All posts by M Sheffner

A few Ayn Rand quotes on art

Image by Impala74 via Flickr

Thanks for your comments. As usual, Rand seems to have stimulated your brains!

Here are a few short quotes from Ayn Rand’s “Romantic Manifesto“. (Signet Centennial edition 1975).

As man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul.” (p. 169, quoted from “Atlas Shrugged“).

Art is the technology of the soul. (p. 169)

art does not teach – it shows (p. 169)

Art gives [man] the experience of seeing the full, immediate, concrete reality of his distant goals.

Art – the integrator of metaphysics, the concretizer of man’s widest abstractions (p. 124)

not a theoretical principle, not a didactic “message”, but the life-giving fact of experiencing a moment of metaphysical joy – a moment of love for existence. (p. 170)

a beacon raised over the dark crossroads of the world, saying: “This is possible!”

Where… can a child learn the concept of moral values and of a moral character in whose image he will shape his own soul?

What Romantic art offers… is not moral rules… but the image of a moral person – i.e. the concretized abstraction of a moral ideal. (p. 146)

Romantic art is a man’s first glimpse of a moral sense of life (p.  152)

Romantic art is the fuel and the spark plug of a man’s soul; its task is to set a soul on fire and never let it go out. (p. 152)

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Follow-up to session #17

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In session #17, we read and discussed Ayn Rand‘s ideas about the meaning and purpose of art, as she expressed them in “The Romantic Manifesto“.

Art expresses the artist’s values. When we see or hear art, we are exposed to those values. Those values are expressed in the colours, movements, shapes, words, sounds, choice of subject matter, etc. Everything in the work of art is chosen by the artist, it is not there by mistake or accident (usually!). What guides the artist’s choice? His or her value system, or system of ethics.

Art affects us emotionally, but also cognitively. Usually, we are aware of our emotional response, but not always aware of our cognitive response.

This is why art is used in propaganda: it is so powerful because it affects people emotionally. Perhaps this is a good reason to teach art in schools: so that young people can learn to not only respond emotionally to art but also consider it cognitively (by thinking).

Finally, Rand considered herself a Romantic (with a capital “R”!), rather than a Realist or Naturalist, and she shared many characteristics with other, earlier, Romantic artists, for example, an admiration for the artistic, energetic individual who is unique and intelligent and creative and free. However, most Romantic artists in the 19th century were against the intellect and logic and preferred emotion and feeling and intuition. In this respect, Rand differed from the Romantics.

The 19th century Romantics were reacting against the earlier Classicism; Rand’s Romanticism was a reaction against the Realism and Naturalism that dominated in the 20th century.

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Session #17 November 11th: British autumn, and the philosophy or art

bookshelf meme 2
Image by Yersinia via Flickr

Update #2: At the bottom of this page is an audio player. Click on it and you will hear a recording of this session. (The mic recorded my voice clearly; it was not intended to record the other participants.)

Update #1:  Ayn Rand‘s ideas on art, her philosophy of art, were expressed in a book called “The Romantic Manifesto”. I will bring some quotes from this book, to discuss. Do you know what Romanticism is? Here is the link to the Japanese Wikipedia entry, and to the English wikipedia entry, and to the Simple English Wikipedia entry.

The next session will be Wednesday November 11th, 3-5 pm.

As I said last time, I would like to discuss the philosophy of art.

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“Ode to Autumn” commentary video

John Keat's House
Image by Emily Barney via Flickr

Here is a short video with my commentary about Keat’s poem “Ode to Autumn“. It includes some photos to help the reader get an idea of what England looks like, and what Keats had in mind when he used certain words. Thanks again for all your wonderful comments. You inspire me to do more!

Ode to Autumn commentary video (click here if you cannot see the video below; this is an alternative link).

(This article reminds me that Winchester is where Jane Austen is buried, and that her home in Hampshire is 30 minutes’ drive away from Winchester. See this article for more information.)

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“Ode to Autumn” video

As feedback has been so positive, and because these videos are quite easy to make, and because listening and reading at the same time is most effective for  language learning, here is another one.

I am also working on “commentary” videos, which will be, well, comments on the poem (!), with some pictures.

Ode to Autumn (click here if you have trouble seeing the video below. This is an alternative).

Session #15 October 14th: Poetry (2)

UPDATE: I have created a quiz on some of the terms related to poetry, words that we used in these 2 sessions on poetry. The quiz is online. This is an experiment (I have not used this before). If you have time, please visit the quiz, try it out, and give me your feedback.

The quiz is here: 


Today’s session will be from 3.30 (not 3 as it usually is).

For this session, we will continue our brief study of English poetry. Please bring the same poems as last time (email me if you have not received these).

In addition, I would like to introduce you to two more poems:

  1. Ode to Autumn” by John Keats (here is the poem with an analysis) (I discovered today that there is a new movie about the poet John Keats called “Bright Star” (the title of one of Keats’ poems) (see some clips here)
  2. the beginning of “Under Milk Wood” by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (here is a YouTube recording of Welsh actor Richard Burton reading the beginning of this poem)

First, we will review what we talked about last time – about metre, rhyme, rhyme schemes and different verse forms such as limericks, free verse, nonsense verse, etc.

Then, we will read a sonnet by Shakespeare and discuss its structure, then a sonnet by Wilfrid Owen, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”.

I won’t spend much time discussing the meaning of these poems. Instead, I want to talk about their power: why are these poems still so famous?

The next session (#16) will be Wednesday Oct. 28th, 3-5 pm

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Session #14 September 30th: Poetry

UPDATE: Thanks to all of you for attending today. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many of you there, even the person who said they don’t like poetry!

I would be interested to read your comments about today’s session.

Today we read Happiness and Buckingham Palace by A.A. Milne (author of “Winnie The Pooh“), with illustrations by Ernest Shephard, The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, a limerick by Edward Lear, and some free verse by Edwin Morgan (“The Loch Ness Monster’s Song” (click on the link to hear a real Scotsman reading the poem aloud!), “Siesta of a Hungarian Snake”, “Spacepoem 3: Off Course (includes a link to an audio)”, and “Chinese Cat”).

Edward Lear was a contemporary of Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll. Carroll also wrote nonsense verse. The Jabberwocky is perhaps the most famous example (from Alice Through the Looking Glass). On YouTube I found these 2 videos of the poem being read aloud: this one is an animation of Lewis Carroll “reading” his poem (it’s not his voice, of course); this one is a collection of illustrations by different artists of the Jabberwock, while a woman reads the poem aloud.

The wonders of the Internet! Here is a video of someone who has put The Owl and the Pussycat to music and sings his song himself; here is a home-made animation of the poem; here is another version by janeczka (sounds like a Czech name); here is another version with an illustration by Lear himself. The poem itself was written in 1871! More than 130 years ago, and yet it is still so popular.

Some other “nonsense verse” by Lear: The Jumblies, The Quangle Wangle’s Hat, The Akond of Swat; The Pobble who has no toes.


Today, we are going to read some English poetry, starting with some children’s and humorous verse. Then we will read some sonnets. Did you look up the words listed in the Poetry worksheet? You still have some time before the session!

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