A lecture from an american literature class
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A lecture from an american literature class.
Professor: Today we are going to study one of my favorite American poets, writer and musician, Carl Sandburg. I admire this man of many talents. Have any of you heard of him?
Student 1: Yeah, I thought he was from Sweden.
Student 2: I read that he was a hobo. (Laughter)
P: Actually, Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois. It was his parents, August and Clara who had emigrated from Sweden. Yes, he had been a hobo, we'll discuss that later. (um) The family name was actually "Johnson" but when August went to work for the railroad, there was another person with the same name, so he changed it to Sandburg. He and Clara had seven children, instilling in them the importance of hard work and a good education; this was thought to be the only way to achieve the "American Dream."
S1: What does that mean exactly?
P: Good question! Basically, it means life should be better for everyone, not just a few. The term was first used in the book, The Epic of America which we will be reading later in this course. (Clears throat) Now let's get back to Sandburg...
P: When he entered first grade, Carl asked to be called by the name, "Charlie," as he thought it sounded more like an American name. From then on, he signed his papers as "Charles A. Sandburg." He dropped out of school at the end of eighth grade and went to work to help support the family by delivering milk and newspapers.
P: But he wanted to travel. He borrowed a railroad pass from his father and in 1896 traveled to Chicago. Later, Sandburg joined thousands of American hoboes who hid in boxcars to travel through Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.
S1: Were they just "bums" who didn't want to work?
P: Many of them were looking for jobs, some just wanted an adventure.
P: (Clears throat) After a few months of traveling, Sandburg returned to Galesburg and tried working as a housepainter. That didn't last very long. He then enlisted for service in the Spanish-American War. The war ended six weeks later and as a veteran, he qualified for a free college education. He tried attending the U.S. Military Academy in West Point. Unfortunately, his grades (false start) he failed the mathematics and grammar tests and was denied entrance.
P: Imagine, only having a middle school education and being expected to pass college exams, could you do it?
S1: not me!
P: Well, Sandburg was able to attend Lombard College in Galesburg. He developed a real love for reading and writing poetry. However, he left college without graduating and once again, as the expression goes, "He heard the call of the open road."
P: This time his travel took him to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he met Lilian Steichen. They married the next year. She encouraged him to use his original name of "Carl" in his writings.
P: Now I'm sure most of you have heard of European fairy tales....
S1: Like Jack and the Beanstalk?
S2: How about Tom Thumb?
P: Yes, those are definitely good examples. Sandburg read some of them to his three daughters who could not relate to stories of kings, queens, or talking animals. He was inspired (false start) He wanted to write American fairy tales, something with skyscrapers or trains. Does anyone have an idea why this concept would be important to him? Miss Powell?
S1: Well, not many American children would ever see a king or queen....
S2: or hear a talking animal! (Laughter)
P: Please continue, Miss Powell.
S1: I just think most children could relate to stories about trains or skyscrapers.
P: Very good. So did Sandburg who wrote The Rutabaga Tales for children.
P: During his lifetime, Sandburg won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for his poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln.
P: Carl Sandburg's last move was to Flat Rock, North Carolina, in 1945 where he continued to write until his death in 1967.
P: Throughout the United States, there are numerous memorials dedicated to Sandburg: colleges and schools have been named after him. On January 6, 1978, the United States Postal Service issued the Carl Sandburg stamp. Amtrak added a second train named the Carl Sandburg to the line. This writer's life was even portrayed in a musical, "The Courtship of Carl Sandburg." He was a prolific writer of poetry, music and stories.
What aspect of Carl Sandburg's life does the professor mainly discuss?
What is the professor's opinion of Sandburg?
What is meant by the term "The American Dream?"
Why did Sandburg want to write American children's stories?
As a child, why did Carl want to be called, "Charles?"
How did Sandburg's travel have an effect on his writing?