Monday, April 23, 2012

Armory Gallery and its relation to Modernism

The Armory Show of 1913 marked the beginning of the modernism movement in America. Impressionism became a thing of the past and expressionism a form of the future. Brave artists created pieces that boldly reflected modernism themes such as displacement, fragmentation, and exile. Rays of light and shadows were no longer relatable to the early 20th century industrial society. Hemingway and TS Eliot's works coincide with the Armory Show to reflect a new, pushing the envelope way of life. Artists and authors rejected tradition and welcomed change through their work.

A French artist whose work personified modernism was Henri Matisse. Matisse painted the human form differently than his colleagues and fellow artists Picabia and Dubchamp. His crude, childlike interpretations of the human form resulted in a monstrous and oversimplified sight. Matisse rejected the way society viewed beauty and wanted to create something that he believed to be true. Matisse was a modern painter because he revolted away from 19th century realism and created a new interpretation of the human form that challenged tradition and created shock and disgust among the audience.

The Blue Nude, Le Lux, II by Matisse was so shocking and revolting that students called it the most "blasphemous picture in the exhibition". Considering that all of the artwork in the Armory Show was radical for rebelling against realism, this specific piece must have been quite offensive to a more traditional audience. Audiences viewed Matisse's work as an attack on the progress of Western Civilization as a whole. Matisse's work relates to TS Eliot's "The Wasteland" in this way. TS Eliot moved away from America to Europe and never looked back. "The Wasteland" can be seen as an attempt to escape America by Eliot affiliating himself with European culture. This text also frustrated the audience because its fragmented style confused the reader, making them feel lost and alienated. Confusion and alienation are an aspect of modernism and audiences might have been unhappy with Matisse's and Eliot's work simply because they were not ready for change, especially when the future was portrayed as dark and dismal.

Van Gogh is famous for his play on modernism in his creative works. Although he was well known in Europe at the time, The Armory Show helped put Van Gogh on the map in America. Van Gogh's work is not explicitly modernism but his new and exciting way of painting was a real building block for the modernism movement and distanced him from the fading away of Impressionism. Distorted images and bright, bold colors displayed Van Gogh's unapologetic, erratic honesty in his representation of the world. Overwhelming spiritually and emotionally, his abstract way of painting represented his courage to allow an audience to see the way he saw. Van Gogh was ahead of his time and audiences were confused and baffled by what they saw.

Van Gogh's work connects with Hemingway's "In Our Time". An important theme of "In Our Time" is the modernist dilemma. The characters in his stories are not happy. They can't go back to the way life used to be, when everything was easier and joyful. And because they are wishing for the past, the present is passing them by and they can't enjoy life happening in the moment. The past is gone and seems like a better time and where they are now does not seem great either. The hopelessness and meaninglessness of time and way of life coincides with Van Gogh's work because his paintings depicted what many did not understand. His work was not quite impressionism or modernism, he was unique and his own genre in this weird limbo between two time periods. Disconnectedness and the psychology of life and nature are pulled into question and reflected upon in a similar way to Hemingway's writing style. This reflection of the psychology of life and being stuck between the past and the present are central ideas to Modernism.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Similarities Between "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Revolt of Mother"

There are many parallels between "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Revolt of Mother". One of the most important similarities is the role of women. Both women are not being heard and are stuck in their homemaking roles of late 19th century society. Both women are ordered to act, speak, and live a certain way but end up rebelling. In "The Yellow Wallpaper", the narrator writes letters even though her husband does not approve. She also has secret thoughts that are different than her husbands that she would never voice out loud. She does not agree with the way she is being treated as a patient and believes she is sick with a different illness than her husband believes her to be sick with. This is a quiet, unspoken rebellion that grows and finally comes to a climax when she claws at the wallpaper and creeps over her husband when he faints at the sight of her. In "The Revolt of Mother", the main character "Mother" has always done what was expected of her as a wife and never complained about her work. However, she is fed up when after 40 years the house that was promised to her during her engagement still isn't built. So she takes matters into her own hands and rebels against her husband and society's rules by making the new barn her new house.
Another similarity is that both women are trapped in their roles and trapped in the house. Sarah or "mother" works all day in the kitchen and sews clothes for the family. The narrator in the "Yellow Wallpaper" is trapped up in an abandoned, creepy nursery up in the attic. In the end, both women fight back to take back what they should have had all along. Sarah gets the house she was promised forty years ago and the woman from "The Yellow Wallpaper" gets control of her situation and fights back against her husband's rules and limitations.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Four Interpretations of Freedom

My long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.”-Douglass

Frederick Douglas believes his own freedom cannot be attained if he does not fight back. Accepting your fate keeps your mind forever enslaved and trapped from reaching freedom. Freedom has to do with "slave in fact or slave in form". Douglas fights back and does this by appearing to be an obedient slave, or keeping up appearances. By pretending to be an obedient slave, content with his life he doesn't arouse suspicion. Underneath it all he does not willingly serve. This is shown by Douglas learning how to read even though it is forbidden and standing up to Mr. Covey when he attempts to whip him. Even after Douglas is a "freed" slave, he is not actually "free" until he finally is his own master. When he is paid for his own work for the first time he is truly "free". He no longer has to give money for his hard work to his master. He no longer has to pretend to be content with answering to someone and denying himself personal freedom. He is now no longer a slave in form, or in fact.

We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds.-Emerson

I feel like this quote was a main point in “The American Scholar”. The best way to learn is to have our own experiences. Experience is the best teacher. Creating new ideas and thinking in new ways will allow us to express ourselves freely. Authenticity is important in becoming a “man thinking”, someone who teaches themselves how to live and applies knowledge from books, academics, and experience to to their own life. To be free yourself, you must be free of the past, and free of society's limitations. The pathway to freedom is to pave your own way and think for yourself, rather than relying on ancient teachings.

I resist anything better than my own diversity,
And breathe the air and leave plenty after me,
And am not stuck up, and am in my place.- Whitman

This quote defines the freedom of man and of labels that Whitman really believed in. Whitman celebrated the ordinary and believed the common man with a common occupation was not just defined by that. He believes that all people are one and the same and must be accepting of one another. Because he is not stuck up and does not judge people by their class or occupation, he is in his place- meaning he is free of society's constraints that damage and label the common man, putting them into categories and desensitizing them, trying to make them all the same. Whitman believes in celebrating diversity because what makes a person unique should be advertised and not hidden. Celebrating and honoring the common man makes a person free. Labels classify people unfairly and enslave the everyday man. We are much more than labels and to become free, we must fight the label we are given

They shut me up in prose”-Emily Dickinson

In Dickinson's eyes, writing poetry was the only way for her to be free. 19th century society labeled women as just a domestic housewife or an angel of the house. She was expected to make the home warm and inviting for everybody else except for herself. She was trapped in her own home and trapped by what society expected her to be. She was imprisoned by 19th century conventions and compared herself to a bird who longs to fly away when it is trapped. She is being held captive because she is a woman and her only outlet is to write, maybe to write to all of the other women in her same position. This poem explains why she is not free. But by explaining what traps her and expressing what she really feels in poetry, she actually becomes free.

Emily Dickinson word

The richest word I have found in the poem is "quartz", which is in the line "A quartz contentment, like a stone". In the dictionary, quartz is described as a "hard, crystalline mineral" which comes in a variety of colors. A crystal is a prism that refracts light like a rainbow, so it's beautiful, but quartz is also used in building when mixed with other minerals because it is so strong. So is the "quartz contentment" a reflection of something inside the speaker--beautiful like a crystal or strong like granite? This changes the interpretation of the poem because the tone before is depressing and melancholy. The way she describes the "wooden way" and "hour of lead" speaks to the numbness she feels while she is grieving. Lead is a heavy, dense element used in bullets or sinkers for fishing holes. Quartz to lead seems to show a progression in the stages of grief from clear and resonant to heavy and deadly. Before, she was falling apart and feeling nothing. Quartz could be thought of as stony demeanor or possibly her empty heart of stone. Or it could be seen as a turn in the poem, where she begins the second stage of grief and accepts it. Since a quartz reflects as a rainbow, we could think of it as the point where she begins to realize it will be okay and that it will not always be sadness and heartache. By using the word "quarts" the speaker is saying life is beautiful and that she is strong and resilient enough to accept and move on from the pain.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Emily Dickinson

After great pain , a formal feeling comes- (372)
After great pain, a formal feeling comes --
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs --
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?
The Feet, mechanical, go round --
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought --
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone --
This is the Hour of Lead --
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow --
First -- Chill -- then Stupor -- then the letting go --

After great pain, a formal feeling comes
Dickinson is describing the otherworldly feeling of great pain. Maybe she last lost a loved one? This is an example of funeral imagery. "Formal" give the impression of a funeral.
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs
"ceremonious" is an example of the funeral imagery. Also she starts to fragment the body in this line beginning with "nerves". This alludes to her suffering and that she cannot get it together. The first fragment is "nerves". The second and third being "heart" and "feet".
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore, 
The second fragment of the body is the heart. It's as if he or she is disjointed and has to remind the heart to beat. A normal body functions automatically, but in this situation she must go step by step and think about how to live on. And Yesterday, or Centuries before?  She never used to pay any attention to how her body worked before. But with today's pain and suffering, it is hard to simply breathe and relax her beating heart. Or put one foot in front of the other. Everything is slower.
The Feet, mechanical, go round -- All of the body parts are personified. Even with her suffering, she manages to walk automatically and is puzzled by how she can manage to walk through the pain.
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought -- Ought refers to anything or nothing. It could refer to how her nerves should be calm and how her heart should just beat in a steady rhythm. Everything is jumbled and affected by emotional pain. This could also refer to the way her feet ought to go. She should be able to breathe the air calmly.
A Wooden way Caskets are made of wood. This represents death and loss. Wood is also a heavy, dead image that relates to the speaker's demeanor.
Regardless grown, People continue to live and move on from the hurt after people die. The wood and stones of a tomb survive while the body does not.
A Quartz contentment, like a stone -- Contentment is a strange image and a new twist to the poem. Why would she feel contentment when she is hurting? She could be describing two kinds of pain people go through- initial shock and the greater, more powerful sense of loss.
This is the Hour of Lead -- Lead is also an image of the speaker's stony demeanor. She is trying to not feel or let go. Her body betrays her emotional agony by her feet continuing to walk, her heart continuing to beat, and her nerves shaking.
Remembered, if outlived, The pain she is experiencing is so bad, it could easily kill her. 
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow -- She could believe freezing is a hard, painful way to die. Freezing through stages can mean more pain and suffering. 
First -- Chill -- then Stupor -- then the letting go --
Freezing could actually be a pleasant way to go once the body gets used to or accepts the initial shock. Eventually it is just falling asleep.

Monday, March 5, 2012


 Freedom is the ability to be rid of physical, mental, and societal limitations. Emerson, Whitman, and Douglas all have their own definitions of freedom but have the same common ground. To Emerson, freedom from society's expectations was to become a man thinking, someone who can take what they learn from academics and apply it to their own knowledge and way of life. Whitman believed in the freedom of oneself, or the deeper meaning of who we are as people not just by our occupation, race, or class. Douglas believed to be free or emancipated physically, one must be emancipated mentally. When Douglas could truly become himself without mental limitations, he could truly become free.

In "The American Scholar", Emerson critiqued society's way of teaching. To become a man thinking one must teach themselves what to do and learn how to live their own life. Applying knowledge from the books and class room to your own personal views is what differentiates a man thinking from the bookworm. Experience is the best teacher and is the pathway to freedom. Authenticity and creation are the keys to freedom. Mental handicap is represented by doing what everyone else does and living the way books and other people have taught you to live. Playing by the book keeps a person mentally enslaved and to free your mind, you must try new things and create new ideas.

In "The Song of Myself", Walt Whitman writes about the everyday, normal man. He writes about people the reader can relate to and shows us that just because someone is a farmer, does not mean they are just a farmer. People are complex and diverse, with many sides to them. To become free, we must not limit ourselves to accepting our fate of being a farmer. A person is not one thing- they can be a farmer, a father, and a citizen. Labels classify people unfairly and enslave the everyday man. We are much more than labels and to become free, we must fight the label we are given. In "The Song of Myself" Whitman goes out into the nature and lets go of all of his inhibitions and gives into his deepest desires. Whitman honors himself and all of the inhabitants of the universe. By letting go, Whitman became free and by rolling around in the grass that unites the universe he represented everyone who could become free.

Frederick Douglas believes freedom has to do with "slave in fact or slave in form". To be free, one must resist and not accept their fate. Douglas does this by appearing to be an obedient slave but underneath it all he does not willingly serve. This is shown by Douglas learning how to read even though it is forbidden and standing up to Mr. Covey when he attempts to whip him. Even after Douglas is a "freed" slave, he is not actually "free" until he becomes his own master. Once he is paid for his own work he is truly "free". He is now independent through labor. He no longer has to give money for his hard work to his master. He is now no longer a slave in form, or in fact.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

'Each philosopher, each bard, each actor has only done for me, as a delegate, what one day I can do for myself

         The theme in Ralph Waldo Emerson's "The American Scholar"  is that real scholars or "men thinking" should take literary works as only an inspiration or a starting off point for their own endeavors in life. By imitating, we lose our individuality and independence. The line 'Each philosopher, each bard, each actor has only done for me, as a delegate, what one day I can do for myself' is saying that rather than living by what you read, you should think critically and take away your own conclusions that are relatable to you. To become a man thinking, one must read for inspiration and interpret the reading in order to create for themselves.
       Dwelling on the past prevents men from discovering their potential to create and come up with new, fresh points of view. Creating new ideas and spreading the word will inspire other people to do the same. We should explore nature to learn about who we are and what we need to accomplish in the future, rather than be influenced by what Shakespeare has to say. Novels have a hold on the reader, almost like a cage. It difficult to escape the past and move forward when you live by the books and not for yourself. To be a true "man thinking", we must keep novels at arms length. Novels are great sources of knowledge and ideas, but to not abuse a novel, the reader must interpret it in their own way and then show others the way they interpreted it. Emerson also said, "Books are for the scholar's idle times." Books are the background in learning and creating, but the future depends on how we apply what we come away with. By applying knowledge we have learned, we can come up with new actions and ideas that will create more knowledge in the world.