March Books, Free to Good Homes


Spring Break is upon us, and we are thinking about spring cleaning.

That includes paring down the inventory of hundreds and hundreds of used books which the Core office has acquired over the past little while, donations from members of the Core community. We invite you — students, alumni, and friends of the Core — to peruse the list below. If any of the books spark your interest, 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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From Literary Review: Righteous Reformations

Eric Ormsby at Literary Reviewengages in his latest review with Christopher de Bellaigue’sThe Islamic Enlightenment. The relationship between the two has not been easy, but that it has been unrequited for either is a misimpression that has gained popularity in some circles, namely populist ones. That is too bad, because de Bellaigue argues that the Sunny side of the Islam has been getting brighter for the last two centuries (Shi’a right… Ormsby thinks):

De Bellaigues title turns on a paradox. We seldom, if ever, think of Islam, at least in its current form, as exemplifying, let alone promoting, enlightenment. Yet his intention is to demonstrate that non-Muslims and even some Muslims who urge an Enlightenment on Islam are opening the door on a horse that bolted long ago. He goes even further when he states that for the past two centuries Islam has been going through a pained yet exhilarating transformation a Reformation, an Enlightenment and an Industrial Revolution all at once. This seems to me somewhat overstated.

Through the course of this absorbing review Mr. Ormsbymanages to insert his opinions while also interesting the reader about what the book has to say. A question that proved especially difficult for the Muslim intellectual of the nineteenth century was that of the seeming inequity of divine dispensation: why do the spiritually awry get more of the share than Muslims? A question that provoked the Christians too centuries before, and still does today even if in a different from. If after this stage of puberty Islam will settle into the moderate mildness like Christianity before it, then there is certainly a Sunny side at least in the future.

Read his full post at Literary Review

From boingboing: “brain scans” of artificial intelligence processes

Graphcore is a start-up company that has recently secured $30m “to deliver massive acceleration for machine learning.” One of its latest findings has been posted by Mark Frauenfelder at boingboing: “brain scans” of Graphcore’s Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU), which is likea rudimentary brain that can performbasic processes related to learning and memory. Here’s an image of its computational graph (used to help interpret information from data):

Image of Computational Graph for Graphcore

Image of Computational Graph for Graphcore

As for the most pressing concern: when will these things take us over? We do not know yet. But meanwhile we might spend our time pondering the kind of questions we’ve come to think ofas being typical at the Core, and perhaps even for the folks at Graphcore: the relation between appearance and reality. When that reality has to do with our perception of it, then introspection can only get us so far at a proper understanding. It reached its limits centuries ago, for the processes of the brain responsible for our sensation are not accessible to reflective analysis. We need the mediation of the kinds of instruments and machines that companies like Graphcore are working to develop. What’s truly interesting is that– *STATIC*… HELLO, MY NAME IS IPU:


Weekly Round-Up, 2-24-17

Hello, Corelings! Enjoying the uncommonly good weather? We’ve compiled some equally good links for this week’s round-up that might strike your fancy.

  • Ipsa Dixit, by American composer Kate Soper, explores works by Aristotle, Plato, Freud, Wittgenstein, Jenny Holtzer, and Lydia Davis in an evening of theatrical chamber music. Alex Ross gets to the bottom of the performance in an article over at The New Yorker.
  • A lost novella of Walt Whitman was recently discovered by grad student Zachary Turpin at the University of Houston. An anonymous work, Life and Adventures of Jack Engle: An Auto-Biography; In Which The Reader Will Find Some Familiar Characters (which is a fantastic name, we may add) was published in a New York newspaper in 1852 three years before Leaves of Grass.
  • The National Portrait Gallery in London will be showcasing rare Old Master drawings, including those of Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci, in an exhibition The Encounter: Drawings from Leonardo to Rembrandt, starting July 13 of this year.

Figure studies by Rembrandt that will be on view at the National Portrait Gallery. (Credit: The Henry Barber Trust/Barber Institute/PA)

Figure studies by Rembrandt that will be on view at the National Portrait Gallery. (Credit: The Henry Barber Trust/Barber Institute/PA)

  • Go! Go! Gilgamesh!, A Ragged Man production, takes place from February 15-28 during the 2017 FRIGID Festival of New York. Written by Phoebe Kreutz, the musical features a “super sexy cast” (including Kreutz herself) and “joke folk” songs.
  • A theory suggests that Beethoven may have suffered from cardiac arrhythmia, or more specifically a premature ventricular heartbeat, and that it influenced the “stuttering rhythms” of some of his works.

An electrocardiogram depicting multiple premature ventricular contractions. (Via Zach Goldberger)

An electrocardiogram depicting multiple premature ventricular contractions. (Via Zach Goldberger)

That’s all, folks! We hope you have a lovely last week before spring break.

Christopher Marlowe and the Mythology of Shakespeare

Gary Taylor, lead general editor of The New Oxford Shakespeare, departs from the usual collections of Shakespeare’s plays. For the first time, the three Henry VI plays add the name of Elizabethan tragedian and “bad boy of the English Renaissance,” Christopher Marlowe, as co-author alongside the Bard. But that’s not all–fourteen other plays from the 37-work canon feature other co-authors, including but not limited to Thomas Nashe, George Peele, John Fletcher, and several others.

Wild child. A 21-year-old Christopher Marlowe (allegedly) by an anonymous artist, 1585.

Wild child. A 21-year-old Christopher Marlowe (allegedly) by an anonymous artist, 1585.

Do additional authors make Shakespeare’s plays any less, well, Shakespeare? For many years now, various theories have cropped up regarding the playwright, including the Victorian era conspiracy that Shakespeare was more or less the pseudonym or public persona for an aristocrat, as New Yorker writer Daniel Pollack-Pelzner points out. Nowadays it is understood that a final screenplay, even from the sixteenth century, is the work of “many hands”–indeed, “individual hands” that the New Oxford Shakespeare has been able to identify. Another theory claims that Shakespeare’s authority in Western literature stems from the mythology of the playwright rather than his skill, and that plenty of Renaissance writers existed who were just as good, if not better. But these aren’t new ideas, Pollack-Pelzner tells us. Instead, the most interesting point that the New Oxford Shakespeare brings to the table is that:

[T]he canonization of Shakespeare has made his way of telling stories–especially his monarch-centered view of history–seem like the norm to us, when there are other ways of telling stories, and other ways of staging history, that other playwrights did better. If Shakespeare worshipers have told one story in order to discredit his contemporary rivals, the New Oxford is telling a story that aims to give the credit back.

The New Oxford Shakespeare hopes to challenge the assertion that Shakespeare is a flawless playwright. This belief is the same that prevents many of us from accepting that there may have been others at work alongside the Bard as he penned works that would be studied and performed for generations to come.

Read more about Marlowe as co-author of Henry VI and the mythology of Shakespeare in The New Yorker.

From The Guardian: Thoughts on Contemporary African Literary Criticism

One of the prime tasks of the literary critic is conservation; conservation of a tradition that has been formed in part by the books that have come from that very tradition. Yet this is a function that is wanting, alerts Professor Tony E. Afejuku, in African Literary Criticism.There are too many books in the inventory and not critics enough to catalogue them for the public and scholars. Another problem is the provincialism, nationalist and ethnic, that prevents African critics from identifying as such. What can we, the patron-saints of underrepresented books, do to help you, Professor Afejuku?

Illustration for The Guardian

Illustration for The Guardian

Why do our contemporary critics wait for the West to applaud our writers before they themselves do so? We must now learn to discover our writers (and critics) for the West rather than the West doing the discovery for us. This is imperative for the growth of our contemporary literature and criticism. Indian literary scholars have been doing this for years. They do not wait for the West to tell them who is a good or talented Indian writer. They objectively and faithfully sell their writers to the West. Doing what I am hereby recommending will give Nigerian (and African) literary community its greatest happiness in no distant time.

Big Brother comes in two forms:one censors, the other patronizes. Afejuku writes before the closing no-thanks extracted above about the various ways in which critics at home can help African literature rise to its natural dignity, which means not depending onthe Western patronage that feels so solicitously obliged to dispense its charity. Could we atleast applaud that, Professor?

Read his full post at:

Thoughts on contemporary African Literary criticism

From The Times Literary Supplement: Steve Bannon, heir to Plato

Steve Bannon (good name) believes in a cyclical theory of history. We do not have the evidence for it, which is just the point, sincethe argument then becomes circular. The nice thing about cycles is that it suggests revolution, something we like here; the bad thingis thatBannon feels perhaps that he is the spearhead of this revolution, representing the vanguard that will finally bring democracy for Wall St.–so get your vanguard up; if his program is anything like that of his hero, Lenin, then we are in for some trouble. Nicholas Barret at the Times Literary Supplement gives this as background before going on to speculate the reasons for arguing that Lenin and Bannon share a common ancestor in Plato. Bannon has read the least, so for better or worse we know that his zeal is informed by his own ideas:

 Brendan Smialowski/AFP

Brendan Smialowski/AFP

It is increasingly evident that perceptions of freedom and democracy are changing in a way that seems to lend some credence to Bannons (and Platos) views. According to research published in the Journal of Democracy, the percentage of people in Australia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, the UK and the US who maintain that it is essential to live in a democratic society has nose-dived as the memory of the Second World War has faded away. The figure is now below 50 per cent among millennials in all six countries. Platos fatalistic theories of regime change may seem farfetched, but it is difficult to deny that some vast structural shift is now underway.

We imagine the structural change that is spoken of will shift the scales in favor for the downtrodden on Wall St. So there is one more sense in which money for social welfare will be going to build the Wall, though perhaps this is too soon to say. But a question that is left unanswered is if Bannon is the heir to Plato, where do we place Trump in the lineage?

Read his full post at

Steve Bannon, heir to Plato

Weekly Round-Up, 2-17-17

Good afternoon, scholars! This week we cover events around BU campus, two plays, and a new museum. Read on:

  • Around Campus: CFA presents Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Stephen Pick, next Wednesday (Feb. 22) through Sunday (Feb. 26). General admission in the Lane-Comley Studio 210. (See, there’s so much Shakespeare in this world that it’s spilling into a second weekly round-up.)
  • In case you missed it: Three Questrom students thwarted a would-be thief last Monday, February 6. Five artworks from Galerie d’Orsay on Newbury Street were almost stolen, including etching by Picasso and Rembrandt and lithographs by Joan Miro and Marc Chagall.

Galerie dOrsay owner Sallie Hirshberg (CAS 90) alongside Chris Savino (Questrom17), Mackenzie Thompson (Questrom17), and Jesse Doe (Questrom17).

Galerie dOrsay owner Sallie Hirshberg (CAS 90) alongside Chris Savino (Questrom17), Mackenzie Thompson (Questrom17), and Jesse Doe (Questrom17).

  • An Iliad, written by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare and based on Homer’s The Iliad, reflects on the pain, especially that of women, in the face of war. A solo performance punctuated by music, the play, directed by Jacole Kitchen, will take place Thursday through Saturday at New Village Arts in Carlsbad, CA, beginning February 26.
  • A museum celebrating the teachings of Confucius, aptly named the Confucius Museum, is set to open later this year in Qufu, Shandong province, China. According to Yang Chaoming, a member of the provincial political advisory body, “visitors will be able to gain a more in-depth understanding about Confucius and his teachings via images, modern technologies and relics related to the sage.”
  • Hedgerow Theatre Company presents Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya with humor and “crackle.” Directed by Kittson O’Neill and adapted by Brian Friel, the performance takes place through March 5 in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania.

Vanya (Adam Altman) and Astrov the Physician (Jared Reed), having a good time. (Credit: Ashley Labonde of Wide Eyed Studios)

Vanya (Adam Altman) and Astrov the Physician (Jared Reed), having a good time. (Credit: Ashley Labonde of Wide Eyed Studios)

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the long weekend!

BU in Athens 2016 Recap

Current students have been hearing all about the marvelous time that was had by participants in last summer’s Greece program, and are likely thinking about applying for a spot in the 2017 trip. By way of providing more information to people thinking about submitting an application, we’d like to share the following recap of last year’s program, written by Prof. James Uden for the Department of Classics website. He writes:

BU in Athens: the Philhellenes Summer Trip, 2016

At 4:45am, the beautiful seaside town of Nafplio in the south of Greece is still asleep. But four hours before the bus departs for the archaeological site of Mycenae, Boston University students are already climbing the legendary 999 steps of the eighteenth-century fortress of Palamidi, hiking up the narrow path in order to get the perfect photo of the sunrise over the Peloponnese. This was one of the many adventures our students had in the five-week trip to Greece in Summer 2016 as part of the Boston University Philhellenes summer program. Twenty-three students our largest and most diverse group ever also learned to sail on the Aegean Sea, swam in blue ocean waters off the island of Aegina, and rode donkeys up the steep cobblestone streets of Hydra, experiencing for themselves the hospitality and passion for life of the Greek people. Who could resist? By the end of the trip, we were all philhellenes.

At the top of Palamidi in Nafplio. Photo by William Tengtio

The students enthusiasm was fueled by their interest in Greek art, history, and language. Students complete two courses for credit as participants in the program: an art history course taught at the American College of Greece, which includes trips to many notable ancient sites, and a course in either Modern Greek with Professor Kelly Polychroniou or Greek History with Professor Jay Samons. A tour of the Greek Parliament in Syntagma Square gave students a fast lesson in modern Athenian politics. Many students came with no prior knowledge of these subjects, but they got up to speed quickly, and many are now continuing their studies of Greece in the upcoming semester at BU. Outside of their usual Monday-to-Friday classes, students also learned how to cook Greek food and dance in traditional Greek style, skills to practice in their kitchens and dorm-rooms when nostalgia for Athens starts to set in.

Swimming near the island of Aegina

This was the fourth annual trip to Greece, and there were some new additions to the itinerary. For the first time, students got a chance to visit the extraordinary Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum in Athens, which celebrates the intricate artistry of Greeces most famous twentieth-century jewelry designer, and they spent time with the museums director, Ioanna Lalaounis, on the museums rooftop terrace. One weekend, they travelled through the region of ancient Sparta and explored the fifteenth-century town of Mystras; in another, they saw the picturesque churches and windmills of the island of Tinos and visited the stores and restaurants of Mykonos. Through it all, the students were engaged, eager to learn, and hungry for even more adventures. Even those who had no previous interest in Greece came back with a new passion for the country and its culture. They were even willing to get up at 4:45am and have the photo to prove it.

The program would be impossible without the valuable sponsorship and support from the Greek community in Boston. The Scholarship and supporting funds this year were provided by: the Hellenic Studies Fund, the NEH Distinguished Teaching Professorship, the John & Sonia Lingos Family Foundation, the Alpha Omega Council, George Danis, VII Capital Group, Greek 4 Kids, Brothers Kouzina, Desfina Restaurant, and the Weston Road Caf. We are grateful to you all for your help. We also thank everyone at the American College of Greece for their collegiality again this year, and the Center for Hellenic Studies in Nafplio for their hospitality. Finally, we must acknowledge all the hard work devoted to the program by Professors Samons and Polychroniou.

Read testimonials from former Summer Study participants here. Click here for further information on theBoston University Philhellenes Project. Finally, click here to access theSummer Study 2017 FAQ.

Life Advice from Aristotle

In his first vlog on his Youtube channel The Classiest Beard (and yes, before you ask, it is indeed classy), Philosophy major and Core-ier Juan Andres Cabrera Saturno condenses Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics into eight pieces of advice on leading a great life. Needless to say, we had to share this on the Core Blog! CC102 students should find this particularly helpful in understanding Aristotle’s work.