Presentation on theme: "Pleasantville: Everyone has a unique self, a nature. You should discover who you are, what that self is like. You should have be who you are: Conventional."— Presentation transcript:
Pleasantville: Everyone has a unique self, a nature. You should discover who you are, what that self is like. You should have be who you are: Conventional society will hake it hard for you if you do But you should have the integrity and courage to be who you are anyway: you shouldn’t put the gray makeup back on you shouldn’t make deals about what colors you’ll paint with If you do have the courage to be who you are, it may be Contagious. Society may change to conform to you. These are powerful enduring ideas in our culture. Where did they come from?
Traditionalism against which Romanticism revolted: 1. Puritanism 2. Work Ethic 3. Gender traditionalism The Romantic revolt has four main themes: INTUITION: Discover one's true self EXPRESSIVISM: Express your true self INTEGRITY maintain your true self despite difficulties PERSONAL IS POLITICAL; change society by changing yourself Coming events: the Beats, the Sixties, Punk
The traditional culture 1. Puritanism 2. Protestant work ethic 3. Natural gender roles
PURITANISM Jonathan Edwards's fearsome "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"... defined the role of the individual: 1. to subordinate itself to the doctrine of the community, to conform to the values of the charter.” 2 to live for the future: salvation not present welfare 3. To accept the authority of others as one’s own truth
In modern usage, the word puritan is often used as an informal pejorative for someone who has strict views on sexual morality, disapproves of recreation, and wishes to impose these beliefs on others. None of these qualities were unique to Puritanism or universally characteristic of the Puritans themselves, whose moral views and ascetic tendencies were no more extreme than many other Protestant reformers of their time, and who were relatively tolerant of other faiths — at least in England. The popular image is slightly more accurate as a description of Puritans in colonial America, who were among the most radical Puritans and whose social experiment took the form of a Calvinist theocracy.
In Puritan New England, the family was the fundamental unit of society, the place where Puritans rehearsed and perfected religious, ethical, and social values and expectations of the community at large. The English Puritan William Gouge wrote: “…a familie is a little Church, and a little common-wealth, at least a lively representation thereof, whereby triall may be made of such as are fit for any place of authoritie, or of subjection in Church or commonwealth. Or rather it is as a schoole wherein the first principles and grounds of government and subjection are learned: whereby men are fitted to greater matters in Church or common-wealth. Authority and obedience characterized the relationship between Puritan parents and their children. Proper love meant proper discipline.
While both sexes carried the stain of original sin, for a girl, original sin suggested more than the roster of Puritan character flaws. Eve’s corruption, in Puritan eyes, extended to all women, and justified marginalizing them within churches' hierarchical structures. An example is the different ways that men and women were made to express their conversion experiences. For full membership, the Puritan church insisted not only that its congregants lead godly lives and exhibit a clear understanding of the main tenets of their Christian faith, but they also must demonstrate that they had experienced true evidence of the workings of God’s grace in their souls. Only those who gave a convincing account of such a conversion could be admitted to full church membership. Women were not permitted to speak in church after 1636 (although they were allowed to engage in religious discussions outside of it, in various women-only meetings), thus could not narrate their conversions.
Mill expressed the Puritan notion this way: “The one great offense of man is self-will. All the good of Which humanity is capable is comprised in obedience. You have no choice: thus you must do and no otherwise. “whatever is not a duty is sin.” Human nature being Radically corrupt, there is no redemption for anyone Until human nature is killed within him.” --from On Liberty, ch. 3
The Protestant work ethic: the self-made man 1. Work hard; do not waste time 2. Aim for worldly success:wealth 3. Delay gratification 4. Be practical. 5. Take responsibility for oneself: “rugged individualism”
Ben Franklin popularized and epitomized the legend of the Self-Made Man, and its corollary idea that America was the Land of Opportunity, where anyone who worked hard and used his (and sometimes her) head could get ahead in the world. Any boy could grow up to be President. Anyone could make the climb from Rags to Riches. Characteristically this climb was done alone, one stood on one's own two feet, and lifted oneself by the bootstraps. One's success (or failure) depended on oneself and oneself only. This typical American individualism is due largely to Franklin as well. More than any other single myth this idea that what America was about was the prospect of individual prosperity and wealth has governed our idea about who we are. If anything this preoccupation with wealth has intensified in the 200 years since Ben Franklin. Wherever this ethos prevails, romanticism grows in opposition..
The maxims of Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack …celebrated the virtues of hard work, sobriety, moderation, thrift and self-improvement.
It was a production ethic. The great virtues it taught were industry, foresight, thrift and personal initiative. The workman should be industrious in order to produce more for his employer; he should look ahead to the future; he should save money in order to become a capitalist himself; Then he should exercise personal initiative and found new factories where other workmen would toil industriously, and save, and become capitalists in their turn.
In a famous lecture of the late 19c called "the Gospel of Wealth" Baptist minister Russell Crowell said Never in the history of the world did a poor man without capital have such an opportunity to get rich quickly and honestly as he has now. I say that you ought to get rich and it is your duty to get rich. How many of my pious brethren say to me, "Do you, a Christian minister, spend your time going up and down the country advising young people to get rich, to get money?”"Yes, of course I do." They say ”Isn't that awful! Why don't you preach the gospel instead of preaching about man's making money?" ” Because to make money honestly is to preach the gospel."
De Tocqueville reported at about this time: The American is devoured by the longing to make his fortune; it is the unique passion of his life; he has... no inveterate habits, no spirit of routine; he is the daily witness of the swiftest changes of fortune, and is less afraid than any other inhabitant of the globe to risk what he has gained in the hope of a better future, for he knows that he can without trouble create new resources again...Everybody here wants to grow rich and rise in the world, and there is no one but believes in his power to succeed in that. Democracy in America 2 vols 1835, 1840
Toward the end of the 19th century the name Horatio Alger became synonymous with the idea of “Rags-to-Riches”: anyone no matter how poor could rise to wealth and success in America. ( 1868)
Frances Trollope reported in the early 19c on Some of the results of the combination of the Puritan ethic and Franklin’s maxims, which Included “a penny saved is a penny earned.” I never saw a population so totally divested of gayety. They have no fetes, no fairs, no merrimaking, no music in the streets...If they see a comedy or a farce, they may laugh at it, but they can do very well without it; and the consciousness of the number of cents that must be paid to enter a theater, I am very sure turns more steps from its door than any religious feeling.
Edward Said says of his Palestinian father living in Cairo: My father was ruled by the practice of self-making... he came to represent...rationalistic discipline and repressed emotions, and all this had impinged on me my whole life...In me remains his relentless insistence on doing something useful, getting things done, never giving up, more or less all the time. I have no concept of leisure or relaxation, and more particularly, no sense of cumulative achievement.
Rugged individualism: The belief that all individuals, or nearly all individuals, can succeed on their own and that government help for people should be minimal. --The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. 2002
1. Women as lesser men 2. Difference 3. Separate spheres Gender traditionalism
“pre-industrial society set definite standards of gender... There was no sense of evolution in gender relationships. They seemed fixed by God and by history... Most people Believed that men and women had unalterable God-given roles. Model 1: Puritanism The relation of women to men was frequently explained on the Model of the Great Chain of Being, with woman appearing as A sort of inferior man, with similar but lesser abilities and Qualities. Women were also seen as innately evil, on the model Of Eve: tempting men into sin by their sexuality. Model 2: Difference Toward the end of the 18th century, understandings of gender Shifted, sharply, to stress the difference between men and Women.... Because of woman’s God-given “innate sexual Essence,” she had a “uniquely feminine” nature
By the end of the 19th century this had become Model 3: separate spheres Men and women each had their own natural sphere where they were properly dominant. Men’s sphere was the public World of work and politics. Women’s sphere was the private Sphere of the home and family. Women (and men) who tried to rebel against these “natural” roles were condemned as “unnatural,”not “true women” and so on.
1.Live for the future (sacred or secular); delay gratification 2.Subordinate oneself to one’s community 3.Women are different than men and should stay in their proper place 4. Accept the authority of others as one’s own truth 5.Aim for worldly success:wealth 6.Work hard; do not waste time: “nose to the grindstone 6. Be practical, not a dreamer: Rationalistic discipline 7. Repress emotions: they are not useful 8. Repress one’s nature: it is corrupt 9. Take responsibility for oneself: “rugged individualism ” Traditional Wisdom
Major figures in the 19th century Romantic movement Known as Transcendentalism: Ralph Waldo Emerson Henry David Thoreau Margaret Fuller Walt Whitman
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1802-1882) Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Born in Boston, son of a Unitarian minister. Graduated Harvard at age 18. First a schoolmaster, then a Unitarian minister. Left the ministry because of doubts about Communion. Moved to Concord Mass 1835. Founded Transcendental Club. “Nature” published 1836. Writer/Lecturer, famous orator, abolitionist
Henry David Thoreau 1817-1862 Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it. Born Concord Mass. Would have Graduated from Harvard but refused to pay $5 for his diploma. Schoolteacher, Dismissed for not spanking his pupils. Mostly worked in family pencil factory. Naturalist, advocate of simple living, tax resister & author of Walden & “Civil Disobedience”, fervent abolitionist. Lived in Cambridge MA. Inspiration for Gandhi & Martin Luther King.
It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow --Thoreau, Walden
Margaret Fuller 1810-1850 What Woman needs is not as a woman to act or rule, but as a nature to grow, as an intellect to discern, as a soul to live freely and unimpeded. First true advocate for women’s rights. Learned Latin at 5. Editor of The Dial. Wrote Woman in the 19th Century. Literary critic for NY Herald Tribune--1st female journalist on major paper. Died when the boat carrying her back to America from Europe sank. Great aunt of Buckminster Fuller
Walt Whitman (1819-1892 After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on - have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear - what remains? Nature remains. Possibly greatest American poet. Wrote Leaves of Grass. Born in Brooklyn. NY newspaperman. Nursed wounded during Civil War: wrote Specimen Days. Outraged Victorian America with his open sexuality in his poems and even more so by the homoeroticism they expressed. Perhaps best known for “Oh Captain! My Captain!” expressing his grief at the death of Lincoln.
Homer Simpson, after discovering that a grave his father told him was his dead mother's was actually that of Whitman, says, along with intermittent kicks to the gravestone, "Damn you Walt Whitman! I … hate … you … Walt … freakin' … Whitman! Leaves of Grass my ass!")
"it was as a revolutionary that Whitman began his work; and a revolutionary he remained to the end...It was this revolutionary spirit that made him the friend of all rebellious souls past and present...Conventional law and order he frankly despised and those individuals who sought their own law and followed it awoke his admiration. Thoreau's "lawlessness" delighted him-"his going his own absolute road let hell blaze all it chooses,: It is a coward and a poltroon who accepts his law from others....:
Among the characteristic attitudes of Romanticism were the following: a deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature; a general exaltation of emotion over reason and of the senses over intellect; a turning in upon the self and a heightened examination of human personality and its moods and mental potentialities; a preoccupation with the genius, the hero, and the exceptional figure in general, and a focus on his passions and inner struggles; a new view of the artist as a supremely individual creator, whose creative spirit is more important than strict adherence to formal rules and traditional procedures; an emphasis upon imagination as a gateway to transcendent experience and spiritual truth;
I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the Heart's affections, and the truth of Imagination.What the Imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth--whether it existed before or not,--for I have the same idea of all our passions as of Love: they are all, in their sublime, creative of essential Beauty......The excellence of every art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeables evaporate from their being in close relationship with Beauty and Truth... several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement,, especially in Literature, and which Shakespear possessed so enormously--I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. --Keats
1.Self-Discovery of one’s true nature Listen to the still small voice Ignore conventional wisdom Romanticism 2. Authenticity: Express one’s true nature: be nonconformist develop one’s inborn abilities 3. Integrity Have the courage to sustain one’s authenticity in the face of difficulties and temptations. 4. Change the world by personal example.
1.Discover one’s authentic nature Listen to the still small voice Ignore conventional wisdom Part I: Self-Discovery 2. Authenticity: Express one’s nature: be nonconformist develop one’s inborn abilities 3. Integrity Have the courage to resist coercion out of one’s authentic life and seduction back into a conventional life. 4. Make social change by personal example
That taboo is there for Betty and Bill; she is a brave woman To defy it openly.
Pleasantville shows people finding their real selves hidden under the conventional selves they have adopted to fit the social conventions of what boys & girls, men & women are supposed to be. As they find themselves, they turn color. People have an inborn nature. That nature is good.
One must discover one’s true nature by listening to one’s intuition The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing. --Blaise Pascal
The voice of nature: Emerson’s reasons for listening to one’s heart Every natural process is a version of a moral sentence. The moral law lies at the centre of nature and radiates to the circumference. It is the pith and marrow of every substance, every relation, and every process. All things with which we deal, preach to us.
Nor can it be doubted that this moral sentiment which thus scents the air, grows in the grain, and impregnates the waters of the world, is caught by man and sinks into his soul. The moral influence of nature upon every individual is that amount of truth which it illustrates to him. Who can estimate this? Who can guess how much firmness the sea-beaten rock has taught the fisherman?
I hear and behold God in every object... Why should I wish to see God better than this day? I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four... I find letters from God dropt in the street And everyone is signed by God’s name Whitman, “Song of Myself”
Normal truth is not your truth; you are unique It seems as if the Deity dressed each soul which he sends into nature in certain virtues and powers not communicable to other men, and sending it to perform one more turn through the circle of beings, wrote, "Not transferable" and "Good for this trip only," on these garments of the soul.” Emerson "Uses of Great Men"
Because you have a unique nature, the conventional truths will not be true for you.You will have to find your own way.
I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything to the purpose. Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it. –-Thoreau, Walden
The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well? –-Thoreau, Walden
Would not genius be common as light if men trusted their higher selves? –Margaret Fuller
An answer in words is delusive; it is really no answer to the questions you ask. Do not require a description of the countries towards which you sail. The description does not describe them to you, and to- morrow you arrive there, and know them by inhabiting them. --Emerson
The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, the essence of virtue, and the essence of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions. In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin. »-Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
The Transcendentalist vision: the mind can apprehend absolute spiritual truths directly without having to go through the detour of the senses, without the dictates of past authorities and institutions, and without the plodding labor of ratiocination.
From Immanuel Kant, the transcendentalists borrowed A distinction between Understanding and Reason Understanding is the analytical, rational, calculating side of the Mind. It’s the Franklin mind: commonsensical, practical, “realistic.” It’s “Yankee ingenuity”; the kind of intellect used In business and trained in schools. Reason is intuitive, wild, mystical. It forms larger patterns of order out of the information gathered by Understanding. It creates meaning out of data. It needs wilderness and nature to be brought out: the busy-ness of commerce and cities and ordinary life tends to drown it out.
Thus Thoreau retreats to Walden to seek truth that eludes him in the city and among other people. Nature in the sense of wilderness allows Reason to make sense of things for him. It allows his own Nature to speak, to suppress the ordinary Understanding to reach for deeper meaning, a more natural, more trustworthy, meaning. This Understanding is trustworthy because the voice of Nature is the voice of God. This inner sense is one’s unique “genius.” We all have it, we can all discover it.
Listening to one’s heart will Reveal one’s true nature. Intuition is the voice of Nature Speaking in you. It is the “still small voice” that Will reveal the truth to you.
"Talent thinks, genius sees.” -William Blake For 18th-century English artist and poet William Blake, art was visionary, not intellectual. He believed that the arts offered insights into the metaphysical world and could potentially redeem a humanity fallen into materialism and doubt. His belief that imagination is the artist's critical filter indicated the dawn of Romanticism, but his peers failed to recognize his genius
By virtue of this inevitable nature, private will is overpowered, and, maugre our efforts or our imperfections, your genius will speak from you, and mine from me. That which we are, we shall teach, not voluntarily, but involuntarily. Thoughts come into our minds by avenues which we never left open, and thoughts go out of our minds through avenues which we never voluntarily opened. --Emerson
“If we keep an open mind, too much is likely to fall into it.” --Natalie Clifford Barney (1876-1972),
Only the dreamer shall understand realities, though in truth his dreaming must be not out of proportion to his waking. --Margaret Fuller
A sign that you need to seek your true self is: Alienation or Estrangement “I’m a stranger in a strange land.”
Signs that you’re a stranger in a strange land: You don’t know the rules You don’t speak the language You don’t feel at home No one is like you You are anxious
If you’re actually in a strange land, this is normal. But if the “strange land” is your home, then you are alienated, estranged. If the people who are closest to you, family, friends... Seem like strangers to you If they seem to be playing a game whose rules you don’t know Or you know the rules but don’t feel comfortable playing by them You suffer anxiety (angst) just from “normal” living.
Alienation or estrangement is thus When your nature doesn’t fit the scripts provided by your society
Jim stark is alienated. He can’t find any role models, any scripts that suit him He doesn’t feel at home with other kids: he’s not a greaser or a “popular” kid. He can’t see a role for him in the adult world either: his father’s script is not for him.
This estrangement is the cause of the anguish Jim is in for most of the film. Ambiguity of the film: does Jim conform at the end, when he embraces his parents? Has he decided that it’s too hard being an outsider, an alien, and that he’ll do his best to fit in? Or does he remain a rebel?
Having discovered one’s true self by Listening to one’s intuition which is the voice of Nature inside one and by Avoiding the traps set by conventional wisdom One must now Express that true self in one’s life and Protect it from social pressures
Thoreau’s retreat to Walden and other things Romanics Say may give the impression that one first discovers Who one is, by retreating from the hurly-burly of everyday Life into nature, And there is that strain: One discovers who one is by inner communion, by retreat from others and from society. There is a hint of this view in Rebel when Jim, Judy & Plato retreat to the abandoned house and fantasize about alternative family scripts. But:
In another view: Discovery and expression are not sequential. One doesn’t first, conclusively and once and for all, discover who one is and then express that nature in one’s life. Discovery of one’s true nature will continue to occur As one expresses that nature in one’s life. Expression Is part of discovery and discovery is part of expression. Jim Stark e.g. is expressing who he is even though he doesn’t yet know who he is. The only way he can find out who he is is by attempting to live as authentically as he can.
2. Authenticity express one’s nature: develop one’s inborn abilities 3. Integrity: Have the courage to resist coercion out of one’s authentic life and seduction back into a conventional life. 4. The personal is political: change the world by Changing yourself. 1. Discover one’s authentic nature Listen to the still small voice Ignore conventional wisdom Part 2: Authenticity.
What Woman needs is not as a woman to act or rule, but as a nature to grow, as an intellect to discern, as a soul to live freely and unimpeded.[Men] think that nothing is so much to be dreaded for a woman as originality of thought or character. --Margaret Fuller
most of Walt Whitman’s "Song of Myself" has to do not with the self searching for a final identity but with the self escaping a series of identities which threaten to destroy its lively and various spontaneity
authenticity Once one has discovered one’s true nature or self, one must express that self in one’s entire way of life and work Gandhi said: “Thoreau taught nothing that he was not prepared to practice in himself.”
The end of man... Is the highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and consistent whole... For this there are two requisites, freedom, and a variety of situations and from the union of these arise individual vigor and manifold diversity which combine themselves in originality -Wilhelm von Humboldt (as paraphrased by J.S. Mill
In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high. --Thoreau
The most important thing in life is to develop the talents Nature gave you- whatever they may be. Self-development Very early, I knew that the only object in life was to grow. -Margaret Fuller
That Envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide; that he must Take himself for better or worse as his portion... A friend suggested, “But these impulses may come from below,not from above.” I replied, “They do not seem to me to be such, but if I am the devil’s child, I will live then from the devil.” -Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, To front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could Not learn what it had to teach, and not, when it came Time to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish To live what was not life, living is so dear, nor did I wish To practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life... To drive life into a corner and reduce it to its lowest Terms, and if it proved to be mean, why then to get The whole and genuine meanness of it. --Thoreau, “Walden”
It is a vulgar error that love, a love, to woman is her whole existence; she is born for Truth and Love in their universal energy. ---Margaret Fuller
Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist... nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. I have my own stern claims... If anyone imagines that this law is lax, let him keep its commandment one day. --Emerson
In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humoured inflexibility, then most when the cry of voices is on the other side. Else tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with same our opinion from another. --Emerson
Those who seem overladen with electricity frighten those around them, --Margaret Fuller
Be suspicious of conventional wisdom 1.It will mislead you about how you should live 2.It will blind you to your true and unique nature. 3.It will lead you into conventional “scripts” that will not suit you 4. These “scripts” will occupy your time and your imagination, deafening you to your intuition, stunting your imagination, preventing you from imagining alternatives to the status quo. 5. It will put your mind in a straitjacket, preventing you from seeing things that do not fit those views.
It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow --Thoreau, Walden
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self. Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
To dream magnificently is not a gift given to all men, and even for those who possess it, it runs a strong risk of being progressively diminished by the ever-growing dissipation of modern life and by the restlessness engendered by material progress. The ability to dream is a divine and mysterious ability; because it is through dreams that man communicates with the shadowy world which surrounds him. But this power needs solitude to develop freely; the more one concentrates, the more one is likely to dream fully, deeply. --Charles Baudelaire If you follow conventional paths, You will lose touch with your intuition; Your imagination will wither.
Conventional views will lead you away from the truth Men have looked away from themselves, and at things, so long that they have come to esteem...the religious, learned, and civil institutions, as guards of property...They measure their esteem of each other, by what each has, and not by what each is. But a cultivated man becomes ashamed of his property, ashamed of what he has, out of new respect for his being. --Emerson
The Pleasantville rebels have to learn the truth originally from an outsider. There is no wisdom in Pleasantville that will tell them. Jim Stark cannot find out who he is by asking his father or mother or even the friendly policeman.
It is astonishing what force, purity, and wisdom it requires for a human being to keep clear of falsehoods. - Margaret Fuller
Live life to the full As if one could kill time without injuring eternity -Thoreau, Walden "I only regret, in my chilled old age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn’t embrace." --Henry James to Hugh Walpole Be open Be sensual Be unafraid “Seize the day”
"Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking, and breeding No sentimentalist, no stander above men and women or apart from them”
Whitman was most emphatic in rejecting the Puritan view that the body was corrupt and its urges to be suppressed: Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat, Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best, Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice. I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning, How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn'd over upon me, And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart, And reach'd till you felt my beard, and reach'd till you held my feet. --”Song of Myself”
I believe in the flesh and the appetites Seeing, hearing, feeling are miracles, And each part and tag of me is a miracle. Divine am I inside and out, And I make holy whatever I touch... --Whitman, “Song of Myself”
But sex alone is not worth celebrating. Without some genuine Connection, some engagement of the heart, it can be alienating
“Oh, I don’t think your father would ever do anything like that, dear
One thing only Margaret Fuller demanded of all her friends- that they should have some extraordinary generous seeking; that they should not be satisfied with the common routine of life, that they should aspire to something higher, better, holier, than they had now attained. Where this element of aspiration existed, she demanded no originality of intellect, no greatness of soul. If these were found, well; but she could love, tenderly and truly, where they were not. She never formed a friendship until she had seen and known this germ of good, and afterwards judged conduct by this. To this germ of good, to this highest law of each individual, she held them true.
REJECT the TYRANNY of the FUTURE Don’t postpone living now for the sake of some future goal. “Seize the day” “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” Don’t be cautious; live in the moment.
Its nature is satisfied and it satisfies nature in all moments alike. There is no time to it. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time. --Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
REJECt the WORK ETHIC Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, encouraging his followers not to worry about their worldly needs: “Why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live. --Margaret Fuller
Success in dealing with the world as it is inevitably diminishes the ability to imagine it as it might be. --Thomas Carlyle
Ordinary work suppresses individuality For more on this theme, see any Dilbert cartoon
Thoreau claimed that there was no time when he was at Walden Pond. His days at Walden are such that he can sit rapt in a revery, amidst the pines... in undisturbed solitude and stillness... his time there is not segmented into hours and fretted by the ticking of a clock. he said that he grew like corn by sitting on his doorstep from dawn to noon, too busy to engage in work of head or hand
And this natural unclocked time is not "idleness" in the sense that the men of the village, the Ben Franklins would understand it, and condemn it for being so. It is rather the best possible use of time. It's one's own time, unsold to anyone else, undevoted to the chores of the world, it's a sacred chunk of one's life, which is nothing but time, so one better be careful how one spends it. –Thoreau, walden
1.Discover one’s nature Listen to the still small voice Ignore conventional wisdom Part 3: Integrity 2. Express one’s nature: be nonconformist Develop one’s inborn abilities 3. Have the integrity to resist coercion out of one’s authentic life and seduction back into a conventional life. 4. The personal is political: change the world by changing yourself
One option when one is alienated is to Conform To pick a script and follow it anyway, regardless of the fact that it crimps you This is what most people do, say Romantics. Thoreau: “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”
But it is not what Romantics recommend. If there is no script that fits you in your society, then create a new script that does fit you. Be a nonconformist
Degrees of conformity: Compromising conformity: get a “day job” but try to be yourself at other times (“Sunday painters e.g.) Inevitabilist conformity: you might as well b/c society will win in the end and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble. Developmental conformity: rebellion is just a stage that one goes through; then one grows up and conforms
Positive conformity: Society provides adequate scripts: rebellion is willful deviance. Repressive conformity: Puritanism. e.g. The natural self is corrupt and evil and should be crushed. Conformity is a positive good
Elaine facing a choice between safe normality and risky love.
Conformity suppresses what is natural in us. Fear of being different can lead us right back into the closet.
"It is the best part of the man, I sometimes think, that revolts most against his being the minister" Emerson wrote as a young minister himself in January 1831when he was 29, "His good revolts from official goodness...We... fall into institutions already made and have to accommodate ourselves to them to be useful at all, and this accommodation is, I say, a loss of so much integrity... and power.” There will soon be no more priests. A superior breed shall take their place. A new order shall arise... And every man shall be his own priest. »---Walt Whitman
Difficulties in authenticity expressivism self-development & integrity It takes strength of character. Freedom is frightening: fear may make one run back to the closet The outcome is unknown, the future uncertain Conventional society will attempt to punish you.
Nations, like families, have great men only in spite of themselves. They do everything in their power not to have any. And therefore, the great man, in order to exist, must possess a force of attack which is greater than the force of resistance developed by millions of people. --Charles Baudelaire
Freedom is frightening because no one can tell you the way There are no road maps, no well-trodden paths to follow, no scripts. One has to make it up as one goes, with only one’s instincts to follow No one will be able to give you advice. You will be uncertain and anxious without others like you to give you reassurance
For the ease and pleasure of treading the old road, accepting the fashions, the education, the religion of society, he takes the cross of making his own, and, of course, the self-accusation, the faint heart, the frequent uncertainty and loss of time, which are the nettles and tangling vines in the way of the self-relying and self-directed; and the state of virtual hostility in which he seems to stand to society, and especially to educated society. For all this loss and scorn, what offset? He is to find consolation in exercising the highest functions of human nature.
For nonconformity, the world whips you with its displeasure. -Emerson
One may suffer Unpopularity Ridicule Loss of career Loss of friends Social oppression Poverty Even death America is no place for an artist: to be an artist is to be a moral leper, an economic misfit, a social liability. A corn-fed hog enjoys a better life than a creative writer, painter, or musician. -Henry Miller, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare p. 16
1.Discover one’s nature Listen to the still small voice Ignore conventional wisdom Part 4: Politics 2. Express one’s nature: be nonconformist Develop one’s inborn abilities 3. Have the integrity to resist coercion out of one’s authentic life and seduction back into a conventional life. 4. The personal is political: change the world by changing yourself
Good men must not obey the law too well. -Emerson, “On Politics”
Whilst I do what is fit for me, and abstain from what is unfit, my neighbor and I shall often agree in our means, and work together for a time to one end. But whenever I find my dominion over myself not sufficient for me, and undertake the direction of him also, I overstep the truth, and come into false relations to him. I may have so much more skill or strength than he, that he cannot express adequately his sense of wrong, but it is a lie, and hurts like a lie both him and me. Love and nature cannot maintain the assumption: it must be executed by a practical lie, namely, by force. This undertaking for another, is the blunder which stands in colossal ugliness in the governments of the world. -Emerson, “On Politics”
the State must follow, and not lead the character and progress of the citizen;... they only who build on Ideas, build for eternity; and that the form of government which prevails, is the expression of what cultivation exists in the population which permits it. The law is only a memorandum. We are superstitious, and esteem the statute somewhat: so much life as it has in the character of living men, is its force. The statute stands there to say, yesterday we agreed so and so, but how feel ye this article today? -Emerson, “On Politics”
What the tender poetic youth dreams, and prays, and paints today, but shuns the ridicule of saying aloud, shall presently be the resolutions of public bodies, then shall be carried as grievance and bill of rights through conflict and war, and then shall be triumphant law and establishment for a hundred years, until it gives place, in turn, to new prayers and pictures. -Emerson “On Politics”
"Cautious, careful people always casting about to preserve their reputation or social standards never can bring about reform. Those who are really in earnest are willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathies with despised ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences." —Susan B. Anthony
EQUALITY. 1. One’s worth is inborn: it is not measured by one’s social status or wealth or race or gender. 2. We all have a Natural genius, we are all worthwhile. No one exists simply to serve someone else. 3. Insist that your life matters and is not to be lightly thrown away or wasted.
The influence of Kant: Act always in such a way as to treat others never as a means only but always as an end in themselves. One must never use someone as if they didn’t matter. Everyone’s purposes matter; one must always take account of those purposes when one acts. Never treat a person as a thing. The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have Others do unto you.
"The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race." —Susan B. Anthony
Fuller called for complete equality between males and females, and compared the struggle for women's rights with the abolition movement. She insisted that all professions be opened to women and contended that women should not be forced to submit to the men in their lives: husbands, fathers, or brothers. The book was highly controversial in its time; critics believed Fuller's notions would destroy the stability and sanctity of the home. Some objections were lodged on religious grounds as her ideas were considered contrary to the divine order. I am the poet of the woman the same as the man, And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man, And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men. -Whitman, “Song of Myself”
Whitman’s poetry was the first to celebrate ordinary men & Women, and ordinary life, rather than classical themes: I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in the far west, the bride was a red girl, Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and dumbly smoking, they had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets hanging from their shoulders, On a bank lounged the trapper, he was drest mostly in skins, his luxuriant beard and curls protected his neck, he held his bride by the hand, She had long eyelashes, her head was bare, her coarse straight locks descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reach'd to her feet.
Do you know so much that you call the meanest ignorant? Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she has no right to a sight? Do you think matter has cohered together From its diffuse float, and the soils on the Surface, and water runs, and vegetation sprouts For you only and not for him and her? -- Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric”
The grass... is a uniform hieroglyphic, And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow Zones, Growing among black folks as among white, Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same. What is commonest, cheapest, easiest, nearest, is Me --Whitman, “Song of Myself” I know that all the men ever born are also my brothers, And the women my sisters and lovers.
This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger, It is for the wicked just same as the righteous, I make appointments with all, I will not have a single person slighted or left away, The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited, The heavy-lipp'd slave is invited, the venerealee is invited; There shall be no difference between them and the rest. --Whitman, “Song of Myself”
No greater men are now than ever were. A singular Equality may be observed between the great men of the first and of the last ages. Kingdom and lordship, power and estate, are a gaudier vocabulary than private John and Edward in a small house and common day’s work: but the things of life are the same to both: -Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
A note on freedom The meaning of the word “freedom” has undergone an evolution in American history. In the early days of the Republic when Americans said “we are a free people” they meant that they were a sovereign nation, no Longer under the dominion of England. They meant independence Later the word came to have a primarily domestic usage: Americans boasted of their freedom meaning that they were politically free. They voted, they decided what policies would be. This became associated with democracy. Americans were free because they lived in a democracy
Under the influence of Romanticism “free” came to have a third meaning: to be able to live as one wanted, free from the requirement to live as others lived, free from the requirement that they live according to the morality of their communities. John Stuart Mill expressed this new sense in his classic work “On Liberty”
All good things which exist are the fruits of originality. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character had abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and courage which it contained. I am not aware that any community has a right to force another to be civilized. If mankind minus one were of one opinion, then mankind is no more justified in silencing the one than the one - if he had the power - would be justified in silencing mankind. The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement. -John Stuart Mill
Protection therefore against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough;there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by means other than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them, to fetter the development, and if possible, prevent the formation of, any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859
I n On Liberty Mill proposed a rule for the acceptability of government and social action that has since become the standard around which Romantics rally: The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, In interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self- protection.The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.
This mea ns that we cannot coerce or compel anyone To act a certain way just because we think it is Morally correct or respectable or normal. People are free to live as they wish as long as their Actions don’t directly harm someone else. They may be unconventional, offensive, eccentric, Weird, rude, and even immoral in the eyes of others, But they have a right to be so without interference From others. And if people find their behavior unacceptable, they Are free to try to persuade the weirdos to change Their ways: but they may not compel them to do so.
Mill continues: Human liberty requires “liberty of conscience... Liberty of thought and feeling; absolute freedom of opinion and aentiment on all subjects...the principle requires liberty of tastes and pursuits; of framing the plan of our life to suit our own character;of doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow without impediment from our fellow creatures, so long as what we do does not harm them, even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse, or wrong... The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to attain it.
Mill uses a quote from Wilhelm von Humboldt As the epigram for his book: The grand leading principle... is the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity.
Emerson agrees: Whilst I do what is fit for me, and abstain from what is unfit, my neighbor and I shall often agree in our means, and work together for a time to one end. But whenever I find my dominion over myself not sufficient for me, and undertake the direction of him also, I overstep the truth, and come into false relations to him. I may have so much more skill or strength than he, that he cannot express adequately his sense of wrong, but it is a lie, and hurts like a lie both him and me. Love and nature cannot maintain the assumption: it must be executed by a practical lie, namely, by force. This undertaking for another, is the blunder which stands in colossal ugliness in the governments of the world. It is the same thing in numbers, as in a pair, only not quite so intelligible. I can see well enough a great difference between my setting myself down to a self-control, and my going to make somebody else act after my views: but when a quarter of the human race assume to tell me what I must do, I may be too much disturbed by the circumstances to see so clearly the absurdity of their command. Therefore, all public ends look vague and quixotic beside private ones
It was Mill, himself a very proper Victorian English gentleman, who put forth the idea that a society needed to encourage eccentrics because, he said, they are a laboratory for social experimentation. It is they who try things out that should not be first tried on a large-scale, things that most of us would be unwilling or afraid to try. We all benefit, Mill argues, because we can learn from these experiments, and then incorporate whatever works and avoid whatever doesn’t. Let those hippies experiment with “free love”-- if all goes well, perhaps we can loosen the conven- tional rules about courtship to allow pre-marital sex and living together before marriage.
Every law, every convention or rule of art that prevents self-expression or the full enjoyment of the moment should be shattered and abolished. Puritanism is the great enemy. The crusade against puritanism is the only crusade with which free individuals are justified In allying themselves Malcolm Cowley (1898-1989), literary critic
Anti-authoritarian in religion, in politics, in education, across the board Anti-Puritan: freedom to enjoy one’s self, to enjoy free sexualiity, to enjoy drugs... Freedom to explore alternative lifestyles, to be eccentric, to be nonconformist Freedom
What Woman needs is not as a woman to act or rule, but as a nature to grow, as an intellect to discern, as a soul to live freely and unimpeded.[Men] think that nothing is so much to be dreaded for a woman as originality of thought or character. --Margaret Fuller
It should be remarked that, as the principle of liberty is better understood, and more nobly interpreted, a broader protest is made in behalf of women. As men become aware that few have had a fair chance, they are inclined to say that no women have had a fair chance. --Margaret Fuller
I give the sign of democracy, By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms. --Whitman, “Song of Myself”
I have urged on woman independence of man, not that I do not think the sexes mutually needed by one another, but because in woman this fact has led to an excessive devotion, which has cooled love, degraded marriage and prevented it her sex from being what it should be to itself or the other. I wish woman to live, first for God's sake. Then she will not take what is not fit for her from a sense of weakness and poverty. Then if she finds what she needs in man embodied, she will know how to love and be worthy of being loved. --Margaret Fuller
"I cannot witness the glaring inequalities of condition, the hollow pretensions of pride, the scornful apathy with which many urge the prostration of man, the burning zeal with which they run the race of selfish competition, with no thought for the elevation of their brethren, without the sad conviction that the spirit of Christ has well-nigh disappeared from tour churches, and that the fearful doom awaits us, 'Inasmuch as ye have not done it unto the least of these, ye have not done it unto me.'" George Ripley, founder of Brook Farm, A Letter Addressed to the Congregational Church in Purchase Street, 1840.
Social Change: The personal is political “Go love thy infant; love thy wood- chopper; be good-natured and modest; have that grace; and never varnish your hard, uncharitable ambition with this incredible tenderness for black folk a thousand miles off. Thy love afar is spite at home.” --Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
Would that the simple maxim, that honesty is the best policy, might be laid to heart; that a sense of the true aim of life might elevate the tone of politics and trade till public and private honor become identical. --Margaret Fuller
” the revolutionary process of changing...external conditions is comparatively easy; what is difficult and necessary is the inner change of thought and desire” emma goldman
A greater self-reliance-a new respect for the divine in man--must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men--in their religion, in their education in their pursuits; their modes of living; in their property; in their speculative views. -Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
If you are true, but not in the same truth with me,cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. -Emerson, “Self-Reliance” We’re going to explore some of these companionable and Romantic Cleavings: The Beats in the 50’s, the 60’s counterculture, Punk in the 70’s.
Two forms of political action Individual retreat & purely personal change: e.g. Walden “Cleaving to one’s companions”: –Brook Farm –Sixties communes
Brook Farm began in April of 1841 with Web Site George Ripley as the founder, his wife, Sophia Ripley, and about fifteen other members.
"Our objects, as you know, are to ensure a more natural union between intellectual and manual labor than now exists; to combine the thinker and the worker, as far as possible, in the same individual; to guarantee the highest mental freedom, by providing all with labor, adapted to their tastes and talents, and securing to them the fruits of their industry; to do away with the necessity of menial services, by opening the benefits of education and the profits of labor to all; and thus to prepare a society of liberal, intelligent, and cultivated person, whose relations with each other would permit a more simple and wholesome life, than can now be led amidst the pressures of our competitive institutions.” George Ripley
A few individuals, who, unknown to each other, under different disciplines of life, reacting from different social evils, but aiming at the same object,--of being wholly true to their natures as men and women; have been made acquainted with one another, and have determined to become the Faculty of the Embryo University.In order to live a religious and moral life worthy the name, they feel it is necessary to come out in some degree from the world, and to form themselves into a community of property, so far as to exclude competition and the ordinary rules of trade;--while they reserve sufficient private property, or the means of obtaining it, for all purposes of independence, and isolation at will. They have bought a farm, in order to make agriculture the basis of their life, it being the most direct and simple in relation to nature.
The spiritual good will always be the condition of the temporal. Every one must labor for the community in a reasonable degree, or not taste its benefits. The principles of the organization therefore, and not its probably results in future time, will determine its members. These principles are cooperation in social matters, instead of competition or balance of interests; and individual self-unfolding, in the faith that the whole soul of humanity is in each man and woman. The former is the application of the love of man; the latter of the love of God, to life. Whoever is satisfied with society, as it is; whose sense of justice is not wounded by its common action, institutions, spirit of commerce, has no business with this community;
neither has any one who is willing to have other men (needing more time for intellectual cultivation than himself) give their best hours and strength to bodily labor, to secure himself immunity therefrom. And whoever does not measure what society owes to its members of cherishing and instruction, by the needs of the individuals that compose it, has no lot in this new society. -- Elizabeth Peabody The Dial, I, Jan. 1842
Romantics tend to value personal change rather than social activism. But at least twice, events led them to ally themselves with social movements: Transcendentalists with abolitionism pre-Civil War; counterculturalists with anti-Vietnam War movement in 60’s
The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside, I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile, Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and weak, And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him, And brought water and fill'd a tub for his sweated body and bruis'd feet, And gave him a room that enter'd from my own, and gave him some coarse clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness, And remember putting piasters on the galls of his neck and ankles; He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass'd north, I had him sit next me at table, my fire-lock lean'd in the corner. -Whitman, “Song of Myself”
Summing up: Romanticism emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary. In three major categories: discovery of the authentic self expression of that self integrity in maintaining that self political equality, democracy, freedom
" These writers set down the intellectual framework for hip. Celebrating the individual and the nonconformist, advocating civil disobedience, savoring the homoerotic, and above all claiming the sensual power of the new, the writers articulated a vision of hip that we now carry everywhere like an internal compass. The hip felicities that have come since--the uncapped solos of bebop and hip-hop, the gnostic blur of the Lost Generation and the Beat Generation, the indie purism of Chapel Hill or Olympia, the altered consciousness of the drug culture-- all built on the principles they threw down... Leland, Hip: A History pp. 40-41
Mid 1800 ’ s: Whitman, Emerson, Fuller, Thoreau et al Pre-WWI: The Lyric Left 1920 ’ s: The Harlem Renaissance 1920 ’ s: The “ Lost Generation ” 1950 ’ s: Beats & Bebop, 1960 ’ s: Counterculture, “ hippies ” 1970 ’ s: Patti Smith, Punk Important Hip/shadow/countercultural eras
Well, you walk into the room like a camel and then you frown; You put your eyes in your pocket and your nose on the ground-- There ought to be a law against you comin' around You should be made to wear earphones because something is happening here but you don't know what it is, Do you, Mister Jones? --Bob Dylan, “Ballad of a Thin Man” 1965
Would Romantics be cool? Probably not. Being cool is usually not being yourself, it’s conforming to the Values of a chosen set of peers Cool kids reject being like their parents (“squares” or “straights” or the “uptight” or “plastic people” or what have you) and so its members see themselves as rebels. But a true romantic would reject the Cool scripts for how to act as well as the Parental scripts for how to act. Mary Sue’s unwillingness to express her intellectuality wasn’t because she was conforming to her parents’ values--it’s because she wanted to be cool and was acting the way cool kids act. She had to reject being cool to be herself. A phenomenon we’ll look at more closely when we get to the Fifties