Analects of the Core: Woolf on music

‘Like’ and ‘like’ and ‘like’ — but what is the thing that lies beneath the semblance of the thing? now that lightning has gashed the tree and the flowering branch has fallen and Percival, by his death, has made me this gift, let me see the thing. There is a square; there is an oblong. The players take the square and place it upon the oblong. They place it very accurately; they make a perfect dwelling-place. Very little is left outside. The structure is now visible; what is inchoate is here stated; we are not so various or so mean; we have made oblongs and stood them upon squares. This is our triumph; this is our consolation.

This lyrical passage represents the thoughts of the character Rhoda, expressing her desire to directly perceive “music”, without having to mediate her experience through language or thought. From The Waves by Virginia Woolf (1931).

Why you should read Dante

Dante’sDivine Comedy is one of CC 102’s most memorable reads towards the end of the semester. It follows a similar epic poetry format seen inThe OdysseyorThe Aeneid, but with a twist. The famous Italian poet creates his own world through his 14,000 line epic separated into three books. He brings in characters we might recognize and also completely makes up stories. In 1265, nothing like this had ever been done before and with the beautiful Tuscan rhyme, it should not be easily forgotten today despite its difficult reading.

Dante Alighieri was an Italian poet from Tuscany. He was most notable for his political strife and exile as well as his love for Beatrice which we meet in The Divine Comedy.

The Inferno is probably the most read book of The Divine Comedy and famous for giving the reader a glimpse of the souls in Hell. Something about demons ripping at bodies with grappling hooks, and sinners eating each other is entertaining. However, many people, especially in the United States, chose to read only the first book and normally it is for academic purposes. The poor English translation and many confusing allusions prove difficult to get through, but we should not give up. The best way to accept the challenge is to:

Start by treating The Divine Comedy not as a book, with a coherent, beginning, middle, and end, but rather as a collection of poetry that you can dip into wherever you like. A collection of 100 poems to be exact, one for each canto, some more sublime than others. Breaking the poem down to its parts, getting to know the characters one or two at a time, learning the themes and language of these individual elements, can give you the traction to begin enjoying Dante and eventually take on his whole poem.

The reader takes a literary journey just as Dante journeys through Heaven and Hell. One might ask why bother trying if it takes so long, but by reading the text closely, many of Dante’s insights are relevant today. No matter how many times it is read, something new can always be found woven in between the strange verses.

The Aeneid: Whose side are you on?

Are you #TeamDido or #TeamAeneas? Here at the office, we’re split on the question of who to root for.

Prof. David Green — an ardent supporter of Team Aeneas — sympathizes with Dido’s plight, but recognizes the importance of duty over impious furor. However! Cat Dossett (CAS ’18) thinks that Dido doesn’t need Prof. Green’s sympathy. She wishes instead that Aeneas had drowned in Juno’s fury.

Rallying to Cat’s argument, the ever-dramatic Zak Bos (GRS ’12) says he would have liked to see Aeneas pull his seduce-and-abandon trick on Medea…

The controversy is heated! While you think about where your own allegiance lies, take a gander at the website of the LA County Museum of Art, where you can find some excellent art images of Aeneas and Dido.

The first we’ll look at is by Rutilio Manetti (1571-1639):

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In his depiction of “Dido and Aeneas”, Manetti places a spotlight on the lovers, highlighting the two’s passionate expressions. They have eyes only for each other as the background is blanketed in shadow. Hands and eyes, locked in passion… You get the idea.

Compare Maetti’s piece to these two paintings by Jean-Bernard Restout (1732-1797), “Aeneas and Dido Fleeing the Storm” and “The Departure of Dido and Aeneas for the Hunt”:

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4x5 original

Restout doesn’t focus on just the lovers. He’s got lots of angels and horses and puppy-dogs and other such figures, makin’ a lotta ruckus as Aeneas and Dido try to get on with their lovin’. Looks like their relationship was more complicated than we thought…

Alumni Profiles: Howard Wang

howard-wang-2016Thanks for taking the time to let us know how you’re doing! Prof. Thornton Lockwood has let us know you were just accepted into Georgetown’s prestigious McCourt School of Public Policy. Congratulations! To begin, can we tell our readers how many years you spent at BU?
I spent three years at BU in undergrad and graduated with a joint degree in Philosophy and Political Science.

Where do you currently live?
I live in Arlington, VA, just outside of Washington, D.C.

Where do you work and what position do you hold?
I work at Navigant Consulting, Inc. as a Consultant in the Government Health Solutions practice. I previously worked at the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), where I served as the Assistant Director of the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association (RLGA), a caucus within the RSLC.

What type of work have you done up until now?
I served as part of the RSLC team during the 2014 election cycle. The RSLC is a 527 political committee which spent nearly $40 million in the 2014 cycle and is the only Republican committee dedicated to supporting down-ballot candidates running for state legislature, Secretary of State, and Lieutenant Governor. Working specifically in the RLGA caucus, I built coalitions of support for the caucus of Republican lieutenant governors among private citizens, corporations, and associations supportive of conservative policies and governance. The RSLC’s efforts contributed to the 2014 Republican wave and expanded the nation’s count of Republican lieutenant governors to 31.

After the 2014 cycle, I joined Navigant’s Government Healthcare Solutions practice, which helps state Medicaid agencies develop and implement program reform to manage costs and protect their populations. Navigant helps with all the full spectrum of tasks Medicaid agencies perform as they pursue expansions, including program design, development of implementation plans, and assessment of provider network capacity.

Now that you’re a few years past graduation, looking backwhat would you say have been the benefits of your Core education?
D.C. is a city built on relationships, but strong relationships aren’t built from favor-seeking or glad-handing. Core’s coverage of philosophy and literature ancient and modern with contemporary social sciences tills a broad landscape of thought which, if cultivated, can touch on and become relevant to anyone’s thoughts or life experiences. The generic yet ubiquitous career advice given to every student coming to D.C. is to network and network aggressively. A network built on “what-can-you-do-for-me” mentality or “will-you-please-hire-me” mentality is both fragile and shallow; it boils the person across the table to a suit and business card and makes the networker easily forgettable. It is much more impressive in every case to speak comfortably to one’s work objectives while letting conversations evolve to personal interests, which may as easily be particular sports or musicals as it may be the writings of Asvaghosa or Cervantes. The breadth of Core’s curriculum and its subsequent encouragement to its students to continue learning in this fashion is a valuable way to understand and efficaciously engage another.

What book did you encounter in the Core that impacted you the most?
Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods made a significant impact on me. It’s not quite a double-blind study concluding clear causes, but the case studies presented cogently articulate the interplay of race, class, gender, and institutional efficacy with each variable. It is a work I return to regularly in studying welfare or healthcare policy. I’ll still leaf through the book on occasion; in my library, it serves as a reminder of why elections matter and the socio-economic issues our elected officials address, exacerbate, or ignore.

Anything else you want to share?
It’s pretty normal in D.C. to drink 3-6 cups of coffee in the morning. Doctors everywhere probably recommend we cut back. (We won’t.)

Are you a Core student or alumnus interested in working in lobbying, policy, or politics in D.C.? Send the Core staff an email, and we’ll forward your message directly to Howard so you can do some networking.

Study philosophy for better welders?

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When Marco Rubio declared “We need more welders and less philosophers,” he was greeted with quite the bit of applause. This push for vocational work (shall we call it a populist appeal?) has become a central thread in the public conversation of this election season; this is likely motivated by continuing concerns about economic recovery and the employability of recent graduates. But is Rubio right in what he says?

According to an article in Quartz brought to our attention by Core alumna Rheanne Wirkkala, no, he may not be right. The article (aptly if not succinctly titled “Teaching kids philosophy makes them smarter in math and English”) mounts a defense of the liberal arts. Rheanne says of the article:

Everyone loves STEM which is also super important as we develop new and better technologies to solve big and difficult problems, but we cannot discount the incredible importance of critical thinking skills.”

Indeed, these skills seem to be very important. According to the article:

Kids who took the [philosophy] course increased math and reading scores by the equivalent of two extra months of teaching, even though the course was not designed to improve literacy or numeracy…

Note that the philosophy course was not even ‘designed’ to improve the students’ abilities in those areas. The philosophy class in which the children participated seems to have reached beyond the scope of its content.

Further down in the article: “The beneficial effects of philosophy lasted for two years, with the intervention group continuing to outperform the control group long after the classes had finished.” Now, two years, one may argue, is not the longest time. However, considering that these students participated in only the single class, the question remains as to how the students would have done (compared to the ones who did not take the class) had the class continued. The class is also not a mere history class:

SAPERE’s program does not focus on reading the texts of Plato and Kant, but rather stories, poems, or film clips that prompt discussions about philosophical issues. The goal is to help children reason, formulate and ask questions, engage in constructive conversation, and develop arguments.

Are these not qualities desired in vocational workers? It seems, then, that Rubio’s declaration is incomplete; in fact, philosophy would make for better welders.

While fences may make good neighbors, it appears that philosophy makes good workers.

Header graphic source here. See also:

Priceless statues now open to the public

Since the 1960s, anaristocratic, Italian familyhas kept hundredsof ancient Greek and Roman statues hiddenfrom the public eye.After many failed attempts in opening a private museum, the Torlonia family finally started negotiations with the Italian government. Now about 60-90 pieces will start traveling the worldin places such as the rest of Europe and America.

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This statue of Odysseus fleeing the Cyclops’ cave is included in the marvelous collection.

The familyowns around 2,000-3,000 pieces all housed in their many palaces. Giovanni Torlonia started the collection in 1810 when pieces were dug up onhisestates including the area around the modern day Leonardo da Vinci airport. Art historian Salvatore Settis is amazed by the collection and sees the importance of opening it to the public:

I think that even in such a rich context as Rome, the Torlonia collection you could think of it as a very important museum of a minor European capital. Many European countries dont have such a large collection of antiquities in the main museum of their capital, this gives you an idea.

Should this collection have one home in a museum in Rome after its tour or continuously travel the world as the Torlonia familywants to do? There are so many priceless statues that represent aninnovativetime periodin artand not even all of them will be displayed. The ones available should definitely be on your bucket list of things to seein 2017.

 

Roman leadership for business today

Imagine Julius Caesar running a modern day business class. Despite the ridiculous punishments imposed on students who might not have used the right font on their essays, we have to believe: he would probably come up with some GREAT leadership initiatives. He ruled a mighty state! So it’s not crazy to think that students nowadays would be able to look at how he maintained his empire and find lessons there for running a contemporary business.

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Julius Caesar: one of the most famous figures of Roman history, and also a business role model.

According to the Harvard Gazette,business school faculty members Emma Dench and Frances Frei joined together to create a new elective class called All Roads Lead to Rome: Leadership Lessons from Antiquity.

In this course, students read literature from such sources as Julius Caesar, Tacitus, and Plutarch. Through these readings, important ideas such as success, loyalty, and power make the students question business ethics today. Denuch admires these past Roman leaders, explaining:

The Romans grappled so actively with a very central issue of leadership: How much is a leader for themselves especially as a monarch or how much are they for the people as a whole, or part of the people as a whole?

So what is considered leadership today as a head of a company? Maybe a business leader shouldn’t manifest the cruel dictatorship of a Roman official, but should demonstrate the ambition of one. It is up to students to decide where these ideas from the syllabus fit into their business education. Only after they’ve worked out the chains of relevance between the ancient sources and the contemporary business world will they be able to make sure of these lessons in modern Wall Street.

Hat-tip to alumna Erin McDonagh for bringing this article to our attention.

Vox Pop: Responses to a Faust lecture

Illustration by Harry Clarke for a 1925 edition of Faust

Illustration by Harry Clarke for a 1925 edition of Faust

Now I’ve studied philosophy,
Jurisprudence too, and medicine,
And even, sad to say, theology,
Thoroughly, with great exertion.
And here I am, poor fool,
Not one bit wiser than before!

from Faust, trans.Kirby

In his CC 202 lecture yesterday, Prof. William Waters spoke about Goethe’s Faust, enlivening the talk by playing a recording of Janet Baker singing Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel, a song composed by Franz Schubert using text from the play.

After the class, the journos of the Core Blogpolled student opinion in the hallway to find out what lecture-goers thought of the experience.

Priest Gooding (CAS ’18), a philosophy major coming to BU from southern California:

I thought he presented a very eloquent depiction of Goethe’s use of the German language to encapsulate the feelings that a play like Faust instills in its readers. In other words, it was turnt.*

Shanti Khanna (CAS ’18), a political science major coming to BU from historic Virginia:

I wanted HIM to sing in German.

Joseph Greene (CAS ’18), an ENG student native to Westford, Mass.:

That was among my favorite lectures I’ve heard in Core!

Alli Griffiths (CAS ’18): a philosophy major with roots in Key West, Florida:

I really liked it when he was reading the poetry in German.

Cat Dossett (CAS ’18), a student of art history hailing from nearby Weymouth, Mass.:

He reminds me a lot of Rick Steves.

A reminder: All members of the campus community students, alumni, faculty, staff, and their guests are welcome to attend any of the weekly plenary sessions in CC 102, 112, 202, or 204 each week. Recordings of yesterday’s lecture can be found on YouTube: part 1, part 2.

* The editors of this blog wish to note that they saw Priest arriving to class nearly an hour after it began. His feedback should be understood to refer specifically and only to that portion of the lecture he was present for.

What Core’s reading these days

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According to Joseph Addison:

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

We agree!

With the abundance of minds that come and go about the Core office, we from time to timecollect a list of what current students are reading. Seldom are we disappointed by the variety of experiences. On a recent Tuesday morning, here are the responses given to our inquiry, by people hanging about CAS 119:

  • Radhika Akhil, CAS ’16, is currently reading Murder as a Fine Art by David Morell, published by Mulholland Books; the book follows Thomas de Quincey as a suspect in a series of ferocious mass murders in London.
  • Femke Hermse, CAS ’18, is currently reading Shifting Sands by Joel Migdal, published by Columbia University Press; the book analyzes the approach of U.S. officials toward the Middle East since World War II.
  • Dana Barnes, CAS ’16, is currently occupied by My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, published by Random House; the book presents an account of Steinem’s life as a traveler and activist.
  • Justin Lievano, CAS ’16, is reading The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, published by Dover Publications; Wharton’s first literary success, it presents a tragic love story amidst the New York society of the early twentieth century.
  • Yanni Metaxas, CAS ’18, is reading Bangkok Haunts by John Burdett, published by Vintage; it follows the adventure of a Thai police detective.
  • Zak Bos, GRS 2012, is currently reading The Taste of Angels by Francis Henry Taylor, published by Little, Brown; it presents a history of art collecting.
  • Priest Gooding, CAS ’18, only recently completed reading The Search for Truth About Islam by Ben Daniel, published by Westminster John Knox Press; the book follows Christian pastor Ben Daniel as he attempts to alleviate the fears of Islam prevalent among many modern Americans.
  • Dr. Robin Stevens is currently re-reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson, published by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; the first book follows the disappearance of a young woman.
  • Dr. Kyna Hamill is reading A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym, published by Open Road Media; the novel tracks the bored and unsatisfied Wilmet Forsyth when her life takes a turn.

Keep reading, folks.

To believe or not to believe

Whether you are coming to the course as alover of science or to learn more ABOUT science, CC 212 (course name: “Reality”!) is a place to explore the beauty of quantum physics among many other topics.

Eager physicists and philosophers alike enter one of the most challenging fields hoping to make a discovery that could change the world. The only problem? Some of the most promising theories in physics can’t be subjected to propertesting as in other science fields.

Physics is not an easy subject to study! Here are some of the major equations used. Don’t worry CC 212 will not be this overwhelming! (source)

David Gross is one of these ambitious physicists; he won the Nobel Prize in 2004. Over atQuanta Magazine, he writes about the complications that come upin theory and research, and the kinds of controversy which arises when his colleagues in physics come up with ideas that it seems impossible to prove true or false:

The dogged pursuit of a fundamental theory governing all forces of nature requires physicists to inspect the universe more and more closely to examine, for instance, the atoms within matter, the protons and neutrons within those atoms, and the quarks within those protons and neutrons. But this zooming in demands evermore energy, and the difficulty and cost of building new machines increases exponentially relative to the energy requirement.”

When will the world ever catch up to science and in the meantime what do we do? The field is increasing and more answers need to be discovered with questionable evidence. How long can we keep up and how much should we believe? Read the full piece by Gross at theQuantawebsite, or take up the topic in conversation with CC 212 students in the Core office.