Archive for April, 2011

Paper #2 Thesis Paragraph and Revision

Posted in Assignments on April 19, 2011 by breg9

Here is the original thesis paragraph.

In William Blake’s “The Little Black Boy,” the speaker tells of his hopes and dreams for acceptance in heaven alongside white Christians.  The speaker is the black boy, and he sees his color as an obstacle that pushes him further away from both white people and God.  But his mother tells him a comforting story which gives him hope that one day he will be able to join the “little English boy…and be like him, and he will then love me” (22-28).  The influence of his mother’s calming words leads the black boy to offer an idealized vision of blacks as being able to transcend racial divides and join their white brethren in heaven, free from the racism and slavery that exist on earth.  But the form of the poem complicates the speaker’s apparently passive and naïve ideas, and offers an embedded critique of the slave trade that points out the hypocrisy of professed Christians buying and selling human beings.  Blake’s critical voice, which lies just beneath the surface of the black boy’s narrative, points out the terrible injustice and barbaric nature of the slave trade, which demeans and dehumanizes both slave and master.  Thus, Blake uses the poem’s form to present a subtle yet powerful condemnation of the moral corruption of slavery and its attendant racial hierarchies, disguised beneath the seemingly innocent words of its young narrator.

The additions to the revised paragraph do not really change the argument but are added for clarification. One comment I got was that I should try to provide more textual evidence so that is in here. I tried to address more explicitly what aspects of the form I would focus on in the paper. And finally, I added a couple of sentences at the end of the paragraph that indicate what parts of the poem the paper will use to backup the argument.

In William Blake’s “The Little Black Boy,” the speaker tells of his hopes and dreams for acceptance in heaven alongside white Christians.  The speaker is the black boy, and he sees his color, which makes him feel “bereav’d of light,” as an obstacle that pushes him further away from both white people and God (4).  But his mother tells him a comforting story which gives him hope that one day he will be able to join the “little English boy…and be like him, and he will then love me” (22-28).  The influence of his mother’s calming words leads the black boy to offer an idealized vision of blacks as being able to transcend racial divides and join their white brethren in heaven, free from the racism and slavery that exist on earth.  But the form, diction, and implicit tone of the poem complicate the speaker’s apparently passive and naïve ideas, and offer an embedded critique of the slave trade that points out the hypocrisy of professed Christians buying and selling human beings.  Blake’s critical voice, which lies just beneath the surface of the black boy’s narrative, points out the terrible injustice and barbaric nature of the slave trade, which demeans and dehumanizes both slave and master.  The black boy’s perception of his skin color is the key to Blake’s criticism.  What may initially seem like the black boy’s childish shame at appearing different from the English boy and his desire to “be like him” actually becomes the central condemnation of the English slave-trading society (28).  Thus, Blake uses the poem’s form to present a subtle yet powerful condemnation of the moral corruption of slavery and its attendant racial hierarchies, disguised beneath the seemingly innocent words of its young narrator.

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Original First Paragraph and Revision

Posted in Assignments on April 5, 2011 by breg9

Here is my original opening paragraph

In John Keats’s sonnet, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer,” the speaker describes the revelation he experiences when he reads George Chapman’s translation of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey for the first time.  Chapman’s Homer unveils to him a new world of poetic clarity and immediacy that nearly overwhelms him, despite the fact that he has often “traveled in the realms of gold” (1).  In order to convey the speechless ecstasy evoked by the translation, the speaker uses two similes that compare his discovery and awe with that of an astronomer discovering a new planet and Cortez first looking upon the vast Pacific.  Besides being a sublime moment in itself, the speaker’s discovery, or rediscovery, of Homer through Chapman also makes him realize that a whole new world exists outside the “goodly states and kingdoms” of his acquaintance (2).  This new world of poetic experience that Chapman opens for the speaker is described in striking images of nature.  The sight of the new planet and particularly the view of the Pacific Ocean stun their viewers to “silence” with their power and beauty (14).  These images are contrasted with the earthly artifice of the “realms of gold,” and suggest that the speaker admires Chapman’s Homer because the translation seeks a more authentic re-creation of the original Greek, a translation that speaks out “loud and bold,” unencumbered by contrivance and embellishment (1,8).

For the revision I kept the first part which introduces the subject of the paper mostly intact. The alterations are drawn from comments in other parts of the paper where the argument was more clear, and some entirely new work which hopefully clarifies the position I am arguing.

In John Keats’s sonnet, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer,” the speaker describes the revelation he experiences when he reads George Chapman’s translation of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey for the first time.  In order to convey the speechless ecstasy evoked by the translation and the conclusions he draws from the experience, the speaker uses two similes that compare his discovery and awe with that of an astronomer discovering a new planet and Cortez first looking upon the vast Pacific.  In making these comparisons that draw on the beauty and sublimity of nature the speaker realizes that the greatest artistic achievements are not those created in “fealty” to an aesthetic tradition, but rather those that seek to produce a natural and purer form of art that is “loud and bold” (4, 8).  The implication of the speaker’s revelation that form and tradition should not contain or restrict poetry seems paradoxical considering that he has chosen the rigid, tightly defined form of the Petrarchan sonnet to express these feelings.  This makes him similar to the “bards” who write in “fealty” to the conventions of form, but in the sestet the form and meter undergo subtle but important changes that reflect the speaker’s altered perception on how to create art (4).  A similar alteration occurs in the imagery of the sestet as it goes from that of earthly artifice – the “realms of gold”—to striking images of nature (1).  The evocative and transformative power that Chapman’s Homer exerts on the speaker drives him to seek a means of expression that is both natural and free, and through the alterations he makes to the conventional form the speaker is also inviting the reader, through the familiar structure of the sonnet, to share his experience with a new kind of poetry that is “loud and bold” (8).