Paraiso

The painting by Theodore Gericault, “Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct,” seems to be a near close depiction of William Wordsworth’s poem “Lines Written At a Small Distance From My House, and Sent by My Little Boy to the Person to Whom they are Addressed.”  It is as if Gericault’s paintbrush is taking direction from Wordsworth’s poetic expression.  

In the painting we see a vision of perfection through the depiction of a day filled with leisure and great weather.  There are several people swimming along the aqueduct, simply basking in what seems to be an air of peace.  Similarly, in the poem, Woodsworth’s first words are that it was a “mild day of March.”  The word “mild” meaning that the climate is neither too hot nor too cold, setting the tone for how one may feel tempered when reading the rest of the poem.  The same feeling is evoked fromt the painting, where the sun light’s casting against the landscape and buildings, indicates the hour of dusk, hence indicating that a mildness has taken over that part of the day.

There also seems to be a Utopian fantasy taking place in both the art piece and the poem, when Woodsworth says: “Love, now an Universal birth/from heart to heart is stealing/from earth to man/from man to earth/-it is the hour of feeling.”  Now, instead of looking at the art piece first, if the lines are read first, and the art piece is looked at thereafter, one will see that a perfect world has been projected.  The illusion that “love” has been born on a “universal” level, meaning that everyone and everything is exuding a perfect sense of happiness and love, is entirely the definition of a Paradise world.  In the picture we see men inside of the water, casually relaxing and enjoying the themselves. That part of the art piece could even literally have those words “From Earth to man, from man to Earth -It is the hour of feeling” placed in that specific spot on the painting.

The combination of the perfect weather and the gentlemen’s’ sense of peace in Gericault’s painting goes quite well with Wordsworth last line when he says, “for this one day we’ll give to idleness.”  In other words, instead of carrying on with work, which is the daily protocol for survival, both painter and poet are saying that, instead, not worrying is the perfect way to enjoy life, and in that sense, the survival of one’s inner spirit is most important.

-Maricela (Marcy) Martinez

 

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The price of Utopia

The Houyhnhnms are described by Gulliver as a sort of superior, intellectual race of what he describes as talking horses and while Gulliver extensively describes this utopian like society as ideal, I believe Swift was not attempting to show a perfect world we should all be living in, but reflect on our own society and accept the flaws as they come. The citizens are incredibly intellectual, reasoning, philosophical and most notably, emotionless. The first three characteristics without question what people think of when imaging a perfect or utopian society where they are “wholly governed by reason.” Gulliver explains in an incredibly long paragraph how in the Houyhnhnms land there are no pickpockets, robbers, liars, cheaters etc. emphasizing even more how ideal this country is being portrayed as.  However the horses are not perfect and its seen clearly with an intense and arguably . Throughout the reading the Houynhnhnms express dislike towards the yahoos and even talk about exterminating them as they continue to bad mouth the Yahoo’s. These ideas of genocide and war are not something that an ideal sociey would be hung up on but yet all the Houyhnhnms share that quality of disliking Yahoo’s.

But above all the Houyhnhnms main quality seems to be of an emotionless, heartless species focused only on themselves and judging the Yahoo’s for being inferior. I believe that what Swift is trying to tell us about the Houyhnhnms is that its impossible to reach this for several reasons. First he lets us know how the human race could never reach this as this utopian like country is run by horses. Second the horses are too focused on intellect, progress and equality to be distracted by what distracts humans. The horses laugh when Gulliver explains the english parliament and they even go as far as calling the English ‘Animals’ a nicely crafted ironic comparison coming from the horses. Swift was in no way trying to get us to be like the Houyhnhnms as he portrays them as being somewhat too intellectual and we can see how that lead them to this utopian society but even then they are faced with problems and issues that arise from them being emotionless horses and in some ways Swift is telling us than even Utopia (or what Gulliver thinks is utopia)  is not perfect.

 

-Noel Nevarez

 

Utopia or not?

I disagree that human kind would be happier if it could think and behave the way the Houyhnhnms do.

While Swift uses the Houyhnhnms as a Utopia for what society should be like the phrase itself is, in my perspective, an indicator as to how ridiculous the concept itself sounds. It’s ridiculous in the way that it’s not something society can obtain; it overall seems like a made up concept in order to expose what is wrong with the way 18th century Europe was coming along. The attraction of the Houyhnhnms was that they possessed reason and that their society is envisioned through a common wealth, indicating a contrast to how Europe and the New World were. These two places are driven by authority figures and are constructing a society based on lies and demands rather than as a unit with every citizen involved. While the Houyhnhms’ Utopia is “as good as it gets” is it realistic?

This reminds me of 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes since his novel Leviathan goes further into deconstructing the idea that people could live in harmony through a common wealth. When people are put on equal ground they, according to Hobbes, will soon compete with one another in order to strive in society since they do not have structure in society as to how things should be run. Adding the increase in competition society may enter a state of war in which they no longer live in harmony but rather a contrast of the Utopia envisioned in Gulliver’s Travels. Ultimately, that is why it becomes crucial to have authority figures so that a society does not have to enter a state of war and thus have a better chance in living with the fundamental laws of nature in order to maintain peace within themselves and their society.

 

– Kristy Frausto

The Royal Society’s Conquest for Knowledge

Like all advancements in culture, there are political implications that shaped the Royal Society when Charles II reigned. The terms science and exploration tell us the implications it had on the scientific world. However, these terms also reflected that at the time, science and reasoning were put on a hierarchy, which in turn shaped the way people thought about the world around them. The important thing to note here is that, as a western civilization, they were not the first to put these terms on a pedestal.

The image of the Royal Society that includes Francis Bacon has references that could be expressed as intertextualities about the classical times of the Roman and Greek empires. Judging by Bacon’s “New Atlantis” there were many ideas of, not only a utopic vision, but also the importance of functionality. The narrator’s litany that is offered by the wise man he meets represents the ideal world for a learning environment. Indeed, the location is fictional, but like all utopic visions, it represents the ideal. It is significant to see how the characteristics of the location are emphasized by their function, even if they are just for ornament. When the narrator lists the “beasts” that will be there for both visual pleasure and dissection, it is stated matter-of-factly to further emphasize the idealistic characteristics that would make the civilization whole. This phase of praising science and reasoning seems to be like a fashion, as if trying to emulate the classical times. This begs the question whether the Royal Society is doing it to allude to the classical times or to actually seek out knowledge. Furthermore, the importance of seeking a location like New Atlantis serves to recognize conquest of knowledge on a spatial format. I say conquest because this almost seems to justify the colonization of other lands in order to search for this idealistic pinnacle of learning—and even teaching.

 

–Cesar Ramirez

Defining A Bleak World: The Royal Society

Trapped in a state of modernity, Charles II and many others found themselves in despair that the entire construct of government began to flow with indecency, adultery, mistresses, the basic lusts of man. For the time, it must have felt much worse to feel like the world that once felt carefully crafted was slowly beginning to unravel. People were scared, intimidated, lost by a world that seemed to lose regulation for a moment. What could a king do then? The beauty of language and human conscience, is giving definition and establishing rules that technically do not exist. The universe, unbound by labels or true laws, does at least seem to follow a certain schematic of physics, and science seemed to be the way to analyze the one comforting aspect of existence. The Royal Society was born to find this comfort, to establish order in a dreadfully random world.

This lust for knowledge, more towards definition, is perfectly described in Sir Bacon’s tale of “The New Atlantis”. It is important to note how despite being a utopian paradise, this is not a place of complete bliss. Though beautiful, the description of the island lacks other things that would provide aesthetic or materialistic fulfillment. In the lack of said detail, Bacon has thus made clear what is important. Yes, the island has bountiful harvest and beauty, but gold and silver does not line every road, people cannot simply relax and are not merely blessed with knowledge. No, no, it was the fact that the people had the motivation and energy to experiment and test, to theorize and create. “The New Atlantis” is not merely a paradise, rather an intellectual’s dream. All the gold and all of the pleasures in the world will not fill a void where the universe is not defined. Instead what is essentially comes down to, is those blessed mentally will flourish and find their minds in constant pleasure at both the freedom and access to tools to expand their knowledge. Scholars are in pleasure of having definition in their life. Intelligence, knowledge, these are the key treasures to Bacon, and though religion has been an element that has sharply decreased its influence on the Royal Society, one can see that the main point of the organization is to bring greater understanding, to provide laws in a place where things seem to be unruly and lost. Science, in this case, illuminates a bleak world, just as long as you are willing to be in pursuit of more and more.

 

-William Fernandez

Utopia: Then and Now

The original goal of the Royal Society was to have an organization focused on scientific discoveries as well as making them relevant within society. Sir Frances Bacon envisioned a utopia where science is included and how it would become vital in advancing throughout centuries. This is a huge statement since science was still a controversial subject when met with religion. Stuff such as discoveries would indicate a world where religion does not have the answers or may even contradict ideas places by the puritan and Catholic Church.

Now, within the Royal Society, it not only continues to thrive as a noble-prize worthy organization but has expanded its’ study of the natural world. There seems to be fewer philosophical ideals since Philosophy does not lead to concrete facts; only inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning alone cannot explain discoveries such as those in astronomy and even chemistry. Science is not only respected but rather depended upon when advancing in the world; religion is now a separate matter due to both subjects questioning the legitimacy of their practices. While I’m all for philosophical viewpoints within a subject being studied it makes me wonder whether it’s philosophy that kept tensions rising for religious citizens? Would it have been possible to have these contemporary results of scientific discoveries if philosophy was a perspective still engraved in people’s minds? Women having involvement in the Royal Society is an accomplishment worth mentioning since it, Royal Society, was brought up to an group of the elite thus time being more accepting towards women in the field of science.

-Kristy Frausto

The Same Utopia of Science

Francis Bacon writes of a Utopia in his novel The New Atlantis. In this utopia there is a lot of structure around science. Throughout the text Bacon writes of the utopia having oder from the way they store their food to the way in which they “imitate and demonstrate meteors (1278)”.  I believe this is what many people today still see as a Utopia. One can easily see the influence of science and the way it designs a Utopia. We see this around us daily, we see it in films. Almost every film depicts a Utopia where science is helping us make life simpler and much smoother. Often Utopias are depicted as not having many problems due to science. In a Utopia we also see the answer to many questions. As Bacon described in his Utopia people were conducting experiments, experiments to understand the unknown. We have come a long way in understanding much of what Bacon did not understand but still hunger for other unanswered questions. I believe not much has changed on our view of Utopia and ways to approach it, influences by the Royal Society. Our world today is still obsessed with Science (though not a terrible thing) it is not allowing for more freedom in both the sciences and English. Because of all the questions that still remain today many remain focus on their goal to achieve all answers, like the experiments in Bacons novel and the Royal Society. The Royal Society today has moved even farther away from the humanities and culture. As an English Major I believe it is important for the Royal Society to make changes in finding way to incorporate the importance of English in science. Culture is also a huge factor in our world today and would be very important in forming a Utopia.

-Alondra Morales Aguilar

“City Upon a Hill”: A Utopia for its Time

I can see in John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity” how it may have been considered some kind of manifesto for a utopia in England in those times. Unlike today, Winthrop would not exclude the presence of a god from his rhetoric. Back then, to talk about “Justice and Mercy” meant that one was talking about the natural laws of man. However, the laws of man really mean the laws that have been given by a Judaeo-Christian God. It was not that they were trying to be tyrannically Christian, virtue really was synonymous with this idea of a God–one could not exist without the other. Although today this rhetoric is typically attributed to the far-right fundamentalist realm of politics, in Winthrop’s time this was revolutionary in the face of the vastly dominant Roman Catholic religion.

Winthrop was an advocate of people having the right to interpret the Bible for themselves. One specific part of Winthrop’s essay that doesn’t sound like the far-right fundamentalists of today, is when he alludes to the biblical idea that people should treat others how they would like to be treated and the idea that people should love their enemies. Whether this is wrong or not is a different question, but it puts into perspective how many ways the Bible was interpreted, which rings true today on how the Constitution is interpreted in different ways. Although we try to be much more secular now, Winthrop hints to something foreshadowing that represents the status quo of religion in our country. Winthrop advocates for religious freedom, and even goes as far as to say there should be peace “between Christians and others.” This reflects our country today where we advocate for religious freedom, but “other” any other religion. By othering any other religion, we mark our citizens as second-class, as if to say Christianity is the official language, so to speak, of our country. A subtlety like this encourages the ideas of “Justice and Mercy” to be filtered through–not the Bible–but those wielding the power to say “this is how it should be interpreted.” Unfortunately, this does not usually represent the country fairly. Furthermore, the problem with Christian rhetoric it often becomes cliche and it makes for empty promises. One example of the cliche that it could become would be the overused language of getting “tougher on crime.” What this means on the surface area is that criminals will get longer sentences and communities will be policed more–overall, this means justice, but this idea of justice is outdated and it usually distracts the public with seeing more arrests as a way of saying this policing is working. However, no one ever stops to question if sentences are fair or if there is a method of rehabilitation/education that could help rid communities of crime. People are more focused on “Justice” because it is an attractive pillar of Christianity.