Archive for the ‘My writing’ Category

For this week’s major writing assignment I have been asked to write a five page paper for my Jane Austen and the 18th Century course. As a graduate student I am expected to create my own topic and to bring in an additional source to analyze from outside the books assigned for class. To fulfill these two fairly simple requirements I decided that it would be interesting to compare Jane Austen’s Love and Friendship to Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders. The focus of my comparison would include the choice of literary form and how each main character’s style and “art” appeals to the sensibilities of their readers.

At the moment I have a decent collection of quotes and ideas of what I want to do with this paper but I am having minor difficulties with writing out an acceptable introduction to the whole thing. I have been informed many times that I don’t have to write the introduction before writing the body of a paper but my personal preference is to work my way through from start to finish instead of jumping around.

So, where to start? I know that during the 18th century it was difficult to survive as a woman unless you were connected to a man or some wealthy family–and even then a comfortable life was never guaranteed thing. But do I want to include this awareness in the introduction? Or, should I start with a much more direct attack at the 18th century conceptions of “art” and “sensibility” and how the written word was a method through which women of ill repute could use a certain degree of art in their writing in order to appeal to the sensibilities of their intended readers?

My gut is telling me to go with the second option–especially after going back and reading that last paragraph. Below will be my rambling attempts at an introduction to my paper:

In the struggle to survive on their own in a male and money dominated culture, women of the eighteenth century had limited morally acceptable choices–especially when their family’s social and economic status were taken into account. The primary choice for all was to find an advantageous marriage in which their money needs would be provided for by their husbands while they cared for the house and family. For those born into titled and wealthy families this expectation of matchmaking was a given and yet if a match could not be made those old maids in the making had the security of a home and yearly allowance. However, what about the gray area of social status given to those girls (soon to be women) who were raised within the sphere of the privileged families but held no claim to title or fortune? Their morally correct options could range from marriage like their better endowed peers to stepping down in station by becoming a governess or going into service in another household.


In the struggle to survive on their own, women of the eighteenth century often had to rely on the kindness of friends, family, and strangers depending on their social position—or lack thereof. Sometimes this reliance was wholly acceptable and received without any true art of persuasion or application to the sensibility of their relatives—as was the case of characters like Fanny Price from Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion. But, as made wholly apparent by the stories told by Laura from Love & Friendship and Moll Flanders in the novel that bears her name, not all women had the privilege of a wholly supporting adopted family combined with an honest steadfastness in “temper” to maintain them. Instead, these two women find themselves in more desperate circumstances in which their ideas of sensible necessity drive them to take certain unsavory actions in order to obtain monetary support of the lifestyle they felt was deserved. In their respective novels (or a collection of letters in the case of Laura), these two women attempt to explain the winding course of their lives as a lesson to their intended readers. These creations—supposedly penned by their own hand—represent the use of a written application of art in which appeals to the sensibilities of their readers.

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For my Writing for Public Purpose class we were given a week-long prompt in which we are asked to observe and then write down notes on three different things that stopped us in our tracks. The following are those three moments which I observed separately and noted separately. I put them together in one post now to aid me in thinking about how they come together.

1. Birds. I stopped twice to the sound and sight of birds this past Friday. First was on my way to a philosophy club meeting when I heard birdsong in the bushes/trees outside the administration building. I did physically freeze in my tracks and think about how lovely the sound was. That moment allowed me to reflect on what Brother John from Ireland had told my theology tour group. He emphasized the need to take time and observe the beauty around us: “Conscious Sensorial Contact with Nature.” The second was during the meeting itself when I saw a number of birds sitting in the tree outside our window. There was something simple and beautiful about the birds being there.

2. Clouds: This moment stopped me in my tracks on the same day of the birds. I guess it was my day of being observational and appreciating nature. The sky was covered at first with a blanket of fluffy gray. Then, I suddenly noticed that one cloud in the view before me was very pink compared to the rest. I knew it was the sunset but it struck me. I took the time to walk out and look back in the direction of the sun setting and took photos because the moment struck me as so peaceful and special. I felt the urge to compose a poem starting with the line: “for a moment the clouds were perfect.”

More photos I took of this moment are here.

3. Together. The third moments that froze time for me was yesterday during a chapter meeting on Hazing awareness. It wasn’t the meeting itself that caused things to slow down but rather the realization that we were all together and relaxed. I knew that I cared deeply about the people in the room, even the new prospective members I didn’t quite know yet. I knew that I would miss them if they were to ever slip out of my life and I knew that they will always be another family for me.

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I am supposed to be working on the next essay on my long list of homework assignments I wanted to complete before break ends. Am I? No. Instead I am taking a short break from researching two different pilgrimage sites and pilgrims to just type randomly here. Well, maybe not randomly. I am sure that if I keep thinking and typing long enough I will end up making some sort of point dealing with my essay assignment. I’ve certainly been thinking about it enough.

The assignment is for my Pilgrimages and Spiritual Journeys mid-term exam. I had three “essays” to write and this is the third and last one. It came as a prompt emailed out by my professor at the begining of the week:

Please review this ‘photo essay’ from NPR site:  after you have done so, do a little research on this particular pilgrimage and pilgrimage site.  Then, compare/ contrast the practices and experiences of the Guadalupe pilgrims (as evidenced in the photo essay) with the practices and experiences of the pilgrims to the site you presented (or will present) in class (this might mean a bit more research into your pilgrimage site).

100 Words: Photographer Alinka Echeverria On Pilgrimage

Seems easy enough, right? Wrong. The research I need to do has been about as productive as a wild goose hunt. There are very few articles online about the actual pilgrims who journey to either site. Most of the information I have found deals with the site itself and the history, not the people.

The information I have found is minimal and leads me to the conclusion that all pilgrims are similar. They may be heading to a different destination and hold varied beliefs. But, besides that they are all looking to experience the sacred and to find awe at the site they journey towards.

A pilgrim heading to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City goes to pay homage and ask the blessing of the virgin Mary. Or they simply go because they are curious to see the Basilica and the apron worn by Saint Juan Diego upon which an icon of the Virgin Mary miraculously appeared.

A pilgrim heading to and through the levels of the Buddhist temple Borobudur in Java, Indonesia also travels to experience the wonder of the place. To observe the history engraved on the walls and to pay homage to the birth, enlightenment, and transcendence of the Buddha. There are also many who only come to view out of curiosity as tourists, some with more appreciation for the site than others.

Something both sites have in common is that once a year both places have a festival to which thousands of pilgrims flock. The festival at the Basilica occurs starting on December 12th with the Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe. The festival at and around Borobudur, known as the Waisak Festival, occurs each May on the night of the full moon and lasts several days. Both celebrate the people to whom the sites were dedicated to and festivities, including candlelit processions, happen at each.

The only major difference that distinguishes the pilgrims of Guadalupe from those of Borobudur is their religious beliefs, location, and how they look. Otherwise, in spirit, all pilgrims are the same. They travel to experience, learn, and pray.

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