveness”- describe a moment in your own life where such a phrase might apply.
Write a poem about an experience in your life in which nature was the teacher.
Are the concerns expressed in the film Pandaemonium still relevant in the 21st century?
Does Wordsworth’s sonnet “The World is too much with us” apply in any measure to the contemporary 21st century world?
Can you write a poem along the lines of “The World is too much with us” that directly reflects your experience in the 21st century?
Write a letter to Dorothy Wordsworth telling her what you think of her journals.
Write a letter to either Coleridge or Wordsworth expressing your appreciation of their insight into the importance of nature in human experience.
Write a brief summary of what you consider the chief points of Wordsworth’s description of what kind of language is needed to write poetry.
Do you agree with Shelley’s assertion that poets are the “unacknowledged legislators”.
Please remember that all blog entries will have to go through Turnitin at the end of the semester and if there is any plagiarism in your entries you may forfeit the total amount for your blog component of the assessment.
Hoping you all enjoy this update of my WordPress Web/Blog site. I have now created separate pages for all the various activities in which I am engaged, from University Teaching, through to Extra-Mural (off campus teaching), through to leading contemplative pilgrimages, through to enjoying the wilderness around Sydney. Enjoy all the new content and links on my home page which is now, still at: https://michaelgriffith1.com
A Section of Brett Whiteley’sAlchemy on display at the Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills
Here are the top 9 ePortfolios presented for marking in Visionary Imagination ENGL329- and again indeed it was very hard to pick between them, although the top 2 in the list scored the maximum marks possible. All are outstanding examples of the art of blogging and of creating an effective ePortfolio in WordPress. More importantly they all demonstrate a passionate interest in the way that literature can shape our way of thinking and experiencing the world in the 21st Century. These blogs have explored the relationship between literature and painting in the work of William Blake and his impact on artists and writers Brett Whiteley and Patrick White. Many of these students have found through this study new ways of understanding and assessing their own experience and event their attitude to spirituality and to God. It has been so refreshing to see how many of you have truly found a resonance in these writers and artists with your own experience. Well done!
It was also really evident that many of you found that having to do blogs in a literature course was a powerfully liberating experience. Not only did it allow you to express yourselves freely and openly on any subject that took your fancy, but it also allowed you to connect with each other in some really meaningful ways. So thank you all again and enjoy….
AND IF YOU HAVE NOT YET POSTED YOUR EVALUATION FOR THIS UNIT INTO LEO PLEASE DO SO NOW…. !
I suspect that for most of you this is now your last literature class. So I will miss you all and hope that your future leads you into the paths that you most hope for. Please stay in touch and I am always happy to give references as needed.
These students are blogging across a number of different units. Please click on their Visionary Imagination links and go directly to their “Summative Entry”
Here are the top 12 ePortfolios presented for marking in American Literature ENGL204- and indeed it was very hard to pick between them. All are outstanding examples of the art of blogging and of creating an effective ePortfolio in WordPress. More importantly they all demonstate a passionate interest in the way that literature can shape our way of thinking and experiencing the world in the 21st Century. The fact that all these blogs deal with American literature gives them added power and relevance. As many of the blogs expose we are all (especially in Australia) so dominated by American ideas and values that reading the literature of this huge country creates a way of looking critically at the ideas and values that dominate our thinking. So writing about this is a way of giving us some freedom from the tyranny of the USA, while at the same time giving us space to celebrate the amazing creativity of so many of its poets, novelist, dramatists and thinkers.
It was also really evident that many of you found that having to do blogs in a literature course was quite a liberating experience. Not only did it allow you to express yourselves freely and openly on any subject that took your fancy, but it also allowed you to connect with each other in some really meaningful ways. So thank you all again and enjoy….
AND IF YOU HAVE NOT YET POSTED YOUR EVALUATION FOR THIS UNIT INTO LEO PLEASE DO SO NOW…. !
Hopefully I will see most of you again next year. Please have a safe and happy holiday- and do lots of reading. As soon as the text books for next semester as in place I will release these into LEO.
Please be sure to click on the American Literature link in these blogs: some of these students have a multitude of simultaneous blogs happening from their one site. So go to American- Summative Entry……. enjoy
Thank you all for being such wonderful participants in our collaborative exploration of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. We are all now a little wiser and come to this astonishing group of poems with fresh eyes. T.S. Eliot is a poet who brings the spiritual and poetic search for truth a little closer to us all. Despite his “greatness” on the world stage of poetry he is a self-proclaimed “ordinary” human being wrestling with precisely the same problems that we all have to deal with in our individual quests for truth.
It was a joy to be the ringleader in this exploration and I hope to see you all again sometime next year. Remember also (mentioned at the bottom of this blog) that I am running a “pilgrimage” in quest of contemplative poetry (especially T.S. Eliot) to England next July. Numbers are strictly limited for this event so please, if you are interested, put in your expression of interest soon.
Here now are the images I used today- click on the link
And here are the recordings of our pre and post morning tea adventures.
Remember if you have any questions at all I will be happy to answer them. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and please make mention of the fact that you are from the Aquinas T.S.Eliot group.
Pilgrimage details together with contact email are in this PDF attachment:
Thank you all for your fabulous participation in our exploration of T.S. Eliot’s East Coker the poem that confirmed for him that he was actually in the process of writing the second of what would become The Four Quartets. Published on Good Friday 1940, just near the start of the Second World War, this poem embodies a powerful expression of T.S. Eliot’s quest for spiritual insight and sanity in a world that truly had gone mad. The title of this poem connects him to his British Ancestry in the tiny village of East Coker in Somerset where his relatives had lived for around 200 years prior to their departure for the New World in search for religious freedom in 1668, in an England that was riven with religious dissent. Eliot himself was born over in America, but now, back in England, he reclaims his deepest roots with British traditions. One of his British ancestors, it turns out, was none other than the famous British 16th Century author Sir Thomas Elyot who published The Boke named The Governour in 1531. It was lines from this book that were directly imported into East Coker as part of T.S. Eliot’s seeming wish to anchor his physical and emotional life in a stable landscape of ancient rural traditions which seemed such a powerful antidote to the chaos that he saw around him in the London Blitz:
In that open field If you do not come too close, if you do not come too close, On a summer midnight, you can hear the music Of the weak pipe and the little drum And see them dancing around the bonfire The association of man and woman In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie— A dignified and commodiois sacrament. Two and two, necessarye coniunction, Holding eche other by the hand or the arm Whiche betokeneth concorde. Round and round the fire Leaping through the flames, or joined in circles, Rustically solemn or in rustic laughter Lifting heavy feet in clumsy shoes, Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth Mirth of those long since under earth Nourishing the corn. Keeping time, Keeping the rhythm in their dancing As in their living in the living seasons The time of the seasons and the constellations The time of milking and the time of harvest The time of the coupling of man and woman And that of beasts. Feet rising and falling. Eating and drinking. Dung and death.
Enjoy the slides from today’s session, the audio introductory talk and the LIVELY interaction with the always wonderfully wise and questioning audience:
Click on the East Coker link to open the slides from today’s session:
Click on the audio link below to hear the lecture, the conversation and T.S. Eliot’s own aural rendition of East Coker:
Remember that you can post into the blog either posting your own poetic creations or any comments you might have on today’s topic, by simply clicking into the Comment tab a the top right hand of this posting.
Thank you all for some fabulous blogging this semester. It has been a real feast to trawl through your many rich and creative insights into the literature of Australia. So many of you were able to express yourselves freely and openly, giving voice to what concerned you the most and finding ways of expressing your own creativity. Well done all!
Here is the cream of the crop! Most of these earned Distinction and Above for careful and well constructed efforts.
We began today’s session by reflecting on some of the key ideas in Burnt Norton, in particular the relevance of the following quotes from from parts III, IV and V of the poem. These summarize Eliot’s view of the modern human condition and also his aspiration towards a different quality of Being. You can hear the full discussion of this and indeed of the whole seminar by clicking on the sound track below. You can also view the images that were displayed during the seminar. View these alongside your listening to the talk and discussion.
Towards the end of the seminar we spent time in small groups discussing the meaning of the whole of section IV with its focus on the Kingfisher…. enjoy!
The Chinese Jar was provided by Rose! Thank you…..
Find all images used during the presentation here (click on the title Burnt Norton):
this is the first in a series of four sessions held at the Aquinas Academy in Sydney on T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. This is where you will find an audio recording of the event and the visual images that go with that event. This is also where I will post any useful links to maximise your understanding and experience of the Four Quartets.
Below I have posted all the images, videos and the audio for today’s class. You will the complete audio (1 hr 55 mins) at the very end of this entry. It may take a time to load onto your computer so be patient. Please listen to the audio in conjunction with the Images
Today was the day that our illustrious group of students put their bodies, hearts and souls into dramatizing aspects of William Blake’s life and work. It was a wonderful display of how Blake’s ideas and life stories have touched the hearts of these young students. Their environmentalism, their concern for social justice and their care for the outsider were all evidenced in this wonderfully diverse set of performance pieces many of which had been written as play scripts from scratch.
Most memorable was the performance which included a dramatization of William Blake’s thoughts on the philosopher Diogenes who was, for Blake, the archetype of one who has reduced their life to complete simplicity. Diogenes was in many ways an image of Blake himself seeking to transform the world from its selfishness and greed. Also powerfully evocative was the performance of Blake ejecting the soldier Schofield from his garden. This brought into focus so much of Blake’s politics and his concern for an England ruled by those who were not insane! Fabulous also was the newcast which explored aspects of Blake’s social and environmental concerns through his songs of innocence and experience.
Thank you all! Click on each image for an enlargement!!!
Shakespeare class 2019
This was a great launch for my own expedition today! to The Tate Gallery in London for the exhibition of Blake’s work. Simultaneously I will be giving a talk at the London Blake Society on Blake’s impact on the Antipodes:
This week we are exploring the work of two writers who in their own ways are committed to the sacred dimension of life and who are also environmentalists. Please look through the following slides to get an idea of the ground that will be covered in lectures and tutorials this week.
This week we are exploring the contrasting worlds of Robert Frost and Robert Lowell, two iconic poets of North America who have done so much to “Sing America” in the Twentieth Century. Robert Frost, inheritor of the transcendentalists and of the energy of Walt Whitman, powerfully expresses his deep love for the American landscape and of its power to open the human spirit. He also subtly depicts the pain and tragedy felt by humans as they attempt to navigate their lives. His poems “The Road Not Taken” and “Directive” are both the words of a man of wisdom who tries to encourage people to free themselves from the tyrannies of their own self-restrictions:
And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up closed to all but me.
Then make yourself at home. from “Directive”
Robert Lowell, on the other hand, is deeply, confessionally enmeshed in the tyrannies that control his whole life. And yet his profound exposition of these tyrannies, in his Confessional Poetry, is his way through to a deeper appreciation and gratitude for his given life:
I have a nine month’s daughter
young enough to be my granddaughter.
Like the sun she rises in her flame-flamingo infant’s wear. from “Memories of West Street and Lepke”.
The poems we will be looking at this week are all in our anthology and are all mentioned in the attached set of slides:
I hope you have enjoyed exploring, interrogating this group of poets and artists. Perhaps top of the list, in my estimation, comes Patti Smith who gigantically carries forward the subversive, passionate impulse of Ginsberg, Kerouac, O’Hara and Ashberry. Here she is singing her heart out, challenging all the heartless stereotypes that infect contemporary America: https://youtu.be/LNnC8hYOmlw
Blog Topics for weeks 9-11:
From today’s massive, subversive and powerfully creative world of the Beats and beyond which artist and/or writer inspired you most? Which unresolved question did they bring to stir your imagination? Which innovation in language, in image most struck your sense of what was powerful and new.
If you wish to write your last blog topic on any one of these authors then shape your question around the group of questions I have mentioned above, or take any one of them and work with it.
Alternatively, try imitating any one of the poems or prose texts that you have read for this week. See whether their creativity has kindled something new in your own imagination.
Here finally is the discussion you should all watch where Ginsberg argues the case for the kind of language that he uses in his poetry.
This is not to be missed!!! You could for your blog actually do a brief synopsis of the key ideas that are put forward in this discussion – Go For It!!!- https://youtu.be/vBpoZBhvBa4
Hi All, today we had a saunter through the highways and byways of American Modernism, beginning with William Carlos Williams and ending with Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin’s parody of Adolf Hitler in The Great Dictatoris one of the great modernist, linguistic deconstructions of political grandiosity. It is paralleled by Chaplin’s closing speech where, using an entirely different discourse – one grounded in essential humanism- he preaches the virtues of peace and tolerance in a world gone truly mad.
Indeed such were the aims and ambitions of many of the modernists, trying, through their visionary, newly created art forms (in literature, painting, sculpture, music and dance -what have I forgotten?) to undermine the prevailing destructiveness of the human species.
T.S.Eliot especially was one such “modernist” who threw the weight of his creativity at the disordered world, firstly by dramatizing the life of a victim of modern urbanization, J.Alfred Prufrock. Secondly, Eliot created this huge cameo poem which depicted Western Civilization in a state of collapse: The Waste Land. But in this poem he underpinned his narrative with the story of the search for the holy grail. Close to the end of this momentous poem Eliot writes: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins”. This is as if to say that the modernist fragments that compose this poem, have in their entirety been his way of expressing his sense of the way through this terrible scenario that we have created. In his last poems, in particular The Four Quartets, he interrogates the power of his own poetry making, his use of language. As so many modernists – in all art forms- he tries to probe the essence of art making, of poetry making: what can it reach? where can it take us? what is its purpose in this crazy chaotic world? Is it a source of healing? Can it bring us enlightenment? Is it the God given tool that enables us to see beyond our fragmented, destructive world, into a realm that can bring peace and understanding? Here are a few key lines from this wonderful poem, these from section V of “Burnt Norton”:
…. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence…
And all is always now…..
Sudden in a shaft of sunling
Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick, now, here, now always-
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.
BLOG TOPICS ARISING FROM WEEK 9
1/ Select the one modernist poem or text that you found spoke to you most directly. Quote the text and tell us how the text moved you.
2/ Take a single line from any of the modernist poems in our reading and use this line to create your own modernist poem, using the techniques of imagism.
3/ Add to Ezra Pound’s list of “Don’ts” as they apply to a beginning writer.
4/ Write a response, either agreeing or disagreeing, with Mina Loy’s revolutionary suggestion that women should undergo “unconditional surgical destruction of virginity”.
5/ Try to write either a William Carlos Williams, an Ezra Pound or an e.e.cummings poem using your own subject matter but sticking to their language and form. As a starting point you might try either “The Red Wheelbarrow”, or “In a Station of the Metro” or e.e.cummings “in Just-”
Charles Demuth “I Saw the figure 5 in Gold” William Carlos Williams
This week Jess ventured into the amazing territory of William Faulkner’s re-creation of the world from the inside. He takes us right into the centre of the consciousness of each of his characters Addie Bundren, Anse Bundren and their children (Cash, Darl, Dewey Dell, Vardaman and Jewel [fathered by Whitfield]. Each character has their own way of thinking, feeling and seeing the world. Each character suffers in their unique way, divided in some way or other against themselves.
Cash: I made it on the bevel. 1. There is more surface for the nails to grip…. 6. Except. 7. A body is not square like a crosstie……[For Cash the world is to be measured by his carpenter mind, all lines and squares- “Except”… there are always exceptions in the complex world of human beings, that Cash cannot quite reconcile.]
Darl: The lantern sits on the stump. Rusted, grease-fouled, its cracked chimney smeared on one side with a soaring smudge of soot…. [Darl sees what is around him as ugly and deformed, he is self-obsessed and rarely looks objectively at what is around him.]
Vardaman: “Jewel’s mother is a horse,” Darl said. “Then mine can be a fish, cant it, Darl?” I said. Jewel is my brother. “Then mine will have to be a horse, too,” I said….[measures everything by what he hears people say. He is deeply influenced by every utterance.]
“….Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again….”
By which Faulkner meant that through his work – his writing- he was hoping to bring about a recognition in the young that the only thing worth knowing are the problems of the human heart that make up the burden of who and what we are. Humanity needs self-knowledge, in the great tradition of Socrates whose directive “Know Thyself” is the key to our full humanity.
Blog topics for Week 8:
CREATIVE: Using any one of Faulkner’s 15 character voices as a guide, create a paragraph in the voice of a character totally different to yourself. Think about people you might have overheard on the train or bus, or someone you might have seen randomly on a street corner. Invent their life, their consciousness in a paragraph. Who knows it might become the start of a larger work!
CRITICAL: Using tutorial work from this week as a starting point, choose any passage from As I Lay Dying and analyse how the language shows the distinctiveness of the character and reveals the purpose of Faulkner’s writing.
CRITICAL: How do you understand Faulkner’s extraordinary statement in his Nobel Prize speech “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself … alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat” ?
CRITICAL: What do you think Faulkner might have meant by the caption that is around his neck in the image at the top of this blog?
CREATIVE/ CRITICAL: Create your own topic that draws on As I Lay Dying and that also brings aspects of your own experience into the writing.
A Spring morning walk around Cowan brought hundreds of new colours to life: red waratahs, purple comespermum (pink matcheads), purple boronias (both the ledifolia and the pinnata, yellow hakea salicafolio, bright blue dampiera, brilliant yellow ispogon and the powerfully pink eriostomon Australiensis. Add to this the amazing sight of rare night-jar spotted just before dawn on this same walk. Wow! What a feast! Comesperma ericinum
What a wonderful world Patrick White takes us into in this remaking of the Australian social landscape in line with his own prophetic ambition to re-sacralize a spiritually desolate land. As he says in his essay “The Prodigal Son”:
Because the void I had to fill was so immense, I wanted to try to suggest in this book every possible aspect of life, through the lives of an ordinary man and woman. But at the same time I wanted to discover the extraordinary behind the ordinary, the mystery and the poetry which alone could make bearable the lives of such people, and incidentally, my own life since my return.
This is precisely what Patrick White does with his four “outcast” characters in Riders: Miss Hare, Mrs Godbold, Mordecai Himmelfarb and Alf Dubbo. He shows that behind their exterior there is an imaginative richness and wealth about which most of us would know nothing. It reminds me of those amazing lines from Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?
The final scene in the book where Mrs Godbold is experiencing such joy in her children and grandchildren is a wonderful case in point. She is a totally ordinary woman who looks “something of a joke” “From behind, her great beam, under the stretchy cardigan”. But from another perspective, from the angle of inner vision “she also wore a crown” and her eyelids were “gilded with [the]..splendour” of the golden sunset. Patrick White creates this memorable portrait of the extraordinary inner beauty of this totally ordinary looking individual! Patrick White is a master artist who has a magical ability to transform the mundane into the ineffable!
*Write a short paragraph in which you attempt to explain (with possible examples) what Patrick White means when he describes his art as “a struggle to create completely fresh forms out of the rocks and sticks of words”.
*Using something of Patrick White’s style of writing describe a totally ordinary person in such a way that you reveal their inner humanity, totally different from what their exterior appearance might suggest.
*Write an imaginary letter to Ms Hare; tell her what you think about her qualitites as a woman of nature
*Produce a youtube video in which you present a dramatic reading of a memorable passage from Riders in the Chariot.
*Create a brief annotated digital kit showing some of the immense resources that are available on the net for finding out more about Patrick White’s creative and personal life especially in relation to Riders in the Chariot.
*Create your own topic based on any aspect of the literature we have been studying this week- including references to your own life experience as appropriate.
What an amazing morning and early afternoon was had by us all today, starting in the Print Room in the NSW Art Gallery where we saw the actual, original prints from William Blake’s The Book of Job series. In this transformation Blake tells Job’s story in order to show how religion needs to move away from theological formulations and moralistic judgmentalism to an open-hearted acceptance of the immense mystery and wonder of creation and towards an inner experience of the sacred
This series embodied much of Blake’s quest to “cleanse the doors of perception” as he dramatizes Job’s journey, surrounded with texts from the Old Testament, the New Testament and from The Book of Job itself. We then walked to 2 Raper Street, the Brett Whiteley Studio. To travel through Whiteley’s transformative imagination, through the birth canal that produced that shock of ginger hair, on down the eye beam that absorbed Blake’s grain of sand, out into the universe of stars and then across the horror’s of the world stage during the Vietnam war period and on through the amazing bird-filled grass lands of the Australian bush crowned both with an actual human brain and a lyre-bird singing 16 songs simultaneously, and when you put your eye onto the lyre-bird’s eye you see your own eye staring back at you
and then on to the ritual suicide of the Japanese writer who committed ritual suicide (seppuku) having decided the gap between art and action could only be closed in this way….
Debra in the print room NSW Art Gallery + MG on Blake’s Job:
Blog Questions for this week:
You may also do the following: say, in word (critical or creative) in image (critical or creative), in video (critical or creative) what inspired you MOST today from all the myriad of impressions you received at either the Brett Whiteley Studio or the Prints and Drawing Room where the NSW Art Gallery had so brilliantly set up for us the whole collection of Blake’s Job series.
Patrick White- Australia’s only Literature Nobel Laureate.
“In all directions stretched the Great Australia Emptiness, in which the mind is the least of possessions, in which the rich man is the important man… in which beautiful youths and girls stare at life through blind blue eyes… the buttocks of cars grow hourly glassier, food means cake and steak… and the march of material ugliness does not raise a quiver from average nerves.”
This is what Patrick White wrote in his essay “The Prodigal Son” an essay which, like the protagonist of its title, was about White’s homecoming to Australia after years away in Europe. So why did he decide to stay in Australia if he was so disturbed by all that he saw? Do his stories and novels give a clue? I think they do. He wanted to reinvent Australia, deepen its concerns with matters that were not materialistic. In his own words “I wanted to discover the extraordinary behind the ordinary, the mystery and the poetry which alone could make bearable the lives of such people, and incidentally, my own life since my return” (“The Prodigal Son”).
So how does this fit with the stories, extracts from novels, essays that you have been exploring this week?
Clearly “Down at the Dump” is an opportunity for White to celebrate the most ordinary, the outcast, in the form of Daise (Mrs Hogben’s sister). The relationship that is described between Meg and her aunt Daise is full of the “mystery and poetry” that White speaks of. The same might be said about the interaction between Meg and Lummy. And these moments of “mystery and poetry” (that might be as much about flowers and gardens as they are about trucks driving through the night!) stand out as a kind of critique of the “material ugliness” that seems to describe the life of Mrs Hogben, her husband and all the counsellors that belong to that group. Patrick White seems to enjoy satirising those parts of Australian society that have no soul. And he is looking to celebrate soul wherever he can find it.
I think “Miss Slattery and her Demon Lover” is a story that deeply questions a kind of soulless fun. But I am not sure who is the main target of White’s criticism here? Is it Miss Slattery herself or is it Tibby Szabo. The story is a kind of grotesque image of partying in Australia.
Clearly the section from the end of Voss is a glimpse into the heart and mind of those who have been touched by Voss’s questing spirit. Both Laura Trevelyan and Judd carry with them a sense of something beyond the ordinary, the mundane. They seem to be invested with the “mystery and poetry” that White was searching for. It is probably true to say that White, in his selection of subjects for his novels was led to chose those rather eccentric, outcast figures (like Voss) who were treated with suspicion by Australian society, but who actually experienced the world as something extraordinary.
1/Chose any one of the Patrick White texts mentioned above and say how you think it illustrates what White was saying in his essay “The Prodigal Son”.
2/Write a letter to Patrick White telling him what you think of any one of the texts you have read this week.
3/Write a letter to Miss Slattery telling her what you think about the decision she made to leave Szabo.
4/Write a letter to Meg in “Down at the Dump” telling her what you think about her relationship with Lummy.
5/Create a topic of your own that links in to the readings this week and that includes some reference to your own personal experience.
Today we strode through a host of key writers, men and women, who were powerfully proclaiming the need for free expression and total acceptance as humans. Underpinned by Martin Luther King Jr, all these writers expressed passionately their sense of injustice and their need for healing. Most powerful of all was James Baldwin in his agonizing story “Going to Meet the Man”. This story expresses all the deep hurt, pain and buried hypocrisy and injustice. James Baldwin carves for himself here a niche for all time writing about the incredible humanity that man is capable of.
Blog topics for today are potentially from a huge list. Let’s see whether you can turn our questions from today into good clear answers:
* DU BOIS “The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line”. What do you think Du Bois means?
* What qualities does Du Bois believe African Americans can bring to the country?
*Does Toomer’s use of vernacular for Tom help or hinder the reader’s sympathy for Tom?
*What is Langston Hughes’ attitude to the way the Blues are being presented on Broadway? See “Note on Commercial Theatre”
*What is Hughes’ attitude to the idea of Freedom in “Words Like Freedom” and “Freedom” What is the underlying theme of “Theme for English B”?
*BALDWIN- How does Baldwin through his language technique succeed in immersing his reader in the experience of his characters? Chose any section of his amazing story “Going to Meet the Man”
*Write a letter to James Baldwin telling him what you think of the power of his writing.
*WALKER Does Alice Walker believe that the “Everyday Use” of the old quilts is protecting or destroying tradition? Remember from the Introduction that we are told that Alice Walker resembles each of the characters in her narrative.
* Write a dialogue between two sisters who are diametrically opposed in their attitudes to life at home. Use “Everyday Use” as a starting point.
Remember you are permitted ALWAYS to create your very own topic.
I have also: The Bible of Hell: which the world shall have whether they will or no.
For Blake The Marriage of Heaven and Hell occurs when the sanctimonious, commandment-loving Angel finally gives up his/her smug sense of superiority and happily embraces the flames of fire and joins the Devil’s party, a party which believes in the presence of God in each and every human being. Prior to this moment of transformation the Angel is committed to a hierarchical view of the universe in which God controls everything and human beings are all “fools, sinners, & nothings”. This is certainly how Blake saw the attitude of the churches of his time towards people in general. It is for this reason that he attacked the tyranny of the church along with the tyranny of the law and the tyranny of the state. The image above, of Nebuchadnezzar on his knees, is Blake’s image of the justifiable fear that those in authority should feel. Nebuchadnezzar was the tyrant king who was punished by being driven into the fields for seven years. Some of Blake’s audience may well have seen this as a depiction of King George III. Like King Louise of France, King George would be confronting the forces of republicanism. In this picture he is terrified. The proverb underneath him “One Law for the Lion & the Ox is Oppression” is Blake’s way of attacking the social injustices perpetrated by the law courts of his day. This was the period during which a poverty stricken man could be transported for 7 years to Australia for stealing a hat or an 11 year old girl on the streets could be transported for stealing clothes to keep herself warm. This girl, Mary Wade, is part of the family tree of Kevin Rudd.
This concluding plate in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is followed by “The Song of Liberty” which is in fact the first work of the “Bible of Hell” which Blake promised in the above Plate (Plate 24). This “Song” announces the start of a new age in which the narrator is presented as a prophet of revolution. The new king of this revolution is the Devil himself, someone who does not see human beings as “fools, sinners, & nothings”, but ratheras carriers -each and every one of them- of God, of the Divine energy, for – as the last line of “The Song of Liberty” democratically declares:
For every thing that lives is Holy
Blog Topics flowing from Week 5
1/ Say whether Blake’s view of the Divine challenges or expands your own views of Religion.
2/ Take any one of Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell” and expand its significance by describing its relevance to life TODAY. This can be either in the form of a poem or a short prose piece.
3/ In your own words, using your own imagination, continue a story that begins: “Once I saw a Devil in a flame….
4/ Create a Digital Kit that gives a range of annotated resources to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
5/ Imagine the character that lies behind this face:
What a great turn-out for this visit! Thank you all for your keen participation. We covered a wealth of material in the allocated hour from early 19th Century through to contemporary and Indigenous Art. Hoping that this will provide lots of useful insight for your blogs and your quiz! I have attached the audio talk tour below, just in case you want to listen to the lecture from your phone as you make your own tour around the gallery. For me it is always great to see these paintings again and again, but a special favourite of mine is this one by Arthur Streeton “Fire’s On: Lapstone Tunnel”. It gives such a graphic expression to the core Australian theme about the majestic power of the landscape, but also the destructive force that we humans can apply to it. It is like a painting that shows the balance point of two huge forces: human and natural. This is a theme that recurs so often in Australian literature and will be one of the most important themes in David Malouf’s Fly Away Peter.
Bog Topics this week (these are for week 4) are easy:
Here are two:
1/ CREATIVE Take any single Australian painting that you saw at the gallery yesterday (it must be one that you saw) and write a description either in poetry or prose. Pay close attention to detail in your description. What you are in fact doing in this exercise is a piece of Ekphrastic Writing. Check up the meaning of this word!
2/ CRITICAL Write a brief (illustrated) summary of what you learnt in the gallery yesterday and/or focussing on the one or two works that you found most challenging or interesting.
3/ CRITICAL Write a brief account of how you think art and literature interact in a person’s experience?
4/ CREATIVE Write and imaginary conversation you are having either with one of the artists that you looked at yesterday or one of the characters that you saw in one of the paintings (eg the man who had received the letter by horse; or Ned Kell; or Margaret Preston)
These are two of the greatest American poets of the Nineteenth Century. You are going to love their insights, their passion and their originality. Please go and read carefully the introductions to both poets in either volume of the 2 Anthologies: page 1070 and page 1246 in Volume 1 (The Norton Anthology of American Literature Shorter 9th Edition) OR page 21 and 82 in Volume 2.
You should also take a look at these wonderful films that will help you to contextualize your reading of both of these poets.
First try this 50 minute documentary that enlists the help of many well know poets to record their sense of what makes Whitman such an amazing, revolutionary writer:
Look through the list of poems in the last slide of Emily Dickinson and pick out those poems which appeal to you. Focus closely on the poems that you chose. Dickinson requires some deep contemplation. For Walt Whitman read the first “Song of Myself” (pages 1088-1132)- read it like a short story- it is only just over 40 pages! Read “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (1135-1139) and read “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d) (1148-1154). Just sit back and enjoy the rapid movement of his poetry and don’t allow yourself to get stuck on things you don’t fully understand…
Please find the audios for the lecture and the tuts, together with white board images right here:
Blog Topics on Whitman and Dickinson:
1/ Write a poem in the style of Emily Dickinson beginning with any of the following opening lines:
A Bird, came down the Walk….
I head a Fly buzz – when I died-
I cannot live with you…
I started Early – took my Dog-
The Brain – wider than the Sky-
A narrow Fellow in the Grass…
2/ Write a poem in the style of Whitman beginning with the any of the following opening lines:
I believe a leaf of grass…
I think I could turn and live with animals…
Unscrew the locks from the doors…
The little one sleeps in its cradle…
I celebrate and sing myself…
3/ Give a brief account (in your own words) of why Whitman referred to Abraham Lincoln as “O Captain! My Captain”.
4/ If you have seen the film A Quiet Passion write a brief review of the film saying how it has opened your eyes to the kind of poet Emily Dickinson was.
5/ Create your own topic that weaves your impressions of either Whitman or Dickinson (or both) into a paragraphthat expresses your sense of what is personally important about these two artists.