Weekly Round-Up, 7-1-17

Hallo, Corelings! How are you faring this week? Today we look at friendliness, medieval multiverse theories, questionable experiments undertaken by Core authors, and more. Read on:

  • Despite the current political climate, Prof. Carrie Tirado Bramen of the University of Buffalo studies on the characteristic friendliness of Americans, a topic that both Alexis de Tocqueville and Walt Whitman commented on in their time, in her book American Niceness: A Cultural History.
  • After four years of work, Goethe’s two-part play Faust has been translated into Persian, thanks to the efforts of Iranian translator Saeed Jowzi. It is a fitting pursuit: after all, the author originally took inspiration from 13th-century Persian poet Hafez of Shiraz.
  • Did Aristotle hold back science in the medieval era? Was the Renaissance truly a rebirth of science or a continuation of a field already in motion since the supposed “dark ages”? Were multiverses and alien worlds compatible with the medieval worldview? CLICK HERE FOR ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS… AND MORE.

“A medieval missionary tells that he has found the point where heaven and Earth meet…” The Flammarion engraving, depicting the edge of the universe, by an unknown artist for Camille Flammarion’s L’atmosphre: mtorologie populaire (1888).(Public Domain)

  • Fun fact: William James experimented with nitrous oxide (laughing gas) in an attempt to induce “the mystical consciousness” or a state of transcendence in himself. It was through that experience that he determined that transcendence involves a far different state of consciousness than that of everyday life. Along those same lines, researchers are dabbling in the effects of drug-induced transcendent experiences like those on which James wrote may bring peace to terminally ill patients.
  • Did you know that John Keats’ villa in Hampstead, London, is open to visitors? Today, it is a museum and literary center that holds frequent events, including poetry readings and more. Core field trip, anyone?

There you have it! May your Independence Day be filled with barbecue, loud noises, and other strange activities that somehow remind us of our country.

Reflections on the First Year of Core

We received this eloquent letter from a student in which she reflects on her first year in the Core. She’s given us her permission to share her note with you all here:

Throughout this year, the single class that helped me grow and mature into a college student more than any other was the Core program. The first paper I got back from my professor was written on Gilgamesh, and I received a C+. All of my preconceptions of seeing myself as a good writer were completely thrown out the window. I was devastated and disappointed, but that grade also lit a fire in me to learn, grow and persevere. I knew I could do better. Luckily, my professor let me rewrite my essay and with the help of my writing fellow I was able to restructure my ideas and create a piece that was insightful and written with purpose. From then on, I learned that writing for Core is a very different type of writing. We are dealing with some of the texts that shaped every thought and idea that our culture has today. We are thinking right beside the great minds of Plato and Aristotle. We aren’t learning for the sake of passing a class. Core creates a class in which I learn to gain knowledge and understanding and changes the way I perceive the world. It has not only made me grow as a student, but also as a person. I feel more engaged in all of my learning because as all the texts of Core relate to each other, Core relates to almost every other subject.

I think a lot of us would express similar sentiments about the impact Core had on us during our first year at BU. Feel free to share your own first-year thoughts in the comments below.

Postcards to the Core: from New Zealand, June 2017


We were delighted to receive word from Caroline, who is following-up from a successful first year at BU by spending her summer breaking doing political campaign work in New Zealand. She writes:


Kia Ora (in Maori, hello, and good health!) from New Zealand!

Just figured I would send some love from the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s technically still warmer than Boston. I hope everyone is doing well and I already can’t wait to be back in the fall.

Ka Kite,

Caroline Brantley

* Core loves postcards. Whether youre at home or abroad now, wed love to get one from you. Our address is easy: Core Curriculum, Boston University, Boston MA 02215.

Weekly Round-Up, 6-24-17

What’s shakin’, Corelings? Can you believe that we are wrapping up our second month of summer break? We hope you are absolutelypining for your friends at the Core Curriculum. (We know we’re pining for you guys 😢)

The cover of

The cover of “Gilgamesh,” illustrated by Uriel Zohar.

  • Hay-on-Wye, pilgrimage destination of book-lovers everywhere, presents the annual Hay Festival, where talks on Colm Toibin’s reworking of Aeschylus’s Oresteia and medieval manuscript illustration as well as interviews with authors abound.
  • Machiavelli did nothing wrong. So argues author Erica Benner in her recently published book Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli in His World, hoping to wade through legend and counterlegend to get to the facts about the Renaissance writer.
  • What would Rousseau think about Donald Trump? Not good things, according to David Lay Williams for the Washington Post. He hopes to set things straight in his article, arguing against fellow WaPo columnist Michael Gerson, who mentioned that “Trumps politics borrows unconsciously from the 18th century Genevan philosopher” and that Trump “reflects the general will of the electorate.” Instead, Williams claims, Rousseau believed that the people were not always correct, as is written in the “Social Contract”:

The general will is always right, but the judgment which guides it is not always enlightened. It has to be to made to see objects as they are, sometimes as they ought to appear to it, to show it the good road it is looking for and to protect it from the seduction of particular wills. (source)

That’ll do it! See you next week, scholars!

Weekly Round-Up, 6-17-17

Hellooo and welcome to the Weekly Round-Up, the weekly installment of Core news and articles of interest from around the web. We’re your host, the Core Blog. Let’s get started!

  • Actor and ex-hobbit Martin Freeman hopes to bring John Milton’s “epic, exciting, and surprisingly modern” Paradise Lost to a TV screen near you.
  • Unable to make the trip to the Vatican to witness the Sistine Chapel for yourself? Fear not, an exhibition closer to home may satiate your interest. “Up Close: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel,” a touring exhibition of reproductions of such works as The Creation of Adam and The Last Judgment, visits the Westfield World Trade Center in New York City for a month beginning June 23.

Where's Waldo for the Renaissance age.  Via Wikimedia Commons.  (Public Domain)

Where’s Waldo for the Renaissance age. Via Wikimedia Commons. (Public Domain)

  • Rembrandt in China: The National Museum of China in Tiananmen Square in Beijing presents works by Dutch artists Rembrandt and Vermeer in what is being lauded as the largest exhibition artwork from the Dutch golden age in Chinese history.
  • Germany’s first liberal Muslim mosque, the Rushd-Goethe mosque, opened amidst controversy, criticism, and police protection this Friday, June 16. The mosque takes its name from the German poet Goethe and the twelfth-century polymath Ibn Rushd (also known as Averroes).
  • Remember that we mentioned the Public Theater’s recent depiction of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with the titular character resembling a certain president of ours? Turns out hate mail has found its way to a variety of unaffiliated Shakespeare companies, including the nearby Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts.

That’s it for this week! We hope to see you e x t r e m e l y soon.

Weekly Round-Up, 6-10-17

Greetings, Corelings. This week we bring you news of art installations, controversial reinterpretations of plays from the literary canon, and more. Read on:

Hanging around.  (Photo: Various & Gould Studio)

Hanging around. (Photo: Various & Gould Studio)

  • Delacorte Theater in Central Park, NYC, presents a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, directed by Oskar Eustis, that bears a (controversial) resemblance to the current situation in the United States. The show closes on June 18.
  • “Whether its Coleridges nightingale or Petrarchs, Ted Hughess wren or Shelleys skylark, Helen Macdonalds hawk or Max Porters crow,” birds and birdsong are classic metaphors in poetry and literature. So why do birds sing? Author Richard Smyth hopes to find out in his book A Sweet, Wild Note.
  • Did you know that Descartes wasn’t appreciated before the 19th century? Did you also know that St. Teresa of Avila, a 16th-century Catholic mystic from Spain, established the foundation to Descartes’ Cogito argument? Read moreon Quartz.
  • Turns out Bob Dylan referenced Homer in a lecture upon receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature. Long quotation incoming:

    “When Odysseus in The Odyssey visits the famed warrior Achilles in the underworld Achilles, who traded a long life full of peace and contentment for a short one full of honor and glory tells Odysseus it was all a mistake. ‘I just died, thats all.’ There was no honor. No immortality. And that if he could, he would choose to go back and be a lowly slave to a tenant farmer on Earth rather than be what he is a king in the land of the dead that whatever his struggles of life were, they were preferable to being here in this dead place. Thats what songs are, too. Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. Theyre meant to be sung, not read… I return once again to Homer, who says, ‘Sing in me, O Muse, and through me tell the story.'” (source)

That’ll be it! May your days be blessed with tolerable warmth and limited UV radiation.

From The Guardian: House of Names by Colm Tibn brilliant retelling of a Greek tragedy

Colm Toibin is an author whose latest novel, House of Names, a retelling of a Aeschylus’ The Oresteia, has graced fine book stores everywhere. Alex Preston, writing forThe Guardian, notes, however:

Colm Toibin: like a great actor, taking the framework of the play and providing nuance, humanity. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Observer and the Guardian.

Colm Toibin: like a great actor, taking the framework of the play and providing nuance, humanity. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Observer and the Guardian.

I say ostensibly a retelling, because House of Names gives us so much that isnt in the original trilogy (and excludes so much that is, but more of that later). This is a novel that is a celebration of what novels can do. It gives us interiority, specificity, the in-between stuff that is the fabric of life. We see everything that happens off stage in the plays, and this is what really interests us. Its not just the violence, which famously takes place out of sight of the audience, but the form of the novel allows Tibn to delve deeply into the inner lives of his characters, to give shape to their everyday worlds. I dont mean here to privilege the novel over drama but rather to make a link between the two. Tibn is like a great actor, taking the framework provided by the events of the play and providing psychology, motivation, nuance, humanity.

The House of Names, it appears from Preston’s glowing remarks, will be among the increasinglyscarce works of art thatkeep the novel from becoming moribund. As Toibin shows, on way to sustain its relevance is by integrating it with conventions of the drama to create a novel form of the novel.

Read his full post atThe Guardian

Weekly Round-Up, 6-3-17

Happy June, Core folk! Our hope for this month is that the sun will finally emerge (but not too much).

  • Turns out Montaigne was an early promoter of bibliotherapy (as well as the unreliability of relationships with other people). An insight: Human beings will abandon you, but books will never leave.
  • Candide, An American Dream is writer-director Ken Finkleman’s modern-day take on Voltaire’s work. The film runs from June 2-4 at the Royal Cinema in Toronto, Ontario.
  • Speaking of updates, Jeff James and James Yeatsman bring Jane Austen’s Persuasion to the stage in a production that features a playlist with songs by Nicki Minaj, among others, as well as bikinis, a dance floor, and a distinct lack of crinoline. It runs until June 24th at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, England.

Anne (Lara Rossi, right) and Antony Bunsee. (Photograph: Johan Persson)

Anne (Lara Rossi, right) and Antony Bunsee. (Photograph: Johan Persson)

“Goethe: Life as a Work of Art,” by Rdiger Safranski and David Dollenmayer (Liveright)

Well, that should do it. Until next week, scholars!

From The Chronicle of Higher Education: Engineers Need the Liberal Arts, Too

STEM has its roots in the humanities. If our intellectual foundations are uprooted, then, naturally, the natural sciences and their applications are in danger of withering away. This is a strong reason for the protests that followedPresident Trump’s beginning attempts to deforest our education, which might have had in mindthe prospect of recreating America in his own image. The resistance included the engineers, who managed to circle his legs with enough rope to fell the giant before theswipe atthe National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. For Kenneth Osgood, this was very good. But we shouldn’t be surprised that the engineers clanked themselves into alliance with the poets and painters, because as humans the humanities should be importantto them as well.

Adam Niklewicz for The Chronicle

Adam Niklewicz for The Chronicle

Thats why, when hundreds of recruiters descend on my campus twice each year, I make a point of understanding their needs. I ask any I encounter the same thing: “What are you looking for from our graduates?” Without fail, I get a version of the same answer. Yes, they want technical skills. But they also want something broader. They want to hire engineers who can communicate and think critically, who can adapt and create, who can assess the quality of conflicting information, and who can view a problem from multiple perspectives. These are the core skills cultivated by the liberal arts, and Ive never met an employer who didnt think they were more important than most other people think.

We should therefore not be searching to winnow the humanities from the fields of study belonging to STEM but to integrate them into STEAM. Diversity and the diversification of labor are two trends that will not bear the fruits wewant them if there is no force to integrate whatever is being made more colorful.The fashion condones both without considering this qualification because it might resist the fashion, which always looks best when it comes in one-piece.The admission that the humanities need to serve a more integrated role in education would therefore require some integrity from administrators in a time when politics and educations are themselves becoming increasingly integrated.

Read his full post at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Weekly Round-Up, 5-26-17

Helloooo scholars! Today we’re going to distract you from the lateness of this post with the (ahem) greatness of these links. Read on:

  • Dr. Du Bois and Miss Ovington closed at the Robey Theatre last Sunday, May 21, at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. The production explores the dynamics between W.E.B. Du Bois and Mary Ovington, who together would go on to help form the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
  • Every portrait, a different story: Six portraits of Jane Austen will be shown at an exhibit entitled The Mysterious Miss Austen at the Winchester Discovery Center in Hampshire in the UK.

This portrait's story: disappointing, according to curator Kathryn Sutherland. James Andrews, Jane Austen (1869), watercolor (Private collection, courtesy of the 19th Century Rare Book and Photograph Shop, Stevenson, Maryland)

This portrait’s story: disappointing, according to curator Kathryn Sutherland. James Andrews, Jane Austen (1869), watercolor (Private collection, courtesy of the 19th Century Rare Book and Photograph Shop, Stevenson, Maryland)

  • Where do babies come from? Aristotle, da Vinci–everybody’s got a hot take for Edward Dolnick’s recently published book The Seeds of Life: From Aristotle to da Vinci, from Sharks Teeth to Frogs Pants, the Long and Strange Quest to Discover Where Babies Come From. One belief the author examines: “The prevailing wisdom was that God not only created all living creatures during the first week of Genesis, but that he created all generations of all creatures back then. By this logic, Eves egg (or Adams semen) contained miniature humans who in turn contained miniature humans, and so on like an infinite set of nesting dolls.”
  • Dorothy Fortenberrys Species Native to California is an update ofChekhov’s The Cherry Orchard for Trump’s America. The production runs through June 11 at the Atwater Village Theatre.
  • Aristotle got it wrong when he proposed that there are five senses; in fact, Barry C. Smith of the Centre for the Study of the Senses at the University of London claims that there are at least 22 and maybe as many as 33.

That should do it! We hope the summer months continue to treat you well.