A NYT Article about “The Dancer Who Made Beethoven’s Ninth Happen”

In this NYT article, Patricia Morrisroe beautifully describes the life of one of the greatest dancers of their generation, Louis Antoine Duport, and the dramatic event of the performance of Beethoven’s Ninth, a powerful choral symphony. To read about this “temperamental impresario” and the premiere of a concert he managed, click here.

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Image of Louis Antoine Duport.

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Image of the Theater am Krntnertor in Vienna, where Beethovens Ninth was first performed on May 7, 1824.

Christopher Ricks on Milton and Blasphemy

Christopher Ricks, an esteemed professor in the Editorial Institute and the Core Curriculum here at BU, recently gave a lecture to the CC201 students on Milton and Blasphemy. This lecture discusses the incredible sensitivities of the word blasphemy, what it means to blaspheme, and how anti-blasphemy laws still impact our society today. He also discusses blasphemy in conjunction with Milton’sParadise Lost, and how the two are inextricably connected. This is exemplified in the following quote from the lecture:

“Now I have a general position here, which is that unless a religious work is accused in some way, is open in some way to the accusation that it is blasphemous, it won’t be a great religious work. That is, it will have ‘played safe’ — and no great art, or great thought, or great personhood is ever achieved by playing safe” (Ricks).

Core community members who would like to listen to the full lecture can do soHERE.

A New Article about Visiting Ancient Worlds Virtually through Student-Made Videos

This article by Rich Barlow allows you to see course tours of art from Boston to Paris via technology. These tours were created by BU students in Professor Kyna Hamill’s “Ancient Worlds” class for their UROP projects. To read this article and see the virtual tours, click here.


“Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again”

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This week, as CC 101 students turn their focus towards the Parthenon, classical architecture has also been getting some attention from President Trump. The Guardian reports that earlier this year, the Trump administration drafted an executive order calling for a return to a classical style in new federal buildings. The draft order, entitled “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” criticizes brutalist and deconstructivist architecture for “its failure to re-integrate ‘our national values into federal buildings.'” The draft order argues:

When designing and building the federal capital in Washington in the late 18th century, America’s founders embraced the classical models of ‘democratic Athens’ and ‘republican Rome’ because the style symbolized the new nation’s ‘self-governing ideals.’

Critics say that new buildings should be a product of their time, and that an official architectural style is not compatible with a 21st century liberal democracy. Check out the full Guardian article here.

Shakespeare on Zoom

A global pandemic didnt stop Irelands love of theatre. A collaboration of theatre companies from Portstewart in Northern Ireland put on a production of Shakespeares, The Tempest via zoom during the earlier stages of the pandemic. In April of 2020, the zoom performance had its debut, selling out many weekends. This idea inspired others, leading to a new genre of theatre, called, Zoom Shakespeare. Another group of actors collaborated to create a production they cleverly titled, A Midsummer Nights Stream.

Anyone looking for more productions in the Zoom Shakespeare genre can check out this linkto more videos provided by Playbill. Students interested in accessing Shakespeares literary works can contact the Core office staff to request to borrow his works from the Core library, or to request online access to our digital copies.

Alter on writing The Art of Biblical Narrative

Robert Alterisa scholar and translator whose rendition of the Pentateuch into English we read in the first-year Core humanists as The Five Books of Moses. Earlier this year, in January, Alter was invited to deliver a lecture to students in Brigham Young University’s program in Ancient Near Eastern Studies. In his talk, he discusses The Art of Biblical Narrative, his book-length appreciation of the craft and composition of one of the world’s most widely-read texts:

Core students interested in taking a look at The Art of Biblical Narrative can contact the Core office staff to request to borrow the book from the Core library, or to request online access to our digital copy. You may also be interested in his more recent work, The Art of Bible Translation.

“I think we deserve a happy ending”


Kathryn Donlan (CAS ’18) is a writer and aspiring archivist (an an alumna of CC 111!). She likes talking about literature from the perspective of social history and historical context, and in keeping with this outlook she recently shared her thoughts on Twitter on the news of a new cinematic adaptation of Jane Austen‘s Persuasion. We thought it was such a timely response that we reached out and asked if we could share it here on the Core blog. She writes:

To the people complaining that we’re getting another Austen film, I have this to say: The reason Jane Austen’s stories are told and retold is due to the sheer fact they are timeless and constantly relevant. She would not “hate to see it.” She would be fascinated by the fact we like her stories so much and feel the need to share them time and time again. She wasn’t a prudish stickler! She was a real, funny, charming woman who wrote books that successfully examined womanhood from the point of view of a woman, not a man like Richardson examining it from the outside and making moral commentary on what a woman can and should do. Austen’s heroines are real, human beings who live complicated livesPersuasion being a book about the reality of being a woman who is dealing with life’s expectations while still holding on to this desperate hope that she can repeat, or redo, the past and find that one true love she lost. That’s why we still tell Austen’s storiesbecause they light within us that desire to have that happy ending. Now, more than ever, I think we deserve a happy ending.

Find Kathryn’s original tweet and replies over @kateodonlan. Her newsletter about classic literature”That Book is Good, Actually”will debut later this month.
The image above is the design for one of our new Fall 2020 Core tee-shirts; the quote comes from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and seems like a sound if slant-wise comment on how we should all try to bear up during these time of social distancing. If you’re a member of the Core community and you’re on campus this semester, you can swing by our socially-distanced picnic this coming Sunday, September 20th, and see about snagging of these shirts, while supplies list. If you would like to stop by,RSVP using these links to let us know in which time-block you’d like to visit the distribution table:2-2:30,2:30-3,3:-3:30, or3:30-4.

Akkadian Dogs

EYNhuWuWsAA51VpOur first-year students are beginning with the beginning in this first week of the Fall 2020 semester, by reading the oldest book we have written copies of — the Epic of Gilgamesh. In keeping with the Mesopotamian moment, let us share these marvelous little clay dog figurines from the 7th century BCE. We spotted this image on the Twitter feed of Dr. Moudhy Al-Rashid, an Assyriologist, historian of science and post-doctoral researcher at Wolfson College at Oxford.She explains that these were found in a palace at Nineveh, Iraq. The Akkadian cuneiform inscriptions on the pieces give the dogs’ names:

  • dan rigiu loud is his bark
  • munaiku gāru biter of his foe
  • muēṣi lemnūti expeller of evil

Possible new names for the BU terrier mascot?

#greatbooks #cuneiform #bostonu #back2bu #gilgamesh #dogsofinstagram

Kendi on antiracism

You may have read at BU Today that Ibram X. Kendi, a scholar of racism, has been recruited to join the BU faculty and to launch a BU Center for Antiracist Research. Last week, Dr. Kendi was interviewed by TED’s current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers and speaker development curator Cloe Shasha. In their conversation, which addresses the difference between between being “not racist” and antiracist, Dr. Kendi defines the transformative concept of antiracism to help us more clearly recognize, take responsibility for and reject prejudices in our public policies, workplaces and personal beliefs. A video of the virtual talk appears below; you can also find it here on the TED website.


A website for the Antiracist Center has been already been created; find it here. You can sign up for their newsletter on the homepage.

The poems of the 2020 Core Poetry Reading


On the evening of April 15th, four and a half dozen classmates, alumni, lecturers, and friends, all members of the extended community we call the BU Core, came together on Zoom for our traditional spring poetry reading, an event Core has organized for nearly two decades. Despite a hitch at the start (we were Zoom bombed early on! how irritating, yet exciting, to be a target of pranks?) we listened, from our respective homes, to our fifteen readers share texts over the internet.

It was a moving event; it turns out that we don’t need fancy rooms, costumes, or production values, to achieve a sense of shared being-in-art; just human faces (yes, on screen), and human voices, and human-heartedness. In the background of some of our windows could be seen housecats, and children, and paintings on the wall, and friends in the room. How lovely to be able to gather in this way for an anthology evening.

For the benefit of those who were unable to join us, here is a list of the poems which were read, with at least a snippet from each:

  • “The Root of the Trouble” by Hugh MacDiarmid, read by Zachary Bos, and which is in its entirety: “There couldn’t be any war / If nobody went; / There couldn’t be any poor / Without their own consent.”
  • “Ave Maria” by Frank O’Hara, read by Sean Desilets: “Mothers of America / let your kids go to the movies!”
  • “The Eel” by Eugenio Montale, translated by William Arrowsmith, read by Stephen Esposito: “The eel, coldwater / siren, who leaves the Baltic behind her…”
  • “An Extraordinary Adventure Which Befell Vladimir Mayakovsky in a Summer Cottage” by Vladimir Mayakovsky, translated by Max Hayward and George Reavey, read by Kyna Hamill: “I yelled at the sun point-blank: / ‘Get down! / Stop crawling into that hellhole!'”
  • “The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance” by Li Po, in a version by Ezra Pound, read by Jonathan Han: “I let down the crystal curtain / And watch the moon through the clear autumn.”
  • Fifty-four lines from Paradise Lost, Book IX, by John Milton, read by Jonathan Han, and beginning: “O Sacred, Wise, and Wisdom-giving Plant, / Mother of Science, Now I feel thy Power…”
  • “Spring and All” by William Carlos Williams, read by Brian Jorgensen: “Now the grass, / tomorrow the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf…”
  • Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss, read by Sophie Klein: “Socks on chicks and chicks on fox.”
  • “When All Is Said and Done” by ABBA, read by Peter La Fontaine: “Here’s to us, one more toast, and then we’ll pay the bill…”
  • “A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London” by Dylan Thomas, read by Stephanie Nelson: “After the first death, there is no other.”
  • “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, read by Stephanie Nelson: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
  • “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes, read byAnita Patterson: “I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.”
  • “The Root of Our Evil” by D. H. Lawrence, read by Christopher Ricks: “Ultimately, we are all busy buying and selling one another.”
  • “Death-bed of a Financier” by Stevie Smith, read by Christopher Ricks: “Deal not with me as I have dealt on earth.”
  • “Behavior of Money” by Bernard Spencer, read by Christopher Ricks: “Shall we recognize each other, crowding around the body?”
  • “Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost, read by Katie Robiadek: “I have passed by the watchman on his beat / And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.”
  • Twenty-nine lines from The Georgics of Virgil, translated by David Ferry, read by Sassan Tabatabai, and beginning: “It’s spring that adorns the woods and groves with leaves…”
  • A lyric by Rainer Maria Rilke (translator not specified), read by William Waters: “…as a tiny seed you sleep in what is small / and in the vast you vastly yield yourself…”
  • “Spring Pools” by Robert Frost, read by William Waters: “The trees that have it in their pent-up buds / To darken nature and be summer woods…”
  • “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, read by William Waters: “As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame”
  • “Song of a Second April” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, read by Zachary Bos: “…only you are gone, / You that alone I cared to keep.”

Some poems hewed closely to the proposed theme, “roots”, approaching along routes of ancestry, influence, word-play, and etymology, while other poems were chosen for quite other reasons. As demonstrated by this list of titles and lines, the evening was thoroughly particolored and polyphonic.

The Core staff will be reviewing the recording of the event, to see if it will be possible to share it on YouTube or Facebook. If you’d like to be notified of that outcome, email us and we’ll be sure to keep you posted. Below, feel free to share your thoughts about the poems and readings, if you were on the Zoom; or, if you were not there, let us know what poems you’d have liked to share if you’d been with us.

We thank Prof. Sophie Klein for her gracious performance as master-of-ceremonies, and Zachary Bos for managing the tech.Shown below: a screenshot of the reading, showing a few of those in attendance.