derjaeger: (Default)
2013-08-02 09:07 pm

Survey of American Literature - Final Exam



1.       1. There is relevance from Emerson to the effectiveness of the imagination represented in American literature to create what is called the American experience. Emerson described language to be as “precious as the sign of an indestructible instinct” and elaborated how representation somehow has a stronger value instead of the real thing and became something people use to root themselves to. He talked in his speech about the “One Man” concept which represents many things and how representation works from the top, not from the bottom. What I gather from the text is that the way representation works is by creating this and image out of imagination to make the reality possible. In “The American Scholar”, he pointed out how people formed into other things, like “the mechanic, a machine; the sailor, a rope of a ship” and became closer to the ideas of “a machine” and “a rope of a ship” instead of the actual mechanic and sailor. It gives an impression that the images that stick to people’s mind have a larger impact than the real thing and it even appeared that the imagination is what makes the real thing possible, not the other way around. In the relation to American literature, I imagined that as people settling in a new environment, the need of sense of belonging to their new place would be important. From the texts I have read, they always had ways in building the identity of the characters/personae/figures/voices by relating to their new surroundings. Emerson also made a concept of “Man Thinking”, which is a concept of man of talent, a revolutionary tendency, I assume. He compared this concept to those who read books and blindly take in what they read, those who are trapped in what are written in the past. What was written in a past might not be resolute even to represent what it was talking about regarding to the time it applies to. In short, no text could “simply” represent anything and for readers to assume that it was how it is in the text during the related time. However, it creates ideas on how to identify self with historical background, surroundings, etc. and builds an imagination that the self could relate to that, therefore the self is not much different to that, and the imagination of being similar occurred.

2.      2. From what I could gather, Fern’s works are didactic by the structure of the text which goes from the problem and the solution would come last. In “Hints to Young Wives”, most of the earlier part seemed to get me to imagine myself in the position of the good, young wives who prioritize their husbands over their own personal concerns only to be disrespected by the husbands. It is structured that way, I think, to clearly show her point of how unjust it could be for these young wives and how silly they also could be. After that part, she gave out the problem, the detailed, real ugly truth regarding to giving one’s self blindly to her husband only to figure out that her husband had not been faithful. Lastly, he gave out warnings (it feels more like warnings than hints, but maybe the sarcasm is also a part of showing her point) to the readers to be careful if they did not want such a thing to happen to them. The similar process also reoccurred in “The Working Girls of New York”. She started it out slow and somewhat escalating with descriptions so readers could empathize with what she was talking about, before she gave out a tragic problem for the “climax” (they are essays, but it feels like reading works of fiction for the presence of the parts that seem to be the “peak” of the “plot”) before she offered a solution, which in this text, was a community agency to keep the New York working girls from injustice.

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4.     4.  I don’t think it is entirely correct to call Thoreau’s argument as simply an anarchistic one, however more similarities are found between “The United States of Poetry” and his way of protesting. He did plainly stated how he was opposed to what the government did and the socio-politics phenomenon it brought, but he did not simply ask for the government to disband, he proposed for “a better government”, as he called it. It gave a different tone to the umbrella term of “anarchist” which idea is generally opposed to any governing power, but Thoreau proposed the idea of a better government which I assume would mean that it was not to take down the government, but to ask for a better one, so the existence of the government was not the problem here, but the system. That point was what makes it similar to “The United States of Poetry” where the poets concentrated more on the issues and to protest the government’s method in governing the country and dealing with the concerns that are not dealt well enough for them to speak up to gather more attention to. It appears to me that both “Resistance to The Civil Government” and “The United States of Poetry” tried to raise the awareness to spend on the matters concerning people in general that are not getting enough attention.

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6.    6. There are some differences and similarities of the supernatural and the natural in Irving’s and Hawthorne’s fiction, but compared to Malamud, the differences are bigger. Between Irving and Hawthorne, the natural was not too different, but Hawthorne specifically changed the perceptions of certain things by adding the supernatural into the narrative while Irving separated what is natural and supernatural in his fiction. Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil” is not the only story of his that changes the perception upon something that is not supposed to be eerie; the perception changed when Reverend Hooper put on the black veil. The Reverend appeared to be a respected man among the people, “a gentlemanly person”, generally someone the people in the text liked and looked up to, but a simple cloth covering his face and “…(the sexton)can't really feel as if good Mr. Hooper's face was behind that piece of crape," even though it was still the good, old Reverend. I noticed that in “Young Goodman Brown” the perception of what should not be feared to be feared like the woman who taught Brown catechism who turned out to be a witch. The concepts of the natural and the supernatural are mixed and switched and changed in Hawthorne’s fiction while in Irving’s, both concepts are separated, wherein Rip van Winkle’s daily life did not get involved with the supernatural phenomenon he experienced in the mountains. It did not even affect his behavior even though the surroundings changed. As in the comparison with Malamud’s, the supernatural seemed to work in the background rather than the foreground. His work that I read was “The Magic Barrel” and the existence of the supernatural was not as apparent, however I could not help but to feel that the supernatural existed mainly through a careful planning of the characters to result in the display of the supernatural. The natural appeared longer, however the perceptions the characters had made it seem as if they were somehow involved in making the natural super. Also, the most blatant thing was that the 20th century fiction was more concerned in matters more of a personal nature of a character, made it feel quite ordinary until conflicts happened and the supernatural occurred.



Extra Points:

  •  “Song of Myself”, Walt Whitman. This is different with Emerson’s concept of self-reliance because while Emerson exaggerate the point where human must “trust thyself” in a meaning to be always dynamic and revolutionary in the way of thinking and acting, Whitman relies on a power outside of one’s self in argument that the other power was stronger than the one a human had. The essence of this way of thinking that I could understand was that one got values and qualities, but would never be able to surpass those are of god’s. On the other hand, Emerson stated that self-reliance meant to develop one’s self with all of the power within one’s control not to be foolish and be a follower or, from his essay “The American Scholar”, live in the past and be as undeveloped on relying on old ideas and values in contrast with Whitman.