October 24, 2012

In Seminar on Wednesday, we discussed the evolution in 19th century literature from Romanticism to Realism. While we typically associate the term “romanticism” with romance, this is not the case in literature. People during this time period had more leisure time available to them and wanted literature to read. Some of the great writers of that time included Henry James, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The era of Realism came when people started questioning things such as the meaning of life and who they were in the world. These questions provoked writers to create stories that mimic reality instead of fiction. Most stories did not have a happy ending. This introduced the dark side of humanity to literature. Characters like the mad woman from Jane Eyre, who had a mental disability, and the dual personality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde exposed the dark side, which really had never been portrayed in literature before.

For the second half of the class, we dissected and dug into Walt Whitman’s poem, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” In the first section of the poem, the speaker seems to be addressing two people, sometimes individually and sometimes simultaneously. At first, he is addressing the person that is physically in front of him, seeming to have a full on discussion. He talks about the people around him and the hustle and bustle on the boat. Second, the speaker seems to be addressing the sunset and the “clouds of the west,” speaking past the physical boat. He is trying to relate the person that is in front of him to the people and things that are way beyond his physical body, such as the landscape. During this conversation with the landscape, there is a constant repetition of “I see you face to face…,” almost as if the speaker is trying to create a relationship between himself and the clouds. In addition, the constant use of the pronoun “you” makes this “relationship” seem personal.

In the second section, the speaker starts describing and commenting on what he sees in the harbor. He describes the bridges, the island and the ships, as well as the movement of the water. However, there is more focus on trying to relate the man made creations, such as the boats and bridges%