The Stoic Intellectual Tradition Gets a Facelift

In the world of ideas across history, it amazes how rarely anything is truly new. Mostly ideas and trends go in and out of style, and sooner or later what is “out” will be back “in” again. So it is with the stoic philosophy of the ancient Roman Seneca who sounds very similar to certain of the 19th century Transcendentalist philosophers. In this assignment students must get three quotes from Seneca, three from Henry David Thoreau, and then three students must make up in the same tradition.

In this assignment students must write a fictitious poetry review in 1859 for the fictitious “Long Island Daily News,” commenting on new poet Walt Whitman’s  “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.” In their article students must comment on the novelty of this new poety, do a close reading of the poem, and then (in their learned opinion) comment on the literary quality of the poem.

In particular, I wanted students to get to the heart of the theme of the poem and explain what was Whitman’s point. After walking them through Whitman’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry and portions of Leaves of Grass, I wanted students to take a stab out at this without any help from teacher. Students will make an actual newspaper layout to their MS Word publication of their newspaper article.

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