Spain finds Don Quixote writer Cervantes’ tomb in Madrid

CC201 students know Miguel de Cervantes as the elusive author of Don Quixote. Some of the mystery surrounding him has been recently abated: forensic scientists have uncovered his remains beneath a building in Madrid.


Though badly damaged, scientists found his bones alongside those of his wife and other individuals who were buried with him. Cervantes’ crypt is scheduled to be opened to the public next year to coincide with the 400th anniversary of his death.

Read the full story here!

Tenth Circle Added to Rapidly Growing Hell

To current and former Core students, Dante’s Inferno brings to mind images of a nine-tiered Hell filled with sinners of various sorts. CC102 students, studious as they are, know the nine circles and their inhabitants like the back of their hands.

Reporting by the Onion, though, indicates that Dante’s descriptions are out-of-date: recent years have spawned sinners “far more evil than the original nine circles were equipped to handle.” Built for the likes of downsizing CEOs, telemarketers, and TV-exercise-show personalities, the new tier is known as Corpadverticus, or the Circle of Total Bastards. It promises to alleviate the serious overcrowding issues at the price of skewing the realm’s carefully arranged allegorical structure.

To read more about Inferno’s recent expansion, check out the full article here.

How we came to wonder about Jane Austen’s slapstick

austenFirst thing in the morning, the Core office checks Arts & Letters Daily, a site run by The Chronicle of Higher Education where, each work day, links are posted to some of the best essays, reviews and articles from the worlds of criticism and scholarship. It is, in other words, our one-stop shopping destination for the best that’s been printed recently in all those publications we wish we had the time to read.

So, this morning like most mornings, we dial over to; and what do we find? The following expression of editorial puzzlement:

The Monty Pythonesque slapstick of… Jane Austen? Her juvenilia &emdash; not intended for the public &emdash; was full of crude practical jokes >>

Jane Austen? Crude practical jokes? This we must see. For there comes a moment when every reader of Austen &emdash; even the fans, and we are fans &emdash; when one tires of comedy of manners, and wit, and churning feelings, and one begins to hunger for something bluer and bawdier. So: we click the link and are taken to a piece by Paula Byrne on the website of the Times Literary Supplement, reviewing several new volumes of the writings of the younger Austen. An excerpt:

Re-reading the youthful writings, one is struck again and again by the violence. A group of characters threaten murder by dagger, which shall be “steeped in your hearts blood”. A sister poisons another sister and is “speedily raised to the gallows” for her perfidy. A child bites off her mother’s fingers.

Fingers! Bitten off! By a child! Sign. Us. Up. Why didn’t Prof. Nelson mention this kind of Austenian atrocity in her recent lecture on Pride & Prejudice, we wonder? We feel deprived and, frankly, let down. (That lecture, by the way, can be found on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2.)

In any case: we hope you enjoy the review in its entirety (and remember that the Core office has a TLS subscription, so come by any time to peruse the hard copy), and that you might begin to make ALDaily part of your daily habits as a reader.

(Image above: Illustration by Joan Hassell for “Love and Friendship”, from the Folio Society edition. Source: TLS.)


crime-and-punishment-movie-poster-1951-1020676093Look, we’re readers in the Core. We’re readers of big books, huge ones, even. But there’s a certain point when the book goes on too long. We’ve all been there:

Crime and Punishment. Perhaps you’re thinking, “maybe I should read that canonical novel!” I’m going to stop you right there.

Emphasis mine. Luckily, this is the information age, and the internet is here to rescue you.

1. Young man Raskolnikov is losing his mind. See also: extreme angst.

2. So he decides: SCREW EVERYTHING. Then he takes an ax to an old lady and her sister. Granted, the old lady is a swindler, a loan shark and an unsavory sort, and killing her is no biggie. But her sister isn’t, and he kills her anyway. He’s a jerk.

3. Then he’s like OH NO I MURDERED PEOPLE and plunges into a fugue state. Really nice people inexplicably rally around him.

Click here to read more.

Alumni update: Grecia

As we look down the road to the 25th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Core Curriculum (taking place this May 1st and 2nd… hope to see you there!), we’ve been getting in touch with Core alumni to find out how they’ve been doing in the years since they left BU. We’re gathering these updates at the Class Notes page, but will also be cross-posting many here to the Core blog.

Here is an update from alumna Grecia Alvarez — CAS 2007, a double-major in English and Spanish, and Fulbright Award-winner — now living in Cadiz, Spain:

1. Tell us about your life since graduation!

After graduating in 2007, I got a job at the office of the BU Madrid Study Abroad program, and was there for a year. I then returned to Boston to begin working toward my MA in Library and Information Science at Simmons College, which I obtained in 2010. I was able to study abroad in South Korea at Yonsei University during the summer of 2009, which was a highlight of my graduate career. During my MA program, I got a job at Children’s Hospital at the Center on Media and Child Health but was soon beckoned away by the promise of exotic adventures in Morocco, when I was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (the photo above was taken in the medina of Assilah in Morocco).
Read More »

Who was Homer, really?

Homer is known to CC 101 students as the author of the Odyssey, but surprisingly enough, not much more is known about his life story. Even his place of birth and gender are a mystery to us.

A recent article published in the National Geographic suggests that Homer wasn’t a person, but a tradition. Adam Nicolson, author of Why Homer Matters, writes that the works attributed to him actually go back a thousand years earlier than originally believed.

I think it’s a mistake to think of Homer as a person. Homer is an “it.” A tradition. An entire culture coming up with ever more refined and ever more understanding ways of telling stories that are important to it. Homer is essentially shared.

Check out the article here for the latest press on this Core celebrity.

Uber reviews for Charon, boatman of Hades

The taxi service Uber is taking Boston by force. With its mixed reviews in the media, riders wonder about their drivers as well as what services are offered outside Beantown. Lucky for us at the Core office, Professor Hamill left a copy of the New Yorker open to an article providing Uber  reviews for Charon, boatman of Hades, who offers rides to anyone seeking cheap cab fare across the River Styx.

His services were met with mixed reviews: one rider complained about Charon’s refusal to play Beyoncé, and another rider was frustrated about his being wrapped in shadows and stabbed with a thousand blunt daggers upon attempting to delete the Uber app from his phone. Another rider appreciated Charon’s acceptance of different forms of payment, including ancient drachmas, babies’ blood, and Chase QuickPay.

What do you think, Core-ites? Has Charon become more or less accommodating since Virgil described him all those years ago?

What Core prof was on the radio to talk Xmas carols?


Over at SoundCloud, the good folks of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation have posted an audio interview with one of their hosts asking a certain familiar Core personality all about a certain familiar holiday song… can you guess who it was? Can you guess what song? Give up? It’s Professor Hamill! It’s “Jingle Bells”! Minds are blown!

Earlier this month, Prof. Hamill — who in addition to teaching humanities at BU is a key member of the Medford Historical Society — was a call-in guest, talking to the CBC’s Chris walker about the strange history of the song “Jingle Bells” — a song never intended, by its creators, to be associated with the Christmas holiday; a song with roots in a pub in New England and a church in Savannah; a song that, believe it or not, has even been to outer space. (Professor Marscher, do you know anything about this?)

Happy listening, Core-kateers.

Holiday Magic and Cracked Nuts

photo (4)photo (2)

This past weekend, Professor David Eckel continued his favorite tradition of bringing a group of Core students to see the Nutcracker at the Boston Opera House. Read More »

Notes from the December 2014 EnCore Book Club: The Home of THE Many-Gables

7gables salem web

It’s that time of month. Tonight, EnCore-sters met to discuss Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The House of THE Seven Gables. One of the club attendees, the lovely Kim Santo, took great issue with one nefarious, print-on-demand copy of the novel present at the meeting that clearly lacked the necessary article on the volume title (I’ll let you guess who brought that copy to the meeting). To make up for that frightening book’s omission, all references to the “THE” will now be capitalized.

Pooling our copies

Pooling our copies

The novel follows a few generations of two New England families, the Pyncheons and the Maules, detailing their blood-soaked history and insinuating the presence of a curse laid on the Pyncheons and their stagnant, stately home. Is Hawthorne’s novel unduly ignored in current book currents, shunted to the shadows of its more popular cousin The Scarlet Letter? Or is it a rightfully ignored, repetitious, impish rapier-thrust at colonial America’s values and the centuries of social battle engendered from our forefathers? Can we trust this mischievous narrator? And is Kim slightly crazy for wishing she could purchase and live in the House of THE Seven Gables?


All of these questions were explored, as we nommed Bertucci’s pizza (much love of sporkie was expressed at the outset of dinner) and drank copious amounts of red wine. We also dissected the very important topic of Hawthorne’s perceived hotness or, to use the technical term, “foxy-ness.”

From the start of the novel, we are treated to repetitious and heavy-handed descriptions of character features, and there was disagreement as to the necessity of this bloated prose. Do we NEED to hear 500 different times how a character’s scowl does not reflect her true nature, or how a man’s smile can be so sunny and “sultry” it dries the dirt in the road? While different readers had different reactions to the narrator’s florid and overgrown language, it led to the important topic of Hawthorne’s attitude towards puritanism, the aristocracy, and plebeianism. No one is (figuratively) left standing by the end of the novel.

When you stare into the void of Hawthorne's foxy eyes...does the void stare back?

When you stare into the void of Hawthorne’s foxy eyes…does the void stare back?

One reader ventured that Hawthorne equally mocked all social classes, being the literary maverick that he was. Another pointed out that the playful mockery in the text was not just directed at political and social targets. Hawthorne goofs around with elements of the Gothic literary genre; as attendees of October’s book club might recognize, Hepzibah and Clifford Pyncheon, molding away in their lugubrious mansion, resemble nothing so much as a parodic version of the sibling tenants of Poe’s “House of Usher.”

Soon, we moved into the topic of morality. Clifford’s languid obsession with the Beautiful provided a fascinating clash with the dynamism and sometimes greedy actions of other characters. Where does virtue lie? The novel does not allow for simplistic moralizing, and that may be what keeps the story interesting (that and the mystery behind the family curse, and the burning question of whether ghosts are lurking in dark corners).

When we tired of intellectual discussion, we proceeded to mock the summary of the novel printed on the back of the nefarious POD edition. Here’s where some of the silliness led us:

“…the tenants of the many-gabled house…what? Many-gabled? Are you serious?”




And the clear winner:


If you want in on this fun, please do join us for January’s book club, taking place on Wednesday the 7th. We will be reading A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. A nice, swift read. Festive treats and boozes will be involved. And you don’t even need to read the book.

Rare sighting of Stephanie Nelson!

Rare sighting of Stephanie Nelson!