ENG 300 Journal

Thursday, September 30, 2004

9/30: Victorians

Quotes of the day:

(from "Dover Beach")

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
-Matthew Arnold

(from Studies in the History of the Renaissance) "Some spend this interval [life] in listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest, at least among "the children of this world," in art and song. For our chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time. Great passions may give us this quickened sense of life, ecstasy and sorrow of love, the various forms of enthusiastic activity, disinterested or otherwise, which come naturally to many of us... Of such wisdom the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake." -Walter Pater

A little Victorian history:
European Victorians suffered from an anxious sense of something lost, a sense too of being desplaced persons in a world made alien by technological changes that had been exploited too quickly for the adaptive powers of the human psyche. -Norton Anthology

I would describe myself as an eternal optimist sprinkled with temporary bouts of extreme pessimism. The above quote by Matthew Arnold captures this feeling for me. While I am the last to believe that world holds no love nor light, in times when kids are shooting eachtother in school and our national representative is committing adultery is often seems this way. At those times I feel more in tune with WB Yeats' "The Second Coming." However the way people come together in a time like post-9/11 proves that there is help for pain, but indeed no certitude. The last line really nails war to the wall, appropriately I believe. I absolutely support our troops. The are a cog in a wheel of society that is not to blame - I blame society... not the US per say, but every fighting society that has ever existed. They are ignorant and clash by night, in the dark, with a false sense of what they are doing.

If I was forced to condense my ideas on life into one quote is would be Walter Pater's argument above for art for art's sake - a very Romantic idea to seize the day and let yourself really FEEL. I believe very few do this. Though I try to practice what I preach I know I have often failed. While this is a literary criticism class, I (like my alter-ego Wordsworth I suppose) have a volatile love-hate relationship with criticism. There is much to be said for examining a text and applying more than one narrow view. Yet, sadly, we often overdo it, compartmentalizing things in a nifty little box where there is no room for passion. At that point we have distanced ourselves from the true value in art.


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