Monday, March 12, 2012

Freedom Quotes

"Free should the scholar be, — free and brave. Free even to the definition of freedom, 'without any hindrance that does not arise out of his own constitution.'"

"And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes, and the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known."

Douglass (ch.7)
"The silver trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness. Freedom now appeared, to disappear no more forever."

Dickinson ("They Shut Me Up In Prose")
"Still! Could themself have peeped --
And seen my Brain -- go round --
They might as wise have lodged a Bird
For Treason -- in the Pound --"

[commentary coming soon!!]

the fly.

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –

The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset – when the King
Be witnessed – in the Room –

I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable – and then it was
There interposed a Fly –

With Blue – uncertain – stumbling Buzz –
Between the light – and me –
And then the Windows failed – and then
I could not see to see –

In this calm yet horrific portrayal of death, Dickinson focuses on the fly as the central image. As the speaker dies, all the witnesses are silent. The speaker compares this silence to the stillness between "Heaves" of a storm, as if she is psychologically within her own stages of a storm, the rare calm between two extreme events. The "Stillness of the Room" is broken only by the "stumbling Buzz" of the fly, creating a sense of anticipation and anxiety for what will come next. Ironically, the fly is mentioned more than "the King" (God?), representing the harsh realities that accompany death: those of rot and decay. The fly represents death without any spiritual implications or hopes for eternal life. At the same time, though, the fly is the only form of life within the poem's entirety; as her body dies, still the fly continues to buzz. This may be a subtle implication on Dickinson's part regarding the uncertainty of human mortality.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Defining Freedom

Freedom: a concept so familiar, yet nearly impossible to define.

Emerson states, "Free should the scholar be, — free and brave. Free even to the definition of freedom, 'without any hindrance that does not arise out of his own constitution.'" He notes that freedom is the basis of self-realization, asserting that freedom belongs to every individual. Emerson believes that we must accept this freedom as the foundation to our existence, that without freedom, we are intellectually stunting ourselves. Whitman shares a similar view of freedom, that an individual should be free without belonging to a superior. Instead, each individual is equal with one another. Douglass defines freedom as both a physical and emotional state of being; that is, freedom cannot exist without physically and emotionally freeing oneself of restriction. When Douglass initially escapes the slave plantation, he does not experience freedom right away. Though physically he is no longer a slave, emotionally he is still restricted. The final step to his freedom occurs when he begins working for himself instead of a slave master, liberating himself from the confines of the slave system.

Though these definitions of freedom are not identical, their foundations are similar. Each of these authors believes in the potential for the individual to define freedom for oneself, rather than relying on others to provide freedom. It is a state of consciousness which can only be experienced within oneself, allowing for complete liberation from the restrictions of others.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The American Scholar

"Each philosopher, each bard, each actor, has only done for me, as by a delegate, what one day I can do for myself."

In this quote from The American Scholar, Ralph Waldo Emerson describes that the only means of truth are found within oneself. According to Transcendentalism, truth is found not in observation, but in individual self-discovery. When seeking one's path in life, one must look not to others, but to the inner truths within oneself. The "philosopher", "bard", and "actor" represent individuals who have sought salvation not within the church, but within their own minds and souls. Emerson believes that like these individuals, we must also seek truth within ourselves, rather than merely observing others. We should look not to others' perceptions of truth, but to our own selves; this, according to Emerson, is the only way to truth.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Journey Narrative: Young Adult (2011)

"Young Adult...focuses on Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), a former high school queen who escaped the confines of her small Minnesota town in favor of 'big city' life in Minneapolis. Although blessed with killer looks and a successful career ghostwriting a popular teen novel series, life hasn’t gone the way that Mavis planned: her husband left her, her books have fallen out of favor, and she spends her few conscious hours a day struggling with writer’s block and guzzling down an alternating mixture of booze and Diet Coke, while losing herself in the TV exploits of the Kardashian sisters.

Mavis is eventually broken out of her self-made purgatory by a chain-email from her high school sweetheart, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), announcing the birth of his daughter. One look at Buddy’s happy world is enough to set Mavis off, so she packs her bag and her purse-sized doggy and hops in her MINI Cooper headed back home to her small-town roots. Her mission: win Buddy back and live happily after." (

Young Adult follows the outline of a journey narrative in terms of plot, setting, and character development. Mavis begins in the "big city" life of Minneapolis, goes back to her hometown of Mercury, then returns to the city once she realizes her goals are unobtainable and that she is better than her small-town past. The film concludes with Mavis finishing the last chapter of her novel, in which the main character realizes her potential as an adult and, like Mavis, prepares to live a new life.

The format of a journey narrative is prevalent in Young Adult, as demonstrated by the film's plot:

(A) Mavis begins in Minneapolis, the "big city" where she is discontent with her life.
[Turning point: Mavis reads an email announcing the birth of her high school sweetheart's baby, and decides she needs to go home and win him back.]
(B) Mavis heads back to her Minnesota hometown, desperate to win back her ex in an attempt at self-worth.
[Development of conscience: Mavis realizes that she is better than her hometown and concludes the last chapter of her novel, in which the narrator realizes her own potential.]
(A) Mavis leaves her hometown and goes back to Minneapolis, ready to begin her new life as an adult.

[A more detailed plot summary can be found at the film's Wikipedia page.]

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


My name is Courtney Nunes, and I currently live in Berkeley. I am an English Literature major in my third year at SFSU, with plans to graduate in 2013. My interests include reading, music, coffee, poetry, the Kardashians, and wasting my time on the internet. I love comedy and funny things, so I thought I'd share one of my favorite SNL sketches, The Lawrence Welk Show, starring Kristen Wiig. It's pretty great. Hope you enjoy it! :)