Thank you students for your thoughtful responses to the courageous soul and brilliant writer: Henry David Thoreau. Ariel, for example, points to the key quote from “Civil Disobedience” that calls attention to the importance of taking a stand against a corrupt government:
“Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?”
From Walden,or Life in the Woods, there are so many powerful quotes and words of wisdom. Amina chose this great one:
“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard times. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is.”
Mohammed chose this fantastic line:
“Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more that his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!”
In a chaotic world in which we are all obsessively glued to our laptops and iphones for too much of the day, let’s all take a breather and try to find true solitude and perhaps even higher enlightenment. Thoreau and Emerson (and Nature itself) can serve as guides for accessing the “genius” within us all and the power of the glorious universe around us.
For this week, I want to introduce America’s first professional writer of stories and poetry: Edgar Allan Poe. Poe remains one of the world’s most beloved and versatile writer and a key figure in American Romanticism. In “The Murders of the Rue Morgue” (1841), featuring the detective C. Auguste Dupin (think Sherlock Holmes), he invented the detective story. In his novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, he wrote the first science fiction novel. He also invented the horror genre that fueled the writings of Stephen King and today’s many horror films. He was also America’s first literary critic.
He led an unusual life, filled with youthful love, romantic yearning, literary ambition, and—unfortunately—alcoholism. His life experiences allowed him to become a master of psychological forces that brood just beneath the surface of our own rational selves. As you read his works, think about how they serve as precursors to Sigmund Freud’s theories on the battle between our rational and irrational impulses (the Id, the Ego, and Superego).
Interestingly, Poe spent his last years in the Bronx in a cottage that remains a museum (and a great place to visit). Please watch this video of his years there.
His most famous poem “The Raven” (1845) was written in Manhattan (West 84th Street to be exact) and relates the extreme grief a narrator feels upon the death of a beautiful maiden, named “Lenore.” When a raven comes into his apartment and sits upon a bust of Pallas (Athena who represents wisdom and rationality), he starts asking all kinds of crazy questions hoping for answers about a possible reunification with Lenore. The poem is renowned for its symbolism and repetitive rhyme scheme that mimics the feelings of unending grief. It’s also important to note that Poe lost his own young wife (Virginia Clemm), soon after writing this poem. He knew she was dying of tuberculosis and had only months to live.
Please watch a video version of the poem here: “The Raven” (read by Christopher Lee)
Please also read this spooky tale (one of many), focusing on the themes of madness and revenge, called “The Black Cat.”
If you have the time, I also highly recommend watching this new animated film based on several of his stories (it’s free but there are a few ads).
In your post, please let me know which tale, poem, or part of the film interested you the most and why. You may also choose to make a connection of Poe’s life to his fiction. Post due: Monday, Nov. 7th.
Enjoy and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!