Answer 5 of the following 6 questions:
- What happens if you imagine yourself out of present-day and pretend you’re one of Bryant’s original , just listening to the language in his lyrics and not worrying about analyzing his poetry for a literature class. How is his poetry like art? (Hint: Listen to classical pieces by Beethoven and Schubert and look up landscape paintings by Thomas Cole to get a feeling for Bryant’s contemporaries.) After listening to and looking at other forms of art during this time period, how does Bryant’s poetry seem an appropriate fit? Does it seem like all forms (poetry, paintings, and music) come together to elicit a certain feeling in their audience?
- Bryant’s short poem to Thomas Cole, departing for Europe, is a valedictory but also an admonition. Bryant is worried about something, but what is it, and how does that concern help us to understand other works by this poet?
Jane Johnston Schoolcraft
- Because elegies can provide insight into the values and voices of a poet, “Sweet Willy” to Bradstreet’s elegies to her grandchildren (see Volume A for those poems). “Sweet Willy” was written more than eight years after Schoolcraft’s first elegy on the death of her son, but what differences do you notice, not only in mood, but also in allusion? Would you know that this poem was written by a Native American woman? What are the clues you’re responding to? Though Schoolcraft probably never knew Bradstreet’s elegies, do you see similarities in purpose here with regard to the implicit responsibilities of the elegist and the ways in which those duties are met or resisted?
Lydia Maria Child
- In Letter XIV, Child offers an account of two immigrant burial grounds. Read from “Following the railroad, which lay far beneath our feet” down to the end of the letter, and describe her purposes in describing and contrasting these two visits.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “Self-Reliance” can be viewed as a declaration of intellectual freedom, but it can also be troublesome when trying to interpret his written work. How does the following passage (below) complicate your understanding of Emerson’s philosophy? How can we truly understand an essayist who might mean what he says only “today”?
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Out upon your guarded lips! Sew them up with packthread, do. Else, if you would be a man, speak what you think today in words as hard as cannon balls, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. Ah, then, exclaim the aged ladies, you shall be sure to be misunderstood. Misunderstood! It is a right fool’s word. Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
- Jefferson provides us with a declaration of political independence; Franklin affirms our independence from any single dogma or body of systematic thought, exhorting us to make our own systems–preferably on the model of his own. If we try reading Emerson as a declaration of complete intellectual independence, then in what spirit should we read Emerson–or anybody else who offers wisdom or values? In other words, is rebellion against Emerson himself, moment to or overall, a supremely Emersonian act?