Embracing Individualism Discussion


Joseph Campbell says that “the adventure is being alive,” suggesting that we should “live life with a knowledge of its mystery” because it “gives life zest, balance, and harmony.” The quest of striving for this “zest, balance, and harmony” can make every individual heroic. In this final unit, we have read poems by Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, and Emily Dickinson, all of whom provide readers with a sense of how to truly be a heroic individual.

What is the “mystery” that each of these three writers seems to understand about life? What is that seemingly unanswerable question that each of these writers seems to be responding to? In what way(s) do they seem to be at peace with something that other people might still be struggling with?

Next, choose two poems from this module and answer the following questions to compare the two poems.

Consider the speakers of the poems: does each speaker seem to be male or female, or could it be both? What clues in the poem do you see that lead you to that answer? What does the speaker communicate about him/herself and the way that he/she sees him/herself as an individual? What qualities do these speakers have that make them individuals? Give examples from each text, including details or statements that reveal something to you about who the writer perceives him/herself to be.

How does the speaker of each poem seem to embrace difference, whether that be his/her own difference from others or qualities that he/she sees in other people? How might this embracing of differences lead that speaker to seem like an individual?

What do you see in this writer’s work that demonstrates a certain level of self-confidence? Where do you think that writer gets his/her self-confidence: is it something internally driven or externally obtained? Explain.

What literary techniques (allusion, personification, symbolism, simile, metaphor, imagery, etc.) does each writer use in order to draw the reader into the work and make the experience more vivid? Point out 1-2 of the techniques that both writers use (if possible), quoting from each work and using proper MLA documentation techniques for in-text citation of poetry. Explain how this specific use of language makes an impact on you, as a reader, and describe the emotional or connotative meaning it holds for you. How does the author’s use of language help the reader to understand the author’s central message? How and/or why do you see it as being associated with individuality?

What is the central theme in each of these poems? Write a statement of theme for each poem. Then, compare how their messages are similar and/or contrast them to show how they’re different. Does each poet leave you with a positive or negative impression of his/her feelings? Why?

Consider context: Look at the contextual information provided to you in the course content for this unit. If you haven’t already done so, consider how the information provided there gives you a deeper insight into each of these poems. What additional layers to the poems does contextual information provide?

Finally, what are some ways that we establish our individuality and reveal or communicate it to the people around us? Describe one way that we each communicate our own self-confidence to others, either verbally or non-verbally.

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