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20th Century Lit Summative Entry

Do the interests, concerns and experiences of writers in the 20th Century assist 21st Century human beings in their understanding of the purpose of existence?

The question of what is one’s purpose to exist has been a question that’s been asked for centuries.  However, as the years go by, summatively, there is the conclusion drawn that there is really no definitive answer.

But the interests, concerns and experiences of writers in the 20th century do help assist in thinking what is part of a person’s existence.  This can be seen in several ways.

The first way is through the various war poems and the story All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque where we see the effects of war.  War takes a toll on human lives both directly through the soldiers and indirectly through their loved ones.  It is during the war that some of the best aspects of humanity can shine through such as loyalty, comradery, and empathy.  We see this through the closeness between Paul and Kat and how when the latter finally perishes, the former shuts down where he no longer cares what happens to him.  There is a reminder that part of a human being’s existence is that feeling of closeness and love as well as the ability to interact, befriend and care for others.

Another way is seen through Katherine Mansfield’s The Daughters of the Late Colonel where we see the titular girls finally free from their abusive father.  However, because they are so used to their submissive life, they do not act.  There is that inner conflict where what they yearn for is finally gained, yet in the end, because they were so used to such a restrictive life, there is fear of going through with it.  Fear of the unknown and fear of change.  This helps us to understand the purpose of existence by showing us internal conflicts between what we yearn for and what we do know and were used to.  Likewise, the notion of freedom is another essential aspect of what is the purpose of a person’s existence – to be free to do what we would like and be what we want to be without being forced into submission or being frowned at.

Adding to the above point, Orwell’s short story Shooting of an Elephant also highlights the pressure that human beings have where the protagonist, despite not wanting to kill the elephant, performs his part as the “scary and tough white man” to “put on a show” for the natives as well as his peers.  In Orwell’s other works, we also see the importance of language and how it is utilized.  Where in Politics of the English Language we see how the point and focus of a person’s thoughts are compromised in return for a pretentious vocabulary.  1984 also shows us another reason why language is so vital and how restricting it will also stunt a person’s freedom by taking away their freedom of expression.  With Orwell’s works, we see him assessing the importance of how language is used, and with its link to one’s freedom by expression, which goes back to that notion of freedom in Mansfield’s The Daughters of the Late Colonel.

Finally, with the assessment of nation, race and language, we see the anguish that is caused with disconnection to language.  Primarily with one’s own native tongue.  Phillip’s Discourse of the Logic of Language is an emotional reading of four different types of texts to highlight supposed links between intelligence and language.  All the texts also alludes to the sense of anguish at losing identity by losing one’s native tongue.  This is most especially seen with the first two texts that are creative pieces: a disjointed poem about mother and father tongues and a more metaphorical account of a mother passing down her tongue to her child.  With how that has to do with understanding a person’s existence, for some, losing identity is the same as losing a piece of a person’s existence.

When it comes to the question of what is the purpose of a human’s existence, there is really no definitive answer.  However, the interests, experiences and concerns of 20th century writers do express several points that can be considered as various aspects to answer that question.  Such answers include the human emotions of empathy, loyalty and love between people; the sense of freedom one feels to express his or herself without constraints; and that sense of identity that one feels that defines part of their being.

All of these traits are important things to remember in today’s time and age.where machines and technology have taken a huge aspect of our lives.  Communication in face-to-face situations becomes less common and globalization has the tendency to steal native tongues in return of one “united” language.

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Peer Review #8

Peer Review – Tamara Sibbald

“Hello, Tamara! This was an interesting critique of Picasso’s Nude in a Rocking Chair. I quite like how you mention the strokes and thick lines of the piece along with the colours: particularly on how the green is sickly. The words you use to describe the picture such as “disjointed” and “mal-aligned” are also nice touches to describe the appearance of the nude.

Constructively, the writing of the critique itself is pretty interesting with how fragmented and disjointed it is. Though there are a few times I didn’t quite understand what the sentence was trying to convey such as this line: “Anger resounding through the think lines of her breasts and stomach- a new kind of face to put on for the world.” I wasn’t sure if you were referring to how the nude itself is a new face to the world, or if you were referring to how the body parts of the nude made up a face.

Either way, lovely critique, and intriguing style of writing to match it!”

Nude in a Rocking Chair

Language and the Inner Self

Something that I picked up during the whole course of the unit was the huge notion between language and the inner self.

Languages come in all variations.  Whether through ethnic variation or simple grammar differences.  However, all languages are used to express a person’s thoughts, emotions or motives in some way.

In the 20th century poetry, we see a bunch of backlash or glorification towards the notion of war.  Either there are proud words of patriotism or a jab at political “correctness” by poets like Sassoon.  In Conrad’s book, Heart of Darnkess, he uses Marlow to express all kinds of sentiments about the true horrors of what is really occurring in Africa – most  especially seen with Kurtz when he is on his death bed.  Virginia Woolf also expressed the importance of the inner self in her story about the deceased Colonel and his daughters.

Then moving forward on, we see Orwell assess the importance of the usage of language in his essay of Politics of the English Language and his dystopian novel, 1984.  Orwell expresses how language is used in such a way that the point is purposely lost.  Euphemisms are used to hide dark truths and politicians, likewise, mask their true thoughts and opinions behind big words like a puppet.  People try to sound intelligent, but instead, come off as pretentious parrots.  1984, meanwhile, though also expressing the importance of language, it expresses the importance of keeping language creative and free for expression.  Otherwise, the risk would be future generations deteriorating in speech and possibly intelligence.

Finally, we see grief in Philip’s Discourse of the Logic of Language where there are different texts that hammer the notion of language linking to intelligence.  But in that pursuit or striving for intelligence or “normality” and “unity” as colonizers put it, we see sadness and disconnection due to the lack of communication and inability to speak up for one’s self.

So overall, language is a truly important aspect of humanity.  It is used to communicate and express one’s inner self.  Yet at the same time, it can be used to manipulate and hide that inner self from others.  If it is contained, it becomes difficult to make contact and could come at risk of causing harm such as manipulating others and totalitarianism.

Peer Review #7

Peer Review – Sarah Azzopardi

“Hey Sarah, this was an interesting poem to read. What makes it interesting to me is the pointing out of how idiotic it is for people to deem a language “superior” to another. As you clearly put out in the line, “See even ‘proper’ English holds no originality of its own/From Greek and Latin and Arabic is where it had been made,” languages even borrow from other languages.

However, something that somewhat makes me uneasy is the definition of what an “Australian” is. The tone is patriotic, which is fine, but while some people, like myself, define an Australian as someone who’s basically born and raised in Australia, others will define a “true” Australian as the Indigenous people and will dismiss phrases such as “good ol’ Aussie way” and even the iconic phrase “g’day” since when someone talks about “Australian people”, the Aborigines seldom come to mind but rather “bogan” culture. Especially adding to the prospect of native tongues and diminishing languages, the poem starts to take a grave and even grim atmosphere, though I am unsure if that was your intention.

Regardless, I still find this an interesting read and an intriguing poem to read. Well done.”

Blog 9 – Nation, Race and Language

English is My Mother Tongue

Marlene Nourbese Philip’s poem, Discourse of the Logic of Language, was quite an intriguing and dramatic reading that assessed something a bit close to home.

The poem is split into four different types of texts: a poem, a creative writing piece, a scientific log, and finally multiple choice questions.  All of them, however, are linked with the notion of language.  The poem and the writing piece assess the importance of passing down native tongues, though sadly in the poem it seems unsuccessful due to “father tongue” British English taking custody.

The scientific and factual text types, the scientific log and the multiple choice questions, link language to intelligence.  Something I recalled in the lecture was when Louise Bennett discussed Jamaican English and how it was seen and deemed as “inferior” to British English.  Dismissing other languages in favour for a particular language, especially when colonization was running amok, was pretty commonplace to the point native languages could be possibly dying out.

A question that was brought up in tutorial was compared to the colonization days, is not knowing about your native tongue such a big deal? People are starting to come from different kinds of ethnicities while English is the most internationally used language.  As long as everyone can speak a common language, it shouldn’t have to matter, right?

Well, my answer is that it depends on the individual.

I, for example, am Filipino with some Chinese and Spanish mixed in.  I was born and raised in Australia, so my nationality is Australian.  However, ethnically, I’m Filipino.  Despite that, I cannot speak any of the dialects properly minus a few words.  Both my parents know two dialects, and altogether, there are three different Filipino dialects spoken in the house (one that my dad uses with his side of the family, one my mom uses with her side of the family, and one that my parents both know together).

Though people in my family can speak English quite well, I still can’t help but feel a bit saddened and even at times ashamed that I don’t know enough to maintain a conversation in something I consider as a huge part of my identity.

Whenever I go to the Philippines to visit family, I converse with my cousins, aunts and uncles really well in English, but there are times I wish I could just speak in their tongue and laugh around at jokes that cannot be properly translated to English, as well as share stories describing scenarios in words that also do not have a proper English word.

Likewise, I don’t speak when I go outside when I’m in the Philippines because I barely know any dialects, and you get a lot of attention drawn to you if you’re a Filipino who speaks perfect English because automatically that means you’re either rich, pretentious, a tourist or all of the above.  And I definitely don’t want to be seen as any of those.  I just want to have a nice conversation and know where I’m going and what I’m eating or buying.

There’s also the final point where my grandmother in the Philippines can speak some amounts of English.  Definitely not to the extent of my cousins, aunts or uncles.  Though I have conversed with her in English over the phone and in person, I can tell how much she struggles, which just adds to the shame and frustration that I cannot do.

I know my feelings and opinions are definitely different to others and may even seem quite over-dramatic or even depressing which I do not think people would want to read.  Compared to my friends, well…those who are of Caucasian background either do not seem to mind that they do not know their native tongue, or they actually do already know.  As for anyone who’s of Asian descent, they all know or are learning their native tongue upon insistence from their parents.  A lot of my Chinese friends and one Korean told me that their parents would be ashamed if they did not know any drop of their native tongue.

Then there’s one of my best friends who is half-white (Australian), half-Asian (Chinese).  She is not really that upset she cannot speak any ounce of Mandarin, but she does lament a few times that it was a shame she did not know anything from the language because she felt that she was missing out on something.

And I think that’s really the biggest reason why not knowing one’s own native tongue can really eat at a person.

Because they feel like they are missing out on something.  What is that something? Honestly, again, it depends on the individual.  Is it a sense of belonging? A sense of identity? Both? Something else?

Or a foreign anguish?

Peer Review #6

Peer Review – Alexandra Poeder

“Hey, Alexandra! Your piece here was quite short, but it was succinct. I understood that there were something to do with stealing, and I got the feeling of anxiety and internal conflict between doing the deed and being morally correct. This line, in particular, struck out to me the most: “My mind was torn between the excitement of the praise I would receive and the feelings of elation I would experience when I would be seen wearing them, verses the guilt of stealing.” I liked how there were two positives but one negative included: it reminds me of the phrase, “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” which alludes to how a wrong action is far heavier than the positives you’ll feel. Especially if the wrong deed questions your morals and principles.

However, there is one error that did confuse me a little on first glance. “…holding me back from doing what I knew to be morally correct.” -> I think you meant “morally incorrect” since it seems like you’re talking about how something inside you is stopping yourself from stealing. Other than that, good job!”

Blog Seven

The Defense of the Indefensible

Back in high school, we covered 1984 by George Orwell, and despite its disturbing and horrific atmosphere (I still feel an unpleasant crawl in my spine at Room 101), it was very intriguing.  1984 is quite huge pointer that you should quit glossing and going on how your nation’s actions are “good” when in reality, it is no better than the so-called “evil” nation’s.

Likewise, during tutorial, we discussed about the phrase in his essay, Politics and the English Language which is the title of this entry.  “The defense of the indefensible.”  In context with the essay, the phrase means to cover up abominable actions that are used against those who cannot defend themselves.  Orwell obliged with giving a good number of examples such as the atomic bombs dropped in Japan (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and when Britain ruled India.

Additionally, Orwell assessed that such atrocious actions were covered up and defended by language itself.  Once more, Orwell provides examples to showcase this.  “Transfer of population” or “rectification of frontiers” really means millions of poor peasants having their property taken from them and sent away with only what they can carry.  “Pacification”, you say? That actually means to totally wreck defenceless villages by bombarding the air, driving out the villagers, gun down their cattle with machine guns, and set their homes on fire for good measure.

Language is a powerful thing, and it is frequently used to manipulate.  Politicians, in particular, seem very fond of using this to cover up their unsavoury actions that would probably make social justice bleed.  But some just do not get that, simply because of the way these politicians and their supporters speak and utilize it.

The terminology is usually pretentious.  Big words and long phrases are thrown out to either appear intelligent to the audience, or bore them so they just no longer care.  Blindly agreeing and nonchalance are quite a deadly combination there.

Honestly, it would be difficult to pick one example where speech and writing of a political nature is placed under the category of “defense of the indefensible”.  This is because politicians, in my humble opinion, lie frequently.  Their words are never straightforward unless it is meant to insult each other as we saw in the latest debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Like children, politicians hurl insults easily at each other to the point that things sound so exaggerated, it becomes downright hilarious.  However, when it comes to topics of a more mature and serious nature (such as racial discrimination, police brutality, etc.), they hide behind a wall of confusing phrases and terminology rather than just getting to the point like, “I believe that was right/wrong.”

I do recall before when Melania Trump failed spectacularly where she seemed to rip off Michelle Obama’s speech.  It seemed she was trying to invoke this “defense of the indefensible” by hiding behind the big, inspirational words that Mrs. Obama used and hope that that would win over people rather than just state outright what she was truly thinking and feeling about the whole campaign and election.

Of course, that’s not to say Orwell himself was free of using pretentious language.  I use it a lot, too.  And I think everyone just has it in them to use it from time-to-time to probably sound more “efficient” or “capable” or even “intelligent” and even “educated”.

You just need to stay on point and not get lost in your own words.