21 Oct 2009

Sample Essay: William Blake

William Blake is one of England’s most famous literary figures. He is remembered and admired for his skill as a painter and poet. Blake was the Romantic artist, whose artwork became part of the wider movement of Romanticism in late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth century in European Culture. William Blake’s art and ideas represent a tested vision of life.  In the Twentieth century, Blake has been renowned as a highly original and important artist and as a member of an enduring tradition of visionary artists and philosophers, an individualist, a libertarian, and an uncompromising critic of orthodoxy and authoritarianism. William Blake was probably the most singular of the English romantics. His paintings are radiant, imaginative, and heavily symbolic, indicating the spiritual reality underlying the physical reality. In his many works of painting, Blake gradually defined a complex personal mythology in which godlike characters he called Zoas symbolize the divine aspects of the human psyche or soul. Blake’s traditional Christian beliefs were modified by a fascination with Mysticism and what is often considered to be his anticipation of the Romanticism unfolding around him. . Blake’s valuable work is recognized with extraordinary depth and ability. It explains artistic, emotional, visionary, Christian beliefs and transcendental views of reality. This paper presents argumentative synthesis about Blake work and supporting Blake’s contribution in the field of literature.

Blake’s own theory is rooted in his declaration that poetry, painting, and music are the three powers in man of conversing with Paradise of which the expulsion from Eden had not deprived him. The reflection of nature and of all perishable things in art was the creation of uninspired men, who fell back on memory to fill its absence. His apprenticeship to engraving under Basire had taught him that drawing is the foundation of pictorial art, and in his Public Address written about 1810 but never printed, Blake defined painting as “drawing on canvas”, and engraving as “drawing on copper”, definitions to which he was moved by the softer school of Schiavonetti, Bartolozzi, and Angelica Kauffman which was coming into vogue in his day Burdett, 1926, Pg: 106). Blake, at least, considered that he had produced a coherent system. Once having achieved this, he was not content to keep it to himself, and just as he drew job recounting his experience to his daughters, showing them the way of salvation, so he attempted to spread his teaching among all. As Blake expressed it, “Every mortal loss is an immortal gain”(Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1939, Pg: 3). Shortly afterwards, in a vision or trance, occurred the first dream dictation of a series which continued throughout Blake’s life.

It is true that Blake shared with the antiquaries of his age far-fetched notions of the origin of British civilization, which they traced back to the Druids and connected with the lost Ten Tribes; but Blake, while accepting such theories, was chiefly concerned in adapting them for symbolic purposes. Blake himself, after his earlier revolutionary enthusiasm had subsided, was a pacifist.  In his Public Address he records the current criticism of his work to have been: “he can conceive but he cannot execute”( Burdett, 1926. Pg: 103). Proponents squabble that Blake in Public Address, disdainfully refers to the “Smears & Dawbs” of what he calls “False Art.” In A Descriptive Catalogue, Blake describes clarity good and bad art. He stated, “The grand style of Art restored in FRESCO, or Water-color Painting, and England protected from the too just imputation of being the Seat and Protectress of bad (that is blotting and blurring) Art” (Bruck 1988. Pg: 57-68)

Many readers are familiar with Blake’s prophetic works such as Milton or Visions of the Daughters of Albion or The Book of Urizen, which emphasize understanding of human importance. They responded with more or less distress that these fantasies point out to typical phenomena. After analyzing the ideas of Blake, few critics would accuse him of being mundanely reality bound in his visual or poetical arts, who, would openly admit to having seen anything like the frontispiece to Europe or Plate 6 of Jerusalem (King , 1991, Pg: 214-15). People who read Blake’s poetry and observe visual creations consider that both works rely on a mixture of the unfamiliar with the familiar concepts. Reader believes that they encounter familiar, which is not to say apparent, symbols and names from the Bible, but it can be kept off balance by the presence of new and strange names like Ahania, Enitharmon and Los. Even exclusively within the context of his own works, readers repeatedly come across similar faces and imagery, but, alienating enough, placed in apparently different contexts (Burdett, 1926. Pg: 103).  This criticism was a convenient way of expressing the fact that, while Blake was capable of executing anything that his imagination conceived, he was entirely at the mercy of his theory of inspiration, and worked without pause whether he happened to be inspired or not. His theory and his practice suffered because he left no room for second thoughts, and anything “done in the heat of his spirits” was justified (Burdett, 1926. Pg: 103). To refute this criticism, it is evaluated that William Blake’s novelty in engraving techniques reflects the brilliant synthesis of visual and poetic art in the “Songs of innocence” (Blake, 1996, Pg: 55-65). Blake always interpreted Bible literally according to its spiritual sense.  Perhaps in all his writings there is no more complete or eloquent expression of his fundamental ideas than that contained in the prose passage addressed to the Christians which may be found in Jerusalem. According to Blake, “I know of no other Christianity and of no other Gospel than the liberty of both body and mind to exercise the Divine Arts of imagination , the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow, and in which we shall live in our eternal or imaginative bodies, when these vegetable mortal bodies are no more” (Burdett, 1926. Pg: 104). One author can declare him a Gnostic and later a pantheist, but these are two distinct heresies. Blake himself was quite convinced that he had a message to proclaim.

In the Terence Allan Hoagwood, Jerusalem, which is considered important deep text of Blake’s work, it is difficult to understand because its author wishes to exercise his readers’ minds, to provoke their faculties to activity. Such arousal is common to all prophecies. Blake termed it mental war.  In his work, visionary aestheticians had supplied specific strategies for achieving this goal, and Blake adopts these strategies as well. One is calculated obscurity, and Blake has locked his vision in dense and difficult form. As Hoagwood states, Blake wanted to inflame his audiences into thought. Blake is referred to as artists specializing in irritation. Blake’s prophetic aesthetics clearly work to disrupt the smooth flow of reading and force reader to reconsider the material at hand. These techniques, as applied in these and other works, create as alienation effects. Just as the “presentation” of multiple roles by one actor in “The Measures Taken” reinforces person’s awareness that the play is, exactly, a presentation, and, through this awareness, forces acceptance or rejection of actions and utterances to take place on a conscious plane. Blake’s techniques described by Hoagwood forces people to step back from his presentation with reference to both text and illustration and rouses faculties to activity (Smith, 1990. Pg: 157-178). Although most of his readers judge Blake as a poet of romantic period, actually he goes beyond the stereotype of the traditional romantic poet. Harold Pagliaro advocates that Blake not only involved in the romantic era of preoccupation with morality but also actually went beyond most of his contemporaries in embracing vulnerabilities to death. One author can declare him a Gnostic and later a pantheist,   but these are two distinct heresies. Blake himself was quite convinced that he had a message to proclaim (Garnett , 1893, Pg: 30). It can be said that Blake had a miraculous insight into current economics, politics and culture, and was able to distinguish the effects of the despotism of church and state as well as what he considered the arid philosophy of a rationalist view of the world.

William Blake, the great predecessor to the Romantics, was a revolutionary and visionary artist and his work represented a decisively new direction in the course the Visual Arts. Blake may have played a critical role in the modern Western World’s conception of imagination. The specialty of William Blake’s work is that he uses numerous literary techniques and devices to articulate his thoughts. He created such literary work because he was a creative thinker, fully conscious of the realities and complexities of experience, particularly the poverty and oppression of the urban world where he spent his valuable life. He was criticized by means of the language of the Bible, which were his own specially created mythology and the extraordinary combination of text and image in his illuminated books. Many people voiced that the dominant philosophy of his work, which believed that a narrow view of sense experience, could facilitate people to understand everything that there was to be known, including God. Blake’s own visionary experiences showed him that rationalism ignored important dimensions of human life which would enable people to hope, to look for change, and to rely on more than that which their senses told them. His belief that humanity could overcome the limitations of its five senses is perhaps Blake’s greatest heritage. While his perspective was once perceived as merely aberrant, it now seems to have been incorporated into the modern definition of the terms. Even today, his artistic and poetic creations are valued in British culture.

Work- Cited

Berlin Isaiah, The Roots of Romanticism. Editor: Henry Hardy 1999.

Bruck, Jan. “Brecht’s and Kluge’s Aesthetics of Realism.” Poetics: International Review for the Theory of Literature 17:1-2 (1988 Apr.): 57-68.

Hagstrum, Jean H. William Blake, Poet and Painter: An Introduction to the Illuminated Verse. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964

King, James. William Blake: His Life. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. Pg: 214-15.

Osbert Burdett.William Blake; Publisher: Macmillan. Place of Publication: New York. 1926. Pg: 103-107.

Smith, Mark Trevor. “Striving with Blake’s Systems.” Blake and His Bibles. Ed. David V. Erdman. West Cornwall: Locus Hill Press, 1990. Pg:157-178.

Garnett R. William Blake, Poet and Painter, 1893, pp. 30, 32.

Blake William. Favorite Works of William Blake: Three Full-Color Books. Publisher: Courier

Dover Publications, 1996. Pg: 55-65.

22 Jun 2009

Sample Essay: Racism In

Maya Angelou has a life full of insults heaped on her by racist whites. She had a childhoodwhich was marred and scarred by incidences of racism, and later on in life she was pursued bythe many headed hydra of racism too. Her childhood was full of insults from angry racist whites.As a child Maya and her brother ripped the stuffing out the white doll her mother had sent her.

This shows the extreme anger and disappointment that Maya Angelou had with the attitude andprejudices of the racist whites even as a child. It is only due to her brilliance and hard workthat she rose to a position of prominence and fame in this white dominated society. She roseabove petty racism to heights of emancipation unimaginable. Even later on in life she was pursued by the monster known as racism. Her family disapproved of her marriage to Tosh Angelos, a white man who she eventually divorced. Yet Maya Angelou did not let that put her down. She rose up into the sky like a beacon of light for all the world to see and admire. Maya Angelou was born to the name of Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri.

When Maya Angelou was the tender age of three her parents divorced and she had to live with her grandmother. Within a few years she was shifted back to her mother. Her mother was a dancer in a bar and taught Maya Angelou how to dance. During this portion of her life she experienced the multifarious and negative effects of segregation for herself.At the age of 16

Maya Angelou became pregnant and gave birth to a son she named Clyde. After graduation fromhigh school Maya Angelou did not go to college as she wanted to take care of her son. Duringthis period in our history it was very difficult for a black to find a job. Maya Angelou had the double disadvantage as she was black and also a woman. She managed through sheer perseverance and hard work to find a job and became the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco. Maya Angelou was inspired by black jazz musicians. She had the feeling that if they could become famous then she could get fame through the same route. She got jobs as a dancer and singer and finally became an actress. Maya Angelou starred in many plays and eventually became famous. Maya Angelou also started writing plays and also wrote a play to raise money for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This was an organization which supported the rights if African Americans. It was through this organization that Maya Angelou met Martin Luther king. He was very awe inspiring and wonderful person. During this time the coordinator of Southern Christian Leadership Conference left and Maya Angelou got the honor of replacing him as coordinator.

After the passage of some time Maya Angelou moved to Africa as she thought that she would find a home there because her own ancestors had come from this land. However this did not work out and she got homesick and moved back to her true home, our own great and lovely USA. Maya Angelou now became a writer. Maya Angelou has been at different times a dancer, actress, singer, author, and poet. It has been hard work for a black female to make it to the very top but Maya Angelou reached the apex of greatness. Her work too reflects her constant struggle against inclement odds.

Life’s Journey

Along the dark and dreary road,

A young girl walked

From childhood Maya has experienced the horror of racism. I Know Why the Caged Bird sings is the autobiography of Maya Angelou. After the divorce of her parents Maya Angelou and her elder brother are sent to live with their grandmother in a small town in Arkansas. She comes to hate herself for being black. The world Maya Angelou sees through her eyes at this stage isdominated by the whites. She wants to be a white too in this white dominated world. At the age of eight she again goes to live with her mother in her mother in St. Louis. Here she gets sexually abused by her mother boy friend and gets scarred for life. She even loses her voice and becomes mute. Finally when Maya Angelou becomes aware of racial prejudice and religious hypocrisy she starts getting her voice back.

Maya Angelou hates racists. She herself has experienced racism and has come to hate the evil of racism. I will not sit in a group of black friends and hear racial pejoratives against whites. I will not hear “honky.” I will not hear “Jap.” I will not hear “kike.” I will not hear “greaser.” I will not hear “dago.” I will not hear it. As soon as I hear it, I say, “Excuse me, I have to leave. Sorry.” Or if it’s in my home, I say, “You have to leave. I can’t have that. That is poison, and I know it is poison, and you’re smearing it on me. I will not have it. This shows that not even in childhood alone but even in her mature years Maya Angelou is faced by the problem of racism. When we experience something first hand we come to recognize it under any garb and understand it as soon as we see it. Racism in any way is abhorrent to Maya Angelou, be it against the whites, the Latin’s or the Japanese. She belongs to the ages. She is not just confined to the here and now but to eternity. She is not just an American. She belongs to the world in her beauty and innocence. Her message is for the whole world.  According to Maya Angelou when we talk about racism we are not just talking about acts against blacks. We are talking about vulgarities against any human being because of her — his — race. This is vulgar. That is what it is, whether it is anti-Asian, whether it is the use of racial prejudices about Jews, about Japanese, about Native Americans, about blacks, about Irish, it is stupid, because what it is really is it is poison.It poisons the spirit, the human spirit. I know there are blacks who say, “I can use the N-word because I mean it endearingly.” I don’t believe that. I believe it is vulgar and dangerous, given from any mouth to any ear. I know that if poison is in a vial which says P-O-I-S-O-N and has a skull and the cross bones, that it is poison. But if you pour the same thing into Bavarian crystal it is still poison. So I think racism is vulgar any way you cut it.This is what racism means to Maya Angelou. It is vulgarity incarnate. She does not hold with it in any sense or manner. Not even as a joke. We see that she is deeply wounded and scarred by the racists. She is not even ready to accept the N-word even endearingly. This shows a whole life spent facing the disastrous effects of rampant racism. When we look at her work like the A Christmas poem we are again faced with the response to racism. It seems all her work is largely driven by her response to racism she encountered in her life.  In this beautiful, deeply moving poem, Maya Angelou inspires us to embrace the peace and promise of Christmas, so that hope and love can once again light up our holidays and the world. Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers, look heavenward, she writes, and speak the word aloud. Peace. In Hallelujah! The Welcome Table Angelou tells us about the time she was expelled from school for being afraid to speak-this again leads us to the conclusion that her whole work and style is a counter to racism. Her mother baked a delicious maple cake to brighten her spirits. She gives us her recipe for short ribs along with a story about a job she had as a cook at a Creole restaurant (never mind that she didn’t know how to cook and had no idea what Creole food might entail).again and again in her work we come up against the deleterious effect racism has on an innocent girl. She is like a butterfly fluttering in anguish in a cruel world of racism. There was the time in London when she attended a wretched dinner party full of wretched people; but all wasn’t lost-she did experience her initial taste of a savory onion tart. A Song Flung Up to Heaven opens as Maya Angelou returns from Africa to the United States to work with Malcolm X. Malcolm X got assassinated and Maya Angelou was heart broken at this outrage flung on the world by fate. After this she tries to put her life back together but she is again jolted by the assassination of King who had previously asked her to become his coordinator in the north. Maya Angelou completely withdrew from life at this stage. She feels that she is unable to deal with this horrible event. Finally, James Baldwin forces her out of isolation and insists that she accompany him to a dinner party – where the idea for writing I

Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is born. In fact, A Song Flung Up to Heaven ends as Maya Angelou begins to write the first sentences of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.In The Heart of a Woman we again deal with Maya Angelou’s response to racism. She becomes the Northern Coordinator for Martin Luther. It is filled with Maya Angelou’s eloquent prose – her fondest dreams, deepest disappointments. It has got famous characters, from Billie Holiday to Malcolm X. As we go on reading the work of Maya Angelou we are again and again struck by the fact that her whole life is a response to racism. This is the story of most African Americans who make their way up the ladder of fame. In Even the Stars Look Lonesome Maya Angelou talks about Africa. She gives us a profile of Oprah. She shares with us the indelible lessons she has learned about rage and violence. Maya Angelou’s life is awe inspiring. As we learn about her childhood and move up the years with her to her maturity we are left breathless at the sheer beauty and tenacity of this great woman. She has learned to deal with racism and given it a fitting response. She is a model for us all. In All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes Maya goes to Ghana, where she joins a community of black Americans. Maya Angelou also explores what it means to be African-American on the mother continent. Where color no longer matters.

This work again reveals the response of Maya Angelou to racism. In a world full of cowards she is a clarion call towards bravery and conviction to the ideals of humanity.

Shadows on the wall

Noises down the hall

Life doesn’t frighten me at all

In all her poems and works we see her bravery reflected. In Diversity Makes for a Rich Tapestry written by Donna Brown Agins Maya Angelou says I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition. From her childhood she learnt how to respond to racism. As she says in   p. 254 of Caged Bird, After a month my thinking processes had so changed that I was hardly recognizable to myself. The unquestioning acceptance of my peers had dislodged the familiar insecurity…After hunting down unbroken bottles and selling them with a white girl from Missouri, a Mexican girl from Los Angeles and a Black girl from Okalahoma, I was never again to sense myself so solidly outside the pale of the human race. The lack of criticism evidenced by our ad hoc community influenced me, and set a tone of tolerance in my life.

Maya Angelou herself says that it takes time and courage to fight racism. It doesn’t happen in a day or even a month. It takes years of devotion to your ideals and purity of thoughts to attain the level where you are able to say no to racism. She says  Now, it’s not an easy thing. And one doesn’t all of a sudden sort of blossom into somebody who’s courageous enough to say that. But you do start little by little. And you sit in a room, and somebody says — if you’re all white, and somebody says, “Well, the niggers — ” You may not have the courage right then, but you say, “Whooh! My goodness! It’s already eight o’clock. I have to go,” and leave. Little by little, you develop courage. You sit in a room, and somebody says, “Well, you know what the Japs did then, and what they’re doing now.” Say, “Mm-hmm! I have to go. My goodness! It’s already six o’clock.” Leave. Continue to build the courage. Sooner or later, you’ll be able to say out loud, “Just a minute. I defend that person. I will not have gay bashing, lesbian bashing. Not in my company. I will not do it.

Maya Angelou thinks that humanity transcends all barriers of color or religion. Shebelieves in humanity and the equality of all humans. Through the crucible of a life spent in painand torment caused by rampant racism she emerges as a voice of reason and sanity in ourtroubled world. She says It is of particular interest to see the men who have been important inour struggle; that is, when one looks at Dr. King, a preacher; and Andrew Young, a preacher; and Jesse Jackson, a preacher; and Malcolm X, a preacher; or Louis Farrakhan, a preacher, to see that as a people we tend to be religious, whether we are following Buddha, or in some cases are black Jews or Muslims or Christians or Shintoists for that matter. Martin Luther King, Jr. always said human beings are more alike than we are unalike. She writes of the triumph of the human spirit over hardship and adversity. Her voice speaks of healing and reconciliation, and she is a willing symbol for the American nation on the eve of the twenty-first century.                Frangoise Lionnet

Today Maya Angelou stands at the pinnacle of fame due to her honesty and courage. It is due to her humanistic response to racism that she has reached this apex of perfection. She is a human first and foremost and she firmly believes in the equality of all humans.She says I have accepted the fact that since this is my only life, and as far as I can be assured it is the only one I will ever know, I will not allow myself to be separated from one other human being because of that man or woman’s color, because of his or her persuasion, whether it is one with which I do not agree. I will fight against that one I do not agree with, but I will not be separated from his/her humanity.I must not, because if I do so I deny my own..

But, on a positive note

I’ve learned that no matter

what happens or how bad it

seems today, life does go on

and it will be better tomorrow.                To a Phenomenal Woman Maya Angelou

We see that Maya Angelou’s life has been profoundly influenced by racism. From a child to a mature woman of the world, Maya Angelou has had to face racism in many forms and in almost all her spheres of activity. She has automatically given the response of tolerance and humanism to this ugly monster. She has risen above the limitations placed on her by space and time and given a timeless message of hope to the future. Nothing could keep her down for long.

After every setback she shook herself and emerged from the fires of racism like a phoenix.I know what the caged bird feels.

Ah me, when the sun is bright on the upland slopes, when the wind blows soft through the springing grass and the river floats like a sheet of glass, when the first bird sings and the first bud ops, and the faint perfume from its chalice steals.

I know what the caged bird feels

Sympathy                        Sir Lawrence Dunbar

From all of the above it is safe to conclude that Maya Angelou’s life was filled with incidencesof racism yet she rose to a height of greatness and fame only due her perseverance and nobility of character and the beauty of humanism that lies within her.

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