The Symbol of America: The Eagle or Dollar Dollar Bill Y’all?

* Eagle: PicsArt_05-03-01.10.31

The American Eagle

Oh soaring Eagle, flying high

Where have you gone?

Your country needs you.

Come from your nest, where you rest

To help us remember what once we were.

Once you represented freedom, justice, pride—

Soaring on the breeze of revolution,

Representing democracy,

A new nation.

Flying over tyranny—

Guiding this fledgling nation.

But where are you now?

Can we fix what we have broken,

Can we reclaim you, oh beautiful eagle?

Why do you slumber—

Why do you remain high above?

Are you still our symbol?

Perhaps we are no longer worthy.

Slavery exists, in the land of the free

Tyranny goes unchecked in the land of the brave

The eagle sleeps a deep slumber.

America forgets her nest.

Dear Eagle of my Country

Dear Eagle of my country! I found thee

High above in the cliffs,

Where the chains of capitalism have bound thee

You cannot fly for us anymore

Your wings are clipped

So you cannot soar

You no longer fly for us

Weighted down by consumerism

Retire you must.

We have not your beauty, grace, and pride

Have we lost you, oh glory—

Has the precious eagle died?

Dear Eagle of my county! Farewell to thee

As you retire to your mountain top.

Your sheltering wings, we no longer see

Your pride your honor, live in you alone.

And this is something that we cannot own

*The Dollar: PicsArt_05-03-12.54.31.jpg

The American Dollar

What is our symbol?

America, once the land of the free

And the home of the brave.

Now is the land of the consumer,

A capitalist’s amusement park.

The seller the buyer the window shopper.

Money talks.

And it does just about everything else too—

Money is what makes the world go around.

No money,

No power.

America land of the dollar—

The American dream.

Even the little guy can strike it rich,

Scratch the right lotto ticket

And you’re set for life.

Living on easy street—

Live by the dollar

Die without the dollar.

America is money—

The dollar is our symbol.

Dear Dollar of my Country

Dear Dollar of my country!

You are always needed and often missing.

Where are you little dollar—

Our wallet is so empty.

Without you we are hungry,

Without you we are naked,

Without you we are unsheltered.

The dollar symbolizes our great country—

Is this really what we stand for?

Dear Dollar of my Country!

So many things we can do with you

And without you we suffer.

Great dollar of our country

Please fill our wallets.

And fulfill our American dream—

Or better yet, leave us to our silliness

And let us find a better symbol.

Dear Dollar of my Country!

You are a sad symbol.

Who are we?

The consumer, the capitalist.

What happened to freedom—

Or democracy?

Was the American dream ever real?

Money talks,

But we should not let it speak for us.


Obviously, I took inspiration from the poems, The Irish Harp and Dear Harp of my Country. So I wrote several poems about the symbol of America. I did not worry about following the rhyme schemes of the poems though I parodied the titles. What I was trying to do was channel the idea of a country’s symbol, and I tried to mimic the tone as well (at least in the eagle poems). I focused on the theme of the Irish harp, by doing instead the American Eagle/ Dollar.  I really enjoyed the blog about the Harp of Ireland. I started thinking about what the symbol of the harp meant to Ireland and  what it said about Ireland. Harps are instruments and they promote music and language. This got me thinking about America, and what our symbol might be, and what it would say about our country.

The first thing that came to mind was the eagle. The eagle is a symbol that is on our money and a common brand logo (for example the clothes company American Eagle). So at least at some point, I think that America was represented by the eagle. What does the Eagle represent? Freedom, pride, power, the eagle is a very majestic symbol. Our fledgling nation who was rebelling and breaking free from oppression may have been worthy of the eagle. Now however, in our consumerism obsessed society, I think the dollar bill (or money in general) is the new symbol of our country.

We are a capitalistic society and this is both a good thing and a bad thing. However, money has become so important in this country that a lot of people sacrifice their morals just to make a buck.  We live in a plentiful country and yet people starve. Money makes or breaks you in this country and our symbol is no longer the eagle but the dollar bill. I am afraid this does not say very flattering things about our country.

*(images edited by Katie Oswald)

-Katie Oswald

Harp vs Lion: Harp by a Landslide

In discussing the Irish Rebellion and the Union act that followed, we were shown this image: PicsArt_04-28-11.09.59So England is represented by a lion and Ireland is represented by a harp. The very first time I saw the image I couldn’t help but think England gets a lion… a freaking lion and all Ireland gets is a harp? But then I started thinking about what those two symbols really represent and I decided I would go with the harp over the lion any day.

Lions are not exactly peaceful animals. It ‘s not like you can walk up to one and pet it (people have tried and it hasn’t worked out very well). The lion symbolizes strength but also dominance. Lions are considered king of the jungle afterall. I’m not sure that a lion is such a great symbol, they are fierce and strong but they represent force and brute strength. In other words it might symbolize England as the bully of Europe, colonizing and conquering.

Ireland on the other hand is symbolized by the harp. The harp represents language and music and bueaty. Harps were often used to sing ballads that were political or historical (often both). Thus the harp celebrates the power of language and music, it promotes harmony and peace. In times of strife the harp is used to embody Ireland and the poems speak of the loss of this symbol, the loss of language and culture and freedom. In Thomas Moore’s “Dear Harp of my Country” he writes, “Dear Harp of my country! Farewell to thy numbers,/ This sweet wreath of song is the last we shall twin!/” When their Rebellion failed and Ireland was forced into a union many people Spoke out and the harp was a simple for Ireland in paintings, poems and songs.

The harp represents beauty, language, and music, it seems to be a pretty peaceful symbol. On the other hand the lion could never be considered a symbol for peace. I found one more picture on line that I found interesting: Harp-of-Erin-JudahAn angelic harper who is part of the harp and lions all around. The lions look hungry and as if they are ready to attack. Where as the harper had angle wings and is one with the harp, this speaks to the idea of the harp peaceful symbol and the lion being one of war. So for me, if it were a choice between a lion or a harp, I’d go with the harp.

-Katie Oswald



America in 2017

Inspired by: “England in 1819” by Percy Shelley

A new, mad, blind, despised, and thriving president;

Advisors, fatcats, who strut

Through public scorn- when we can’t pay our rent.

A ruler who neither sees nor feels the rut-

A Capitalist leeching every cent,

Till the country suffering, doors shut.

A people outraged and not ready to yield,

A people treated like cattle and prey.

Science takes a back seat, fundamentals revealed,

Just ignoring it won’t keep global warming at bay.

Ignorance abounds, no knowledge to wield,

A change must come or our fate is sealed.

Let’s make America great again, ok?

What that even means, no one can say.

-Katie Oswald


Nature and Science: Versus or Balance

So I decided to look at the poem “Expostulation and Reply,” by William Wordsworth and this image:1492199735988.jpg

First of all, there is some strong imagery in Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct by Théodore Gericault’s that corresponds to the poem, “Expostulation and Reply” in which William is being berated by a friend for “wasting” his day dreaming. Rather than just tell you, I will show you. 1492187464615(Wordsworth 1-4). In this area of the painting, we have a naked gentlemen sitting on a rock and appears as if he is being lectured.

Also within the painting  Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct we get an idyllic scene that is a balance between nature and science. This is represented in the title of the piece: Landscape (nature) with an Aqueduct (science). There are other places within the image where science or man merges with nature. There’s a tree taking over some sort od man made arch, the town nestled in between all that nature and then there is the Aqueduct itself that is man made but has a certain picturesque beauty. PicsArt_04-14-09.34.06.jpg

There is a certain balance yet nature sings out, but there is that idea of man and science as well. In the poem, “Expostulation and Reply” by William Wordsworth there is that same duality, we see it even in the title Expostulation and Reply. While Romanticism heavily favors nature (passion) over science (reason), we cannot forget that nature is all about balance. The image shows a balance between passion and reason, and this can be seen in the poem as well though within the poem nature is the preferred teacher we cannot ignore the fact that there is both man and nature in our world.

For your diligence in reading all the way through here’s a gift: naked butt!PicsArt_04-14-10.49.09

(To be fair, this part of the image also asserts a balance between man and nature as they are naked and free, and also enjoying the pure joy of nature…and I just couldn’t resist).

-Katie Oswald

*edits made with PicArt and Phonto

Iron Maiden Rocks the House: But Maybe not Romantically

Iron Maiden’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner is an interesting interpretation. They take the bulk of the poem and turn it into this really great metal song. While the poem is not copied verbatim, I think that Iron Maiden captures a great deal of the essence of Coleridge’s poem. While some might have a hard time reconciling with the tone of the song (Iron Maiden has a very distinctive style), but personally I think it meshes well. I can almost picture this ancient mariner in a black leather jacket and a Mohawk holding this guy with his with his, “glittering eye,” (17), I mean this old guy is holding this guy basically against his will I think there is definitely room for a metal interpretation here. Does that mean we can say that Iron Maiden’s song is romantic poetry or like it? Lyrical songs like that one are in essence poetry, and I do think we could classify this song as almost Romantic. The song certainly hits most of Romantic ideals, there is a lot of emotion in the song, we deal with heavy moods (especially with that weird part with no lyrics), the hero is there (through the ancient mariner himself), the song is pretty damn creative, also we get that creepy occult mystic vibe. However, the thing that Iron Maiden’s song is missing though is, “A deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature,” (lecture note 8).

In description of the icy lands the poor crew ends up in in the song we get, “Driven South to the land of snow and ice/ to a place where nobody’s been.” In the poem we get a little more description, a more heightened sense of nature:”And Ice mast-high came floating  by/ As green as Emerald./ And thro’ the drifts and snowy clifts/ Did send a dismal sheen;/ Ne Shapes of men ne beasts we ken—/ The Ice was all between./ The Ice was here, the Ice was there,/ The Ice was all around:/ It crack’d and growl’d and roar’d and howl’d/ Like noises of a swound” (51-60). So in the poem the reader gets almost ten lines to describe the ice, we get sound and sight and it paints this majestic and ominous picture of this unyielding ice. The poem invokes the feeling that you are floating along with those ice bergs, and I am not sure the music manages that feat.

Obviously the poem is long and could not have been made into a song word for word. Iron Maiden had to make some choices. They kept the over all theme of the poem and the story also stayed in tact. Mostly what they took out were the sweeping descriptions of nature. The use of sublime, this transcendence though nature, is used heavily in Gothic literature and it is one of the staples for Romantic poetry. So while Iron Maiden’s song is similar to the poem (and a rocking song!) it has less of a Romantic feel because it is lacking that nod to sacred nature. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a strong emotional pull with this song, and of course it is about nature so you do get some of the sublime. Over all I would say it is a modern version of an Romantic poem that comes close to mimicking the genre but falls a little short in the reverence of nature.

Not Pro Slavery: But Anti Clueless White Abolitionist

* the introduction to, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, there is information about “freetown” which was a colony established in Africa for ex slaves. The introduction states, “…abolitionists in 1786 formed the Committee  for Relief of the Black Poor, which planned to send indigent blacks, most of them refugees and former slaves from the United States, to Sierra Leone on the coast of Africa,” (18). While the (mostly) white abolitionists meant well, Equiano didn’t think that sending the ex slaves away was a good idea. Africa is a large country, the poeple were from Africa but not Sierra Leone.  There were a lot of problems with this idea and between not enough supplies, disease and hardship many people died.

The image above is a small piece of the artwork we can analyze. This image is a spoof of a playbill implying that Seirra Leone was a farce and I think that the artist is referring to this failed colony. The abolishonists meant well, but the problem was that they were still thinking abiut ex slaves as seperate, as almost people but not quite. Equanio was made an official of this colony even though he has some misgivings. Equanio was made commissary to this expedition, even though he did not think it was the right course the introduction states, “Despite Equiano’s objections, this idea of “colonization” appealed to many white abolitionist,  both in Britain and in the United States, who could not imagine black men and women could be incorporated into British or American society,” (18). So, this art piece particularly the section above is not nessesarily for or against slavery but strongly against misguided white abolishonists who meant well, but we’re still seeing the ex slaves as property… as people unable to fit into society. This particular part of the painting is poking fun of the idea that abolishonists thought they could just send them back to Africa, as if this was the perfect solution. While one could say the painting is pro slavery (because it is anti abolishonists) I think that it is not, instead it is making a point. While white religious abolishonists might mean well, they still didn’t see freed slaves as equal and that was and is still an issue. The abolishonists needed to see the freed slaves as equals before anything could really be done to help them and I think that is what the artist was trying to say.

*For more information about this colony there is a great article from The Guardian the link is at the top.

Katie Oswald

Let there be Light: Finding Beauty in Sophia’s I am the Best! Letters

In Hartly House, Phebe Gibbes gives the reader a view of India from the eyes of an English teenager named Sophia. Sophia is writing to her friend Arabella and many of the letters remind me of high school style one-upmanship. She is constantly rubbing her friends nose in the sights shes seeing, and the fact that she is traveling the world while poor Arabella is stuck at home in England. Furthermore, she is constantly talking about how wonderful and beautiful she is (usually in relation to some man admiring her) and whining about her love life. So, when Sophia uses allusions to the classics within her letters (in the form of references, quotes, and poetry) one could be forgiven for simply thinking it is just another way for Sophia to make her “friend” feel more inferior by throwing her education in her face, yet these references aren’t just thrown in there. There is obviously some reason for the author adding them (because Sophia is spoiled and pretentious enough without them). These allusions tie this work to the classics, which was a common enough thing for literature of this time, and I imagine part of the reason these poems and quotes are worked into Hartly House, is to make the book more credible, and to give a nod to other works as other authors did. There is something else I noticed about the quotes, though, that I found interesting. Many of the quotes and references have to do with light.

In her second letter Sophia writes, “I cannot, like Mr. Apollo, lay aside my rays, that your optics shall be enabled to contemplate, however brilliant, the dazzling objects I gradually open to your view,” (Gibbes, 7). First of all, Apollo is the god of poetry and I think one could stretch that to all fiction writing, also Apollo is considered the god of light. This is probably because he is associated with Helios (the titan of the sun). The line in the letter itself is also all about light, “rays,” “brilliant,” and “dazzling,” all give this impression of sunlight. This is not the only reference to the classics that is connected to light. Granted Sophia may be using this imagery to connect to the climate of India which is completely different than England… But of course Sophia isn’t real, and so I think that Phebe Gibbes was trying to use these works to remind the reader that there is beauty here even if at first glance all we see is a spoiled rich kid bragging to her “friend.”

-Katie Oswald


The Status of the English: Furthered Through Language

“How  has the status of the English changed, if at all, from the time of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary (1755) to Macaulay’s and Ray’s call for English language education in India?” As I read this prompt I was prepared to talk about the idea of English as a living language because Johnson tells us that, “… our language is yet living, and variable by the caprice of every one that speaks it, these words are hourly shifting their relations … .” This is certainly true today, especially with slang and the addition of “Internet slang” (which is almost its own language). However in reading the prompt a few times I discovered something. While the title of the blog is, “The History of the English Language,” there is something wonky in the wording in the prompt itself that I didn’t catch at first. It states, “How has the status of the English changed… .” How has the status of THE English changed, the English as in the people not only the language. It it’s possible that that “the” was a grammatical error, but I’ve decided to run with it.

Within the limited scope of the reading, I probably won’t really be able to give a proper account of the “status” of the English or how it has changed, but I want to talk about how status of the English has been partially achieved through language. Yup, I am going to talk about imperialism/ colonialism again, a lot of our readings have this historical idea within them. Macaulay’s call for English in India supports this idea of conquering through language the minutes state, “A sum is set apart “for the revival and promotion of literature and the encouragement of the learned natives of India, and for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories,” (1). So here is this idea of using language to control other people.   Also, Consider the “noble savage” they don’t speak right,  or act right, or worship the right god… so it’s our duty to help them (by taking there land and trying to make them conform to European ideas). Language is one of the forms used to further imperialistic ideas and this certainly effected the status of the English. So the status of the English is deeply effected by the English language.

Katie Oswald

Shipwrecks and Hardships: Hey I know, I should go Sailing again!

In Gulliver’s Travels, Swift takes his reader on a journey through the eyes of his comic hero Gulliver. This satirical novel pokes fun of a lot of the ideas that were common in that time. One of these ideas is Imperialism. Swift, who was Irish, saw first hand how negative the effects of Imperialism could be. His book is somewhat unkind to the English, and this may have been a direct result of the attitudes between England and Ireland while Swift was writing his book.

Art is not created in a vacuum, it is a reflection of the culture and politics of the time. This is true of all art to some degree, but it is strongly reflected in Gulliver’s Travels. Not only is Swift mocking the English, but he is also attacking the prevalent idea that imperialism and colonialism is a good idea. While this book is certainly meant as a political discourse, I also think that there is a direct discourse between Swift’s book and another that was written just 7 years prior to the publication of Gulliver’s Travels. This book is Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe.

For those that haven’t read this pro imperialism/ colonialism novel I will give a brief synopsis  (spoiler alert). Robinson Crusoe decides to go to sea (against his families wishes) gets shipwrecked he lives but still doesn’t go home (even though everyone thinks he should) he goes to sea again and gets shipwrecked… this happens multiple times and he is made slave, escapes and then once again goes to sea and, you guessed it, gets shipwrecked by himself on an Island for over 20 years. Robinson gives a highly detailed account his time on the island.

There are a number of parallels between between the two novels, for example, when Robinson Crusoe was first published the author was “Robinson Crusoe” and the book was implying that his adventures actually happened, not unlike Swift’s tale about Gulliver that was molded after several popular non fiction genres. Defoes book also has several genres such as a captivity novel (when Crusoe gets captured and turned into a slave) and a very detailed travel journal, there is even a little Utopia in there because Crusoe becomes “Lord” of his only little colony.

What really struck me was the way in which Swift mirrored his character to have a similar idiocy to that of Robinson Crusoe. After his perilous adventure among the citizens of Lilliput he returns home and then just 10 months later gets on another boat. Swift writes, “Having been condemned by Nature and Fortune to an active restless Life, in ten Months after my Return, I again left my native Country…” (79). Condemned by nature he says, condemned carries negative connotations and, it is as if the character realizes he should stay home but cannot. This is mirrored in Robinson Crusoe, and by using this framework but opposing Defoe’s message, Swift is commenting on the negatives of imperialism.

While Gulliver finds enlightenment among the Houyhnhnms, I don’t think Swift is nessesarily saying that we would be better off if we were just like them. Instead I think Swift is offering the opinion that we should be tolerant of one another’s ways. Furthermore, people should look to there own issues among there own people instead of going out an trying to conquer people we may perceive as “savages.” In other words if you keep getting in wrecks at sea and you have responsibilities at home, maybe you should keep your ass  on the shore.

Katie Oswald

Flipping the Script: The Tragedy of Mary Rowlandson

In the blog, “A City upon Intolerance and Genocide,” we are reminded that this “shining” city ideal was not used in the way it often is today. John Winthrop’s idea of this utopian city was a fanatical religious one, and certainly did not embody the tolerance that we try to foster in our society today. This attitude was not his alone, and can be seen throughout history. Historically, it is hard to look back at our history without cringing, the Europeans that came over here claimed this land as theirs with an attitude of ownership and superiority that is shameful. Who cares if people already lived here, besides they are just savages anyway (this was a common imperialist/colonial idea). Calling someone a savage, reducing them to an animal or a devil, certainly makes it easier for people to kill them (easier on the asshats doing the killing I mean). It is a tactic used in war times, dehumanizing the enemy. This European colonial/ imperialistic attitude caused so much pain, sorrow, and death. It is almost impossible to look at an account from this time, that is made by a European, without a bias. When I was reading Mary Rowlandson’s personal account, I admit that I had a flippant thought in the beginning that went a long the lines of: that what you get for being rapers and pillagers.

Yet, I think we need to step back a minute in order to understand and appreciate this tragic tale. First off, let’s talk about Locke. In writing about equality Lock states that, “no-one has more power or authority than anyone else; because it is simply obvious that creatures of the same species and status, all born to all the same advantages of nature and to use the same abilities, should also be equal,” (3). It is all well and good for Locke to write “creatures” as if he is applying this to all humans (and further more all the creatures of the earth), but he also speaks of status, and “born to all the same advantages” so let us be clear when John Locke says “creatures” he really means white (well off) men. Woman who are obviously not of equal advantage or (considered at that time) equal abilities, don’t really fit the bill, and Native Americans (or other native species) also are not avowed of this “equality” which Locke speaks so eloquently about. We need to remember that as a woman Mary probably had little or no say as to where/how they lived, and while we only have her account of her ideal I highly doubt she was out there killing Native Americans. I am not saying that her ideals are ok because that is how everyone thought… I am saying we should pity her position, she was living in a hostile land with her children. Life in that time was dangerous, if your crops failed- you died. If your water source got contaminated- you died. Sicknesses that are now treated with no respect killed entire settlements. Hell, if you stubbed your toe and it got infected- you died.

I know, right now you’re probably wondering what the hell my point is and thinking I am a little to sympathetic to this European interloper. But I feel like there is some judgement going on here that is maybe a little unfair (I am not saying it is not justified or that it was ok what some Europeans did, but to put a whole cultures genocide on one individual leaves us in a negative place). Let us for a minute step outside of race and the terrible history that still hangs over us today. Let’s flip the script. Imagine a woman, who is minding her own business, when suddenly her home is under attack People are getting murdered and there is fire everywhere. She watches her sister murdered and her nephew (and various other family members and friends). In the attack she is wounded, along with her six year old child, two of her other children are alive but she is separated from them. Her child dies, and she receives no pity, no comfort. Her children are suffering and they are close by, but she cannot help them much or even see them very much. She demonizes her captives, partially because this is how her people see them, and partially because of the way she is being treated. She is abused, starved and lost among a people she does not understand. She turns to her religion because she has nothing else to turn too, some of her captors don’t like this because they do not understand her religion. I know what you’re thinking… yea yea yea we know what happened to Mary we all read the racist, religious story. But hold that woman in your mind think about her suffering and how you would feel if you were in her situation. Don’t think of her as Mary, instead consider how you would feel if her name was Maralah, and if she were a Native American being held by Europeans.

-Katie Oswald