Reading Notes

Final Project Description

Title: Creating Young Scholars 


There is something to be said for how our views of literature and culture are changing with new generations of our society. Authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller capture views of literature and culture in the 1800’s that can be considered timeless and very much apply to today’s society. That being said, not all “classic” literature taught in schools today speaks to the young scholars we teach. Our education system needs to expand their views of literature to encompass real life problems. Literature is being left to be read by what regular students believe to be “scholars” when they are scholars too


I am an elementary education major as well as an English major so I have always been very invested in literature in schools. Learning how to read is essential to being a part of our democratic society so literature in classrooms should always be up to date and never overlooked. Our culture is changing with new technological advances and currently our education system is “stuck” teaching books that do not relate to student’s lives today. This results in a lack of reading for pleasure and students looking at reading as more of a chore than a choice. 

I want to use the essays of Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson as an example for the importance of how our education system should not be so sedentary in our curriculum choices. Margaret Fuller speaks of how America does not have it’s own literature and I want to use that to show that maybe now we have ideas of what American literature is such as The Great Gatsby, but that list also needs to include books such as Young Adult Fiction that are engaging to and relatable to current middle and high school students. Our elementary education classrooms should have books that show the diversity of America and why diversity matters! What is currently being written should be considered American “classic” literature as much as we might consider The Great Gatsby

In addition, I want to use Emerson’s essays “American Scholar” and “Culture” to explain how being “book smart” does not make you a scholar. Instead, your knowledge about your job or your interests needs to be considered equally as important of that of a college professor. Some people are very good at what they do and should never be put down because their knowledge is not seen as valuable as the knowledge of a higher paying job. Getting an education is incredibly important but we need to teach students to use their education to suit their strengths. Not teaching young adult fiction as well as a wide variety of other genres of literature is only hurting schools in this aspect. Schools are not creating as many young scholars as we should be because we are ignorant to changing our ways. We need to change our education ways to include more relatable and engaging material so we can put more confident young scholars into our society. 

For the format of my final project, I would love to do something more interactive than a traditional paper. I have learned so much from making blog posts and would love to include images, hyperlinks, and possibly short videos in my final project. I think it would be a great way to close out my experience in this course.

Primary Works:

“American Scholar” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Conduct of Life/Culture by Emerson

“American Literature; Its Position in the Present Time, and Prospects for the Future” by Margaret Fuller

Secondary Works:

  • Anil, Malavika, and Jayashree Bhat. “Transitional Changes in Cognitive-Communicative Abilities in Adolescents: A Literature Review.” Journal of Natural Science, Biology & Medicine, vol. 11, no. 2, July 2020, pp. 85–92. EBSCOhost.
  • Batchelor, Katherine E., et al. “Opening Doors: Teaching LGBTQ-Themed Young Adult Literature for an Inclusive Curriculum.” Clearing House, vol. 91, no. 1, Jan. 2018, pp. 29–36. EBSCOhost.
  • Byrne Bull, Kelly. “Connecting With Texts: Teacher Candidates Reading Young Adult Literature.” Theory Into Practice, vol. 50, no. 3, June 2011, pp. 223–230. EBSCOhost.
  • Mathis, Janelle, and Polly Vaughan. “Acknowledging Ability and Agency in Book Discussion Communities: Adolescent Boys Experiencing Psychosocial Distress Examine Suicide in Young Adult Novels.” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, vol. 12, no. 3, Aug. 2018, pp. 287–302. EBSCOhost.
  • Javidi, Khodakhast, and Gholamreza Garmaroudi. “The Effect of Life Skills Training on Social and Coping Skills, and Aggression in High School Students.” Novelty in Biomedicine, vol. 7, no. 3, Summer 2019, pp. 121–129. EBSCOhost.
  • Segev, Arik. “Does Classic School Curriculum Contribute to Morality? Integrating School Curriculum with Moral and Intellectual Education.” Educational Philosophy & Theory, vol. 49, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 89–98. EBSCOhost.
  • Youssef, Lamiaa. “A Matter of Relevance: Teaching Classics in the 21st Century.” College Teaching, vol. 58, no. 1, Winter 2010, pp. 28–31. EBSCOhost.

Susan Fenimore Cooper and Henry David Thoreau Reading Notes (Week 11)    11/4/20

Henry David Thoreau Bio

  • “an American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher”
  • He wrote a lot
  • “His literary style interweaves close observation of nature, personal experience, pointed rhetoric, symbolic meanings, and historical lore, while displaying a poetic sensibility, philosophical austerity, and attention to practical detail”
  • “idea of survival in the face of hostile elements, historical change, and natural decay; at the same time he advocated abandoning waste and illusion in order to discover life’s true essential needs”
  • Abolitionist
  • Low-key an anarchist
  • Died from poor health in 1862 (only 44 years old!) after getting bronchitis in 1860 and tuberculosis in 1835
  • Bigggg nature guy– loved the outdoors

Walking by Henry David Thoreau

  • “I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute Freedom and Wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil,—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that.”
    • Such a to-the-point opening, wasted no time here
  • “having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere”
    • Nature is their home
  • “When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them—as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon—I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.”
    • Wow dark turn, but I think there is something to be said about this concept of us humans becoming more and more sedentary as we advance. We are animals, our bodies are made to move and when we fail to do so on a regular basis, we see that negatively impact our health. This is also a timely concept for me currently as I am in quarantine again spending most of my day sitting and laying down
  • “How womankind, who are confined to the house still more than men, stand it I do not know; but I have ground to suspect that most of them do not stand it at all”
    • A hint at gender equality?
  • “But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is—I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses.”
    • He is physically in nature but he is worried and thinking about things in civilization, so his thoughts are not matching the physical placement of his body
  • I feel like you could never get tired of walking/nature because it’s a new experience every time
  •  “In one half hour I can walk off to some portion of the earth’s surface where a man does not stand from one year’s end to another, and there, consequently, politics are not, for they are but as the cigar smoke of a man”
    • You don’t need to go far to get something out of a walk, or to enter a whole other world, you just have to step outside of your own sphere and realize what all you are seeing around you. (Half hour walk is like 1.5 miles, 2 if you’re cruising)
  • “I must walk toward Oregon, and not toward Europe. And that way the nation is moving, and I may say that mankind progress from east to west”
    • Moving toward the new, the unknown, we have already learned all we need to from our past it doesn’t make sense to return to it. Need to move forward.
  • “Every tree sends its fibers forth in search of the Wild”
  • “Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest.”
  • “In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is but another name for tameness.”
  • “I will not allow mere names to make distinctions for me, but still see men in herds for all them. A familiar name cannot make a man less strange to me.”
    • I feel like I’ve never seen this topic talked about. It’s interesting to think about though because our society associates a lot with a name. Your name is an identifier.  But when you take away the name, you are just another person. You aren’t holding up a legacy or worried about your reputation. 
  •  Beautiful Knowledge, a knowledge useful in a higher sense: for what is most of our boasted so-called knowledge but a conceit that we know something, which robs us of the advantage of our actual ignorance? What we call knowledge is often our positive ignorance; ignorance our negative knowledge.
  • “Above all, we cannot afford not to live in the present.”
    • Yes, I agree. Who are we if we are not living in the moment? It is important to learn from your past and be proactive toward your future, but we only have a grasp on the now– might as well get the most out of it.

The Thoreau Problem by Rebecca Solnit

  • Told the story of him spending the night in prison twice as equated with pleasurable experiencing like berry picking
  • “He went to jail not only because he felt passionately enough about national affairs — slavery and the war on Mexico — to refuse to pay his tax, but also because the town jailer ran into him while he was getting his shoe mended.”
    • So no one was really out to get him– they kinda knew what he was up to just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • “You head for the hills to enjoy the best of what the world is at this moment; you head for confrontation, for resistance, for picket lines to protect it, to liberate it.”
    • When you only see the positives of our world you are not living in reality and are not a true part of the world if you are not willing to fight for it and stand up to injustices
  • “If he went to jail to demonstrate his commitment to the freedom of others, he went to the berries to exercise his own recovered freedom, the liberty to do whatever he wished, and the evidence in all his writing is that he very often wished to pick berries.”
    • What a simple pleasure

Introduction to Wild Fruits by Bradley Dean

  • Wild Fruits is Thoreau’s last manuscript
  • Died at 44 years old- Whenever people of great influence die so young I always wonder what else they could have done with more time. Like would he published any more insanely influential works or do you think he died past his prime.
  • He moved back home with his parents and younger sister in 1850’s
  • “The spring of 1851 marks the middle of this important transitional period for Thoreau. He began reading books on natural history and purchased a blank book, which he called his “Common Place Book,” for recording passages from his natural history readings.”
  • Making science available to the general public, common people can be included in new nature discoveries
  • Had some massively important journal entries during this point in his life– may not have published a lot but he was making great discoveries and connections
  • “We read him because he is a great writer, indisputably one of America’s best prose stylists. But we also read him because he has much to say on an astonishingly diverse range of topics of particular interest to many different people.”
  • “Likewise, a transcendentalist must resist the tendency to filter his or her perceptions of the natural world through one or another preconceptual lens, must strive for a wholly unmediated experience of nature.”
  • He climbed Mt. Katahdin in Maine
  • “A seemingly paradoxical sentence in Walden precisely explains his experience on the mountain: “Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations”
  • “that each of us is a spirit in a world of matter that we have contact with through the agency of a body.”
    • Connecting religion/higher power to science. We are a part of each.
  • “by bringing wildness out of the wilderness; or, more properly, by locating wildness within civilization, in “little oases,” as he terms them in the book’s “European Cranberry” section.”
    • Remember where we came from, why do we feel so inclined to think highly of our civilized selves? Why does the wilderness seem so below us?
  • “wildness preserves the world by prompting us to alter our perspective of who and where we are.”
    • We can’t deny where we came from, we are still humans, we are animals

Susan Fenimore Cooper Bio by Daniel Patterson

  • Has published work in many genres of writing, but is mostly known for her nature writing
  • “Cooper’s manner of representing nature is seen as a neglected and important alternative to the Thoreauvian tradition of American nature writing” (89)
  • Lived a long life 1813-1894
  • Enjoyed walks and rides through the landscape– where her love for nature grew
  • Lived with her family in Europe for over 7 years
  • Her parents wanted her and her sisters to marry American men when they were at least 20
  • “Rural Hours, her literary account of the natural history of Cooperstown” (90)
  • Compared European nature to American nature
  • Rural nature writers were very important to her, more so than inner city writers
  • “Literary representations of the natural can contribute to the ‘moral and intellectual progress’ of the culture” (92)
  • “She wanted to teach her culture the value of knowing what a place was like in its original wild state before civilization brought its impact” (92)
  • Did a lot of charity work toward the end of her life
  • First woman to publish a book length wok of nature writing and first theorist and active promoter of literary environmental writing

Selections from Rural Hours by Susan Fenimore Cooper

  • Journal entries, short passages from what that day looks like in nature
  • Tends to take a specific thing from that day and elaborate on it, for instance, loons, she’ll view them and then share her thinking about them “It is early for loons, however”
  • The same weather at different times of the year means very different things
  • Side note: I hate New England springs and she is very much writing why exactly I hate them. One day it’s a “promise of spring” and other days its “winter again” and they just always flip flop– like how do you dress for that weather!?
  • “We fancied the waters–impatient to be free” (14)
  • It is really interesting reading the spring segment of Rural Hours, day by day you see our world come to life, nature starts blooming from the brown below and it’s something that we witness every year with our own eyes, but reading her descriptions of it and it happening little by little but at the same time all at once is fascinating. 

Emily Dickinson (Week 10)        10/27/20

Experiment to me by Emily Dickinson

Experiment to me

Is every one I meet

If it contain a Kernel?

The Figure of a Nut

Presents upon a Tree

Equally plausibly,

But Meat within, is requisite

To Squirrels, and to Me.

I honestly think that the shorter poems of Emily Dickinson are harder to get a grasp on. I have been sitting with this poem for a while trying to figure out her idea that she only has 8 lines to explain. I will explain my thinking line by line here. 

The first line “Experiment to me” she talks of an experiment which is something used “to make a discovery, test a hypothesis, or demonstrate a known fact” and I think she is going for the discovery route. She is going to make a discovery. 

The second line “Is every one I meet.” So her experiment to find a discovery is in the people she meets. Grammar wise it should be everyone instead of “every one” but this is an interesting choice to separate every from one. I am getting the “each and every one of you” vibe. Every single person is different– they should not be lumped together.

The third line “If it contain a Kernel?” What is “it” exactly? The experiment? The person? How would a person contain a “Kernel”? 

The fourth line “The Figure of a Nut” and I am picturing a seed, a beginning, a brand new start. If the person contains hope for a new beginning…a baby

(New stanza) “Present upon a Tree” meaning to give this person a home and a family. 

The sixth line “Equally plausibly” everyone deserves a home, and everyone should get one.

Because it is necessary to have one to grow “But Meat within, is requisite”

“To Squirrels, and to Me.” is the last line. This home that has been created is necessary for other people too, not just the baby. 

Walt Whitman Reading Notes (Week 9)         10/20/20

Leaves of Grass, “Inscriptions” by Walt Whitman

  • Seems to put female and male on the same level as one– human beings
    • “And I will show of male and female that either is but the equal/ of the other, /And sexual organs and acts! do you concentrate in me, for I am /determin’d to tell you with courageous clear voice to prove /you illustrious,” -Starting from Paumanok
  • The title of his poems are the beginning phrase or line
  • Lots of imagery 
  • A couple of his poems fit a certain form, others are free verse
  • Nature being seen as above the human, nature is forever and we are just making our history among it
  • Using the past and present together
    • “I project the history of the future” -To a Historian
    • “I raise the present on the past” -For Him I Sing
  • Who is the man in the grand scheme of things? Can a man ever just be a man in history or does that man stand for something of the time, something bigger than he actually is?
    • “And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man’s life?” -When I Read the Book
    • How is the common man important to history?
      • I Hear America Singing
  • Beginners
    • How innocence is comforting but bound to be lost
  • Calm and in nature, going with the flow, you are meant to be here don’t force a life you aren’t meant to live
  • Loves the ocean and sailing visuals
  • Theme of singing, not actually singing but singing in the way of speaking your truth and being heard
    • I Hear America Singing
    • Still Though The One I Sing
    • Poets To Come (kind of)
  • Idea that our planet Earth is also a life we should appreciate– it has gone through challenges 
    • Starting From Paumanok
  • United States and the President is also very recurring 
  • Seems to be very realistic, understands that we have bad days both personally and as a country meaning that we make mistakes and have flaws but we have to acknowledge those flaws in order to grow from them and appreciate the good days
    • “And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with reference to all days,” -Starting From Paumanok

Song of Myself by Walt Whitman

  • Appreciating his life and what he has learned, what he has loved and where that has lead him
  • Focus on the senses and anatomy in the beginning
    • “My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs, The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn, the sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of the wind,” -2
  • You have to figure your life out for yourself, no one else can do it for you, be your own person
  • His exterior does not necessarily define who he is, nor should it with anyone
  • Has a very “appreciate this moment” attitude
  • What youth looks like
  • Man and women relationships
  • “What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me, Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns, Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me, Not asking the sky to come down to my good will, Scattering it freely forever.” -14
  • Big recurrence of grass and grass growing
  • Comparison of man’s life to animals life
  • The clock indicates the moment—but what does eternity indicate?
  • More to do with religion and spirits by the end of the poem
  • “I have said that the soul is not more than the body, And I have said that the body is not more than the soul, And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one’s self is,” -48
  • The individual holds the greatest power

Democratic Vistas by Walt Whitman

  • There are different sides to democracy
  • “I will not gloss over the appaling dangers of universal suffrage in the United States. In fact, it is to admit and face these dangers I am writing. To him or her within whose thought rages the battle, advancing, retreating, between democracy’s convictions, aspirations, and the people’s crudeness, vice, caprices, I mainly write this essay.”
  • “I say that democracy can never prove itself beyond cavil, until it founds and luxuriantly grows its own forms of art, poems, schools, theology, displacing all that exists, or that has been produced anywhere in the past, under opposite influences.”
    • Democracy has to be more than just a political system for it to be legitimately effective
  • “View’d, to-day, from a point of view sufficiently over-arching, the problem of humanity all over the civilized world is social and religious, and is to be finally met and treated by literature.”
  • “I say, the true nationality of the States, the genuine union, when we come to a mortal crisis, is, and is to be, after all, neither the written law, nor, (as is generally supposed,) either self-interest, or common pecuniary or material objects—but the fervid and tremendous IDEA, melting everything else with resistless heat, and solving all lesser and definite distinctions in vast, indefinite, spiritual, emotional power.”
  • Literature dominates all art forms in our everyday lives
  • “The purpose of democracy—supplanting old belief in the necessary absoluteness of establish’d dynastic rulership, temporal, ecclesiastical, and scholastic, as furnishing the only security against chaos, crime, and ignorance—is, through many transmigrations, and amid endless ridicules, arguments, and ostensible failures, to illustrate, at all hazards, this doctrine or theory that man, properly train’d in sanest, highest freedom, may and must become a law, and series of laws, unto himself, surrounding and providing for, not only his own personal control, but all his relations to other individuals, and to the State”

Edgar Allan Poe Reading Notes (Week 8)     10/11/20

Getting to Know Poe:

Sonnet to Science by Poe:

Sonnet—To Science by Edgar Allan Poe

  • How do you connect science and poetry? Do they connect? What happens when they do?

The Man of the Crowd:

  • “At this particular period of the evening I had never before been in a similar situation, and the tumultuous sea of human heads filled me, therefore, with a delicious novelty of emotion. I gave up at length all care of things within the hotel, and became absorbed in contemplation of the scene without.”
    • This scene is very striking and this description sounds like one big metaphor but it actually creates this insane image of a crowded place
  • He is people-watching in this crowd of people
  • “and found it difficult to imagine how they should ever be mistaken for gentlemen by gentlemen themselves. Their voluminousness of wristband, with an air of excessive frankness, should betray them at once.”
  • The narrator follows this weird old man literally all night, and the old man turns out to be himself (?)

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

  • “Our player confines himself not at all; nor, because the game is the object, does he reject deductions from things external to the game.”
  • A guy is starting to live in Paris
  • Something happened at this house, and there are so many witnesses
    • A murder so mysterious, and so perplexing in all its particulars, was never before committed in Paris — if indeed a murder has been committed at all. The police are entirely at fault — an unusual occurrence in affairs of this nature. There is not, however, the shadow of a clue apparent
  • An orangutan was the murderer

Raising the Wind:

  • Diddling — or the abstract idea conveyed by the verb to diddle — is sufficiently well understood. Yet the fact, the deed, the thing diddling, is somewhat difficult to define. We may get, however, at a tolerably distinct conception of the matter in hand, by defining — not the thing, diddling, in itself — but man, as an animal that diddles. Had Plato but hit upon this, he would have been spared the affront of the picked chicken.
    • Keeps on with this diddle concept for the whole piece
    • “Man is an animal that diddles, and there is no animal that diddles but man”
      • Like a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not always a square
    • Talks about all characteristics a “diddler” should have
  • A very good diddle is this. A housekeeper in want of a sofa, for instance, is seen to go in and out of several cabinet warehouses. At length she arrives at one offering an excellent variety. She is accosted, and invited to enter, by a polite and voluble individual at the door. She finds a sofa well adapted to her views, and, upon inquiring the price, is surprised and delighted to hear a sum named at least twenty per cent lower than her expectations. She hastens to make the purchase, gets a bill and receipt, leaves her address, with a request that the article be sent home as speedily as possible, and retires amid a profusion of bows from the shop-keeper. The night arrives and no sofa. A servant is sent to make inquiry about the delay. The whole transaction is denied. No sofa has been sold — no money received — except by the diddler, who played shop-keeper for the nonce.
    • Why is this a good diddle? Nothing really happened?

The Purloined Letter:

  • Connection to Rue Morgue
  • Lots of dialogue
  • “Why the fact is, we took our time, and we searched every where. I have had long experience in these affairs. I took the entire building, room by room; devoting the nights of a whole week to each. We examined, first, the furniture of each apartment. We opened every possible drawer; and I presume you know that, to a properly trained police agent, such a thing as a secret drawer is impossible. Any man is a dolt who permits a ’secret ’ drawer to escape him in a search of this kind. The thing is so plain. There is a certain amount of bulk — of space — to be accounted for in every cabinet. Then we have accurate rules. The fiftieth part of a line could not escape us. After the cabinets we took the chairs. The cushions we probed with the fine long needles you have seen me employ. From the tables we removed the tops.”
    • Looking for a lost letter/well hidden letter

The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall:

  • Immediatly introduced to an unreliable narrator
  • Hot air balloon made of dirty newspapers?
  • The guy in the hot air balloon is shorter than two feet tall
  • Very long paragraphs compared to what we have read so far
    • It also seems more scientific and realistic (as realistic as it can be besides the very short man and dirty newspaper balloon)
  • “The balloon at first collapsed, then furiously expanded, then whirled round and round with sickening velocity, and finally, reeling and staggering like a drunken man, hurled me over the rim of the car, and left me dangling, at a terrific height, with my head downward, and my face outward, by a piece of slender cord about three feet in length, which hung accidentally through a crevice near the bottom of the wicker-work, and in which, as I fell, my left foot became most providentially entangled. It is impossible — utterly impossible — to form any adequate idea of the horror of my situation. I gasped convulsively for breath — a shudder resembling a fit of the ague agitated every nerve and muscle in my frame — I felt my eyes starting from their sockets — a horrible nausea overwhelmed me — and at length I lost all consciousness in a swoon”
  • “What mainly astonished me, in the appearance of things below, was the seeming concavity of the surface of the globe. I had, thoughtlessly enough, expected to see its real convexity become evident as I ascended; but a very little reflection sufficed to explain the discrepancy”
  • Journal style of what he was going through in this balloon experience


Section 1:

  • References Humboldt’s Cosmos
  • “My general proposition, then, is this: — In the Original Unity of the First Thing lies the Secondary Cause of All Things, with the Germ of their Inevitable Annihilation. In illustration of this idea, I propose to take such a survey of the Universe that the mind may be able really to receive and to perceive an individual impression.”
  • “We may ascend or descend. Beginning at our own point of view — at the Earth on which we stand — we may pass to the other planets of our system — thence to the Sun — thence to our system considered collectively — and thence, through other systems, indefinitely outwards; or, commencing on high at some point as definite as we can make it or conceive it, we may come down to the habitation of Man.”

Section 2:

  • You can’t explain infinity
    • “But this is merely one of those phrases by which even profound thinkers, time out of mind, have occasionally taken pleasure in deceiving themselves.”
  • Oneness, then, is all that I predicate of the originally created Matter; but I propose to show that this Oneness is a principle abundantly sufficient to account for the constitution, the existing phænomena and the plainly inevitable annihilation of at least the material Universe.

Section 3:

  • Proving Newton’s law– digging deeper into it
    • “He was forced to content himself with showing how thoroughly the motions of an imaginary Universe, composed of attracting and attracted atoms obedient to the law he announced, coincide with those of the actually existing Universe so far as it comes under our observation.”
  • “to what species of error does it give rise? On the Earth we see and feel, only that gravity impels all bodies towards the centre of the Earth. No man in the common walks of life could be made to see or feel anything else — could be made to perceive that anything, anywhere, has a perpetual, gravitating tendency in any other direction than to the centre of the Earth;”

Herman Melville Reading Notes (Week 7)     10/6/20

Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

  • Bartleby was this fantastic extraordinary man while the narrator is very plain and living well inside his comfort zone
  • Is written very personal with a lot of voice
    • “a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion.”
  • “The indigestion seemed betokened in an occasional nervous testiness and grinning irritability, causing the teeth to audibly grind together over mistakes committed in copying; unnecessary maledictions, hissed, rather than spoken, in the heat of business; and especially by a continual discontent with the height of the table where he worked.”
    • Such a vivid description of an unpleasant side of a person
    • Nippers and Turkey are really getting to him– little things like grinding teeth and inkblots
  • “I would prefer not to”
    • He never confronts Bartleby about it which seems like the only logical thing to do, but instead always vents to someone else.
  • “But there was something about Bartleby that not only strangely disarmed me, but in a wonderful manner touched and disconcerted me. I began to reason with him.”
    • He is playing a losing game by using reason, Bartleby has him right where he wants him
  • The power that Bartleby has over the narrator is crazy! It’s his own building and the narrator obeys Bartleby who’s not even supposed to be there!
  • “What I saw that morning persuaded me that the scrivener was the victim of innate and incurable disorder. I might give alms to his body; but his body did not pain him; it was his soul that suffered, and his soul I could not reach.”
    • He is feeling REALLY bad for Bartleby wow. I think he knows that there is not a whole lot he can do about it though?
  • Narrator gives Bartleby an ultimatum, but I am not convinced he will stick with it.
  • “I could not but highly plume myself on my masterly management in getting rid of Bartleby. Masterly I call it, and such it must appear to any dispassionate thinker. The beauty of my procedure seemed to consist in its perfect quietness. There was no vulgar bullying, no bravado of any sort, no choleric hectoring, and striding to and fro across the apartment, jerking out vehement commands for Bartleby to bundle himself off with his beggarly traps.”
    • But Bartleby didn’t go
  • “you are harmless and noiseless as any of these old chairs; in short, I never feel so private as when I know you are here. At least I see it, I feel it; I penetrate to the predestinated purpose of my life. I am content. Others may have loftier parts to enact; but my mission in this world, Bartleby, is to furnish you with office-room for such period as you may see fit to remain.”
    • He is essentially giving up because he simply cannot figure Bartleby out and doesn’t want to waste energy opposing him any longer.
  • “with this man, or rather ghost”
    • This is a very interesting comparison but it ghost really describes Bartleby very well. He never does anything but never leaves.
    • “These gentlemen, my tenants, cannot stand it any longer; Mr. B—” pointing to the lawyer, “has turned him out of his room, and he now persists in haunting the building generally, sitting upon the banisters of the stairs by day, and sleeping in the entry by night. 
  • Moves his entire office to try and get rid of Bartleby– doesn’t work he still resides in the old office until he is arrested for vagrancy and taken to prison where he lives out his days
  • “Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!”
    • Why is Bartleby connected with humanity here? What aspect of humanity does Bartleby represent if any?

Benito Cereno by Herman Melville

  • Very long description of the setting at the beginning
  • “As, at last, the boat was hooked from the bow along toward the gangway amidship, its keel, while yet some inches separated from the hull, harshly grated as on a sunken coral reef. It proved a huge bunch of conglobated barnacles adhering below the water to the side like a wen—a token of baffling airs and long calms passed somewhere in those seas.”
    • This boat they are coming up on does not seem like it is in the best shape
    • This boat is a slave transporter ship
    • Whoever is left on this boat has been THROUGH it; scurvy, fever, and a really bad storm!
  • “Still, Captain Delano was not without the idea, that had Benito Cereno been a man of greater energy, misrule would hardly have come to the present pass. But the debility, constitutional or induced by hardships, bodily and mental, of the Spanish captain, was too obvious to be overlooked. A prey to settled dejection, as if long mocked with hope he would not now indulge it, even when it had ceased to be a mock, the prospect of that day, or evening at furthest, lying at anchor, with plenty of water for his people, and a brother captain to counsel and befriend, seemed in no perceptible degree to encourage him.”
    • Giving Benito Cereno the benefit of the doubt; he doesn’t look like a captain but blames it on the fact that his ship and crew is not doing the best right now
  • A little suspicious that there are no “police” on the ship
  •  “I have to thank those negroes you see, who, though to your inexperienced eyes appearing unruly, have, indeed, conducted themselves with less of restlessness than even their owner could have thought possible under such circumstances.”
    • The slaves are trustworthy and have helped on the ship– he is fond and grateful of them, an interesting perspective to take during this time period 
  • “As master and man stood before him, the black upholding the white, Captain Delano could not but bethink him of the beauty of that relationship which could present such a spectacle of fidelity on the one hand and confidence on the other. The scene was heightened by, the contrast in dress, denoting their relative positions.”
    • Delano is appreciating this symbiotic relationship that is not a stance he is used to. Does this passage help criticize slavery at all?
  • “Suddenly, one of the black boys, enraged at a word dropped by one of his white companions, seized a knife, and, though called to forbear by one of the oakum-pickers, struck the lad over the head, inflicting a gash from which blood flowed.”
    • Slave attacking a sailor boy? And Cereno acts like that is a normal thing? Strange
  • “He recalled the Spaniard’s manner while telling his story. There was a gloomy hesitancy and subterfuge about it. It was just the manner of one making up his tale for evil purposes, as he goes. But if that story was not true, what was the truth?”
    • Delano can tell something is up but can’t come up with a good enough reason to not believe the story
  • “There is something in the negro which, in a peculiar way, fits him for avocations about one’s person. Most negroes are natural valets and hair-dressers; taking to the comb and brush congenially as to the castinets, and flourishing them apparently with almost equal satisfaction. There is, too, a smooth tact about them in this employment, with a marvelous, noiseless, gliding briskness, not ungraceful in its way, singularly pleasing to behold, and still more so to be the manipulated subject of. And above all is the great gift of good-humor. Not the mere grin or laugh is here meant. Those were unsuitable. But a certain easy cheerfulness, harmonious in every glance and gesture; as though God had set the whole negro to some pleasant tune.”
  • Cereno is afraid of blood
  • “Waiting a moment for the Spaniard to relinquish his hold, the now embarrassed Captain Delano lifted his foot, to overstep the threshold of the open gangway; but still Don Benito would not let go his hand. And yet, with an agitated tone, he said, “I can go no further; here I must bid you adieu. Adieu, my dear, dear Don Amasa. Go—go!” suddenly tearing his hand loose, “go, and God guard you better than me, my best friend.”
    • Paints Cereno in a very different light than what he was introduced as
  • Meantime Captain Delano hailed his own vessel, ordering the ports up, and the guns run out. But by this time the cable of the San Dominick had been cut; and the fag-end, in lashing out, whipped away the canvas shroud about the beak, suddenly revealing, as the bleached hull swung round towards the open ocean, death for the figure-head, in a human skeleton; chalky comment on the chalked words below, “Follow your leader.”
    • I think Melville is saying that the good guys here are the slaves. I could be totally wrong, but the skeleton with the “follow your leader” shows how we are following blindly tradition and not taking into account how bad slavery is.

The Bell-Tower by Herman Melville

  • “The unleashed metals bayed like hounds. The workmen shrunk. Through their fright, fatal harm to the bell was dreaded. Fearless as Shadrach, Bannadonna, rushing through the glow, smote the chief culprit with his ponderous ladle. From the smitten part, a splinter was dashed into the seething mass, and at once was melted in.”
    • Sounds uncontrolled and scary but I’m not sure that it is
  • This story I think I need a little more background on. The creator being crushed by his creation makes sense but I simply did not understand the plot until the very last paragraph. 

The Encantandas by Herman Melville

  • A different style than we’ve seen so far with the poems at the beginning
  • “is that to them change never comes; neither the change of seasons nor of sorrows. Cut by the Equator, they know not autumn, and they know not spring; while, already reduced to the lees of fire, ruin itself can work little more upon them”

Nathaniel Hawthorne Reading Notes (Week 6)       9/29/20

Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • Born in 1804 in Salem, Mass
  • Went to Bowdoin college!!
  • Wrote The Scarlet Letter and “It was one of the first mass-produced books in America, selling 2,500 volumes within ten days and earning Hawthorne $1,500 over 14 years”
  • Very well known for his dark romantic style
    • “cautionary tales that suggest that guilt, sin, and evil are the most inherent natural qualities of humanity”
  • Married to Sophie Peabody
  • Really good friends with Franklin Pierce and wrote a biography about him
  • Margaret Fuller was a family friend
  • Early elements of feminism in his works

Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment by Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • “It was a dim, old-fashioned chamber, festooned with cobwebs, and besprinkled with antique dust. Around the walls stood several oaken bookcases, the lower shelves of which were filled with rows of gigantic folios, and black-letter quartos, and the upper with little parchment covered duodecimos”
    • He spends a good chunk of time explaining the room in great detail. The characters have only been introduced up to this point and this vivid description of the setting builds Dr. Heidegger as this mysterious and sort of odd character.
  • Very dark and poetic- very much evident of his “dark romanticism”
  • “He uncovered the vase, and threw the faded rose into the water which it contained. At first, it lay lightly on the surface of the fluid, appearing to imbibe none of its moisture. Soon, however, a singular change began to be visible. The crushed and dried petals stirred, and assumed a deepening tinge of crimson, as if the flower were reviving from a death-like slumber; the slender stalk and twigs of foliage became green; and there was the rose of half a century, looking as fresh as when Sylvia Ward had first given it to her lover. It was scarcely full-blown; for some of its delicate red leaves curled modestly around its moist bosom, within which two or three dew-drops were sparkling.”
    • This imagery is so intense and real. I also love the inclusion of the similes and comparisons, very beautiful writing.
  • “They looked as if they had never known what youth or pleasure was, but had been the offspring of Nature’s dotage, and always the gray, decrepit, sapless, miserable creatures, who now sat stooping round the doctor’s table, without life enough in their souls or bodies to be animated even by the prospect of growing young again.”
    • The whole situation of these 4 people and how miserable they all are because the 3 guys are all fighting over the one girl is very weird. The description of them and how awful they look does not seem to match the context of the problem they are having. You would think that something very tragic had happened like a death or illness or something more than just fighting over a female.
  • “But, the next moment, the exhilarating gush of young life shot through their veins. They were now in the happy prime of youth. Age, with its miserable train of cares, and sorrows, and diseases, was remembered only as the trouble of a dream, from which they had joyously awoke. The fresh gloss of the soul, so early lost, and without which the world’s successive scenes had been but a gallery of faded pictures, again threw its enchantment over all their prospects. They felt like new-created beings, in a new-created universe.”
    • Beauty of youth but also self control– How much is too much? Where do you draw the line? How do you stop? 
  • “Yes! they were old again. With a shuddering impulse, that showed her a woman still, the widow clasped her skinny hands before her face, and wished that the coffin-lid were over it, since it could be no longer beautiful.”
    • She wishes that she were dead because she doesn’t think of herself as beautiful. Raises the question: what is beauty? What makes you beautiful?

The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne

  •  “Ah, upon another face perhaps it might,” replied her husband; “but never on yours. No, dearest Georgiana, you came so nearly perfect from the hand of Nature that this slightest possible defect, which we hesitate whether to term a defect or a beauty, shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection.” “Shocks you, my husband!” cried Georgiana, deeply hurt; at first reddening with momentary anger, but then bursting into tears. “Then why did you take me from my mother’s side? You cannot love what shocks you!”
    • That was very mean of him! & he waited until after their marriage to tell her didn’t like her birthmark, talk about shallow
  • A fairy’s hand creating the birthmark
  • “Masculine observers, if the birthmark did not heighten their admiration, contented themselves with wishing it away, that the world might possess one living specimen of ideal loveliness without the semblance of a flaw. After his marriage,—for he thought little or nothing of the matter before,—Aylmer discovered that this was the case with himself.”
    • Crazy how one flaw can change his whole outlook of their relationship. Why is that one flaw so important? Everyone has flaws– we are human. Why are women expected to correct their flaws to fit an ideal and not so much men?
  • “Aylmer now remembered his dream. He had fancied himself with his servant Aminadab, attempting an operation for the removal of the birthmark; but the deeper went the knife, the deeper sank the hand, until at length its tiny grasp appeared to have caught hold of Georgiana’s heart; whence, however, her husband was inexorably resolved to cut or wrench it away.”
    • This flaw may just seem surface level, but criticizing it and fixing it is not surface level at all. He is hurting her by not appreciating her for who she is not just what she looks like. He thinks he can just fix the birthmark and life will be perfect, but you can’t “fix” someone and in trying to “fix” someone you will ruin them. If he fixes this flaw, what flaw is going to want to fix next?
  • “Do not mistrust me, dearest,” said her husband, smiling; “its virtuous potency is yet greater than its harmful one. But see! here is a powerful cosmetic. With a few drops of this in a vase of water, freckles may be washed away as easily as the hands are cleansed. A stronger infusion would take the blood out of the cheek, and leave the rosiest beauty a pale ghost.”
    • So he is risking her life just to remove the birthmark. He would do less harm by going out and finding a new wife.
  • Aylmer got what he wanted as the birthmark faded, but the cost was his wife. 

Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • “The distrustful gardener, while plucking away the dead leaves or pruning the too luxuriant growth of the shrubs, defended his hands with a pair of thick gloves. Nor were these his only armor. When, in his walk through the garden, he came to the magnificent plant that hung its purple gems beside the marble fountain, he placed a kind of mask over his mouth and nostrils, as if all this beauty did but conceal a deadlier malice; but, finding his task still too dangerous, he drew back, removed the mask, and called loudly, but in the infirm voice of a person affected with inward disease, “Beatrice! Beatrice!”
    • Why is he distrustful? I love the image of the “armor” used with the garden. Makes it seem like the gardener is doing a task that we are not used to a gardener doing, that we should be impressed with the bravery of a gardener in this magnificent garden.
  • “Rappaccini, it is said of him—and I, who know the man well, can answer for its truth—that he cares infinitely more for science than for mankind. His patients are interesting to him only as subjects for some new experiment. He would sacrifice human life, his own among the rest, or whatever else was dearest to him, for the sake of adding so much as a grain of mustard seed to the great heap of his accumulated knowledge.”
    • A little unnerving, but what is the point of science then to not improve the human life?
  • I read The Great Gatsby recently and the more I read this story the more that I feel like Dr. Rappaccini is a Gatsby in the sense that no one seems to know the whole truth about him– his whole identity is a mystery that people spread rumors about.
  • “It was not love, although her rich beauty was a madness to him; nor horror, even while he fancied her spirit to be imbued with the same baneful essence that seemed to pervade her physical frame; but a wild offspring of both love and horror that had each parent in it, and burned like one and shivered like the other.”
    • Love and horror combo sounds like it would make anyone go mad. Such an odd combination but it really describes Beatrice’s effect on Giovanni.
  • “By the by,” said the professor, looking uneasily about him, “what singular fragrance is this in your apartment? Is it the perfume of your gloves? It is faint, but delicious; and yet, after all, by no means agreeable. Were I to breathe it long, methinks it would make me ill. It is like the breath of a flower; but I see no flowers in the chamber.”
    • Beatrice totally has him under a spell
  • . “Thou hast done it! Thou hast blasted me! Thou hast filled my veins with poison! Thou hast made me as hateful, as ugly, as loathsome and deadly a creature as thyself–a world’s wonder of hideous monstrosity! Now, if our breath be happily as fatal to ourselves as to all others, let us join our lips in one kiss of unutterable hatred, and so die!”
  • I feel really bad for Beatrice! She was poisoned her whole life and when she did find love she had to die just for her father’s science.

The Artist of the Beautiful by Nathaniel Hawthorne

  •  Old and young
  • “I know what it is to work in gold; but give me the worker in iron after all is said and done. He spends his labor upon a reality.”
    • I really like this phrase. What makes an honest person? What does money do to people?
    • Earning money vs. having money
  • “Strength is an earthly monster. I make no pretensions to it. My force, whatever there may be of it, is altogether spiritual”
    • Your mind gets you farther than brute strength ever will (that may be too literal of a reading of this passage)
      • “How strange it is,” whispered Owen Warland to himself, leaning his head upon his hand, “that all my musings, my purposes, my passion for the beautiful, my consciousness of power to create it,–a finer, more ethereal power, of which this earthly giant can have no conception,–all, all, look so vain and idle whenever my path is crossed by Robert Danforth! He would drive me mad were I to meet him often. His hard, brute force darkens and confuses the spiritual element within me; but I, too, will be strong in my own way. I will not yield to him.”
  • “Only get rid altogether of your nonsensical trash about the beautiful, which I nor nobody else, nor yourself to boot, could ever understand,–only free yourself of that, and your success in life is as sure as daylight.”
    • I feel really bad for him, he’s trying to do his own thing and this old guy keeps bashing on him for not conforming to male standards.
  • Owen is letting the old guys really get to him and how he wants to explore his career and live his life and it’s really sad to see. Hawthorne makes this exchange between Owen and Peter very personal, like the reader is a bystander feeling so bad for Owen but can’t do anything about it. 
  • “Alas that the artist, whether in poetry, or whatever other material, may not content himself with the inward enjoyment of the beautiful, but must chase the flitting mystery beyond the verge of his ethereal domain, and crush its frail being in seizing it with a material grasp. Owen Warland felt the impulse to give external reality to his ideas as irresistibly as any of the poets or painters who have arrayed the world in a dimmer and fainter beauty, imperfectly copied from the richness of their visions.”
  • “Yet, strong as he felt himself, he was incited to toil the more diligently by an anxiety lest death should surprise him in the midst of his labors. This anxiety, perhaps, is common to all men who set their hearts upon anything so high, in their own view of it, that life becomes of importance only as conditional to its accomplishment. So long as we love life for itself, we seldom dread the losing it. When we desire life for the attainment of an object, we recognize the frailty of its texture. But, side by side with this sense of insecurity, there is a vital faith in our invulnerability to the shaft of death while engaged in any task that seems assigned by Providence as our proper thing to do, and which the world would have cause to mourn for should we leave it unaccomplished.”
    • What are we living for? I think this is a really scary topic to think about when you start to believe in something or desire something. A fear of losing that or being hurt by it keeps you from taking a risk.
  • “It has been delicately wrought,” said the artist, calmly. “As I told you, it has imbibed a spiritual essence–call it magnetism, or what you will. In an atmosphere of doubt and mockery its exquisite susceptibility suffers torture, as does the soul of him who instilled his own life into it. It has already lost its beauty; in a few moments more its mechanism would be irreparably injured.”

Chapter 23 Brook Farm in Robert Richardson, Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind (1986)

  • In 1841 Thoreau was invited to Brook Farm 
  • Communalism
  • utopian

Margaret Fuller (Week 5)               9/22/20

Margaret Fuller Bio

  • Born in 1810 in Massachusetts
  • Had a very rigorous education from her father, and then taught her siblings after his death
  • Worked with Emerson and was editor of The Dial
  • Moved to Italy and was going to move back to American but died in a shipwreck

The Desires of Margaret Fuller by Judith Thurman

  • “In the space of a decade, she had invented a new vocation: the female public intellectual”
    • She seems like such a boss a** b**** and she’s not even in the public eye anymore!
  • “She embedded herself in the Italian independence movement, led by her friend Giuseppe Mazzini, and she filed her dispatches from the siege of Rome while running a hospital for wounded partisans.”
    • I love seeing women just so involved with the world around them and not caring what others think of them in these misogynistic times. She seems so selfless and caring, but also very bold
  • Her and her little boy and husband all died in the shipwreck after being 2 months at sea 
  • “Their provisional title, “Margaret and Her Friends,” tells you something about an impulse that Fuller often aroused, particularly in her male contemporaries: to normalize her. Men, Emerson observed, felt that Margaret “carried too many guns.”
    • Of course men were threatened by her and tried reducing her down, that’s just what being a powerful woman in this time results in.
    • Not saying this would have been possible for her and not to disrespect her work, but if she wrote under a male pen name I wonder if the legacy of her work would have been treated differently? Just a thought because she really got the bad end of the deal here.

American Literature; Its Position in the Present Time, and Prospects for the Future by Margaret Fuller

  • What is American Literature actually? Is it just European literature series 2 or is it something original? What makes it original? 
  • “We consider them as colonists and useful schoolmasters to our people in a transition state; which lasts rather longer than is occupied in passing, bodily, the ocean which separates the new from the old world.”
    • For me it kind of brings up the question of why did we come here if we are just going to do the same thing as we would do back in Europe? Instead of “transitioning” into a Europe pt. 2 we should have “transitioned” into the native American way of life. We wanted to break so badly from England, yet the vast majority of our city names in New England, and the name “New England” itself, are just copies of cities in England. Kind of ironic
  • The important ties between nation and identity
  • “That such a genius is to rise and work in this hemisphere we are confident; equally so that scarce the first faint streaks of that day’s dawn are yet visible. It is sad for those that foresee, to know they may not live to share its glories, yet it is sweet, too, to know that every act and word, uttered in the light of that foresight, may tend to hasten or ennoble its fulfillment.”
    • Is she saying that we are not at our potential, and all of the fine writers will never actually see our true western hemisphere achievements? 
  • “Without such ideas all attempts to construct a national literature must end in abortions like the monster of Frankenstein, things with forms, and the instincts of forms, but soulless, and therefore revolting. We cannot have expression till there is something to be expressed.”
    • Our literature does not have any depth because our social system is very jacked up. We can’t just write about things and not actually follow through because then you completely undermine what you wrote and it becomes “Frankenstein.” Such a great comparison for soulless writing. 
  • Everyone needs some sort of tough love, it builds character and makes you a better person
  • People write to write, not to make money/ receive a status because of their writing
  • “Meanwhile, the most important part of our literature, while the work of diffusion is still going on, lies in the journals, which monthly, weekly, daily, send their messages to every corner of this great land, and form, at present, the only efficient instrument for the general education of the people.”
    • You don’t have to be somebody to write something. The best writing is just laying in journals of all social classes. Kind of connects to the idea of the American Scholar that everyone is a scholar in their own way and everyone is valuable to society and know a lot about their job whatever it may be. 

Review of Emerson’s Essays [Second Series]

  • “The plan of the popular writer or lecturer is not to say the best he knows in as few and well-chosen words as he can, making it his first aim to do justice to the subject. Rather he seeks to beat out a thought as thin as possible, and to consider what the audience will be most willing to receive”
    • A popular writer says what people want to hear, whereas a true writer will consider a topic for all that it is worth and it may be a popular topic or it may be a very unpopular and unattractive topic 
  • “The tone of the voice was a grave body tone, full and sweet rather than sonorous, yet flexible, and haunted by many modulations, as even instruments of wood and brass seem to become after they have been long played on with skill and taste; how much more so the human voice!”
    • Her comparisons are honestly just very beautiful 
  • “Emerson belongs to that band of whom there may be found a few in every age, and who now in known human history may be counted by hundreds, who worship the one God only, the God of Truth. They worship, not saints, nor creeds, nor churches, nor reliques, nor idols in any form. The mind is kept open to truth, and life only valued as a tendency towards it.”
  • “The only true criticism of these or any good books may be gained by making them the companions of our lives.”

Emerson Reading Notes (Week 4)         9/15/20

Ralph Waldo Emerson on Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

  • Known for his essays
    • “Drawing on English and German Romanticism, Neoplatonism, Kantianism, and Hinduism, Emerson developed a metaphysics of process, an epistemology of moods, and an “existentialist” ethics of self-improvement”
  • “The “secret of Education,” he states, “lies in respecting the pupil.” It is not for the teacher to choose what the pupil will know and do, but for the pupil to discover “his own secret.” The teacher must therefore “wait and see the new product of Nature” (E: 143)”
    • I feel as though he was really ahead of his time for thinking this. The mindset of teaching and creating problem solvers instead of students that can memorize facts has greatly changed over the past 50 years let alone the past 150. It’s interesting to see the importance of intrinsic motivation in students so early on.
  • “The terror of reform,” he writes, “is the discovery that we must cast away our virtues, or what we have always esteemed such, into the same pit that has consumed our grosser vices” (CW2: 187). The qualifying phrase “or what we have always esteemed such” means that Emerson does not embrace an easy relativism, according to which what is taken to be a virtue at any time must actually be a virtue.”
  • He is very much against conformity 
  • “For Emerson, the best human relationships require the confident and independent nature of the self-reliant”
    • You have to bring something to the table and be your own person instead of conforming to a friend group to feel accepted
  • He was a minister for 3 years, but has a criticism of christianity
  • Power is also a themes in his later essays

The American Scholar by Emerson

  • We are just going through the motions of our career and not actually enjoying being alive. Men become tools just to do a job, but are not bettering themselves as people. We have found a way to associate nature with our accomplishments and downfalls but they are two very different things and to believe this means you will limit your willingness to see nature in its own light. We are fueled by knowledge as we are part of nature. Books are so valuable to us but we need to bring our own thoughts to an active reading of them to get the full affect. The scholar is seen in our world as elitist and the “common man” frowns upon their existence because the educated and uneducated are just not treated the same. That being said, we use our own past experiences to connect with others and that is simply something know matter how many books you read, you will learn from a book. We are beings, we are animals who can empathize with each other. There is more to life than being book smart, being book smart does not make you necessarily a good person. When you stop comparing yourself to others and trust yourself, you are free to really become your own person and honestly express yourself without hesitation. We have our priorities all wrong. Life is not about achieving power and wealth at all. Our goals should be selfless and generous to others and in turn that will make us morally better human beings and create a supportive environment. 

History by Emerson

  • We are all connected as humans because we all think. We may not all think the same but we have similar thought processes and the act of thinking is the same. In addition, we learn from history. Our history never changes and is a part of our life experiences. Us humans are the only ones who can write history and who can understand it. Every single person has an effect on this world. It may not seem like you make much of a dent, but you are a contributing factor to history! Every man needs to actively learn history in order to contribute to society, otherwise there is no point in history.

Circles by Emerson

  • Nature is infinite. There is no beginning or end of nature, it just keeps going. 
  • Fear of the new
    • “Men cease to interest us when we find their limitations. The only sin is limitation”
    • Older generations will always disagree with the new generations
  • “The field cannot be well seen from within the field”
  • “There is no virtue which is final; all are initial.”
  • Life is an experiment, and we need to keep asking questions and challenging our perceptions
  • “The difference between talents and character is adroitness to keep the old and trodden round, and power and courage to make a new road to new and better goals. Character makes an overpowering present; a cheerful, determined hour, which fortifies all the company, by making them see that much is possible and excellent that was not thought of. Character dulls the impression of particular events”

The Method of Nature by Emerson

  • This essay reminded me a lot of Humboldt and bringing man and nature together. One line that stuck out to me was,  “Nature represents the best meaning of the wisest man.” I think Emerson is trying to explain that nature is the highest power in our lives. It has the ultimate control of our existence, and we are a part of it. 

The Poet by Emerson

  • The poet is the translator of nature’s beauty. Also, the poet is not afraid to say what needs to be said. 
  • “He is the true and only doctor; he knows and tells; he is the only teller of news, for he was present and privy to the appearance which he describes. He is a beholder of ideas, and an utterer of the necessary and causal.”
  • “It is a secret which every intellectual man quickly learns, that, beyond the energy of his possessed and conscious intellect, he is capable of a new energy (as of an intellect doubled on itself), by abandonment to the nature of things; that, beside his privacy of power as an individual man, there is a great public power, on which he can draw, by unlocking, at all risks, his human doors, and suffering the ethereal tides to roll and circulate through him: then he is caught up into the life of the Universe, his speech is thunder, his thought is law, and his words are universally intelligible as the plants and animals.”

The Conduct of Life/Culture by Emerson

  •  “The pest of society is egotists”
    • I think this is still very true today. You are not being helpful in bettering society and mankind by only worrying about yourself and believing that you are better than everyone else. These people are my least favorite type of person because they don’t tend to be very kind and interested in helping others as we all should. They also thrive on pity but will never pity someone else. 
  • “But books are good only as far as a boy is ready for them. He sometimes gets ready very slowly. You send your child to the schoolmaster, but ’tis the schoolboys who educate him. You send him to the Latin class, but much of his tuition comes, on his way to school, from the shop-windows”
    • This idea is really interesting to read as an elementary education major because schools now are just starting to recognize this problem. You can’t force a kid to learn. The child has to be ready for it, as Emerson says. It’s all about supporting intrinsic motivation in young learners, otherwise, they simply will not learn anything no matter how much you extrinsically motivate or force knowledge upon. 
  • Learning social skills is just as important if not more important than actual book knowledge. If you are extremely book smart but can’t understand the world around you, you are not educated. 
  • Emerson is not pro-traveling as he sees there is no real point. No matter what country you are from we are all basically the same.
  • “A great part of our education is sympathetic and social.”
  • “Culture cannot begin too early”

Class Notes:

  • Emerson asks: Where do we find ourselves? How do you live your life?
  • The world and ourselves are always “under construction” 
  • Emerson’s essays provide ways of thinking
  • Individual, man, person, fountain & power VS society, man on the farm, occupation, delegated & degenerate mere thinkers
  • How do we improve as individuals?
  • Self- culture as a process (education)

Science and Literature Reading Notes (Week 3)      9/10/20

Permeable Boundaries: Literature and Science In America by Robert Scholnick

  • Literature and science are thought to be two very different things, but they become connected in the 19th century
  • We tend to keep science it’s own little world and read science differently than other subjects
    • Putting the two together and using science perspectives to understand literature different and vice versa has helped move America forward
  • “And since the human investigator frames his or her questions in language, the codes of science touch those of literature in unsuspected ways” (2).
    • Language is language and scientists have to find ways to get their discoveries out to the public, so the two were bound to connect at some point
  • A reason why the two are kept so apart may be because: “belief that literature corresponds to a conceptualization of reality, to ‘fiction,’ while science seems to express objective ‘reality’ ” (2).
  • Legend, myth, history, philosophy, and science share “common boundaries” (3).
  • As Americans we tend to think that advancements in science and technology is the way to advance our future
  • “Literature and science independently investigate a ‘reality’ that exceeds any single system of explanation, any one language” (5).
  • In the first half of the 19th century, science, art and religion were all seen as equals/ parallels to each other
  • Emerson was a key figure in talking about science, art, and religion– started writing before literature and science separated 
    • Saw their “divorce” (10)
    • Believed that “science was false by being unpoetical” (10)
    • Was not a fan of how specialized the sciences were getting
    • Science became professional and advanced at this time
  • With sciences advancing to expert and professional levels, the general public was left out and was not able to understand it

The Fixation of Belief by Charles S. Peirce

  • Way way back when logic was taught to young boys, as it was considered an easy subject, certainly not how it is thought of today
  • Bacon believed that we could learn everything just by experience
    • Also thought that we would master physical science (like there would be no more to discover)
  • “The object of reasoning is to find out, from the consideration of what we already know, something else which we do not know”
    • This reminds me of Plato and how he would come to solutions by using simpler problems and scenarios to answer an overarching question.
  • “The particular habit of mind which governs this or that inference may be formulated in a proposition whose truth depends on the validity of the inferences which the habit determines; and such a formula is called a guiding principle of inference”
  • “It is implied, for instance, that there are such states of mind as doubt and belief — that a passage from one to the other is possible, the object of thought remaining the same, and that this transition is subject to some rules by which all minds are alike bound.”
    • So we all move from doubt to belief or vice versa using the same process of fact accumulation?
  • We use previous knowledge of facts to determine anything in our life. 
  • A quality can’t be observed because we bring previous knowledge to that quality
  • “On the contrary, we cling tenaciously, not merely to believing, but to believing just what we do believe.”
    • We are so comfortable with what is right to us (our beliefs). As humans we don’t like what we think is right to be doubted so even if your belief is factually incorrect it’s hard to let go of because you made it correct to you and you enter a state of doubt.
    • Going into the uncomfortable place of doubt and changing beliefs is how we grow as people
  • “ Let the action of natural preferences be unimpeded, then, and under their influence let men, conversing together and regarding matters in different lights, gradually develop beliefs in harmony with natural causes. This method resembles that by which conceptions of art have been brought to maturity.
  • “To satisfy our doubts, therefore, it is necessary that a method should be found by which our beliefs may be determined by nothing human, but by some external permanency — by something upon which our thinking has no effect”

Science and the Shaping of Nineteenth-Century American Nature Literature by Laura Dassow Walls

  • Science and its different branches become increasingly popular– where does literature fit in a science world?
  • Thoreau brings up the morality of science– is killing for knowledge ethical?
  • “Indeed it was the very hardening of the distinction between science and literature that gave rise to nature literature” (18).
  • New textbooks and handbooks were published explaining botany and how anyone can do it which gave women another job outlet and an entrance to science where mostly men resided
  • As science and literature diverged, popular science and nature writing stood in the middle 
    • Nature writing had emotion in it– “celebrated connections and sympathy with one’s fellow creatures” (19).
  • Louis Agassi strongly believed in making science accessible and understandable to the public but didn’t really follow through as his scientific ideas and writings were pretty elitist
  • “Natural theology”- science was the way that God created everything, and how it works
  • Science and religion were allies until midway through the 19th century
  • “From the ‘empirical’ mode arises the concept of ecology, wherein nature is not a bounded place, not wilderness but Thoreau’s regenerative ‘wilderness’– a dynamic interaction of energy and matter that ultimately involves not only all the sciences but all the ways in which mind and nature interpenetrate and create each other” (23).

Reading Notes on Alexander von Humboldt                       9/5/20

Cosmos: A Sketch of the Physical Description of the Universe, Vol. 1, by Alexander von Humboldt

  • Botany was very important to him
  • Connected with the mining corps which allowed him to travel through Europe easier
  • Very interested in the physical world. Wants to know about it all and appreciate it on a higher level than most
  • Took a scientific trip to Siberia and published books about the nature of Northern Asia that had a big impact
  • “Although the outward relations of life, and an irresistible impulse toward knowledge of various kinds, have led me to occupy myself for many years — and apparently exclusively — with separate branches of science, as, for instance, with descriptive botany, geognosy, chemistry, astronomical determinations of position, and terrestrial magnetism, in order that I might the better prepare myself for the extensive travels in which I was desirous of engaging, the actual object of my studies has nevertheless been of a higher character” (pg 7).
    • He is just so dedicated to figuring out as much as he can about the Earth and working on connecting with the beauty of nature, he’s traveling with a major purpose that he’s put a lot of work into 
  • You really have to appreciate what you’re seeing before you can really learn anything about it
  • There is more to life than just classifications of different plants. Looking at why these plants are different, what is the purpose of them being different.
  • Gave lectures in french and german about his physical description of the world
  • He isn’t afraid of change and challenging previous ideas and knows that what may seem simple and correct now may not be in the future as new discoveries are made and hopes that future authors and scientists don’t hold back from their discoveries
  • Wanted to see everything, to know about everything (mountains, plants, bodies of water…)
  • “Apprehension that nature may lose a portion of its secret charm by an inquiry into the internal character of its forces, and that the enjoyment of nature must necessarily be weakened by a study of its domain” (pg 33-54)
    • I think he’s saying that once we know so much about something it loses that mystery that might be an agent of making something seem so beautiful, acknowledging that when you start thinking of nature in a scientific way and making discoveries about it, it will never look the same as when your uneducated eye saw it for the first time. 
  • Interested in fossils and the nature of the past
  • Very intrigued by the atmosphere– saw it as a gaseous form
    • What the atmosphere has to do with temperature and cloud formation
  • Very poetic and relates the beauties of nature with the human soul
  • “As a true citizen of the world, man everywhere habituates himself to that which surrounds him; yet fearful, as it were, of breaking the links of association that bind him to the home of his childhood, the colonist applies to some few plants in a far-distant clime the names he had been familiar with in his native land; and by the mysterious relations existing among all types of organization, the forms of exotic vegetation present themselves to his mind as nobler and more perfect developments of those he had loved in earlier days. Thus do the spontaneous impressions of the untutored mind lead, like the laborious deductions of cultivated intellect, to the same intimate persuasion, that one sole and indissoluble chain binds together all nature” (27)
    • We don’t like making new discoveries that threaten to change our fond memories of something, even if we know it’s for the better
  • “The study of a science that promises to lead us through the vast range of creation may be compared to a journey in a far-distant land. Before we set forth, we consider, and often with distrust, our own strength, and that of the guide we have chosen. But the apprehensions which have originated in the abundance and the difficulties attached to the subjects we would embrace, recede from view as we remember that with the increase of observations in the present day there has also arisen a more intimate knowledge of the connection existing among all phenomena” (50)
    • We need to be open and let these discoveries take hold of us. It may be scary to leave what we know behind and let nature show us the way, but it’s necessary in order for us to grow as human beings and move forward in science. We need to appreciate what new information may bring about to keep nature protected. 

The Passage to Cosmos by Laura Dassow Walls

  • Was revered as the “second Columbus” for all of his scientific discoveries of the Americas
    • But was not trying to capture anything like Columbus was (did not commit genocide)
    • The work Humboldt was doing was priceless, he wasn’t after riches or power but after knowledge
      • “Humboldt continued to represent the antitype to the empire of force and bloodshed”
  • Napoleon did not take him seriously
  • Humboldt was not trying to make Americas into a Europe version 2 like most Europeans, but instead addressed it as its own entity
    • “Was it not possible, Humboldt argued, to imagine America as America, not a diminished Europe? Did it not have its own identity, and should not its peoples be allowed to seek their own destiny?”
  • “Here, man had not everywhere dominated and subdued the wild, nor could he, for the destructive forces of volcanoes and earthquakes and the creative power of tropical heat and light would always make American nature an equal, if not a dominant, partner with human enterprise.”
    • Nature will always catch up and that we need to remember that we are a part of nature, we are not controlling it. I think that’s really what Humboldt wanted people to understand, that we can never completely conquer and contain nature. It is powerful and something that we should live symbiotically with. 
  • “He literally put America on the global map, positioning its history, nations, and resources in relation to the rest of the world, and drawing the detailed and extensive maps by which Americans could find, and know, themselves”
  • He was so generous and seemed to just genuinely want to share what he discovered
  • “For him, “America as Nature” meant nature as an equal partner with human purpose, expressed through science, art, technology, and commerce in a cosmic exchange”
    • It seems like everyone else at this time was so focused on controlling nature and not utilizing and appreciating how it could help us maybe.

Introducing Humboldt’s Cosmos by Laura Dassow Walls

  • He uses his findings and the way he studies nature to move society forward 
  • “Humboldt’s Cosmos seemed made for America, and Americans adopted it into their founding mythology”
  • Named it Cosmos because there was no other world that was as all encompassing as that– “heaven and earth together”
  • This work was really unifying and he got so many intellectuals together to collaborate and share ideas/discoveries
  • When the first volume was released it flew off the shelves and people were anxious to get their hands on the “sequel”
  • “To skeptics who doubted that the ignorant public could ascend to the heights of science, Humboldt answered that while they may not catch every detail, the journey itself will “enrich the intellect, enlarge the sphere of ideas, and nourish and vivify the imagination.” After all, detail was like scaffolding—it must be removed if the edifice is to have “a striking effect.” And it was the “effect” Humboldt was after. The reader struck with awe or moved by beauty will want to learn more”
    • He made science accessible to normal folk which I think was his biggest accomplishment and why he became so famous. He was making them want to learn more and was instilling this sympathy for nature in the general public.
    • “Nor is he writing ‘science’ in the strict sense–that is, he has no wish ‘to reduce all sensible phenomena to a small number of abstract principles, based on reason only.’ ”
  • “it exists as a Cosmos, both ordered and beautiful, through the human mind.”
  • Understood that his poetry wasn’t the best and that it wasn’t really seen until better translations became available
    • (I think his poetic elements are beautiful)
  • “Humboldt thinks that nature moves us, shapes us, creates us, in ways that art seeks to capture and repeat but that we have never really thought about”
  • “Here is the heart of Humboldt’s aesthetics: art can incorporate and surpass science in conveying the perceptual truth of the whole, but only if the artist paints the truth of particulars. By truth Humboldt means natural historical truth.”
    • There is a beauty in getting to know nature and artistically representing it the way it deserves to be represented. 
  • “Cosmos was not an accomplishment but a prospect—a viewpoint from which Humboldt could sustain a critique of a Western civilization that had, for good or ill, inherited the legacies of hundreds of nations across the millennia of cosmic progress. To reach that prospect, the Cosmos needed every one of Humboldt’s many readers.’’
    • Humboldt knew what he was doing and probably has the smoothest execution of any author I’ve ever seen. He really just wanted to bring science to people in a way to get them to understand that the world is bigger than just them. Their actions as humans affect ecosystems all over the globe! He subtly was trying to make the world a better place and propose acceptance and uniqueness in the 19th century. We still struggle majorly with that today. I truly do applaud his work.

Humboldt In the New World by Anna Maria Gillis

  • Spanish passports were so valuable because they could get you pretty much anywhere in the “New World”
  •  Had not the fever broken out on board the Pizarro we would never have explored the Orinoco, the Casiquiare and the frontiers with the Portuguese possessions on the Río Negro.”
    • The more I read about him, the more I think of him as this super positive, happy to be here kinda guy.
  • In 1799, used his own money to explore– talk about dedication
  • It was not easy sailing discovering this New World, he got a shock from an eclectic eel, almost poisoned himself, and almost drown because he didn’t know how to swim
  • Wrote a personal narrative that kinda left out the personal part and was just scientific 
  • Was very against slavery: “Slavery is possibly the greatest evil ever to have afflicted humanity, no matter if one focuses on the individual slave ripped from his family in the country of his birth and thrown into the hold of a slave ship or considers him as part of the herd of black men penned up in the Antilles.”
    • Officials were furious with his fight against slavery and banned his book in Cuba
  • “But Humboldt encouraged his readers to think  about  big-picture biogeography over time”
    • I think he was so ahead of his time in trying to get humans to think selflessly about the environment and the fact that they play a role in the environment and don’t own the environment. At this time, only a few people really saw different parts of the world. They didn’t have the internet or cars or planes to take them to different places easily so they are stuck in a town or city and that’s all they really know. It’s hard to imagine what the rest of the world looks like and appreciate the nature and ecosystems that keep the whole world healthy when you’ve hardly left your hometown. 

The Most Influential Scientist you may never have heard of by Richard Gunderman

  • Didn’t finish Cosmos before he died but published 4 volumes and it is yielded “one of the most ambitious works of science ever published, conveying an extraordinary breadth of understanding”
  • He understood that he couldn’t just study one branch of science– he had to take more of an all-encompassing approach
  • “Humboldt reminds us, however, that the researcher is one of science’s most crucial ingredients. Curiosity is both the spark that makes inquiry possible and the source of the excitement that sustains it.”
    • He made science so personal and I’ve never thought of science that way. The only science writing I’ve done is boring lab reports and passive observations, but he really melded feelings and science using literature forms and techniques. 

Alexander von Humboldt: a forgotten man of science by Jim Rountree

  • People don’t know about him at all, but he really needs to resurface in our popular culture today. I think we could learn so much from his work.
  • “Father of environmental science”
  • Although he got people to address “big-picture” science, he was very precise with measurements and data collection, but all the little things he did helped create the “big picture” he’s known for

My Working Definitions: 9/1/20

Literature- written works that are seen as a form of art. They inspire, motivate, encourage self-reflection, and positive lifestyle changes or it may just be text on a page that is very pleasing to the mind and/or eye.

Culture- lifestyles, customs, arts, mannerisms, beliefs of different groups of people classified by nation, religion, race, class, gender or other social constructions

Science- the study of physical and natural processes/things/beings

Nature- what the physical world is as a whole. Earth made products/processes.