Postcards to the Core: From Italy, July 2016


Our latest postcard has flown into Core from peninsular Italy, specifically the  ancient walled city of Urbino. It was sent by Prof. Gabrielle Sims, who as an Italianist writing from Italy unsurprisingly opened her note with an Italian greeting:

backCari tutti nel Core [“Dear everyone in Core”],

I write to you from the former Duchy or Urbino, birthplace of Raffaello and site of one of the most vibrant Renaissance courts (under Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza, 1444-1482).

Happy Independence Day! I’ll bet you’re doubly glad to be celebrating your independence from Britain THIS year, eh?

With affection & wine, love to my people of the Core!



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.

Postcards to the Core: From London, July 2016


Our latest postcard comes to CAS 119 from the North End — for you see, Prof. Stephanie Nelson had been in London, had visited the National Portrait Gallery there, but didn’t get the chance to find a post box and drop the memento postcard she bought for us into the mail before she had to board her plane back to Boston. So, our London postcard originates locally. Even so, what a pleasure to see the fine visage of the original Lord Nelson gazing nobly out of his portrait from the front of the card. Prof. Nelson writes:


Greetings Core!

Hand carried from the National Portrait Gallery all the way to the North End — finally the real Lord Nelson. See you all very soon.


The art, to be specific, shows a portrait of Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté KB (1758-1805), painted by Sir William Beechey in 1800, oil on canvas. On display in the National Portrait Gallery.


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.

Tao in the Core


We had a brief Taoist chat in CAS 119 this morning. Where else but the Core office?

A summer student had stopped by, asking for directions to the ISSO office. We directed him to his destination, and he thanked us, but as he turned to leave he noticed the framed calligraphy painting on the wall.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s a line from the Tao Te Ching, which our students read in their first year at BU,” we told him. “It translates as the valley spirit never dies’, but perhaps you can read it for yourself!”

“Yes!” he said; “but give me a moment, I want to look at Chinese Wikipedia.”

He turned his attention to his cell phone, and after a moment looked up. “Oh yes — this is a reference to the fertility spirit worship, and ancient Taoist ideas. You know, Laozi’s works are regarded as being impossible to understand!”

We replied: “Oh yes, that is a sentiment many of our students share. Even so, they seem to enjoy their discussions of the Tao.”

He said: “I think they should read it in the original Chinese!”

We replied: You know, we bet they would agree with you.”

* * * *

So! Brainstorm time: Who do we ask about setting up a Core China Summer Study program, for a crash course in Chinese language and Taoism, some cultural immersion, and hopefully a visit to some of those mountain-top temples Prof. Green is always showing us photos of, from his days as a traveler in that part of the world?

* * *

The analect that caught this student’s attention comes from Chapter 6 of the Tao Te Ching. For more about that section,

June’s last batch of free books


Before June evolves into July, take a look at the most up-to-date list of our books for free give-away.

We invite you — students, alumni, and friends of the Core — to peruse the list of books below. If you would like any of them, they are yours for the asking!

All you have to do is email the Core office, letting us know what book you want, and to what mailing address we should send it. (Or if you’re in the Boston area or plan to be soon, you can let us know that, and we’ll set the book aside for you to pick up in person.

Read More »

Postcards to the Core: From Athens, June 2016


Our latest postcard comes to CAS 119 courtesy of the Hellenic Post, straight from Athens Greece. It was sent by Marguerite McHale (Core ’11, CAS ’13), a Polytropos winner and former office staffer. She writes:

backHello Prof. Nelson and the rest of the Core!

Hope you’re all doing splendidly. I’m enjoying Athens very much. It’s very hot this time of year, but the shade is cool, and so is the wine.

I thought a lot about the Core as I walked around the Acropolis and the ancient agora. My next steps include the island sanctuary Samothraki and then Crete. Plenty of beach there!

Wishing you all well!

Marguerite McHale

PS: Say hi to everyone!!

Well, here it is:



Marguerite has just finished her MA in anthropology at the Harvard Extension School, and is living in Somerville for a few months while preparing for a research trip to Kenya. Connect with her online here.


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.

Postcards to the Core: From Italy, June 2016


Our latest postcard arrived last week, after making the transoceanic journey from Europe. It comes from Prof. Stevens, of the Core Natural Sciences. She writes:

stevens backDear Core:

I’m halfway through my tour of Italy. Right now I’m in Siena (Tuscany region), which is famous for the cathedral on the front [of the postcard]. A few days ago I was in the Naples area and went to Pompeii. I was blown away by how vast the site was — I ended up spending the whole day there. It was very “Core” — I saw scenes from the Iliad, which I’m reading for the faculty seminar! I vote we introduce field trips to Italy!

Robin (Dr. Stevens)

We find this an agreeable proposal, and invite all alumni and students interested in making a Core Summer Tour of Italy program a reality, to let us know.


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.

Honoring our first crop of Core Honors awardees


Join us in congratulating the first crop of Core Honors awardees, in this the first year eligible students applied to take advantage of the Honors opportunity.

Work for Honors allows students who are willing to commit extra time and effort to achieving a higher level of command of the material and techniques addressed in Core to conduct in-depth research in an area that interests them.  Completion of the Core Curriculum with Honors requires achieving a grade of B+ or better in all eight Core courses (or, for STEM majors who do not take CC 111/212, all six Core humanities and social science courses) plus one of the following:

  • A course taken outside of (but relevant to) the Core program and a substantial paper or project that relates material in that course to the Core program. The paper/project must be defended in front of a committee of at least three faculty from Core and the other course; OR
  • The composition and defense of a substantial paper or project on a subject that bridges at least two particular Core courses. The paper/project must be defended in front of at least three relevant faculty from Core.

Over the summer we’ll be posting specific shout-outs to each of this spring’s three Honors awardees. First up, Ameen Khdair, shown in the photo above with the three faculty members on his defense committee: Erin Murphy of the Department of English, and professors Nelson and Sims from Core. The certificate prepared for Ameen reads as follows:

In acknowledgement and celebration of his noteworthy interdisciplinary achievement, linking the foundational texts of the Core canon to methods & subject matter of the various academic disciplines, the faculty of the Core Curriculum present this award to their student AMEEN KHDAIR.

Through the creation and successful defense of his thesis project, “Paradigmatic Heroism: The Archetypal ‘Hero’s Journeys’ of Dante and Milton’s Satan,” he has demonstrated command over his chosen research area. In recognition thereof, let the following annotation be added to his University transcript: “Completed the Interdisciplinary Core Curriculum in Arts & Sciences, with Honors.”

Does that thesis project sound interesting to you? Core will be making it available in print form as an academic pamphlet; send us an email if you’d like to request a copy.

Postcards to the Core: From Chicago, June 2016


Our latest postcard comes from Core alumna, and current BU Assistant Director of Judicial Affairs, Kim Santo. She recently visited Chicago for a professional convention, and dropped us a line:

June 7, 2016
Dear Core Curriculum:

Greetings from Chicago! (What a toddlin’ town.) This might be my new favorite artist [referring to Archibald Motley, whose painting “Nightlife” appears on the front of this postcard.] He’s a local guy. (He’s new to me, anyway.) See you soon!




If you’re a Core or EnCore person, you should make Kim part of your network! Find her on Twitter at @kimsantobu.


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.

Another video game takes on the classics

Apotheon screenshot.

Apotheon screenshot.

Guest post by Core House RA, Brianna Randolph (CAS ’17)

When you take Core, you scrutinize every line in the works of Emily Dickinson, Homer, and Nietzsche, as you analyze and critique their viewpoints on life. After that kind training, it’s only natural that you when leave Core, you notice more. All sorts of details outside the worlds of philosophy and literature catch your eye…. such as video games that seem directly influenced by works we read in Core!

The game is called Apotheon, available on PC and PS4. In style and point-of-view, it resembles standards like Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong, but in terms of plot it is more like Keats’ “Ode to A Grecian Urn.”

(A quick recap if CC 202 was too long ago for you: In that famous sonnet, Keats ponders the figures on a piece of ancient Greek pottery, expressing wonderment over their immortality as they seem alive but forever frozen in time, mid-action.)

In Apotheon, seemingly painted figures defy Keats’ observations and run, fight, jump, and battle against a clay-like watercolor background, like the art on a Grecian urn come to life. The main protagonist is Nikandreos: a Greek solider drafted to destroy Olympus in a crusade for Hera. In an article describing the game, Somerville writer John Brownlee explains:

The game’s biggest design innovation is its art style, which matches the ruddy silhouetted look of black-figure and red-figure art that took over Greek pottery between the late sixth century and early fourth century BC. In addition to the Elgin marbles and other sculptures, this is the style that we in the 21st century consider synonymous with ancient Greece. Yet when we look at them in museums, what we see, more often than not, are just a bunch of dusty old pots. We forget that to the ancient Greeks, these vases would have been experienced with the same sort of excitement as we experience video games now.

More and more we’re seeing video games based on philosophical or classic texts. Just last week, alum Tom Farndon (Core ’10, CAS ’12) stopped by the Core office to say hello to the staff and give updates on his life four years post-graduation. During our conversation, he made reference to the action-packed, visceral game called Dante’s Inferno, based (very loosely) on the Divine Comedy! And I do mean “very” loosely; the protagonist Dante — who in the books was an average man going through a middle-life crisis in the middle of a forest — is in the game Dante transformed into a beefy young crusader, decked in armor and a bearing a cross that glows with the force of his piety. Despite these departures from the source material, during gameplay the rugged voiceover murmurs quotes directly from the translated Italian (as in this trailer). This pairing of word to action gives the players a sense of “acting out” the feelings and emotions Dante conveyed in his prose.

It’s exciting to see the modern entertainment world, with all its technological complexity, making good use of the eternally relevant (if sometimes dusty!) classics that are the heart of the Core.

Thank you to Prof. Hamill for bringing this game to our attention.

Analects of Core: Tate on Dante

“We think of Dante as a poet who concentrated and defended the medieval order. The medieval order evidently did not want to be concentrated and defended by a poet, for the works of Dante were publicly burnt by Pope John XXII.”

Source: “The Translation of Poetry”, a lecture delivered by Allen Tate in 1970 at an International Poetry Festival hosted by the Library of Congress. This talk has been reproduced in BU’s journal of translation, Pusteblume, edited by Core professor Sassan Tabatabai. Find the lecture online here.