100+ books, free to those that want ‘em!

6a01543325a25d970c01b7c785f602970bCore people read books, contend with books, collect books, re-read books, and are basically book people.

If you’re reading this — as a student, alumnus, staff member, or friend of the Core — youvery likely are a book person, too. To that end, we invite you to peruse the list of books below. If you would like any of these, 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.

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Have It Your Way: Cheeseburgers and Moral Responsility


Here at the Core, we spend a great deal of time examining a wide range of perspectives on morality, returning semester after semester to examine questions such as “how do we define right and wrong?” and even “do right and wrong really exist?”

As we explore these ethical questions through the lenses of science, literature, and philosophy, it can be helpful to reference professional ethicists to shed light on our discussion.

Eric Schwitzgebel, philosophy professor at UC Riverside, takes a ‘meta’ approach to these conversations in a recent piece for aeon magazine, titled “Cheeseburger ethics”. In the piece, he raises intriguing questions, such as: “Are ethics professionals good people, and if not, what is the point in learning ethics?” And further, he wonders about the ethics of professional ethicists:

When I meet an ethicist for the first time by ethicist, I mean a professor of philosophy who specialises in teaching and researching ethics its my habit to ask whether ethicists behave any differently to other types of professor. Most say no.

Ill probe further: why not? Shouldn’t regularly thinking about ethics have some sort of influence on ones own behaviour? Doesn’t it seem that it would?

We recommend this piece as being 1) entertaining, 2) provocative, and 3) not visibly unethical. If you’re hungry for some stimulating summer reading, check it out ataeon.

This post contributed by Core summer staffer Michael Enwright.

Postcards to the Core: From Utah, July 2015


Our latest postcard comes from former Core office staffer, and Core alumna, Suzyn-Elayne Soler, now a member of the Admissions team for the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College at Florida Atlantic University. She was in in Salt Lake City, Utah, last week, traveling and meeting prospective students. Her report:

Greetings from Salt Lake! Visited the Mormon Temple and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, which is much smaller than the Boston MFA. Off to the mountains now, then Wyoming this weekend.With love, SUZYN.




Look: 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.

New Languages@BU site

Here’s a helpful development: a new one-stop webpage providing information about language study here at BU. Find all the majors and minors that require language study, as well as a list of all 28 languages taught at BU:http://www.bu.edu/cas/academics/undergraduate-education/language-learning-at-cas.

Recommended reading: “How to Build a Universe”

If you’ve been driving yourself batty, scouring Amazon and the shelves of your local bookstores in search of a copy of Building Universes…for Dummies, we know why you’ve been unsuccessful: that particular book does not exist. However, if you’re dead-set on building your own universe, look no further than Daniel Hudon’s “How to Build a Universe.” This short work of imaginative, cosmological DIY was re-published in this year’s Core Journal, Volume XXIV. From the piece:

Consider first the type of universe you’d like to build…your main choices are finite and infinite….factor some advertising into your budget so that people can actually see the wonders of your universe. If you just broadcast the existence of your newly created universe to all and sundry, people will likely see you as a crackpot, so we don’t recommend that.

Hudon’s easy-to-follow, conversational tone provides a solid 101-foundation for those of us who really just want to make our own universes.Let us know if you have any luck in your own world-building experiments.

The Quest for Wu-Wei

As the core office is situated on a college campus, we have, ever so often, heard variations of this unfortunate conversation:

Timmy: “How’d you do on the paper, Josh?”

Josh: “I did alright. You?”

Timmy: “Oh you know, just a 98. I’m surprised though. I started the book yesterday, watched TV until 1am. Wrote it mostly this morning, and turned it in right at 12pm when it was due.”

Josh: [Deflates and looks with chagrin at his perfectly decent, stressed- over- for-a-week-paper, which received an 83%] “Oh. Cool. I like, I … hey is that a man walking a miniature pig down Comm Ave? Let’s say hello!”

Timmy, who put in no apparent effort towards his schoolwork, obtained stellar results. Josh, who tried hard, did only so-so. How annoying.

In a piece in the New York Times, author John Tierney defines the Chinese terminology for this paradox–“wu wei,” or “effortless action:”

“Pronounced ‘ooo-way,’ it has similarities to the concept of flow, that state of effortless performance sought by athletes, but it applies to a lot more than sports. Wu wei is integral to romance, religion, politics, and commerce. It’s why some leaders have charisma and why business executives insist on a drunken dinner before sealing a deal.”

The real question is how does one achieve this sense of “wu-wei?” Is it, as Confucius suggested, through the disciplined practice of virtue? Or is it, as the Tao suggests, through accepting the world as it is, and going with the flow?

Perhaps the answer lies in the words of a wise, somewhat green Jedi, who said: “Do or do not do. There is no try.”


What We Lose if We Lose the Canon

As the Internet becomes a larger and larger part of our everyday lives, many aspiring creators use the platform to launch their artistic careers. For better or for worse, anyone with an Internet connection can post their illustrations, novels, music, or films for others to see. (Here at the Core blog, we always strive to land in that “for better” category.)

Importantly though, this, in conjunction with the pleasure reading of popular fiction, may have changed our perception of the literary canon, says Arthur Krystal of The Chronicle Review in a recent article. He fears a loss of appreciation for its greatness as new artists turn out works that will never have the same resonance as, say, a Shakespearean sonnet or a Homerian epic.

Literature has always been a conversation among writers who borrow, build upon, and deviate from each other’s words. Forgetting this, we forget that aesthetics is not a social invention, that democracy is not an aesthetic category; and that the dismantling of hierarchies is tantamount to an erasure of history.

What do you think about the role of the literary canon in our studies and in our everyday lives? What place do popular fiction authors and independent writers have in our perception of what is “great”?

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 www.aldaily.com; 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.)