Talking to Texts

Intro

One of the most profound and striking books on my mid-year reading list was Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. It was perhaps this text which not only prepared me for this semester’s weekly task, but inspired a desire to commence an ongoing dialogue – or should I say relationship – with the texts I read. Gone are the days of one-sided conversations – here’s to an age of carnal love: of not gently caressing a book’s pages, but fervidly blotting every inch of white with my own ink; of not simply wondering about what I do not understand, but demanding and scavenging for answers; of not momentarily envisioning its scenes, but finding them in all I see. Here on this blog I will expose the joys and passions, the pains and frustrations, and every emotion and feeling which these texts evoke from me – vulnerably, honestly.

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ENGL329 Summative Entry

Summative Entry (VIS), Visionary Imagination

Visionary Imagination, as expressed in the work of William Blake, Patrick White and Brett Whiteley has given me a new way of seeing and understanding the world.

ENGL329 has been one of the most challenging units I have ever participated in, yet it has simultaneously been one of the most eye-opening. It not only allowed me to study the works (and world) of William Blake in much depth, but it also introduced me to other “literary prophets” including Whiteley and White.

Beginning the unit with Allen Ginsberg, we were shown a most extreme display of the impact of Blake’s visionary imagination on other like-minded visionaries. Ginsberg’s essay describing his vision of Blake and the consequent revelations he had about life – about the beauty in the mundane, about the power of the spirit – is one such example of how Visionary Imagination can provide a new way of perceiving and understanding the world.

We then began analysing and dissecting the works of Blake independent of other authors and artists. Our study of Blake’s illuminated works was especially eye-opening; when analysing the poems and composite artworks side-by-side, deeper meanings within the writing were uncovered. One such example was the Nurse’s Song from “Songs of Innocence and Experience”. Reading the poems as a pair and then analysing the accompanying artworks helped me be more aware of the differences between a child’s and adult’s mentality, as well as my own view of life. I began questioning whether my outlook was too optimistic and trusting when I ought to be more cautious and weary of the world.

Our trip to see Brett Whiteley’s artwork “Alchemy” again presented me with another way of looking at the world. Whiteley’s use of colour – half the work gold-hued, the other half blue – was especially striking. It seemed to me that there was a clear distinction between his idea of the spiritual, inner world (gold), which exists beyond the barriers of time and place, and the physical, where science and matter is god. Ultimately, the central panel – “IT” – encapsulates one’s existence: that central thing between life and death. My personal experience of / reaction to “Alchemy” was a sense of the sublime; the artwork made me all too aware of my insignificance in the great scheme of things. Inversely, the incorporation of Blake’s grain of sand helped me remember that there is an extraordinariness in the ordinary.

 

 

ENGL202 SUMMATIVE ENTRY

20th Century Literature, Summative Entry (20th)

“Twentieth Century Literature has expanded my understanding of what human beings consider to be really important in our experience on earth”

 

The above statement could not be more true for me. This semester ENGL202 has expanded my understanding of so much more than just 20th-century literature – it has opened my eyes to all the different ways of human experience, especially what is important to different individuals, cultures, and times.

 

The first writer which really struck me was Gerard Manly Hopkins. I would say that Hopkins’ writing not only encapsulated what was important to him in his experience on Earth but beyond as well. His appreciation and admiration for the natural world were strongly influenced by and rooted in his faith, as he not only perceived that world as God’s creation, but managed to find metaphors and characteristics of God embedded throughout nature’s design. He also clearly believed in the importance of creativity and literature, experimenting with the form of the poem and creating his own style for which he is so widely known.

 

After Hopkins, we studied the war poets and novelists. Previously, I had often overlooked the war/history genre – found it rather dull – but studying these works gave me a newfound appreciation for my own life which I had so taken for granted. It was Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” in particular which opened up my understanding of what is truly important in life, told by those who had lost so much of it. I learnt that it was important to be appreciative of the simple things, and of those who love you, and of being sufficient – if not rich – in wealth, status. Because ultimately, in the face of death, you with not wish for material things – no, you will seek human connection.

 

The works of the Modernists helped me realise the extent of their influence on the writing of many novelists and poets today, including my own. These writers, including Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, and T.S. Eliot, championed the importance of the subconscious, and how it filters into our own perception of the world and our surroundings. The texts we studied, including “The Mark on the Wall”, helped highlight how the events of one’s inner life are equally – if not more – impactful and prevalent than the events which happen in the external physical world. Ultimately, they express the importance of emotion, of being in touch with one’s thoughts and feelings.

 

Finally, the poems of Marlene Nourbese Philip highlighted the importance of one’s own culture – particularly the role of language – in shaping humanity. Much like George Orwell, Philip highlights the power of language and how it can be used to unify and segregate, make peace and make war, create a sense of belonging and alienation. Being exposed to these works, particularly “Discourse on the Logic of Language”, allowed me to re-evaluate my own relationship with my mother and father tongue, and analyse the strengths and weaknesses of both, and their role in my daily life.

20th Century Literature – Peer Review 2

20th Century Literature, Peer Reviews (20th)

Hey Mikaela,
There’s not a single thing I don’t adore about this post! The first thing I love so much is its relatability to this current time… You’ve somehow managed to make your own flow of mind and thoughts something which I’m sure everyone living in this day and age – or at least in the West – can agree with, or identify with. I was especially floored by your statement: “My body likes to remind me of time passing when my mind doesn’t keep track”. I feel like that was the turning point of this piece, where there is a clear distinction between when you are focusing on the physical, and when you begin to turn inward. I’m so glad I got to read this piece. Don’t stop writing!

 

Comment posted on: https://mikaelaswords.home.blog/2018/09/09/the-flow-of-my-mind/

The Visionary Imagination: Blog 2 (Creative)

Creative Blogs (VIS), Visionary Imagination

“In your own words, using your own imagination, continue a story that begins: “Once I saw a Devil in a flame”….”

 

Once I saw a devil in a flame,

her eyes bright with enthrallment,

engulfed in a scarlet passion, a frisson

of desire which she thought could sustain her but…

that was all it was:

a shudder, a passing sensation which fizzled out with

him.

 

The devil in the flame

could not sustain

the sensation alone. No,

and once it wore off it was pain

that charred her,

pain which swallowed her whole.

 

Then out of the ashes:

a tender bird,

white and light as a cloud.

She took the sky on outstretched wings

and the zephyr blew her past to dust.

TWENTIETH CENTURY LITERATURE: BLOG 5 (CRITICAL)

20th Century Literature, Best Critical Blog (20th), Critical Blogs (20th)

“Give a short account of the way in which language has played an important part in your identity. Perhaps you are from a multi-lingual family group, or perhaps you have been born and bred in the King’s English!”

My grand-aunt once asked my Dad why he and my Mum hadn’t taught me and my brother to speak Arabic fluently. She didn’t ask unkindly, and we didn’t take any offence – it was the fact of the matter. My Dad started off:

“See, we started teaching them…”

I felt like this was going to end up in “but they didn’t continue”, but he instead said:
“but then we ourselves started forgetting how to speak.”

We all laughed.

But.

Although speaking Arabic fluently isn’t detrimental, it’s sad that I’m finding it harder to have full conversations with my grandparents; although I understand the language almost as well as English, I usually stop mid-conversation to ask my parents “how do I say this word in Arabic?”

I’ve never been to Egypt, and since my whole family is in Australia – all my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins – I have never felt a very strong connection to my homeland.

But lately I’ve been realising the poverty of the English language, been more aware than ever of its limitations. Too often I find myself telling my non-Arabic speaking friends “I wish we had this word in English”. I find the Arabic language not only rich in words, but rich in sound… It is simultaneously musical and powerful: qaweya.

I think it’s time I reconnect with my roots and make a conscious effort to relearn and reclaim this beautiful language as my own.

Blog Post 2 (creative)

America Writing

In your own words, using your own imagination, continue a story (/poem) that begins: “Once I saw a Devil in a flame…”

 

The Unspoken Truth About Lust

 

Once I saw a devil in a flame,

her eyes bright with enthrallment,

engulfed in a scarlet passion, a frisson

of desire which she thought could sustain her but…

that was all it was:

a shudder, a passing sensation which fizzled out with

him.

 

The devil in the flame

could not sustain

the sensation alone. No,

and once it wore off it was pain

that charred her,

pain which swallowed her whole.

 

Then out of the ashes:

a tender bird,

white and light as a cloud.

She took the sky on outstretched wings

and the zephyr blew her past to dust.

Twentieth Century Literature: Blog 2 (Critical)

20th Century Literature, Critical Blogs (20th)

“How does your response to Sassoon’s “On Passing the New Menin Gate” make you reassess your reaction to war memorials in your own country? Try to be as honest as you can about this.”

 

My reaction to war memorials has changed over the years but, sadly, there has been a general sense of apathy directed towards them. For me, the hundreds of names engraved on plain wooden plaques, pillars, and statues were empty words. The monument itself seemed to me a fragment of an old Australia clinging desperately to the present, trying to be relevant. For me, there was no sense of richness in the past these artefacts came from. Occasionally, during the stages I was reading historical fiction at school, my attitude would change towards these memorials as I considered the poor young souls who laid down their lives for a hopeless cause. However, these emotions were transient.

 

Reading “On Passing the New Menin Gate”, I am somewhat relieved that I am not the only one who possesses these sentiments towards war memorials. I thought I was perhaps being too insensitive towards the struggle of these soldiers. But my apathy is not directed at those who suffered; it is directed towards the cause for which they suffered. These war memorials may give the relatives of the dead some sense of closure, or relief at the recognition of their loved ones’ efforts. To me, however, they are only a useless reminder of the senselessness of war – pointless, because the same governments that build these memorials are the same governments which still send innocents to die for their dirty deeds disguised in the name of Loyalty.

 

Image: Anzac Memorial, Hyde Park

https://goo.gl/images/iYK1Ni

ENGL202: Peer review 1

20th Century Literature, Peer Reviews (20th)

Hi James,
This is a powerful piece! Sassoon’s writing is difficult for even the greatest writers to live up to, but you’ve made an awesome attempt to capture the contrasting states of naivety and despair in this poem. I particularly like the last two lines of each stanza, and the final line of the poem is especially powerful; it has an effect which is similar to that of Sassoon’s final line, making the reader question the role of God in war. I think this poem can really be enhanced with a few minor grammatical changes: removing the quotation marks in line 2, placing them at the end of the first stanza; “heroes” instead of “hero’s”; reconsidering your use of commas and full-stops… These are very small changes but make a world of difference. Otherwise, amazing work!

 

https://jamessacco12.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/blog-post-1-twentieth-century-literature/

ENGL329: Peer Review 1

Peer Reviews (VIS), Visionary Imagination

Hi Tom,
This is a lovely short piece which encapsulates the essence of the literary figure of “The Bard”. I love how you not only described its significance in Blake’s work, but that you also turned to other artists and analysed the role of the Bard in their contexts, as well as in our modern world. A few minor things may have enhanced this entry, such as textual examples of how “Blake’s idea of the bard is perhaps a step further”. Otherwise, fantastic work!

 

https://literaturetom.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/blog-1-critical-explore-the-meaning-of-the-word-bard-as-used-by-blake-in-a-number-of-places-and-as-used-by-other-poets-and-historians/comment-page-1/#comment-14

The Visionary Imagination: Blog 1 (Creative)

Creative Blogs (VIS), Visionary Imagination

“In a poem or short prose piece describe a situation where you have either seen or experienced a dramatic difference in the state of a human being and its impact on the world around.”

 

I see Agusta in buoyant dandelions

that sprout from signposts of suburban bus stops.

Cerulean heaven swam in her eyes,

tooth-gapped mouth stretched in a smile,

the words of a child piping unrehearsed

of the beauty of the flower and the way the world works;

“You know, I think we were meant to meet today” –

I’d missed my bus by seven seconds,

her trip to IKEA scheduled for another day –

but in the span of fifteen minutes,

from the time I arrived to the next red bus,

my languid spirit stirred; lifted its head,

then its drooping shoulders,

straightened its spine,

and bounced from foot to foot,

til at last it laughed with uncontained glee

and leapt into the blessing of day.

 

NOTE: I tried multiple times to capture this interaction in some form of writing, but the magnitude of its impact on me is hard to contain in the form of writing… or in language itself. I don’t know what was so striking about Agusta, or our little interaction. Perhaps it was the way she spoke with no filter, spoke her mind, but there was only goodness and truth there. And the immense respect and admiration she had for the world around her… it stirred feelings in me that I had not had since I was fresh in senior school, studying in the city, at a stage where everything and everyone I saw had some kind of deep, rich, unheard story. When I met Agusta, I was in a state of complacency, unable to see things beyond the surface, or perhaps too focused on my own drab self. But leaving the bus after our meeting, I found myself skipping, the lightness which comes from seeing the beauty of the world afresh returning to my body. I keep saying I wish I had recorded my thoughts and feelings immediately after the interaction, but I remember pushing away the urge, intent on revelling in the present without trying to water it down into words. Now enough time has passed for me to try to conjure up whatever memory I have of this event, and share it.

 

Artwork: Image taken at the MCA… Reminds me of Blake’s Hyperion artworks