20th Century Summative Entry

The second semester of my first year at ACU is almost over.  I cannot believe how fast this year has gone by.  I remember walking into my first Lit class back in March feeling nervous and apprehensive about what was to come.  This semester was completely different. I couldn’t wait to start exploring Literature of the 20th Century.

We covered many topics and genres this semester, starting with the poetry of World War 1 covering works by Wilfred Owens, Edward Thomas, and Siegfried Sassoon which proved to be a great introduction to Eric Maria Remarque’s powerful, heartbreaking and wonderfully written novel `All Quiet on the Western Front’.  It tells the story of a group of Geman schoolboys, talked into enlisting at the beginning of the war by their patriotic school teacher.  One of the most moving and thought-provoking passages I have ever read is found halfway through this novel.  The main character is on leave from his war post and has returned home on leave. A changed man, no longer a boy.

`They just talk too much…Sometimes I sit with one of them in the little garden of the pub and try to get the point across that this is everything- just sitting in the quiet…’

First published in 1929, these words echo so true for me 90 years later. We live in a world where we are consumed with technology, the need to be in constant contact via mobile phones and the need to keep everyone informed of our lives on social media, that we have forsaken the small things life has to offer.  Be still and present. Sit on a train and look out the window and watch the world go by instead of staring down at a small phone screen.

Among the other authors and topics we studied were the works of Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield and the art of ‘Stream of Consciousness’ writing. I decided the test this semester was to challenge a more creative than critical writing for this blog. Through this exercise, I discovered that maybe I am a `modernist’ writer.  I had my heart broken earlier this year. No, not broken. Bruised.  I channeled my feelings into words and wrote some poems and other pieces of writing that I published on my blog while hiding others in a draw beside my bed, never to see the light of day again!  By reading and studying Woolf and Mansfield, they gave me the strength and courage to acknowledge my hurt and sadness and express them into words.

I have always been sensitive and emotional and respond very deeply to art, music, theatre and words that move me. For many years I was made to feel foolish for my reactions. Men do not show their emotions. As I have gotten older, I find that I no longer care. I want art to move me. I want to look at the world with an artist’s eye. I find beauty and poetry in the ordinary and everyday world. I would rather my heart be broken a hundred times over because the alternative, to feel nothing at all, would be too much to bear.

 

As was last semester, one of my favourite parts of this course were the tutorials. To dissect and analyse text and have open discussions on what we think the author is trying to convey or teach us, allowing each other an insight into how we think and see the world, is invalubale.  It offers me a chance to see into the future and makes me excited to imagine myself in front of a class, teaching a room full of young minds hungry for knowledge. As cliche as that sounds, I cannot wait.

 

Look at all the things you’ve done for me, 

Opened up my eyes, taught me how to see…

Notice every tree, understand the light,

Concentrate on now.

Something in the light, something in the sky,

in the grass, up behind the trees.

Things I hadn’t looked at until now:

the care, the feeling and the life. 

Isn’t it lovely how artists can capture us?

-Stephen Sondheim. 

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