The Prince

Wow, If only I could rename this book from “The Prince” to “The Survival Guide to American Politics”. It appears as though politicians in the US (that’s where I live) have been rereading this book over and over. The dishonesty that we see in today’s politicians seems no different from what Machiavelli was trying for when he wrote this text. What I saw as a very disturbing pattern in the book was the disregard for citizens of the state. The only importance placed is on the prince. We are not shown the qualities of a good or virtuous leader within the text. What we are shown is how to survive as ruler while simultaneously doing as little as possible for the good of the people. Constantly we hear that is important to control the masses and make them believe that you, as the prince, is doing what is best for the state.

It is stated that a prince should hope to replicate the hereditary laws and customs of rule. It is not important as the prince to try and produce new laws that could benefit society. The importance is creating a political structure which could be just as flawed as the previous when that was adopted. We simply hear of ways to avoid unrest from citizens. And if the flock happens to disagree with the structure you put into place, you always have the option of killing everything off. It truly shows the role Machiavelli places on the prince and what he considers leadership to be. To him, all that is important is establishing yourself as the prince; from that point, you can attempt to maintain this position by the simplest and least contradictory means.

I feel as though Machiavelli makes many assumptions about humans. Whether these are true or not, he appears to generalize humans as sheepish and easily manipulated. As much as I would love to agree with that statement, I believe it is necessary to provide a political structure based more around removing these individuals from this docile state. I believe that the prince is responsible for aiding the state, not just himself. Leaders should try to improve their domain without the condition of gaining loyalty in the process. This produces leaders who lack sincere passion for their role and who merely attempt to hold onto their status as the prince.


Columbus

This book brought back memories in the United States for getting to skip a school for Columbus Day. At the time I had no idea what the significance of Columbus Day was. Eventually, as I became slightly older, I learned that he was a man who traveled to the Americas. I thought “Oh what a fantastic man! He must have been such an explorer and strong-willed person. He has a day recognized all to himself after all.” I soon learned that although he may be attributed to some of the actions he partook in (sailing for Spain in search of trade routes) he did not really “discover” anything. He brought his ship to a land which was already inhabited by Natives. These natives were the ones who are truly responsible for discovering South America. It is interesting to see how certain words such as “discovery” and “history” can be wrongfully utilized. For Columbus did not actually find anything original, as “discovery” would lend one to believe.

Another change in heart regarding Columbus day I found, especially after reading this book, is the character I associated with Columbus. I always believed he was a man seeking glory and fame. I did not realize the brutal and greedy nature he had. You see Columbus landing and greeted by kind natives. They seek nothing more than to please Columbus and his crew. They come to Columbus bearing kindness and a willingness to trade. Columbus did not show the same characteristics to his counterparts. He brought a white-man superiority complex and gave himself the right to plunder and pillage the many lands to traversed. This was a complete shift in my view regarding Columbus. I no longer take Columbus for a man of the sea and an adventurer. I now see him as nothing more than an asshole with an obsession for gold.

Another interesting idea I found was the idea of history. As most people would assume, Columbus made history when he landed in the new world. But I don’t believe he did, well, not in the same way people think. I believe that the only history he created was the reaction to his arrival, not the arrival itself. Whether it was by his pillaging or his spreading of diseases, Columbus and his crew were not paving way to history by finding new people. They made history by causing death and a growing amount of imperialism in the world.


Beowulf

This poem reminded me so very much of The Odyssey. It included a very similar style of delivery in that it was composed orally by yet another bard and later written down for our viewing pleasure. Of course, the story was also paralleling many aspects of the Odyssey. i believe the biggest and most obvious was the theme of the heroic figure. Beowulf turned out be yet another Odysseus-like figure, possessing super-human strength, giving him an ability to fight off things we can only speculate regarding their magnitude (fire-breathing dragon rings a bell). both Beowulf and Odysseus were famed and renowned throughout the lands for their valor, fighting spirit, and ability to persevere and traverse difficult situations. They were both father-figures for their respective reasons, leaving behind legacy and a feeling of awe to those younger than they.

I did not seem to view this book with a literary mindset. I simply proceeded to read through the epic poem, accepting demonic figure after demonic figure. I did not question exactly how Beowulf, as an old man, was able to literally break a sword against the dragon. These cinema-worthy actions simply breezed by as if I were watching a Michael Bay film. I failed to realize significant literary elements. However, I attempted to pick up on a few, one of which is the varied role of the gods. A large difference between Beowulf and the Odyssey was the role of gods in the poems. Beowulf did not hesitate to include and reference god throughout the story, however, we did not see or hear of any actual gods interacting with humans. God appeared to be more of a constant force, pushing the sails of the (figurative) boat in whatever direction he/she saw fit. God was often mentioned for creating the fates of the many characters, all presented with simple assumption.

I questioned Beowulf’s motives for travelling in search of various monsters to kill off. Was it really as simple as seeking materialistic rewards such as gold and armor? I doubt it. I believe that Beowulf based his life around the desire to prove himself. As stated early in the poem, Beowulf challenged his friend to swim days on end in the ocean to see who would be successful. This is one of the many actions taken by the famed warrior in seeking to prove himself. I believe that the poem itself is Beowulf’s attempts at pushing and proving his own courage, his own valor, his own ability.


Oedipus

I was glad to see another short text on our reading list. For one reason or another I found myself gravitating to this book more than most we have read. I thought the story itself was very interesting and provided for unusual plot twists. The idea of incest is usually a very touchy subject, not often tackled in what I have had the chance to read. This brought the idea fully forward, showing just how undesired the practice was at the time. Oedipus destroys his own vision because of the horror and regret he feels regarding his actions.

I found Oedipus’ response to the incident very revealing. Oedipus consistently places himself before the gods in his ability to accomplish things. He states that he is responsible for being a great leader, not because of divine intervention. He receives the revelation regarding events to come (that being, the killing of his father and marrying of his mother), and still continues to disregard the abilities of the gods. He believes that he, as a human, is able to combat this by relocating and taking full precaution. His fate eventually is fulfilled however, leaving one to believe that he would finally subdue to the will of the gods; He doesn’t do this. Oedipus places blame fully upon himself. He cries and mourns his actions, constantly calling himself out for what has occurred in his life. He does not curse the gods, he chooses to destroy his eyes and leave the world he knows, seeking isolation in the mountains.

The reaction from Oedipus leads me to believe that he is not a monster in any sense. He is nothing more than a victim, placed into a position he did not deserve. He was shown throughout the text to be a fantastic ruler. He was loved by his citizens, he cared for them all, he became “tyrant” through his many actions. Despite all of the good he has done, he is still sentenced to a horrific fate. He is so graceful in his acceptance of the fate, he blames no one other than himself. This is a truly selfless act, one which not many characters throughout our readings would have treated equally. Take Odysseus for example; he would have likely cursed one of the many gods for putting him into the situation. He would not have an equally humble response as Oedipus had.

I am actually looking forward to reading the essay prompts relating to Oedipus, this is my favorite text so far and I can’t wait to dissect it further in class.


The Republic

The worst read so far in arts one has finally come to an end. I have never had to concentrate so hard on a book. The dialogue was as repetitive as I could fathom as character after character succumbed to Socrates’ “perfect” logic. Each character appeared to be intelligent and individualistic, but eventually, they all turned into yes man. The book reached a point of sending the idea of how the phrase “yes, you care correct” could be replicated in as many ways as possible. If the book succeeded in one thing, it would have to be that. However, what t did not succeed in doing is convincing me of the Utopia of what The Republic could be. Plato appears to rule out very important parts of humanity in creating this government. He clearly fails to present an individuals right to choose. This ignores the basis of what one is best at doing. It goes outside of what someone’s highest skill is, what they are most efficient at doing. Plato removes this possibility from the individual leaving them with nothing but a Brave New World rendition in which class is dictated systematically, disregarding what the individual may hope to do, simply replacing it by what the individual is made to do.

I also have a problem with philosophers being the leaders and deciders of society. This is not because I have any problem with philosophy (other than understanding these far-reaching ideas), it is that I do not like Plato dictating this. This is due to that fact that Plato is a philosopher himself. He is completely biased in his ordering and structuring of how he wants society to be arranged. By conveniently placing himself as top dog, the lawmaker and ruler, I do not trust him. I do not believe he is seeking out any sort of revolutionary idea. What would have made me think on a more philosophical level would be Plato arguing for the most intelligent to have the least say in government. This sounds ridiculous perhaps, but knowing Plato, he would have been able to talk his zombie yes-men into believing just about anything.

It’s not that I don’t like Plato, it’s that he is arrogance hidden as naivety. He attempts to make himself sound less intelligent and more of a seeker of knowledge by throwing rhetorical question after rhetorical question at the reader/listener. In reality, Plato has a clear vision of what he believes things should be like. Not only this, but he also believes that things are only to be viewed in a certain way, and he of course, has found this singular way of viewing.


Genesis

Oh the bible. The book I, like many, was raised to believe in. today, being an agnostic, I view the bible the same way I view the Odyssey. I don’t treat the bible any differently than other religious texts or points of view. Therefore, reading this document, I found myself very confused towards god’s actions. God, touted to be of complete, unconditional love, shows himself to be malicious. He threatens constantly, and is very vengeful towards anyone who disobeys him. He places a tree in the garden of Eden, knowing fully that the two mortals will consume of it. He then becomes enraged at this action (which he fully knew was to take place). He then punishes Eve by making child birth painful for her. He doesn’t seem to provide a punishment of equal value to the male counterpart in Adam. And finally, in gods flurry of angry vengeance, he punishes the serpent by making it crawl on its belly forever. although evolution may have a different view, it doesn’t provide any real punishment to Satan, who is free to leave the form of a snake at any given time. I find that for a god he makes many many human-like errors, such as his decision to drown the entire planet. This is done when god decides that the creation of the human race was a mistake on his part. to solve this problem, he kills everyone except for Noah and his family. I would expect an all-knowing god to understand the dangers and repercussions of creating humanity. 

I also noticed high levels of immorality. such as the condoning and acceptance of slavery within this book. It is stated countless times of righteous individuals being rewarded with slaves. Such an idea appears to be very contradictory to what righteousness is. It sends the message that by an individual being righteous, it takes away the freedoms and ability of another individual. Lot, from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, also shows an equally awful and disgusting act. Lot appears in town and fearing the wrath of god, offers up his two virgin daughters to be raped by the inhabitants of the two “evil” cities. To me, the idea of sending off your daughters to be raped is never acceptable. 

From a literary standpoint, I somewhat appreciated the straightforwardness of the delivery. It is presented in the book in chronological and straight-forward way. Things are often listed in a basic way as opposed to the circumnavigation i often see in novels and other literary works. This however, can often lead to a dry read lacking any sort of inspiration or abstraction. 

I hope no one is offended, this is my most sincere view of this tale, I do not intend to attack anyone.


Medea

What a short read. I could truly appreciate the shortened work in contrast to the Odyssey. getting into the reading, what did I like about it? I thought the play was surprisingly interesting due to its intensity. I am not used to being presented with such aggressive reproach in plays i have seen and read. Medea shows the insanity that many of us have but escalated in a way that is not of the norm. i believe she makes it very clear to us as to who is the monster in this book. Upon first glance at the reading, one may think that Medea is the victim. She has been abandoned by her husband, Jason. However, we later realize that Medea shows levels of insanity. She turns herself into a villain by attempting to punish Jason. The conclusion of the play goes to show that Jason does not feel regret over leaving Medea; he feels regret over marrying Medea in the first place. This ironic twist shows insight into the idea of “having nothing to lose” which is often times false. Medea lost even more by attempting, and succeeding in the execution of her plan. she could have simply mourned the loss of Jason but she chose rather, to kill her children as well. This near-sighted approach left her in an even more emotionally entangled situation.

Another view one may take in discussing the implications of this novel is the dangers of divorce. Most would argue that divorce is a position one should make efforts to avoid. Back in the time that this play was produced, an even stronger view was placed on divorce. One could view the play as a  mild warning for those who take the route of divorce. Medea may simply be emphasized into a play in order to show the danger and possibilities for disaster proceeding from breaking the heart.

Again, although a short read, many fantastic ideas can be extracted and elaborated on within this play.


The Odyssey

I have finally finished my task of completing The Odyssey. Although the style of writing was difficult to comprehend compared to most works I have read, the story itself was full of excitement and unexpected twists. From the long journeys with temptresses on islands, to the battles with gigantic cyclopes, Odysseus clearly demonstrated his novelty. Many parts of the story were far-fetched, such as his ability to fend off seventy suitors with nothing more than his son and a few servants. The idea of each man being able to fend off dozens of angry suitors seems impossible, but perhaps that is simply what the inclusion of Athena was for…

What I’ve learned from reading The Odyssey is the fragility that each individual faces throughout life. Just as Odysseus was the strongest and most loved man in Ithica, the same cannot be said of his trips into other islands in which he was attacked and enslaved. This humbling theme allows, but more importantly, reminds any reader to constantly strive in their life. They must realize that although they may find success in one facet of their life, this ability can and will always be challenged by other parts of this world. Telemachus for example, was once a young boy, loved and respected by the suitors. He held the valiant position of prince to Odysseus. However, upon his dislike for the actions of the suitors, his position, regarded by the suitors became that of an enemy. He was from that point forward a target to be killed.

I believe that Homer works wonders to demonstrate how important it is for us all to experience our own Odyssey, to show how different things are on the other side. This is the side we cannot know until we unveil it.


Introduction

Hello fellow readers!

I’m Raphael and i’m from Montreal. I have been living in San Diego however, and have since learned English and gained a greater appreciation for all things arts! Arts one appears to be intensive but the work is to simply read! This idea, the idea of reading novels for homework, trumps any textbook-related assignments in my opinion. Anyways, I really began reading novels extensively over the summer, primarily focusing on Kurt Vonnegut and his crazy Sci-Fi journeys through society. I have not had a chance to read any of the books on the reading list so I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge of older texts. Other things about me, I have two brother, and two dogs. I hate the beach despite living ten minutes away from it. I always wanted to grow up and become a vet but a few years the idea completely escaped me and I became obsessed with the prospect of being a lawyer. I hope that this class will help me build on critical reading skills by the shear volume of text we will digest, but also through the way in which we go about analyzing what we read. I believe that we will be approaching these novels from an angle that I have not been familiarized with. The idea of monsters being found within us is an interesting one, however I have yet to be persuaded towards this stance. I hope that our class discussion and immersion into the text will sway my view point towards that of a monstrous self, and if not that, than perhaps something simply different from what I had previously conceived.