20 year old Junior at JSU
Psychology major & Sociology minor
The sexual nature of Leaves of Grass was fodder for great controversy during Whitman’s own life. Several high profile critics, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, found these themes less than desirable in the book. Whitman called for a reevaluation of sexual desire and sensuality in all forms, including homosexuality. Penny novels in vogue among American readers treated sexual desire as profane, something with which Whitman took issue. He believed the human body was the sacred creation of God and sexuality was God-given. He dismissed the Platonic divide between the body and the soul and exhorted his readers to see the divine in themselves and one another, as well as in his poems. http://www.gradesaver.com/leaves-of-grass/study-guide/section4/
Themes of sex and sexuality was an obvious statement in Leaves of Grass from the very beginning and have shaped the course of the book’s reception. The first edition in 1855 contained “Song of Myself,” “The Sleepers,” and “I Sing the Body Electric,” which are about sexuality but not exclusively throughout. From the very beginning, Whitman put together themes of “manly love” and “sexual love,” with great emphasis on intensely passionate attraction and interaction, as well as bodily contact (touch, embrace) in both. http://whitmanarchive.org/criticism/current/encyclopedia/entry_49.html
Whitman lost his government job in 1865 because his boss read his work and dismissed him for indecency. Through all of this, however, Whitman maintained that sexuality was vital to his own work precisely because it is a vital characteristic of the human experience. Sexuality was not just an individual experience between two people according to Whitman; it was a foundational experience for how society is woven together.
The attitudes toward his sexuality has changed and supposedly are changing, and there are critics, who tinge their opinions. According to other critics, Whitman himself wrote openly about this issue in his letters and prefaces; he found ways of expressing it, to communicate his homosexuality to his readers. It was most common in case of Peter Doyle who was ex-Confederate soldier who became Whitman’s intimate friend till Whitman’s death.
In 1882, Oliver Stevens, the district attorney of Boston, banned the 1881 edition; an edition that Whitman constructed to resemble a bible, because the sexually charged poems violated “the Public Statutes concerning obscene literature.” http://www.whitmanarchive.org/about/articles/anc.00007.html
As it can be easily foretold, there was and there continues a huge debate about Whitman’s homosexuality, or to say, his sexual identity.
Edgar Allan Poe was best known for his tales of fiction and mystery. Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career. Poe’s best known fiction works are Gothic, a genre he followed to appease the public taste. His most recurring themes deal with questions of death, including its physical signs, the effects of decomposition, concerns of premature burial, the reanimation of the dead, and mourning.
Edgar Allan Poe was heavily influenced by the misfortunes in his life so that morbid stories were the root of his writings. Many of his critics identified Poe with the characters in his pieces— deranged and peculiar. His stories deal with dark things such as death, guilt, revenge, and gloomy morbid topics. Poe makes use of irony as well as foreshadowing. Poe’s imagery is haunting, deriving they’re gloomy purpose and setting the right mood. Additionally, Poe makes use of repetition to add to the overall ghastly and haunting effect to create an image of the situation in the reader’s mind. http://alinalovespoe.tripod.com/id16.html Poe’s reputation today rests primarily on his tales of terror as well as on his haunting lyric poetry.
His gothic and fiction writing style is demonstrated in his piece Ligeia:
- Poe contrasts light and darkness to symbolize the conflict of two philosophical traditions. Ligeia emerges mysteriously from the Rhine, a river in southwest Germany. Being German, she symbolizes the Germanic Romantic tradition, closely related to the Gothic, that embraced the sensual and the supernatural. Ligeia’s mind is the center of the irrational and mystical, not the rational. The cold Lady Rowena is an ice queen from the north. She represents rationality. Rowena embodies the austerity and coldness of English empiricism, a philosophical tradition based on rational methods of observation, calculation, and analysis. “Ligeia” is Poe’s most successful attempt to merge the Gothic grotesque with the traditional love story, elements also combined in “Berenice” and “Morella.” Ligeia gives the story its name, and every detail of the plot draws its purpose from her character because she is the object of the narrator’s love. Ligeia perseveres in spite of the obstacles death and light—that Poe, as the author, places in her way. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/poestories/section2.rhtml
Frederick Douglass overcame adversity and was the most prominent African American activist of the nineteenth century. Not only did he manage to survive slavery and live in freedom. Douglass went to Britain, he stayed from 1845 to 1847 to speak on behalf of abolition and to earn enough money to pay for his freedom when he returned to America. http://www.east-buc.k12.ia.us/02_03/BH/fd/fd.htm
Douglass was the major Black leader of the 19th century and was often called “The Father of the Civil Rights Movement.” In addition to this, he also became an articulate critic of the institution and an active participant in the U.S. political system.
(This picture of a praying slave on a medallion was first published by Josiah Wedgewood (1730-1795). It was adopted as the seal of the Anti-Slavery Society in London.) http://www.rense.com/general34/lifeand.htp
Douglass became a lecturer for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society after he delivered a moving speech about his experiences as a slave and a colleague of William Lloyd Garrison, which led him into public speaking and writing. Douglass’s “Fourth of July” Speech made an immediate impact on the northern American reading public. It was published in pamphlet form in the weeks following the address and read by hundreds who had not attended the Rochester event. http://www.milestonedocuments.com/documents/view/frederick-douglasss-fourth-of-july-speech/impact
He published his own newspaper, The North Star, participated in the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, and wrote three autobiographies. He was internationally recognized as an uncompromising abolitionist, indefatigable worker for justice and equal opportunity, and an unyielding defender of women’s rights.
He became a trusted advisor to Abraham Lincoln, United States Marshal for the District of Columbia, Recorder of Deeds for Washington, D.C., and Minister-General to the Republic of Haiti.
Pieces by Douglass:
• The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was published in 1845.
•My Bondage and My Freedom, was published in 1855.
•Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, was published in 1881.
This piece represents the cultural assumptions and attitudes of its period. In this case it is gender roles and feminism. This includes status, roles and expectations. Women and men were portrayed differently, “…women, especially wives, sometimes used to be seen as oppressive, nagging, villain women.” http://pages.usherbrooke.ca/rimstead-cours/ANG341_FALL2007/alex%20lagace-Misogyny_in_RVW.htm
Rip Van Winkle goes into the forest to escape his wife. To me this represents him escaping the responsibilities of his family. This wouldn’t be a problem if men weren’t looked at as the head of the household; the person who works to provide for the family. Rip was considered an easy-going, good-natured man, but on the other hand his wife was the commander and head of him and his family. Dame was introduced as a strong, angry and aggressive woman, but her anger and aggression was spurred through Rip’s laziness and inability to provide for his family. Through this story it is proven that Rip was not a lazy man, but merely a man who did more for other people before he took care of things in his own household. Rip is a favorite of the women and children of the village, and a popular member of the crowd of men who gather outside the local tavern to argue about politics, but he is not as welcome in his own family. His wife never lets him forget his responsibilities to the family, or the many ways he fails to fulfill them. On the other hand, Dame did not always play her role correctly as her responsibility of the “care taker,” because their daughter is not the greatest child. Despite this there was always more pressure on Rip, and therefore, the two didn’t see eye to eye. After Rip woke up, he wasn’t saddened by the fact that his wife had passed away; he was at peace. The ideal picture of men and women, husband and wife is that the man is always the oppressor because he is the masculine figure of the relationship but in this story it was switched and also there is no equality between the two.
Along with Rip Van Winkle, there has been debates of other gender issues in his works:
- The Sketch Book and Bracebridge Hall reflect Irving’s personal conflict between responsibility, as represented by women characters such as Dame Van Winkle, and independence, which is reified in men like Rip Van Winkle. The tension is best seen in Irving’s short stories The Widow and Her Son and The Wife. Laura Plummer and Michael Nelson argue that, while gender ideology has been studied in Rip Van Winkle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. They state that the story “reveals Irving’s characteristic misogyny and the male fear of disempowerment played out again and again throughout the tale. http://www.enotes.com/washington-irving-criticism/irving-washington
Education was very important in the Fuller household. Margaret’s love for the written word was created from a young age and lead to a life of literary and philosophical exploration. At the age of three Margaret was schooled by her father in subjects such as math, history, grammar, and classical languages. http://www.margaretfullerhouse.org/?page_id=23
At seven she was reading Virgil, Ovid, and Horace and learning Roman virtue from the Latin historians. Fuller had to memorize daily passages from Virgil and recite up to 500 lines a week. From Virgil and studying Cicero, Fuller went to reading Plutarch. Fuller discovered Romeo & Juliet at the age of eight. She was scolded for reading it. She really didn’t care about the scolding because she was so absorbed in the story. http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/transcendentalism/margaret_fuller.html
The use of her father’s library was a privilege that she later obtained. Timothy Fuller, her father, a congressman taught Sarah Margaret his own relentlessly logical thought process. He may be better known as how he set about his daughter’s education than his four terms as congressman.
- Fuller was a strong willed gifted child at a young age but due to the constant pressure of her father she missed out on the things an average child would experience; things as simple as basic emotions:
Margaret Fuller was a deeply emotional and reflective individual. She recounts her earliest memory as that of the death of her younger sister, Julia Adelaide. She remembers being filled with grief and loneliness. This experience was followed by an emotionally stifling childhood one she describes as being filled with “glooms and terrors”. In her memoirs she refers to herself as having had “no natural childhood”.
Because she was a girl, Fuller’s education was unusual. Such an education provided a model of mental discipline that clashed with the gender roles of the time.
Paine believed that the existence of God is no different than knowing the belief in authority of the Bible or the authority of priests. Thomas Paine was not an atheist, even though he was accused of it though he strayed far from traditional Christianity. In other words Thomas Paine didn’t believe in religion.
"I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life."
Paine acknowledged his debt to Newton and said that “nature was the only form of divine revelation, for God had clearly established a uniform, immutable and eternal order throughout creation. Paine rejected Christianity, denied that the Bible was the revealed word of God, condemned many of the Old Testament stories as immoral and claimed that the Gospels were full of indifferences. Paine attacked the Christian churches. http://atheism.about.com/od/weeklyquotes/a/paine01.htm
Paine rejected written revelations. For him, studying revelations was the study of nothing. Nothing could be founded upon them, they had no authority, they offered no data, they demonstrated nothing, they produced no principles, and they led to no conclusions. Revelations were essentially useless, at least in a religious context, and the smart thing to do was to dispense with them as quickly as possible. http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/paine.html
It is difficult to maintain belief in God while also abandoning all of the support structures that have help up that belief in the past.
- Hoped for immortality
- Believed in special providence
- Denied the inspiration of the Scriptures
- Denied the divinity of Jesus Christ
▪ He believed in the separation of church and state he says it is a danger to society to make religion a party in political disputes. Combining religion with politics may be disagreed upon and unacceptable by every person in America.
“I bid you farewell, sincerely wishing, that as men and Christian’s, ye may always fully and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious right.” http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Thomas_Paine#Common_Sense_.281776.29