Merced in 2019

An isolated patch of land surrounded by manmade lakes
new bones and flesh made of glass sprout on the fields as the earth quakes
morphing into school for students of the twenty first century
fledgling and new, it hardly plants itself in California’s memory
Unlike the locals who rioted
whose cries for pause were quieted
as more and more students poured in droves
and businesses that had existed before were long since closed

But all of this growth came at a cost
and the city’s newfound tenants do not know what the locals had lost
an air force base
when disbanded left families stranded
a golf course
a stand against classist recreation

it grows and grows
(somewhere in the distance plays a cheesy song about a seed)
as new feet trample and ride their cars through its meadows

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Romance rimes wrought from maidens made of iron

The word “romance” is derived from the old French word “romanz”- a term used to describe the “verse narrative”, grand stories of chivalry and heroic deeds told through rhymes and music. As we discussed in lecture on Monday, the idea of romance isn’t something that is specifically tied to sexual/interpersonal romantic feelings while this is a facet of romance it does not describe it in its entirety. Thus, it is not a stretch of the imagination to say that stories centered around the preservation of old ways (stories forgotten in time, coming alive for the benefit and horror of humanity), for instance, is romantic. That feeling of awe, the interplay between humans and nature, humans and humans, etc. these are all romantic.

The Rhime of The Ancient Mariner is Coleridge summoning history with his bard’s song. There are eight syllables in the first and third lines, six in the second and fourth. The rhyme scheme is ABCB. I cannot claim any sort of authority over music. I cannot read Tabs or sheet music for instruments to save my life. But I like to think that the clash between the long, harsh syllables and the soft unstressed sounds, the almost sporadic rhyme scheme are a lot like the upbeat strums of a rock song. The bard inspires, with a lively rhythm and grind! The tale he weaves is a little different from that of the Iron Maiden. Coleridge’s narrator is the Ancient Mariner himself spinning the  yarn in front of three strangers who were on their way to a wedding. He tells them that he has been cursed with immortality (but not immortal youth, so he looks super gross) and the task of telling his tragic tale for all of eternity, because he had disrespected nature by shooting down the albatross.

How many, I wonder, have made the connection between this tale and ecology? Probably a lot of people death, famine, and unimaginable suffering following the act of disrespect does sounds pretty eco-friendly (and like the activists who shoot glances at me for my use of plastic straws).

I digress. In the Iron Maiden’s version the wedding party, bride and all, are present when the mariner approaches. The narrator is a third person party, as if someone was watching the mariner’s one audience member entranced by the old man’s tale. I would argue that the Iron Maiden version also rallies behind a pro environment stance as these bards sing, “The mariner kills the bird of good omen/ His shipmates cry against what he’s done/ But when the fog clears, they justify him/ And make themselves a part of the crime.”

By invoking an ecological message, Iron Maiden and Coleridge are practicing the most romantic form of poetry. For what could be more romantic than calling for the preservation of forces we cannot control and understand (man, not pollution) and adjusting so that great force may carry on and live?

Maria Nguyen-Cruz

Social Justice Satan

“I went to an English battery that was but a very few yards from the walls of the citidel… and that was not without great risk, both from the English shells that burst while I was there, but likewise from those of the French… Three shots were fired at me and another boy who was along with me, one of them in particular seemed

wing’d with red lightning and impetuous rage”

Milton’s Paradise Lost is a poem of epic proportions, so much so that it is still garners the attention of scholars and intellectuals in academia. Paradise Lost is about love, loss, and the symmetry that exists in the biblical narrative- a subversive look between what is actually good and what is actually evil. In this retelling Satan had fallen from heaven by choice, because he refused to love his maker the exact same way that his celestial siblings did. Heaven, a system largely regarded as good because of its uniformity and dedication to its ambigious authority- the fabled absent father figure, G_d. The story simultaneously battles against and for fate itself, as it eventually succumbs to its rule- Satan, no matter how much he may grow to resent it, must play his role as the greater good’s greatest adversary. He must face G_d’s fury, manifested in red lightning, louder than the beating of thousands of furious wings.

This is just a long winded way of saying that to me, Heaven looks like facism.

I mean, think about it. Bound to the authority of one figure, Heaven and its commandments demands unwavering loyalty- not only as its admission fee. It is the same love, the same feelings, all subjects simultaneously supressing the “evils”, the urge to rebel and have knowledge of good and evil. The people who claim admittance to this “holy realm”, act with an air of superiority (they are G_d’s chosen people, his special race) and through their faith they have manifested their destinies. So what is heaven’s fury doing in Equiano’s slave narrative? What is Equiano doing, with his fellow slaves as they are surrounded by the vicious attacks pouring down upon them from both the French and English? Is he just proving that he knows how to read and write- that he is so literate that he has heard of Milton and just wants to put his readers at ease? Yes, I think that inches closer to the truth. But, also, no.

Or is Equiano comparing himself to the legendary social justice warrior- Satan? Publishing a narrative detailing the trials and tribulations he has supposedly gone through, critiquing the people which he loves so much and identifies with (Christians and whites), Equiano is alluding to the hellfire that awaits him soon after this is published. He may grow to regret rebelling, but for history’s sake it had to be done (but did it really?).

Maria Nguyen-Cruz

Alexander Pope, dope?

Pope visual satire

“Beneath her foot-stool, Science 10  groans in Chains,
And Wit dreads Exile, Penalties and Pains.
There foam’d rebellious Logic, gagg’d and bound,
There, stript, fair Rhet’ric languish’d on the ground;
His blunted Arms by Sophistry 11  are born, [25]
And shameless Billingsgate 12  her Robes adorn.
Morality, by her false Guardians drawn,
Chicane in Furs, and Casuistry in Lawn, 13 
Gasps, as they straiten at each end the cord,
And dies, when Dulness gives her Page the word. 14  [30]”

The viscereal image that Alexander Pope paints of Science, Wit, Logic, Rhetoric, Sophistication, Morality, Chicane, and Casuistry being bound and humiliated by Dullness is ironic considering the image that the dull members of his society painted of Pope himself. A catholic, like his last name may suggest, smaller than your average Englishman, and uneducated by the traditional education system available to non-catholics and the wealthy at the time– Pope was not a man of usual or privileged circumstance. Pope’s poem, is a satire because it is speaking truth to the powers that be- a reality the punches down on the working class and members of different religious societies. But the image provided below, depicting Pope as a tiny man-child attempting to have sex with (an anatomically incorrect) woman, but is prevented from doing so by Coolley Cibber- one of the men that Pope mocks and depicts in his Epic. Cibber is a hero, not just because he saved Tiny Pope from getting an STD, but from being humilated for doing something that is more adult than Pope actually is.  Cibber, the Poet Laureate of Pope’s time, only rose to his high and lofty position (one that towers over Pope in real life and in this piece) because he was well connected to the Whig Party.

Imagine having a classmate or a coworker who may irk you at first, but they are popular and well liked by certain people of a high and controversial social standing- so you assume they have talent. That is, until you learn that they have plagarized. Their ideas were never their own and they took credit for them anyway, and were uplifted into a higher social and political standing because of their political affiliation and privilege. This is the sort of thing that Pope witnessed, it was his experience with Cibber. Pope making fun of Cibber isn’t offensive or especially damaging to Cibber’s reputation, it won’t really do much. But Cibber and his affilates creating political cartoons that paint Cibber in a benevolent light and Pope in a bad one? That benefits only them and tarnishes that little is there of Pope’s reputation. It ruins Pope’s life more to be mocked by Cibber and his associates, than it does for Pope to do the same.

Its the same violent behavior that Pope describes Dullness doing. What Pope has written is dope, but Pope’s critics (or bullies) portray him as a dope.

Maria Nguyen-Cruz

“This is why nobody likes philosophers” said Jonathan Swift, probably

Ladies, gentlemen, and other distingushed scholars of the academy,

As we discussed during Monday’s lecture, Swift’s fantastical travel/captivity narrative partly functions as a criticism of the Enlightenment movement- otherwise known as that one time a bunch of nerds got together and decided that the future is now! We’ve got to get rid of our old tech, start speaking all fancy, and learn how to be bitchy- but in like an educated way. These are the kind of ideas that uphold the structure of Francis Bacon’s “The New Atlantis” which is Bacon imagining what a utopian society looks like, where people do stuff like; bury their dead in a super particular and edgy kind of way, constantly look for complicated ways to do things, uphold morals like Truth, Justice, and Temperance, and really like science. Obviously, a scientific oriented society would lead to a cleaner and more honest one.

Which is really funny, because that sounds almost exactly like what Swift describes as the lilliput people’s society in part 1 chapter 6 of Gulliver’s Travels. The Lilliput people believed that “Truth, Justice, and Temperance, and the like, to be in every Man’s power”- their judicial system aligns itself with these morals, going so far as imprisoning people for “seeming to breach trust”. People who are able to prove their innocence are compensated for having their time wasted, and the other party is immediately put to death. As Gulliver describes the way that the Lilliput people educated their young and the morals instilled into their society, he doesn’t ever say that he outright disagrees with them- he stops himself from doing so . The tone of this report/reflection almost sounds like he would admire them if he wasn’t so loyal to his country, wishing that his homeland had the same sort of efficiency.

The Lilliput people also “bury their Dead with their Heads directly downwards, because they hold an Opinion that in eleven thousand Moons they are all to rise again, in which Period the Earth (which they consider to be flat) will turn upside down”. Do you see where I’m going with this? Bacon’s utopian society has “burials in several earths”, with jars similar to that of the chinese, with new dirt buried with them to stimulate the fertility of the land, and that the people use their observations to come up with their scientific conclusions. The whole point of this utopian society is to advance science and seem really modern and well thought out.

There are holes to this obviously, and if we really think about it- creating a fantasy world doesn’t fix the problems of the world that actually exists. Swift, being an Anglo Irishman,  had the ability to look outside and in the movement and reaped the opportunity to point out what honestly was really wrong with these sort of philosophers- they’re not actually solving any problems. They could say what they don’t like about society, but also don’t really provide much in way of relief from those issues- what you’re left with instead is a vague understanding that society should be about efficiency and Truth. In a way, Gulliver’s Travels is a depiction of utopian socities (though say what you will about their perchant for murder and stinky giant women) and reveals the true nature of such fantasies as ludicrous.

Or maybe I’m overthinking this. This is why philosophers are well hated.

Maria Nguyen-Cruz

“Mary Quite Contrary” by William Apess (BUTTON POETRY TRANSCRIPT)

My lady and sister in Christ, Mary,

We have a common enemy

It is a devil that lives in a bottle

It is no daemon or fairy

Lurks in every pantry

And turns the gentlest soul hostile

It is the color of my skin

And smells of exotic spices

The kind sold among the newly conquered dark isles

But it was your kin

Who turned this into one of our greatest vices

I dare not speak its name

For when I do there are folk who flitter

And pester even if told their efforts are in vain

By even he who has only little

It’s name is a hum

The devil’s hymn and chorus

When the cork is unplugged

There is a crowd that cheers,

“Oh please why don’t you join us!”

It’s name (he whispers softly)

Is rum

Mary, quite contrary

Does your story go

You paint a portrait of savage men

Who’d look for any excuse to strike a killing blow

And steal the brides of the white for the chief’s harem

Whilst they smoke pipes of tobacco

But oh, dear Mary did you also not partake?

Or is the truth only relevant when it is easy to forsake?

Mary, quite contrary

Is the white man’s practice of exclusion

Though why complain to you?

Because it is clear that you don’t think it matters

If a black or Indian

man or woman

Adult or child

Or a follower of the son of the Virgin Mary

Will be pardoned from this exile

Or spends their lives dressed in rags and tatters

By Maria Nguyen Cruz

Stop Trying to Make Savage Discourse Happen, Gretchen, Its Not Going to Happen

(Author’s Note: This post is not in reference to a Gretchen Weiner real or other wise. The title is just a Mean Girl’s reference)

Mary Rowlandson’s account of her time spent as a captive of the Algonquian tribe has been labelled as controversial since its release in 1682, and unsurprisingly it remains so. Also unsurprising are the mentions of Disney’s legendary cinematic failure, Pocahontas,as we continue scrutinizing the text and its predecessors on our reading list. The most recent texts that we observe the trend of problematic casting is of the Algonquian tribe and the indigenous peoples of Mexico in “The Emperor of Mexico”.

These works contribute to an unflattering portrayal of indigenous populations in America, but  most of these were not distributed with the sole purpose of slandering these people in mind. There are parallels between both works, but they could be read as not meaning to be offensive to their audiences or the very people that they are trying to portray. That is not to say that they should not be considered offensive- of course they are offensive to us, I could barely name a work published in the past fifty years that has aged so well that it is incapable of offending us yet. Calling native people “savages” is bad, we get it. I believe that ultimately, these works are meant to be read not as indictments of the natives (or even as compliments to white people)- but as narratives between good and evil.

The same way that pocahontas is not really a movie about the evils of racism and name calling, but more about the struggles that two people in an interracial/cultural relationship may face. Like Dryden’s play, Pocahontas was Disney’s attempt to bring in fame and prestige- more specifically an oscar. In Mary Rowlandson’s case, the integration of Algonquian language and her favorable descriptions of the women offering to free her, can be read as moments where her maker’s mercy is present in her time of struggle. The unfavorable depictions are (yes, racist) but also are meant to emphasize not only how foreign her situation but cruel and confusing as well. She was kidnapped, even though she could have easily died, but was kept alive and eventually made it out in one piece- through divine providence.

These texts have racial biases, but they do not represent all of the biases against indigenous cultures.

Maria Nguyen-Cruz

What does love have to do with it?

It needs be remarked, that in John Dryden’s, “The Indian Emperour”, Cydaria and Cortez were never united on stage. We understand that their affections for each other are reciprocated. Obviously this is a pretty big error- or is it?Plays like “The Indian Emperour” didn’t necessarily have to make sense or be intellectually stimulating. These plays were opportunities to play “The Game”; the dangerous and sadistic practice of gaining influence, power and popularity through public posturing and manipulation. The point of going to these wasn’t just to think and appreciate theatre you’re there to see the King, your enemies, and for them to see you. The romantic plot thread, thinking of the possibility of unification between the indigenous population of Mexico and Spain, these things don’t matter. The fact that it isn’t there is a statement: this lack of performance is a mistake in of itself.  Dryden has essentially provided a space to roast Spain, by pointing out that there are several missed opportunities that Spain didn’t take.

The play whispers to its audience, can you can see England? Can you see where England can succeed where Spain (a powerhouse) has failed?

“The Indian Emperour” hows what happens when one country (or even an individual) doesn’t properly play The Game. It says that, “Spain didn’t play The Game correctly.” So what did they lose? They’re no longer in touch with their nobility and humanity and they’ve lost a massive opportunity for growth via unification between the natives and imperialists. Their incompetence is illustrated on stage- which is a platform that allows viewers to look at themselves, their enemies, then at their King, and say, “Well, we’d never do that!”.

Maria Nguyen-Cruz