Old Man Travelling

Of all the poems in William Wordsworth’s and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, the one that intrigued me the most was Old Man Travelling (on page 103). I am going to use this blog post to try to figure out why it stuck with me  even though I am not sure it’s my favourite poem in the book, and it’s probably not the best. I think there are a number of reasons why I found it so interesting.

What I liked most about it was it’s simplicity and brevity. I am a bit biased in that regard, as I tend to prefer short pieces of poetry. It’s length combined with the relatively simple vocabulary gives it a feeling of unpretentiousness, but it is also very subtle. It seemed to me on first glance to not be very interesting stylistically due to the lack of rhyme scheme, until I noticed the consistent use of caesuras and its iambic pentameter. However, although I’m not very knowledgeable about poetry, I think it is a bit lacking in terms of form and style.

I also liked its sense of irony. The narrator describes a man “who does not move with pain” (line 6) and “hardly feels” (line 14) but it turns out he must be moving with pain since he is going to visit his dying son. I quite like the idea of unreliable or ignorant narrators and shifts in the understanding of a situation.

Another thing I liked was the fact that he was going to visit his dying son. It creates an interesting and stark contrast that is well described by the subtitle “Animal Tranquility and Decay”. It is fascinating to see a tranquil and relaxing scene turn into something much more depressing and existential.

I’m still developing my opinions on the poems of Wordsworth and Coleridge and I chose this one because it seems somewhat unambitious and flawed compared to other poems in the book,  but I still found myself enjoying reading it more than some of the more famous and highly considered poems. It is also very likely that I was able to read it more times than the  other poems over a shorter period of time, so perhaps I will reread the book and continue to develop my opinions.

Human Nature in The Leviathan

I found chapter 13 to be the most interesting chapter in The Leviathan. In chapter 13, Hobbes describes what he believes to be human beings’ natural state. He sees the natural state as one of war, violence, and selfishness.

I  agree that human nature is determined by the physical nature of humans. I believe that most aspects of humanity and human behavior can be understood through the analysis of biology and evolution. However, I’d tend to disagree that humans are naturally in a state of war and selfishness. Hobbes does not clearly acknowledge family relationships such as the one between a mother and her baby, and I think those types of relationships are significant indications of natural positivity and selflessness. I think humans have evolved to naturally care for each other. I think humans have evolved feelings of sympathy and kindness as well as feelings of disgust and guilt in order for the species to advance and be able to form civilizations and live socially.  Therefore, although war and selfishness may occur naturally, peace and selflessness can also occur naturally without the presence of a government because positive social qualities are necessary for humanity to thrive.

Until The Dawn’s Light

What has caught my attention the most at the moment about Appelfeld’s Until the Dawn’s Light is the way the story begins. As Miranda Burgess said in the lecture, the first chapter starts on a train and brings to mind the trains heading to concentration camps. Immediately the story seems to be about the holocaust even though it is set before the holocaust, and this theme and feeling of the approaching holocaust is constant throughout the whole novel with details as simple as having a character named Adolf. Appelfeld takes the terrible power and emotions of the holocaust and applies it in a context so similar to the holocaust that even though it’s indirect, it’s impossible not to notice it.

The other fascinating aspect of the beginning of the story is its style and presentation. Although it is consistently nonlinear and all the chapters are short, it is most jarring in the first few chapters. Details leak in small bits through short flashbacks and fragments of dialogue, and a great sense of foreshadowing is immediately created through Appelfeld’s precise control of the readers’ knowledge and understanding of the story, and this technique is most effective during the exposition of the narrative. The reader always has a hint of what is to come because of what precedes it, just like how we know the holocaust is coming given the setting of the story and the antisemitism in it.

The Republic: Book IX

In the 9th book of Plato’s Republic, Socrates continues to explain why living a just life is better than living an unjust life. To make the point clear, he focuses on the most unjust possible life: the life of a tyrant. He claims that tyrants are driven primarily by the appetite part of their soul. They are overwhelmed by greed and their souls are put into disorder because of how much they are controlled by this terrible part of their soul.

Socrates claims that the life of a tyrant, particularly a political tyrant is the least pleasant and most unhappy life possible. In fact, Socrates is even somehow able to use math to determine exactly how much more pleasant a king’s life is than a tyrant’s. He says in 587e, “if someone wants to say how far a king’s pleasure is from a tyrant’s, he’ll find, if he completes the calculation, that a king king lives seven hundred and twenty-nine times more pleasantly than a tyrant and that a tyrant is the same number of times more wretched.”

In order to accept what Socrates says as the truth, you’d have to accept a lot of different factors. For instance, I disagree with Socrates’ main points because I don’t think there is such thing as a soul, and I think tyranny can be motivated by things other than appetite, such as distorted world views.

I Haven’t Made Up My Mind About The Penelopiad

I have mixed feelings about Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad. I appreciate that it wasn’t a time consuming epic nor was it a complex interpretation of the bible, and I did enjoy reading it. I liked how nicely it fit the theme of repetition compulsion, and how it added an alternate interpretation of Penelope and the maids. However, I just can’t make up my mind about it. For instance, I strongly dislike cliches like “a dime a dozen” (page 7)  and I generally dislike this style of relatively sloppy and informal prose (like the beginning of chapter iii on page 7 that starts with “Where shall I begin?”). But in the case of The Penelopiad I think it’s justifiable. The modern and relaxed style of the prose and the language is used to contrast the ancient setting and themes with a modern setting and style. I appreciate that aspect of it, however, those same themes of contrasting the past with the present with the aid of allusions to famous classical literature are fundamental parts of a great number of works of fiction. Of course, that is hardly the only important point in The Penelopiad, but it is the only way I can convince myself to like Atwood’s voice. I unfortunately read through the novella quickly and it is fairly late in the night as I write this. I might be wrong about something, and there is a lot I have not addressed. I still have to think about it more before I can actually determine whether or not I think it is good or bad, and I’m afraid this blog post may have made me seem like an elitist who only reads “sophisticated” literature by authors like Herman Melville and despises more modern (or postmodern) aesthetics, which is not the case.


Intro: Griffin’s Blog

Hello, everyone. My name is Griffin Anderson-Baier and I’m (unfortunately) from Chilliwack, BC but I live in residence at Robson House in Vanier. I chose Arts One because I hope it will assist me in my attempt to become well-read and because it allowed me to have a really good schedule; my earliest class is at 11:00 am. I’m most looking forward to reading Heart of Darkness (I really like Apocalypse Now) and Things Fall Apart. I’ve spent much of my time during the last couple of years procrastinating and watching movies instead of doing my schoolwork. As a result of watching so many movies I’ve developed a pretty specific taste and most of my favourite films are relatively obscure, really slow paced, and in languages that I don’t speak. If I had to name a few of my favourites, I’d say An Autumn Afternoon (1962), L’Argent (1983), Colossal Youth (2006), and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010). That’s about all there is worth saying about myself except that I look forward to getting to know you all.