Weekly Round-Up, 10-9-17

Corelings! Get out of bed! Put away your laundry! Clean up those mugs of tea that are littering your dorm (your roommate(s) will thank you)! It’s a new week, and we have a brand-new, classes-free day to enjoy. Let’s get going.

  • An inscription in the ancient language Luwian, written on a 3,200-year-old stone slab, has recently been deciphered, providing information surrounding a kingdom by the name of Mira and a Trojan prince called Muksus who was responsible for a number of military campaigns. There is, however, some concern that the inscription, now lost and available only in copies, may be a forgery.
  • The world premiere of Piers Beckley’s retelling of theEpic of Gilgamesh, this time as from a queer perspective, takes place this month, running from October 10-21 at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington in London.

A poster for Gilgamesh (the play, not the original epic).  (via LondonTheatre1)

A poster for Gilgamesh (the play, not the original epic). (via LondonTheatre1)

  • Step up your paper-writing game, scholars. John Milton is waaay ahead of you. According to Paradise Lost lore, the poet received the poem from his “celestial patroness” Urania during the night and would dictate and revise it in the morning. Did this female voice–imagined or not–influence cases of proto-feminism in Milton’s narrative? (And isParadise Lost technically plagiarism? Administration would like a word with you, Milton.)
  • While researchers fret that children recognize more Pokemon than plants or animals, author Robert Macfarlane explores the magic and power of names, including the ways that they allow us to identify with the things we encounter, taking after a John Keats quotation: “If a sparrow come before my window, I take part in its existence and pick about the gravel.” (PS, the illustrations accompanying this piece are worth a look.)
  • Turns out everyman Walt Whitman loved him some opera. In fact, the author credited opera as a massive influence in the creation of collection Leaves of Grass. Composer Matthew Aucoin, meanwhile,presents a new opera, Crossing, centered on Whitman’s service as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War.

Whitman, c. 1854, shortly before publishing Leaves of Grass.  (Via Library of Congress)

Whitman, c. 1854, shortly before publishing Leaves of Grass. (via Library of Congress)

Feeling refreshed? Accomplished, maybe? Ready to jump into the day? Get out there, Corelings. Enjoy your day off!

Postcards to the Core Round-Up


Here at the Core office, we’ve gotten quite a few postcards over the year from alumni, current students, and faculty alike. Any visitor to CAS 119 will say that our wall (and, recently, the conference room door) is one of the most eye-catching aspects of the office. And after all, we do love living vicariously through our Core friends and family while we toil away back here in Boston. And now, after receiving a goodly amount of mail this summer, we figured a postcard round-up was in order.

Take a look at some highlights from over the years:


Are you abroad (or home) and curious about getting in touch with Core and sharing news of your travels or general goings-on? Our address is easy: Core Curriculum, Boston University, Boston MA 02215.Feel free to send us a card and tell us of your travels.

Weekly Round-Up, 10-2-17

Hello, scholars! We hope you had a fruitful fall weekend and are ready for another week of classes. Here is another installment of Core-related news and articles to send you on your way.

  • BU researchers, headed by Prof. Deborah Kelemen, developed a children’s book about natural selection entitled How the Piloses Evolved Skinny Noses. Directed towards children aged 5 to 8, the book follows the evolution of fictional creatures called “piloses” who adapt to a changing environment. Read an interview with Prof. Kelemen over on BU Today.
  • Good news: We found a new Core-related Twitter account to follow. It’s called @bitsofpluto, and it is a bot that posts “a different bit of Pluto every six hours.” Finally, Plutogets the credit it deserves.

  • What can we learn from ancient Greek myths? Nothing “particularly useful [and] direct,” according to author Mary Beard, who takes on Emily Katz Anhalt’s new publication Enraged: Why Violent Times Need Ancient Greek Myths. The book, she says, is too oversimplified (with a message that it is “better to talk about things than fight”). “Do we want to live in a world in which we dont get furious at slavery, racism, or any number of other global injustices or even at some of the dreadful truths of the human condition?” Beard asks. Read the full review here.
  • Ever, Jane, is the Jane Austen RPG we’ve all been waiting for. A video game by Judy L. Tyrer (formerly of Linden Labs, producer of the game Second Life), it is basically an “Austenified” fantasy game revolving around quests and role play. The article itself is worth a read, even if the game is perhaps… not up to snuff. Here is an excerpt:

And so Flopsy [McCanada, the author’s player character] wanders Tyrehampton in search of love, gliding down its streets, passing an ivy-covered church and sheep stacked on top of each another the Austen livestock algorithm clearly has some glitches to iron out.

Flopsy eventually meets Master Brimley outside the sheep pen on the village green. As a commoner, Ladys Magazine reminds me, he isnt someone a woman of my standing would normally talk to. But in the chat window I write: Good day, Shepherd Brimley! He has beautiful square blue eyes, like a polygonal Colin Firth.

  • Just for fun: An oldie but goodie from the late Toast. Peruse a compilation of “portraits of Lord Byron, In Order of Lord Byron-ness.” And boy, is Lord Byron Lord Byron-y. (Warning: Contains some… questionable language that we’re sure Core scholars can handle. Anything for Byron.)

“Hes wearing like eighteen ascots and theyre all flowing in a tempest, plenty of Byron here.”

That’s all for now! See you next week.

Weekly Round-Up, 9-25-17

Hello, scholars, and welcome to another (belated) week’s Round-Up of links! This week, we visit the Sistine Chapel (in England), Pluto, and a galaxy far, far away. (And we promise, no Jane Austen this time.)

  • The annual Core BBQ took place yesterday, September 24, on the BU Beach. Current Core scholars, alumni, and their guests gathered for food, fun, and conversation. This year we played Core-hole, raffled movie tickets and lunch with Prof. Hamill, and ate a whole lot of pie. Be sure to look out for pictures from the event on the Core Facebook page (and check out the Core Snapchat (@corecurriculum) for pictures straight from the event)!
  • Professor Daniel Bluestone of the History of Art and Architecture department takes to BU Today to discuss a topic that has been on the minds of many Americans as of late: whether Confederate monuments should stand or be toppled. Prof. Bluestone gives some context for Confederate statuary in Charlottesville and admits that he believed that counter-monuments–statues of W.E.B. Du Bois, he suggests–should be erected alongside the old, controversial works; in recent weeks, he has revised his opinion.
  • Pluto’s topography is christened: The first official names of the mountains, valleys, craters, and other features found on ex-planet Pluto’s surface have been revealed. Following the Pluto theme, the names of five of Pluto’s features come from underworld mythology from various cultures from around the world, including indigenous Australian and Inuit. (One feature–a scar near Elliot Crate–is named after the poet Virgil.)

Tourist destinations of Pluto. Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/SwRI/Ross Beyer.

Tourist destinations of Pluto. Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/SwRI/Ross Beyer.

  • What if Shakespeare wrote Star Wars? (And please, do not compare George Lucas to Shakespeare. (Counterarguments will be accepted in essay format, to be submitted to the Core Journal.)) Fiction writer Ian Doescher imagines Episode VII as a Shakespearean play in The Force Doth Awaken: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, imparting to us such lines as “E’en with th’Resistance shall my path be join’d, / Knit closely unto them as skin to bone?” An excerpt is available here.
  • Robert Burns, a 70-year-old artist from England, has painted Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leader, as Christ in imitation of Renaissance painter Antonello de Messina’s Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World). (“Maybe Ive overdone the eyes a little but the picture I was working from was very startling like that.”) What interests us more is that this man also painted the ceilings of his council house with scenes from the Sistine Chapel.

Suddenly feeling extremely ashamed of my apartment decor. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian.

Suddenly feeling extremely ashamed of my apartment decor. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian.

That’s all, folks! Keep up with your reading, and remember to visit next Saturday for another installment of links.

Weekly Round-Up, 9-16-17: Accidentally Jane Austen Edition

Hello, scholars. We had an accident in the most Core way possible. You see, as we were gathering interesting Core-related news and articles across the interwebs, something… happened. Well, you’ll see. Read on:

  • Over in the UK, the new 10 pound note–depicting the face of Jane Austen–has entered circulation. And it will never see the inside of one vegan restaurant, which is boycotting the tender as the notes contains tallow, a type of rendered animal fat. (Related: Adam Smith is on the soon-to-be-introduced 20.)
  • More on Jane: King’s College in Cambridge, England, has organized an exhibition in honor of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. It includes rare artifacts such as a letter penned by the author and the manuscript of an unfinished novel entitled Sanditon.
  • You guessed it–Jane Austen: Austentacious takes on London’s West End beginning this December. Prompted by a title of a “lost” (see: non-existent) novel provided by an audience member, the cast, dressed in regency garb, creates a completely improvised show. In the past, they have put on such shows as The Sixth Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Shark, and Double O Darcy.
  • No turning back: LA Times contributor Rosemary McClure provides a guide to celebrating the aforementioned 200th anniversary around the world. From Bath, Hampshire, and Chawton all the way to California, McClure’s pilgrimage spans two countries and several gift shops (gotta have that sweet, sweet Austen merch).
  • I guess this Weekly Round-Up is Austen-themed now: Janeites from all over the world gather–in period costume–to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, which closes this Sunday, September 17.

Go big or go home at the Jane Austen Festival. (Sara Coffey via The Independent)

The cult of Jane Austen has a strong hold on its Janeites. Practice caution, Corelings. Be grateful that we read Austen in the spring. For now, we are safe from her iron grasp and compelling prose.

Enuma Elish and Genesis (X-post)

A Meditation on Enuma Elish and the Primordial History of Genesis

Let us ask just one question about Genesis 1-11 in comparison with the Akkadian creation epic: how do human beings appear in these two stories?

To ask this question, we do not need to decide in advance whether the authors of Genesis deliberately produced a counter-narrative that took Enuma Elish as its negative foil orVorlage.There are indications that this was so, but it may be just as well to consider Genesis as having been written by scholars who were aware of the need to produce something like Enuma Elish for thebney ha-golah(the exiles), something that articulated and preserved the values of Judahites and Israelites in a foreign land who were wrestling with the experiences of loss of sovereignty, deportation, displacement, and an uncertain future.

The story about the tower of Babel alone indicates that those authors served a community impressed by, as well as skeptical of, Babylonian achievements. Exposed to a far more populous and powerful civilization, the future Jews found the language to diminish what was before their eyes and put it in its place in ways that still ring profound and true today.

How did they do it? What is it in the language of Genesis 1-11 that achieves these results? These results could not have been achieved had the authors of Genesis been entirely ignorant or completely silent on Babylonian matters. Only by responding in their own idiom to the ancient and well-known Akkadian creation myth and, in the flood story, also to elements of Gilgamesh, were they able to create a story of creation that was to substitute for that of their more powerful Babylonian hosts. In the long term, the creation of Genesis rather than the ancient Akkadian epic served as the touchstone of civilizations that inherited the Bible and disseminated it across the globe.

The ancient myths that prompted the authors of Genesis to write as they did never vanished completely. One might even say that it was Genesis itself, with its subtle allusions to alternate ways of conceiving of the beginning, which prepared the ground for the eventual retrieval of its intertextual other.

Just as we now know, thanks to the archaeological and epigraphic retrieval of Ancient Near Eastern texts and traditions, that Genesis did not appear in splendid isolation but was shaped out of its preconditions and from within particular contexts, we can also observe that Genesis did not act in splendid isolation when it advanced to the status of the foundational story of other communities, even nations and empires, who read those ancient Israelite and Judahite texts in new situations and with new eyes, for they also read these texts with their old eyes.

It seems to me that these later readers of Genesis, themselves steeped in Babylonian, Egyptian, Syriac, Greek, and Roman traditions approached the text from contexts and with connotations that resembled those represented in Enuma Elish. They did not object, on principle, to the notion that the world was full of gods, as the Stoics taught, or that worlds came and went and were prone to destruction and regeneration. Theirs was a much more colorful universe than what we might imagine if we approach the Bible with the mental asceticism and puritan austerity of Calvinists. The ancient readers were hardly iconoclasts. Theirs was a world of divine beings, messengers, powers ruling the air, and a Supreme Being ruling all. That Supreme Being, the God hidden to the eyes of men, was not residing in splendid isolation but surrounded by a court and happy in that he had a son created in his likeness who was obedient to the point of sacrificing his own happiness to please his father. In other words, theirs was the world of Enuma Elish, or one very much like it.

So let us ask ourselves that one question. What is the role of the human being in Enuma Elish and what is the role of the human being in Genesis 1-11?

When it comes to the answer to this question, the difference between these texts could not be more pronounced. That difference would be meaningless if the texts could not be compared, if these texts had no relation to one another, if there was no intertextuality that linked them just enough to see where they align and where they depart from one another.

To answer briefly, while in Enuma Elish the creation of human beings is an afterthought and their purpose is to serve as an accouterment to the lifestyle of the gods, the creation of Genesis puts human beings in the place of the gods. It is not by accident when the Psalmist muses, You made him only slightly less than God (Psalm 8:5).

Genesis 1 barely conceals the existence of the divine retinue, of lesser gods and angels, but it reduces them to spectators and a silent chorus. (See Gen 1:26) Only later, in rabbinic midrash are the spectators and silent chorus given words that are unabashedly[1]assumed to have been spoken before the creation of the human being.[2]Like the Christians, the Jews of late antiquity imagined God as part of apleroma, a fullness rather than an emptiness.

So the difference of Genesis is not that there are no lesser gods or divine beings but that it is almost completely silent about them. This includes a barely acknowledged silence, a may-he-who-has-ears-to-hear-get-the-hint of something barely remembered, or rather well remembered but now barely alluded to, namely, the great combat myth that was indelibly linked with the reputation of Marduk, god of cities, that is meant to be ignored, though not entirely forgotten. This, too, later readers remembered well. Not only those mindful of the vanquished saltwater chaos dragon, that monstrous goddess Tiamat slain in the beginning to save the gods and from whose carcass the habitable world was created, but others, too, who believed that YHWH Elohim slew Rahab and captured the Leviathan whose flesh will be the feast of the righteous at the end of days. (Rahab: see Job 9:13 and Job 26:12, Ps 89:10, Isa 59:9; Leviathan: see Job 3:8, 41:1.12, Psalm 74:14, 104:26, Isa 27:1) These lively images of primordial threat to existence contained by heroic divine intervention returned in stories about the battles of Christ and the saints against Satan and his lot.

Again, the creation of Genesis contains all this but barely hints to it. Instead it trains its spotlight on the human being. All other questions are rendered irrelevant: where was Gods wind before it hovered over the deep/tehom? Why and for what purpose did he fashion what he spoke into being? Why, in his majestic cohortative soliloquy, does He create human beings in our likeness? Did not Ea fashion Marduk after his likeness? Isnt Christ the true likeness of God, the one who is even called by his name, a veritable son of the sun or, as in the Orthodox creed, light from light?

In Genesis, sonship or slightly-lesser-than-Godship, is conferred on human beings. In Enuma Elish, on the other hand, humans are created from the blood of Kingu, an evil figure, and hence their eternal enslavement to the gods is more than skin-deep. It is a condition that cannot be shed. It is their fate to serve the gods.

The story that the Babylonians read and reenact every fall during the season of the New Year is about divine kingship, the kingship of Marduk and the kingship and priesthood of few, their right to rule over the many: humans are meant to feed the gods. Without the gods and their protection, diligently mediated by the priest-king, they had nothing to eat themselves. The eternal merit of the gods rests on their providing the conditions of life, while life remains under the fragile protection of the gods. Stop feeding the gods and see what happens. Change their rites and you will fail. Disturb their temples and deprive them of their proper sacrifices and you will perish.

It is no accident that Babylonian Jewry, and Jews ever since, recall creation and divine kingship in the fall, the season when the world was created. Like the Babylonian New Year, Jewish festivities are drawn out from the first of the month of Tishrey (the names of the Jewish months are Babylonian) to the tenth of the month, the solemn day of atonement, followed by eight days of seasonal festivities recalling the Israelites sojourn in the desert. While there is no overt reference to Babylonian religion, the manner in which Jews recall creation and associate it with divine enthronement echoes the sequence of events in Enuma Elish. Creation and divine enthronement are meaningfully associated only if creation involves an assertion of supreme power over non-creation, chaos, perdition. As in Enuma Elish, though not so obviously in Genesis. Not if one reads it with the diminished range of overtones that were still audible to those in whose ears rang those other tunes.


[1]This despite the well-known prohibition to inquire into what occurred before creation. See GenR 1:1: IT is forbidden to inquire what existed before creation, as Moses distinctly tells us (Deut. 4. 32): Ask now of the days that are past which were before thee, since the day God created man upon earth. Thus the scope of inquiry is limited to the timesincethe Creation (Source: http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/tmm/tmm07.htm).

[2]There istextualspeculation about the creation of the angels in Genesis Rabba. See e.g. GenR 1:2-3: When were the angels created? R. Johanan said: They were created on the second day, as it is written, Who layest the beams of Thine upper chambers in the waters (Ps. Civ, 3), followed by, Who makest the spirits Thine angels {ib. 4). 1 R. Hanina said: They were created on the fifth day, for it is written, And let fowl fly above the earth (Gen. 1, 20), 2 and it is written, And with twain he did fly (Isa. vi, 2). 3 R. Luliani b. Tabri 4 said in R. Isaacs name: W T hether we accept the view of R. Hanina or that of R. Johanan, all agree that none were created on the first day, lest you should say, Michael stretched [the world] in the south and Gabriel in the north, while the Holy One, blessed be He, measured it in the middle ; but I am the Lord, that maketh all things ; that stretched forth the heavens alone; that spread abroad the earth by Myself me-itti (ib. xliv, 24) : mi itti (who was with Me) is written : who was associated with Me in the creation of the world ? Ordinarily, a mortal king is honoured in his realm and the great men of the realm are honoured with him. Wherefore ? Because they bear the burden [of state] with him. (Source: https://archive.org/stream/RabbaGenesis/midrashrabbahgen027557mbp_djvu.txt).


*Note: This piece originally appeared on Professor Michael Zank’s blog on September 14, 2017, and is republished here with the permission of the author.

Adopt-a-Book Event, Fall 2017


Last Saturday morning, Core presented its very first Adopt-a-Book event, sponsored by Word & Way, the Core student association. Scholars old and new gathered in CAS 119 to munch on bagels and muffins, sip on juice and coffee, and peruse a massive selection of books awaiting a forever home. And, in keeping with the spirit of generosity we hope to cultivate here in Core, we also collected donations for the benefit of the Katy ISD Education Foundation, which pledges to come to the aid of families and staff of the Katy Independent School District impacted by Hurricane Harvey. In addition to the number of books we received to be given away and sold for fundraising, we raised $220 total in Venmo and cash donations.

As thanks, here are the names of some of our donors.

The following donated books to be given-away/sold for the fundraising:

  • Core Curriculum
  • Charles Coe
  • Sarah Smith
  • Abby Hafer
  • Rose Grenier
  • Zachary Bos

Cash donations totaled to $149, with contributions including those by the following:

  • Jonathan Han
  • Jessica Oshanani (@jess_oshanani)
  • Norman Toro (@ntv_ariel)
  • Kylie McCuiston
  • not to mention our many anonymous contributors!

And finally, we raised $70 in Venmo donations, thanks to the charity of the following:

  • Janet Zhou
  • Maaha Rafique
  • Allie Cole
  • Jonathan Han
  • Chance Pompay
  • Bridget Cohen
  • Rebecca Giovannetti (@becgiovannetti)
  • Anto Rondon (@antorondon)
  • Alex Green

As you can see, the first Adopt-a-Book was a roaring success! And due to popular demand, we hope to organize more events of this kind in the future.

For more photos, check out our photo album over on the Core Facebook page. (Tag yourself!)

Postcards to the Core: from Rome, Summer 2017


Another postcard has flown to us from overseas. It comes from Core alum and current senior Gregory Kerr, who writes to us from Rome, Italy. He says:


Hello Core,

Greeting from Rome!

I’m taking a vacation following my completion of a summer project I’d only have done because of my experience with Core. (If it weren’t for you, I’d be a self-loathing Econ major.) This trip has been great, in no small part because of all I’ve learned in Core and classes over the past 3 years. How else could I spend 45 minutes explaining the Sistine Chapel to my parents in such thorough detail?

Being here has made me truly, viscerally understand and appreciate in context how much of a joy it is to learn and to know. I feel like I’m almost one with something when I’ve learned so much about it. There’s this connection that I can’t explain, I just feel it, and it’s amazing.

After rejections from 6 collections, Core made BU exciting to me, and gave me reason to see how somehting good could come of something bad. 3 years later, I owe so much of myself to Core, and I’ll never look back.

– Gregory

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

Weekly Round-Up, 9-9-17

Hello, scholars, old and new. We presume that, after this first week of classes, you are settling into your routine nicely. If not, we hope that the (relative) regularity of the Weekly Round-Up helps to set you at ease. We’ll always be here for you, Corelings. Or at least until the author graduates. Who knows what lies beyond the dark abyss that is life after BU?

  • We have a plethora of activities this semester to which all are invited. Earlier this week, we met our first-years–and welcomed back second-years and alumni–at the Core Welcome Reception at CAS 119. And today, on Saturday, we rounded off the week with the first (of many, we hope!) Adopt-a-Book event, which boasted bagels, muffins, and, of course, free books. To learn more about upcoming Core events, keep an eye out for any mentions in the Epic Times, or check out one of the display cases outside CAS 119.
  • Did you know that Rembrandt’s The Unconscious Patient (An Allegory of the Sense of Smell) almost sold for $500-800 at auction? It is one of a series on the five senses, of which the painting portraying the sense of taste remains missing. (Perhaps it, too, lies in an attic somewhere, unrecognized as a work by the Dutch Old Master by its owners, the artist’s initials hiding beneath “a layer of varnish.”)
  • Over a hundred years ago, Shakespeare’s birthplace was put up for auction before lovers of the Bard rallied for its protection. Now, on the anniversary of the occasion, the estate is being “put on the market” (though fanatics, unfortunately, cannot make any bids).
  • In New York City’s Confucius Plaza, Confucius speaks to us across the centuries. No, he really does–by scanning a code located by a statue of the Chinese philosopher, one may access the Talking Statues project, through which an actor taking on the role of Confucius discusses such themes from his Analects as filial piety, perseverance, and self-cultivation.
  • A sculpture of John Keats now sits on a bench in Chichester in West Sussex, England, where he once spent a brief period of his life. A work by sculptor Vincent Gray, we would very much like to place our hand gently atop Keats’. We don’t mind that it is cold and bronze.

English actress and singer Dame Patricia Routledge gazes lovingly into the metallic eyes of John Keats.  (Via Chichester Observer)

English actress and singer Dame Patricia Routledge gazes lovingly into the metallic eyes of John Keats. (Via Chichester Observer)

There you have it, folks. One weekly round-up, available for your perusal. Remember to return next week for another batch!

Request to the Core Community: Help Save Eevee’s Eye!

Abbey and Eevee. Photo by photojournalist Jackie Ricciardi for BU Today.

Abbey and Eevee. Photo by photojournalist Jackie Ricciardi for BU Today.

A Core scholar’s service dog is at risk of losing an eye. And believe us, this pup is deserving of two eyes, if not more.

Image from Abbey's GoFundMe.

Image from Abbey’s GoFundMe.

We know that the Core community looks out for one another, whether we are alumni long since graduated, current students, faculty, or staff. Abbey Janeira (CAS’20), bio major, Core student and staffer, and friend, has set up a GoFundMe to raise money to cover treatment and medication costs. As of writing, Abbey has received nearly $700 out of the necessary $1550. That’s nearly half of her goal! With your help, Eevee’s eye will be as good as new.

You may remember Abbey from a photo essay in BU Today that was published around this time last year. She has an inspiring story. And from personal experience, all of us Core staffers can attest that she and Eevee are good folks. We know the Core community will do what it can to help Abbey and Eevee.

Want to donate? Here is the link to Abbey’s GoFundMe. If you are available on social media, consider spreading the word by using the link (https://www.gofundme.com/helpeeveeseye). Many thanks!

UPDATE:As GoFundMe does not accept donations of less than $5, Abbey has requested that those smaller donations be sent to her Venmo account (abbeyj1357).