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Exemplar: Fall 2021

The Exemplar publishes and showcases exemplary student writing completed in humanities courses at Dalton State

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Editor's Note

Editor's Note

The Exemplar continued to recognize essays written by Dalton State students in humanities classes. The first section, "Then and Now: Learning from Biology and History," highlights works by John Haley, Ashley Fann, Jonathan Fleming, Kevin Jones, and Danielle Hardy. These essays focus on how history and the natural world define who we are, define our identity and understanding of the past, and define our hopes for the future. Students look at how the natural world and human concerns and developments intersect and shape our realities.

The second section, "Media, Mysticism, and the Mind” showcases essays from Jacob Dills, Cole Cosby and Grace Neff, Caroline Hasty, Lananh Huynh, and Ashley Fann, displaying the human fascination with morality, mediums, and magic. These essays point to a vision of a world that could be and the modern interpretations and components that alter our vision and perceptions.


Fall 2021 Awards:


Best 4000-Level Paper: "Celestial Wisdom Calms the Mind: Samuel Johnson's Moral Vision in The Vanity of Human Wishes" by Jacob Dills


Best 3000-Level Paper: “The Influence of Miyamoto Musashi and the Book of Five Rings on Modern and Contemporary Mixed Media" by Cole Cosby and Grace Neff


Best 1000-Level Paper: “Our World Perfected: A Study of Biomimicry" by John Haley



Table of Contents


Then and Now: Learning from Biology and History

“Our World Perfected: A Study of Biomimicry" by John Haley

Best 1000-level Paper


“Tangible Masquerade" by Ashley Fann


“A Comparative Analysis of A Common Thread and Independence and Empire" by Jonathan Fleming


"Biomathematics: The 'Logarithmic' Link between Biomimicry and Natural Mathematics" by Kevin Jones


"Shakespeare's Hamlet: Accuracy vs. Modernization" by Danielle Hardy


"Public Perceptions of COVID-19 in the Prison System" by Jonathan Fleming



Media, Mysticism, and the Mind

“Celestial Wisdom Calms the Mind: Samuel Johnson's Moral Vision in The Vanity of Human Wishes" by Jacob Dills

Best 4000-level Paper


“The Influence of Miyamoto Musashi and the Book of Five Rings on Modern and Contemporary Mixed Media" by Cole Cosby and Grace Neff

Best 3000-level Paper


"Life Without Death: Out of Magic's Reach" by Caroline Hasty


"Psyches in Strange the Dreamer" by Lananh Huynh


"Momentary Apocalypse" by Ashley Fann





Then and Now: Learning from Biology and History

"Our World Perfected: A Study of Biomimicry"

John Haley


Best 1000-level Paper


What is your world? Gazing out the window, do you see a bustling cityscape or naked wilderness? Perhaps, that window cannot be reached; instead, it is a solid, glowing screen that transports you from the tangibility of reality to a digital Earth beyond our own. Nevertheless, between these stark contrasts, the truth of these drastically different worlds lies within their unison. They are one and the same, interconnected by the strings of life and warped by prejudice. Since the dawn of humankind, the concept of human ingenuity lies within the conquest of nature: striking down the stronger predators with sharper intellect, building foundations on land unhabitable, and mass-conversion of gravely hills to metropolitan concrete jungles. However, this apex inclination strives not from our dominion but rather subjugation to the influence and perfection of the natural world. Janine Benyus’s “Biomimicry in Action” reveals that humanity’s achievements should stem not from the birth of invention but from the roots of biological resolution. Biological resolution being the pure genius of the natural world around us and the solution that nature provides humanity every day, finding roots in Godly flawlessness and, through the use of eco-phenomenology, becomes utilized and honed by evolution only to be defined by human choice: our interplay with the environment that encompasses us.

Before analyzing the origin and future of biomimicry, we must first understand what biomimicry is within itself. Janine Benyus, a biologist and natural sciences author, describes biomimicry as “a new discipline that tries to learn from the [genius]” of the natural world around us (00:34). This discipline focuses on the utilization of Earth’s environment to solve complex problems and break down the riddles of survival. As Benyus puts it, “we are not the first ones to build,” but it is the millions of other species and even inorganic rock that has had the advantage of time and patience (03:31). It is the significance of the active world beyond the Homo sapiens species that biomimicry draws its inspiration. One example of biomimicry that Benyus describes is the development of the bullet train based on kingfishers. J.R. West, the engineer of the bullet train, understood that kingfishers would “go from one density of medium, the air, into another density of medium, water,” and therefore based his design of the train, which traveled between intense mediums via tunnels, off the elegant bird (05:10). It is this exploration of nature that fuels the engine of biomimicry, the roots of which we can unravel through the study of mysticism.

Eco-phenomenology is the relationship between base phenomenology and environmental philosophy, stating that ecological self-evaluation can morph philosophical tradition to understand the world from an ecologically minded viewpoint. By admitting that nature is, in many ways, perfect, we can simplify miracles into utility. Eco-Phenomenology: Back to Earth Itself is an anthological collection of differing perspectives on the many ways our environment provides phenomena to stimulate the concept that nature is mystic in its perfection. It is these phenomena that make up the essential roots of biomimicry. Charles Brown, Doctor of Philosophy and Ecology, writes that with “the discovery of the mortality of nature,” realizing the natural world around us is both authentic and integral, “the traditional imagery of earth as GAIA is transfigured from Goddess to fellow mortal” (56). In essence, understanding the miracle of king fisher’s breaking water allows civilization to transpose prodigy to practicality. “The sun, the rain, and all manner of” natural miracles we hold faith in, through higher powers such as God(s) or employing sheer marvel, are typically seen as “good [miracles];” however, eco-phenomenology teaches us that, while admirable, Mother Earth is concrete and practical (10). Biomimicry is the afterthought of eco-phenomenology, which converts marvel to efficacy. As “people” start “beginning to remember that organisms” live alongside society, we can realize that they “are doing things very similar to what we need to do (Benyus 03:57). Instead of assuming the environment lives within its realm, eco-phenomenology promotes Benyus question of “what can we learn from this organism” (16:13). Brown and Benyus allude that humanity should be looking towards nature as a guide, applied to both a world of philosophy and engineering. 


Beyond its miraculous origins, nature continues to sharpen itself by evolution, perfection honed through millions of years. Instead of pointing out the obvious fact that this rock we live on, named Earth, survived 5.6 billion years without Homo sapiens, we can delve into David Eggleton’s “The Cloud Forest,” a poem exploring the infinite relationship between organisms. Unraveling the secrets of the smallest enzyme, Eggleton describes a “lineage of millionaires” being “[filtered] down to the stick bud of a fern frond” (1, 2). The molecular structure of every breathing creature features thousands of years of genetic code that strengthen themselves every generation. Nature has been and will be one of civilization’s best teachers, as it has had time to form solutions to many of humanity’s challenges. As Benyus puts it, “we are in a long, long line of organisms to come to this planet:” a line that remains ever-expanding as the fundamental teacher of biomimicry (15:00). Delving deeper into the product evolution manufactured, we look to biomimetics. The term biomimetics, derived from the study of formation, structure, and function of biological mechanisms, is explained thoroughly in Bioinspiration and Biomimicry in Chemistry Reverse-Engineering Nature. Gerhard F Swiegers, Professor of chemical catalysis, elaborates that “every winged aircraft…ever built” relies solely on the “underlying principle by which birds fly,” classifying the study of biomimicry as the fundamental understanding of life (5). Birds, which are simple creatures that have improved over countless ages, become a crucial example of natural evolution dictating technological wonder. Swiegers believes that “Biomimicry” is a “strategy for not only taking advantage of Nature,” and the advantage of the time it holds over us, “but also as a way to combat the negative…impact” we currently impose on the simple complexity of Earth’s development (9).

      However, evolution’s functionalism flourishes beyond the reinforcement of biomimicry’s sound design but extends to being one of the core studies of biomimicry itself. “Evolutionary Computation and Genetic Programming,” found within the anthropology Engineered Biomimicry, investigates evolutionary computation: examples of drawing inspiration, for artificial discoveries, from biological systems. By exploring genetic programming, we can link physical evolution to the digital world and show how biomimicry inspires technology to learn from the best computers, the brains within our skulls. Alan Turing, a pioneer of computer science and famous for the Turing test, explained that machines would need to learn in a fashion similar to children to form intelligence. Turing produced some of the first examples of biomimicry within the computation by studying the development of living species. He learned that adaptation was best suited for “gain in generality…producing sets or populations of programs at each moment rather than individuals” (Turing). Dubbing this theory’ population of programs,’ Banzhaf Wolfgang, author of “Evolutionary Computation and Genetic Programming,” explains that “Computer analysts, when producing solutions within an adaptive system, compare generation procedures as well as to their efficiency in producing solutions within a population” (443). In principle, we use evolution to strengthen both genetic and digital code through generations of organic and inorganic. Benyus’s speech also mentions the use of algorithms drawing guidelines through biomimicry. Benyus notes a “software program” used to create bridges, gaining its blueprints from “trees and bones” (09:27). This algorithm, paired with a population of programs, provides concrete examples of biomimicry shaped by and utilizing evolution. Ultimately, because “Life can be paraphrased… as information processing in a body,” we can transfer the knowledge of biomimicry beyond tangible utilization but function within digital code, hand-written words, and word-of-mouth innovation (Wolfgang 429).

Reducing our perspective from the outer-world view of multiple generations to the eyes of a single small child, we can understand the surface value of biomimicry as what we can learn from nature. Getting dirty and eating said dirt are things children are notorious for in their younger ages. “On the Playground: Enabling Creativity and Risk Taking; What Would Nature Do? Biomimicry and Problem‐Solving” entertain further details of what kids can learn from the nature towards which they have an innate drawing. Beth Bailey and Jeff Lindstrom, a historian and an author, respectively, denote what kids absorb from the nature they surround themselves in. Beth states that “Children learn everywhere, not just in the classroom,” instead, children are engaged in all environments that “respect their naturally curious approach to the world” (Bailey). Promoting activism in the environment around us, and the generations after, encourages the “optimal learning laboratory” that nature provides and allows us to “harness that potential for the greatest gain” (Lindstrom). After all, as discussed earlier, animals, plants, and even “microbes…are ‘engineers’ aided by billions of years of research” (Bailey). Engaging in the environment delivers two outcomes: learning from the most outstanding teacher, grasping the concept of biomimicry, and partaking in the natural selection of genetic promotion. One prominent example of this is selective breeding. When we choose the fatter seeds or juicier berries, we promote natural growth, which, in turn, provides a means to “minimize the [need] of material, the kind of material” used within the organism “and add” human “design to it” (Benyus 10:02). Decisively, the wonders of biomimicry, bio-utilization, and bioinspiration all start with us venturing into the world that we often forget so connected to our own.

In conclusion, biomimicry finds its roots in phenomenon following practicality, is honed by millenniums of evolution, and is deeply refined by human activity and choice itself. For civilization to achieve the amazement found in nature, they must revert to a childlike state and “touch the dirt” with curious digits (Bailey). If our fingers wish to grasp the secret answers that nature offers every dawn, we must ascertain the pure connection to this ecosphere we innately share as a species that marveled, understood, and interacted with the natural world. When we ask the question: what is your world? We can turn to biomimicry and discover the definitive answer found in that same world we ponder over. When struck by natural human curiosity, I ask you to kneel, to touch the Earth, and to send queries through loam and soil, for you will always obtain a new answer known all along.




                                           Works Cited

Bailey, Beth, et al. “On the Playground: Enabling Creativity and Risk Taking; What Would Nature Do? Biomimicry and Problem‐Solving.” Design Management Review, vol. 30, no. 1, 2019, pp. 16–25., doi:10.1111/drev.12157. Accessed 3 April 2021.

Benyus, Janine. “Biomimicry in Action.” TED, July 2009, Accessed 3 April 2021.

Brown, Charles. Eco-Phenomenology: Back to Earth Itself. State University of New York Press, 2003, pp. 1–136. Accessed 13 April 2021.

Eggleton, David. “The Cloud Forest.” New Zealand electronic poetry centre, Accessed 8 March 2021.

Swiegers, Gerhard F. Bioinspiration and Biomimicry in Chemistry Reverse-Engineering Nature. John Wiley & Sons, 2012, pp. 1–41. Accessed 3 April 2021.

Wolfgang, Banzhaf. “Evolutionary Computation and Genetic Programming.” Engineered Biomimicry, edited by Akhlesh Lakhtakia, Elsevier, 2013, pp. 429–448. April 15, 2021.

"A Tangible Masquerade: How the Interwar Period Established American Materialism"

Ashley Fann


Smoke circulates through the air, accompanying a variety of jazz notes and unintelligible chatter. Defying nationwide prohibition, alcohol flows as young flappers dance in rooms full of gilded people living gilded lives complete with the possession of middle-class and so-called sophisticated objects. This is an image of the interwar period, which encapsulates the events between World War I and World War II. Though brief, the imagery above captures the masquerading practices beginning to become ingrained into American daily life and overall culture. Though complete with distinguishing events, like the Jazz Age, Prohibition, The Great Depression, and The New Deal, the 1920s and 1930s are not two distinct entities, but, rather, a section of the linear American story that holds events facilitating shifts in social practices, concepts, and instincts. The connected decades are marked by times of prosperity followed by poverty, as evidenced by the Roaring 20s followed by The Great Depression. As Americans fortified their relationship with convenience thanks to technological innovation, they unknowingly established a link between materialistic possessions and factors of social status determination that would set concepts still in place in the twentieth century. Approaching the question of the reach of incoming advances will detail the impact it had on community values, beliefs, and the overall evolving American culture. By analyzing the cyclical relationship of commercial and social progression, it becomes clear the interwar period cemented American dependency on materialism in relation to social placement and value of self. The interconnectivity of technological developments, innovation, implementation of new advertising techniques, the image of consumption, increased leisure time, and the influence of prohibition lay the foundation of how the value of the possession of tangible objects became ingrained into the zeitgeist of the era and continues to linger in the twentieth century. ­­

            The overall technological developments and innovation of the interwar period aided the process of cementing material need and desire. Objects ranging from the life-altering automobile to the breakfast-altering toaster displayed technological growth that improved quality, quantity, accessibility, or a combination of these positive impacts on the product or experience. As noted by historian Randall Patnode, the showcase of new technology helped facilitate and usher in socio-cultural change by providing an “astounding” revolution that “amplified” preexisting differences and encouraged openness to change.[1] This increasing openness to change led to an increased value of tangible objects. In chapter two of his 1922 novel Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis pointedly described “the Babbitt whose god was Modern Appliances” to call upon this increasing value while also bringing attention to the absurdity of it through literary satire.[2] By crafting this phrase, Lewis allowed readers to interpret the characterization as exposing the mindless idealization of inanimate objects which calls attention to the depressing dependence on those items.

            Innovation introduced a new theme: convenience, more specifically, an amount of convenience never before known or even possible. This convenience began to spread and became part of the routine daily processes ranging from the family dinner table to individual closets and far beyond. An area of life that experienced a significant shift in terms of convenience was travel, especially daily travel via the automobile. According to historian David. E. Kyvig, the spark of materialism resulted from advances in the automobile industry, with vehicle ownership becoming “commonplace” and therefore transforming “American daily life”.[3] Demand for automobile ownership was in part need-based, allowing better transportation to work and other necessary commitments, and in part driven by the desire to fill increasing leisure time and improve social life. The “insatiable consumer appetite for automobiles” was so high that it aided post-World War I economic growth.[4] Kyvig supported the claim that the automobile functioned as a critical catalyst for mid-1920s materialism by explaining that the industry’s innovation “altered the manner in which people conducted their daily life.”[5] Historian Susan Currell also backed this claim by detailing how automobiles paved a “dramatic” path through “the social and economic landscape” of the interwar period.[6] Automobile ownership transformed from an unattainable luxury into a necessity for both social gain and mundane life relations, like transportation to work. It also impacted the career opportunities of Americans by providing the ability to travel further daily while simultaneously advancing social standing.

Another field that held major advancement during the interwar period was household electricity, especially in urban areas. Accessibility and availability of household electricity began to increase through the 1920s, helping to “redesign” the structure of “daily existence”.[7] Electricity sparked a cyclical nature because increased availability heightened demand, and as homes became electrified, the number of appliances increased, as did American’s literacy rate. Currell noted that the “electrification and modernization” of daily life “created a consumer boom” which intensified “mass production”.[8] The reach of mass production ranged from one’s clothing to their nutrition and even lengthened their working day.

Individuals in 2021 have lived lives full of mass-produced, store-bought clothing, rarely handcrafting an item from scratch. The practice of, virtually or physically, visiting a store to purchase clothing found roots during the interwar period. As store-bought clothing began to establish itself as a common practice, so too did the ability to mask apparent signs of poverty. Mass-produced clothing, noted Kyvig, featured standard designs which functioned as a device to “disguise, at least to some extent, one’s individual economic situation.”[9]­­ The popularity of other avenues and tools to change one’s appearance, like cosmetics and dieting, increased alongside store-bought fashion. In his iconic 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald represented the preoccupation with one’s appearance through Myrtle Wilson. He described Wilson, a minor character and the mistress of Tom Buchanan, in a scene in which she changes “her costume” into “an elaborate afternoon dress,” which “violently” changed her demeanor.[10] Similar themes occurred in Lewis’s Babbitt, through commentary on George’s lawn and bedroom. George F. Babbitt’s neatly kept lawn “delighted him” because its perfection “made him perfect also”.[11] This depiction reflected the notion that the appearance of one’s possessions reflects the entirety of their life, following key factors of materialism. Lewis continued to call attention to the detachment brought on by this notion by describing the Babbitt’s bedroom as a standardized, “masterpiece among bedrooms, right out of Cheerful Modern houses for Medium Incomes,” and sentimentally void, “It had the air of being a very good room in a very good hotel.”[12]  

Beneath the newly acquired store-bought clothing was the body, the body now consuming more processed foods. Increased appetite for the illusion or sense of sophistication was paralleled at the dinner table as the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) became commonplace. Intriguingly, an illusion of heightened social class generated the rising popularity of prepackaged and processed food. This perception originated with the desire “to copy” the elite French diet “by simplifying the menu and making use of a rapidly developing variety of commercially processed foods”.[13] Rather than valuing nutrition or other health information, food became equated with social status, and convenience began to determine the food placed on an individual’s plate.

The introduction of convenience decreased time dedicated to specific tasks, like cooking. This increased leisure time fortified consumer culture by creating additional amounts of free time and therefore opened more opportunities to spend and gain via ownership or spend and consume frivolous entertainment. Following the cyclical nature of cause and effect, this increase in time for leisure activity established new consumption trends ranging from shopping for recently introduced mass-produced clothing or attending entertainment activities like drive-in theaters, which became increasingly popular as the interwar period came to an end. As explained by Kyvig, this new feature of life sparked a rise in participation in entertainment activities; “not only did people have more time and money,” but “they [also] increasingly spent it ‘spending.”[14] Social activity spiked due to convenient travel, with the automobile becoming “a private leisure space.”[15] However, negative aspects accompanied these new trends. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, he provided insight on the negative impacts these trends could have on individuals experiencing the shift through Daisy Buchanan by conveying her as feeling trapped in a suffocating amount of excess leisure time, leading her to desperately state, “What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon? Cried Daisy, “and the day after that, and the next thirty years.”[16]     

As Americans found themselves possessing the opportunity to gain more through consumption, they also gained a new avenue of payment. Another practice that became established as commonplace due to interwar period innovation is purchasing via credit. Currell explained that the “increased availability” of this payment method enabled more “consumption of everyday goods” as well as more significant monetary commitments like automobiles without the necessity to save “for them first”.[17] Currell stated, “By the end of the 1920s, half of all households had one or more payment installment plans” and “two-thirds of all new cars were purchased on credit”.[18] Buying habits would experience lasting changes thanks to innovations in credit. 

A leading factor of increased material consumption proved to be improvements in advertising and marketing. Kyvig explained that advertising personnel “paid increasing attention to human psychology” and dedicated attention and time to implementing “subtle messages” that encouraged purchase.[19] Typically these messages conveyed that acquiring a tangible good, like an automobile or radio, would increase social status and overall enjoyment of life. Historian Paul V. Murphy analyzed these individual priorities, goals, and hopes and described the “new era” as defining “a modern American mass culture founded upon” attaining “joy in the [tangible] goods of life” and “a commitment to personal fulfillment”.[20] These marketing techniques, still in place today, prey on involuntary human psychological vulnerability. An example of current use of this idea is evidenced in the marketing of fast-food corporations that take advantage of human response to the colors red and yellow, which subconsciously cause the sense of urgent hunger.[21]

Not only did marketing impact individual psychology, but it also affected community consciousness. Advertisers attempted to sell social unity and connection through the marketing of technological advancement. Patnode detailed a specific instance of this in his article “What These People Need Is Radio”. He wrote about the manner in which marketing shaped community image, perception, and assumption of rural life in relation to radios. During the interwar period, the press both directly and indirectly encouraged urbanization. Patnode explained that “while characterizations of” the urban and the rural “may have been” based on “stereotypes,” the impact of rural adoption of radio secured those stereotypes “in public consciousness”. [22] Because individuals living in rural areas were portrayed as “isolated” and “cut off” from urban centers of entertainment, advertisers were able to conjure the notion that the technology of the radio would function as a “bridge” between the two ways of life.[23] By targeting supposedly out-of-touch farmers, advertisers of the time indirectly and unintentionally increased the appeal of their product for city-living individuals who desired to actively avoid isolation, especially the severity of isolation depicted in rural life. Advertising tactics reinforced the notion that rural individuals or communities could “be redeemed” by “importing urban culture”.[24] Marketing of objects like the radio reinforced the community desire to shift from a rural to an urban lifestyle without explicitly stating it, leading to a population increase in the city and a further catalyzation of consumption. Despite the negative connotation implied by marketing manipulation of the rural image, the radio technology did serve a purpose for farmers as they were “the only group in America presumed to benefit financially” from radio use.[25]

As an occurrence commonly synonymous with the 1920s, Prohibition also proved the significance of community thought and perspective. Prohibition catalyzed the sense of being “surrounded by easily observable signs” of “a new era” of daily life through increased government involvement and apparent social factors.[26] The confiscation and criminalization of alcohol led to the practice of bootlegging and sparked a new sophisticated view of the act of drinking in upper-class settings. It also heightened the influence of peer perspective on the action of individuals. As Kyvig noted, details of life during prohibition show that one’s community “determined the routines” of their “daily life” by setting “standards” and binding groups of geographically close people together.[27] This significantly “shaped individual” days and therefore began to become interlaced into lives.[28] Historians, like Kyvig, have documented the prevalence and strength of community influence by explaining that it had “a stronger” impact “than police enforcement” in relation to abiding prohibition laws.[29] The strength of community value, perspective, and reputation reached further into individual daily lives during the interwar period and gradually implemented new social beliefs and functions. These subtle details established social practices currently in place in the twentieth century.    



Although it is relatively easy to connect these topics, it is also imperative to recognize that these shifts occurred gradually. As noted by Kyvig, these changes “did not immediately attract attention” and would only be recognized as “significant alterations in” overall culture in retrospect.[30] The rate at which these changes reached communities varied as well. However, as Kyvig stated, the multitude of developments cemented the 1920s as “a decade in which Americans firmly embraced a new manner of living”.[31] Formerly established practices began to “wither” as “new ways of independent living proliferated” throughout the interwar period.[32]  

Twentieth-century daily life is closer to the daily life of the interwar period than modern individuals may be aware of or recognize. Not only are these materialistic factors a part of current American culture, but they are also ingrained in worldwide social values and concepts. The innovation of the interwar period laid the foundations of modern technological advancement and provided basic models of applications and other tolls in use today, tools that most cannot imagine functioning without. American and international culture will continue to evolve, but looking to the past will provide a blueprint of how a new socio-cultural modernity became established.      


Currell, Susan. American Culture in the 1920s. Twentieth-Century American Culture, 

Edinburg: Edinburgh University Press, 2009. 

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925. Project

Gutenberg. Accessed 13 April 2021.

Kyvig, David E. Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1939: Decades of Promise and Pain

Greenwood Press “Daily Life Through History” Series. Westport, CT: Greenwood 

Publishing Group, 2002. 

Lewis, Sinclair. Babbitt. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1922. Project Gutenberg. 

Accessed 23 February 2021.

Murphy, Paul V. The New Era: American Thought and Culture in the 1920s. American 

Thought and Culture. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012. 

Patnode, Randall. “What These People Need Is Radio: New Technology, the Press, and 

Otherness in 1920s America.” Technology and Culture 44, no. 2 (2003): 285-305.


[1] Randall Patnode, “What These People Need Is Radio: New Technology, the Press, and Otherness in 1920s America,” Technology and Culture 44, no.2 (2003): 285-305. Accessed April 13, 2021. ProQuest.

[2] Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1922).

[3] David E. Kyvig, Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1939: Decades of Promise and Pain (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002), 21.  

[4] Kyvig, Daily Life, 6.

[5] Kyvig, Daily Life, 22.

[6] Susan Currell, American Culture in the 1920s (Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 171.

[7]Kyvig, Daily Life, 44.

[8]Currell, American Culture, 171.  

[9] Kyvig, Daily Life, 109.

[10] F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925).

[11]Lewis, Babbitt.  

[12]Lewis, Babbitt

[13]Kyvig, Daily Life, 92.  

[14]Kyvig, Daily Life, 184. 

[15]Susan Currell, American Culture in the 1920s, 122.

[16] Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.

[17]Currell, American Culture, 172

[18]Currell, American Culture, 172

[19]Kyvig, Daily Life, 26.

[20]Paul V. Murphy, The New Era: American Thought and Culture in the 1920s (Lanhamn, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012), 12.  

[21]Emily Statham, Dalton State College Peer Education Training, April 6, 2021.  

[22]Patnode, “What These People Need Is Radio”, 2003.

[23]Patnode, “What These People Need Is Radio”, 2003.

[24]Patnode, “What These People Need Is Radio”, 2003.

[25]Patnode, “What These People Need Is Radio”, 2003.  

[26]Kyvig, Daily Life, 1.

[27]Kyvig, Daily Life, 9.

[28] Kyvig, Daily Life, 10.

[29]Kyvig, Daily Life, 16.

[30]Kyvig, Daily Life, 6-7.

[31]Kyvig, Daily Life, 6.  

[32]Murphy, The New Era, 2-3.

"A Comparative Analysis of A Common Thread and Independence and Empire"

Jonathan Fleming


            The US cotton textile industry has played a pivotal role in the history of the nation. Its development and progression was a driving force behind the industrial revolution experienced in the United States and the longevity of the slave economy, helping determine the direction of Reconstruction after the Civil War. Given the scope of the textile industry’s influence, historians have used many historical lenses in their attempt to analyze this industry. Within this vein exist two books: A Common Thread by Beth English and Independence and Empire by Patrick Hearden. While these two texts seek to engage with the same source material, the different choices made by the authors offer greater insight into the multiple narratives that may be seen in this area of research. As these two authors seek to analyze the influence of the US textile industry, they utilize differing historical lenses in their endeavor with English analyzing the US textile industry through a micro-labor historical lens, and Hearden, utilizing a cultural historical lens to analyze the progression of this industry.

            In A Common Thread, Beth English seeks to highlight the way market forces and labor organization influenced the US textile industry and contributed to capital flight from New England into the South. English hopes that this analysis will shine a light on current global trends in capital mobility. She seeks to do this through the analysis of the movement of a single company, the Dwight Manufacturing Company.[1] This micro-labor historical lens causes English to rely heavily upon primary sources derived from labor organizations and industrialists responding to those organizations, which differs from Hearden’s reliance on industrialists attempting to define their cultural and political positions.

            In his book, Hearden’s focus is on the larger cultural forces that influenced Southern textile development and how Northern textile companies responded to the textile industry in the South. Hearden argues that it was Southern desire for economic independence, coupled with the desire to “defeat the hated Yankees,” both before and after the civil war, that led to the development of the Southern textile industry. [2] Within this cultural historical lens, Hearden chooses to focus on the broader trends in the Northern and Southern textile industry, such as the desire of the Southern industrialists to break free from a dependency on Northern manufactured goods, as well as the attempts of Northern industrialists to disrupt Southern competition, instead of zeroing in on a single company or historic figure.

            These differing historical lenses influence the areas of interest for each author and how each author engages with the source material. One immediate, prominent area is in the date range each author chooses to cover. Because of his desire to explain sweeping cultural influences over time, Hearden expands the dates of his research from the Antebellum period in the first chapter, to the beginnings of the 20th century in the ninth.[3] This allows Hearden to analyze the progression of cultural shifts, as well as the influence that those shifts had upon the US textile industry over time. English, on the other hand, limits much of her focus to changes happening within the Dwight Manufacturing Company from 1880-1920. This is done to fully understand how market forces influenced capital flight from the North before it was a “foregone conclusion”. [4] So, while we can see a significant overlap in the time that each author addresses, we are also able to see how their lenses influences the direction of their research.

            Another aspect in which English and Hearden differ is in their analysis of how labor organization and market forces affected the US textile industry. Both authors acknowledge that it was a mixture of legislation and unionization that harmed the Northern textile industry, and the lack of both that garnered growth in the Southern textile industry. Even in this though, they differ in which aspect, labor or legislation, that they choose to emphasize with English emphasizing labor’s organization and protest raising the labor standards in the North, while Hearden emphasizes the role regional labor standard laws had on stifling Northern textile mills’ ability to compete.

            Hearden’s focus on sweeping cultural trends centers around Anti-Northern sentiment in the South, as well as on the Northern response to the growth and competition of the Southern textile industry. In this, much of the book is dedicated to Northern attempts at legislative reform to stifle Southern growth. Hearden devotes a small section of his book to the attempts of Northern capitalists in Massachusetts and Northern unionists to support southern labor organizations, though this is presented as another form of perceived Northern aggression upon Southern industrial interests.[5] Overwhelmingly Hearden emphasizes the attempt at legislative reform to curb growth in the Southern textile industry. He highlights the attempts of Northern industrialists to institute federal labor standard laws to stifle the competitive advantage that Southern textile industries enjoyed.[6] Overall, any discussion Hearden presents concerning labor organization is always within the lens of sectional conflict between Northern and Southern cotton mills.

            In contrast, English dedicates much of her work to the efforts of labor organizations, within both the Northern and Southern textile mills, and the effects that they had upon the textile industry as a whole. While she dedicates a sizeable portion of her book to the development of legislation that regulated labor within the United States, this is often presented as a by-product of the influence of labor unions. [7] Because English attempt to analyze labor and capital movement within the Us textile industry, she focuses on the influence labor unions had upon the Dwight Manufacturing Industry.

            Another aspect in which the historical lenses of each author becomes apparent is in the way that they present historical figures of the time. In both books, Samuel Gompers, a prominent labor organizer, and William Gregg, a Southern industrialist, are brought into the narrative, but they are given different levels of significance. In English’s book, William Gregg is given a brief mention and quotation, focusing on his desire to free the South from dependence on Northern industry for finished goods.[8] In contrast to this, Hearden presents Gregg on 8 pages, specifically referencing Gregg’s support of slavery, secession, and Southern economic independence.[9] This emphasis on Gregg’s ideals showcases and supports the cultural narrative presented by Hearden: that the growth of the Southern textile industry was an attempt to gain economic independence as a rejection of the North.

            While Hearden utilizes William Greg’s influence frequently, but sparsely references Samuel Gompers, another prominent historical figure in the history of the US textile industry, within Independence and Empire. Gompers and his organization, the American Federation of Labor, are mentioned twice in Hearden’s book. In both cases Hearden attempts to show how the North sought to utilize Southern labor organizations to stifle growth and competition with Northern textile mills.[10] English, however, inserts Gompers into 8 separate pages, with the American Federation of Labor appearing on a further 24 pages.[11] English’s desire to highlight the effect that labor organization had on the US textile industry would necessitate an emphasis on the influence of Gompers and the American Federation of Labor. By highlighting the work of the American Federation of Labor in consolidating labor organizations in the United States, and specifically the US textile industry, English showcases the pivotal role that these organizations had on the movement of capital across the history of the US textile industry. By comparing the way each author engages with prominent historical figures of the time, we may obtain a clearer understanding of each lens that the authors employ.

            As the study of history has progressed, new avenues of historical research and engagement within the historical narrative have presented themselves. As we implement these historical lenses, we gain a deeper understanding of where we have been in our effort to define where we are going. Both English and Hearden showcase how different lenses can deepen the pool of knowledge that we may all draw from. Through the micro-labor historical lens she utilizes, English showcases how labor organization shaped the development of the US textile industry and influenced the flight of capital and labor to the Southern United States during the early 20th century. By analyzing the US textile industry through a cultural historical lens, Hearden explains the way in which anti-Northern sentiment and sectional conflict fueled the boom in the Southern textile industry from the Antebellum period, through the 20th century. Each analysis presented by these two authors reveals a new aspect to the complex story of the American textile industry and how that industry has influenced the story of our nation.


[1] Beth England, A Common Thread: Labor, Politics, And Capital Mobility in the Textile Industry. (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2006) 1-6

[2] Patrick Hearden, Independence and Empire: The New South’s Cotton Mill Campaign. (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press) xiii-xv

[3] Patrick Hearden, Independence and Empire, 3-150

[4] Beth English, Common Thread, 4-5

[5] Patrick Hearden, Independence and Empire, 100-101

[6] Patrick Hearden, Independence and Empire, 100-101, 105

[7] Beth English, Common Thread, 21 Indeed, much of chapters 2, 4-7 are dedicated to the work of labor unions and their influence on the Dwight Manufacturing Company.

[8] Beth English, Common Thread, 40

[9] Patrick Hearden, Independence, 10-13, 15-17, 40,90-91

[10] Patrick Hearden, Independence, 101,104

[11] Beth English, Common, 27-28, 35, 71-76, 79-82, 88, 90, 103-104, 115, 131-134, 148-149, 178

"Biomathematics: The 'Logarithmic' Link between Biomimicry and Natural Mathematics"

Kevin Jones


Janine Benyus's “Biomimicry in Action” speaks of biological processes within nature and how these processes can be utilized to advance human infrastructure. Benyus focuses on the scientific aspect of biomimicry, but mathematics also plays an essential role. Biomimicry relies on mathematically sound solutions from plants and animals; as Benyus describes, humans need the "blueprints or the recipes" from nature, and those are typically best described in mathematical terms (8:28). Mathematics, which was initially thought of as a human concept, is more prevalent in nature than one may think. Biomimicry bridges the gap between the human and natural world through a mathematical lens. Janine Benyus's "Biomimicry in Action" describes how organisms solve challenging problems through applied mathematics; how organisms use their knowledge and can be observed and harnessed to advance human civilization. Benyus's observation of the natural world proves that mathematics is more than a human concept and is omnipresent throughout the domesticated and undomesticated world.

Mathematics is Not Strictly Human

            While one may argue that mathematics was created by humans to better understand the world around them, nature has used many mathematical concepts and theorems to sustain life, proving this notion to be false. The most abundant example of mathematics in nature is optimization. Honeybees, which are best known for their hexagonal architecture, have been using it for centuries. Bees have been using hexagonal tiling for such a long time that Charles Darwin—the father of evolution himself—speculated on it. According to an article by Cambridge University, Darwin “carried out his own experiments” in order to give “his theory of natural selection” some merit (“The Evolution of Honeycomb”). Darwin confirmed that bees "built up cells in circles," which eventually led to hexagons ("The Evolution of Honeycomb). Darwin’s research proves that bees made constant improvements to their hives before settling on a six-sided structure. Bees used mathematics to optimize space in their hives. While bees may have started with “cylindrical cells,” they realized that hexagons “stored the greatest possible amount of honey and pollen with the least possible expenditure of wax” (“The Evolution of Honeycomb”). Darwin’s research proves that bees can also think mathematically, proving that math is not simply a human concept.

            Mathematics is not strictly a human concept because the axioms that define human nature are not constant; one must first clearly define humanity before describing whether something is human. As Michael Pollan demonstrated in his lecture “A Plant’s-Eye View,” non-human entities—one such example being plants—exhibit arguably human mannerisms, proving this claim to be false. Pollan argues how humans think “subjectivity and consciousness” set them apart from the natural world but adopting “a plant’s point of view” can nullify this fallacious claim (Pollan 6:52, 7:11). In this lecture, Pollan demonstrates the importance that plants have in shaping ecosystems: “grass is really the keystone species” and the only other technology required to implement a lively system “except for fences” (Pollan 15:34, 16:33). Pollan provides examples of consciousness within plants through another video titled “Plant Neurobiology-Commentary.” In this video, Pollan points out how the plants “are spatially aware of their surroundings” (Pollan 1:28). He furthers this claim by showing a clip of the plant “swinging itself” towards a pole, which proves that they are conscious enough to determine the best way to survive—by clinging on a pole for support (Pollan 1:13). This awareness, which humans may have thought separated them from the natural world, is present in plants. Pollan’s work challenges human superiority by proving a plant’s consciousness. In “Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany,” Matthew Hall recognizes the “superiority over the plant kingdom” that humans exhibit because of their consciousness (Hall 6). Pollan’s observation of consciousness within plants proves the falsehood of that reasoning. Consciousness within plants proves that humanity is not clearly defined; mathematics cannot be labeled as a 'human concept' since plants challenge what is even considered 'human.'

            Mathematics is a constant presence throughout all life; while a plant or an animal may not use algebraic equations or use Greek symbols, they still use elementary mathematics in their day-to-day existence. Darwin’s observation that simple animals like bees can do math also proves that mathematics is not exclusive to humans. In addition, Pollan proves that plants share attributes that seem exclusive to humans. Pollan’s observation diminishes the belief that mathematics is strictly human by pointing out the flawed perception of what is considered human. Both of these views prove the omnipresence of mathematics. In order to adopt a mathematical perspective of biomimicry, one must prove the existence of mathematics in a non-human sense.

Mathematics in Nature

Mathematics is everywhere in nature; learning about math is important in the field of biomimicry. One cannot derive mathematical solutions from plants and animals without first acknowledging them. Knowing all mathematical presences in nature is impossible, but studying specific mathematics instances can be helpful to biomimicry. The golden ratio—commonly referred to as ‘phi’—is present in most natural structures. Patterns on animals, which may seem completely random, are predictable using mathematical probability in addition to some chemistry. Insects use mathematical optimization when they build their hives. All of these are instances of mathematics in nature and have applications in human civilization, and thus are essential to know when adopting a biomimicry perspective. Showing how nature has already used these can inspire people to adopt them in other fields—like biomimicry.

The golden ratio, or ‘phi,’ is an odd number that explains most observable phenomena. Its prevalence is strange because it takes the form of a seemingly innocent irrational number: 1.61803398. John Adam, a mathematician, explained in his book “Mathematics in Nature: Modeling Patterns in the Natural World” how the golden ratio appears in phyllotaxis, or “the arrangement of leaves on a stem” (Adam 216). While not a definite quality in every leafed plant, phyllotaxis occurs in most plants; As Adam quotes another mathematician, “‘phyllotaxis is really not a universal law but only a fascinatingly prevalent tendency’” (Adam 217). Even though phyllotaxis is not an inherent trait within plants, most plants follow symmetry within their leaves, resembling the golden ratio.



Fig. 1. Seeds of a Sunflower from: Meisner, Gary. “The Golden Ratio: The Divine Beauty of Mathematics.” Race Point Publishing, 2019. EBSCOhost. p.147

In the figure above, mathematician Gary Meisner points out how the seed arrangement in a sunflower follows the golden ratio. The blue and red lines each indicate a single row of seeds; if one were to divide all of the blue lines by all of the red lines, they would obtain a rough approximation of the golden ratio. Adam best explains the reason for phyllotaxis and the golden ratio being reoccurring: every living thing must be able to “occupy space” and “interact with the environment” in the most effective manner (Adam 217). Plants must receive adequate sunlight on every leaf in order to survive. As Adam describes, each leaf must grow so that they do not “inhibit those below” from also receiving sunlight (Adam 217). The golden ratio occurs so often because it is an irrational number represented with rational estimation; the more irrational leaf placement, the less likely some leaves would cover up other leaves. Overall, the golden ratio can be observed in most plants through phyllotaxis. The golden ratio is rumored to explain many other phenomena in the universe, but most of these are “misconceptions;” phyllotaxis is directly tied to the golden ratio, making it one of the most observed mathematical concepts in nature (Adam 213). The golden ratio is mainly used for aesthetic purposes by humans through photo proportion and composition. While this mathematical concept is not exclusively in nature, it does appear and nature and can be utilized by humans. The golden ratio is an important concept to consider when relating biomimicry and mathematics; while the golden ratio is not an example of biomimicry, it encourages a biomimicry approach to natural mathematics.

            Hexagons are abundant in nature due to their optimal configuration; it is a regular polygon that maximizes area while minimizing perimeter. They not only appear in environments like the “mud cracks” in “the Giant’s Causeway,” but they also appear in the beehives and hornets’ nests (Adam 231). Bees, as mentioned prior, have been using hexagonal tiling within their building for a very long time. Though Darwin proved that it took multiple evolutions to settle on the design, it still is masterfully crafted and well thought out. Most regular shapes cannot tile a standard Euclidean plane; the only regular polygons that can tessellate an entire plane without other shapes are “equilateral triangles, squares, and regular hexagons” (Adam 231-232). Adam uses trigonometry to prove that hexagonal tiling is the most optimal tiling because of a near-perfect “volume-to-surface-area ratio” (Adam 232). Another question to consider when analyzing hexagonal tiling is how bees produce it: How is a bee able to create a near-perfect hexagonal shape? Adam points out that a bee’s body has an “approximately circular cross-section,” which helps them make the hexagon; Adam quotes Pappus of Alexandria by stating, “bees are endowed with ‘a certain geometrical forethought’” (Adam 234). So, while a bee does not “have to take a course in optimization theory,” it uses its own body to produce a mathematically optimal shape (Adam 234). Even though hexagonal tiling is optimal, the inside of a beehive is not as optimized as the outside; since the inside of a cell ends in a “trihedral apex: three plane surfaces meet at one point” (Adam 235). This hexagonal cross-section is not maintained throughout the cell, so this geometrical configuration is not optimal for ending a cell. Nevertheless, bees “do a good job in two dimensions,” and this error only reminds an observer that bees are not pure mathematical machines (Adam 236). While having the same hexagonal cell structure of a beehive, hornets' nests have significantly different constraints. Hornets’ nests seem to have more intricate outer layers than beehives because they do not rely on a valuable resource like beeswax. While honeybees must "use the least amount of wax" because making it is strenuous (Ted-Ed 1:57), hornets do not have to worry about scarcity because they "chew at wood" to make their nests (Prudential Pest Solutions 1:56). Even though hornets do not have to be as frugal as honeybees, they use their materials effectively via hexagonal tiling to not waste effort. Hexagons are everywhere because of their idealistic properties, but they are primarily observed in beehives and wasp nests. As Benyus stated in her lecture “Biomimicry in Action,” hornets’ nests are “architectural” and “precise” (Benyus 3:07). Animals can use a mathematically sound structure to minimize work and materials needed. Optimization is an essential concept in mathematics. This seemingly abstract human concept can be understood and implemented by non-human entities and is present in most of the natural world, as proven by bees and hornets.

            Most animals utilize patterns and camouflage to survive the harsh conditions within nature; these patterns may seem random, but mathematics can predict them. A video titled “Can Math Explain How Animals Get Their Patterns?” by MinuteEarth explains the work of Alan Turing and his notable contributions and analysis of animal patterns. Alan Turing believed that a single mathematical equation was able to describe the movement of the “activator and inhibitor" that determines different animals' patterns (MinuteEarth 1:32). By adjusting the amount of activator and inhibitor and “the total area of the system,” one can map different kinds of patterns within that system (MinuteEarth 1:34). While Turing’s observations are mathematically sound, they are simply theories that predict how nature produces patterns. Since Turing’s equation are theoretically sound, scientists and mathematicians have attempted to prove his findings in the real world; while some patterns do not follow a Turing-like system, other patterns, like the “stripy-ridges on the roof,” follow the Turing system almost perfectly (MinuteEarth 2:51). As stated before, the area of skin observed is a primary factor in predicting patterns: “small animals may have less complex patterns than larger animals because the latter can support more complex modal solutions” (Adam 315). Patterns on animals originated for evolutionary purposes, like camouflage. Adam hypothesizes how the Turing system predicts butterfly patterns; the same logic of activators entrapped with inhibitors can predict "the location of eyespots" on a butterfly's wings (Adam 322). This eyespot pattern is determined during "the late stages of larval growth, while the butterfly is still 'cocooned'" (Adam 322). If scientists can confirm a Turing-like system as a natural constant, this confirmation would prove the non-conscious usage of mathematics within nature and the idea that mathematics is a universal property. The Turing system has been observed in animals and insects with no relation, proving that there is at least a tendency for living creatures to follow Turing systems. A pure mathematical equation accurately describing and predicting inherent patterns in nature could be useful to the field of biomimicry. If an equation can map qualities of species with relative accuracy, that equation is a possible direct blueprint for humans. Observing patterns in nature from a mathematical perspective is a valuable tool for biomimicry, making it a vital part of nature for human advancement.

            Mathematical properties are everywhere, in both living and non-living entities. Understanding these processes is fundamental to utilize biomimicry. Mathematics is a gateway between science and nature since it allows data from nature to translate into a cohesive and universal concept. Topics like the golden ratio, beehives, and animal patterns are already researched heavily by humans. Even though these concepts are not new, explaining them and their mathematical significance may encourage further investigation into said topics or inspire new research with a biomimicry perspective. Mathematics is omnipresent and must be used to observe nature as well as apply natural topics through biomimicry.

Applications of Biomimicry with a Mathematical Approach

            Biomimicry is not a new field, but it has recently gained more traction as scientific development continues and the field of engineering grows. Biomimicry is reliant on mathematical observations because math provides a blueprint for the applications of biomimicry. Benyus stated in her TED talk, "biomimicry is an incredibly powerful way to innovate,” and mathematics is a medium for those innovations (Benyus 14:40). Throughout her lecture, Benyus described multiple examples of biomimicry. She briefly discusses a beetle located “in the Namibian desert” that obtains moisture from fog via “bumps on the back of its wing covers” (Benyus 6:56). She also describes how humans can use “CO2 as a building block” for concrete in a similar fashion as coral—this would decrease the amount of CO2 emissions greatly, which would better help the planet and, by extension, humans (Benyus 7:41). Biomimicry is a vast field with multiple applications, each having its mathematical significance; reinforcing this relationship would better advance the field of biomimicry.

            “Optimization of Bioinspired Conical Surfaces for Water Collection from Fog” by Dev Gurera and Bharat Bhushan furthers the investigation of the “desert beetles” in the Namibian desert that Benyus described. Complex “conical geometry” can be found in various desert plants and insects and is explainable through graphing (Gurera and Bhushan 3).


Fig. 2. Beetle-, Grass-, and Cactus-Inspired Water Collectors from: Gurera, Dev & Bhushan, Bharat. “Optimization of Bioinspired Conical Surfaces for Water Collection from Fog.” Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, May 2019.

The graphs describe the different patterns of desert creatures and how their conical design collects fog water most optimally. Graphs that describe this phenomenon—like the one above—are beneficial because they provide the exact dimensions of the surface, which can then be replicated in human design. Another aspect of the fog collection process is the parts of the surface that are hydrophobic: the design incorporates “a hydrophobic tip” so “it can transport the collected water quickly to the base” (Gurera and Bhushan 8). This system of collecting fog water is “10 times better than fog-catching nets” (Benyus 7:40). A graphical representation of the system was necessary to create the system in the real world and use it in application.

            Benyus teased the idea of a coral-inspired blueprint for concrete and its mathematical significance. Benyus argues that creating concrete with “CO2 as a building block” would help decrease CO2 emissions (Benyus 7:41). This is because the way humans created concrete in the past “emits a ton of CO2 for every ton of cement," so using CO2 in its creation would “reverse the equation” and decrease the overall amount of CO2 emissions (Benyus 7:53). Carbon emissions have been a growing issue of concern due to climate change; emissions are measurable quantities that have been increasing because of the increase in industrialization. Had humanity not kept track of the data, humans would not be trying to solve this problem, and therefore no biomimicry approach would have been taken to solve the problem. Another aspect of coral-inspired concrete production is the amount of CO2 needed to create a substantial amount of concrete; when these measurements are recorded, they can be standardized and used to mass-produce concrete. The biomimicry approach to coral-inspired concrete must be used mathematically to have any significance. In order to “sequester half a ton of CO2,” one must consider the mathematical components of this biomimicry problem, directly linking the two (Benyus 8:16).

            Biomimicry is observable in other practical issues with a mathematical perspective. In Miguel Chen Austin’s and others “Inspection of Biomimicry Approaches as an Alternative to Address Climate-Related Energy Building Challenges: A Framework for Application in Panama,” they devise strategies to help optimize “energy consumption in the building sector” of Panama using an “organism-based design” (Chen Austin 1). They hope that their problem can be solved through the creativity of “an engineer” or an “architect” (Chen Austin 2). Both an engineering and an architectural perspective would heavily rely on mathematics. Like the bees described earlier, an architect must optimize their building design to better benefit Panama's building sector. Meanwhile, an engineer must optimize the “cooling and lighting” systems within a given building (Chen Austin 1). According to Chen Austin, one or both of them are necessary to devise a solution that helps regulate “local energy” while handling the “struggle with climate conditions” (Chen Austin 12). A mathematical approach to this problem is inevitable, as mathematics is directly linked to architects and engineers. Even though Panama has not devised a solid strategy at this journal's release, their goals and people of interest are heavily tied to mathematics. This problem is solvable through "biomimicry approaches" and will most likely be solved using applied mathematics (Chen Austin 1).


Mathematics and Biomimicry are closely related to each other. Benyus points out that humans “live in a competent universe" and how humans must borrow from the universe to solve issues. Mathematics, which was once believed to be an exclusively human idea, has been proven to be an omnipresent concept that can be observable throughout nature. The inherent mathematical qualities within nature, like the patterns in beehives or desert beetles, must be observed to take a biomimicry approach to them. Benyus’s idea of biomimicry, which seems purely scientific, turns out to be more mathematical upon further investigation. This mathematical component of biomimicry bridges the gap between observation and application of a problem. Overall, biomimicry, as described by Benyus, is more mathematical than one may initially have thought, and acknowledging the link between natural mathematics and biomimicry proves useful to the field. Mathematics is omnipresent in both the domesticated and undomesticated world, and biomimicry utilizes mathematics within plants and animals for human advancement.

Works Cited

Adam, John. “Mathematics in Nature: Modeling Patterns in the Natural World.” Princeton University Press, 2011. EBSCOhost,,shib&db=nlebk&AN=390521&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Benyus, Janine. “Biomimicry in Action.” TED. July 2009,

“Can Math Explain How Animals Get Their Patterns?” Uploaded by MinuteEarth. YouTube. 11 August 2016,

Chen Austin, Miguel et al. “Inspection of Biomimicry Approaches as an Alternative to Address Climate-Related Energy Building Challenges: A Framework for Application in Panama.” Biomimetics 5.3 (2020): 40. Crossref. MDPI,

Gurera, Dev & Bhushan, Bharat. “Optimization of Bioinspired Conical Surfaces for Water Collection from Fog.” Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, May 2019, DOI: PDF.

Hall, Matthew. “Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany.” SUNY Press, 2011. EBSCOhost,,shib&db=nlebk&AN=373189&site=eds-live&scope=site.

“How do Hornets Make Their Nests?” Uploaded by Prudential Pest Solutions. YouTube. 15 September 2019,

Meisner, Gary. “The Golden Ratio: The Divine Beauty of Mathematics.” Race Point Publishing, 2018. EBSCOhost,,shib&db=nlebk&AN=1831227&site=eds-live&scope=site.

“The Evolution of Honeycomb.” Darwin Correspondence Project. University of Cambridge. N.d,

Patterson, Zack & Peterson, Andy. “Why do Honeybees Love Hexagons? – Zack Patterson and Andy Peterson.” Uploaded by TED-Ed. YouTube. 10 June 2014,

Pollan, Michael. “A Plant’s-Eye View.” TED. March 2007,

Pollan, Michael. “Plant Neurobiology – Commentary – The New Yorker.” Uploaded by The New Yorker. YouTube. 22 July 2014,

"Shakespeare's Hamlet: Accuracy vs. Modernization"

Danielle Hardy

To fully understand William Shakespeare's original plays, one might find a film adaptation rather than sit and read the play in its entirety. While Shakespeare's Early Modern English might have been modern in his day and age, his works' language and wordplay confuse a contemporary audience that only understands a portion of his phraseology. Since the publication of Shakespeare's play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark in the 16th century, directors and screenwriters have taken it upon themselves to create several excellent film adaptations to retell the story and remake it with a modern twist. Some adaptations choose to keep the original plot, characters, and setting, doing Shakespeare's work justice by focusing on accuracy, like Kenneth Branagh's 1996 adaptation. In contrast, other adaptations, such as Michael Almereyda's 2000 adaptation, ruin the original by modernizing essential aspects of the story and reducing the script to fit a normal screen-time. By popular opinion, Kenneth Branagh's adaptation remains one of the best film adaptations of Hamlet, while Michael Almereyda's adaptation seems to downplay and ruin the story with its modernization. By comparing Branagh's accuracy with the mediocrity of Almereyda's modernization and subsequently comparing and contrasting both with Shakespeare's original Hamlet, one discovers which adaptation ultimately contributes to their overall understanding of the original play.

Essentially, Branagh's adaptation, where he casts himself as Hamlet, attempts to retell the story entirely while only modernizing the setting to the 19th century; Almereyda's adaptation, where Ethan Hawke plays Hamlet, modernizes the plot, setting, and characters while keeping the rich language. By keeping the original script's entirety, Branagh helps his audience, therefore Shakespeare's audience, in understanding the original play without minimizing the plot, characters, or setting. By modernizing the setting moderately, Branagh allows the audience a fresh perspective while still keeping the same language Shakespeare uses with the original Elizabethan language and no omissions of phrases or scenes. Although the film's entirety is 4 hours long, Branagh's adaptation allows the audience to better understand the work through a revitalization of its entirety rather than only the main plot points.

On the contrary, Michael Almereyda's adaptation fully modernizes Shakespeare's plot, characters, and setting while keeping the rich language. The Elizabethan language seems odd in the setting and situation since the rest of the adaptation is modern. Understandably, Almereyda was probably attempting to do Shakespeare justice by keeping the same language, but he made the film awkward by modernizing everything else. He also takes away from the original story by shortening the scenes, omitting certain scenes entirely, or changing the setting and plot. Almereyda chooses to modernize the situation, making Hamlet a young filmmaker and the Denmark Corporation's CEO's nephew rather than the nephew of a 16th-century king of Denmark; this is an excellent modern remake, but it ruins the integrity of the original story.

For instance, in Branagh's adaptation, the "To be or not to be" monologue is recited word for word from Shakespeare's original with unparalleled performance. By contrast, in Almereyda's adaptation, Hamlet recites the monologue while walking through a Blockbuster video store. It seems odd to have Hamlet in such a public place while reciting what is supposed to be a private monologue. However, Almereyda might have intended it to seem like Hamlet was thinking the monologue rather than speaking it aloud. Regardless, Branagh's performance allows the audience to understand the scene's intensity better because it is accurately depicted, with Polonius and Claudius eavesdropping, rather than Almereyda's nonchalant monologue in a Blockbuster.

Additionally, Branagh's adaptation had all of the characters appropriately cast, while Almereyda tweaked some of the original cast to fit into the modern setting better. In particular, Branagh kept all of the original characters, including the players and gravediggers. In Almereyda's adaptation, quite a few of the characters were changed to fit specific roles, diminished through the film, or taken out entirely. One big issue that arises in Almereyda's adaptation is the fact that he casts Marcellus, one of the palace guards in the original Hamlet, as a woman, renamed Marcella, in a romantic relationship with Horatio. Additionally, Almereyda tweaks the scene in which Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo attempt to speak to Hamlet's father's Ghost for the first time. In Shakespeare's original and in Branagh's adaptation, this scene occurs at the very beginning while they are on watch outside of Elsinore Castle. However, Almereyda presents this scene after Hamlet speaks with Gertrude and Claudius as they plead with him to stay rather than return to film school in Wittenberg. Almereyda creates the Elsinore Hotel in New York rather than a castle. Barnardo is a security guard who sees the Ghost on the cameras, calling Horatio and Marcella to find the Ghost in person in the hotel's back hallways. In summary, Branagh's adaptation of the first Ghost scene is better as the original script and situation remain; it also occurred in the right timing compared to Almereyda's later placement of the scene.

Similarly, Branagh wonderfully did the scene when Hamlet kills Polonius while Almereyda changed it too much. In Branagh's adaptation, he strictly follows Shakespeare's script and stabs Polonius through the curtain in front of Gertrude. In Almereyda's adaptation, Hamlet comes into Gertrude's room with a gun and shoots at her closet, where Polonius has just hidden. Polonius comes out, holding a bloody hand over his eye, and falls to the floor, face first, with his brain matter scattered across the back of his head. In Branagh's adaptation, Hamlet drags the body in the curtain through the castle to hide it. Almereyda's adaptation shows Hamlet dragging Polonius' body in a bed cover down a hotel's back hallway. In Branagh's adaptation, following the original play, Hamlet runs away from the body, shortly discovered by his old friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Claudius' and Gertrude's spies. On the other hand, Almereyda adapts the scene where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern find Hamlet in a laundromat, washing his bloody clothes, when Claudius shows up, demanding to know where Polonius' body is hidden.

While the language stays the same in Branagh's adaptation compared to Shakespeare's original, Almereyda cuts out a portion of the dialogue, going straight from Hamlet dragging the body to his conversation with Guildenstern and Rosencrantz in the laundromat. The audience has to assume Gertrude and Claudius sent the two rather than seeing the original Hamlet scene that shows their association.

Furthermore, another significant scene in both adaptations and the original play is the ending scene when Laertes and Hamlet duel; Branagh follows Shakespeare's script completely while Almereyda yet again changes the scene to fit the story he is trying to tell instead. He completely changes how the deaths play out by first starting with Gertrude's poisoning. Like in the original Hamlet and Branagh's adaptation, Claudius attempts to poison Hamlet with wine, which Hamlet keeps refusing to drink. In Almereyda's adaptation, Gertrude seems to figure out that Claudius keeps attempting to poison her son. Hence, she takes the drink and poisons herself on purpose, as one might interpret, to spite her murderous husband. Meanwhile, in the original play and Branagh's adaptation, Gertrude poisons herself accidentally. In Almereyda's version of the scene, Laertes has a gun instead of a poisoned fencing sword, and he shoots Hamlet. After,

Laertes and Hamlet grapple at each other, and the gun goes off again, this time shooting Laertes. Meanwhile, it is finally explicitly revealed that Claudius is a murderer and usurper, resulting in Hamlet shooting and killing him.

In conclusion, Shakespeare's play adaptations are sometimes accurate and excellent, but some are too modernized or remade for high esteem. Kenneth Branagh's adaptation prevails as one of the best Hamlet adaptations ever made regardless of length because it makes up for it in accuracy; it also helps the audience understand the original work better by bringing the characters and plot to life. Nonetheless, Almereyda's adaptation exists as a subpar adaptation with the extreme modernization of the entire play and his changing or omission of specific scenes. As a result, Kenneth Branagh's adaptation is superior to Almereyda's by far in accuracy, execution, and reconstruction. Indeed, one might garner an idea of a common trope from any Hamlet adaptation: father is king, uncle murders father, uncle marries queen and gets power, son ultimately gets revenge, but everyone dies, or is scorned, in the end. However, Shakespeare does not intend to only tell a story in Hamlet; he provides his audience with relatable themes and concepts while creating complex characters one grows to respect or admire eventually.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The Riverside Shakespeare, edited by G. Blakemore Evans et al., 2nd ed., Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997, pp.


Branagh, Kenneth, director. William Shakespeare's Hamlet. Castle Rock Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, 1996, Accessed 5 Nov.


Almereyda, Michael, writer and director. Hamlet. Miramax Films, 2000, Accessed 5 Nov. 2020.


"Public Perception of the Effects of COVID-19 in the Prison System"

Jonathan Fleming


The COVID-19 pandemic presented many new challenges to the world and revealed many of the shortcomings built into society. One area in which these challenges and weaknesses are most apparent is within the criminal justice system. While the whole world was forced to face the threat of this new virus, those who were incarcerated found themselves facing an even greater probability of contracting and suffering the adverse health effects of COVID-19 as a result of their incarceration. The revelation of this increased risk led this researcher to wonder if the mindset towards incarcerated individuals contributed to the increased risk they face and if this is a problem with which the public is unconcerned. Are the rights of health and safety surrendered by those who are convicted? If not, are individuals failing to protect those rights? And, are most people unconcerned with the rights of those who are convicted?

In discussing the dangers of COVID-19, individuals often talk about the most vulnerable and high-risk activities such as going out to eat or hosting parties. In a sense, the discussion most often surrounds topics that affect the public. As the researcher began their study of the effects of the pandemic, a specific call to civic action presented a new lens through which they could view the virus. The researcher came across a petition to elected officials on behalf of those who were incarcerated and affected by the virus.

The researcher found a study conducted by the ACLU on the effectiveness of each state’s COVID-19 response regarding the prison population. This study discovered that, according to their metrics, Georgia had largely failed to properly protect our prison population, including those who oversee their rehabilitation. The state had specifically failed to implement proper testing within the prison system; this failure would affect not only those incarcerated but would spill over into local communities (Initiative).

The researcher then composed a letter to their elected officials outlining the dangers the prison population faces and those who oversee them. The letter also highlighted the need to find solutions to these problems. They then compiled a survey to collect data on the general population’s opinions on the prison population's risk.

Within the survey, the researcher sought to understand if religious or political affiliation would have any bearing on a person’s level of concern for the health and wellbeing of those who are incarcerated. The researcher also sought to discover if a person’s past criminal record would influence their opinion.  While the researcher was unable to find any correlation between religious affiliation or past criminal history and a person’s view on the health and wellbeing of those who are incarcerated, they could find a correlation between the political orientation of those polled and their opinion on this matter.

Within the survey, students were asked the following questions:

  1. “On a scale from 1-5 (1 being completely disagree, 5 being completely agree) how do you agree with the following statement? “Convicted criminals surrender the right to adequate healthcare.”
  2. “On a scale from 1-5 (1 being completely disagree, 5 being completely agree) how do you agree with the following statement? “Convicted criminals surrender the right to health and safety.””

Their responses, connected to their declared political orientation, are displayed in the chart below (English 1101). For the full responses to the student survey, refer to the Appendix.

            The finding of the survey indicates that students who self-identify as conservatives are more likely to take a more hardline stance regarding the health and wellbeing of those who are incarcerated. In contrast, students who self-identify as liberal and non-partisan are more likely to show empathy to the same group. Given the small sample size of the survey, the results may not be entirely indicative of the correlation between one’s political affiliation and their opinion on the wellbeing of those that are within the criminal justice system. More research is needed to determine if these trends will be maintained throughout the general populace.

            After conducting this survey, the researcher sought out an interview with a colleague named Donald Robey for an in-depth understanding of how one’s political ideology may affect their opinion on the prison population's health. During this interview, Mr. Robey was given the same survey and was asked to expound on each answer. A staunch Libertarian, Mr. Robey, showed extreme concern for the wellbeing of the prison population, stating that he completely disagreed with the statements in the questions listed above. When asked to expound on his answers, he responded, “They are still human, and nothing that they have done changes that” (Robey 2020). When asked if his political affiliation influenced his beliefs, he responded that he believed that his political views were a major influencing factor.

            Recent studies conducted by Issues in Science and Technology found that “Compared with the general population, people who are incarcerated in prisons are 5.5 times more likely to get COVID-19 and 3 times more likely to die from it” (Berk et al. l 3). According to the American Journal of Public Health, this increased risk level has several attributing factors, including overcrowding, insufficient ventilation, and inadequate hygiene (Barnert et al. l 1). These two studies highlight the necessity of policy changes to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 for the prison population.

            So, if this need is so apparent, why is there so little public outcry? A recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association institute highlighted two contributing factors. Firstly, they found that “negative attitudes toward offenders had the most relationship with lack of support for policies related to reducing the spread of COVID-19” (Eno et al. l 12). They also found a strong correlation between conservatism and a lack of support for these same policies (Eno et al. l 13). Their study suggests that the stronger an individual’s beliefs in the importance of law and order, the less likely they are to support policies that reduce the risk of the transmission of COVID-19 among the prison population.

            The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has revealed many holes within the structures that we have built into our society and shown us the necessity of re-evaluating the policies we have in place for their efficacy and ethicality. As the studies above illustrate, the increased risk level that the prison population faces from this pandemic require a shift in the policies that govern them and how we envision those who are incarcerated. While the researcher's survey was inconclusive regarding how one’s political affiliation influenced their viewpoint on this subject, other research has found a strong correlation between conservative views and a reduction in empathy for the prison population. Further research into the specific beliefs within conservatism that contribute to this mentality may allow for more effective communication concerning the prison population's future needs.

Works Cited

Barnert, Elizabeth, et al. “Prisons: Amplifiers of the COVID-19 Pandemic Hiding in Plain Sight.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 110, no. 7, July 2020, pp. 964–966.

Berk, Justin, et al. “Covid-19 Exposes a Broken Prison System.” Issues in Science & Technology, vol. 37, no. 1, Fall 2020, pp. 30–33.

English 1101. Class survey. 9 Nov. 2020.

Eno Louden, Jennifer, et al. “Flattening the Curve in Jails and Prisons: Factors Underlying Support for COVID-19 Mitigation Policies.” Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Aug. 2020.

Initiative, Prison Policy. “Prison Policy Initiative COVID-19 Resources.” Prison Policy Initiative COVID-19 Resources | Prison Policy Initiative, 2020,

Robey, Donald. Personal interview. 13 Nov. 2020.


Class survey and results:

  1. What is your age? 18 – 8  19 – 6  21 – 1  22 – 1  41 – 1
  2. What is your biological sex? Male – 6 Female – 11
  3. What is your gender preference? Male – 6  Female – 10  Unclear – 1
  4. Do you have a religious affiliation? Christian – 9  Catholic – 3  No – 5
  5. Do you have a political affiliation? Republican – 5  Democrat – 1 Independent – 2

No – 9 

  1. How would you characterize your political beliefs?
    1. Conservative 5
    2. Non-partisan 6
    3. Liberal 6
    4. Libertarian
  2. Have you been convicted of a misdemeanor in the past 5 years? No – 17
  3. Have you been convicted of a crime greater than a misdemeanor in the past 5 years?

No – 17

  1. On a scale from 1-5 (1 being completely disagree, 5 being completely agree) how do you agree with the following statement? “Convicted criminals surrender the right to adequate healthcare.” 1 – 9  2 – 2  3 – 5  4 – 1
  2. On a scale from 1-5 (1 being completely disagree, 5 being completely agree) how do you agree with the following statement? “Convicted criminals surrender the right to health and safety.” 1 – 11  2 – 2  3 – 3  4 – 1
  3. On a scale from 1-5 (1 being completely disagree, 5 being completely agree) how do you agree with the following statement? “Less resources should be used to ensure the health and wellbeing of convicted criminals than those who have not been convicted of a crime.” 1 – 7  2 – 2   3 – 4  4 – 1  No reply – 2
  4. How do you feel your religious affiliation influences your beliefs about the previous questions?
    1. Not at all 3
    2. Somewhat 1
    3. Nuetral 4
    4. Very much 4
    5. Completely 3
    6. No Reply - 2
  5. How do you feel your political affiliation influences your beliefs about the previous questions?
    1. Not at all 4
    2. Somewhat 6
    3. Nuetral 3
    4. Very much
    5. Completely 2
    6. No reply - 2
  6. How do you feel your upbringing influences your beliefs about the previous questions?
    1. Not at all 2
    2. Somewhat 5
    3. Nuetral 4
    4. Very much 2
    5. Completely 2
    6. No reply 2
  7. How do you feel the Federal, State, and Local governments have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic?
    1. Extremely poor 2
    2. Poor 2
    3. Neutral 7
    4. Good 3
    5. Extremely good 1
    6. No reply 2

Media, Mysticism, and the Mind

"Celestial Wisdom Calms the Mind: Samuel Johnson's Moral Vision in The Vanity of Human Wishes "

Jacob Dills


Best 4000-level Paper



Critics have long been preoccupied with Samuel Johnson’s role as a writer of non-fiction, and it comes as no surprise that Johnson is best remembered for his extraordinary range and prolific output as a prose writer. Much has been written on Johnson the literary critic, Johnson the lexicographer, Johnson the man of letters, and Johnson the essayist, but critics have often ignored Johnson the moralist. As Patrick O’ Flaherty points out, “literary historians and critics” are no less susceptible to the “intellectual fashion” of their age than are “philosophers and journalists,” and so the critical approach to Johnson’s works has minimized or overlooked outright “his role as a moralist—the role for which he was best known during his lifetime” (523). Even if later critics gloss over Johnson’s role as a moralist, his contemporaries knew as much. Furthermore, he accepted this role himself: according to Walter Jackson Bate, “it is as a moralist, in the broad sense of the word, that Johnson regarded himself” (322). Perhaps the overlooking of Johnson’s role as a moralist by later critics is a consequence of their preoccupation with Johnson’s non-fiction. Certainly, he expressed his moral imagination in his prose writing but piecemeal and approximately. 

      Of the considerable corpus of Johnson’s prose, one finds his moral vision best conveyed—if disjointedly—within The Rambler, a series of bi-weekly didactic essays he wrote for Britain’s general readership. As O’Flaherty observes, Johnson articulated the main purpose of The Rambler in its final issue, wherein Johnson asserts “emphatically that ‘his principal design’ was ‘to inculcate wisdom or piety,’’ by “bring[ing] his readers to a ‘nearer acquaintance with themselves’ through ‘the attentive study of [their] own minds’” (525). Nevertheless, Johnson published The Rambler anonymously, and, as its title suggests, he mused on a broad range of topics that varied considerably between issues. Examining the inconsistencies in rhetoric and expression between The Rambler issuesPaul Fussell imagines Johnson “caught short at deadline time, [was] working things out ad hoc from page to page” (161). If one agrees with Fussell’s assessment of Johnson’s writing process, one doubts Johnson had in mind a unifying single moral vision as he, twice weekly, wrote haphazardly to meet the publication’s strict deadlines. Therefore, one must turn elsewhere to see Johnson the moralist take full ownership of his vision and express it lucidly. Namely, one must turn from Johnson’s prose to Johnson’s verse because Johnson’s moral vision—a synthesis of Stoic precepts and Christian teleology—is elucidated through the vehicle of poetry.

      Johnson expresses his syncretic moral vision nowhere better than in his meditative poem The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749). Using Juvenal’s Tenth Satire as a structural and thematic prototype, Johnson widely views the causes and symptoms of human suffering before recommending a remedy. Both poems are didactic meditations and share parallel moral themes. Both chiefly concern the peril of “specious prayer” and humanity’s inability to transcend desire. And Johnson, like the Juvenal, perceives humankind’s suffering through the lens of Stoic philosophy, a consequence of humankind’s bondage to emotional impulses: “[t]hen say how hope and fear, desire and hate/ [o]’erspread with snares the clouded maze of fate” (5-6). For both Johnson and Juvenal, the human situation is a tragicomedy. Comical because man, hoping to achieve happiness, is equally misled by passions pleasurable and disagreeable. Tragical, because man rarely realizes his folly until he is already undone. However, Johnson’s poem, contrary to his model, refuses to champion Stoicism as a holistic solution to the problems of the human condition. According to Johnson’s moral philosophy, the Stoic resignation to fate and the external causes, as an end, will not lead one to lasting happiness unless one arrives, ultimately, at religious faith. 

           Yet Johnson refrains from inculcating his readers with his moral vision’s religious conclusion before sufficiently familiarizing them with the many vain distractions ever tempting human pride. In much the same way that Dante structured the Divine Comedy with an initial journey into hell so that his readers could first recognize sin before seeking repentance and forgiveness, Johnson structures The Vanity of Human Wishes. Echoing the narrative course of Dante’s Inferno, as Bate observes, Johnson’s “negative path” to religion presents the assumption that “when one has cast off all illusions, what one has left is the truth” (282). Indeed, a catalog of the negative historical examples of human ambition and its consequences comprises the bulk of the poem. This list of follies ranges wide, as Johnson examines the pursuance of wealth, political power, knowledge, military honor, youth, and beauty, and finds all wanting. As Bate points out, Johnson’s negative approach to faith could have well been a limitation of form because had he “focused, for example, on the figure of Christ, or had centered attention on heaven or eternity as opposed to this world, he would have violated his prototype in Roman satire” (282). “[A]lternatively,” Bate writes, “[it] allowed him to express, perhaps unconsciously, some of the more essential dynamics of his faith” (282). Thus, Johnson’s list of negative examples ingeniously fulfills several functions at once: it prepares his readers for his argument’s conclusion, preserves the structural logic of his source material, and expresses the Stoic principles of his moral vision.

           One of the poem’s most memorable negative examples is that of Charles XII of Sweden, whose rise and fall Johnson renders in one of the poem’s best-sustained passages. The upstart Charles, whom the poet calls the “unconquered lord of pleasure and of pain,” with “a soul of fire,” wishes for fame and honor, which he seeks through repeated military conquest (193, 196). He conquerors numerous neighboring kingdoms for Sweden in a string of military victories, but the “pacific scepters” of peace bring him “no joys” because his pride cannot be satiated before, he says, “[o]n Moscow’s walls till Gothic standards fly, /[a]nd all [is] mine beneath the polar sky” (197, 203-4). Anticipating the ruin of Napoleon and Hitler, Charles’s invasion of Russia during winter proves his undoing: his army is “broken” at Pultowa, and he is “vanquished” (211). After his defeat, he survives for nearly a decade in disgrace as a “needy supplicant” exiled to “distant lands,” until he is ultimately slain by “dubious hand” an unknown assailant, leaving behind a legacy only fit “[t]o point a moral, or adorn a tale” (209-10, 220, 222). In just thirty-two lines, Johnson compresses the entire trajectory of a conqueror, from his rise to defeat to ruin, instilling in his readers a moral lesson by way of negative example.

      However, when Johnson chose to use the Tenth Satire as a foundation for his poem, he inevitably had to defy its constraints to express the Christian end of his moral vision. One generally agrees with Paul D. McGlynn, with one significant reservation, when, examining the poem’s structure, he writes: “[q]uestions as to the exact point of demarcation between the demands of poetic structures and inherent complexities of ‘subject matter’ seem academic” (480). In this quote, McGlynn examines the limitations the heroic couplet form placed upon Johnson, but his argument could just as well apply to the structural constraints Johnson had to overcome when he adapted the overall structure of Juvenal’s Tenth Satire. Moreover, the most substantial moment of demarcation in The Vanity of Human Wishes from its structural prototype appears consciously undertaken by Johnson and is central to the poem’s moral argument. Though philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich once claimed that Stoicism “is the only real alternative to Christianity in the Western world,” Johnson’s moral argument in The Vanity of Human Wishes indicates that he would, on the whole, disagree (9). Johnson finds Juvenal’s Stoic solution, wholly rooted in human reason but without divine reason as a guide, an insufficient response to the human situation. As Chester Chapin observes, “Juvenal’s Stoic hero, although he petitions the gods, is presented as one who believes that man, not God, ‘gives the best,’” while Johnson’s Christian hero obtains “those ‘goods’ which make for happiness” by remaining faithful and resigning himself to God’s providence (74). Johnson’s solution, presented in the poem’s final stanza, entreats man to manufacture “happiness” from a divine external source he calls “celestial [w]isdom,” by praying to God for virtuous qualities: “a healthful mind,” “obedient passions,” “a will resigned,” “love,” “patience,” and “faith” (359-68). Thus, recognizing and interpreting this significant demarcation point is not simply an academic matter, as McGlynn asserts. On the contrary, interpreting the poem’s final stanza is the key to understanding that Christian faith is the end of Johnson’s moral vision and not Stoicism. Even if Johnson believed Stoic principles could serve one’s journey to God, he did not consider Stoicism a meaningful end or an alternative to faith. 

           All things considered, if the critical approach to Samuel Johnson wishes to represent him the way his contemporaries understood him truthfully, and as he imagined himself, like Johnson the moralist, then critics must turn to The Vanity of Human Wishes, the poem in which he most plainly expresses his unique Christian-Stoic moral vision. It is a poem that emphasizes Johnson’s versatility as a writer. A poem where Johnson the literary critic, notorious in his age for his biting sarcasm, wanes as Johnson the moral poet reveals his painful understanding of the human condition. T.S. Eliot, another writer who occupied the rare office of poet-critic, and who, like Johnson, conveyed his moral vision through negative examples in his verse, once remarked: “I should myself regard Samuel Johnson as a major poet by the single testimony of The Vanity of Human Wishes” (49). By Eliot’s time, an age of unprecedented skepticism as the West sorted through the wreckage of The Great War searching for any semblance of meaning, Johnson’s warning against pursuing vain ambition had long been forgotten. One imagines that Eliot’s esteem of the poem means Johnson’s moral vision, with its call for Stoic resignation and its insistence that meaning lies not in the worldly but in the divine, resonated with a poet who lived through so much uncertainty. Moreover, since the poem’s moral vision contemplates the problems of humankind sub specie aeternitatis, it still resonates with readers today who search for meaning in a seemingly meaningless world. If Johnson were to arise today and “glance on humankind,” as Democritus does in The Vanity of Human Wishes, one believes he would still argue that humankind’s “joys” remain “causeless,” and their “griefs” remain “vain” (68, 70).


Works Cited

Bate, W. Jackson. Samuel Johnson. Harcourt Brace, 1977.

Chapin, Chester. “Johnson’s Intentions in The Vanity of Human Wishes.” Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 18, no. 1, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984, pp. 72–75,

Eliot, T.S. On Poetry and Poets. Faber and Faber, 1957.

Fussell, Paul. Samuel Johnson and the Life of Writing. Harcourt Brace, 1971.

Johnson, Samuel. “The Vanity of Human Wishes.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century, edited by James Noggle, 10th ed., vol C., W.W. Norton, 2018, pp. 713-721.

McGlynn, Paul D. “Rhetoric as Metaphor in The Vanity of Human Wishes.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. 15, no. 3, Rice University, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975, pp. 473–82,

O’Flaherty, Patrick. “Towards an Understanding of Johnson’s Rambler.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. 18, no. 3, [Rice University, Johns Hopkins University Press], 1978, pp. 523–36,

Tillich, Paul. The Courage to Be. Yale University Press, 1952.


"The Influence of Miyamoto Musashi and the Book of Five Rings on Modern and Contemporary Mixed Media"

Cole Cosby and Grace Neff 


Best 3000-level Paper


The mysticism of the Orient breeds and cultivates a veil of Other across the east. Other can be defined as a fundamental difference of the experience of reality. Attractive and powerful, Samurai culture is no exception to the blanket of a romantic view of Other which the west has been captivated with for decades. This fundamental difference alone is not the reason the west is enraptured with the culture of the east. Miyamoto Musashi is the quintessential samurai and the author of The Book of Five Rings. Born in 1584, he began his career of combat at the early age of thirteen and developed a two-sword technique the world had never seen (Evangelista). He is a primary factor of the current relevance and influence of the present conception of samurai that remains popular across medias such as anime which has a distinct and “deliberate lack of fluidity and use of limited-animation”, music, film, and others all throughout the modern and contemporary eras (Rich). It is within a variety of media that the evolution and influence of Musashi can truly be appreciated by use of Musashi’s acclaimed Book of the Five Rings and the individual scrolls with the text.

            “Strategy is the craft of the warrior” (Go Rin No Sho 8). With this opening statement, Musashi presents not only the primary principle of the “Ground Scroll,” but also what is the primary principle of the entirety of The Book of Five Rings. By choosing to place the “Ground Scroll” before all other scrolls, Musashi emphasizes the importance of being accurately self-perceptive and grounded as a human being, as without an acute sense of perception of self and consequence of action, the warrior will be unsuccessful in finding the Way. Along with the value placed on proper self-awareness, Musashi makes note of the significance of situational awareness by stating, “knowing the rhythm of any situation, you will be able to hit the enemy naturally and strike naturally” (Go Rin No Sho 17). Included in the virtues of situational awareness is appropriate weapon selection, which Musashi discuses in the subsection of the “Ground Scroll” titled “The Benefit of Weapons in Strategy.” Musashi, though he is known as a great swordsman, declares, “You should not have a favorite weapon,” and “use weapons which you can handle properly” (Go Rin No Sho 17). As a testament to this ideology, Musashi fought and defeated one of Japan’s greatest samurai, Sasaki Kojiro, using an extraordinarily long wooden sword that he had fashioned out of a rowboat’s ore. Moreover, the “Ground Scroll” exudes a subtle air of totality with the three key phrases of “Do not think dishonestly,” “Know the Ways of all professions,” and “Do nothing which is of no use” (Go Rin No Sho 18). The virtue of the “Ground Scroll” is that through awareness, experience, and projected efficiency, the warrior may connect with the reality of the situation in order to gain an advantage over his or her opponent.

            The “Water Scroll” provides a close view of the fluidity and science of battle both of the mind and the body. Musashi instructs the reader in the “State of Mind,” “Physical Bearing,” “Focus of the Eyes,” “Gripping the Sword,” “Footwork,” “Five Kinds of Guards,” as well as many other instructions needed to prevail in combat. “State of Mind” is the first subsection in this scroll. The mind should not alter when in battle. A swordsman should have battle-mind always; the mind is calm and steady whether in battle or not. This creates a state of being required to prevail in combat. One of the most powerful statement Musashi composed in the “Water Scroll” is, “taking the principles as if they were discovered from your own mind, identify with them constantly and work on them carefully” (Cleary 25). Musashi explains to the reader that to succeed the student must take these principles as if they were born from within themselves, and like water, the mind and principles should conform to the shape of victory in battle. Much like a translator has a loyalty to the work transcribed, a student of Musashi’s teachings is bound to these principles of success in battle. This chapter of text includes the “Five Formal Techniques and Five Guard Positions” that are taught in his school. By knowing these tenets, a student of Musashi is able to encounter numerous men at once; because when these principles are understood and practiced, all assailants will fail. Only through diligent practice and careful study of these words can a student of the “Water Scroll” prosper.

“I describe fighting as fire” (Go Rin No Sho 34). With this line, Musashi acknowledges the destructive nature of fighting by likening the act to an all-consuming force that can easily grow out of control if mismanaged. Similar to fighting, fire must be well controlled in order to ensure a beneficial existence. The “Fire Scroll” accentuates the necessity of handling situations while they are still small in order to avoid adverse or unfavorable future circumstances. In order to convey the importance of the advantageous management of fire, Musashi writes, “[s]tand in the sun; that is, take up an attitude with the sun behind you” (Go Rin No Sho 35). To practice “taking up an attitude with the sun behind you” is to deliberately avoid disadvantageous situations in all instances (Go Rin No Sho 35). In addition to placing emphasis on the appropriate management of controllable situations, the “Fire Scroll” focuses on the vitality of understanding personal weakness in order to counter an opponent’s perceived superiority in those areas. Through the understanding of which areas can be identified as weak, the warrior may guide a duel or battle by disallowing the opponent to gain full control. In the subsection of the “Fire Scroll” titled “To Become the Enemy,” Musashi writes, “[t]o ‘become the enemy’ means to think of yourself in the enemy’s position. He who is shut inside is a pheasant. He who enters to arrest is a hawk” (Go Rin No Sho 40). This passage furthers the notion that self-awareness is a key factor in the successful defeat of an enemy or obstacle. In the final subsection of the “Fire Scroll,” Musashi describes the internalization of the Way of strategy, which is what is needed to “Suddenly make your body like a rock, and ten thousand things cannot touch you” (Go Rin No Sho 48). Musashi’s “Fire Scroll” offers a comprehensive explanation of the benefits of both proper self-management and effective management of the enemy.

            “I have exposed each of the deficiencies of other schools in this book” (Cleary 72). Musashi is aware that knowledge of the enemy’s tactics also gives the opponent knowledge of as enemy’s weakness. These fragilities are described and given a close examination in the “Wind Scroll”. Musashi explains that wielding extra-long swords is inefficient for many reasons, chiefly because the space required to wield the weapon is not always available. Other schools teach powerful sword blows. This is “illogical,” and no time is wasted in teaching the “unreasonable”; the power needed to defeat an opponent comes from the mind not the power from the sword (74). The usage and schools that teach the way of the shorter long sword are also impractical; this technique is ineffective when fighting multiple opponents. Some other schools teach the numerous sword strokes; this is not the true Way; the objective of the sword is to kill. This is not the most efficient way to kill an opponent. The “Positions of the Sword” section describes the disadvantages of the guard position taught in other schools. This position does not put the adversary at a disadvantage because it does not create an environment suitable for the fluidity of battle. Various schools emphasize the focus of the eyes. No matter if the school instructs the focus of the eyes to the adversary’s sword, hands, face, or feet, they are all incorrect; any particular focus gives the adversary an advantage to create a distraction and is thus ineffective (80). Leaping, springing, floating, and other footwork is the study of other schools. These are all circumstantial, and any lengthy study of one and not all provides the student to be ill-equipped for the array of different circumstances found on various battlegrounds. “Speed is not the true Way,” Musashi clarifies “the fast one stumbles and fails to get there on time” (84). The last section before the epilogue in the “Wind Scroll” is The Esoteric and Exoteric in Other Schools. In this section, it is revealed that Musashi begins the student with what is easiest learned. After this is mastered, the student can proceed. He does not particularly partake in the school of esoteric or exoteric (85). Musashi’s “Scroll of Wind” is more than a detailed account of the failures of other schools; it is a meticulous assessment of opportunities a student is eligible to grow from.

“By knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist. That is the void” (Go Rin No Sho 58). Although the “Scroll of the Void” is the shortest of the five scrolls, it is perhaps both the most ambiguous and most profound. In writing the “Scroll of the Void,” Musashi addresses a common misconception surrounding the void, which is that “People in this world look at things mistakenly and think that what they do not understand must be the void” (Go Rin No Sho 58). According to Musashi, “This is not the true void. This is bewilderment” (Go Rin No Sho 58). By erasing this inaccurate preconceived notion of the void, Musashi forces the warrior to view the void not as something that is misunderstood, but rather as something that is understood. Contrary to the progressive qualities of the previous four elements, the void asks the warrior to pay attention to and seek wisdom from past experiences and acquired knowledge. To understand the true void, the warrior must not learn any additional teachings, but must understand all past components of his or her own life. Through the identification of which idiosyncratic qualities compose the self, the warrior will become able to distinguish the path of the true Way from the objective paths of the world, which will not lead to the Way. “In the void is virtue, and no evil. Wisdom has existence, Principle has existence, the Way has existence, the spirit is nothingness” (Go Rin No Sho 59).

            “When I have no means fortune is my means. When I have nothing, death will be my fortune” (Samurai Song).  Robert Pinsky’s words reverberate those of Musashi in the Water Scroll and the Scroll of Emptiness. Pinsky’s ability to encapsulate fluidity as well as the order within the mind of the samurai is evidence of true poetic genius. Pinsky, an American poet, has composed a multitude of poetry including the Samurai Song, the opening poem of Jersey Rain (Downing, MassPoerty). While the actual words reflect those of The Book of Five Rings, it is the cadence and manner in which Pinsky himself recites the work that truly reflects the depth of Musashi’s text. Robert Pinsky delivers his Samurai Song with a level of finality, strength, and ease that is distinctly captivating in the most instructional way. Mirroring Musashi’s “The Scroll of Emptiness”, Pinsky recites “When I had no thought I waited …need is my tactic, detachment is my strategy” (MassPoetry). This lack of “thought” and “detachment” is reminiscent of the last two lines of “The Scroll of Emptiness” and The Book of Five Rings, “In emptiness there is good but no evil. Wisdom exist, logic exist, the Way exist, mind is empty” (Cleary 89). With these words, Musashi finishes his entire work words of wisdom, finality, and of acceptance much like Pinsky. Regardless of intention, this work by Pinsky displays the similarities of both the author’s literary voice and strength of mind.

               Though Japanese hip-hop artist and producer Seba Jun, better known as Nujabes, scored a large portion of Shinichirō Watanabe’s popular anime series Samurai Champloo, it is his song “Battlecry,” which was a collaborative effort with Japanese-American recording artist Shing02, that would become the anime’s critically acclaimed opening song. While both artists were born in Tokyo in the mid-1970s, it wasn’t until late 2000 that Seba Jun and Shingo Annen met one another and began their collaborations. Regarding his position on “Battlecry,” Annen states in a 2018 interview with Liz Marquis, “The anime was offered to me through Nujabes right before 2004 when it first aired. All I knew was that this was going to be a late-night offering in Japan, so I never imagined that it would ever be a hit” (Marquis). Much like Miyamoto Musashi’s rōnin path of existence, the central character of the song’s lyrics is a lone samurai, or “freelancer,” that is at “odds with the times” and “in wards with no lords” (Annen). In what is perhaps the song’s most prominent reference to The Book of Five Rings, Shingo raps, “Oh yes, I have to find my own path, no less, walk on earth, water, and fire, the elements compose a magnum opus” (Annen). As the song reaches its choruses, Shingo makes multiple references to “the Way of the samurai,” which, although it is not an inherently Musashian concept, is made mention of throughout all chapters of The Book of Five Rings (Annen). While it is unclear as to whether or not Seba Jun and Shingo Annen made intentional reference to Miyamoto Musashi’s existence and teachings in “Battlecry,” select traits of the song’s central character’s path share similarities with Musashi’s own recorded direction.

            Named after the small Japanese coastal island of Ganryujima, John Zorn and Sato Michihiro’s 1984 album Ganryu Island is an avant-garde musical interpretation of the infamous duel between Miyamoto Musashi and legendary Japanese swordsman Sasaki Kojiro. Spanning a total of twelve tracks, Ganryu Island is a cacophonous combination of distorted sound samples, Zorn’s tenor saxophone, and Michihiro’s rhythmic shamisen. The interpreted duel, which occurred on April 13, 1612, was an officiated event in which two of the world’s greatest known swordsmen contended. Upon his late arrival, Musashi wielded a wooden sword fashioned from an ore of the boat used to transport him to the island. Irritated by Musashi’s tardiness, Kojiro attacked first out of blind rage, which allowed Musashi to make a quick counter. This counterattack broke several of Kojiro’s left ribs and punctured his left lung, causing the renowned samurai to die. Ganryu Island’s sixth song, which is the album’s title track, is an eleven-minute interpretation of Musashi’s arrival and the initial duel, while the seventh track, which is titled “Yoshiwara Kiadan,” begins with a sputtering, breathy saxophone that imitates the unnerving sounds of Sasaki Kojiro’s dying breaths. The album’s eight tracks, “Natsu Masturi,” begins with a bizarre, mournful squealing that is contradicted by the shamisen pinging along in a major key. This clash of sorrowful shrieks and constant, upbeat strumming likely depicts the contrast between the mourning of Kojiro’s supporting officials and Musashi’s victorious sighs of relief. Due to the comparative tranquility of the album’s final five songs, it is probable that they portray the elongated period of reflection and self-enlightenment that Musashi entered after killing Kojiro, one of Japan’s greatest samurai, in an officiated and arguably unnecessary test of supremacy.

            Revered as one of the most influential samurai films ever created, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai follows the story of seven rōnin sought out by farmers to prevent a small village from falling victim to malevolent bandits. Throughout the film, certain rōnin begin to exhibit individual qualities that relate to Musashi’s legacy and teachings. The first samurai that the audience encounters, an aged man by the name of Kambei Shimada, emerges as leader of the group. By using his reticence, age, and accumulated wisdom to plan an effective defense of the village, Kambei embodies the portion of the “Book of the Void” in which Musashi states, “By knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist” (Go Rin No Sho 58). Kyūzo, the group’s master swordsman, serves as a portrayal of Miyamoto Musashi himself and displays a firm grasp of many topics covered throughout The Book of Five Rings. In his initial appearance, Kyūzo cuts down an outraged man who challenges him. This brief scene is derived from one of Musashi’s own historical duels in which he ends the life of a boisterous challenger with a single blow. Gorōbei, a samurai that displays his combative excellence through the use of archery rather than swordsmanship, embodies the segment of the “Ground Scroll” that asserts, “You should not copy others, but use weapons which you can handle properly” (Go Rin No Sho 17). Kikuchiyo, through his overwhelming gusto and spontaneity, serves as a fine example of the “one man can beat ten” ideology discussed in the “Fire Scroll” while also adhering to the portion of the “Water Scroll” that reads, “hit with your body, hit with your spirit. This is the ‘No Design, No Conception’ cut” (Go Rin No Sho 26). While it appears that Akira Kurosawa created the lone character of Kyūzo to represent the nature of Miyamoto Musashi, multiple aspects of Musashi’s teachings can be observed in several of Seven Samurai’s protagonists. 

               Set in Tokugawa era Japan, Kenji Misumi’s 1972 film Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance follows an exiled executioner named Ittō Ogami and his infant son Daigoro as they travel the land as skill for hire. Being the first of six Lone Wolf and Cub films, Sword of Vengeance serves as an introduction to both Ittō and Daigoro and provides a brief origin story that consists of Ittō’s former relationship with the shōgun, a vindictive framing, and the rejection of seppuku, all of which set the erstwhile executioner and his son down an irredeemable path of revenge. Ittō’s stoic nature, which stems from a life of shōgunate solicited murder, correlates with many concepts discussed in the “Ground Scroll.” As Musashi states in the “Ground Scroll’s” final section, “Perceive those things which cannot be seen. Pay attention even to trifles. Do nothing which is of no use” (Go Rin No Sho 18).  Throughout Ittō and Daigoro’s journey, they encounter many enemies, all of which are defeated through Ittō’s strategic preparedness and efficiency. In addition to his display of combative awareness, Ittō exhibits proficiency in the use of multiple weapons, such as the katana, nun chucks, a shield, and stroller-mounted spears. This display of versatility adheres to the “Benefit of Weapons in Strategy” section of the “Ground Scroll,” in which Musashi declares, “You should not have a favorite weapon. To become over-familiar with one weapon is as much of a fault as not knowing it sufficiently” (Go Rin No Sho 16). Contrary to Ittō’s refined character, Daigoro “provides a much needed danger and vulnerability” and serves as an innocent counter to his father’s hardened image (Ratcliff). Though Daigoro’s presence acts as a balancing force, it also creates confusion among enemies. In the “Fire Scroll,” Musashi places emphasis on the confusion of enemies by writing, “Victory is certain when the enemy is caught up in a rhythm which confuses his spirit” (Go Rin No Sho 44). While neither Ittō nor Daigoro are traditional iterations of samurai, many aspects of their combative practices have origins in Musashi’s teachings.


Samurai Champloo is a journey of a young woman Fuu, a violent criminal Mugen, and a composed yet deadly Ronin Jin battling their past while in search of the samurai who smells of sunflowers. Created by Watanabe Shin’ichiro in 2004, Samurai Champloo is a twenty-six-part anime that is “seductive”; it tempts the viewer to examine the art in terms of “postmodern eclecticism, cultural hybridity, and self- consciousness” (Benzon 271). By combining the traditional swordsmanship from Jin with the breakdance style of combat from Mugen, this cultural hybridity is one of the most captivating tools Watanabe uses to captivate his audience. In the introduction of the anime, Jin is seen as serene in blue tones while practicing traditional swordsmanship thus giving the audience a sense of discipline. Throughout the anime, Jin embodies the true essence of both the “Ground” and “Water Scroll”. If “strategy is the craft of the warrior” as Musashi claims, then Jin, is a master craftsman; clam and disciplined, Jin exudes efficiency (8).  Jin professes in the “Artistic Anarchy” episode, that “battles are decided by thinking beyond your opponent” (Watanabe). This acknowledgement of preparation displays clear sentiments that Musashi makes in The Book of Five Rings. Jin shows his mastery of “the virtue of his weapons” and also the value he places upon his weapons in episode six as he explains that his sword is “the embodiment of a warrior’s soul” (Go Rin No Sho 10, Watanabe). Jin is a comprehensive illustration of Musashi’s thoughts in the “Water Scroll”; during the anime, Jin flows through life; his past is murky; however, his vision is clear when in battle. Regardless of whether the character Jin was purposely created to embody Musashi or not, Watanabe’s Samurai Champloo provides an exemplary illustration of Musashi’s teachings.

As one of the most recognized anime characters across the world, Kurosaki Ichigo is the protagonist of Bleach. This anime, directed by Sato Shinsuke, is an expedition that is riddled with self-discovery as Ichigo is thrust deeper into a role of responsibility within the spirit world; “Ichigo spends lots of time establishing his identity” and cultivating a deeper understanding of his true powers (Born). Containing immense spiritual energy, Ichigo is now responsible for protecting the living and the dead from evil, because he now holds the title of a soul reaper. Throughout the anime, the “Fire Scroll” can be paralleled as Ichigo learns and demonstrations more technical aspects of combat, as well as the spirit of combat, further explained in “Crossing at the Ford.” Musashi describes the practical and spiritual implications of “Crossing at the Ford” as knowing thyself despite the “wind changes” (Go Rin No Sho 38). Ichigo also demonstrates the ideals of the “Fire Scroll” in episode fifty-four when he frightens captains and lieutenants of the soul society not by “body, long sword, or voice” as suggested by Musashi in the “Fire Scroll” but by vanquishing the Sokyoku, the spear used to deliver the ultimate punishment for a soul reaper (Go Rin No Sho, Shinsuke). The foundation of the spirit and combat is essential to the success of the battle. Ichigo demonstrates his solid ground in “Flower and Hollow” episode as he is transported to the unfamiliar and unstable ground when he falls from the side of a building searching for his soul reaper power. In finding the soul reaper power he can defeat evil in the form of the hollow he would partially become. He defeats this evil and becomes a soul reaper despite the unstable battleground thus proving his victory over himself and his circumstances. Although he is not a traditional samurai like Musashi, Ichigo stands firm on pillars set by the undefeated master and teacher, Miyamoto Musashi.

Rurouni Kenshin “first made its appearance in 1992 as an original short story in Weekly Shonen Jump Special” (Nobuhiro). Both the story and the art were created by Nobuhiro Watsuki. Taking place in the Meiji era, the manga opens with images of carnage and skill from none other than the infamous Hitokiri Battosai. Through a series of events Battosai Kenshin as he is now known, saves a young woman, Kaouru, with whom he will continue to protect and form a close relationship. Upon entering the confrontation Kenshin is asked if he agrees with the  Kaouru and is here to discuss “swords that give life, too”. Kenshin counters that “a sword is a weapon…swordsmanship is a way to kill” (Nobuhiro). The same notion is expressed indirectly by Musashi in the Fire Scroll. To “duel” and be defeated means death. Kenshin’s bloody past provides him with the truth of the sword. During the rest of the manga, Kenshin and others face many foes and prevail victoriously. Careful attention is paid to the different styles of swordsmanship and martial arts throughout the manga. This attention is also taken by Musashi in the “Wind Scroll.” Musashi explains that “unless you know the ways of other schools, you certainly cannot understand the way of my individual school” (Cleary 72). The reader encounters Sanosuke and his Zanbato, a large sword invented to incapacity a rider and his steed in a single swing (Nobuhiro). Musashi discusses other schools that teach the wielding of the extra-long sword. In his examination, he describes these institutions as “weak” with the explanation that the extra-long sword is inefficient in many circumstances such as not having the suitable space for the movement required to wield the instrument (Cleary 74). Although the Kenshin is loosely based on Kawakami Gensai, a famous assassin of the Bakumatsu period, Watsuki inadvertently made many parallels between the protagonist, Kenshin, and Musashi’s criticisms of other schools of the Way in the “Wind Scroll” (Nobuhiro).

            According to the Japanese American National Museum, “Usagi Yojimbo” is based on the historical figure Miyamoto Musashi and takes inspiration from Japanese folklore, literature, and film” (About).  Stan Sakai, the creator, writer, and illustrator, has received multiple awards for his graphic novel series “Usagi Yojimbo” (“Stan Sakai”, About). When he chose Musashi as his muse, Sakai created a graphic novel encapsulating what is means to be a samurai. The use of fear and threat is a tool that both Usagi and Musashi utilize to intimidate their opponents. Usagi uses intimidation tactics when confronting Nobu (Sakai 149); Usagi’s face has been shadowed in blackness, his eyes are the only thing illuminated causing Nobu immense fear. Fear is a tactic Musashi describes in the “Fire Scroll” as “there is fright in everything” (Cleary 62). Nobu is incapable of conquering and using his fear to invigorate him and is thus overcome and falls victim to his emotion and Usagi’s intimidation. He then falls to the ground and professes, “I’ve never seen such death” (Sakai 150). Usagi is the face of death as is Musashi. Encountering foes on his way to retrieve his swords, Usagi is fierce and disciplined; embodying the “Water Scroll”, his combat state of mind is stoic.  This stoicism is a direct reflect of his whole state of mind. Usagi is searching for a corrupt bandit named General Fujii who stole his swords. After discovering Fujii’s compound, Fujii and Usagi engage in comeback. With speed and proficiency, Usagi deals the fatal blow. Before his death Fujii tells Usagi to get on his knees and beg. “Usagi explains, “When my end comes, I’ll meet it on my feet” (Sskai 344). Fujii perishes and Usagi retrieves his swords. This sentiment is similar to Musashi’s “Earth Scroll” introduction. Usagi does not beg; he stands as would Musashi.

            In his 2008 piece Ghost Writer, underground street artist Swaze portrays a grayscale Miyamoto Musashi wielding two swords in preparation for an attack. In his painting, Swaze represents the five elements described in The Book of Five Rings through the use of a restricted color palate. The colors of brown and green, which are symbolic of the element of earth described in the “Ground Scroll,” compose painting’s landscape and Musashi’s presumed enemies. Through the use of blue, which serves as a nod to the “Water Scroll,” Swaze outlines Musashi’s stylized name as it appears in the background between the setting sun and Musashi’s head. In reference to the portion of the “Fire Scroll,” which reads, “Stand in the sun; that is, take up an attitude with the sun behind you,” Swaze depicts Musashi as opposing five faceless enemies with his back to a large red sun (Go Rin No Sho 35).  By deciding to keep only Musashi’s image void of color, Swaze is making reference to the final two scrolls of The Book of Five Rings. The color white, which is one of the four colors often linked to the element of wind, composes half of Musashi’s image, while the other half is composed of the Void, which is symbolized by the color black. It is probable that by using black and white to distinguish Musashi from his enemies, Swaze is identifying the two primary elements channeled by Musashi in the represented brawl.   

In each of the five scrolls represented in The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi offers invaluable and enduring combative teachings that are applicable to a wide range of studies outside of martial arts. Though the distinguished swordsman completed his magnum opus in 1645 AD, many of the concepts discussed within its pages have both prolonged the relevancy of and influenced the contemporary impression of samurai. Even though the samurai is an inherently Japanese entity, its image has evolved to the point of large-scale western consumption. This evolution has in turn provided westerners with a rare introspective glimpse into the cultural and historical inner workings of the mysterious Orient, and in doing so, it has expanded western sensitivities towards the east in that archetypal depictions of the hero’s journey are not confined to one culture. Indeed, it is modern and contemporary creation in reaction to The Book of Five Rings that makes Musashi’s efforts timeless, and through a variety of interpretative mediums such as poetry, music, and visual art, Japan’s most prolific wandering samurai lives on.


Works Cited

 “About Year of the Rabbit: Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo.” Japanese American National Museum, Japanese American National Museum, 30 Nov. 2018,

Annen, Shingo, and Seba Jun. “Battlecry.” Departure. Produced by Yoshimoto Ishikawa.
            Victor Recordings. 23 June 2004. Mp3.

Benzon, William L. “Postmodern Is Old Hat: Samurai Champloo.” Mechademia, vol. 3, no. 1, 2008, pp. 271–274., doi:10.1353/mec.0.0031.

Born, Christopher A. "In the Footsteps of the Master: Confucian Values in Anime and Manga." ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts 17.2         2010.

Cleary, Thomas. The Book of Five Rings. Shambhala, 1993.

Downing, Ben, and Daniel Kunitz. “Robert Pinsky, The Art of Poetry No. 76.” The Paris  Review, 30 Nov.2018, poetry-no-76-robertpinsky.

Evangelista, Nick Forrest. “Miyamoto Musashi.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia  Britannica, Inc., 9 June 2018, Japanese-soldier-artist.

Go Rin No ShoThe Book of Five Rings. Bottom of the Hill Pub., 2010.

Kurosawa, Akira. Seven Samurai. Directed by Akira Kurosawa. Produced by Sōjirō
            Motoki. Toho Pictures, 26 April 1954.

Nobuhiro, Watsuki. Rurouni Kenshin. San Francisco: VIZ Media LLC, 2017. Print

Marquis, Liz. “The Commendable Grind of Shing02.” Mydefinitionofcool. 26 February

MassPoetry. YouTube, YouTube, 29 Apr. 2009,

Misumi, Kenji. Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance. Directed by Kenji Misumi.
            Produced by Shintaro Katsu and Hisaharu Matsubara. Toho Pictures, 15 January

Ratcliff, Christopher. “Lone Wolf and Cub: A Long-Read Guide to Samurai Cinema’s
            Tender, Bloodthirsty Duo.” Review of Lone Wolf and Cub series, directed by
            Kenji Misumi, Methods Unsound, 18 August 2017. http://methodsunsound.


Rich. “Anime's Great Deception – The Difference Between Anime and Cartoons.” Tofugu,     Tofugu, 1 July 2015,

Sakai, Stan. The Usagi Yojimbo Saga. Dark Horse Books, 2014.

“Stan Sakai.”, Lambiek, 30 Nov. 2018,

“Samurai Song by Robert Pinsky.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, 28 Nov. 2018,

Shinsuke, Sato. Bleach. Bosch, Johnny Yong. Ruff, Michelle. TV Tokyo, 2004.

Swaze. “Ghost Writer.” Clouded Thoughts. 18 November 2008. Flickr. https://www.

Watanabe, Shinichirō. Samurai Champloo. Nakai, Kazuya. Sato, Ginpei. Manglobe, 2004.

Zorn, John. Ganryu Island.  Produced by John Zorn, Sato Michihiro. John Zorn. Yukon
            Records. Rec. 24 November 1984. Mp3.

“Life Without Death: Out of Magic's Reach “

Caroline Hasty



Within the magical world of Harry Potter, readers young and old can find a temporary escape from reality. Through the pages, mythical creatures, thrilling adventures, and tough trials give readers a way to envision a magical world they will never truly get to experience. However, the series has a unique way of subtly connecting its magical roots to the lives of its readers. As readers complete chapter after chapter, one simple but important concept of life is shown, and it isn’t pretty. Death and the desire to outrun it are prominent themes of the Harry Potter series, and they just might be what make the stories about Harry and his journey so relatable to those that read Rowling’s work.

Keywords: alchemy, death, immortality, magic


Life Without Death: Out of Magic's Reach


J. K. Rowling has fascinated readers of all ages for over twenty years with the Harry Potter series. Complex storylines and characters with rich history come together to form page-turning books that have stood their ground since 1997. Although the original series ended in 2007, the magical world of Harry Potter is far from extinct. The series has continued to grow and spawn stories full of characters old and new. Critics have pondered for years just what it is that keeps readers coming back for more after all this time. Of course, the mystical appeal of magic is present, but what makes Harry Potter such a classic may be because of the real-life side of the story. Perhaps every reader can pinpoint a situation, storyline, or character that hits home. Emotions can be pricked, and things can become relatable, which poses a second question: What is so relatable to readers about a magical world? If it is all fictional, what could possibly make readers feel so at home? There has to be some aspect of this magical world that pulls at the heartstrings of readers, and surprisingly, it may not be a comforting pull. The tug of emotions could quite possibly be the presence and permanence of death in the Harry Potter series.

Death is everywhere. It is present, and it is very much permanent up until this point in human history. Death holds strong power over humanity, and an escape from death has never been discovered for the mortal. Mark S. McLeod-Harrison says in his book, The Resurrection of Immortality: An Essay in Philosophical Eschatology, that “to be mortal simply means, in some contexts to be one who dies” (McCleod-Harrison 9). Because all humans are mortal, there have been many attempts theorized and researched over thousands of years regarding the possibility of living forever. From biological immortality, which proposes immortality minus the escape from aging, to nanotechnology and corresponding ideas of preserving the human mind in computers, the discussion of immortality can go in many directions, but the best-known idea of immortality is defined by McLeod-Harrison as personal immortality. Personal immortality is the idea of “human persons existing forever as the persons we are from our creation as individuals” (McLeod-Harrison 9). In other words, someone seeking personal immortality favors the idea of living forever without being affected by age or physical ailments.

The personal immortality that McLeod-Harrison brings up might seem familiar to readers of the Harry Potter series, with one primary example being Voldemort, the Dark Lord of the magical world. Voldemort seeks personal immortality in hopes of one day gaining control over the entire world. Throughout the series, his attempts are partially successful but not without great consequence and sacrifice at his hands and the hands of many others. Those who followed him gave up their lives to do so, and those who refused were tortured and left in unimaginable states, such as Frank and Alice Longbottom, who suffered at the hands of the maddening Crutiatus curse. Others who refused to follow him were killed, such as James and Lily Potter. Among all of his horrible actions, however, lies his biggest loss. Voldemort’s failure to murder Harry Potter led to an eighteen-year-long battle with a young wizard in an attempt to preserve the Dark Lord’s chances at immortality.

Harry and Voldemort’s stories crossed paths on October 31, 1981. On this night, Voldemort breaks into a quiet home in Godric’s Hollow with plans to kill those living there, James and Lily Potter and their one-year-old son, Harry. The couple had gone into hiding to protect themselves and Harry, as they knew Voldemort was after them for refusing to follow him. Their hiding place was given away by someone meant to be their trustworthy friend. Voldemort first succeeds in killing James and makes his way upstairs to find Lily, who attempts to shelter her baby. Killing Lily proves to be simple, or so Voldemort thinks. When Lily jumps in between her child and the Dark Lord, she forms a shield of protection fueled by nothing less than a mother’s love. However, in “Legilimens!: Perspectives in Harry Potter Studies,” Christopher E. Bell writes that “the vital connection...between Harry and his mother, Lily, is severed” (Bell 8) when she falls dead. Although Harry has just turned a year old and doesn’t have a sense of understanding of what has happened, the death of his parents shapes his journey through life in big ways, mainly because of what happens when he is the only one left in his nursery with Voldemort. During an explanation to Harry years down the road, Hagrid, the Hogwarts Groundskeeper, says “an’ this is the real myst’ry of the thing - [Voldemort] tried to kill you, too...But he couldn’t do it” (Rowling 55). The ending of that October night earns Harry the name “The Boy Who Lived” and leaves him with a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. The name is more than just a name, and the scar is more than just a scar, but Harry wouldn’t discover what his past truly meant until years later. What he was not able to realize as a child was that he and Voldemort shared a connection from that night on - a connection incapable of severing without the death of one of the parties. This detail is mentioned in the prophecy that Harry would hear later on. It reads, “Neither can live with the other survives” (Rowling 278). Neither Harry nor Voldemort would ever be able to live completely free while the other remains alive.

This very important part of Harry and Voldemort’s story is told in the first publication of the Harry Potter series, The Philosopher’s Stone. However, avid fans will note that in American copies of the book, the title was changed to The Sorcerer’s Stone, and according to Signe Cohen in “The Two Alchemists in Harry Potter: Harry, Voldemort, and their Quests for Immortality, “a great deal is lost” (Cohen 1) in this switching of words. The idea of a Philosopher’s Stone has made many appearances throughout years of literature and history as an aid to creating an elixir of life. It was a staple of alchemy, a form of medieval chemistry focused on the transformation of matter in Europe and Asia during the Middle Ages and Early Modern Era. In “Alchemy: Ancient and Modern,” H. Stanley Redgrove writes, “Alchemy was both a philosophy and an experimental science, and the transmutation of the metals was its end only in that this would give the final proof of the alchemistic hypothesis” (Redgrove 1). One focus of alchemy was simply the transformation of ordinary elements into gold in order to obtain wealth. The spiritual/philosophical side, however, focused on gold being transformed into the Philosopher’s stone. So, the stone in the Harry Potter series represents more than just a magical object such as the Marauder’s Map or the Invisibility Cloak. The stone has a rich history, and there’s no doubt about why characters in the series were so quick to search for a mythical object as such. As readers are familiarized with the characters, it can be seen that the practice of alchemy is another way that Harry and Voldemort are connected. The ways that the two characters are involved in alchemy differ, as they possess different motives.

What are these motives? Cohen discusses, that similar to many of J. K. Rowling’s spell names, magical creatures, and characters, Harry and Voldemort’s names offer up some foreshadowing and clues as to what the characters seek after and why. For example, Voldemort started out as Tom Riddle before he began his quest for power and immortality. He changes his name to “Voldemort,” the French term for “flight from death,” which perfectly describes his journey throughout the entire series. Voldemort continuously runs from death and attempts to escape it by any means possible, living up to his name. Harry’s name, however, could ode to a potter who “transforms ordinary clay into pots” (Cohen 1). When a potter holds clay in his hands, he has the power to mold the clay in different ways based on the choices he makes with his hands. The transformation mentioned by Cohen represents Harry’s journey to transform in a deeper way than Voldemort based on choices and decisions made during each of their lives.

Harry’s journey is more of a spiritual one, harboring many valuable lessons and relationships through the years. He learns that family comes first and that good will always triumph in the end. He also forms many notable relationships with those who walk his journey with him. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger go on to be Harry’s best friends, meeting him the first year they all attend Hogwarts. Harry’s friendships go through spiritual/psychological trials as well, which allows each of those involved to transform in deep, important ways.

Another alchemist mentioned in the Harry Potter series is Nicolas Flamel. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Flamel is the true star of the show, as it is his stone that makes its way into the hands of many other characters before the end of the book. Setting up the theme of immortality or running from death for the entire series, Flamel’s stone is one of the first methods of immortality introduced into the series. The stone, however, is only temporary, as Flamel decides to destroy it after Voldemort narrowly misses his chance to hold possession of it. Flamel’s quest for immortality ultimately fails because his method, no matter how long it lasts, isn’t strong enough, just like other methods seen later in the series. The stone is a liability to keep in existence after the scare Harry, Dumbledore, Flamel, and others have over Voldemort almost succeeding in stealing it.

Along with Flamel’s stone, Rowling includes several other methods and concepts regarding immortality in the series. Two of the magical creatures that aid Harry in learning about immortality and death appear at the beginning of his journey at Hogwarts. In his first year at the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry is introduced to the Phoenix and the Unicorn. After being assigned a punishment in the Forbidden Forest, Harry, along with Hagrid and Draco Malfoy, are tracking a unicorn that Hagrid believes is hurt. At this particular time, there has been a widespread and mysterious disappearance of unicorns, and Harry soon finds out why. As the three of them travel through the forest, they find a slain unicorn along with something that unsettles Harry. Someone walks over to the unicorn and drinks its blood as it lies dead on the forest floor. As soon as this person is seen, the scar on Harry’s forehead begins to hurt, and although he doesn’t know why, Harry soon learns that his scar pains him when Lord Voldemort is near. Sure enough, he later learns that this mystery person was Quirinus Quirrell, one of his first professors at Hogwarts. Throughout the first book, Quirrell had been harboring a guest in his own body. Lord Voldemort himself had come out of hiding for the first time since he failed to kill Harry all those years ago, and he was taking Quirrell’s body as a host, which explains why Harry’s scar hurt in the forest. Voldemort was near and right under Harry’s nose. Drinking the blood of a unicorn was actually helping Voldemort stay alive, as Harry soon finds out, but it is not without consequence. Another creature in the forest named Ronan explains that “ the blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips” (Rowling 258). Harry learns that this is the first method that Lord Voldemort uses as a way of staying alive. It isn’t without flaw, however, as the unicorn blood curses Voldemort for being a part of slaying something so innocent.

Fawkes the Phoenix is also introduced in The Philosopher’s Stone. Harry meets him for the first time when he enters Dumbledore’s Headmaster Office in one of the many towers of Hogwarts. After admiring the bird, Harry is surprised to see it burst into flames. He panics, thinking that he has done something to hurt Dumbledore’s bird. However, Dumbledore explains to Harry that Fawkes has simply reached the end of his cycle of life, and he will rise from the ashes soon, which Harry is able to witness. Fawkes continuously dies and is reborn over and over due to the form of immortality that he possesses. His life repeats itself, and it will never end. It is different from the kind of personal immortality that Voldemort searches for, but it is worth mentioning because it helps support the central theme that death is imminent and permanent. Although Fawkes is able to come back to life each time he dies, there is nothing that can stop him from dying.

Quite possibly the most important attempted method of achieving immortality in the Harry Potter series is the creation of horcruxes. As Harry moves through each year at Hogwarts, and the series moves through each book in the series respectively, more and more about these Horcruxes are revealed to Harry and his friends and allies. The concept of a horcrux is explained to Harry by one of his professors in his sixth year at Hogwarts. Professor Slughorn tells him, “Well, you split your soul, you see, and hide part of it in an object outside the body. Then, even if one’s body is attacked or destroyed, one cannot die, for part of the soul remains earthbound and undamaged” (Rowling 649). Voldemort created seven horcruxes in an attempt to keep himself alive and gain his personal immortality. The seven objects outside of his body that he split his soul for were Tom Riddle’s diary, Salazar Slytherin’s locket, Helga Hufflepuff’s cup, Marvolo Gaunt’s ring, Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem, Nagini the snake, and Harry Potter himself. The seventh and final Horcrux was a surprise to both Voldemort and Harry. Voldemort knew that when he failed to kill Harry that something strange and remarkable happened. He knew that he had been defeated by an infant, but he didn’t know that he created a human horcrux. This only furthered the connection between Harry and himself.

At this point, it’s clear to all readers that immortality is something that is wanted by many in the Harry Potter series, but why? What is so appealing about escaping death? Perhaps, just as in real life, the characters wish to not succumb to the same death that has stolen their loved ones away. People know the pain of losing loved ones, and they don’t want to pass that pain onto others by dying. Maybe people are just afraid of dying. Whatever the cause, it is no secret that people in Rowling’s magical world are “driven by an addictive yearning for their beloved dead” (Mills 291), as Alice Mills explains in “Harry Potter: Agency or Addiction?” A common theme shown throughout the entire series, longing for those gone on is a serious issue for many of Rowling’s characters. Harry himself loses his parents at such a young age, and he is seen throughout the series longing for them. He sees them standing behind him as his greatest wish in the Mirror of Erised. He speaks of them fondly and often as if he knew them well. He connects with them briefly at the end of the series before his important battle with Lord Voldemort. However, no matter how much Harry wishes to have his parents back, Dumbledore is quick to remind him that there is no spell to bring back the dead.

In the seventh book of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry is told a story by his friend’s father about an attempt to bring someone back from the dead. The story, “The Tale of Three Brothers,” tells of three brothers who are traveling and stumble upon a river. There is no way for them to cross safely, but the brothers are skilled in magic, so they conjure up a bridge. Death appears to them as they are crossing over the bridge, as he thought that he would be taking the brothers that night when they failed to cross the river. Death feels cheated, so he offers up some consequential gifts to the brothers. The second brother asks for a way to bring the dead back to life, and Death gives him the Resurrection Stone, which holds the power to bring back the dead. The second brother goes back home, and he uses the stone to bring back his lover. He succeeds but not in the way that he would like. Although his lover has been brought back, she has a veil separating herself from him, as she has been brought somewhere that she doesn’t belong. Eventually, the brother goes mad, and he commits suicide in an attempt to truly be with his lover again. “That was when Death took the second brother for his own” (Rowling 409).

Attempts at immortality are proved to be unsuccessful, and bringing back the dead causes problems, both because of the power that death holds. An extensive list exists within the Harry Potter series of people that death takes from the characters. From the very beginning of the story that Rowling gives to readers, death triumphs. Harry is orphaned due to the death of his parents at the age of one, also somewhat “killing” Lord Voldemort in the process. Voldemort experiences being orphaned as well and sees death from a young age. The cycle continues with Quirrell dying in Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone, Cedric Diggory dying in Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, Siris Black dying in Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore dying in Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, and many major and minor characters dying along the way and in Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows.

Knowing that no method of immortality has been successful and that bringing the dead back to life is impossible, it is clear that death might possibly be the only thing that holds such a mighty power over magic. As Rowling expands her magical world through every page, it seems as if everything is possible, but it is clear that magic never measures up to one thing; the power of death. Throughout the series, there are so many. Rowling’s works show, however, that no one has been successful. From drinking innocent blood to using ancient stones to splitting one’s own soul, death always has its way in the end, something Rowling might have prominently included to illustrate the power of death that plagues humanity and subtly keeps readers tied to reality, forever a reminder that death is our biggest challenge yet.



Works Cited

Bell, Christopher E. Legilimens! : Perspectives in Harry Potter Studies. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013. EBSCOhost, ip,shib&db=nlebk&AN=685808&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Cohen, Signe. “The Two Alchemists in Harry Potter: Voldemort, Harry, and Their Quests for Immortality.” Journal of Religion & Popular Culture, vol. 30, no. 3, Fall 2018, pp. 206–219. EBSCOhost, ip,shib&db=edo&AN=134277604&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Grimes, M.Katherine, and Lana A. Whited. The Harry Potter Series. Vol. [First edition], Salem Press, 2015. EBSCOhost, ip,shib&db=nlebk&AN=1028502&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Mark S. McLeod-Harrison. The Resurrection of Immortality : An Essay in Philosophical Eschatology. Cascade Books, 2017. EBSCOhost, ip,shib&db=nlebk&AN=1584503&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Mills, Alice. “Harry Potter: Agency or Addiction?” Children’s Literature in Education, vol. 41, no. 4, Dec. 2010, pp. 291–301. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s10583-010-9115-y.

Redgrove, H.Stanley. Alchemy: Ancient and Modern, Being a Brief Account of the Alchemistic

Doctrines, and Their Relations, to Mysticism on the One Hand, and to Recent

Discoveries in Physical Science on the Other Hand; Together with Some Particulars

Regarding the Lives and Teachings of the Most Noted Alchemists. By H. Stanley Redgrove, with 16 Full-Page Illustrations. Jan. 1922, p. xx. EBSCOhost, ip,shib&db=agr&AN=CAT10914021&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets. New York, Scholastic, 1998.

---. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows. New York, Scholastic, 2007.

---. Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire. New York, Scholastic, 2000 ---. Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince. New York, Scholastic, 2005.

---. Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix. New York, Scholastic, 2003.

---. Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone. London, Bloomsbury, 1997.

"Psyches in Strange the Dreamer"

Lananh Huynh

            Strange the Dreamer uses psychoanalytic motifs to prompt reflection on abuse and its effects on the unconscious. Dreams have a massive impact on numerous cultures throughout the ages, leading to the production of personal and social symbolism around them. Those symbols would then form imaginative stories based on actual history. However, they may or may not take into account multiple aspects of a subject, including the humanization of its hero. If the hero is given human weakness, then the shining myth would lose credibility and would simply be another footprint in history. In addition, a theme prevails concerning interdependence of two emotions, namely harm and desire. Their power leads to a broader tangent on how a text processes a story’s events. The portrayal of trauma in this fictional work will be compared to real-life symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The classic psychoanalytic models of trauma have an evident presence as shown in characters’ difficulty in speaking about it. Despite the fiction book heavily drawing inspiration from Western literary theory, its resemblances to Middle Eastern literature and philosophy are worth noting from dream interpretation to representation of violence. All those factors blend in to build the foundation of Strange the Dreamer.
            According to psychoanalysis, dreams show unconscious desires through symbolism and arguably catalyze self-development through one's interpretation (“Dream Analysis”). In one of Lazlo Strange's dreams, he digs the ground to search for his identity but finds the feathers of the Wraith bird instead. Sarai, entering into his dreams, does not understand the meaning of it. However, the magical bird has personal significance to Lazlo since it appears just before fateful events in his life. In the first part of Strange the Dreamer, Lazlo sees the Wraith bird one fateful day as follows: "And there it was: a bird, hovering on an updraft … There was something about it. Some trick of the light? Its edges … they weren't defined, but seemed to melt against the blue of the sky" (Taylor 58). Soon, "[t]he bird pirouetted on one vast wing and tipped into a slow, graceful spiral. He watched it plummet and soar out to cast its shadow… over the roof of a carriage. The royal carriage" (58). Accompanying that royal carriage is the Tizerkane people Lazlo has dreamed of his entire life until then. Eventually, he joins them to see Weep, where he learns about why the city was isolated for a long time. The appearance of the bird feathers also hints at an imminent event later in the story, further marking personal symbolism. Relating to that, Carl Jung, a renowned psychologist in the 19th century, has a fascination with dreams' roles in people's identities and roles; "[f]or Jung, psyche is not only expressed in images, but psyche exists in images, both at a personal and collective level" (Krippner and Feinstein 20). Often, people dream about the thoughts they think of earlier or things they have seen before and unconsciously sort them out to make sense. However, once they are conscious, the dream events either disappear or become garbled most of the time. The novel's theme generally aligns with this logic: "The unconscious mind is open terrain —  no walls or barriers… Thoughts and feelings are free to wander, like characters leaving their books to taste life in other stories.
Secrets are turned out like pockets, and old memories meet new… Thus is meaning made." (Taylor 476). By peering through others' dreams and nightly activities, Sarai sympathizes with humans' suffering while carrying the weight of them resenting her kind. Because of knowing their pains caused her mother and the rest of the Mesarthim, Sarai avoids dreaming by taking a plant-based concoction called lull, which increasingly fails as her father spends more time in the city. By meeting Lazlo, she learns to overcome her nightmares. When considering the the novel's usage of dreams and characters' beliefs about them, many cultures around the world bear different conclusions to their purposes. Some of the Dayak groups, for example, believe that dreaming is a part of awake reality and even causes the soul to leave the body (Clodd 142). In that vein, Islam, which has strong roots in the Middle East, features its prophet Muhammed prophesying through dreams. Its philosophical adherents distinguish three types: dreams from Allah, the devil, or one's desires (Gouda ctd in Edgar, 2011).  Although not all dreams have value worthy of profound interpretation, the true dreams, given shape by human imagination, come through an open heart, according to the philosopher Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (Edgar). Since so many of Lazlo's dreams express truths due to his optimistic, compassionate perspective, the notion that Lazlo is short of the divine would cause surprise. In fact, the last pages of the book reveal that he is one of the "Godspawn." The unconscious wielding influence on the meaning of dreams is an idea that many people from different times and places believe in, one that Strange the Dreamer embraces. Its main characters sort their internal matters through them, and the story depends on them for narrative insinuations and other messages.
            As a result of symbolism in dreams, myths build up quietly. Mythology, defined as values and knowledge conglomerated into coherent narratives, is one invisible but essential part of the story. In the article "A Mythological Approach to Transpersonal Psychotherapy," the authors list seven principles for making a personal myth:
1. Change in perspective is a part of mental development
2. Personal conflict is inevitable
3. An obstacle myth for change derives from a past experience
4. There is also a counter-myth to expand perception
5. A drift toward a solution occurs
6. Unresolved conflicts emerge and either help or hinder progress
7. Reconciling the new beliefs with the old

(Krippner and Feinstein 22-23)
Although the list assumes that changes in personal myths are always beneficial for a person, it holds up quite well for its purpose. In the book, Sarai changes from being compliant to Minya's malevolent wishes to deciding matters for herself, however hesitantly. At first, she does not bother to question Minya's authority since she is the oldest and most knowledgeable of the group. As Sarai gains more information on people, however, she becomes more reluctant to harm them. When she meets Lazlo, she realizes her worth to a human who cares about her, strengthening the counter-myth building up inside her. On Lazlo's part, he reads and creates stories for himself, especially concerning mythology. The infusion of truth and fiction holds such a strong, unconscious appeal to him that he sees the truth without knowing that he does. During one of his dream voyages with his date, he improvises a legend about a fog near a particular lake that could turn people into gods or monsters. Once the dream fog takes over them, the only differences they go through are their skins' color. The dream not only prophesizes Lazlo's discovery of being a child of Mesarthim and a human, but the ordeal also shows a few underlying ideas. Sarai may be a god, but she has a humane side to her. On the other hand, humans can be monsters, just like the Mesarthim of old are brutal monsters. Even though Lazlo is not shown to think of it explicitly, the way the dream conducts in his mind demonstrates his lucid understanding of worldly matters in spite of his seeming innocence. From person to person, perspectives are disparate, but if enough of them agree on a matter, they accumulate to make a social myth. Differences between social myths and individual myths can create emotional dissonance, especially when dealing with so-called heroes. Contrary to many people's blind idolization of noteworthy people, "[h]eroes are fragile constructions. If there is or has been a real person whose life is heroified, it is often easy to erode— if not to shatter— the monumentality of the hero by presenting the profane and humane details of his or her life" (Giesen and Eisenstadt 19). Despite Thyon Nero, Lazlo's rival, being a famous prince-scholar, he turns out to be a victim of his father's avarice and physical abuse. Although Lazlo does not learn that lesson about social veneer versus reality until later, he develops empathy for him because of his humanity. Thyon Nero's victimization turns out to be foreshadowing for a phenomenon more brutal that happened in Weep years prior to the story's setting, and that phenomenon heavily impacted Eril-Fane's psychology. Lazlo believed at first that the Godslayer is a really amazing warrior, but he eventually learns that Eril-Fane is an emotionally broken murderer coping poorly with his past. Mythology can deceive people from facets of the truth, much like it can encourage self-inquiry and growth.
            The soil where myths grow consists of a myriad of values and knowledge, including types of emotions. Two prominent topics in Strange the Dreamer are desire and mental suffering. The duality and mixture between them drive the characters' actions and define the fundaments of the story itself. The Mesarthim of the past gained sexual pleasure at the cost of human suffering, ensuing in the humans' uprise and victory over them. Because Lazlo and Sarai endure nightmares and converse about hurt, their infatuation with each other grows, and they start kissing erotically. All of those emotions relate to an enormous web of collective epistemology. In a philosophical stance concerning pain and pleasure, Plato contends that sometimes, people's perception of their mental states can be wrong. People in happy relationships might perceive apathy to that other to be hurtful, and people in pain might believe that just stopping the sensation is a pleasant experience (Erginel 450). This placement of Plato's argument is not intended to downplay trauma but rather to demonstrate a general life philosophy in the book. The roles of pain and pleasure are akin to yin and yang in Taoism; they may not appear to relate to each other, but their effects undeniably mingle. In that sense, applying too strict boundaries between those feelings also counts as wrong perception since mixed feelings have to be considered. Going back to the fictional novel, Eril-Fane is said to love and hate Isagol, the goddess who emotionally tormented him for three years. Being aware of the lack of distinguishability causes him to have a persistent mental crisis, especially when the affliction cuts very deep. To reinforce the same principle but with a twist, vengeful thoughts against the humans give Minya happiness because of  witnessing the Mesarthim children's deaths. Not only is her power manipulating ghosts, but she also enjoys taking advantage of living people's feelings using the ghosts. On that note, Sigmund Freud believed that pain and pleasure drive human lives. Despite people searching for pleasure, their minds can often visit emotionally scarring or otherwise unpleasant thoughts. Freudian psychoanalysts theorize that people act the unhappy thoughts out to prevent facing failure in case similar situations happen again. Living creatures have to face death, but they would rather not die in those types of situations (Fry). If the surving victims keep their memories, their minds switch to distressing thoughts to prepare for more perils. Although Sarai never directly goes through trauma, she still expects the day when the humans would use their technology to come up to the citadel and kill her. Two primary, opposite feelings rely on each other throughout the story, creating a theme around duality.

             Ever since psychoanalysis extended its influence in the literary world, critics ask, "If people can have pain and pleasure, is it possible for a story to live like them?" Perceiving a text as a living subject is not a new idea though it has a wide range of meanings in different contexts. For instance, debates around important documents such as the United States Constitution occur, questioning whether they should be interpreted to fit modern needs like how an organism adapts to environmental changes. In this case, however, the idea is more about the text's presence and what it means to others. Jacques Derrida suggested a connection between biology and literature. The basic biology structures have DNA for rudimentary codings, like how symbols in a text code for other concepts (Vitale 107). Not only that, but the text also replicates itself through readings and does not inherently possess meaning or "a life of its own" until an outside factor comes into the picture and actively interprets it. With that view in mind, Strange the Dreamer acts on its own accord at times. After a scene where two teenagers flirt and make out with each other before having sex, the same chapter cuts off to Minya having a traumatic flashback about not saving enough children (Taylor 264). Despite many of the adolescents and young adults eagerly exploring sexual boundaries, the book's inclusion of the motif can be jarring to some readers, especially when also mentioning exploitation. One could argue that the storytelling contributes to, again, the mixture and duality of suffering and pleasure. However, other people might interpret the way the book lets out details as more of a tragedy since most of the characters ultimately suffer despite their happy moments. Other interpretations might pop up too such as the text possibly equating pain with pleasure and its implications even if that is not the author's intention. The simple action of the reader viewing the text in a perspective already gives the book life or lives outside the author's reach. A text has a beginning and end as well as deny or misconstrue some parts of the narrative.
            Interpretations of a text's content differ, especially in a topic like trauma and what potential message could the text be communicating about it through storytelling. Over the last few years, the portrayal of trauma became a contentious topic within media circles. Many people working in those fields disagree on what exactly makes a great tragedy, not to mention the sensitivity around it. Although a completely accurate representation is nearly impossible due to lingual limits, indications of mental trauma in Strange the Dreamer's supporting characters are visible. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include "[d]ifficulty maintaining close relationships," "[o]verwhelming guilt or shame,” and avoidance ("Post-traumatic"). Although Eril-Fane and Azareen are married, the past has tainted their relationship and the possibility of the same psychological connection as before: "The closeness between them was palpable but also somehow … painful" (Taylor 127).  Also, Eril-Fane's recollection of Isagol and the massacre he participated in contains ambivalent feelings, including guilt and shame. One of the few things that bring him to hope is the prospect of his daughter being alive, who happens to resemble Isagol greatly. Once the Tizerkane warriors enter Weep, "none of them were looking at the citadel … It seems to Lazlo they were looking anywhere but there, as though they couldn't bear the sight of the thing" (Taylor 177). Going back to Freud's explanations, trauma splits the ego and creates two layers: protection and vulnerability. By looking away from the building, they try not to think about the atrocities inflicted on generations of their people. In the Caruth model of trauma, "the unrepresentable past continues to orbit consciousness to create a type of absence that itself points to the event even while not being able to accord epistemological or ethical determinacy" (Mambrol). Despite the oppressors being dead for years, the residents of Weep still must deal with that prevalent psychological problem overwhelming them. The main characters, whose thoughts the audience probes extensively, are not the ones who directly faced the past atrocities. Although some of the secondary characters' memories of extreme helplessness surface up, their inner psyches remain relatively untouched, only skimmed or bubbling up in a few moments. The book lays out gaps between language and thought while giving those feelings a sort of solidness. It also blends elements of Western and Middle Eastern metaphorical depictions of violence. In another work comparing literature from those sections of Eurasia, the author states: "In the supposed West, violence remains a metaphysical relic … imposing itself as an infinite, traceless exchange between myth and divinity"(Mohaghegh XV-XVI). Along the way, it acts as a consuming void. On the other hand, Middle Eastern violence "asserts itself as an ever-present spark of disorientation (it breathes, subsumes, and takes over what it wants through confounding plans). If there is abstraction, it is not from emptiness but from complexity" (Mohaghegh XVI). Concerning the main opposing force in the text, violence, both physical and mental, derives from god-like figures, leaving victims devoid of positive feelings. Retaliating would exacerbate the gnawing feeling in one's heart, the lack of satisfaction. While that is happening, another harmony comes into play: chaos. The sheer emotional entanglement within the entire course of the story permeates the theme, and anything is potent to burst into madness. In the same paragraph, Mohaghegh uses the word "strangeness" to describe the caprice of violence; coincidentally, Lazlo's surname is "Strange." Both could describe how incongruous their existences feel from the rest of their surroundings. In the present presented in the story, not much happens action-wise except near the end. Most of the chaos and tension reside psychologically, making it stand out from the “peace” outside. In addition, Lazlo's personality contrasts with the negative connotation of Mohaghegh's strangeness. People never expect him to be part of the alien, calamity-inducing gods; he might stand out with his bizarre ideas but not on that level until the end.
            The portrayal of trauma among other aspects of psychoanalysis in Strange the Dreamer could leave quite an influence on the literary world based on its meaningful principles behind it. Perhaps it should stay in its current state of moderate success despite coming close to winning the Printz Award; perhaps it should go beyond that. Regardless, Laini Taylor has expertise when connecting her fiction with relatable feelings in the real world.

                                                                        Works Cited

Clodd, Edward. Myths and Dreams. The Floating Press, 1891. EBSCOhost,,shib&db=nlebk&AN=787827&site=eds-live&scope=site, 2013.

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"Momentary Apocalypse"

Ashley Fann


To sink into a work of literature is simply to be entranced by an author’s words. This level of connection or interest in a work can be sparked by a variety of reasons ranging from emotional to aesthetic appeal. The multitude of existing works means many are applicable to this romantic description which varies from reader to reader and student to student. As a student of literature and rhetoric, I became entranced by Zhang Ailing’s short story “Sealed Off” in the summer of 2021 (Puchner 524). Published in 1934, “Sealed Off” is a short story that captures brief but revealing life tales within a moment of unspecific wartime through an apocalyptic-style narrative. Contributor to The Comparatist: Journal of the Southern Comparative Literature Association Leihua Weng summarizes this short story with the description that depicts “a brief love encounter during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai in

World War II” (2).

In October of 2018, Weng published an article titled “Modernity in a Wartime Tramcar: Temporal Contestations and Individual Subjectivity in Eileen Chang’s “Sealed Off.” Though this article includes jargon specific to alternative studies of time, Weng also provides thought-provoking commentary and context on Ailing’s, or Chang’s, use of time in this work. In her article, Weng refers to Ailing using her American name. Weng creatively and cleverly opened her article by quoting the 2007 science fiction film The Man from Earth. The quote mentioned above claims that time is “a subjective sense of becoming what we are instead of what we were a nanosecond ago, becoming what we will be in another nanosecond” (1). Despite the lack of relation between the film and the short story, this distant quote captures the three distinct sections of time depicted in “Sealed Off.” Throughout the short story, Ailing details the following distinct sections of time; the panic before entrapment due to the air raid threat, the time spent getting lost within the wait, and the time following the return to an eerie and rather detached normal. Interestingly, Weng notes the use of “an absence of linear time” in “Chinese traditional literature” (3). Although Ailing wrote in a time of transition to modernity, she called upon this traditional cultural literary tool in her short story. Both the author and the work are unique in this case.

As an author, Ailing is noted to be a literary outlier due to her works that “stayed quiet and persisted in exploring what was mundane and daily” rather than being “actively engaged in political movements” (2). Despite her nature as an outlier and lack of outspoken political commentary, Weng agrees with scholars who see “Sealed Off” as a piece that can “be read as a subtle rejection of the dominant temporality and sensibility of her time as well as a rejection and critique of modernity” (2). Though the work’s setting is ambiguous, readers can daily assume it is set during a Japanese air raid occupation of Shanghai, which is also the time most scholars agree “Chang’s writing was at its peak” (Weng 6). The foundation of this work “lies” on the “unconscious of the city” (Puchner 525). This “unconscious,” similar to Freud’s definition, holds” the submerged desires and dreams of” Shanghai and its citizens that “oppose the ruthlessness of the social order” (Puchner 525). By inserting the events of this work into an altered state of time, Ailing brought awareness to the cultural and social details of that time, setting, and the historical circumstance within. Viewing this work as “a subtle disavowal of historical entrapment” allows readers to see that the placement of this work’s action was “not accidental but rather a meticulous narrative scheme” (Weng 6). When reading this short story, one’s thoughts will not immediately connect to political commentary. However, it can be identified within the collective social behavior and the thoughts and actions of focal characters Lu Zongzhen and Wu Cuiyuan. The uniqueness of Ailing’s short story presents an “experimental approach” to “narrative structure” that is “unsettling” and tackles the task of “unmasking” (Puchner 524). In this use, the term unmasking refers to the city’s functioning, or lack thereof, under threat and the consequences of freeing human nature in a dreamlike state of quiet chaos.

Ailing used impactful imagery and sets of juxtaposition to create a truly immersive and thought-provoking reading experience through a minimal amount of pages. Juxtaposition is a main feature of this work, both structurally and internally. In this short story, Ailing juxtaposes brevity and depth by providing a concise work that provokes complex consideration of wartime-impacted cultural psychology. The most blatant showcase of internal juxtaposition occurs between the characterization of the panicked citizens, “fearing one another” as they attempt to locate a safe haven while under threat, and the silent unity found within the trance of the tramcar before it is shattered when time returns to its previous state (Ailing 526). In her article, Weng notes that Ailing “presents a subtle and multi-layered narrative configuration of temporality” set in “a time of cultural transformations” in China due to conflict and multifaceted shifts “from the traditional to the modern” (16). Weng also describes the state of terror found in the moment before the city shuts down by using phrases like “the eerie silence after the siren” and “heavy with the fear of war and death” (9). The “siren” mentioned is an example of Ailing’s impactful imagery that calls upon the reader’s auditory sense (9). The sound of the alarm is used twice in this work to respectively demarcate the entrance and exit from the dreamlike or stance state held within the entrapment.

Ailing describes the alarm as “cold little dot[s]” that cut “across time and space” (Ailing 526). Held between these auditory notifications is an alternative time which resembles a trance. Weng’s article denotes the time between as “entrapment” and states that the nature of this containment is “an indication of the entrapment of the individual by history” (6). Though the notion of time unites all human experience by measuring out existence through days and aging, “the specifics of our experiences of time radically differ” (Weng 1). The setting of “Sealed Off” places socio-cultural implications on its characters both focal and minor. Weng discusses the concept and manipulation of temporality, which is defined as the state of existing within or related to time, in-depth. Ailing’s work uses time disruption to connect to the historical and cultural disruption caused by wartime.

Personified, the city of Shanghai is characterized as a burden on its citizens. The title “Sealed Off” comes to life as the “huge, shambling city” sits “dozing” with “its head resting heavily on people’s shoulders” (Puchner 527). This creates “an inconceivable enormous weight pressing down on everyone” (Puchner 527). This weight consists of the

“never-ending” feeling of the city’s shut down and the image of the tram’s “unaltered track” (Puchner 525, Weng 2). The city’s shutdown is paralleled by the shutdown of the mind of those within the tramcar. Forced into “quietude,” the citizens are characterized as feeling the need to “fill” the “terrifying emptiness” of the moment to prevent their thoughts from beginning to wander (Puchner 525, 527). Later in her article, Weng points out that the focal female character, Wu Cuiyuan, is the only character whose thoughts come “upon her with” their “own autonomy” (12). Weng continues to explain that Cuiyuan’s thoughts are also the only of self-reflection, which “is remarkably different from the mindless mechanical behaviors of the other passengers” (12).

The “temporal alterity” quickly comes to an end for readers, leaving the impacts forgotten by all but Cuiyuan, who must literally face her post-trance reality as she watches her momentary love return to his original place on the tram, which symbolizes his original place in life pre-trance (Weng 7). In “Sealed Off,” Zhang Ailing, or Eileen Chang, uses “the oldest narrative form” of “storytelling,” which “reaches a more profound level in people’s psychology and mentality and makes the impact of events remain” (Weng 5). As noted by Weng, Ailing’s work makes use of the theme of time disruption to create the juxtaposition of subtle but impactful statements about the social, cultural, political, and historical state of early twentieth-century China.



Works Cited

Ailing, Zhang. “Sealed Off.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature, edited by Martin Puchner, vol. E, no. 4, W.W. Norton Company, New York, 2018, pp. 524-525.

Weng. Leihua. “Modernity in a Wartime Tramcar: Temporal Contestations and Individual

Subjectivity in Eileen Chang’s “Sealed Off.”The Comparatisit: Journal of the Southern Comparative Literature Association, vol. 42, Oct. 2018, pp. 286-303.


“Zhang Ailing.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature, edited by Martin Puchner, vol. E, no. 4, W.W. Norton Company, New York, 2018, 524-525.