25 Matching Annotations
  1. Dec 2015
    1. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

      The style of the first part of this poem has some very strong parallels to the opening of William Carlos Williams's "To Elsie" in that it's describing a collective of people by giving, in each short stanza, an example of a specific sort of person existing within this broader collective. The first lines of "Howl" and "To Elsie" are nearly identical – in "To Elsie" it's "The pure products of America/go crazy."

      Both poems begin by identifying a madness/craziness/illness that our society suffers from collectively. After that, each stanza narrows in on a particular place/subset of people that is suffering from this madness, so that the reader is given the impression of traveling from one spot to the next on a map of the United States. While these separate subsets of people might not be grouped together geographically, they're grouped together under the umbrella of the same sort of insanity.

      Ginsberg seems to be more focused on urban areas while Williams is more centered on the rural, but in both poems the people depicted are suffering from the same sort of madness.

  2. Oct 2015
    1. He is taught rather not to see it, or if he does, to be ashamed of it when it is not according to Caucasian patterns.

      Another moment in the text reminiscent of DuBois – here Hughes describes a recognition of one's/one own people's beauty placed alongside a consciousness that those looking from the outside in may not see this beauty. The recognition of a form of beauty that differs from the white idea of what "beauty" is becomes something shameful, because although one may recognize their own beauty, the desire to be seen as beautiful by others, and to be universally acknowledged as beautiful, is overpowering and drives them to suppress this natural, different sort of beauty in imitation of European/white art that is canonized, taught to them in school, and universally acknowledged to be beautiful.

      By imitating the white idea of beauty in his art, the "negro artist" suppresses the natural, more personal beauty contained within themselves and which can be drawn from their own rich cultural history. However, this "racial mountain" that Hughes describes refers to the burial of this cultural history beneath generations of imitation of another culture. It's only natural that an artist coming from this sort of background would imitate the sort of "beauty" that he sees imitated around him, rather than digging back several generations to find something raw and uncopied.

    1. There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying “Stetson! You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!

      Here, slipped into an otherwise contemporary depiction of the “unreal city” of London, is a reference to the Battle of Mylae, which was fought between Rome and Carthage and took place in 260 BC. Having this bit of dialogue interspersed with imagery of London in 1922 shatters our linear perception of time and the illusion of “progress” upon which unreal cities like London are built, which is precisely what makes them unreal – they’re built upon an illusion, and it’s the illusion that allows a city to exist in the first place. This bit of dialogue throws us back in time abruptly by two thousand years, and the fact that it’s slipped so covertly into an otherwise contemporary passage recalls the clairvoyant’s vision at the beginning of the poem of “the Wheel” and “people walking in circles” at the start of the poem – although the “crowd flow[ing] over London bridge” in this passage are all staunch believers in the illusion of progress and in the fact that they’re moving forward over the bridge, they are, in fact, walking in circles just as people were in 260 BC.

      This passage also calls to attention the futility of war, and the fact that it doesn’t matter which battle the speaker was in the ships with Stetson at – whether it was World War I in the 20th century or Mylae so long ago, the result is the same, even if the goals behind them are purportedly different. War just feeds into this illusion that we’re moving forward , in a line, towards some better future, when really we’re “walking in circles” just like before.

      When Eliot reinvokes this image of contemporary London under a “brown fog” later on in the poem, he slips “Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant” (209) into his depiction of the unreal city. Upon first researching Smyrna, I discovered it was an ancient city located in what is now Turkey – meaning that this ancient merchant would have somehow been thrown forward into the modern-day world. This would present London as being just another version of these past, now-fallen “unreal cities” built atop the ruins of those that came before it, and further the idea of time being presented as a circular, rather than linear, thing.

      However, upon further research I discovered that The Great Fire of Smyrna was a catastrophe that occurred in the year 1922 – and it couldn’t possibly be a coincidence that this happened in the same year that “The Wasteland” was written. It occurred shortly after the end of Greek occupation of the port city during World War I. This could be another gesture toward the futility of war and how its furthering “progress” is nothing more than an illusion, and also relates to the motif of exile in the poem.

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      The boundary between past and present is blurred yet again at the mention of “Elizabeth and Leicester” (278) – referring to Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester – sailing down the Thames later on in the poem. This passage and the one directly preceding it are nearly identical – except that one is taking place on the contemporary Thames, and one on the 16th century Thames, almost 400 years prior. History, in this section, is repeating itself – or perhaps what we think of as being “present” is simply layered on top of what we think of as being “past,” and the distinction between the two is being blurred until they become one in the same thing. London is not only depicted as being built atop the ruins of prior “unreal cities” that also believed in the illusion of progress (but eventually fell, just as it is predicted that London will in this poem) – contemporary London is also being shown as layered atop all of its past phases in history, and somehow all of these phases of history seem to be bleeding into one in this poem. London is not only filled with crowds of modern-day people flooding over London bridge – it is also filled with ghostly figures of times past, and all of them seem to be existing at the same time, furthering the image of the city as being something “unreal.”

      Image Description

      It was during the reign of Queen Elizabeth that England became an as important a player in European exploration and imperialism as continental countries like Spain and Portugal [x], and perhaps this is why the poem flashes back to the Elizabethan period rather than any other one, with an image of Elizabeth and Leicester sailing down the Thames juxtaposed with a bleak and worn-out image of the contemporary Thames "sweating oil and tar." It is an image of the British empire after its run its course (just like any other empire), placed beside a hopeful image of a British empire thats still on the rise, and which believes itself to be immortal just like anybody or anything still in its youthful stages.

      During the Victorian era not so long before 1922, it was a popular saying that "the sun never set on the British empire," meaning that British imperialism had expanded so far across the globe that the sun always shone upon it at any given time. However, by 1922, the empire that Britain had become by the late Victorian era was already being gradually disbanded, and when the notion of "progress" that the Victorians believed so firmly in was shattered by this "progress" culminating in nothing constructive after all, but rather the destruction of WWI, the empire began to fall apart. Although Britain believed itself to be moving forward toward some higher, more elevated state as its technology progressed, it was proven during the war that humanity was every bit as capable of destructive acts as ever before, and that technology had, if anything, given humankind the means to be more destructive than they had ever been before contemporary technology existed.

      British imperialism depended not only upon the illusion of time progressing us toward some higher, more evolved state but also upon the idea that the British had somehow reached this higher state more quickly than the other civilizations they colonized. Britain justified its colonization of other cultures by claiming that they were more enlightened than these other people, and that by colonizing them they were "helping" them reach the same heights of enlightenment as the British. However, when all of Europe's notion of progress was shattered, imperialism could no longer be justified, and the British empire as it existed during the reign of Queen Victoria could no longer hold itself together. The illusory glue that held it together had dissolved, and so it eventually fell apart.

      Image Description

      The British empire, in this way, is being depicted by Eliot as the ultimate "unreal city" – a culture that believed so strongly in the illusions upon which it was founded that it has managed to exist for centuries and branched out to span the entire globe – based upon nothing more than a firm belief in the ideology of progress. In 1922, enough people still believed in this notion that the empire hadn't quite shattered to pieces as Eliot predicts that it will by flashing forward at the end of the poem to its ruins. However, the ideological glue holding the empire together was wearing thin as the aftermath of the war prompted people to question the entire notion of progress which was its foundation, and Eliot, who could see the foundation weakening, realized that the center of the empire could not hold, and that Great Britain – which had been unreal from its beginning – was on the verge of falling apart.

    2. A heap of broken images

      “A heap of broken images” here is reminiscent of the “falling towers” (373) and the “decayed hole among the mountains” (385) that the ruins at the end of the poem are described as – ruins that could very well have once been London. The fact that the poem begins with this image of ruins and ends with them gestures again toward the circular nature of time pointed out by the clairvoyant at the start of the poem – London was raised out of the ruins of unreal cities and has fallen back into them yet again in this post-apocalyptic depiction of the future, but the ending seems hopeful in that yet another “unreal city” may rise again from the ruins of London later on.

      The “heap of broken images” could refer to the heap of ruins of past unreal cities – “images” referring to the fact that these cities/civilizations are nothing more than mirages based upon an illusion of progress, and that this unreal city is the one that will somehow last forever (despite the fact that all of its predecessors whose ruins it was built atop have fallen), and “heap” referring to the fact that they’re all stacked atop one another, and in a way existing at the same time. “Heap” and “broken” also sounds messy – one city doesn’t just fall for another one to cleanly rise from the ruins. New cities always contain remnants or fragments inherited from its predecessors, and contemporary London has many predecessors.

      In this way London’s predecessors are a palimpsest upon which London has been written. The old ones have been erased but still exist beneath the fresher writing of London - and someday London, too, will be scratched out for a new unreal city to be written in its place. This shows us that London is in no way exempt from the fate of the “unreal cities” that came before it, despite all of its grand illusions of progress.

      This relates to the mention of the Battle of Mylae, The Smyrna Merchant, and Elizabeth and Leicester in that these are all ghostly figures from past unreal cities/past phases in London’s history that are somehow still visible in London in 1922. These figures are like the writing on the palimpsest that have been scratched out to write contemporary London in their place – but despite having been partially erased, they’re still showing through, and their influences are still present in London in the 1920s.

      This idea of “broken images” also relates to the concepts of modernism in general and of fragments/“isolate flecks” that we’ve discussed in class with regard to other poetry that was written in the same era as “The Wasteland.” It particularly calls to mind Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro,” since that poem is a potent depiction of the motif of the “unreal city” contained in just one, concise image.

      The fact that the faces described by the speaker in this poem are an “apparition” calls to mind the “apparition” of ghostly figures like Elizabeth and Leicester appearing in contemporary London, and of all ghostly figures from London’s predecessors still existing beneath the unreal city of London. The “heap of broken images” could be referring to a whole pile of images resembling the one contained within “In a Station of the Metro” that makes up the image of the unreal city, which is not just one coherent picture but rather a whole heap of fragmented glimpses. Perhaps this is because in the modern world, everything must be seen in fragments, or glimpses, due to the speed at which things move. Or maybe it’s because London is built atop so many unreal cities that the old ones are peeking through, which may be a sign that the “unreal city” of London has had its time and is coming to an end like all of its predecessors. London is coming apart at the seams and breaking into a “heap of broken images” before it falls entirely, and can no longer exist as one coherent image now that World War I has shattered the illusion of “progress” upon which it depended to stay standing.

      Image Description

    1. I’ve known rivers ancient as the world

      This makes me think back to the river motif present in "The Wasteland," and constant references back to the Thames river in Eliot's depiction of London. Rivers, in both poems, seem to be a symbol of constancy within the ever-changing cities built around them – cities that change ever more quickly as we move into the more modern, fast-paced world of the 1920s. In "The Wasteland," Eliot refers to both contemporary London, past versions of London, and (possibly) the fallen London of the future, but the river remains the same at the core of all its phases.

      The river here seems to have the ability not only to remain constant across different times but also across different geographical locations. This could speak to the displacement of African Americans throughout history – an idea supported by the fact that we begin in Mesopotamia, at the dawn of civilization, move into Africa, and then eventually end up in the southern United States. Perhaps the constancy of the river is a thing sorely needed among a community of people who have been forced to relocate across the world and have, in this way, been scattered across continents.

    1. Falling towers Jerusalem Athens Alexandria Vienna London Unreal

      Here, a list of cities that have once been at the center of something/some empire, and are definitely no longer at the center of things anymore (as London is). It's interesting that none of these cities are actually in ruins though, and are still in existence as functioning cities - just not as important as they once were. By listing them all (in Historical order, I think?) and ending in London, Eliot seems to be saying that London will fade just as all of its predecessors - who also believed in the idea of "progress" – did before it.

      The cities are "unreal" because they are built upon this idea of progress, which is really just the illusion that time is taking us somewhere different/better than where we are today.

    2. Elizabeth and Leicester

      Referring to Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester.

      Another example of unreal cities/past and present civilizations being layered on top on each other. This passage and the one preceding it are almost identical - except that one is taking place on the contemporary Thames, and one on the 16th century Thames, almost 400 years prior. History, in this section, is repeating itself, and time is moving in a circular motion (like the Wheel/people walking in circles seen by the clairvoyant).

      This also speaks to the idea of the "ghost city" that we discussed in class - Elizabeth and Leicester, the Smyrna merchant, and the person who fought at Mylae are all ghosts from past unreal cities haunting the present one. Or you could eliminate the idea of "past" and "present" completely, and say that all of these cities are existing at the same time/occupying the same space, and that none of the past unreal cities are as "past" as we think of them as being.

    3. Ringed by the flat horizon only What is the city over the mountains

      Here the "unreal city" is presented as a mirage seen over the horizon - something that will fade once you get too near to it. The wet/dry motif also seems to be connected with the unreal city motif in that wetness is related to civilization and dryness is related to the fall of civilizations. But wetness is also connected with being wrapped up in this mirage of the unreal city/illusion of progress, and results in "drowning the senses" and an inability to think clearly. Dryness seems to be associated with moments of clarity and seeing the bigger picture of things, the circular nature of time, and the fact that our linear idea of time and progress is just a mirage.

    4. Unreal City Under the brown fog of a winter noon Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant

      Like in the preceding "Unreal City" passage, in which London is also being depicted under a "brown fog," our linear perception of time/progress is being undermined here. In the last passage, the speaker mentions having fought in the battle of Mylae with somebody - a battle that took place in 260 BC - despite the fact that the passage, other than that, takes place in contemporary London.

      Now, in another otherwise contemporary London passage, a "Smyrna merchant" is slipped in. Smyrna was an ancient city located in what is now modern-day Turkey, but this ancient merchant is existing in a modern-day world. This (and the Mylae passage) present London as being just another version of these past, now-fallen "unreal cities," built atop the ruins of what came before it.

      I really liked Prof. Hanley's image of these past cities being a palimpsest (a word I didn't know!) and London being yet another unreal city written atop the old ones which have been erased but which still exist beneath it - someday London, too, will be scratched out for a new unreal city to be written in its place. The mention of Mylae and the Smyrna merchant give us glimpses of the scratched-out words of past civilizations, and show us that today's unreal city is in no way special/exempt from eventual destruction like those that came before it.

    5. There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying: “Stetson! “You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!

      Although this scene clearly takes place in contemporary London (at least up until this line), Mylae was a battle between Rome and Carthage that took place in 260 BC. This is another point in the poem where our linear perception of time is shattered. Either we've been thrown back, suddenly, from 1922 to 260 BC at this point in the poem, showing that people have been walking in circles in the same way since then, or this line is making the point that it doesn't matter what battle they were in the ships together at - whether it's World War I in the 20th century or Mylae so long ago. All of the battles that are fought, even if they give the illusion of progress toward something/furthering some cause or goal, are the same. We're moving in circles no matter how many battles are fought for however many reasons – and the result of battles is always the same, even if the goals behind them are purportedly different.

    6. I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.

      Possibly relating to "the Wheel" mentioned a few lines prior and "the crowd flowing over London bridge" mentioned in the next stanza - these people, inhabiting the "unreal city" of London, believe that they're going somewhere by walking over London bridge with all of the others in the crowd - going somewhere, doing something with their lives, making progress toward something bigger. The clairvoyant, however, is able to see the bigger picture in a way that these people aren't - she sees that these people walking forward is only an illusion, and that they're really walking in circles, just as people have always done and will do again. She is shattering their illusion of progress, the illusion upon which the building of "unreal cities" depends.

    7. What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, You cannot say, or guess, for you know only A heap of broken images,

      The "stony rubbish" and "heap of broken images" could be previews of the post-apocalyptic world of ruined cities depicted in the last section of the poem. Also, the fact that the poem begins with these ruins and ends with them as well shatters our linear notion of time moving us toward something, and shows it to be something circular. We begin with an unreal city growing from the "stony rubbish" (of a past city) and end with it falling back into the stony rubbish yet again.

      "Son of man," however, doesn't have the power to perceive this circular repetition of things - he, and all humans, know only "a heap of broken images," which could really describe the entire poem – a heap of broken images of Europe in the 1920s, yet another "unreal city" that is in the process of falling down like all the ones that preceded it. However, this "Son of man" and all people who are a part of this world are too immersed in these broken images to perceive the circular nature of time - they are too caught up in their own time to see the bigger picture.

    8. In this decayed hole among the mountains

      Referring to the now ruined "unreal cities" mentioned previously in the poem, and people are living in them - maybe a prediction of the future, that all of the "towers" of these great cities will eventually fall and become ruins - or that they're already falling?

    9. Above the antique mantel was displayed As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene

      Rather than a real, natural sylvan scene seen through a window, an image of a natural scene unnaturally depicted in a painting hanging in a wholly unnatural, sumptuously decorated room - material objects/displays of wealth used as a substitute for nature here.

    1. So great so great Emily. Sew grate sew grate Emily.

      The main association between the seemingly fragmented lines in this poem (fragments – like the "isolate flecks" in Williams!) are the associations that the speaker of the poem is forming between them within her mind. Much of the times these associations are simple word associations – like that between "so great" and "sew grate" – but they're normal associations that are likely to occur in somebody's stream of consciousness throughout the day. That she switches from "so great" to "sew grate" also suggests by thinking about this Emily person, she's getting distracted from the household duties she's supposed to be performing, of which sewing and grating could definitely be a part. Or maybe she's using the household duties to distract herself from thinking about this "so great Emily"?

      The fact that this poem is composed entirely of a woman's fragmented thoughts/impressions, or written in a stream of consciousness style, would plant it firmly in the "fast modernism" camp that we discussed in class the other day. We, as readers, only catch isolated glimpses of the world around this woman as she moves through it, and it's going by her too quickly for us to stop and look at it in any greater detail.

    2. Compose compose beds. Wives of great men rest tranquil. Come go stay philip philip.

      I'm having a hard time figuring out what this poem is about (is it about anything? or is it just an impression of a thing? or is it nonsense?) but after reading the first quarter of it or so, I'm getting the image of a woman, specifically a wife, being at home during the day while her husband is off it work/doing whatever he does out in the world. The first few lines seem to take place when the husband and wife "of a great man" are first waking up beside one another. Composing beds could simply mean making the bed after they're both up and about, or maybe something more? "Come go stay philip philip" seems to be the woman addressing her husband, Philip, directly, feeling conflicted about whether she wants him to stay or go, but mostly begging him to stay with her so she's not alone in the house during the day and they can actually spend some quality time together. The preceding line, "Wives of great men rest tranquil," makes me think that the next one is actually her secret thoughts, and she doesn't outwardly beg her husband to stay with her, because he's a "great man" and she, as his wife, is expected to "rest tranquil" while he goes out and does great things. Perhaps she's even still lying in bed, pretending to be peacefully asleep while inwardly wishing he was still beside her.

  3. Sep 2015
    1. Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.

      I wonder what he could possibly mean by this? It seems pretty obvious that taking one road, the one more often chosen, symbolizes doing what's expected in life and "following the straight and narrow," so to speak, while the other represents doing the unexpected/making unconventional choices. But why would he mention that "way leads on to way?" It seems as though he thinks that the road less traveled is at some point going to converge back into the more popular road that he decided not to take.

      Could this mean that he thinks going against the grain is futile, and no matter how hard he tries to be different he's going to end up like everybody else anyways? How depressing. Or maybe he just means that from that one road other roads "less traveled by" are going to branch off and lead him further and further into the forest, away from the more conventional life he had an opportunity to lead, until he loses the opportunity he once had to lead that kind of life?

    1. and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide—plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.

      This could be representative of the narrator's thought processes and overall mental state at the beginning of the story. She follows one negative train of thought, which goes on for awhile "lamely" and "uncertainly," before attempting to correct herself by thinking about things that she's supposed to be thinking about, such as the beauties of the house that she's staying in (although she clearly thinks the room that she's confined in is appallingly hideous) and how kind her husband is to her. This is the point where her true thoughts "suddenly commit suicide" in self-correction, prompted by the correction of a society that has very fixed ideas about what women should be worrying their pretty little feminine heads about. However, this repression that is happening even within her own mind is what's causing her to behave in a way that others perceive as irrational, "plunging off at outrageous angles" and acting in a way that looks to others as hysterical – the true cause of her "nervous hysteria" is the confinement that is going on in every aspect of her life, even within her own mind, and which makes it impossible for her to even follow a thought all the way through to the end before she checks it.

    2. So I will let it alone and talk about the house.

      "Talking about the house" is exactly what she is supposed to do as a woman – she shouldn't concern herself with unpleasant things such as mental illness (even if it's her own and it needs to be addressed), but rather limit her thoughts to the domestic sphere. This entire story could be seen as an extreme case of the "angel in the house" ideal that was popular at the time that this story was written, and how it can backfire – the narrator is actually forced by her husband to stay within the domestic sphere, although it's entirely possible (even probable) that her "nervous hysteria" was caused in the first place by being cooped up at home with too little stimulus. She's not just physically confined within the walls of the house, but she's also mentally limiting herself to think only about the house itself, as she's supposed to.

      This sentence is also an example of the double-consciousness within the narrator that we see at the beginning of this story – on the one hand, she's ill, she's unhappy with her husband for locking her away, she's restless and anxious for any sort of stimulus to occupy her mind (which is why she's writing in secret), she's upset that her husband dismisses her illness as nothing and she secretly doesn't take her husband all that seriously, either. On the other hand, she continually corrects herself when she has her thoughts, reminding herself that it's for her own good, that her husband knows best since he's a physician and only wants what's best for her, and talking about the house and it's "delicious garden" as she's supposed to as a woman and a wife. She's actually internally policing her own thoughts.

      In the passages where she is talking about the things she's supposed to be concerned with, such as when she's extolling the beauties of the house and its garden, many of her sentences end in exclamation points. This detail highlights the over-enthusiasm of these phrases, the desperation, the falseness, and the fact that she's trying to convince herself that she cares about these things just as hard as she's trying to convince the reader and her husband. She's exaggerating her excitement over these things with overdone punctuation.

    3. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.

      To our minds today this seems a far more logical cure for somebody with "a slight hysterical tendency" than locking them in a room, but during this time the "rest cure" was considered the best treatment for women with hysteria. It involved isolation from friends and family, continuous bed rest, and and being fed on a high-fat diet. It makes sense that this sort of treatment would only serve to make patients more depressed, since stimulation would help distract the patient from whatever was ailing them mentally, but at the time this was thought to be the best cure.

  4. Aug 2015
    1. but the nearest approach to the revolution of 1900 was that of 310, when Constantine set up the Cross. The rays that Langley disowned, as well as those which he fathered, were occult, supersensual, irrational; they were a revelation of mysterious energy like that of the Cross; they were what, in terms of mediæval science, were called immediate modes of the divine substance.

      Throughout the text, Adams continually returns to this parallel that he's drawn between the exhibition of the dynamo and the rise of Christianity. Although, as he says, there are other people in the past who have overthrown popularly held scientific beliefs, there is something "occult" about this particular change in history that in Adams's mind is only comparable to Constantine instating Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire, which makes it even more world-altering than the discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, and Columbus combined. It's possible that this is because he believes that this new technology is going to take the place that religion held in people's consciousnesses in past eras.

    2. he began to feel the forty-foot dynamos as a moral force, much as the early Christians felt the Cross. The planet itself seemed less impressive, in its old-fashioned, deliberate, annual or daily revolution, than this huge wheel, revolving within arm’s length at some vertiginous speed

      Maybe the reason why he is equating the dynamo at this point in the text to a religious object is that he believes it is going to become every bit as world-altering as Christianity. The earth itself pales in comparison to this wheel that Adams is describing with such reverence, and he seems to believe that the "silent and infinite force" of the dynamo has the power to make the earth itself, and all of the previously held beliefs that it harbors, seem "less impressive" and "old-fashioned" by comparison. The dynamo, in his mind, has the power to change people's entire way of life and thinking in much the same way that religion has in the past.