Archive for the ‘ESSAYS /RANDOM COMMENTS’ Category

  • how slave narrative came to be called literature.
  • the slave narrative start a literary tradition.
  • emotive language. emotive situation. the pathos of the position of the narrator.
  • oral histories
  • language is strikingly similar in structure, content and theme.
  1. a corpus of non- fiction and fiction, oral and written, which asserts the equality, differentness -and sometimes superiority- of Blacks and Black- American way of doing and perceiving things.
  2. a set of political principles, primarily consistent in their outrage against inequality.
  3. a brace of ethical and artistic critiria which will be considered valid or invalid writing by Black Americans.
  4. a human code for translating the mute matter of a world in which certain races and inhuman system combine to destroy other races and more humane systems.


Josiah Henson (1789- 1883) – “Truth Stranger than Fiction” (1858)

  • feeling of pride in fulfilling his slave duties to his master.
  • Henson tells of his decision not to choose freedom for himself and his compatriots when it is effortlessly graspable.


The three types of emotive language in a slave narrative:

  1. prejudicial- negetive connotation
  2. prepossessive- positive
  3. euphemistic- expression of understatement or grim humour.

“Each man to his own Canada” –Ishmael Reed.

[Canada became a state of mind. Where men with black skin may be free.]

“The life and Times of Frederick Douglass” – Frederick Douglass(1881)

  • “American Slavery”
  • makes satire of the celebration of the Fourth of July as day of “independence” for all.
  • “what the negro wants”
  • “immediate, unconditional, and universal enfranchise of the black man”.

Booker T. Washington: advocate a sort of seperate, skilled guild of black blue-collar workers who would be content with their stations.

  • education as an organic part of Black self- realisation.

W. E. B. Du Bous: often called the father of sociology in US.

US as a literate, print- sensitive culture. as opposed to preliterate, oral and aural- sensitive culture.

We all know that story. God told Mr. Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit. Nevertheless, he eventually did. Well, this Mr. Adam was the first student of Jawaharlal Nehru University (technical not but ideologically yes). Nested in a thousand-acre campus, JNU forms a world of its own. The walls of the administrative block, the schools and the hostels are covered with graffiti and political posters. People sit for hours at different dhabas and debate. Questioning is the favourite pastime of JNUites. So what is fashionable here? Being a rebel.

The university has fashioned its own kind of rebels. The Left ones. They are the popular rebels here. The ones who shun the globalization. The ones who despise the Capitalist world. The ones who wear kurta with jeans, chappals, shawls and a red jhola. They are not the much romanticized ‘leather jacket and Harley Davidson’ rebels of the movies. They are the lanky young intellectuals who find it ‘in’ to go on strikes and midnight mashal julus (torchlight processions). The fad is to debate issues over cups of tea and cigarettes. They spend hours debating. The issues vary from the US nuclear deal (which according to them is the saddest moment of free India) to the water problem in the hostels (incidentally all the hostels are named after rivers). They resent the Capitalist fashion companies (which sadly mean no Reebok or Puma). Their fashion is the one that undercuts the fashion itself.

In this temporal and spatial milieu where patiala is combined with kurti and jhola to give ‘the’ communist look, who is the style icon ? None other than Che Guevera. JNU’s romance with communism continues with its omniscient fascination with the Latin American revolutionary. You will find Che (the photo that Alberto Corda immortalized) on the walls, on innumerable t-shirts and even on cigarette cases. Arguably, JNU boasts of the largest number of Che tees in the whole of India (or so they say).

The slow and rhythmic pace of the lifestyle sets you in trance when suddenly the air is impregnated with the sound of Royal Enfield bikes as few students ride by the Ganga dhaba for their evening round of the campus. Dressed in black jackets, jeans, Aviators and matched with stubble and long hair; they await the sun to set when the day would start at JNU. When asked about JNU fashion, Farbod Vasighi, an Iranian national replied in one word: utilitarian.

Numerous events take place during the night. Film shows, plays, public talks and political meetings takes place regularly. Moreover, People who prefer to spend time differently sit around bonfires during winters and sing songs or stroll around the campus. Checkered print shoes are teemed with casual jackets. Girls dress up in Fisher-man pants with Converse keds.

JNU is not a cultural melting pot but rather a cultural mosaic. The style remains largely individualist. The different influence of different cultures is vividly seen in the dressing sense of the students. The clothes portray not only the different cultural impacts but also individual political leanings (a red jhola is always associated with the communists). JNU has a large number of foreign students. Many combine their respective national clothing with the usual tees and jeans. They also prefer to assimilate their sense of style with Indian fashion. Often teeming up scarves with pajamas and Kolapuri chappals. Harlem pants are matched with Osho chappals. Many foreign students cannot let go off their oriental fascination and often turn out in churidars and saris during special occasions. When asked about his personal style, Walid Bandhoo, a Mauritian national said, “Fashion is about being comfortable with ones own clothes and not about show off.” However, he adds mischievously that sometimes his style is just “fashion to attract attention”.

Unlike the minimalist dressing of the Left-oriented students, many particularly the student from north-east prefer to follow the trend of the outside world. The fashion among them are more western influenced. They prefer to stay together in groups. A game of basketball near the 24*7 dhaba is always on during the evenings. Boys wearing sneakers with sports baggies and sports jackets is a common sight here. Many wear gladiator sandals, waist belts and A-line skirts. Pencil jeans are also very popular. Others sport Nagaland craft cloth bags. Oversized shades and bags are popular too.

The Priya shopping complex with its branded stores is just round the corner from JNU and even Sarojini Nagar market is nearby. Many students regularly visit these places to pick up their clothes and accessories. The relatively cheaper market of Sarojini Nagar is a favourite haunt for the forever cash-strapped JNU students. Priya shopping complex is good for shopping for boys accessories. Dog tags, rings and large buckled belts are easily available here. While the girls shop for their earrings and hair-bands at Sarojini Nagar. Many political parties arrange for different people from other states to put up clothes stalls in the campus. Clothes at fair prices are sold in these stalls. Many times they also sell handcrafted clothes too.

Different centres at different schools have their own printed t-shirts and jackets. ‘Jawaharlal Nehru University’ tees are very popular. The different catch-phrases on these tees and jackets are both amusing and witty. The jacket of the Centre for English Studies at the School of Language, Literature and Cultural Studies reads: ‘Mostly Harmless’ (from Douglas Adams’s series Hickhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). The winters bring out the overcoats and colourful mufflers. The environment becomes all the more colourful. Multi-coloured scarves, different woolen caps, earmuffs and gloves become mandatory to beat the chilly winters. The checkered mufflers are also popular. Girls wear stockings and boots. They also wear big colourful earrings teaming them with wooden bangles.

According to Indrani Roy, a Masters student who hails from West Bengal one big difference between the Calcutta University and JNU is “girls back home wear more salwar than jeans. It’s more common to find guys with long hair and girls with short in JNU rather than CU”. Not just the students even the professors maintain their sense of fashion. With few PhDs under their belts, many professors seem fit for the mosh-pit rather than the classroom. Dressed in khadi kurta, jeans and boots, they look suave and immaculate. Others prefer formal shirts and trousers. While still others decide to make their own style statements.

Guys with unkempt beard and horn-rimmed glasses will give you an hour long lecture on how American fashion houses are selling us dreams that is not our own and girls with short hair and nose-pins will lecture you on the attempts by the fashion magazines to objectify women. JNU is not ready to shed its dichotomy. One must be uncertain of our certainties as Mark Tully once lectured at JNU and students here believe that with all their hearts. Therefore, to find a comprehensive answer to what is JNU fashion is futile. Few prefer to follow the trend while others decide to create their own. JNU (the intellectual hub as some would have us believe) has place for both.

JNU is caught between the spectrums. The lal jhola-walas and the Enfield riders. The harem pants and the kurtis. The Converse keds and the Bata chappals. Between anti-imperialism graffiti and cups of Nescafe tea.

[as published in the Sportswear International (India) in november, 08]

All civilizations set rules concerning what is “real” and what is not. They set rules regarding what is “true” and what is “false”. All societies select data that would help declare the “real world”. Each one of these artificial constructed worlds is to some degree idiosyncratic and unique. Our perceptions are guided by concepts and interpretations. What is commonly thought of as “reality”, that which “exists”, or simply “is”, is a set of concepts, assumptions, suppositions, justification that are used to channel each individual’s perception in a specific and distinct direction. These rules governing the general perception of the world is more or less arbitrary. Very society establishes what Erich Goode calls an “epistemological methodology”.

Marijuana also known as Grass or Ganja does not find itself a place in this “real world”. It became a ‘stain’ in the very fabric of the society. It has to be hidden. It has to be tagged as subversive and thereby illegalized. It never could and never can occupy a position in the centre. Right from the very beginning marijuana has occupied its position as the marginalized. It has been a voice of the rebel. It has been the voice of the change. The questions that I am raising are not whether marijuana is safe or not, whether it should be legalized or not [though one can find passionate arguments supporting both side of the spectrum]. This paper is trying to look into the structure of marijuana use. Why is smoking marijuana banned? Is it because the society tries to play the authority that decides what is right and what is not or is the real reason elsewhere? Why doesn’t marijuana find a place in the ‘real’ world and is coloured as “false”? Is the political and social alienation that is associated with smoking marijuana a product of the substance or the society itself? This paper tries to raise certain questions regarding the use and effects of smoking marijuana and though is unable to find coherent answers; this paper happily submits itself as a problematic study of the ‘pot’.

The ‘real’ world consists of law-abiding citizens who believe in the values and principles of life. They work hard, earn money and live a happy life. They have faith in the central fabric of the society that needs to be protected all the time. They believe in discipline in their day-to-day lives. They believe in uniforms in schools. They believe in assembly lines in nursery. They believe that they have a right to remain silent. And who decides what is virtues, what is principles? The society itself decides that. Power is not governed through cohesion. Power is governed through consent. Laws are made so that the marginal can never break through the centre. Rolling a joint doesn’t fit in the “real world”. It is a destructive act. It tries to break free from all that that is held sacred by the society. Marijuana cannot be allowed within the social construction of reality.

Even societies with powerful scientific and empirical traditions contain subcultures, which have less faith in the logic of the senses than others. The subculture may have a different mode of reasoning than the main culture. These subcultures that refuse to follow the reasoning of the dominant culture are tagged the subversive cultures. Marijuana find itself submerged in such a ‘niche’ subculture.

To raise empirical questions concerning marijuana use is a problematic issue. Even the fundamental question of the effects of the drug on the human mind and body is hotly disputed.

Is marijuana a drug of “psychic dependence”? Or is it meaningless to speak of dependency in regard to marijuana? Does marijuana cause organic damage to brain? Are its effects criminogenic? How does it influence the over0all output of activity-in popular terms, does it produce “lethargy” and “sloth”? Does it precipitate is its impact on artistic creativity? What is the drug’s influence on mechanical skills, such as the ability to drive an automobile? Does the use of marijuana “lead to” heroin addiction?”

Erich Goode raises these questions in the essay “Marijuana and the Politics of Reality”. These questions, he writes can be answered within the scope of empirical sociological, psychological and pharmacological scientific techniques. He further states that these questions are occasionally answered but “the zones of widespread agreement are narrow indeed.”

There are both empirical and theoretical reasons to suspect that drug use (particularly marijuana) and drug-use attitudes may be related to overall sociopolitical ideology, notably attitudes in such spheres as authority, social differences, conventionality, social change, and social deviance.

Researchers have related drug use to positions on a variety of sociopolitical issues, including opposition to Vietnam war and identification with the civil-rights movement; a rejection or questioning of “the contemporary social establishment”; possible resistance to authority and youthful protests towards parental generation; unconventionality in terms of orientation, social relationship, and achievements; blaming a purportedly bad and hypocritical society for one’s problems; despair of achieving progressive social, political and economic change; and general rejection of what drug users regard as “an increasing oppressive interference in their private lives by government of all ideological complexions. (Paul M. Kohn and G.W. Mercer ; Drug Use, Drug-use Attitude, and the Authoritarianism-Rebellion Dimension )

In studies done on the relationship between drug use and sociopolitical ideology by R. H. Blum and E. A. Suchman, Blum reported that, in comparison to their non-using peers, students using illicit drugs were more in opposition to their parents, more left-wing politically, and more likely to perceive the political right-wing as dangerous to society. Sachman found that drug use was related to behaviour, attitudes, and self-images that constitute a “hang-loose ethic.” In general, this is a pattern marked by irreverence, questioning, or rejection of conventional values, and opposition to the traditional established order. Specific acts referred to by Suchman include the reading of underground newspapers; participation in mass protests; antagonism to the education system; and a perception of oneself as “rebellious, cynical, anti-establishment, ‘hippie’, and apathetic.”

Smoking marijuana is illegal, and therefore self-reported use of marijuana could be used as an indicator of rebelliousness. At the same time, however, it must be kept in mind that if a behavior-even an illegal one-becomes normative, then it may indicate conformity with one’s peers more than it reflects rebellion against the status quo.

Marijuana can be thought of as a kind of symbol for a complex of other positions, beliefs and activities which are correlated with and compatible with its use. In other words, those who disapprove of marijuana use often feel that he who smokes must, of necessity, also be a political radical, en- gage in “loose” (from his point of view) sexual practices, and have a somewhat dim view of patriotism. Marijuana use is seen (whether rightly or wrongly) to sum up innumerable facts about the individual, facts which can clearly place him along the liberal-radical dimension in a number of areas of social and political life.

(-Erich Goode)

Goode has observed elsewhere that marijuana use has a “sociogenic” quality in that marijuana is usually smoked with others and less frequently alone. As a consequence of this, Goode suggests that:

. . . marijuana users form a kind of sub community. This does not mean that a powerful bond of identity holds all users together in a closely-knit social group. But it does mean that users are more to identify and interact with other users than with someone who does not smoke marijuana.


. . . a certain degree of value consensus will obtain . . . [and] a value convergence will occur as a result of progressive group involvement…

Most of the literature on youth and marijuana use is impressionistic. A great deal has been written about the potential risks involved in smoking marijuana, the laws needed to control its use, and the life styles of users, but there has been very little systematic empirical research on the topic.

Edward A. Suchman, in a survey of 600 students at an American university, found that drug use was most common among those students who were dissatisfied with their education and unhappy with their parents. In contrast to Richard Brotman, however, marijuana use was more closely associated with attitudes that reflect more immediate personal life-style concerns rather than larger social or political ideals. That is, marijuana use is most closely associated with more permissive attitudes on drug use, sex, and to a lesser degree, alcohol. It is also closely associated with more favorable views of the hippie subculture, keeping abreast of underground opinion and participating in underground events rather than in civic affairs. These attitudes are pictured as part of a youth-related “hang loose” ethic that is essentially irreverent and anti-establishment. It is important to note, however, that Suchman found no relationship between marijuana use and an index that appears to measure confidence in people. He concludes, “While it [the ‘hang loose’ ethic] may represent antagonism to the conventional world, [it] does not appear to create apathy and withdrawal.

According to another study, marijuana users were less likely to be involved in more conventional activities of church, school, and community. The authors conclude that marijuana users were more likely than non-users “to prefer . . . activities which are somewhat unconventional and allow broader scope for youth initiative.”

A national survey of 2,000 college seniors revealed that along with a general dissatisfaction with the status quo there was a trend toward “‘privatism” or a primary emphasis on self-related concerns rather than social idealism.? David Riesman has commented on this phenomenon labeling it a “cult of intimacy.” In Writing from the perspective of his experiences with youthful psychiatric patients, Seymour Halleck has also observed a growing concern with “style” and “immediacy” which is similar to these other conceptions of privatism and youth-related concerns. Halleck suggests that drugs are becoming popular with these young people because they create “a sense of timelessness and reinforce tendencies to live in the present.” A more limited survey of college students in New England revealed that marijuana smokers could be contrasted to nonusers in that they are “more opposed to external control” than non- users. Although this objection specifically applies to control over marijuana use, this attitude also is generalized to possible additional controls over more private or personal concerns such as cigarette smoking, regulating parietal hours for undergraduates in college, and regulations concerning premarital sexual behaviours.

A large number of young and avant-garde artists– film-makers, poets, painters, musicians, novelists, photographers– used the drug and were influenced by the marijuana “high” (in Goode). Some of the results seem to be : an increasing irrelevance to realism; the loss of interest in plot in films and novels; a glorification of the irrational and the seemingly nonsensical; an increased faith in the logic of the viscera, rather than in the intellect; a heightened sense for the absurd; an abandonment of traditional and “linear” reasoning sequences, and the substitution of “mosaic” and fragmentary lines of attack; connective relying on internal relevance, rather than a common understood and widely accepted succession of events and thoughts; love of the paradoxical, the perverse, the contradictory, the unique rather than the general and the universal.

Those with conventional, traditional and “classic” tastes in art will view these results in a dim light.

What is “real” is the world as the un-drugged person perceives it. Any alteration of the “normal” state of consciousness is destructive and inherently distorting. Drug use, it is claimed, is “a way to shut out the real world or enter a world of unreality”. As with every issue relating to marijuana, the construction of reality itself is problematic with both sides staking their claim to what is considered as “reality”. Perception changes the reality.

So is there a definite answer to the problematic aspects of use of marijuana? Is there a certainty that can be proclaimed? Or is the answer in the fuzzy lines?

Civilizations have their different ways of validating reality. The reality will never be uniform or comprehensive. The way a given culture chooses to view the material world is both arbitrary and conventional. Yet the arbitrary decisions of the culture are accorded a semi-sacred status. The decisions and the rules formulated cannot be questioned. Empirical and scientific rules and status becomes the basic arbiters of the reality. Yet different subcultures in the same society vary in their conception of what is real. The access to power and legitimacy is denied to these subcultures because they would undercut the very authority and legitimacy of the centre, the ‘stable’ society. He who dominates in an given society tries to enforce his views and vision of the reality on the rest of the society, both in terms of legitimacy (moral hegemony) and making sure that others do not go against him. He generally believes that he does it for the benefit of the society. He believes that the individuals should be restricted for their own moral and scientific well-being. The society is not a combination of individuals who have equal voice in everything. However, society is ruled by an identity that can enforce and impose their own unique versions of reality and what is right on others.

Imposing a dominant mode of thinking about reality and controlling the behaviors of the people require strategy. Thus, the scientific status of one or another reality becomes a political and tactical issue. The non-rational beliefs shape perceptions of empirical testable assumptions. He who thinks of marijuana use as wrong is likely to exaggerate its criminogenic effects; he who thinks of it as beneficial will minimize its impact.

The line between what can and cannot be tested empirically is fuzzy, nonexistent and irrelevant to most people. Therefore, anyone who does not agree with me on the scientific matters is wrong and those who do not agree with me on matters of taste and style are wrong. Marijuana can be seen as a kind of symbol for a complex of other positions, beliefs and activities that are correlated with and comparable with its use. In other words, those who disapprove of marijuana use often feel that people who smoke must also be a political radical, engage in “loose” sexual practices, and have a somewhat dim view of patriotism. Erich Goode notes that marijuana use is seen (whether rightly or wrongly) to sum up innumerable facts about the individual, facts which can clearly place him along the conservative-liberal-radical dimension in a number of areas of social and political life.

Marijuana is a problematic issue that is not going to get any answers any time soon and therefore I come back to the same questions:

Is marijuana use a response to social or political alienation? Or since marijuana use increases the probability of a negative reaction from authorities, does this reaction create and reinforce the alienation of the young?


E. A. schman, The hang-loose ethics and the spirit of drug use in “Journal of Health and Social Behavior”, 1968, pp. 146-155.

Erich Goode, Marijuana and the Politics of Reality, “Journal of Health and Social Behavior”, American Sociological Association , 1969, pp. 83-94

Richard Brotman, Irving Silverman, and Fred Suffet, Drug Use Among Affluent High School Youth in Erich Goode (ed.), “Marijuana”, New York: Atherton Press, 1969, pp. 128-136.

James W. Clarke and E. Lester Levine, Marijuana Use, Social Discontent and Political Alienation: A Study of High School Youth, “The American Political Science Review”, American Political Science Association, 1971, pp. 120-130.

Paul M. Kohn and G. W. Mercer, Drug Use, Drug-Use Attitudes, and the Authoritarianism-Rebellion Dimension, “Journal of Health and Social Behavior”, American Sociological Association, 1971, pp. 125-131

R. C. Knight, J. P. Sheposh, J. B. Bryson, College Student Marijuana Use and Societal Alienation, “Journal of Health and Social Behavior”, American Sociological Association, 1974, pp. 28-35

R. H. Blum, “Student and drugs”, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1969.

Richard L. Zweigenhaft, Birth Order Effects and Rebelliousness: Political Activism and Involvement with Marijuana, “Political Psychology”, International Society of Political Psychology, 2002, pp. 219-233

Translation is confusing or to use a word that is always in vogue in literature: problematic. Translation is problematic.

All literary works are an act of translation. When a writer creates a text, he translates the abstract images in his/her mind into definite language. Thereby the writer indulges in translations that change from one form to another. The creation of a text is in itself an act of translation. The act of recreating an image from the nature into a text is also an act of translation.

No literary work can be completely translated. The language is an arbitrary means of symbolizing an image or thought. The mental process of a writer can never be conveyed exactly through language. Thereby the translation fails to convey the exact meaning or even‘equivalence’. Even at the level of inter-linguistic, translation fails to find equivalence. A particular language is deeply rooted in its culture and history. Different feelings and emotions have different ways of being expressed. Certain cultures may not even have words for images that do not exist in their cultural imagination or their historical heritage.

read the complete text on my main blog:

History ceased to be something for historians alone. Instead, it is become both a public issue and an instrument of politics. Written histories rely on a willing complicity between author and audience. Being subject to the narrative and descriptive strategies of language, which unfold sequentially, they require the active collaboration of the reader in construing the story not only in its linear and chronological but also in its spatial and geographical dimensions.

In describing cultures, for example, histories may seek to evoke the aura of place and of the social environment as well as to articulate a certain sequence or density of “significant” events. They may attempt not only to document external actions, but also to reconstruct the experiential realities of the people whose lives they study. Indeed, it could be argued that the whole discourse of cultural difference is rooted in precisely such an awareness of mind-sets and attitudes, rather than in technical or factual criteria, indispensable as these are to the historical project. One of the many difficulties of cultural interpretation is to do equal justice to the demands of facts and events, on the one hand, and of perceived values and “felt life,” on the other. Ideally, a written history needs to be structured by its author, and construed by its reader, around a flexible model that can accommodate a diversity of information and facilitate its inspection in terms of both fac- tual status and epistemological perspective. The model exists to promote rather than to confine observation: meanings and insights are not predetermined by its frame of reference, but flow from it.

Colonial structures of governance often ignored the alternative realms- ties of locality and kinship often articulated in religious terms – which, emerged, opposed and even were antagonistic to the idea of a national identity.

Creation of history then became an important tool in the hands of the colonizers. One of the main streams of Post-colonial studies is the concept of power. Power does not rule by physical subjugation. It uses consensus as its weapon. It colonizes the mind. History then becomes the most important way to create such a consensus. The creation of a false history is ordered to hide the real one.

History is written by the victorious. Those who wield the sword wield the pen. The powerful paint the pictures in their colours. What is left then is a plethora of images combined together to form a collage that depicts a tale

that the powerful wants to portray. History is not narrated but re-created.

Alain Locke writes in “The New Negro” that the Blacks were treated as a ‘formala’ rather than a human being. Blacks were something to be “argued about, condemned or defended, to be ‘kept down’, or ‘in his place’, or ‘helped up’, to be worried with or worried over, harassed or patronized, a social bogey or a social burden”. The Black had become more of a myth than a man. Arthur A. Schomburg in his essay, “The Negro Digs Up His Past” argues for the necessity of having and preserving a sense of one’s history, especially when one belongs to a group whose history and humanity were routinely denied under slavery and segregation. What was missing from the history was an “accurate observations of things as they exist” (to quote David Walker).

This paper is the alternate history, one that shows how Blacks were not objects. This paper is a chronicle of few great Black personalities who rose and showed their worth in the world as against what the white history wanted to portray and believe.

James Durham was born in 1762. He was the first recognized Black physician in the United States.

Born a slave in Philadelphia, his early masters taught him the fundamentals of reading and writing. Durham was owned by a number of doctors, ending up in New Orleans with a Scottish physician, who hired him in 1783 to perform medical services. When he was 21, he bought his freedom and went to New Orleans where he set up his own medical practice. He was a popular and distinguished doctor in New Orleans, at least in part for his knowledge of English, French, and Spanish.

He was invited to Philadelphia in 1788 to meet Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Rush was so impressed with Dunham’s success in treating diphtheria patients, that he read Durham’s paper on the subject before the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

In 1789, Durham returned to New Orleans, where he saved more yellow fever victims than any other physician in colonial Philadelphia. During an epidemic that killed thousands, he lost only 11 of 64 patients. He moved back to New Orleans and was lauded by prominent local doctors.

Despite his skill, his ability to save so many lives, and his flourishing practice, his practice was restricted in 1801 by new city regulations because he did not have a formal medical degree.

He disappeared after 1802. The idea that Black people were incapable of understanding medicine remained widespread for decades.

Charles P. Adams, Sr. was born in 1873. He was an African-American educator and administrator.

He was born in Brusly, Louisiana, and worked his way through Tuskegee Institute. During this time he became a committed student of Booker T. Washington. In 1901, the North Louisiana Farmers’ Relief Association (NLFRA) asked the now- graduated Adams to return to Louisiana. The group had asked Tuskegee’s Booker T. Washington to find a man capable of setting up an agricultural and industrial school in North Louisiana. Adams was that man and that school eventually became Grambling University.

On acreage two miles west of the school’s present site, Adams established what was known as the Colored Industrial and Agricultural School. The first student body of this little school totaled 105 students, most of them from the immediate community. Room and board was five dollars a month, most often paid with home-cured meat, chickens, syrup, meal, flour, and potatoes. In 1904, he married Martha N. Adams.

He lectured in nearby communities, and through his connection with Washington, he secured some financial assistance from the northern states and from Canada to keep the struggling institution alive. The school’s first faculty consisted of three people: Adams, as principal and teacher, his wife, Martha, co-founder as well as domestic science teacher, and A. C. Welcher, a farm instructor.

In 1905, Adams left Grambling because its NLFRA Baptist membership wanted a church-centered school and the Tuskegee-trained Adams wanted a school devoted to training people for making a good living on their farms, improving health conditions, and living more efficiently in groups. Soon after, seven Negro men in the Grambling community, Adams among them, pledged $25 dollars each for a new school site and a 200-acre plot five miles west of Ruston, LA, was purchased for $800. For 35 years, Adams headed the school, now officially known as Grambling State University of Louisiana. Most of those years were very difficult ones, but Adams and Grambling perservered.

Charles Phillip Adams Sr., one of the last of the chain of pioneer educators, died on June 27, 1961.

Alexander Thomas Augusta was born in 1825. He was a black physician and educator.

From Norfolk, Virginia, as a young man he first made his way to Baltimore, Maryland, where he worked as a barber. He began his study of medicine with private tutors and next applied for admission to the University of Pennsylvania. Though access was denied, a Professor William Gibson was impressed with Augusta and brought him under his guidance.

In 1856, Augusta was accepted to the College of the University of Toronto. His Bachelors of Medicine degree was awarded by Trinity Medical College. After establishing a successful private practice in Canada, in 1862 Dr. Augusta returned to an America on the verge of Civil War. Pressed into service in 1863, Augusta became the first Black surgeon in the U.S. Army. He was commissioned a major in the Seventh U.S. Colored Troops as the (then) highest ranking Black officer. Soon two white assistant surgeons complained to President Lincoln about having to report to a Black officer. Lincoln then forced Augusta to transfer to Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Augusta petitioned Senator Henry Wilson for payroll assistance. He successfully argued that as a medical examiner he deserved more than the $7.00 per month normally given to a Black enlisted man. Senator Wilson agreed and pressured the Army paymaster in Baltimore to apply the appropriate pay rate for his rank. In March of 1865, Augusta received the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, the first Black ever to gain this stature.

After discharge in 1866, Augusta continued private practice in Washington, D.C., and taught in the newly founded Howard University Medical Department. He retired from Howard University in 1877 and continued to practice medicine until his death. Lieutenant Colonel Augusta received full military honors with burial at Arlington National Cemetery. The life of Alexander Thomas Augusta can be summed in a single word, determination. He died in 1890.

J.P. Ball was born in 1825. He was an African-American Abolitionist, free Black man, photographer and businessman.

From Virginia, in 1845 James Presley Ball opened a one-room studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. One year later Ball returned to Richmond, Virginia and had a more successful business in a rented studio located near the State Capital building. Ball returned to Ohio in 1847, as a traveling daguerrotypist, (a special field of photography) and settled in Cincinnati. There he hired his brother (Thomas) as a studio operator. In 1852 his brother-in-law (Alexander Thomas) became a partner in the studio; and the Ball and Thomas Gallery opened for business

In 1855, he published a pamphlet addressing the misery of slavery from capture in Africa, through the Middle Passage, and then to bondage. He also held photo exhibitions on the experience of slavery. During the 1850’s displays of Ball’s daguerreotypes were shown at the Ohio State Fair and at the Ohio Mechanics Annual Exhibition. In May of 1860, the Ball and Thomas Photographic Art Gallery was destroyed by tornado; however it was rebuilt with help from the community.

During the 1870s Ball dissolved his partnership with Thomas and moved to Minneapolis, opening another studio. In 1887, he was the official photographer of the 25th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation held in Minneapolis. During October of that year, Presley relocated to Helena, Montana where between 1887-1894, he produced hundreds of photographs of the White, Black and Chinese community. In 1900, he moved to Seattle and opened another studio under the firm name of Globe Photo Studio. James Presley Ball died in 1904.

Bridget “Biddy” Mason was born in 1818. She was a once illiterate African-American slave woman who worked as a nurse/midwife and then walked from Mississippi to California to become a successful entrepreneur and a generous contributor to social causes.

From Mississippi, she was born on a plantation owned by Robert Marion Smith and Rebbecca (Crosby) Smith. In 1847, Smith became a Mormon convert and decided to move to the Utah Territory with his household and slaves where Brigham Young was starting a Mormon community. In this strenuous two-thousand-mile cross-country trek, Mason was responsible for herding the cattle. She also prepared meals, acted as a midwife and took care of her children. In 1851, Smith moved his household again, this time to San Bernardino, California. Smith probably did not know that California had been admitted to the Union in 1850 as a free state and that slavery was forbidden there.

At this time she had made friends in the L. A. black community and one of them (Charles Owens) helped Mason petition the court and in 1856 won freedom for herself and for her daughters. She moved to Los Angeles and found employment as a nurse and midwife. Hard work and her nursing skills allowed her to become economically independent. She became a domestic to Dr. John S. Griffin who served most of the Los Angeles area. Mason was also very frugal and only ten years after gaining her freedom, she bought a site on Spring Street for $250 becoming one of the first black women to own land in Los Angeles.

This site is now in the center of the commercial district in the heart of the city. In 1884, she sold a parcel of the land for $1500 and built a commercial building with spaces for rental on the remaining land. She continued making wise decisions in her business and real estate transactions and her financial fortunes continued to increase until she accumulated a fortune of almost $300,000. Her grandson, Robert Curry Owens, a real estate developer and politician, was the richest African-American in Los Angeles at one time.

Mason was a founding member of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1872. She also gave generously to various charities and provided food and shelter for the poor of all races and she never forgot the jail inmates whom she visited often. In 1872 she and her son-in-law, Charles Owens, founded and financed the Los Angeles branch of the First African Methodist Episcopal church, L. A.’s first black church. Biddy Mason died January 15, 1891 and was buried in an unmarked grave at Evergreen cemetery in the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles. Nearly a century later, on March 27, 1988 a tombstone was unveiled which marked her grave for the first time in a ceremony attended by Mayor Tom Bradley and about three thousand members of the First African Methodist Episcopal church.

Thursday, November 16, 1989 was declared Biddy Mason Day and a memorial of her achievements was unveiled at the Broadway Spring Center located between Spring Street and Broadway at Third Street in Los Angeles.

Ignatius Sancho, a Black writer was born in 1729. He was born on a slave ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean from the West African nation of Guinea. After the ship reached the Caribbean port of Cartagena, in what is now Colombia, his mother died and his father committed suicide.

He was baptized “Ignatius.” After several years, Sancho was taken to Greenwich, England, where he was given to three unmarried women. They gave him the surname “Sancho” because he reminded them of the squire in Don Quixote. He later ran away and became butler to the Duchess of Montagu. Sancho later ran a grocery shop in Westminster. Self educated, he composed music, appeared on the stage, and wrote numerous letters, published in 1782, after his death. Ignatius Sancho died in 1780.

Austin Stewart was born in 1793. He was a Black slave, businessman, administrator and biographer of his life as a slave in America.

Steward was born in Prince William County, Virginia where his master, William Helm, owned over a hundred slaves. When Steward was eight years old he became a house servant at Helm’s mansion. His master sold his plantation and slaves and moved to Bath in Steuben County. In financial difficulties, Helm also hired his slaves out to local farmers. Some of these men treated Stewart horrifically, which defined his reason to escape. Steward reached Canada in 1815 where he joined the Wilberforce Colony that had been established by the Society of Friends. It was there that he was chosen the settlements president.

In 1817, he created a successful business in Rochester. 9 years later he delivered an oration at the celebration of the New York emancipation act, and in 1830 he was elected vice-president of the National convention of Negroes in Philadelphia. While in Wilberforce, he used his own funds to carry on the affairs of the colony but in 1837, with no more land to be sold to the colonists by the Canada Company, Stewart returned to Rochester. He afterward opened a school in Canada, and after two years became an agent for the “Anti-Slavery Standard.”

As an elder he wrote of his experiences in his autobiography, Twenty-Two Years a Slave which appeared in 1857. As an American reference it is considered one of the best slave narratives published. Austin Steward died in 1860.

I am that I am
from the sun,
and people are not my measure.

(“Aristocracy of the Sun“)

In Lawrence’s poetry, more than in his prose, we see frequently the spontaneous discovering of Being. To Lawrence the beauty of the universe is a perpetual creation. The universe is not an abstraction, not an intellectual discovery or deduction. Though to him the novel remained the one “bright book of life” because of its dramatic rendering of the complex interrelatedness of life, it is in his poetry that his ability to show the unique beauty of the passing moment. Even the passing psychological moment is most clearly illustrated in his poetry.

Lawrence’s poems are blunt, exasperating, and gives the readers a feeling of fragmentation. The poems are a part of the whole which is too vast to be envisioned. They are meant to be spontaneous works, spontaneously experienced; they are not meant to give us the sense of grandeur or permanence that other poems attempt, the fallacious sense of immortality that is an extension of the poet’s ego. Yet they achieve a kind of immortality precisely in this: that they transcend the temporal, the intellectual. They are ways of experiencing the ineffable “still point” that Eliot could approach only through abstract language.

For Lawrence life predates art, and art predates any traditional form. He was fascinated by the protean nature of reality, the various possibilities of the ego. Throughout his poems, there is a deep, unshakable faith in the transformable quality of all life. Even the elegiac “The Ship of Death” ends with a renewal, in typically Lawrentian words: “. . . and the whole thing starts again.” He says, “No poetry, not even the best, should be judged as if it existed in the absolute, in the vacuum of the absolute. Even the best poetry, when it is at all personal, needs the penumbra of its own time and place and circumstance to make it full and whole.”

Lawrence says coldly in the poem “Blank”:

At present l am a blank and I admit it.
. . . So I am just going to go on being a blank, till some-
thing nudges me from within,
and makes me know I am not blank any longer.

The poems themselves are nudges, some sharp and cruel and memorable indeed, most of them a structured streams of consciousness. They are fragments of a total self that could not always keep up the strain of totality. Sometimes Lawrence was anguished over this, but most of the time he believed that in his poetry, as in life itself, what must be valued is the springing forth of the natural, forcing its own organic shape, not being forced into a preordained structure. He is much more fluid and inventive than the imagists, whose work resembles some of his cooler, shorter poems, in his absolute commitment to the honoring of his own creative processes. Lawrence utilized and valued spontaneity. He says:

Ours is the universe of the unfolded rose,
The explicit,
The candid revelation.


For Lawrence it is the beauty and mystery of flux, of “Becoming,” that enchants us; not permanence, not “Being.” Permanence exists only in the conscious mind and is a structure erected to perfection, therefore airless and stultifying.

Lawrence loves the true marriage of heaven and hell, illusory opposites; he loves to exalt the apparently unbeautiful. For instance, in the poem “Medlars and Sorb-Apples” from his best single volume of poems, Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1923), he says:

I love you, rotten,
Delicious rottenness
I love to suck you out from your skins
So brown and soft and coming suave,
So morbid. . . .

He sees these fruits as “autumnal excrementa” and they please him very much. Earlier, in the poem called “Craving for Spring,” he has declared that he is sick of the flowers of earliest spring—the snowdrops, the jonquils, the “chill Lent lilies” because of their “faint-bloodedness, /slow-blooded, icy-fleshed” purity. He would like to trample them underfoot. (What is remarkable in Lawrence’s “nature” poems is his fierce, combative, occasionally peevish relationship with birds, beasts, and flowers-he does them the honor, as the romantic poets rarely did, of taking them seriously.) It is with a very different emotion that he approaches the sorbs-apples, a kind of worship, a dread:

Gods nude as blanched nut-kernels,
Strangely, half-sinisterly flesh-fragrant
As if with sweat,
And drenched with mystery.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I say, wonderful are the hellish experiences,
Orphic, delicate
Dionysus of the Underworld.

A kiss, and a spasm of farewell, a moment’s orgasm of rupture,
Then along the damp road alone, till the next turning.
And there, a new partner, a new parting, a new unfusing into twain,
A new gasp of farther isolation. . . .

These poems are remarkable in that they refuse to state, with the kind of godly arrogance we take for granted in Shakespeare, that they will confer any immortality on their subjects. As Lawrence says in his short essay ‘Poetry of the Present” (1918), he is not attempting the “treasured, gemlike lyrics of Shelley and Keats,” though he values them. His poetry is like Whitman’s, a poetry of the “pulsating, carnal self,” and therefore Lawrence celebrates the falling away, the rotting, the transient, even the slightly sinister, and above all his own proud isolation, “Going down the strange lanes of hell, more and more intensely alone,” until hell itself is somehow made exquisite:

Each soul departing with its own isolation,
Strangest of all strange companions,
And best.

(“Medlars and Sorb-Apples”)

In 1929, Lawrence says in his introduction to Pansies: “A flower passes, and that perhaps is the best of it. If we can take it in its transience, its breath, its maybe Mephistophelian, maybe palely ophelian face, the look it gives, the gesture of its full bloom, and the way it turns upon us to depart. . .” we will have been faithful to it, and not simply to our own projected egos. Immortality, he says, can give us nothing to compare with this. The poems that make up Pansies are “merely the breath of the moment, and one eternal moment easily contradicting the next eternal moment.” The extraordinary word is eternal. Lawrence reveals himself as a mystic by this casual, offhand critical commentary on his own work as much as he does in the work itself. He can experience the eternal in the temporal, and he realizes, as few people do, that the temporal is eternal by its very nature: as if a piece of colored glass were held up to the sun, becoming sacred as it is illuminated by the sun, but also making the sun itself sacred. To Lawrence the sun is a symbol of the ferocious externality of nature, the uncontrollable, savage Otherness of nature, which must be recognized, honored, but not subdued—as if man could subdue it, except by deceiving himself. The sun is “hostile,” yet a mystic recognizes the peculiar dependency of the eternal upon the temporal; the eternal being is made “real” or realized only through the temporal. Someday it may be taken for granted that the “mystical vision” and “common sense” are not opposed, that one is simply an extension of the other, but, because the mystical vision represents a natural development not actually realized by most people, it is said to be opposed to logical thought.

There is a rhythmic, vital relationship between the eternal and the temporal, the one pressing dose upon the other, not remote and cold, but mysteriously close. Lawrence says in “Mutilation”:

I think I could alter the frame of things in my agony.
I think I could break the System with my heart.
I think, in my convulsion, the skies would break.

Inner and outer reality are confused, rush together, making up a pattern of harmony and discord, which is Lawrence’s basic vision of the universe and the controlling aesthetics behind his poetry. It is significant that when Lawrence seems to us at his very worst—in The Plumed Serpent, Kangaroo, much of Apocalypse, nearly all of the poems in Nettles and More Pansies—he is stridently dogmatic, authoritative, speaking without ambiguity or mystery, stating and not suggesting, as if attempting to usurp the position of the Infinite (and unknowable), putting everything into packaged forms. When he seems to us most himself, he is more fragmentary, more spontaneous, inspired to write because of something he has encountered in the outside world—a “nudge” to his blankness, a stimulus he is startled by, as he is by the hummingbird in the poem with that title, imagining it as a jabbing prehistorical monster, now seen through the wrong end of the telescope; or as he is by a doe in “A Doe at Evening,” when he thinks:

Ah yes, being male, is not my head hard-balanced, antlered?
Are not my haunches light?
Has she not fled on the same wind with me?
Does not my fear cover her fear?

Questions, and not answers, are Lawrence’s real technique, just as the process of thinking is his subject matter, not any formalized structures of “art.” Because of this he is one of the most vital of all poets in his presentation of himself as the man who wonders, who asks questions, who feels emotions of joy or misery or fury, the man who reacts, coming up hard against things in a real world, both the creator of poems and the involuntary creation of the stimuli he has encountered—that is, he is so nudged by life that he must react, he must be altered, scorning the protection of any walls of “reason” or “tradition” that might make experience any less painful.

In Lawrence we experience the paradox—made dramatic by his genius—of a brilliant man trying to resist his own brilliance, his own faculty for dividing, categorizing, assessing, making clear and conscious and therefore finite. It seems almost a dark angel of his, this dreaded “consciousness,” and he wrestles with it throughout his life, stating repeatedly that we are “godless” when we are “full of thought,” that consciousness leads to mechanical evil, to self-consciousness, to nullity. He yearned for the separateness of an individual isolation, somehow in conjunction with another human being—a woman—but not dependent upon this person, mysteriously absolved of any corrupting “personal” bond. It is the “pulsating, carnal self” he wants to isolate, not the rational self, the activity of the personality-bound ego he came to call, in a late poem entitled “Only Mao,” the “self-apart-from-God”—his only projection of a real hell, a fathomless fall into the abyss:

For the knowledge of the self-apart-from-God
is an abyss down which the soul can slip
writhing and twisting in all the revolutions
of the unfinished plunge
of self-awareness, now apart from God, falling
fathomless, fathomless, self-consciousness wriggling
writhing deeper and deeper in all the minutiae of self-knowledge, downwards, exhaustive,
yet never, never coming to the bottom. . . .

He uses his intellect not to demolish the mind’s attempts at order, as David flume did, but to insist upon the limits of any activity of ‘pure” reason-to retain the sacred, unknowable part of the self that Kant called the Transcendental Ego, the Ego above the personal, which is purely mental and sterile. So intent is he upon subjecting the “personal” to the “impersonal” that he speaks impatiently of tragedy, which is predicated upon an assumption of the extraordinary worth of certain individuals, and there is in his mind a curious and probably unique equation between the exalted pretensions of tragedy and the rationalizing, decasualizing process he sensed in operation everywhere around him: in scientific method, in education, in industry, in the financial network of nations, even in new methods of war that resulted not in killing but in commonplace murder. Where to many people tragedy as an art form or an attitude toward life might be dying because belief in God is dying, to Lawrence tragedy is impure, representative of a distorted claim to prominence in the universe, a usurpation of the sacredness of the Other, the Infinite. Throughout his life he exhibits a fascination with the drama of the self and its totally Other, not an Anti-Self, to use Yeats’s vocabulary, but a truly foreign life force, symbolized by the sun in its healthy hostility to man. It is a remarkable battle, fought for decades, Lawrence the abrasive, vitally alive individual for some reason absorbed in a struggle to deny the primacy of the individual, the “catastrophe” of personal feeling.

(“Climb Down, O Lordly Mind”)—

The blood knows in darkness, and forever dark,
in touch, by intuition, instinctively.
The blood also knows religiously,
and of this the mind is incapable.
The mind is non-religious.

To my dark heart, gods are.
In my dark heart, love is and is not.
But to my white mind
gods and love alike are but an idea,
a kind of fiction.

Calvin Bedient in a brilliant study of Lawrence argues that his flight from personality had been, in part, an effort to “keep himself separate from others so as to be free to face toward the ‘beyond’ where his mother had become ‘intermingled.'” Because of this, his mysticism is “somewhat morbid.” However, the mystic in Lawrence is fierce to insist upon salvation, even in the face of madness and dissolution, when the merely mental might give way. It is significant that the delirious fever Ursula suffers at the very end of The Rainbow brings her to a mystic certainty of her strength, her unbreakable self; if it is deathly—she evidently suffers a miscarriage—it is not her death, not Lawrence’s idea of death at all. Ursula’s real or hallucinatory terror of the horses (that attempt to run her down in a field) is the means by which she is “saved,” absolved of Skrebensky’s child, which is to her and to Lawrence hardly more than a symbol of the finite, the deathly personal and limited. Nothing in Lawrence is without ambiguity, but it is possible that much that seems to us morbid is really Lawrence’s brutal insistence upon the separation of one part of the self from the other, the conscious self from the unconscious, and both from the truly external, the unknown and unknowable Infinite.

In the cycle of confessional poems called Look! We Have Come Through! (1917) the most important poem is the very mysterious, yet explicit “New Heaven and Earth,” which invites reading in a simplistic manner, as another of the love poems—indeed, Lawrence does more harm than good with his prefatory foreword and “argument” when he suggests that the sequence of poems is about a young man who “marries and comes into himself. . . .” Certainly the spiritual crisis Lawrence suffered at this time had something to do with his private life, with the circumstances of his elopement, but not all marriage is attended by such a radical convulsion of the soul. Lawrence’s marriage, like everything else in his life, must he considered epiphenomenal in relationship to the deeper, less personal emotions he attempts to comprehend. This poem bears a curious resemblance to the very beautiful late poem “The Ship of Death,” though it is about a mystical reaffirmation of life.

Lawrence betrayed no moral, aesthetic, or intellectual timidity in experiencing the unknown or the forbidden. His novels are a proof of that. Sexual conventions in Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) to his fictional rendering of other characters probe into the human psyche. He insists on leveling conventions, overturning expectations, and unsettling complacency. The essential starting point for new readers of Lawrence is his early novel, Sons and Lovers (1913), in which conflicts force the protagonist, Paul Morel, toward a complicated struggle for an identity of his own. This autobiographical fiction reveals the many powers that compete for the young hero’s soul. The novel unmasks a husband battling a wife, a son rebelling against a father, a mother scorning her son’s lovers, a son pulling away from the bonds of possessive early loves, a lover confronting rivals, and finally the son fighting desperately against the soul-crushing force of his mother’s love and memory. Lawrence had grown up amid the mining-town society of the English midlands, and in Sons and Lovers he subtly analyzes tensions and family politics in his working-class background. Sons and Lovers is an eminently readable novel for perceptive high school students. Its intense, complex portraits of Paul and Gertrude Morel remain some of the most forceful character studies in modern fiction. Students recognize the psychological tensions and the moral problems faced by Paul, and discussion usually produces insights into larger questions about the relationship between autobiography and art.

In “The Fox” (1923) and Women in Love (1920), we recognize the uneasy balance that gives love such power in human lives. “The Fox” presents a simple struggle between a man and a woman for the possession of another woman they both love and want. Even when one has triumphed, by literally killing the rival, the love object cannot be easily possessed. While others fight to possess her, she struggles to re- main free, but the temptation to submit to love, security, and peace always lurks

The Rainbow (1915) details three penetrating studies of loves within a single family. The Plumed Serpent (1926), Lady Chatterley’s Lover, St. Mawr (1925), The Virgin and the Gypsy (posthumously published 1930), and “The Princess” (1925) study a favorite subject-lovers of different nationalities, races, and social classes. “The Prussian Officer” (1914) and Kangaroo (1923) analyze the temptations of power, authority, and politics as substitutes for wholesome love relationships. From these varied portraits of love’s dominion, we get Lawrence’s message: the force of love is beyond the consciousness of even the most sensitive of lovers.

Lawrence’s writings are characterized by his primitivism and pantheism, his criticism of “civilized” bourgeois culture, his sensitive, reverential attitude toward animals, his vatic stance as a poet who knows with certainty the pure truth, his outrage at all individuals or ideas that disagree with his convictions, and his deep and sincere insights into himself.


Harry T. Moore, “Lawrence from All Sides”, The Kenyon Review, Kenyon College, 1963, pg. 555-558.

J. Charles Mullen, “D. H. Lawrence”, The English Journal, National Council of Teachers of English, 1982, pg. 69-70.

Joyce Carol Oates, “Lawrence’s Götterdämmerung: The Apocalyptic Vision of Women in Love”, Critical Inquiry, 1978.

Joyce Carol Oates, “The Hostile Sun: The Poetry of D.H. Lawrence”, American Poetry Review, 1972, The Massachusetts Review, 1973, Black Sparrow Press, reprinted in New Heaven, New Earth: The Visionary Experience in Literature.

Vincent Mahon, “Review of Acts of Attention. The Poems of D. H. Lawrence”, The Review of English Studies, Oxford University Press, 1975, pg. 244-246.

White Australian celebrated two hundred years of colonization in 1988. Much has changed in the relations between the races in Australia since 1988. There have been great advances as well as catastrophic setbacks. In 1993 the Native Titles Act was passed, granting land rights to indigenous Australians who could prove continuity of occupation and some compensation to others whose lands had been taken away. This led the indigenous Australians to have the same legal position as the Native American and Canadian First Native peoples had since colonization.



“This country is Aboriginal people’s homeland… we want to keep our culture strong for our children’s children. We can not do this without our land because it is our lands, or dreamings, stories, paintings – all tied to our land.”


                                                                       (Michael Jagamara Nelson)


In January 1996 Governor General Bill Hayden in his Australia day address praised the Aboriginal artists for using the “redemptive” power of art to teach non indigenous Australians about themselves and their land. Contemporary Aboriginal art has been a spectacular presence in local and international artworks in recent years. It is an innovative relocation of energy by Aboriginal people because of its economic and communicative potentialities. Most of it is produced for external audience, for tourist and art market consumption, and it is disseminated through structures that have arisen just for this mediating purpose. It has become an art movement with its own set of shared but distinctive methods, styles, contents, masters and mistresses; regional and local variations, patterns of change, practice of distribution, and languages of interpretation.



The majority of Aboriginal artists live in tribal situations, in the desert regions or in Arnhen Land, at actual or social removal from places of white settlement. The artists are a small minority of approximately 200,000 Aboriginal people living in non-tribal circumstances. The urban artists are the children of the tribal people who had been forcefully relocated. The artists have often been trained in white art schools or, more recently, Aboriginal colleges.



The central tension in white Australia flows from its essential migrant experience, with its carriage of imported cultures mixed with the desire to create a distinct one. The tension is the result of doubled foundational and fundamental national ideologies: imperialist and nativist.



The powerful emergence of art by Aboriginal Australians in the 1970s to its arrival at the point of market, media, and critical dominance during the 1980s was based on artworks coming from a number of tribal communities. It was led by spectacular paintings on canvas or bark, based on sand, body, and rock painting designs and compositions.


Tribal Aborigines in Australia, especially since 1970s, have, in the main, actively sought ways to maintain their cultural separateness, to relate to non-Aboriginal cultures through a screen of distance. The contemporary Aboriginal art movement, on the other hand, is itself a hybrid formation between western modernity in Australia and Aboriginality. Exchanges between cultures should be seen as shaped not only by the fundamentally divisive operations of imperialism but also understood as constitutive relationships.



Art originating from tribal communities consists of sacred/ secular art objects that at once stand for absent secret/ sacred ones and, at the same time, stand in their own right as artworks.


          (Terry Smith, Public Art between Cultures: The “Aboriginal Memorial,” Aboriginality, and Nationality in Australia)



Literacy policies and practices are not only influenced by socio- cultural factors but also value- laden and political. While the use of non- standard varieties of English and creoles is widespread among Aboriginal Australians, the National Framework of Australia is a framework of adult English language and literacy. The Aboriginals have identified improved English literacy as a priority but feel this need not be at the expense of other Aboriginal languages.



It is not just language attitudes and politics that are at issue. Also of fundamental importance are the manners in which language is used and differences in what another culture regards as socio- linguistic competence, particularly in cross- cultural interaction. Discourse strategies and pragmatic elements may not vary between cultures but there is a great deal of evidence to show that they are valued, taught and reinforced differently.



In multifarious ways, many Aboriginal Australians have resisted and continue to resist assimilation and incorporation, not only into the dominant society’s ways of life, but they have also resisted much of the white middle-class value system’s modes of thinking and behaving embedded in dominant social institutions. The maintenance of distinctive styles of language use is one such example of passive resistance.



Australian pastoral is haunted by a similar sense of violation, caused by an upheaval of no lesser magnitude-that of the displacement of an indigenous population by the settlers of a colonizing power. Though there have been times when the Aboriginal has played no part in Australian pastoral, this effacement has been limited and partial. For the most part it is the persistence of the Aboriginal figure which is remarkable- appearing sometimes as a shadowy, spectral presence, sometimes dramatically heightened by fear or guilt, more recently as a figure arguing on its own behalf for a revision of the pastoral order-and always as the embodiment of an aboriginal claim, a claim to priority.



The recognition of the Aboriginal as the true pastoral subject appears in the poetry of the later colonial period (1840s to 1880s) as a mortal confrontation between two different kinds of pastoral ideal, the one primitive, the other classical in origin, as the poets seek to accommodate a presence which has not dimmed but grown more compelling in time. In both Charles Harpur and Henry Kendall, the two most distinguished poets of this period, the confrontation centers on the pastoral place, now defined in Australian terms and presented as the site both of allurement and of death. In what is probably Harpur’s most significant poem, “The Creek of the Four Graves,” a settler and his four shepherds set forth into the Australian wilderness to seek “new streams and wider pastures” for their flocks. Harpur’s attempt to capture this new territory in his verse places considerable strain on his poetic resources. In mobilizing the pastoral form, Harpur is evidently unwilling to admit the Aboriginal inhabitants of the wilderness as proper subjects, and he cannot call on his shepherds, who have as yet to feel at home there. The result is unpopulated pastoral, in which the elements of nature take on the roles normally played by humans in the pastoral landscape. It is the sun whose glances flash down the nameless creek between the mountains; the creek is “duskily befringed” with feathery swamp-oaks, turning its pools into seductive eyes; the mountains themselves become sheep as the breeze blows over “their rough enormous backs deep fleeced with wood.”



The “wild” pastoral of the Australian bush and its indigenous inhabitants is by nature undefined, unformed-it is felt as a force working against the traditional pastoral economy, unsettling and negating its priorities. Kendall’s surging rhythms, his “lyrics with beats like the heart-beats of Passion,” seem driven by the same kind of energy that invests Harpur’s images with their thrilling power. This beat, “the pulse of wind and torrent” as he calls it, catches up the decorous personifications which inhabit his pastoral scenes, then casts them aside, tripping awkwardly, and effete survivors from an outworn tradition. His funereal landscapes are more somber, gloomier, and more desolate than Harpur’s, the burying ground of his ambitions as a poet and as a man. Sometimes the dead mourned there are Aboriginals, killed by Aboriginals, as if death was the only history these places had ever known.




After Kendall, as the poet Judith Wright noted, “a great silence falls.” It is not that pastoral disappears from the literary repertoire, for it continues to play a dominant role in Australian writing. In the decade before and after the federation of Australian states in 1901, it was pressed into the service of defining the new Australian nation, celebrating the white bushworkers who were taken as its characteristic types, but offering little space to the Aboriginals from whom the land had been taken. After the First World War, when the pastoral form was used for the completely opposite purpose of driving nationalist sentiment out of Australian literature, the poets drew on the classical world, not the Aboriginal, for their shepherds and maidens, their nymphs and fauns. It was only in the second nationalist phase, from the late 1920s on, that the Aboriginal re-turned to Australian pastoral, not as a presence in the landscape dimmed by the passing of time but, on the contrary, as the embodiment of the very spirit of the land itself, representing a claim deeper and more basic than that which had been entertained before.



From this primitive but still essentially pastoral perspective, Prich-ard and Dark and other novelists-Vance Palmer, Frank Dalby Davison, Barnard Eldershaw, and Xavier Herbert in particular-developed their critiques of the exploitative, dominating, and re-pressive tendencies inherent in the white settlement of Australia. Whereas for Harpur and Kendall the Aboriginals had been the devil’s representatives in what might with time become a paradise, now it is the whites who are portrayed as the intruders into a timeless Aboriginal idyll, with the Aboriginals representing those qualities of spontaneity, freedom, reciprocity, and ease denied by the relentless capitalist urge of white settlement.




The remembered place is not idyllic in itself-in his plays Jack Davis presents the Moore River settlement, to which many Western Australian Aboriginals were forcibly removed, as being more like a concentration camp. This is not an origin site, but another resting place in a long tale of dispossession-what makes the scene idyllic is the fact that it is witness to an act of transmission between the generations, an act which, given the large-scale destruction of Aboriginal culture, is remarkable for having happened at all. It is this act and the further transmission effected through its commemoration in poetry which gives the place its significance, as if the Aboriginal claim to the land was not fixed and unchanging, but mobile, some-thing remade and renewed in the face of negation.



We are the lightning-bolt over Gaphemba Hill

Quick and terrible,

And the thunder after him, that loud fellow.

We are the quiet daybreak paling the dark lagoon.

We are the shadow-ghosts creeping back as the camp

fires burn low.

We are nature and the past, all the old ways

Gone now and scattered.

The scrubs are gone, the hunting and the laughter.

The eagle is gone,

the emu and the kangaroo are gone from this place.

The bora ring is gone.

The corroboree is gone.

And we are going.’


                                (Oodgeroo Nonuccal, We are Going)




The aboriginals have gone through ages of destruction of language and abnegation of culture. Today the white Australians are trying to mend their fences. A song about racial reconciliation with the aboriginals has become the fourth-biggest selling recording in Australia. The song, “From Little Things Big Things Grow,” begins with a recording of the words of Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, from his February, 2008 apology for the country’s history of mistreatment of its indigenous peoples. “As Pm, I am sorry,” Rudd says. “On behalf of the government, I am sorry.”


From Rudd’s words the song later moves on to these lyrics:


“There are moments in the lives of nations where hope and history rhyme. Now’s one of those times. Let’s close the gap, and if we truly mean it, we can stare down our future and find we can see through those eyes. Let us not stand with those who deny.”

the fallen angel with burning feathers

No work of art can be created in a vacuum. The socio-political and economical factors of the time pervades the work. Evidently “The Great Gatsby” is deeply rooted in the 1920s. Fitzgerald chronicles the age deftly in the novel. Fetzgerald dubbed the 1920s as “the jazz age”. The ban of alcohol which gave rise to rich bootleggers, sprawling private parties, the chaos and violence of world war one, the moral emptiness and hypocrisy : all are dextrously portrayed in the novel.


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