4 October 2004
In order to meet the requirements for Blogging Portfolio 1, many of you have quite a few blog entries to write. My goal is, of course, to get you to think about all these texts again (or, if you skipped a reading, for the first time), as you ponder what paper you'd like to write.
For moral support, I suggest that you meet in the computer labs in small groups; or, use e-mail to arrange virtual study groups. Plan to read and comment meaningfully on each other's blog entries. You might be surprised at what comes up. The main thing is to do it consistently, a few entries at a time, over several days. When you go back to your blog after a few days, you might find several comments there, which will give you something immediate to write about. If you can't think of a blog entry on your own, then spend an hour or so doing nothing but reading and commenting on peer blog entries. Not only will this fulfill the xenoblogging component of the portfolio, it will also encourage more people to read what you have to say. (Make sure to leave the URL of your blog along with your comment.)
Feel free to hit "Reply All" to the e-mail message that I sent when I announced this page -- you can use e-mail to arrange alliances and make pacts to read and comment on each other's work. Or, you can use the comment space below to offer additional suggestions.
Likewise, if someone leaves you a helpful comment, return the favor, and give them one... or two.
If you're only interested in reading blog entries on a particular topic, it can be confusing to sort through the lists of all the unrelated blogging that's going on at SHU. Fortunately, Google does a pretty good job indexing blogs.setonhill.edu, so if you want to find someone who has blogged on a topic (character, author, title), you can probably find them by using Google to search the site. (Just add "site: blogs.setonhill.ed" as the first term in a Google search, and add your keywords after that. Here are a few pre-loaded searches, so you can get an idea of how it works:
If you want to make sure your page is found, use the full title of the work and the author's name in your entry (especially in the title).
As I write this, Zachary Harvey's blog ranks about 60th out of 26,000 Google hits for "poe bells". Melissa Hagg's blog ranks about 90th out of 200,000 Google hits for "Owl Creek". Michael Sichok is about 60th out of 340,000 Google hits for "scarlet letter".
Today's Topic: Discuss: Emerson & Thoreau
Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are the central figures in the American Transcendentalist movement. We will look at both men as writers of essays that helped define a uniquely American culture.
These people, mostly New Englanders, mostly around Boston, were attempting to create a uniquely American body of literature. It was already decades since the Americans had won independence from England. Now, these people believed, it was time for literary independence. And so they deliberately went about creating literature, essays, novels, philosophy, poetry, and other writing that were clearly different from anything from England, France, Germany, or any other European nation.
Another way to look at the Transcendentalists is to see them as a generation of people struggling to define spirituality and religion (our words, not necessarily theirs) in a way that took into account the new understandings their age made available. -- What is Transcendentalism?
While transcendentalism in America was characterized by a rejection of European influcences, European transcendentalists shared the Americans' desire to embrace intuition and inspiration. The transatlantic movement was a reaction against the cold rationalism of the Enlightenment. The Englightenment was, of course, a reaction against Romanticism (which celebrated noble human passions such as heroism and patriotism, in addition to lofty love) and against traditional religion (with its rituals and mysteries).
Thoreau, who is revered as America's first ecologist, was Emerson's protege. When Thoreau died young, Emerson wrote, in his eulogy of Thoreau, a passage that helps explain both men's philosophy:
No truer American existed than Thoreau. His preference of his country and condition was genuine, and his aversion from English and European manners and tastes almost reached contempt. He listened impatiently to news or bonmots gleaned from London circles; and though he tried to be civil, these anecdotes fatigued him. The men were all imitating each other, and on a small mould. Why can they not live as far apart as possible, and each be a man by himself? What he sought was the most energetic nature; and he wished to go to Oregon, not to London. "In every part of Great Britain," he wrote in his diary, "are discovered traces of the Romans, their funereal urns, their camps, their roads, their dwellings. But New England, at least, is not based on any Roman ruins. We have not to lay the foundations of our houses on the ashes of a former civilization."
Emerson: (biography) Read Ann Woodlief's Study Questions for "Self Reliance" (I'm not actually going to collect the exercise discussed on that page, but the study questions will help you make your way through this complex text) and the full text of Self-Reliance (about 18 pages when printed out)
Thoreau: (biography). Start with Civil Disobedience(about 15 pages when printed out), then read a short paper (4 printed pages) on the history of the critical reaction to Thoreau's essay: "Transcendental Legacy: Political Reform". (The short paper calls Thoreau's essay by its original title, "Resistance to Civil Government.")