Category Archives: Essays

A collection of essays on a variety of issues including politics, education, culture, and other scholarly works.

Baraka with a Movie Camera: From City Symphony to Global Symphony

*This essay was originally written for a Graduate writing class on December 14, 2010.

At first glance, it would appear that a comparison of Ron Fricke’s Baraka and Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera is an unfair juxtaposition since the political and ideological messages of the two films vastly differ in both message and cultural sympathies. Man is a city symphony focused on a localized Soviet city of 1929. It celebrates socialism, modernity, industry and labor, while encouraging humanity’s coexistence with machine. Baraka on the other hand is a global symphony that celebrates humanism and spirituality. With its “one world”message, the film romanticizes nature while chastising modernity and society’s obsession with a destructive global-industrial consumerist culture. However, despite these thematic differences, there are many instances of overlap and parallel filmic moments the two films share in common, more specifically, their use of technological cinematic elements, poetic structure and experiment in pure montage that push filmmaking to limits beyond the classical Hollywood narrative composition that has long dominated world cinema. Read the rest of this entry

Walt Whitman: Slavery, Paradox and Future Poetics

*This essay was originally written for a Graduate course on American Poetry in Fall 2010.

Walt Whitman’s personal inconsistencies regarding his position on slavery have been the subject of much scholarly criticism and debate.  It has been well documented that Walter Whitman, the journalist, political activist and public figure, held dramatically opposing views on slavery and race concerns than did Walt Whitman, the poet, bard of democracy and champion of equality.  The latter Whitman used his poetry–particularly the many editions of Leaves of Grass–to indulge in a sense of admiration, identification, sympathy and respect for the “hounded slave,” while the former was an active member of several political parties, composed ideological editorials in a few political publications and was for some time, an ardent opponent of the abolitionist movement.  Given his blatant paradoxical ideologies and his transparently polar vision on slavery, how is a twenty-first century reader supposed to reconcile these contradictions? Read the rest of this entry

Good vs. Evil According to Rousseau

*This essay was originally written for a Graduate course on Romanticism in Fall 2010.

Are humans naturally born good or evil?  This question rests at the heart of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, in which he attempts to situate the earliest traces of human divisions that have perpetuated, as he suggests, the corruption of modern civil society.  If we are to acknowledge Rousseau’s assessment of civility, we will find that civil society under his definition is not civil at all, but savagely more regressive than the ancient “noble savage” he reveres.  According to Rousseau, “…nothing is so gentle as man in his primitive state, when, placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes and the fatal enlightenment of civil man… he is retrained by natural pity from needlessly harming anyone himself, even if he has been harmed” (50).  It is this natural pity for one another that makes humans good.  Once this pity is removed and human vices, like greed, egocentrism and pride take over, man’s natural goodness deteriorates to an unnatural bad. Read the rest of this entry

The Suppression of Knowledge: An American Legacy

*This essay was originally written for a Graduate writing class on December 14, 2009.

Bertolt Brecht, the renowned German poet and playwright once wrote, “Hungry man, grab that book.”  Brecht recognized the power of knowledge and understood; one way to satiate hunger is through knowledge.  The American political system has long understood what Brecht referred to and has systematically denied literacy and education to the lower classes as a means of maintaining socioeconomic division, power and supremacy.  Although education is considered a civil right due every citizen of this country, one would have to consider the quality of such education and scrutinize the disparities between the educational institutions of the dominant and non-dominant societies.  By examining the roots of educational inequality and reaching a broad understanding of the limited educational opportunities offered people of color, this inquiry aims to look beyond what is offered, to what can be had, to find meaningful and creative ways of using knowledge and literacy as a means of liberation. Read the rest of this entry

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