10. 24. 12

Today, we started class with a short history on the Romantic era. It was interesting to see the shift in thought from the mid-18th century, individualism and skepticism, to the end of the century, moving toward realism. Speaking of this shift, I did some research on composers from the Romantic era. One of the composers that I think represents the Romantic era best is Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky wrote a whole piece about a revolution (1812 Overture). When you think about it, most of the literature taught in high school is from the mid- to late 18th century. A couple of these pieces include Moby Dick by Herman Melville and the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Even some of the most studied poets in high school are from the Romantic era such as Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe.

The introduction of the Romantic era led us into our discussion of Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Walt Whitman. I think it is evident by the poem that Whitman is a cross between the Romanticism and Realism eras. The Romantic elements of his poem are displayed by the theme. The Realistic element is in his descriptive writing of the scenery.

It was nice discussing the poem piece by piece because it helped me realize more about the poem. I was confused about the beginning of the poem, I couldn’t figure out why he was mentioning so many subjects and referring to them all as “you”. After it was stated that Whitman was changing the perspective, I realized it made sense that he was addressing different subjects to give us a big picture view. The symbolization of the seagulls completely flew over my head until Andrew mentioned it in class. This poem made me realized that not everything has to make sense, as long as I can see the big picture.

– Amber G


Today, we learned about how a time period affects the works of a writer, took a closer look at Whitman’s poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry and compared it to “Hard Rains Are A-Falling,” by Bob Dylan. Whitman was an American poet that composed his poems during the post civil war era. This time period consisted of Reconstruction in the South and mourning across America for the loss of Abraham Lincoln. A lot of Whitman’s works have patriotism in them. One poem that I have read before that embodies this patriotism is O’Captain My Captain. This poem is a tribute to Abraham Lincoln after his assassination and it a prime example of the effects that the era had on his writing.

Whitman’s poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry is a very descriptive poem. Whitman’s central image of the poem is the seagulls. He refers to them many times and focused on them because they are free-spirited. There are a lot of references between light and darkness, which creates a duality. Anaphora is also predominant in this poem and is used in a way to slow you down as you read it. It also contributes to the overall feel of the poem which is a rocking feeling. At the end of class, I was able to listen to Bob Dylan for the first time, which was nice and I enjoyed listening to more of his music when I got home. While listening to “Hard Rains Are A-Falling” in class, it was interesting to see the relationship between Whitman and Dylan’s repetition and the kinds of images that are used. Both the song and the poem have a rocking feeling to them due to the repetition. Also, Dylan’s song contains a lot of juxtaposition between uplifting and frightening images, which creates a duality like in Whitman’s poem.

My Poem

Today in Seminar, all the students received a poem to study and recite for the next class.  While Professor Kahan was giving out the poems, I was eagerly waiting for mine.  In all honesty, I was hoping for a comical poem and was a bit disappointed when I was given, Night Funeral in Harlem by Langston Hughes.  Fortunately, this poem was an enjoyable read and I had a good time analyzing it.

From reading the poem over and over, I developed a brief analysis.  I think the poem was about a poor family or group of friends in Harlem that were not able to afford life insurance.  Since they could not pay for life insurance, they were not able to provide a professional funeral service for a loved one that passed away.  Instead, the friends of the loved one paid for a cheap funeral service in which they did the majority of the work.  Even though the event was not an expensive one, it was still a highly meaningful funeral because the friends of the loved one came together to mourn his death.  Essentially, I think the poem portrayed that as long as there were loved ones to mourn the death of a friend or family member, the financial aspect of a funeral held little significance.  In addition, since Hughes placed the setting of the poem in Harlem, he probably thought that funerals such as these commonly occurred in Harlem communities.

I was surprised that I enjoyed reading this poem so much.  Usually, I dislike reading poems but since we started going over poetry in Seminar, my thoughts on this medium are changing.


Walt Whitman – Realism/Romanticism

Today’s topic to discuss dealt with Walt Whitman, and the connections made between his works, particularly, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, and the periods of Realism and Romanticism. The romantic period examines the dark side of human nature and deals with the unconscious. Whereas, the realistic period, focuses on a particular scenario that is common as well as prevalent within any society.  Also, Romanticism relates to the idea that everything is more individual, which is the very beginnings of what we call, psychology. The Civil War, which occurred in the 1800s, portrayed an American economy that became more based on the cities, and work based opportunities were reflected in urban life. During this time period, in Europe, the author, Victor Hugo, the writer of Les Miserables, began to slowly shift the scene and moved towards Realism. A perfect example would be Washington Square, because it is about a timid woman that could be seduced by a handsome man. The realistic part of this novel is the fact that Henry James, the author of Washington Square, depicts real life.

Walt Whitman’s poem, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, doesn’t only discuss the journey people take everyday by means of the ferry, but takes the experience, and give his own unique perspective. He talks about how it relates him to future generations because in a way we are all related. We are all one, and we are all having this big common experience. The commonality of humanity is exemplified through the people riding the ferry everyday, enabling Walt to ennoble the experience. The tone when describing this experience is pleasant, and he uses repetitive words to say that the experience is beautiful.

During the 1860’s in the U.S, the Civil War happens, and the society as a whole as a result of the war, is quite confused because of the emancipation of slavery. The economy has to be reworked because it was heavily based on slavery and these once enslaved individuals, now go to the north to look for jobs. This imagined grace in the South suddenly, goes away, and the people who want to stay and work the land have to get a hold of it. The industrial aspect of the United States consists of: factories, mechanized labor, and the farm equipment is more sophisticated. Community is based on the urban capitalist system. The fact that these men and women who are now not oppressed anymore visiting the city and seeing big factories is quite cool and awesome to think about. Whitman elevates it in his poetry and at the same time he is creating imagery that is the equivalence of the beauty of the farmland. His poetry creates an idealized image of America that is made by the working person. I was surprised to find out that Walt is a gay man. But, he is a very big guy with an extraordinary face, representing both realism and idealism.

Whitman’s poetry, image, and idealism are larger than life; he is a very ecstatic man. When people started talking about the idea of homosexuality, Walt was represented as a quandary. He couldn’t be open about his sexuality, so Mr. Whitman put it in his poetry. In Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, he is symbolically addressing people on the ferry, (close distant), and also talks of future riders and clouds of the west (far distance). As one can see, there is a two-pronged perspective, which brings depth. With his words, he is creating a double landscape and by using repetition it makes his ideas very powerful and personal. After we finished discussing Walt Whitman’s life and Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, we heard a song by, Bob Dylan called, “Hard Rains Are A-Falling,” and through the repetition of sounds, I was able to draw a distinct connection with this song to Walt Whitman’s work. I am starting to develop a liking for poetry, and I’m looking forward to studying it more and more.

Stephanie Solanki, 10/24/12

Today in Seminar, we looked at different types of books and music. I thought it was interesting that the times influenced the arts, and the arts influenced the times. This is zeitgeist, an idea we have discussed in class many times. The nineteenth century was when the romantic art period took place. Books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were written in which the ethos is very romantic. In 1848, many revolutions took place because there was a sense of nationality. Afterwards, the rise of the middle class let the people enjoy the arts more. People were also trying to find their purpose as individuals. People wanted to find their place in the nature, or in the world. This was an age where people examined the dark side of human nature; some of the most famous books that came out of this period are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. The romantic era was the very beginning of the study of psychology. In the 1880s, the Civil War had already occurred in the US. The economy has shifted from the farmland to the cities. The gentle and graceful southern class structure has now gone away. The industrial labor in America rises up and there is glory in that. The people now feel like they are downtrodden. This was a shift towards realism.

Walt Whitman falls in between realism and romanticism. For example, in “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” he talks about a very real place, the Brooklyn Bridge, but he talks about it very deeply and romantically. He talks about the commonality of humanity throughout the ages. He ennobles the experience of riding the ferry. Whitman elevates the new industrial experiences of the society and economy in America. He shows an idealized America; “by the sweat of their brows, the average American is raising up his country.” The ideas of Abraham Lincoln are embodied in words by Walt Whitman.

In “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” Whitman creates a double landscape. This is so interesting to me because I never thought that this poem could create a picture of something as if it was on a stage. I only thought that a work that was meant to be performed on stage could be create an image like that.

I thought that the rocking pattern was very interesting. This pattern was created by the repetition of certain words in the poem. This makes a comforting feeling. Repetitiveness in any art form is very soothing. When we were listening to the song “Hard Rains Are A-Falling” by Bob Dylan, I looked up the guitar chords. It was the same three chords, D, A, and G, over and over again. These simple and straight-forward chords contrast the depth of the song. I thought this was so interesting, and I can’t wait to study more about how times have affected the arts.


10/24/12 – Swathi Satty

Today in seminar, we looked at the 19th century and a lot of the literature and music spoke about disassociation from land and a sense of nationalism because of the newly developed Bourgeoisie. This forced people to have to leave their habitat and go into the city to find work. With the rise of the Bourgeoisie, comes a much better standard of living. So there was more time to read books and enjoy music. People also started to question their purpose in live; the beginning of the concern of individualism. This is past the period of the enlightenment but people didn’t question the supremacy of the church but their role in society.

During this time, Mary Shelley came out with Frankenstein and the Grimm brothers who wrote the Grimm tales which shows the dark side that people can play in society. Towards the end of the century, is a new revolution, right after the civil war in U.S. People would earn their money in urban societies which places the stresses of capitalism on people’s shoulders. Victor Hugo wrote hunchback of Notre Dame during the end of the 19th century. This is the beginning of the movement towards realism which is shown in Henry James’s Washington Square. Walt Whitman uses realism and gives the readers his own unique perspective.  Crossing Brooklyn Ferry is an example of how Whitman uses this method when he takes something as common as traveling on the ferry and relates it to the future generation. Using his observations, he concludes that the future is not going to be much different than present day.

The emancipation of slavery shifts everything even more towards an urban lifestyle; slaves migrate towards the cities. Whitman elevates the glory of urban lifestyle in his poetry while showing the beauty of the farm side. His image is patriotic but through the perspective of a working class member in regards to both farm and industrial work.

In Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Whitman often uses different perspectives by personally connecting to the people in the ferry but then looking at people as a whole (looking into the clouds) which also shows his use of mixing realism with his own perspective. He uses repetition to tie the man made and nature made images that he sees to say that what is physically present at the time will be ever lasting because generations after will see and experience the same images. His use of repetition provides comfort and relates to the rhythm of the boat which rocks back and forth. As the boat keeps moving, life continues to keep the same rhythm in which even if generations pass, people will board on and off the boat. This shows that not much is going to change in the future.

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Andrew Garafalo

I really enjoyed “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman. As I started to read the poem, I noticed the author is captivated by the ocean, and its waves and currents. The people who ride the ferry also stand out to him, as he is one among hundreds that feel disintegrated, yet part of the whole scenario nonetheless. The author emphasizes the fact that years from now, people will watch the same sunset, waves and islands as he once did. He will always be with the people of the city after he is gone. He relates with other people of the city very much so, despite his distance or time between them. He has questioned the same things as others before him, and as those after him will.

The author goes on to discuss all of the emotions he has felt. He says he relates to all of us. I feel this is genuine and honest. I can see how this man once felt and acted, and also where and how he found tranquility. The sixth part is full of beautiful imagery of New York Harbor, and its surroundings and inhabitants. “The white wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous whirl of the wheels,” I am very impressed by the way the author can express his perspective of the beauty of the city, and also how it feels to be one in a crowd of thousands. I find the poem to be easily relatable as a New Yorker, and as a young person looking towards his future.

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

In Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, by Whitman, the speaker not only elegantly describes a ferry ride, but tries to bring the speaker closer to him in his time period. The speaker brings the reader closer to himself by describing himself and the scene, and by speaking directly to the reader. In this poem, the speaker refers to his dark times and is very honest with us. I feel that he is trying to relate with us and show us how similar we are despite the time difference. He also brings us closer to him through his many details of the ferry ride as well. He almost makes you feel like you are apart of the ferry ride with him because of the way that he describes how the light reflects off of his head in the river, the “oscillating” seagulls and the sailing ships. I enjoyed these details a lot and they bring soothing images to my mind.

The speaker tries to break through the fabric of time and put us next to him on that ferryboat by also referring to us many at times. He is constantly telling that we are important to him and always on his mind. He even puts himself next to the reader when he says  “Who knows, for all the distance I am as good as looking at you now, for all you cannot see me.”(7:8-9) Out of all of the lines in the poem, this line sticks out to me the most. I felt that the speaker was talking directly to me. These lines made me realize that the speaker was trying to connect with the readers, and bring us closer to him.

~Crossing Brooklyn Ferry 10/22/12 Naomi~

After reading Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by the poet Walt Whitman, I can’t help but feel like it is a love letter.  When I say love letter I don’t mean in the traditional sense, but I feel that it is a love letter to future generations.  The speaker starts out describing his ferry ride, the “flood-tide” the “clouds of the west”, the “sun there half an hour high” and then slowly begins to talk to the people of his city, present and future generations included.  Symbolically, as he travels across the water, moving from one shore to the next, he travels across time.  He reaches out to his future readers, to the future inhabitants of his beloved city, and he draws comparisons between his life and theirs’.  He notes that they will see the same things on their ferry rides, that he sees on his. The speaker says, “I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence, Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt…” and he points out that even though there may be hundreds of years between him and his prospective reader, that time and distance make no difference.

In addition to sharing his city and love, I find it interesting that the speaker also notes that his reader will share his negative attributes as well.  In stanza 6, the speaker writes, “It is not upon you alone that the dark patches fall…” and “Nor is it you alone who know what it is to be evil…”.  Through this the speaker moves past what it means to share his city, and broadens the topic to examine what it means to be human and share humanity.  In this sense, acknowledging the humanness of his reader, he connects with his reader, almost as if he is reaching the other shore.  This poem, at face value is about one person’s story about their life, but upon further examination, it is a story about life itself, told from one very specific corner of the universe.

P.S. I can draw a text to text connection between this poem and the song, I was here by Beyonce. The lyrics are, “I was here, I lived, I loved. I was here, I did, I’ve done, everything that I wanted and it was more than I thought it would be…I will leave my mark so everyone will know”


Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

In Walt Whitman’s “Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge”, the speaker turns a normal, common ferry ride into a philosophical experience.  As the narrator sits on the boat, he examines “the crowds of men attired in the usual costumes (1:4)”.  Instead of merely glancing at the other passengers (like I do on the ferry), he wonders about them. His fellow commuters are “more curious to [him] than you suppose (1:7)”, and they “in [his] meditations (1:10)”.  The speaker seems to connect himself with all the other passengers and with all the other people in the world; “everyone [is disintegrated yet part of the scheme (2:4)”.  Everyone goes through the same experiences, like ferry rides.  Everyone “knows what it is to be evil (6:6)”, and everyone feels the same emotions.  The narrator is on a journey; he is neither in Manhattan nor Brooklyn.  He is in between destinations and between the past and future.  The place and time doesn’t matter.  We are all individually somewhat connected and are accompanying each other on this ferry ride we call life.