MMU’s Emphasis on Life

When I came to Mount Mercy I had no understanding what the Sisters of Mercy were or what the Critical Concerns were. Of course I knew that we had to help each other, take care of our planet, respect all gender, races, and people, but I had never had to dive into deep discussion about these topics. My Mercy Capstone class is what pushed me to look at all of the critical concerns in a deeper way. Now, we didn’t go out an participate in community service, we didn’t have random people come in to talk to us about the concerns, and we didn’t even have a Sister come visit our class. Instead, our professor, Chris DeVault, approached all the concerns(earth, women, non-violence, racism, and immigration) in a way that all college would love to have a class-through the use of movies and tv series. By using this avenue to address the critical concerns, I personally believe I learned more about each one individually and how applicable they are to my life and the lives around me.

Within the class we watched movies that main concern was about women, some of the movies main concern was poverty, and others was racism. However, in each movie or show it was possible to see each one of the concerns being addressed. Each week we would watch a movie/show and discuss the various concerns that could be found within them. Then we would write a blog about what concern we found most appealing. I found this better than having to read a bunch of novels for two reasons. Many of the texts we have looked were very long so I can only imagine the texts being long as well. Secondly, watching them as movies provided me with much better visuals of the concerns than I believe a novel could.

My favorite part of the capstone class was our final projects where we as the students got to pick a movie that we reflected the Sisters of Mercy and discussed some of the critical concerns. Many of the films we watched in class were based on older times and they were also set in different countries. So, my group decided that we should pick a movie that is more contemporary, and we chose The Hunger Games.

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Contemporary-display of critical concerns

We found that this movie discusses much more than the plot. There is a chance to discuss every critical concern within the movie. I found it interesting that even though many of the things we watched were based in the past, this movie was based in the future and was still dealing with the same critical concerns.

Having to watch these movies showed me that being a Mount Mercy student isn’t just about being a mustang, it’s about upholding the same values that the Sisters of Mercy want to uphold. We should care about our planet. We should want to eradicate racism. We shouldn’t desire to hate women and children. We should do a better job of helping the poor. All of these ideas were expressed in each one of these movies. This along with my entire liberal arts studies has showed me that there is too much value on the outcome, when people should just be focused on people and helping those each other as the critical concerns say. I am thankful for my time at Mount Mercy and getting the opportunity to learn more about the critical concerns that I plan to continuously apply to my own life.

If you would like to read more about the class and what we discussed throughout the semester feel free to scroll through some of my older blog posts from the past few posts.

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Living in a Musical

The concept of turning literature into movies is not a thing of the future. It has been happening for many years, and one move that stands out is the 1998 version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. This version of the film was jam packed with multiple movie stars that brought the movie to the forefront of modern day society. However, it wasn’t until 2012 when Les Miserables, the musical, came out on the big screen. Once again this version was filled with a star studded cast of actors and actresses that recounted the story from Hugo’s novel. Only this time they would use song to tell their story. The musical numbers are a big part in this version, as they are the main part of how the plot is told. Within the musical, the biggest Mercy concern they demonstrate is the concept of poverty through the use of musical numbers. By combining the concept of poverty, along with music, the musical not only keeps the viewer engaged with each story and song, but the viewer is also able to comprehend and enjoy what is going on with each character that sings about their struggles.

The first instance of poverty that the viewer sees is Hugh Jackman’s character, Jean 6a00d8341c730253ef017d3e6aed51970c-800wiValJean, in prison. He is being forced to do hard labor, and the viewer can see the amount of stress and depression that has been put on his body and his soul. Unlike the 1998 version where there is only a snippet of how he arrived in prison, the musical version has Valjean sing the entire story of why he is in there. This use of music to tell Valjean’s story not only pulls the viewer in because he is singing, but the manner in which he explains the story allows the viewer to fully understand what has happened. Although it is sad to see a character struggling in this way, the viewer has hopes of a better life for Valjean as his song comes to a close.

Another character that must deal with tremendous poverty is Anne Hathaway’s role, Fantine. Fantine is a women that is just trying to raise money to send to her daughter that is being tended to by another family. At one point Fantine loses her job, and must seek out other means of obtaining money; insert Fantine singing about her own poverty. Within this song, the viewer is provided a story about how Fantine had to give away her hair, her teeth, and whatever purity she has left by going into prostitution. Unlike the 1998 version where this topic is just touched on that she has to struggle to make money and do things that shouldn’t be done, the musical shows the instance of Fantine having to change her morals for the one she loves. This song, like Valjean song, shows just how difficult it is for the impoverished.

A final instance of the movie using the concept of music to demonstrate poverty is when Daniel Huttlestone, Gavroche, is running through the city of Paris singing about the impoverished people with thousands of poor people all singing in unison. This scene from the musical shows just how bad poverty was at the time. Every time the camera moved the viewer could see more and more poor people singing about how hard their images-4lives are. One line that stuck with me from Gavroche’s solo is when he says, “Everyone is equal when they’re dead.” This is true that even though these people who are struggling to live right now will also end up at the same place as the rich when all is said and done.

The 2012 musical Les Miserables is a better representation of what it was like to be impoverished at the time, but also takes the Hugo’s novel and puts it under a microscope so that all the viewers can see just how bad it was. Without the use of music in the movie, the viewer would not be as invested or fully understand the stories of each individual character.

Pretending to Care

In the real world, poverty is something that has been around for thousands of years. There are millions of people that live in and struggle with poverty in almost every country from nearly every time period. The show Bleak House is one of the avenues that touches on this idea of slavery or so people think. Much of the story of Bleak House is focused on the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case. This case has been going on for many years with no potential end in sight. Within the 8 episodes on Hulu.com, the viewer is taken through the ends and outs of the case and how it is affecting the lives of many people who are in the family and who are not. The interesting aspect of the show is how there are people who are portrayed as caring and wanting to constantly help the poor-impoverished. However, after finishing the show I have come to the conclusion that not much of anything was ever done to help the poor people within the show. Many of the great philosophers have looked at the question, what is right? I believe that Bleak House attempts to answer the same question through poverty. Is it right that these already wealthy/well off people are receiving all the attention in the show or should more of the attention be focused on just how poor the un-wealthy people are.

The main example that can be seen throughout the whole show is how the wealthy people, or non-impoverished people pretend to care about the happenings of the poor. They do this by going into the poorer part of the cities and trying to help those in need. In one of the first few episodes, the viewer is introduced to this struggling family who has just lost their baby. Esther and some other characters pretend to care, and want to help them. Yet, the family is never mentioned again in the other episodes. Esther cared for them in that moment, but once again the viewer sees that the poor are only being used a a vessel to try to move the plot along. The constant variable that is always brought up is the outcome of the Jarndyce-Jarndyce case. There is not a verdict until the end of the show, but the fact that so many people have cared about this one case for so many years shows that they tend to only focus on matters that may benefit them-the poor are not included in that category.

One character that does play an important role in the content of Bleak House is the poor child named Joe. He is seen in multiple episodes both in the poor part of town, but also in

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Depiction of Joe

the setting that are main characters wander through. Joe is a character that the wealthier individuals use a pawn to help do whatever they want. Since Joe is so poor he is easy to manipulate. This is just another example of the wealthy using the poor to benefit for their own gain. It shows that they did not actually care about what Joe was wearing, what he was eating, or where he was living. They only cared about the gain they could achieve from using him. Even the excitement of finding Joe wears off quickly because the people know that he is going to die. They were happy to have found him, but now they are just waiting for him to die. There thinking is that Joe is no longer beneficial to us, and he was just a poor child after all. It wasn’t as if he was someone of importance.

 

Charles Dickens did have specific intentions when choosing to create his novel Bleak House and I believe one of those was to have a commentary on the philosophy surrounding poverty. People in Bleak House looked at the impoverished as a waste of life to the world. They only found them beneficial when they could complete a task for them. This is an issue that I believe still plaques are world today, and Bleak House is a prime example of how not to interact with people who are not as fortunate.

Racism Never just Goes with the Wind

Racism. Noun. Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. Racism is one of Mount Mercy’s and the Sisters of Mercy five critical concerns. It dates back thousands of years, and can even be seen today on television, movies, and in real life. We are taught it in our elementary, middle school, high school, and even college levels of education. Yet, we are always in shock when we witness it on any form. (tv, movie, radio, real life) There is no escape from the racist ideals, especially when discussing a movie that is written about the time during the civil war-Gone with the Wind. Within this movie we can see how the ideas of slavery and racism are tucked away to press the issue of the sociology people believed at that time in the south regarding these topics.

Gone with the Wind was written in 1939, and is intended to tell the story of Scarlett O’Hara. Throughout the entire film we see the struggles that people in the South dealt with during this time. Especially as Northern soldiers came through and destroyed whole towns. There is one instance of Southern ideals that the director/author could not escape-slavery. Although within the movie there are only two instances of field slavery, there are other scenes where African Americans are portrayed as being a slave. The only two times we see actual slaves is on the plantation(the second scene of the movie), and when

Gone with the Wind was written in 1939, and is intended to tell the story of Scarlett O’Hara. Throughout the entire film we see the struggles that people in the South dealt with during this time. Especially as Northern soldiers came through and destroyed whole towns. There is one instance of Southern ideals that the director/author could not escape-slavery. Although within the movie there are only two instances of field slavery, there are other scenes where African Americans are portrayed as being a slave.

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Slaves Marching Through South

The only two times we see actual slaves is on the plantation(the second scene of the movie), and when the southern soldiers are marching through the south. In both instances, the slaves seem happy and okay that they are being used by the white men for their own needs. They are content with their lives. The whites in these scenes don’t recognize how immoral it is to own another person, and judge them by the color of their skin.

 

Sociology is defined as the study of development, structure, and functioning of human society; the study of social problems. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the social problem in Gone with the Wind is this idea of slavery/racism. The white southerners do not recognize these men and women as other humans, but as different members of society that should not have any power. The only power they can have is amongst themselves. This can be seen in the field when one of the slaves says, “It’s my job to call quitting time.” This display of dominance is the only form of power that this slave has over another person.

The other main slave within Gone with the Wind is Mammy. She acts as the house slave that takes care of the cleaning, cooking, and children when the mother and father are not around or choose not to be around. Mammy social class is different from the other slaves. White characters will actually listen when Mammy speaks and sometimes even act on what she is saying. However, when it comes down to who has the final say Mammy is not the person, but she is constantly loyal to the house. In this scene, we see Mammy trying to help Scarlett, but in the end Scarlett doesn’t have to use Mammy’s advice or even listen to her.

 

The social structures of the time formed the ideas that were displayed in this movie. During the Civil War, blacks were not free. They were not safe. They had to worry mostly about the South, however, there were members of the North that did not have the same ideals as a typical Northerner. Blacks did not like being slaves. They did not enjoy having no freedoms. Yet, in Gone with the Wind, most of the slaves-both outside and inside-display feelings of love towards all the white people that own them. Sometimes it even comes across as if they are comfortable being slaves.

Gone with the Wind has a lot of good qualities that make it one of the most memorable and most watched movie of all time. However, if viewers were to look deeper into the issues at hand rather than just trying to be entertained they would see how poorly the true social status and feelings of African Americans were at this time.

Reversing Gender Stereotypes in “Bloom”

For my senior year, I am required to take capstone course that is based on discussing the Mercy Critical concerns and our time at Mount Mercy. There are many different types of concerns that we can discuss in this class, but for this blog specifically I will discuss the concern of women, and how they are put into specific gender roles. However, in the movie Bloom these gender roles are altered.

One of the greatest writers of the 20th century, James Joyce, created masterpieces such as  Dubliners and Ulysses. These pieces demonstrated the type of author Joyce was. Creating stories and scenes that shocked and astonished the minds of all his readers. However, in 2003 a director by the name of Sean Walsh took Joyce’s Ulysses and turned it into a movie entitled Bloom. The movie does tend to follow rather closely to the plot line of the story, as well as making the characters from the book become even more alive by placing onto a screen. One aspect of the movie I found investing is its reverse of typical gender norms between Leopold Bloom and his wife Molly Bloom.

Without having any knowledge of what the characters would be like, I assumed the Leopold Bloom would be a crafty/intellectual individual while his wife, like many women

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James Joyce (1882-1941)

of the time, would be obedient to what her husband wants; therefore fitting into the mold of what a woman would be like at this time. If we were to look back into history this is the type of thing we would find, a woman subservient to a man. But from the very beginning these gender stereotypes are broken down. In the opening scene with Leopold, we see him going to the store in order to prepare breakfast. Later in the scene, the viewer sees Leopold taking breakfast up to his wife where she is laying in bed. Now, we can assume that this is a one time thing because his wife is feeling sick or he is being nice for once. However, later on in the movie it explains that Leopold does this for his wife all the time. Molly Bloom seems to have control over the relationship. Not only does she have control of what Leopold does for her, but also his actions as a character are affected by Molly Bloom’s actions. This is only one way where the gender roles are reversed, by having the husband wait hand and foot on the wife rather than the other way around.

Another aspect of gender roles that we see being shown have to deal with sex. Stereotypically, the man is seen as the one that usually cheats on his wife with another woman or multiple women. Meanwhile in Bloom, Molly Bloom is the main culprit out of the two that is committing a physical adultery. I use the word physical here because Leopold is not completely innocent. Although we never see him in the movie having sex with another woman, we do see him constantly affectioning over other women. The first instance is at the market where he wants to hurry outside so he can get a look at another woman’s butt, but the main instance of Leopold doing this is when he is at the beach. He sits down at the beach and looks down at a woman who is also sitting in the sand. From here he begins to touch himself to her and the actions she is doing. Not only is this scene disturbing, but it also shows that Leopold is capable of cheating on his wife if given the chance. Both the characters are guilty of doing horrible things against the other, but it is Molly who commits the physical adultery against her husband.

These two examples help to show that gender stereotypes can easily be broken down and that there is so much more to the critical concern of women than previously believed. By writing the movie in this way, Bloom was able to reveal that there was much more to women during this time than previously believed. They were crafty, loyal, and much smarter than people believed. This can also be seen by how Molly Bloom speaks at the end with her soliloquy. This shows that women did, do, and should have a voice; whether that be in school, in the workforce, or just at home.

It has been said that Bloom is an excellent representation of what Joyce thought of when he created Ulysses in terms of characters as well as overall story. For me, this movie was very weird. At times I felt like I had been watching it for hours and it had only been about 20 minutes. There were also times that I had no idea what was happening throughout the movie. Yet, all of this wanted me to keep watching so I found out what was going to happen at the end. This may be the same idea behind Joyce’s writing of Ulysses. He wanted is readers to be invested into finding out what happened.

Here is the final soliloquy from Molly Bloom showing that she is a powerful woman and does have a voice in her own life like all women should.

 

 

 

Who is Fergus?

Within my English Romantic Age class, we have discussed many writers, poems, prose, ideas, and more. However, none have seemed more real than the novel by Sir Walter Scott, Waverly. It takes the happenings of historical events (Jacobite Rebellion against England, circa 1745) and places them into a context of one character’s story. For our sake we are reading about the life of Edward Waverly, a young man who’s family was torn in two when deciding on which side of the rebellion to be on. As Edward grows from a boy to a young man he must also make the difficult decision of choosing sides. Edward chooses England and is put into the role of Captain of an English dragoon where he index.phptravels to various places and meets some interesting people. One of those people is Fergus Mac-Ivor of Glennaquoich.

Edward’s first interaction with Fergus comes in chapters 18-24 where Fergus invites him to his home, has him involved in a large feast, and introduces him to his sister. From these chapters Fergus comes across as the type of person you want to be friends with even if they are on the opposing side. From this he seems like a man that is genuine in his kindness. “The health of Captain Waverly, a worthy friend of his kind neighbor and ally, the Baron of Bradwardine” (Pg. 97). Fergus’ first introduction of Edward Waverly to his own people is echoed by the phrase a worthy friend. Although Fergus isn’t directly calling Edward a “worthy friend” there is no need of this description except to point out that Fergus has taking a liking to Edward. Weeks later it is described that Fergus “warmly pressed Waverly to stay for a week or two, in order to see a grand hunting party” (Pg. 110). Barely any time has passed since the first interaction between these two characters, and yet it seems Fergus is displaying the type of friendship that has been amongst two people for years. Are Fergus’ intentions real, or is he setting Waverly up?

As we continue reading, we can see in chapter 28 the question of Fergus’ intentions become more prevalent. Edward has the intentions of returning home before the rebellion ruins his life. However, Fergus had a different idea for his “friend.” “Once more, will you take the plaid, and stay a little while with me among the mists and the crows, in the bravest cause ever sword was drawn in?” (Pg. 147). He is not only asking Edward not to leave, but he is also placing Edward in a position to give up his position in the English army and fight for the side of the Jacobites. To me, it seems as though Fergus is just doing this because Edward could prove to be a vital piece in the rebellion. Eventually, Edward decides to stay. Not because of the influence Fergus had on him, but because of Fergus’ sister Flora and the connection that Edward wants to feel with her.

The story continues on with the Jacobites successfully sieging Edinburgh Castle and set their eyes on Northern England. By now Edward has given up hope on being with Flora (she was never feeling him), yet Fergus doesn’t know of this. When he finds out that Edward has began to seek the interest of Rose Bradwardine he tries to have Edward killed. However, chapter 59 brings us full circle with the question that has enticed this entire discussion, is Fergus a real friend or is he just using Edward? “Had you not better leave this luckless army, and get down before us into Scotland, and embark for…I wish you would carry Rose Bradwardine with you as your wife,” (Pg. 275). Fergus breaks down the idea that he was using Edward and proves to the reader that his friendship is real because he wants what is best for Edward. Fergus knows the entire campaign is not going to succeed, so why not tell his friend to get out of the situation while he still can.

By the end of the section of reading for class discussed throughout this blog, we are to understand that Fergus is now a hopeless individual. Not only because he was unable to complete his mission within the rebellion, but also that his best hope at living is to be captured. It is sad to see that this character must disappear from the novel now knowing for sure the type of person he is-but we are also hopeful in the idea that Edward Waverly will live because his friend recognized it was best for him to leave or else they both would have had the same fate. This is true friendship. This was Fergus Mac-Ivor of Glennaquoich.

The Author vs. The Narrator

In much of the literature I have read, or looked over at Mount Mercy there are many things in common. Of course, in specific classes you are going to be reading about periods of writing, authors, or genres of novels. However, for a few of my classes (anything dealing with older English writing) we can find a common thread-the introduction including a ‘Muse’ or a type of narrator that tells the story. The book I am currently reading for my English Romantic Age course is Waverly by Sir Walter Scott. This falls into the same umbrella of a piece of writing having a specific author begin the story. The book I am currently reading for my English Romantic Age course is Waverly by Sir Walter Scott. This falls into the same umbrella of a piece of writing having a specific author begin the story.

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Sir Walter Scott     (1771-1832)

Like many of books I have read that contain a muse-like character, the first chapter is usually a type of summary or description of what we are going to see. However, the narrator within Waverly takes a different route. He begins to tell us that his story is not going to be like these other stories that we, as the reader, have most likely read. “Had I, for example, announced in my…Udolpho, of which the eastern wing had been long uninhabited…”Waverly, a Romance from the German…a secret and mysterious association of Rosycrucians and illuminati” (Scott p. 3). Sir Walter Scott is taking his narrator and using him as a vessel to poke fun/call out other pieces of literature written during his time. He wants the reader to know that his novel is going to be more and better than what his fellow authors had previously written.

As the book continues on, Scott begins to have his narrator talk about what exactly his piece of writing is going to cover. “I would have my readers understand that they will meet in the following pages neither a romance of chivalry, nor a tale of modern manners; that my hero will neither have iron on his shoulders…my tale is more a description of men than manners” (Scott p.4). Scott does not want his writing to be that of Knights and saving the damsel in distress. He does not want his tale to just be about how people should be in regards to their manners. Scott wants people to read Waverly and understand that they are looking at piece of literature that is discussing a story of a real-life situation. When Scott does this action of placing his narrative on the stories of his characters rather than his characters in a narrative, he gives the reader an opportunity of exploring the characters and the situations that occur making his piece more and more Romantic.

 

 

From what I have taken away from the story so far, the reader is being sent into the lives of a broken family where a boy, Edward Waverly, is being brought up in a way that is displeasing to his father. As we continue to read, it will be interesting to see if Scott’s values laid out by the narrator in chapter 1 carry through or if they will crumble under the idea of him trying to be Romantic, but also moving away from the Romantic Age style of writing.

If you would like to see more of a discussion on this topic, you can go to Twitter.com and go to the hashtag #MMURom to read more about what other scholarly English majors at Mount Mercy believe or you can join in on the conversation found in the link. (just remember to include the #MMURom).

#MMURom page

 

 

Love Finds a Way

Love is something that people can feel from the very moment they lay eyes on one another. Love is the feeling that you’re crazy for thinking that person will love you back. Love is happiness.

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One of the many pictures with my favorite person.  

For me, these feelings of love came almost four years ago when I laid my eyes on my beautiful girlfriend. It hit me hard, and it was unstoppable. The feelings continued to grow and grow until I took action upon them by asking her on dates and seeing if this love was more than just a one-way street. It was.

Some of you may be asking yourselves, why is he mentioning his girlfriend? Hasn’t he written enough about her? To answer you, I would say it is impossible to right enough about her. The feelings I have for her are strong and whether I want to admit it or not, these feelings are never going to change. In fact, I believe I could make the same argument for Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice.

From the very beginning of the novel, we are introduced to each of these characters as two halves of the same whole. Although early on it is unclear of the actions Mr. Darcy is looking for, we see his maturation process from a prideful man into someone that just wants to be in love with Elizabeth. (Especially in Chapters 1-2 V.3) From Elizabeth’s viewpoint from the beginning till now, Mr. Darcy has just been a man who is full of pride that can’t seem to get over himself. However, other characters are painting a different picture of him. “ “He is the best landlord, and the best master”, said she, “that ever lived. Not like the wild young men now-a-days, who think of nothing but themselves. Some people call him proud; but I am sure I never saw anything of it. To my fancy, it is only because he does not rattle away like other young men””(P. 188). These statements from Mrs. Reynolds make us also question whether he was every a bad man as Elizabeth described him, or was she just to filled with prejudice that she was blind.

Proving that Darcy does have feelings for Elizabeth is evident in Chapter 3, V. 3 when Miss Bingley is trying to tear into the reputation of Elizabeth and where she comes from. After all the talk of Miss Bingley, Darcy responds with, “I have considered her one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance” (P. 205). This not only reinforces the idea that Mr. Darcy had always had eyes for her, but that he had been constantly thinking about her, especially when they were not together.

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For this whole time Darcy has been in love with Elizabeth. He just couldn’t admit it to anyone, or even to himself. Just as I had done with my girlfriend, it took time to truly know if I was in love with her. However, from the very beginning I did know that she was one of the only girls I would take a chance on even if she felt differently, just as Mr. Darcy is now doing with Elizabeth. It will be interesting to see how the final chapters portray their ideas for each other and if their love is more than just a one-way street, and if it is they will surely end up together in the end for a picture perfect storybook ending.

 

 

John Keats’ Nature in my life

Nature engulfs us. It overtakes our physical and emotional sensations at just one glance.

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John Keats (1795-1821)

As we stare at God’s creation we are taken away from all our worries and placed in this indescribable state of mind. In John Keats’ Bright Star, would I were stedfast as thou art this same type of feeling is displayed through the conversation of different aspects of nature.

 

Within the poem we see Keats describe what it was like to look up into the night sky and see such a beautiful sight. “Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art/Not in lone splendor hung aloft the night,/And watching, with eternal lids apart,/Like nature’s patient, sleepless ermite.” Keats uses various images to paint the scene for us in phrases like with ‘eternal lids apart’ and ‘nature’s patient, sleepless ermite.’ From these images we can see that when Keats or his character were looking up at the night sky he was so mesmerized by the image that his eyes were as far spread as possible. Also, by using a ‘ermite’ or hermit to show what he looked like looking at the sky we can see that it doesn’t matter who you are or how much money/wealth you have; nature is here for everyone to experience.

In the second half of the poem, he switches from talking about a night sky filled with bright stars to, “The moving waters at their priestlike task/Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores/Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask/Of snow upon the mountains and the moors.” This switch shows the reader that Keats has been able to experience various forms of nature that each had a different affect on him. His first image of the ocean shores is created by looking at them as if they had healing powers just as the ‘moving waters’ (holy water) that priests use. Keats’ emphasis on nature having healing/changing powers are continued when he introduces the new snow that has fallen on the mountains. This image shows a change on the mountains that is necessary and unavoidable just like life is.

Keats’ final line may be one of the best ones within the poem: “And so live ever- or else swoon to death.” Keats wants to demonstrate to the reader that the nature around us can help us live forever in the sense that we become more wholesome in nature compared to if we don’t immerse ourselves in this nature we will become ‘swoon to death.’ Keats’ whole poem demonstrates all of this, whether it be looking up at the night sky, observing the shoreline, or seeing the snow covered mountains.

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After reading this poem by John Keats, I started to think about the different things in nature that help me feel like a ‘patient, sleepless ermite.’ The one I landed on was sunsets. Not just any sunsets, an Iowan sunset. Something about it causes my eyes to open wider and wider. If you ever see that moment when a horizon changes colors you will no what Keats and I were talking about. Secondly, just as the water on the provided a healing for Keats, these various sunsets provided me with a healing from the stress of school, work, and cross country. Just as Keats had scene God’s creation, there is something about sitting in the grass and looking out into the endless orange and yellow sky. Finally, as Keats had noticed the change that the snow brought to the mountains, a sunset provides us with multiple levels of change. Not only is there a change of colors in the sky, but also a change from day to night. If we make it through the sunset we will be able to see those bright stars Keats described.

 

I know it sounds strange. “How can a sunset do anything for me,” is what you’re probably thinking. Well, as I was observing these beautiful sunsets I noticed that I was not the only one. Students, professors, and just community members were also locked on the beautiful image in the sky. It can be bad to get lost in nature to a certain degree, but being able to observe what God has created provides us with opportunities for growth. If we use nature as an outlet rather than trying to get lost in it there is no chance of us being ‘swoon to death.’

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Two students enjoying the sunset as they walk home. 

Here is the link to the poem itself, and if you would like to look up any other works by John Keats!

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44468/bright-star-would-i-were-steadfast-as-thou-art

 

 

 

 

English Romantic Lesson

Percy Shelley was a poet that was a master at combing all of his influences (Coleridge, Wordsworth, Byron) into the lines of his poems. The pieces we read for Shelley in my English Romantics Age class on the first day dealt more with a focus on the ideas of nature while his works we read for the second day had more of a political stem in them. In A Song: Men of England by Percy Bysshe Shelley, he discusses what life was like for the lowest class of the people of England through by using beautifully written end rhyme. His main point in the poem is that the peasant class of England makes up the majority yet they are treated poorly, although the country couldn’t function without them. This is one of Shelley’s ways of discussing the political feelings of the country in a poetic manner.

Percy_Bysshe_Shelley_by_Alfred_Clint_crop

P. Shelley (1792-1822)

His first two stanzas express the idea of England’s peasant class being abused. The first stanza says, “Men of England, wherefore plough/For the lords who lay ye low? / Wherefore weave with toil and care/The rich robes your tyrants wear?” From these first four lines we are not only introduced to what is considered the majority of England, but also the work they do: plough and weave. In the second stanza this concept is taken even further, “Wherefore feed and clothe and save/From the cradle to the grave/Those ungrateful drones who would/Drain your sweat-nay, drink your blood?” Shelley is demonstrating that the rich don’t care about the peasants or anyone that doesn’t have money; they only want them to work very hard so they don’t have to, referring to all the sweat. The rich will continue to make them do this until the day they die, referring to drink your blood. Shelley’s voice also projects forward throughout the piece. While we are reading it seems as though we are listening to someone give a heroic speech or a call to action because of Shelley’s use of question marks.

 

Shelley’s next two most important stanzas are five and six. Within stanza five Shelley dives deeper into how the rich abuse the labor of the peasants. “The seed ye sow, another reaps;/ The wealth ye find, another keeps;/ The robes ye weave, another wears;/ The arms ye forge, another bears.” It is clear the one who is keeping, reaping, wearing, and bearing is the rich; meanwhile, the poor continue to do what the rich want because it is their job. However, all these things they have just made, they do not get to keep for themselves. Right after stanza five is a turn in the poem from more of showing what the peasants deal with to urging them to rebel in stanza six. “Sow seed-but let no tyrant reap:/ Find wealth-let no imposter heap:/ Weave robes-let no idle wear:/ Forge arms-in your defence to bear.” This stanza’s points are clear and concise. Do not let the rich treat you poorly and take away your pride any longer.

 

From reading A Song: Men of England it is clear that Shelley did care about his country and the people living in it. As someone who does enjoy writing about topics I care about (like many writers), it is easy to relate to Shelley as someone who wants to see change occur and the only way he thinks he can provide assistance is through his writing.

I hope you all enjoyed diving into the life of an English Major for a few minutes, and if you enjoyed learning a little bit about Shelley as a political writer, I can guarantee you would love him as a nature writer. Here is the link to A Song: Men of England but you can search up any of Shelley’s wonderful poems.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52304/a-song-men-of-england