3.1 Ecriture

A City Isn’t Just Another City

May 8, 2009 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

                In the poem, “Howl,” by the great Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg, Ginsberg delineates many motifs, and the one motif that sticks out the most in my opinion is the motif of geography, which permeates throughout each line of the poem.  Ginsberg’s utilization of geography is very diverse, and may be divided into three main categories.  The first category is urban geography and cities, which obviously were established by Ginsberg’s ardent affiliation with New York City, where he had first formulated his “Beat” perspective that he is very much connected to.  This category can be subcategoried throughout the poem into Ginsberg’s references to New York City itself and into his references to typical aspects of urban and city life.  The first subcategory of the first category, New York City, is frankly depicted throughout the poem: “with a belt of marijuana for New York,” “the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn,” “”for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx,” “storefront boroughs” (because New York City is divided into 5 boroughs), “the drear light of Zoo” (referencing the Bronx Zoo), ” “park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,” “off windowsills off Empire State,” “who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square,” “the Staten Island Ferry also wailed,” “woke on a sudden Manhattan,” “horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams,” “”waiting for a door in the East River,” “the apartment cliff-banks of the Hudson,” “the rivers of Bowery,” “the sixth floor of Harlem,” “innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue,” “who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge,” “the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alley ways & fire trucks,” “CCNY lecturers,” “Pilgrim State’s Rockland’s” (referencing the Pilgrim State Hospital and Rockland State Hospital, which were mental institutions where either Ginsberg’s mother Naomi or Carl Solomon had been institutionalized), “the heavens of Long Island,” and in Part III, “Rockland,” “Utica” (actually in central New York State), and “the Bronx” are referenced, especially the first mentioned, which is repeated throughout through parallel structure.  Also, “submarine light of Bickford’s” and “afternoons in desolate Fugazzi’s” are places where Ginsberg and the rest of the Beats frequently hung out at in New York City.  The second subcategory that Ginsberg references is typical aspects of urban and city life: “the negro streets,” “”coldwater flats,” “the tops of cities,” “tenement roofs,” “paint hotels,” “blinking traffic light,” “over the rooftops,” “ashcan rantings” (Also could reference New York City, where the Ashcan School was established, which was a realist artistic movement which depicted daily life in New York’s poorer neighborhoods), “subways,” “the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills,” “the Synagogue cast on the pavement,” “off the roof,” “the grass of public parks,” “rose gardens,” “cemeteries,” “out of basements,” “the romance of the streets,” “under the bridge,” “under meat trucks,” “the subway window,” “cried all over the street,” “the tenement window,” “the icy streets” (which could perhaps reference New York City or any other city where snowing is frequent in the winter), “in the parks,” “whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs,” “factories dream and croak in the fog,” “whose smokestacks and antennae crown the cities,” “Robot apartments,” “demonic industries,” “pavements,” “the city to Heaven,” and “into the street.”  “Moloch” references the industrial civilization itself, and moreover, the city, which is industrialism in it’s finest form, as it fervently evokes the overwhelming horrors of futurism, advanced technology, and capitalism that Ginsberg zealously abhors in “Howl.”

               The second category of geography that Ginsberg references in this poem is basically every other area outside of New York City, that is, many different cities and states in America: Arkansas, Laredo, Paradise Alley, “nowhere Zen New Jersey,” Atlantic City Hall, and “Newark’s bleak furnished room” (Ginsberg was born and raised in New Jersey), Kansas, “streets of Idaho,” Baltimore, “the Chinaman of Oklahoma,” Houston, “America and Eternity,” “fire place Chicago,” the West Coast, “sirens of Los Alamos,” Colorado, “Denver-joy,” “empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses’ rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves,” “crosscountry,” Denver (numerous times), Alcatraz (San Francisco), Rocky Mount (North Carolina), Southern Pacific (railroad), Woodlawn (A cemetery near to where Ginsberg’s mother Naomi lived), “Greystone’s foetid halls” (Greystone State Hospital in New Jersey; once again, referencing a mental institution dealing with either Ginsberg’s mother or Carl Solomon), “the suffering of America’s naked mind,” “the American river,” and lastly, the United States is referenced twice near the very end of the poem. 

               The third and final category of geography that Ginsberg references in “Howl” are international places, that is, exotic and not-exotic places and facets outside of the United States: “poles of “Canada & Paterson” (Fellow Beat Generation writer and friend Jack Kerouac was French-Canadian and Ginsberg grew up in Paterson, New Jersey), “suffering Eastern sweats,” “Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines of China,”  ”Tangiers to boys,” and “Holy Tangiers!” (Fellow Beat Generation writer and friend William S. Burroughs had lived in Tangiers, Morocco), “so took ship to Africa,” “the volcanoes of Mexico,” “sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath,” and “who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit” (Many of the Beat Generation members did drugs, hence, “to cultivate a habit”), and “final stanzas of the Internationale.”  All of these international references may be attributed to the extensive traveling around the world that many of the Beats did during the time that “Howl” was written.

                The meaning of the motif of geography changes gradually yet drastically in the poem, as Ginsberg changes his focus starting in Part II.  In Part I, many of the geographical references, that is, all of the cities, states, and countries mentioned, correlate with the “angelheaded hipsters” and their various travels and activities, and more personally, Ginsberg associates many of the geographical references with people in his life, such as his mother Naomi (“Pilgrim’s State’s Rockland’s), his Beat Generation friends, such as Jack Kerouac (“Canada & Paterson”), William S. Burroughs (“Holy Tangiers!”), and Neal Cassady (“whoring through Colorado”) “and of course, the object of the entire poem, Carl Solomon (“threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers”).  Furthermore, he frequently references geography in terms of his own life, such as “Canada & Paterson,” since he grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, and “the sixth floor of Harlem,” which refers to an apartment that Ginsberg resided in.  The change in meaning commences in Part II, when “Moloch” is introduced, and suddenly, the geography references aren’t so much a fantastic perspective of geography, but rather a foreboding perspective, especially pertaining to the city, like “Robot apartments!”  The focus, which had always been on Carl Solomon, is now completely and meticulously placed on Solomon, as the repetitive parallel structure of “I’m with you in Rockland” and the lines in between, evoke a tone of escape, as if “Moloch” was some industrial monster destroying everything that Solomon, the Beats, and the “angelheaded hipsters” had stood for.  Moreover, “Rockland,” “the Bronx,” and “Utica” are much more significant and aren’t just places to have hallucinations, do drugs, and be apathetic towards life—they were nostalgic sanctuaries that represented better, carefree, and non-industrial days.  The exact reason why Ginsberg uses geography as a motif is because of just that—representation.  Each city, state, country, and aspect of life that Ginsberg refers to in “Howl” represents a family member, a friend, or an activity that is very much inculcated in Ginsberg’s mind.  This is true for all of us, as we very often correlate a location with a good or bad memory, an activity worth remembering, or a very important person in our lives.  Furthermore, by repeating and developing this motif incessantly, Ginsberg wants readers, just like himself, to not easily forget the places we’ve been and traversed to, that is, to scrupulously remember every single detail concerning those places, and to fully comprehend that these places don’t always represent pleasant memories, but can also represent melancholic ones.  These places aren’t static; they may seem like amazing places now, but could later seem like terrible places, due to some unforeseen circumstance or event.  To finish, “Howl” establishes geography as a very crucial facet to our lives as it helps to keep us remember people and events, and thus, a location isn’t just another location, and a city isn’t just another city.


What a Tangled Web Our Loyalty Weaves

May 5, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

                In the play “A View from the Bridge” by Arthur Miller, the protagonist, a blue-collar shipyard worker residing in Brooklyn named Eddie Carbone, deals with the idea of “loyalty” throughout the entire play.  Loyalty is usually viewed as something virtuous—like loyalty to your country, your family, your friends, and so forth, but as Carbone’s loyalty to his family is first something very admirable, it turns tragic and dishonorable when his loyalty blinds him and leads to his demise.  To begin with, Carbone is loyal to his blue-collar Brooklyn roots, and is perfectly fine with the status quo of his life.  Secondly, Carbone is loyal to his entire family, that is, his doting yet frustrated wife Beatrice and his girl-turned-woman niece Catherine, with whom he is secretly in love with, so to speak.  When Beatrice’s two “submarine” cousins, Marco and Rodolfo, leave their native and humble home in Italy and illegally emigrate to the United States, the Carbones offer them their hospitality in their meek abode in Brooklyn.  At first, Eddie is content with the Italian interlopers, until Rodolfo starts courting Catherine, which fills Eddie with trepidation over losing her, and also causes Eddie to wrongfully suspect Rodolfo of not truly loving Catherine for the right reasons, and as he constantly says throughout the novel, Rodolfo is “just not right.”  Now, his loyalty starts to blind him, as he seeks to purge Rodolfo (not Marco because Marco is “right”) out of his life and out of Catherine’s life by any means necessary, such as speaking with wise lawyer Alfieri about it, who assures Eddie that “there’s nothing you can do” (46).  His loyalty to Catherine is most evident here, as he continues to despise Rodolfo and embarrasses him when the time seems apt, such as teaching him boxing in front of Beatrice, Catherine, and Marco, and hitting him, slightly angering the strong and masculine Marco.  Towards the end, Eddie ends up doing the most unfathomable thing family can do to family (who happen to be illegal immigrants), and rats them out to the Immigration Office, causing Marco to spit on him in front of the entire neighborhood, and at the very end, Eddie, due to his loyalty to his family and to his name, proceeds to stab him, but Marco gets the last word as he ends Eddie’s life instead.

              Loyalty is something imperative and virtuous in the blue-collar, ethnic community that Miller portrays because the Brooklyn neighborhood where the Carbone Family reside is very-much that diverse, close-knit, self-effacing community where everybody knows everybody, and everyone is loyal to each other—family is loyal to family and neighbors are loyal to neighbors.  Everyone is looking out for each other and if something detrimental destroys that bond and affects one family, it will affect the entire neighborhood.  Furthermore, at the beginning of the story, Eddie and Beatrice inform Catherine about a former neighbor named Vinny Bolzano, who had snitched to the Immigration Offices about his uncle.  They inculcate in Catherine’s head that he is a “stool pigeon” and that he had been spit on by his own father and brothers afterwards in front of the whole neighborhood.  Eddie even says, “You’ll never seen him no more, a guy do a thing like that? How’s he gonna show his face?” (18)  At this point, it seems that loyalty is the most important thing to Eddie, but towards the end of the story, Eddie’s loyalty to Catherine causes him to jettison his loyalty to Marco and Rodolfo and to the neighborhood, and do the one thing that he had instructed Catherine to never do, and in a sense—he became a hypocrite, he became Vinny Bolzano.  In the same adverse manner that Bolzano covertly snitched on his uncle and was spit on in front of the whole neighborhood, Eddie also covertly snitched on Marco and Rodolfo, and was spit on in front of the whole neighborhood by Marco.  Loyalty ended Eddie’s life in the end, but more crucially, it ended the good man that he once was.

               Loyalty might have been a complicated issue to Miller in the 1950s because, most evidently, Miller was a candid member of the Communist Party, and loyalty to American ideals and government would definitely be a complicated issue for Miller in the 1950s, given the opportune timing of McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare permeating throughout the United States at the time.  Loyalty must have been the last thing on Miller’s mind, and unlike Eddie Carbone, whose ardent loyalty was ultimately detrimental and ended his life; Miller, was more of like Marco and Rodolfo, and his lack of loyalty led him to be snitched on by friend and film director Elia Kazan to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).  Moreover, Miller’s lack of loyalty was also beneficial, as it led to him writing his most frequently produced play, The Crucible, which, through the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, mirrored the McCarthy-HUAC-anti-Communism sentiment that was occurring in the 1950s, even though the HUAC refused him a passport to go to the play’s opening in London in 1954, and the government not allowing you to leave the country is just as harsh as the government deporting you from the country. 

               As I’ve stated previously, Eddie Carbone harbors many loyalties, which are, loyalty to his family, loyalty to Marco and Rodolfo, loyalty to his neighborhood, loyalty to Catherine, and loyalty to his own name.  Moreover, loyalty is such a difficult value for Eddie because many of his loyalties conflict with each other, and while the conflicts may have caused good at the beginning, such as letting Marco and Rodolfo to stay at their home, the conflicts have ultimately led to him making horrible decisions and of course, have led to his own death.  Indeed, his loyalty to his family had driven him to work as diligently as he had and provide for them, but his loyalty to Catherine eventually led to betraying Marco and Rodolfo, and in that sense, led to betraying his family and losing his loyalty to his family.  Most evidently, Eddie’s loyalty to his own name led him to pursue stabbing Marco after he spit on him, and Marco ended up stabbing Eddie instead (with Eddie’s own knife), which killed him.  The bottom line is that Eddie’s loyalties unfortunately weaved a tangled web, and as one loyalty destroyed another loyalty, Eddie destroyed the lives of others, and eventually destroyed his own life. 

                To finish, my own notion of loyalty has been tested, perhaps not to the extent that Eddie’s loyalty has been tested, but it has definitely been tested in terms of loyalty to my friends and family.  Throughout my life, I have fervently believed that loyalty to family is superior to loyalty to my friends, but there certainly have been times when I questioned that prinicple.  If I had a prior obligation to my family, but my friends wanted me to hang out with them or something along that line, it was always an undemanding choice to choose family, even if the obligation came later, and overall, this situation is trivial.  Furthermore, the most problematic situation would be if I was attending to an obligation or event with my family, and an unforeseen and dire situation came up where my friend or friends really needed me.  As much as I would want to just instantaneously drop everything and tend to my friend’s situation, family always comes first.  It has always been a complex situation, and my final decision is always a heartrending one, but my loyalty always lies with my family above anything else.  The worst part is that this is only going to get worst in the future because I’ll still have my family and my old friends, but then there will be new friends, careers, and companies, and more aspects of my life which will always put “loyalty to family” against something old or new in my life.  Truthfully, my loyalty situation is far more petty in comparison to Eddie’s loyalty situation, but the common thread which is sewn through both of our tangled webs is family.  Moreover, I don’t plan to snitch on my future husband’s cousins to the Immigration Office anytime soon, but I might just leave a family function to help a friend in a grim situation one day. 


“Indian Camp” and Our Society – The Uncanny Truth of It All

April 29, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

             In the short story “Indian Camp” by the great Ernest Hemingway, a doctor, his young son Nick, and colleague Uncle George traverse to a camp of Native Americans, where they assist in the difficult labor of a young Native American woman.  Underlying the main plot of the story, is the young woman’s injured and distressed husband, who ultimately ends his life, and the unfortunate and naive Nick blinding himself from the actual lesson that his doctor father was teaching him along the way.  “Indian Camp” presents a dichotomy between the doctor, Nick, and Uncle George and the Native Americans living on the camp.  Also, the story proffers the dichotomy between the doctor and the young woman’s husband concerning the primary situation in the plot. 

               Hemingway definitely depicts Native Americans as somewhat primitive and authentic in this story, and the reason behind that is that he depicted them as they really and truly are.  Native Americans have based their lives and culture on residing serenely in the woods and out of society for the most part.  In the story, the doctor, his son Nick, and Uncle George met some of the young Native American campers at a lake shore, then proceeded to take a rowboat across the lake until they stopped at a beach. (91)  After that, they were led by the young campers “through a meadow that was soaking wet with dew” (91), and then “they went into the woods and followed a trail that “led to the logging road as the timber was cut away on both sides” (91).  It was common for Native Americans to live deep in the woods, also given the fact that this particular camp harbored some bark peelers (92).  The camp consisted of a succinct existence of people and barking dogs, and they resided in “shanties” (92).  Furthermore, the fact that the camp had to bring in Nick’s father, a doctor who has all of the utmost medical technology available to him at the time at his discretion, in order to alleviate the young woman’s difficult labor was another testament to their primitive depiction, and moreover, the fact that the doctor put “several things he unwrapped from a handkerchief” into a big kettle (93) and scrubbed his hands in a “basin of hot water with a cake of soap he had brought from the camp” (93) prior to the operation demonstrates that he also utilized what simple things were available to him at the camp.  More importantly, the idea that he performed a Caesarian section on the young woman with a ”jack-knife” and sewed it up “with nine-foot, tapered gut leaders” (94) is in itself an imposing endeavor for the doctor, given the primitive circumstances, hence, the doctor lightheartedly remarked to Uncle George following the accomplished mission, “That’s one for the medical journal, George” (94).  All of these, along with the fact that after the young woman bit Uncle George on the arm he exclaimed, “Damn squaw bitch!” (93), establish the aforementioned dichotomy between the lives of the effectual interlopers and the lives of the Native American campers, and how genuinely different their cultures are.  The doctor, son Nick, and Uncle George live in society, while the Native Americans live outside of it; the former live more modern lives, whereas the latter live more primitive and isolated yet culturally-enriching lives.  Furthermore, American history has justly proven that Native Americans haven’t been the most well-treated group of people in our country.

              The other dichotomy in “Indian Camp” is one between the doctor and the young Native American woman’s husband, and their opposite features pertaining to the young’s woman’s difficult labor.  When the doctor, Nick, and Uncle George initially enter the shanty where the young woman, among the other older women who were assisting her, was dwelling, she was lying in the lower bed bunk, whereas her husband was lying in the upper bed bunk. The husband had “cut his foot very badly with an ax three days before” (92), and he was already exhibiting the nonchalant and nearly apathetic manner with which he was dealing with his wife’s trying situation, as he was “smoking a pipe” (92) and as a result, the “room smelled very bad” (92), which most likely didn’t alleviate his wife’s difficult circumstance.  On the other hand, the doctor is very much focused on the task at hand, as he states, “But her screams are not important.  I don’t hear them because they are not important.” (92)  Granted the doctor is obviously and meticulously concentrating and he has probably heard his fair share of women screaming-in-absolute pain during labor in his career (which was why that reaction wasn’t such a huge deal), the woman’s husband should place some amount of concern and trepidation toward her situation, but he chose not to, and “rolled over against the wall” (92) instead, which eventually results in him committing suicide.  In fact, the doctor even showcases the newborn boy to son Nick, and jokingly asks him, “How do you like being an interne?” (93).  The doctor makes sure Nick is aware of the technicality of everything that he is performing on the young woman, such as the stitches that he made which sewed up the woman’s incision after the operation, much to Nick’s displeasure.  After the entire operation was finished, Nick’s father lightheartedly stated that his accomplishment should be in a medical journal given his substandard yet very effective tools, and “was feeling exalted and talkative as football players are in the dressing room after a game” (94).  The husband’s reaction was not quite as jubilant as the doctor’s, as the doctor then discovers that the husband had slit his throat with an open razor and killed himself, and his suicide was best and most bluntly summarized by the doctor prior to the discovery, “I must say he took it all pretty quietly.”  The obvious difference between the doctor and the husband lies in the fact that while the doctor’s principal objective was to help the woman and get the baby safely out of her, meaning that once he had accomplished this mission, he could leave; the husband, already overwhelmed by his injured foot, his screeching wife, and perhaps the daunting idea of becoming a father, would absolutely have to deal with his wife, his new baby, and the whole situation, meaning that he couldn’t leave.  The only possible escape from his impending misery would have to be suicide, and thus, while the doctor was bringing a new life into the world, the woman’s husband covertly ended his. 

              To finish, “Indian Camp” echoes many themes that could occur in today’s society: the trepidation of becoming a father, suicide, and the raw truthfulness of a young boy not comprehending what is actually happening in the world.  Also, I found it ironic that Uncle George made and gave cigars to the young Native Americans who helped him, the doctor, and Nick cross the lake and find the camp prior to the baby’s birth, given that the accustomed tradition in our contemporary society is for newly christened fathers to offer cigars to their friends following the birth.  Furthermore, fathers usually smoke cigars in celebration of their new-found position and new addition to their families, but the husband in this story smokes a pipe out of utter melancholy and stress concerning the situation.  Moreover, while the doctor and everyone else were at the shanty, many of the men of the camp “had moved off up the road to sit in the dark and smoke out of range of the noise” (92) the woman had made, as if the road was the waiting room of a hospital, where a plethora of apprehensive fathers and family members in our contemporary society have sat fretfully and walked around restlessly in circles.  If the road is like a waiting room, then perhaps the “Indian Camp” reflects our own society—I guess we’re not all that different from each other after all.




The Armory Galleries – Modern is Different

April 25, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

            After my wonderful tour of the Armory Galleries, I realized how significant art, from different periods of time and in various forms, is to the foundation of American culture, and many works of art which audaciously pushed the boundaries of the usual standards of art during their time perneated the entire exhibition.  My personal favorite was the artwork concerning urban and city life as well as New York City in particular given my affinity for that amazing city, but I also love Impressionism, and the gallery which excellently exhibited the works of the great artists of this style were very pleasing for me to view.  To begin with, Gallery A was a great introduction into the entire exhibition, and I was very content to view the unconventional works, such as Andrew Dasburg’s “Lucifer” sculpture and Abastenia St. Eberle’s “White Slave” which was controversial and a form of social commentary.  The Ashcan artists and their principles were very interesting, especially those which dealt with the immigrant life of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  Gallery B features more American Paintings and Sculpture, which was great, given the fact that most well-known sculptors are European, it was good to view the contemporary works of artists like Chester Beach.  Gallery C was definitely one of my favorite galleries, because I became an admirer of George Bellows and his paintings which depicted both upper-class and working-class forms of public entertainment, especially his delineations of boxing and the circus.  After that, I traversed into Gallery D, which exhibited more American paintings, and I enjoyed viewing the paintings of Kathleen McEnery and her talent of delineating both strength and effortlessness simultaneously.  More American paintings were displayed in Gallery E, and I really like “Battle of Lights, Coney Island” because of its vivid color and haphazard structure of intertwining lines. 

              Following that gallery, I ventured into Gallery F, which featured American painters who were influenced by Impressionism, such as Daniel Putnam Brinley, whose paintings exhibit the standard Impressionist features of thick brushstrokes and an emphasis on light reflection and color.  Then, I visited Gallery G, which leaves the American paintings behind and introduces English, Irish, and German Paintings and Drawings, including the works of the avant-garde Wassily Kandinsky and other German Expressionists.  Then the gallery continues it’s European exhibition with the British painters, such as the Post-Impressionist Augustus John, and I very much enjoyed his painting “Group of Boys Paddling” in all of its simplicity and composure.  To finish, the gallery features the Irish painters, such as Jack Butler Yeats, who is the brother of the great poet William Butler Yeats.  His painting, “Circus Dwarf” is so raw and purely realistic that it appears as if it were a photograph.  Gallery H was the largest gallery in the entire exhibtion, and it definitely makes perfect sense given that this galley features French Paintings and Sculpture.  The beginning displayed some of the paintings of the talented Fauvist Henri Matisse and his gallant and disturbingly amazing paintings of nudes.  The gallery continues with French Post-Impresssionists and Fauvists, and ends with the thought-provoking sculptures of Constantin Brancusi and Wilhelm Lehmbruck.  Gallery I, the “Chamber of Horrors,” was the epicenter of the entire Armory exhibition, featuring the mind-blowing and appallingly beautiful paintings of French Cubism, including the famous “Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2″  by the artfully divisive and avant-garde Marcel Duchamp.  In addition to Duchamp, the gallery features other French Cubists such as Francis Picabia and one of the originators of Cubism, George Braque, his other half being the iconic Pablo Picasso.  Wrapping up this gallery are other talents, like Robert Delaunay, and all of these excellent artists make “The Cubist Room” not so horrible after all. 

                From the bold and intense “Chamber of Horrors,” I ventured to Gallery J, which permeates a more serene atmosphere featuring French Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings.  This continues in Gallery K, with the addition of some American paintings.  This was another one of my favorite galleries because of John Marin’s watercolors of Manhattan buildiings, especially the series of paintings featuring the Woolworth Building, which was not only opportune given the year of the opening of the building, but also because I love New York City and Manhattan and it’s always gratifying to see the wonderful Manhattan cityscape immortalized in art format.  Another reason why this gallery was one of my favorites was because of Oscar Bluemner’s paintings of urban working-class women in immoral situations, such as “Babe La Tour” and “The Musician.”  Gallery L showcases American watercolors, drawings, and other art forms, and features the previously mentioned George Bellows and his Impressionistic portrayal of the upper-class entertainment of polo, “Polo at Lakefield.”  Once again, the Ashcan group is represented, including John Sloan’s etchings of the metropolitan lifestyle of the commoners of NYC’s Lower East Side, which ruminated  with rawness and social commentary, and “The Picture Buyer” which reflected Sloan’s own experience with art dealers.  The veritable image of the urban poor is also present in Charles White’s etchings, most lucidly in “Condemned Tenement.”  The black and white etchings that Sloan and White produced of urban poverty perfectly reflects the tone of the subject—black and white, and ultimately bleak.  Following this gallery, Gallery M displayed more American paintings, including one of Edward Hopper’s earlier, pre-”Nighthawks” works, “Sailboat.”  Also, there is a diverse variety of American styles, including Leon Kroll’s dreary yet realistic “Terminal Yards.”  Gallery N features more American paintings and scultpture, and in particular, the talents of American Fauvism, such as Morton Schamberg, and his painting, “Study of a Girl,” screaming with bold blues, purples, and greens. 

               Gallery O was definitely one of my favorite galleries because it focused on French paintings, including my favorite French art period, Impressionism.  All of the usual suspects were featured—Mary Cassatt, Manet, Monet, Edgar Degas, Renoir—and even some Post-Impressionists—Toulouse-Lautrec and Georges Seurat.  I absolutely adored Seurat’s “Les Poseuses” and Renoir’s “Algerian Girl,” both of which were so simple and tranquil.  Gallery P showcased French, English, Dutch, and American Paintings, and the most uncanny and thought-provoking work was Henri Rousseau’s “Horse Attacked by a Jaguar” and one bluntly realistic work was Honore Daumier’s “Third-Class Carriage.”  French paintings also were exhibited in Gallery Q, with the focus being on the two leaders of Post-Impressionism, Paul Cézanne and Vincent Van Gogh.  Each painting by these influential artists stands out on its own, but my favorite paintings are the former’s “Four Bathers” and the latter’s “A Pair of Leather Clogs,” one of his definitely lesser-known paintings.  The final gallery in the Armory exhibition, Gallery R, focuses on French, English, and Swiss paintings, including the works of Post-Impressionist and Tahiti expatriate Paul Gauguin.  This gallery displays many of Gauguin’s amazing Tahitian-inspired paintings, as well as one of his earlier and more conservative paintings, “The Schuffenecker Family.” 

               The Armory Galleries, besides exhibiting an amazing collection of paintings, drawings, and sculpture by many of the most talented and influential artists in history, served the purpose of exuding pure modernism.  Each work of art, no matter how old it was, is modern, that is, modern during the time it was produced.  At the time that Monet was laying down thick brushstrokes on a canvas, he was advancing a new technique in the art world, and when Brancusi sculpted “Mademoiselle de Pologany,” it was an idea that broke through the then standards of sculpture.  Many of the artists featured at the Armory were ridiculed and mocked by conventional artists for their vast vision and passion for change—the change to become more modern.  Moreover, breaking free from the shackles of conservatism and into the world of doing something mind-blowing, ground-shaking, and absolutely different, and furthermore, becoming a catalyst.  The Cubists featured in the “Chamber of Horrors” (Gallery I) took their atypical vision and changed art, as did Van Gogh, Gauguin, and every single artist featured in the Armory.  That is what makes the works of art in the Armory modern—change.  Each work was inspired by previous artists and styles, but each was ultimately executed into something personal, unique, and completely unusual.  Modern is new, and modern is different.



The Didactic and Empathetic Narrator

April 5, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

           The narrator of Sister Carrie is integral to the entire novel, as the narrator provides the most detailed and comprehensive information about every character, their feelings, and the various settings that encompass the characters.  The narrator is an educated and logical man who views the characters and their actions in a rational manner, and at times, depending upon the character and situation, he will speak in a didactic tone, almost teaching us about the true nature of each of the characters, as well as the true nature of people and society in general.  The narrator’s presence is vital, for the fact that, as I mentioned previously, he is the source of updated information concerning the characters and the entrance into the insight of each of the characters.  The narrator’s role is simple; he mostly defines each character’s current state of mind, and then summarizes their emotions or some other aspect before proceeding to the next stage in the novel.

          In the excerpt I received, the narrator’s presence is like a pigeon looking down while perched on a rooftop; he is merely viewing what the characters are doing from afar, but also knows and feels every emotion that they harbor and express.  In the excerpt, the narrator is speaking through Carrie’s eyes and perspective, which is evident by the mention of her name at the beginning of the excerpt, and the frequent usage of the words, “she”, “her”, and “herself”, amalgamated with the utmost details concerning the other two main characters in the novel, Drouet and Hurstwood.  The narrator succinctly yet meticulously delineates Carrie and her feelings, and accomplishes this through a mixture of erudite and simple vocabulary and syntax, such as “…had already fallen prey to these doubts and misgivings which are ever the result of a lack of decision,” with “people go a-begging.”  As I stated previously, the narrator may be classified as an educated man with a logical perspective, who is in touch with the middle and working classes, and who in every narration in the novel fuses optimism and pessimism.  Moreover, the narrator’s presence is initially descriptive, then didactic, and in that sense, he is teachng us about Carrie and about women and love in general.

          The narrator’s role in the excerpt that I received is to scrupulously describe Carrie’s current state of being and her feelings at that point (almost empathizing with her), and then he teaches a lesson on women and love to finish the excerpt.  The foundation of the excerpt is Carrie’s covert relationship with Hurstwood and her various emotions correlated with that relationship.  Furthermore, the narrator delineates Carrie’s struggle with this relationship as she reminisces on all of the things that Drouet has done for her, and how merciless it was for her to just walk away from his magnanimity into the loving arms of Hurstwood.  The narrator then continues by describing Hurstwood and his lack of the “majesty of passion” that is “possessed by nearly every man once in his life” and his understanding of youth, being an older man, correlating with that passion.  To finish, the narrator evokes his didactic self, and teaches about women and love in general, emphasizing the fact that Carrie, like most women, may have just been imagining herself in love, because she yearned to be love, but she truly wasn’t in love.  He wants us to understand that Carrie is relatable; she is like many women, and thus was another victim of thinking she was in love.  In addiition, Carrie is a young woman, and like many young women, goes through the confusion that “love” causes and she has the naive mindset that aids the confusion.



The Triumphant Narrator and Former Slave Marches in Defeat

March 12, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

          “The Yellow Wallpaper, a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman,  ends in this manner: “Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!”  The woman, who also served as the narrator, had been inevitably descending into psychosis, and this act was the absolute last straw.  It cemented the narrator’s descent into psychosis and simultaneously befundled her “high standing physician” husband Dr. John into utter disbelief and subsequent fainting.  This profound and almost exhilarating conclusion scene represented both a victory and a defeat for the atypical and highly imaginative narrator.

          To begin with, this conclusion scene represented both a victory and a defeat for our inventive and adoringly eccentric narrator by opportunely “unshackling” her from the confinement that her overprotective husband had her bound to, thus representing a victory, but also unfortunately keeping her in the same state of palpable psychosis that she had already experiencing throughout the story, thus representing a defeat.  In her opinion, she had finally gained freedom, and unbound herself from the lackadaisical captivity that husband Dr. John had placed her under.  Furthermore, although the narrator feels that she has at last gained freedom, she actually is still under captivity, but not by her straitlaced husband, but by her own free-wheeling psychosis.  The woman was a slave up in the nursery in the attic, and a captive to a master who fervently refuses to allow her to do anything, especially her copious writing, until she is better and back to normal wife status.  Then, she escaped her captivity and her “master” in a sense, but ended up being enslaved by another master—her own distorted perception of reality. 

        In addition, this conclusion scene represented both a victory and a defeat for the lovingly peculiar narrator in terms of her high standing physician of a husband, John.  Throughout the story, the narrator had been zealously trying to convince her husband that she is more than just merely sick, that is, more than just a victim of nervous depression; a victim of “a slight hysterical tendency.”  The victory occurred when dear husband John found the key that she chucked outside of the summer house, opened the secure door, curiously and appallingly shouted at her, then subsequently fainted, and it was at that pivotal point that he finally realized his “not-so-sick” wife was truly and atrociously crazy.  Moreover, Dr. John fainted right across his wife’s path to the wall, and she bluntly and imperturbably crawled over him, thus an affirmation of the defeat that I mentioned earlier, for she was officially blinded by her psychosis, and if her conventional husband and her brother (also a physician) thought there was nothing wrong with her and that nothing could be done to facilitate her—they were sadly mistaken. 

           To finish, the narrator is a heroine in an abnormal and unique way, for she gallantly “escaped” her captivity and traversed to the outside of the room, just as slaves in the South traversed to the North if a successful escape afforded them to make it there assuredly and safely during the antebellum period of our great country.  Furthermore, the woman is not Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, or Frederick Douglass in any extreme manner, but she did harbor the same ardent yearning for freedom that these three historical and powerful American figures had.  She had persistently asked her husband for permission to leave the compact and enveloping attic, with her stating in the story, “that I wished he would take me away.”  With the same impetus for obtaining freedom that Harriet Tubman possessed when she successfully escaped slavery and initiated the Underground Railroad, the woman avidly craved to escape her “plantation” of sorts.  And just as Tubman valiantly rescued over seventy slaves using her well-crafted network, the woman also wanted to “rescue” the women who were hiding in the yellow wallpaper.  Moreover, the uncanny similarity between Tubman and the narrator lies in those who viewed them with incredulity; those who didn’t believe their thoughts and in their dreams.  Her husband, stringent and high standing Dr. John, as well as her brother, didn’t believe she was “truly sick,” just as slave masters, plantation owners, white men, and even those pessimistic slaves viewed slavery as an everlasting American institution.  Tubman and the woman in the story proved their dubious counterparts wrong, and broke free from captivity, even if the woman’s result was a little bit more uncanny.  Nevertheless, the woman didn’t go through as much strife as Tubman, Truth, and Douglass, but if you count biting a bedstead and tearing yellow wallpaper in which you thought you manifestly saw women zealously wanting to escape just as much as you did as strife, then yes, the woman in this story indeed went through much strife.


Emily Dickinson Commentary

March 9, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

THE SOUL selects her own society,   
Then shuts the door;   
On her divine majority   
Obtrude no more.   
Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing           
At her low gate;   
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling   
Upon her mat.   
I ’ve known her from an ample nation   
Choose one;           
Then close the valves of her attention   
Like stone.  

1. Commentary

THE SOUL selects her own society,    

  • The alliteration of soul, selects, and society sets the solemn tone of the poem.
  • Furthermore, the repetition of the s-letters in the line and the capitalization of “the soul” appears audacious
  • The literal meaning is that the soul is choosing her own society.
  • The figurative meaning is a personification in which the soul cannot actually choose her own society.
  • The personal meaning is that Dickinson may be referring to herself, since it states, “The soul selects HER own society.”
  • This line fits in with the rest of the poem, by as I stated earlier, sets the solemn tone of the poem, and it establishes the focal point of the poem, which may be Dickinson herself or a woman of royalty.
  • When I first read this line of the poem, it inculcated in my mind the image of a queen or princess looking outside her window to her kingdom and people and ardently yearning to escape from the spotlight that her societal position proffers her.

Then shuts the door;  

  • The line is short and concise, but speaks gallantly, just as with the first line.
  • The literal meaning of this line is the woman closing the door.
  • The figurative meaning is closing the door to her current life, and absconding from the spotlight that she is forever under.  She breaks the correlation that she had with her kingdom and people, and merely wants to live in solitude.
  • The personal meaning of this line may refer to Dickinson herself, as she was a recluse who chose to shun society and simply write in her family’s house.
  • Even if this action is concise, it establishes the woman’s ultimate and seemingly long overdue decision to cease being the leader, even if only for a little while.
  • The shortness of the line also indicates the anticipation as to what action the self-abdicated leader is going to perform next.

On her divine majority 

  • Once again, another concise line which speaks a profound statement.
  • The literal meaning is that it is describing the people who has shut the door on, that is, the constituents of her kingdom.
  • The figurative meaning also pertains to her people, but could also pertain to herself, and the pressure and obligations that she possesses as a result of her social position.
  • The personal meaning is once again correlating with Dickinson herself, as she has cut herself off from the people in her town and from the world itself; the people whom God has chosen for her to live amongst.
  • The word “divine” refers to the confirmation of her destiny of being the leader of her kingdom, and her divine majority naturally is the people she has been predestined to rule over.

Obtrude no more. 

  • This line is straightforward, but establishes a definite and stanch position.
  • The literal meaning is that by disengaging herself from her people and severing any connection with them, they’ll cease asking for her for guidance and cease serving her and viewing her as their leader, and hence, “obtrude no more.”
  • The figurative meaning could be that along with her people not obtruding any longer, her mindset of being a leader might also cease to obtrude, and thus, she won’t possess any feelings of obligation and superiority over anybody for the time being.
  • The personal meaning once again refers to Dickinson, and her wanting to persist her stationary life of being a recluse, not being interrupted by society, and just simply wanting to live her life as a fervent writer.
  • This line also speaks a melancholic tone, as well as a stanch tone, as the woman realizes the decision she has made, and the sacrifice she is making in order to fulfill the life of solitude and non-obligation that she yearns for.

Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing  

  • The line commencing with the word “unmoved,” describing her emotion, then being followed with the woman’s action which reflects her current feeling is an aesthetically simple and beautiful line.
  • The literal meaning is the woman feeling impassive, and watching a chariot which has halted for a moment.
  • The figurative meaning could be the reflection of Dickinson, who feels inexpressive towards her seclusion from society, and just like the woman, simply views the trite aspects of society from her inside her house.
  • The personal meaning has the same foundation as the figurative meaning in that Dickinson is content with her life in isolation from the rest of society, and would rather watch from the inside out.
  • As with the second line in the first stanza of the poem, this line ends with a definite action which the woman performs which leaves the reader in anticipation as to what is going to occur next.

At her low gate; 

  • The line is delineating a setting, and is succinctly placing the reader at the same viewpoint as the woman in the poem.
  • The literal meaning is the chariot having paused at the woman’s gate.
  • The figurative meaning is that “low gate” represents all of the people she rules over and her kingdom, who are socially lower than her and are subordinate to her.
  • There really isn’t a personal meaning, being that the line pertains the woman.
  • When I read this line in the poem, an image immediately inculcated in my mind of the correlation between the woman’s palace and the low gate, which palpably reflects the hierarchy of the woman’s kingdom, as she is superior to and higher than (in the house) her subjects (the low gate). 

Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling   

  • The same syntax as the second line in this stanza, with the viewpoint transitioning to an emperor, and the action being that he is kneeling, another form of a stationary action.
  • The literal meaning is that the emperor is feeling expressionless, like the royal woman, and he is kneeling.
  • The figurative meaning is that although the woman has chosen to abdicate her throne in a sense, he feels unmoved in a different way, in that he refuses to recognize her hasty decision and sacrifice, and carry on with his service, or at least, carry on his respect and reverence towards her and her royal position.
  • Once again, there really isn’t a personal meaning correlated to Dickinson in terms of this line, but as with the second line, she feels content with her life and would rather live a static life more than anything else.
  • The repetition of syntax and the word “unmoved” that Dickinson utilizes in this line and the second line in this stanza exhibits the solemn and succinct tone that she had established at the beginning of the poem.

Upon her mat. 

  • This line again exhibits the repetition of syntax that Dickinson utilizes in this entire stanza, which is “unmoved” line, subsequently followed by a corresponding setting, then another “unmoved” line, and ending with a corresponding setting.
  • The literal meaning is that the emperor is kneeling upon the regal woman’s mat.
  • The figurative meaning once again deals with the emperor’s reluctance to comprehend the woman’s decision, and the act of him kneeling upon her mat evidently demonstrates his loyalty and servitude toward her former position.
  • As with the previous line about the setting, there isn’t any personal meaning in relation to Dickinson, as it once again pertains to the royal woman.
  • This stanza was excellently written with a seamless manner by Dickinson, and the syntax chosen for this stanza, which ends with this line, was a pleasure to read and analyze.

I ’ve known her from an ample nation   

  • This line officially introduces the narrator of this poem, who evidently somebody who has worked with the woman or has lived under her rule as a citizen of her kingdom, hence the use of “I’ve.”
  • The literal meaning is that this person, whether affiliated with the woman or familiar with her rule, has known her from a generous nation, and possibly, she was a generous woman herself as a result.
  • The figurative meaning is that being that this narrator is stating this line in terms of the past, reflects the fact that this woman, who is now choosing to cease serving the people of her kingdom, was once a generous woman who served her kingdom with magnanimity, and thus, made the kingdom magnanimous.  Now, the woman is divergent her former self, and has severed ties with her kingdom.
  • The personal meaning for Dickinson, who is a very personal poet, is that she came from an ample nation herself, the United States, but has chosen to shun the plethora of beneficial advantages and opportunities that our great country has to offer, and accept the life of solitude and isolation that affords a zealous writer, just as the woman has chosen to jettison her luxurious and powerful life as a ruler, and instead be alone and apart from her kingdom and people.
  • This line definitively delineates the woman’s character and the feeling of both contentment and despondency that she has as a result of the decision she has made.  To her, she isn’t only letting herself down, but she is consequently letting her beloved people as well.

Choose one;

  • This short and effortless line speaks volumes, and it perfectly follows the previous line with boldness and bravado.
  • The literal meaning is that the narrator, who has mentioned the generosity of the woman’s kingdom, wants to emphasize the many people and benefits of the nation, which the woman has worked hard to create and maintain, hence the narrator concisely states, “Choose one.”
  • The figurative meaning of “Choose one” is that, as I stated previously, “one” represents the many great aspects of the nation that the woman has instituted and maintained, thus, the many facets that make up the “ample nation,” such as its people or its abundant industries.
  • There truly isn’t a personal meaning in terms of Dickinson, but “choose one” could refer the many aspects of American culture during her time which she chose to eschew, for her life as a recluse and brilliant writer.
  • This line manifestly reflects the vast impact that the woman made on her people and her kingdom, and it also scores a heartrending undertone, as she is relinquishing her throne, and changing from a life fraught with people to one all her own.

Then close the valves of her attention 

  • This line, as it nears the end of the poem, is another of the many succinct but profound lines in this poem, and it also harbors the anticipation as to what will happen next, and more imperatviely, how this saga will end.
  • The literal meaning is to close the valves, and in this case, the “valves” of the woman’s attention, although one’s attention doesn’t really have valves itself.
  • The figurative meaning is that as the result of the woman’s decision to abdicate her rule, everybody in the kingdom, as in everybody who works for her, advises her, and serves her, and of course, the people she serves, must “close the valves of her attention,” meaning that all of these people must cease paying attention to her, cease serving and honoring her, and most evidently, cease viewing her as their leader.
  • The personal meaning for Dickinson is different, for as the people had to stop paying attention to and following the rules of the woman, it’s the other way around for Dickinson, who chose to ”close the valves” of other people’s attention, and isolate herself in her house, and focus intently on her writing.
  • This line evokes a great sense of imagery, and Dickinson ingeniously states what the people of the kingdom must do, in a creative and imaginative manner.

Like stone.

  • This is obviously another short line, but as with the other lines such as this one, which permeates throughout the poem, it ends the poem in an intrepid and indefinite manner, as it demarcates the end of the woman’s role as the most powerful person in the kingdom.
  • The literal meaning is to perform an action like stone, meaning to perform an action with harshness and severity, like a stone.
  • The figurative meaning, as it correlates with the previous line, is to “close the valves of her attention” or rather, stop paying attention to the woman and viewing her as their ruler, in the most callous and most unforgiving way possible.  By doing this, the people will manifest to their former leader that she isn’t superior anymore, and as they don’t have to listen to her anymore, she also doesn’t have to serve and guide them anymore and maintain the greatness of the nation.
  • The personal meaning as it pertains to Dickinson is that she doesn’t pay attention to the people around her, and in a sense, is “like stone’ to society, but in an abrasive way, rather, she is “like stone” to society because she doesn’t interact with people and chooses to befriend her pen and paper over establishing friendships and relationships.
  • This line was the most flawless way to end this poem, and the sense of anticipation that a few of the lines had has finally and most definitely been defeated.  The woman is no longer the queen or ruler that many had followed and revered with the utmost respect.  Moreover, her life has become, “like stone.”

2. Observations

  • The last stanza follows the syntax pattern of the second stanza, as it also is structured with a long line followed by a short line, then another long line, then another short line.  This structure really inculcates the conciseness and the somberness of the poem.
  • Each second line of the three stanzas has a semi-colon, which leads the poem into deep thought and contemplation.
  • Both the “low gate” and the “emperor kneeling” delineate the woman’s superiority and their subordination, as well as the sacrifice of admiration, honor, and loyalty that the woman is going to make.
  • The first stanza has a different rhyme scheme than the other two stanzas.  The first one has an ABAB rhyme scheme, the second stanza has an ABAC rhyme scheme, and the final stanza also has an ABAC rhyme scheme, even though “one” and “stone” both end in -one, they sound completely different from each other.
  • Words: The “majority” is a part of “society” (first stanza) and “kneeling” is a form of “pausing” (second stanza).
  • Words: Both “nation” and “attention” in the last stanza end with a “shun” sound, which paradoxically, is what the royal woman did, that is, shun the people, her kingdom, and her powerful position.
  • The alliteration of “soul,” “selects,” and “society” in the first line of the poem.
  • The utilization of “u” in the second stanza: “unmoved” (twice) and “upon.”
  • The pronoun usages of “she” and “her” which place the woman as the focus of the poem and as they emphasize her possessions as a ruler, i.e. “her own society,” “her divine majority,” “her low gate,” “her mat,” and “her attention.”
  • Adjectives: divine, low, ample
  • Two successive lines starting with “Th”: The, Then
  • The use of “Then” as a transition word in line 2 and line 11
  • Lines 5 and 7 in the second stanza start with “Unmoved,” then are followed by an action being done by a person, such as “she notes the chariot’s pausing” and “an emperor is kneeling.”
  • Semi-colon functioning as a solemn pause and as a point of anticipation simultaneously: “Then shuts the door;”
  • The emphasis of “THE SOUL” as a means of placing the focus on the woman’s soul, which is both relieved and saddened.
  • Nouns refering to the woman’s palace/house: door, gate, mat
  • Verbs: selects, shuts, obtrude, notes, choose, close
  • Verbs in the first stanza and last stanza correlate as to re-establish the woman’s decision: selects (first) and choose (last) have the same meaning, and shuts (first) and close (second) have the same meaning.
  • Singular nouns: “gate” and “mat” (second stanza) and “one” and “stone” (third stanza)
  • The “door” in the first stanza as a means to separate the “gate” (second stanza) which is outside, and the “mat” which is inside the woman’s palace.
  • The last line of each stanza by themselves would be sentence fragments.








To Both Venerate and Amalgamate with Nature and NYC

February 24, 2009 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

          In the poem, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman, he demarcates the two most crucial distances that should be ”crossed.”  The first of them is the “flood-tide and the “I” that watches the tide “face to face,” and the other is the “I” that observes “crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes” to be “curious.”  Furthermore, Whitman delineates many distances that should be “crossed” throughout the poem, and simultaneously differentiates and correlates the two most unique aspects of New York City: Manhattan, with its “tall masts” (Section 11, Line 115), and Brooklyn, with its “beautiful hills” (Section 11, Line 115).  The dichotomy between the urban setting and nature is clearly defined, but it’s the “I” vs. the “flood-tide” and the “I” vs. the crowd which pose a predicament for urban connoisseur Whitman.

           To begin with, the first distance, between the “flood-tide” and “I” that watches the tide “face to face,” pose a problem for Whitman because he is viewing the “flood-tide,” and therefore is viewing nature, and although he enjoys every aspect of the “flood-tide,” he is not a part of it, and thus, isn’t a part of nature.  Moreover, he is also aware of the inevitability that others will view the “flood-tide” in all of it’s natural grandeur, such as the “run of the flood-tide” (Section 2, Line 14) and the “pouring in of the flood-tide” (Section 2, Line 20).  Whitman comprehends very well the fact that these people will also face the same adverse situation in revering it’s utter beauty and magnificence, but will have to abstain themselves and merely be venerating observers. 

          The second distance, between “I” and the crowd also complicates Whitman, for a similar reason as with the “flood-tide,” with the exception being that in this instance he is dealing with other humans, not nature.  Furthermore, these “crowds of men and women” are curious to him because they’re ambiguous to him, despite the fact that they’re dressed in their “usual costumes” (Section 1, Line 3).  Whitman knows that he is indeed like them and that they’re very imperative to him, but he is concurrently dissimilar from them, which is the problem.  These crowds of people are blithely utilizing the ferry-boats in order to travel home from their previous location, and Whitman manifestly recognizes that they will succomb to the same fate that he has with observing the “flood-tide” and nature.  Moreover, Whitman was once like the crowd, but now isn’t like the crowd, but ardently wants to become one of the crowd again, and wants to traverse back and forth from Manhattan to Brooklyn. 

          Auspiciously, Whitman resolves these similar and convoluted problems by fervently advising us to “play the old role,” whether great or small, and make the finest and greatest out of the lives we currently live.  He zealously urges us to absorb all that both nature and the urban setting have to proffer all of us and to absorb all that Manhattan and Brooklyn have to proffer all of us, and to allow the intrinsic yet astonishing majesty of the flood-tide, birds, ships, flags of all nations, and foundry chimneys that compose the city to permeate inside of us with natural beauty and diversity.  Whitman refers to us as “necessary film” (Section 11, Line 131) who should continue to “envelop the soul” (Section 11, Line 131), and subsequently, permeate ourselves throughout every solid and fluid facet of New York City, and thus, become a part of it.  Whitman ardently proclaims towards the end of the poem that “We receive you with free sense at last, and are insatiate henceforward. . .” (Section 12, Line 141) and he follows that with “Not you any more shall be able to foil us, or withhold yourselves from us. . .” (Section 12, Line 142).  Whitman wholeheartedly asserts that although we use the ferry-boats, the flood-tide, and aspects of nature daily and imperturbably, we don’t overlook them, but rather venerate them, just as ”I” was doing.  Furthermore, we no longer have to just purely observe them, but can now cease to be withheld and foiled by nature and the urban setting, and become amalgamated with them, and they become a part of our soul, and as Whitman impeccably stated, “we plant you permanently within us. . .” (Section 12, Line 143).



Creation Should Always Take Precedence Over Imitation

February 19, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

          To begin with, this assignment was very inventive and promoted excellent use of the wonderful creativity that can be fabricated on the Internet.  There were two primary aspects that I particularly favored about this assignment, and the first of them is that it was, as I stated previously, very ingenious and made extensive use of the Internet and the amazing resources that are available in order to create the unique layout for the first part of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”  Furthermore, in these technologically-advanced times, fabricating this sort of collage by hand by the whole class would have been aptly suitable for this assignment, but proffering all of us to make our vital and original contributions on the Wetpaint website elevated this assignment to the next level.  The second facet of this assignment that I liked was the fact that it did allow everyone in the class to contribute something inimitable and disparate from anyone else because each student had the opportunity to delineate their own interpretation and correlation to Whitman and his thoughts.  It was simultaneously an interesting and candid assignment that gave a diverse perspective on Whitman and on the first part of “Song of Myself.”

           Frankly, I have an infinitesimal amount of negative comments for this assignment, but I think the only inadequate facet of the assignment wasn’t actually the assignment itself, but rather the fact that some people may have most likely just copied and pasted some arbitrary picture from the Internet for the assignment, and thus, weren’t truly correlating the picture with the poem due to the lackadaisical nature that they approached it with.  I chose to elaborate on this aspect of the assignment because a lot of the pictures were very trite and generic.  Moreover, this may be false, but there could have been a lax manner taken towards this assignment which allowed some students to suppress their creativity and thought process towards the poem, and subsequently, be detrimental to the poem collage as a whole.

           The most significant aspect that I learned from Whitman and “Song of Myself” was the realization that I impart a correlation with everybody else in the world, and that although we are all diverse and unique human beings with various interests and divergent outlooks, we are connected, no matter how discrete from each other we perceive ourselves to be.  Additionally, people hailing from all over the United States derive from disparate backgrounds and families, but many of us impart with each other similar problems and issues and celebrate the same triumphs and accomplishments.   Furthermore, we’re all different races and religions, and at many points in our lives, we intermingle with each other, and form an astonishingly diverse and original amalgamation of people, but in the end, we are all Americans living on American soil.  To finish, we all should respect each other, for we are all apart of nature, and as I stated, apart of America.  Whitman delineated this seamlessly – “. . . I give them the same, I receive them the same.”

          Honestly, I wouldn’t really suggest any changes or additions to this assignment, except to explicitly explain in the directions the imperativeness of choosing an image that one fervently and truly appreciates; an image that expresses a connection which the student possesses to the poem.  Overall, this assignment was really interesting and innovative, and it definitely exhibited the fact that creation should always take precedence over imitation.




Whitman’s “Song of Myself” Is Avant-garde and Contemporary

February 15, 2009 · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

           In the poem “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman acquiesces with his keen follower, Ralph Waldo Emerson on the significance of fabrication as a means of advancing the creative world, and both delineate their stanch position on nature being a fundamental aspect in our lives.  The image I chose was from the Spring 2009 Ready-to-Wear collection by Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo for her design house Comme des Garçons, which was presented in Paris in Fall 2008.  To begin with, I chose this image because I love fashion, and hold a personal ardor for Kawakubo and her audaciously avant-garde and atypical design aesthetic which she inculcates into Comme des Garçons.  Moreover, when I think of fabrication and the progression of the creative world into a more ingenious world, the fervent motivation of many fashion designers today, such as Rei Kawakubo, Gareth Pugh, and Martin Margiela, to recurrently create designs that gallantly transform fashion and bring it into an unusual but wonderfully stupefying level and thus, contravene the established norm into noncomformity is what manifests in my mind.

          The correlation between this image and Whitman’s “Song of Myself” is based upon the foundation of creativity and advancement that I had stated in the previous paragraph.  Whitman intrepidly states, “Out of the dimness opposite equals advance . . . . Always substance and increase,  always a knit of identity . . . . always distinction . . . . always a breed of life.” (Section 28)  Furthermore, this image of a model dressed in a black deconstructed dress with black tights and a towering headdress delineates Whitman’s text by exhibiting the fact that the only proper manner in which to advance the world is through creations that are opposite of the current mundane state of the world, thus “out of the dimness opposite equals advance.”  Moreover, one must not just ambitiously envision an idea but has to imperatively make the idea come alive, and create something pioneering yet tangible that others may be induced by.  “Always substance and increase,” for there has to be some substance in order to increase the level of creativity and knowledge that our vast world has instituted.  Needless to say, Whitman ardently advocates creativity just as much as Emerson, and comprehends the contribution of creativity to formulating our own identities and distinguishing ourselves from each other.  “Always a knit of identity. . . . always distinction. . . . always a breed of life,” and there is another vital aspect of stimulation that many fashion designers possess today—the recognition that having your own identity will always make one distinct and divergent from everybody else, and thus you attain your own “breed of life.”  When Kawakubo first founded Comme des Garçons, she and the rest of her avant-garde cohorts (Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake) zealously strove to establish an identity that would render themselves distinctive in the fashion industry.  The preamble of deconstructionism and asymmetry permeating in monochromatic tones gracing the runways was ground-breaking in the fashion world at the time—and is still awe-inspiring on today’s runways.  Kawakubo and many fashion designers past and present have echoed Whitman palpably; they create identities through their unique designs, and consequently, differentiate themselves with such impetus and creative fervor that their distinct design styles and sartorial trademarks are each categorized as a “breed of life” in the fashion industry. 

          Additionally, this strong image connects to contemporary society on the same foundation that fashion correlates with Whitman’s text—one of creativity as a means to innovation and advancement.  Our contemporary society would cease to exist if people were lax and chose to disregard creativity.  Like fashion designers, many people create both as a career and as an ardor, such as writers, journalists, artists, musicians, actors, and architects.  Creativity is a crucial aspect of the groundwork of contemporary society, and needless to say, our contemporary world would be immeasurably different if creativity in all forms were dormant.  Contemporary society functions on ingenuity, and incessant development can only be accomplished by contemporary society itself.