From Columbia Daily Tribune: Rushdie stresses importance of literature

If there is anybody who can speak of the need to defend the right to free speech, and the need to use that right to protect what is valued in literature, then it is certainly Salman Rushdie, a man for whom the matter is one of life and death, literally. This literary icon was therefore an apt chose for a keynote speaker last Friday for an audience at the Unbound Book Festival. Here is a loose leaf excerpted from Britanny Ruess’ reporting of the speech for the Columbia Daily Tribune:

Rushdie dazzling audience to his right with wit.

Rushdie dazzling audience to his right with wit.

The more pluralistically we see ourselves, the easier it is to find common ground with other people, even if theyre very different from us, he said. And this is what the novel has always told us; it has always told us that human beings are not one thing, they are many things at once.

Great art tries to open the universe and push back borders of understanding to increase peoples capacity to know the world around them, Rushdie said. But he said artists are often met with the unpleasant sensation of powerful forces pushing against them from individuals who dont want understanding to be increased. Rushdies The Satanic Verses is banned in India and his writing has been the subject of lawsuits and other threats.

Rushdie omitted presumably the advantage that being on a most wanted list can give in the dating game, which favors bad boys, especially when they are good men.High-mindedness comes at a risk,but perhaps we might infer from Rushdie that it can be diversified by having more plurality.

Read more about his speech at Columbia Tribune

Weekly Round-Up, 4-21-17

Greetings, Corelings! Are you excited about classes winding down? Or are you slowly spiraling into the void as you plunge into studying and writing final papers? Regardless, here is the weekly round-up:

  • In case you missed it: The online version of the Core Journal has been released! Thank you to our editorial staff and contributors. Now show us your support by plastering the link all over your social media pages.
  • The Aeneid: a musical play with songs. Duke University’s musical theater organization Hoof ‘n’ Horn produces a modern-day version of Virgil’s work that avoids the term “musical” in hopes of evading the connotations and tropes of the genre. In light of the current refugee crisis, the production is particularly relevant.
  • Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny is a production that can only be described as a “steamy dance/theater” piece (we assume, considering we haven’t had the privilege of seeing it). Two differences from the original text stand out: God is now two beings (Father God and Mother God) and Adam eats the fruit before Eve does, which certainly shakes things up a bit. The show ran until April 3 at Greenway Court Theatre in LA.

Head-to-head. (Photo Credit: Anthony Roldan)

Head-to-head. (Photo Credit: Anthony Roldan)

  • There ishope that, should House Bill 2177 be passed, monuments bearing verses from the Bhagavad-Gita may be erected in public places in Oklahoma, such as public universities, city halls, and the Myriad Botanical Gardens in Oklahoma City. The work is said to have influenced a number of American icons, such as Henry David Thoreau, Albert Einstein, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
  • A new RPG adventure entitled A Flower from Hermes, created by 3 Halves Games, is based on Book X of the Odyssey. It is part of Odyssey Jam, a game jam (a challenge that involves planning and creating video games in a short period of time) that took place early last month.

Turn-based action. A screenshot from A Flower from Hermes.

Turn-based action. A screenshot from A Flower from Hermes.

That should do it! We wish you the best of luck in these last few weeks of class!

From Inside Higher Ed: Democratizing the Great Books

John Dewey’s classic book on education, “Democracy and Education,” is one of the indispensable contributions to civics that we’d do well to be revisit in our present time. A timely reminder of this appears in Inside Higher Ed, in an article by three Professors who report some of the interesting points from a daylong conference recently held in Columbia about democratizing the Great Books.

Photo for Inside Higher Ed

Photo for Inside Higher Ed

Years ago our keynote speaker, the political philosopher Danielle Allen, grappled with that very question as she taught Great Books courses to night students at the University of Chicago. The Declaration of Independence became the sole text for one of those seminars, as she invited the students to join her in parsing each line of the countrys founding document. Allen explained in her book Our Declaration, I wanted my students to claim the text. I wanted them to understand that democratic power belonged to them, too, that they had its sources inside themselves. I wanted them to own the Declaration of Independence.

Ownership of the democratic tradition is key to a civic education. Allen understood that if students formed a personal relationship with a text, if they acquired it as a work that awakened their own civic intelligence, they would move from passive recipients of a heritage that they didnt believe was theirs to active participants in shaping their countrys democratic future.

The authors go on to report some hopeful developments, in which programs across the country are working to spread the Great Word. The aim of such an education is to sufficiently acquaint people for whom the education we receive is inaccessible with the classical problems in ethics, morality, and civics.

Read their full post atInside Higher Ed

From The Guardian: The Fallen Woman

Sex sells, but whether it has been at the expense of a woman’s dignity has differed throughout the history of prostitution. Michle Roberts gives an overview of this history, starting from Mary Magdalene and going up to the bourgeoisie culture of the 19th century:

A detail showing Mary Magdalene in Boticellis Lamentation over the Dead Christ. Photograph: Alamy Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

A detail showing Mary Magdalene in Boticellis Lamentation over the Dead Christ. Photograph: Alamy Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

By the 19th century, in bourgeois culture, the rules had hardened. The individual gets crushed by the weight of the persona of the fallen woman. Novels act as etiquette books. In Jane Austen’s strictly ordered world, a young woman who bears an illegitimate child such as Eliza in Sense and Sensibility sinks further and vanishes. Euphemisms abound. And much as Dickens sympathised with young women forced into prostitution through poverty and tried to help them, he could not actually name Nancys occupation in Oliver Twist.

I love her twist at the end when she suddenly plugs in her own bookThe Walworth Beauty, which challenges our conventional but skewed notions of prostitution and female sexuality.

Read her full post at The Guradian

Weekly Round-Up, 4-14-17

Hey there, scholars! Excited for the day off on Monday? Here are this week’s links to get you geared up for the long weekend!

  • This Monday marked the beginning of Passover, a holiday that commemorates events we may recognize from the Book of Exodus, that is, the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
  • Further along in history, another holiday is observed today: Good Friday, the day which many Christians consider to be the date of Christ’s crucifixion and death. Read about the Crucifixion in the Gospel of Matthew here.
  • BBC One and Netflix present Troy: Fall of a City, a drama in eight parts starring Alfred Enoch (Dean Thomas of Harry Potter fame) as Aeneas. Written by David Farr, it is in production at the moment in South Africa.
  • A new version of Medea, featuring an all-female cast, is set to take Bristol, England, by storm this May. Written by Chino Odimba and directed by George Mann, the production is said to blend the ancient world with contemporary instances of female injustices. Bristol Old Vic, May 5-27.

(Via Broadway World)

  • In her recently published novel In the Name of the Family, Sarah Dunant enters the world of 15th-century Italy to explore the lives of the Borgia family–and that of Niccolo Machiavelli. However, as New York Times writer Jay Parini mourns, the focus remains tightly focused on the infamous family rather than our friend Niccolo.
  • Turns out the Dante’s bones have taken quite a journey, judging by the number of times they have been moved over the centuries. He also apparently had a huge head, which inspired this magnificent quotation from 19th-centurypathologist Professor Giovanni Puglioli:“[T]he skull of superior men is commonly bigger and more beautiful that that of men with mediocre intelligence.”

The cenotaph of Dante, located in Santa Croce in Florence, Italy, by Giacomo Brogi. (Public Domain)

The cenotaph of Dante, located in Santa Croce in Florence, Italy, by Giacomo Brogi. (Public Domain)

There you have it! We hope your weekend is full of fun and pastel-colored bunnies.

From The Guardian: The best second novels of all time

It is not true that, as with our first love, our first novel will be our most memorable, written or read; in fact, it isn’t even true for our first loves, and novels deal with fiction. Nevertheless, James Reith at The Guardian has shared several books we should keep in mind next time we’re about to think the first time is always the best time. Judiciously written second-timers often come in first place:

Second take  Anne Hathaway in the film Becoming Jane (2007). Photograph: Buena Vista/Allstar

Second take Anne Hathaway in the film Becoming Jane (2007). Photograph: Buena Vista/Allstar

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The source of everyones favourite costume drama (and some of the finest prose in the English tongue) was Austens second outing. It is also the Nations Favourite Second Novel, according to the Royal Society of Literature. But the Austen example raises a question: is the second novel the second to be published, or do we include unpublished attempts, too? Her gothic satire Northanger Abbey was written long before Sense and Sensibility.

Every writer must learn in some form or another that the craft asks that sheput business before pleasure: one should never keep a lousy muse. Of the two-timers who learned this lesson quickly, perhaps the greatest–no, the greatest–is James Joyce forUlysses, ingeniouslylapsing Homer’s Odyssey into a single day.

Read his full post at The Guardian

Weekly Round-Up, 4-7-17

Why hello there, scholars. Fancy meeting you here, on the longest-running weekly series of posts on the Core Blog. What’s that? This is theonly weekly series on the Core Blog? …Ignore us, then. Read on:

  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau is misunderstood, says Nelson Lund, guest blogger for the Washington Post. His book, Rousseaus Rejuvenation of Political Philosophy: A New Introduction, hopes to expound upon Rousseau’s theories for an American audience.
  • The New Orleans Opera Associations staging of Charles Gounod’s Faust is “devilishly good,” according to the New Orleans Advocate. The three-hour show features a dapper Mephistopheles who is nothing short of a businessman as well as a particularly moving Valentin, Marguerite’s brother.

Paul Groves as Faust.  (Photograph by Tom Grosscup)

Paul Groves as Faust. (Photograph by Tom Grosscup)

  • Amid controversy over a “tired-looking bust” of Virginia Woolf in Bloomsbury, London, that contrasts sharply with a “jaunty and full-bodied” sculpture of James Joyce in Dublin, the charity Aurora Metro Arts and Media hopes to commission a new full-size statue of Woolf that treats her with due respect. (Unfortunately, no image was included of the original bust, so we can’t judge for ourselves.)
  • Make Italy Great Again: Two translated volumes of Petrarch’s letters(translated by Elaine Fantham)reveal a strangely familiar goal, albeit one achieved more academically (to restore that greatness, he set about copying Roman texts by Cicero, Seneca, and Julius Caesar, to name a few). Fun fact: His Canzoniere was originally titled “Bits of Stuff in the Vulgar Tongue” (Fragment rerum vulgarim).
  • Actress Noma Dumezweni (whom you may know as Hermione from the West End version of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) performs an exquisite rendition of William Wordsworth’s “Daffodils,” or “I wandered lonely as a cloud.”

That’s all for this week! Come back next Friday for another edition of the Weekly Round-Up!

A Home in Ruin: The Work of Mohamad Hafez at the Lanoue Gallery

“We Have Won!” by Mohamad Hafez. (Credit: Maher Mahmoud, via The New Yorker)

Last Sunday, April 2nd, a solo show opened at the Lanoue Gallery, located not far from us on Harrison Ave. Featuring artwork by Syrian artist Mohamad Hafez, currently an architect in New Haven, Connecticut, the gallery is a window into a miniature world in ruin that reflects the modern-day destruction in Syria. “He wanted to make full, three-dimensional cities, and he wanted them to look real–gritty, rusted, lived-in, and partially destroyed,” describes writer Jake Halpern for The New Yorker. “Junk became his medium.” The concept took shape thirteen years ago in his college days at Iowa State University. Prevented by his visa from returning home, he took to rebuilding his city of Damascus in miniature. His first work was a recreation of a facade of an ancient wall that was pictured on a Syrian candy bar wrapper. Today, his constructions are far less idyllic than his early models.

Hafez tried to explain the turn his art had taken. How do you watch whats happening in Aleppo and not go nuts? he asked. How do you watch thousands of years bombed out of existence? How do you go on with your life, having your morning coffee, when a bunch of your relatives and friends are under constant bombing? How do you not snap and yell out? You have to remain composed and carry on with your day job, don’t you? He paused for a moment, as if lost in thought. Well, he said, finally, the way that I stayed composed is that I come here and I let the models do the yelling for me. In that sense, it relieves me. It is grim. And I take no pride in this work. I feel no ownership in it. Its as though I am 3-D printing whats inside of me.

These unpeopled cities, flickering with the lights of tiny lamps, chattering with sound recordings from happier times that emanate from hidden speakers, are just familiar enough to be recognizable as home. Hafez draws out in the viewer the same pangs of homesickness and of loss that he channels into his work. And in Core, we are no strangers to homesickness and loss; the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt and Odysseus’s twenty-year journey back to Ithaca come to mind, not to mention our own personal experiences here at BU.

Witness Mohamad Hafez’s take on displacement, home, and ruin in his solo gallery showHOMELAND inSECURITY at the Lanoue Gallery on 450 Harrison Ave #31, from April 2until the end of the month. Read the rest of The New Yorker article here.

From The Guardian: How Lenin’s love of literature shaped the Russian Revolution

Tariq Ali, military historian and himself a prominent firebrand for the left, has published an absorbing article on Vladimir Lenin’s literary tastes. He loved the classics. He read Ovid, Virgil, Horace, and Juvenal deeply. But Ali states that it his love for the gold might adversely have effected his politics; that is, old was not gold in this case, but that might also have to do with its being concentrated in the hands of a few.

Photograph: Shepard Sherbell/Corbis via Getty Images

Photograph: Shepard Sherbell/Corbis via Getty Images

Lenin was also hostile to any notion of a proletarian literature and art, insisting that the peaks of bourgeois culture (and its more ancient predecessors) could not be transcended bymechanical and dead formulae advanced in a country where the level of culture, in the broadest sense, was far too low. Shortcuts in this field would never work, something that was proved conclusively by the excremental socialist realism introduced in the bad years that followed Lenins death. Creativity was numbed. The leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom, where the lives ofall would be shaped by reason, was never made in the Soviet Union or, for that matter, anywhere else.

It might seem surprising that given Ali’s closing remarks he felt the revolution was necessary. Surprising, but understandable; something perhaps we can sympathize with as citizens who have had a rude recent encounter with the ‘lesser of two evils’ principle, especially since we ended up with the worse of two evils. What one reads is less important than how one reads. It is still another matter whether one is sufficiently mature to practice in life the lessons on learns in literature. As students of the Core Curriculum, I take it one of these, then, we know and value very well: sympathy.

Scholars of the Core, read his full post at The Guardian

Timothy O’Leary’s Marsh Chapel Experiment

Can’t connect with the divine? Tired of spinning with nothing to show for but dizziness? Good news! On Good Old (1962) Friday, Timothy O’Leary, a psychologist hailed by Nixon as the most dangerous man in America (he was number three, two was Kissinger), conducted a double blind experiment at Marsh Chapel, in whichone group of students received the drug psilocybin to test whether it could induce mystical experiences–and it did! Many described the experience as being transformative for their well-being and satisfaction with life. Yet it also seems that some for some the effects of the drug did not wear off, since for many it confirmed their belief in the existence of God. How should we consider mystical experiences of this type with another, described wittily by William James:

“Thesimplest rudiment of mystical experience would seem to be that deepened sense of the significance of a maxim or formula which occasionally sweeps over one.”

And lifts one high!

Learn more about the Marsh Chapel Experiment at YouTube