Lyrical Ballads and Organic Sensibility

A phrase that really stood out to me from the lecture on Lyrical Ballads was ‘organic sensibility’. This concept actually comes from the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads when Wordsworth says:

For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: but though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached, were never produced on a variety of subjects but by a man who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility had also though long and deeply. (Wordsworth 146)

I think this quote really sums what Wordsworth and Coleridge are trying to do. From their poems they seem like extremely sensitive human beings, not in the sense that they are easily moved to tears, but that they are very aware of their senses and surroundings. They seem very alert, with a sort of wakefulness that is very youthful and energetic. I see this in the detail of their poems like in “We Are Seven” when he describes the girl as having “a rustic, woodland air” (59). Just reading their poems makes me want to go out on a walk through nature and take in all the sounds, smells and sights around me. There seems to be release of the senses going on, where rather than ignoring your surroundings and input from the body, one looks outwardly and takes in everything the senses detect.

At the same time, this organic sensibility if full of wisdom and thought. I really like how the poems are both wakeful and full of wonder, yet pensive and reflective. In “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” Wordsworth writes of the nature around him, the “deep rivers and lonely streams”, while reflecting intensely on memory (111). Not only does he conjure images of the forest but he also understands its healing powers and how the memory will provide “life and food / For future years” (111).

Finally, organic sensibility brings to mind what was first discussed in lecture: the chalk portraits of Wordsworth and Coleridge. The small chalk marks create texture, different shades of light, and focus on the face, in particular the eyes and mouth. When I look at the portraits, the organic sensibility of Wordsworth and Coleridge really comes to life.

Reflection on Term 1 Essays

1. Textual Evidence
For my first three essays I received comments saying I needed to provide more evidence. My essays on the Odyssey, Plato and Antigone could have used more textual evidence and quotes from the texts. For example, in my Plato essay I talked about the Sophists but I didn’t give any evidence from the text that they are seen in a bad light by Socrates. For my essay on The Tempest however, I did have a lot of evidence which my peers noted, and since then I don’t think it has been much of a problem anymore.

2. Strength of the Argument (B1,B2,B4,B5)

The biggest concern with all my essays has consistently been the strength of the argument. My points often need more explanation or clarification. This was noted in my essay on The Tempest since I didn’t really explain what I meant by the natural forces of the play and in my Hobbes essay too with my reading of liberty and laws.

3. Organization
My organization has also been a problem sometimes. My peers have often suggested I reorganize my paragraphs to improve the flow of the essay, or when I am using new terms, to define them in the introduction. I could have done this in my Trouillot essay by starting with Silencing the Past instead of Appelfeld.

For my essays in Term 2 I want to focus on fully explaining my arguments. This might mean providing more of an introduction to my ideas instead of going straight to them, like I could have done in my Tempest, Trouillot or Hobbes essay. I also need to remember to address possible flaws in my arguments even if they seem minor or easily over-looked. I could also try discussing my arguments with someone before I start writing so they can point out any major flaws. For organization I also want to have proper balance between texts when I am referencing more than one book and to pay attention to the order of my paragraphs, especially when I am using terms that need defining.

Freud and the Origins of Religion

Where does religion come from? This is a question I had never thought about before reading Freud. I’ve always assumed religion has been a part of society for ages to the point where we wouldn’t characterize as human or society without having had it at one point. Freud however, speculates on the origins of religion and is convinced it began in childhood. He states it derives from “the infant’s helplessness and the longing for a father” (Civilization 35). This explanation makes sense since many religions such as Christianity focus on paternalism and a sense of protection. However, what stood out to me in his reasoning was the fact that he goes back to childhood and infancy. Freud seems to be kind of obsessed with childhood and seeks answers in it for all his questions, like for example people’s source of natural aggressiveness and libido. So when it comes to religion, I am not surprised Freud goes back to childhood once again.

When I think about the origins of religion, I think more about how we function as a society. How maybe having a religion is useful in promoting peace and morality within a community, or how it gives comfort, hope, and reassurance in difficult times such as war, disease or death. So the logical explanation for me is that religion originated when societies began to grow and become populous enough that measures such as religion became very practical and beneficial. This is a historical approach to the question, very different from Freud’s psycho-analytical explanation based on childhood. What works so well with Freud’s explanation is that it is separate from any historical context or sense of time. No matter when, humans have always had fathers and mothers from where to draw that sense of “helplessness and longing”. Freud’s references to childhood, not only with regards to religion, are great in this way because they are universal and detached from time. Everyone was once an infant, no matter the place or time when they existed. Thus, following Freud’s explanation, religion cannot be pin-pointed to a certain type of society or place in time, but rather it becomes an organic, almost essential part of being human and a child. In my opinion, a much more satisfying and thought-provoking answer.

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