“…and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.”

Here Douglass is recounting his tussle with Mr. Covey, the overseer of the slaves, in which the two fought for hours and wound up in a draw. While the bout did not signify Douglass’ freedom from his master, it was a pivotal moment where he became internally liberated, because he knew that afterwards Mr. Covey would not touch him. Why? For fear of tarnishing his reputation as the snakiest overseer in all the land. The irony is that although Douglass appears to be a slave, it is really Mr. Covey who is a slave, a slave to his reputation. This phenomenon of “owner as slave” is seen also in the case of Sofia Auld. Mrs. Auld is eager to teach Douglass to read and write, but is soon condemned by her husband for doing so, for he says that, “If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell.” Ironically, it is this shunning that makes Douglass want to taste the forbidden fruit that is literacy even more. It is in this way that once again the masters are really slaves to themselves. They set rules and have to abide by them. ever more so that the slaves. To quote someone in class, “Douglass’ enemy’s enemy became his friend.” I thought that summed it up really well.


Whitman’s poem can only be described as a “barbaric yawp” because in it he boils all of his animalistic tendencies down into a sort of primordial soup and spurts them out in a way that surpasses human emotion or feeling. A “yawp” is a sensation one can only experience when he/she cannot describe the moment when that word escapes his/her lips. The rest of this poem helps us to understand this phrase because it shows not tells us what’s going through Whitman’s head. This phrase helps us to understand the rest of the poem because it talks about how Walt wants to caress life and how he wants life to caress him, resulting in a “barbaric yawp.” I wouldn’t consider any of the other texts we’ve read as “barbaric yawps.” None of them quite have the tangible language that this one does. They are all based more on the mind than the body.

Song of Myself

“You settled your head athwart my hips and gently turned over upon me, and parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my barestript heart”

Perhaps not the most interesting part as far as difficulty to grasp, but surely the most vivid and relatable. The poignant imagery best describes what it is like to get intimate with somebody, and does not distinguish between man or woman. Whitman is basically writing about sex but in a very, very poetic way. The line marks somewhat of a shift because it refers to someone else rather than to the poet himself. It kind of reminds me of the relationship many 18th century poets feel with nature, except that this time he is actually talking about a person. This is my favorite line in the poem because it encapsulates what it’s like to lie with somebody you love and very easy to “get” if you have ever felt like this before.

The American Scholar

The single most difficult sentence in Emerson’s essay is “Genius is always sufficiently the enemy of genius by over influence.” The words themselves are not particularly difficult, nor is the phrase exceptionally long, but the way in which it is pieced together makes it hard to understand. Does he mean “over-influence”? If not, the order of the words does not make any sense to me. Also, to say that something “always suffices” seems kind of redundant. Maybe he wants to challenge the idea that enough never is. I’m not sure how one measures genius and pits it against another’s genius, but apparently Emerson finds this to be the bane of one’s intellect. I think what he’s trying to say here is that there is a raging battle going on within the minds of these scholars, fighting fire with fire, and it as a constant struggle. The sentence relates to the rest of the oration because he is talking about how the learned values of these Americans plays a big role in their everyday lives. I’m trying to make sense of this sentence by re-reading it but am beginning to over-analyze it. Almost like when one says a word over and over again and eventually it just starts to sound like nonsense. I’m also trying to place the sentence in the context of the article, but that’s not helping either. At first the sentence struck me because grammatically it just didn’t sound right to me, but then I realized “oh, he must mean ‘over-influence'”. However, if that is indeed not the case, then I am really lost here.


Hey, my name is Marco Díaz-Lundquist. I’m 20 years old and am from Santa Cruz, California. It’s my third year at SF State, and just recently changed my major from Journalism to English, that’s why I’m here. I live out in the Sunset with some friends and work at Patagonia. Hablo Español… mi papa es de México, D.F. I like skateboarding, riding my bike, and going to shows.