Visiting Japan’s Rabbit Island
The small island of Ōkunoshima (大久野島) in the Inland Sea of Japan is famous for two things: poison gas and bunnies. In 1925, the Imperial Japanese Army started a secret program to develop chemical weapons in defiance of the Geneva Protocol. They built a gas plant on the island four years later that made mustard gas. Ōkunoshima was chosen for its isolation and to keep the plant secret the island was even removed from some maps.
After the war, the poison was disposed of and the laboratory animals—rabbits—were set loose. Without any predators on the island, the bunny population exploded, and now the island is full of tame rabbits that visiting Instagrammers have captured with videos and photos.
This is why I love Rob Delaney.
My first 4th of July post.
GOD. BLESS. AMERICA.
Jimmy John Liautaud, owner of “Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches”.
Fuck this guy.
Driven by hunger, I had another forced bachelor dinner tonight. I had a lot of trouble making up my mind whether to eat Chinese food or have a hamburger. God, I hate eating dinner alone. It's like being dead.
[For a double spaced, possibly easier to read version of this, download the .doc file here http://www.mediafire.com/?ymyxsuhshy7y65h ]
I think the most reasonable place to begin is by addressing the medium I was able to use for this project. Tumblr made it extraordinarily easy for me to compile a wide variety of poetry and some paintings by da Vinci, Michelangelo and even some graffiti by the infamous Banksy. The accessibility of the website along with the very friendly user-interface along with the seamless and, I will go so far as to say, aesthetically pleasing layout made the whole collection process fairly easy and enjoyable. I think using a website like Tumblr should be an encouraged option for all students assigned this project. Using Tumblr eliminated what must be a hassle for students who make a physical commonplace book: the actual cutting, pasting, printing, stapling, etc. In taking out all the physical hassle of creating a large collection from many different poets from many different eras, I was able to focus on the emphasis of the assignment, which was to demonstrate a wide reading and to show considerable thought on the relationships between each selection through various interwoven themes. There is only a single reason I can think of that would have made doing the project with paper better. That reason is in the very infrequent unreliability of the website. Tumblr is a fairly popular blog site, and their servers occasionally go down when they get overloaded with requests, uploads, and activity. The website typically goes down for about five or ten minutes at the most. That being said, the website going down happens very rarely, and only went down once while I was logged in and working on an entry.
As far as the number of entries goes, I ended with 42 individual selections. Fourteen of those entries were from works not of the Renaissance Era. I did this by keeping a tally sheet where, for every two entries I submitted from the Renaissance Era, I got to do one entry from a particular poet or poem that I like. I feel a little bit guilty for being so mathematical in my “1/3” approach. It doesn’t really coincide with the usual English major style of “throwing it up in the air and seeing how it shakes out.” That is not meant to slight English majors or praise mathematics students, I just don’t prefer to be so calculating.
On a different note, the themes chosen are hopefully fairly clear and defined. It was important to assess the themes chosen because I feel like sex, nature and ideas of reality are some of the three most common and widely used broader themes in all literature, second only to themes concerning the supernatural, which I was not up to the controversy of addressing. The most entries, with about twelve, was the subcategory of “Portrayals of Nature as Uplifting and Inspirational.” This is a surprising twist seeing how much love poetry comes from the Renaissance. However, this makes sense when it is considered that, often times, a poets love for his mistress can be transformed into a positive outlook on many other things, nature in particular being the most suited to have a positive outlook on. As the perfect example, take Shakespeare’s famous line “Shall I compare thee to a summers day?” Then, in the logical progression, the positive outlook on nature had to be complimented by its binary opposite, “Nature As Cruel or Ruthless.” There are enough portrayals of a harsh nature to fill an ocean, but it isn’t pleasant to immerse oneself in it for too long. This portrayal of nature is important to literature nonetheless.
The subcategory “Portrayals of Courtly or Idealized Love” was the second most populated. Again, this makes sense. Love poetry has always been popular and probably always will be. “Idealized Love” developed, interestingly, two different oppositional themes. The first, “Portrayals of Carnal Love” was inspired by Sir Philip Sidney’s Song 2 in “Astrophil and Stella” where Astrophil is mostly about bodily pleasure and lust. The second subcategory, “Evil or Bastardized Portrayals of Love” was inspired by the scene in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene when Britomart saves the maiden from Busyrane’s evil love spells. It was a vile scene, and sheds a nasty light on how wrong love can become sometimes.
The last two subcategories had to do with “Reality.” In particular, the instances when it proves to be happy and when it proves to be disappointing. I found more selections that depicted a harsh reality in which the expectations of the poet were either not met or entirely crushed while the subcategory “Instances when Reality Lives Up to Hopes and Expectations” is, admittedly, a bad one. There are enough poems out there to have plenty examples of this theme, but I don’t think this particular one is widely prevalent in literature until the Romantic Era at least.
Under those categories and within the framework of that system, drawing connections became quite easy. It was interesting to see how love, for instance, can evolve from something that would need to be guided by the restraint and order set in place by courtly or noble conventions of romance into a wild, passionate, uncontrollable force like in the poetry of Whitman or Ginsberg. Another interesting change was the conception of nature as we move forward on the timeline. It seems like John Donne’s conception of nature as something that can define and describe a love is an almost exclusively Renaissance attitude. Nature, for the Romantics like Wordsworth or Coleridge, would be something that one loves for its own sake, independent of one’s love for a woman.
Finally, the notation process of each individual entry needs to be addressed. The assignment was somewhat vague on what was preferred. Having to go about it as best as I thought suitable, I think it came out quite nicely. Some works simply deserve more treatment than others do. Some works are more dense in meaning with metaphor, allusion, symbolism, etc. Some are dainty little sonnets written for a mistress. While somewhat ambiguous, I believe that vagueness in instruction left a necessary gap that was every student’s task to fill with their own devices. It allowed me to structure for myself a large, almost overwhelming project in a way that made the process more enjoyable and beneficial to my education.
In conclusion, the process of making connections in this project between major literary themes, their minor nuances, across an entire timeline of literary movements, eras, and authors was absolutely beneficial in creating a perspective that sees it all at once. The keen eye this process helped develop will be indispensable in future studies.