The Evolution of “Instapoetry”

Image result for rupi kaur

Anyone with an Instagram account should recognize this kind of poetry- printed in a typewriter font, preaching love and positivity, and never more than a few words in a few lines. “Instapoets” have become a new sensation, with these writers collecting thousands to millions of followers for their craft. And why not? The images are aesthetically appealing, and the short universal phrases could provide comfort and familiarity to anyone.

Well, some critiques argue that it isn’t poetry at all. Even R.M. Drake, an Instapoet with 1.9 million followers, has said that he does not consider his own work poetry. Others agree by saying it is too simple, too universal, and too much like commercial products. But Instapoets have defended themselves against what they view as this elitist criticism- Amanda Lovelace said that the term “Instapoets” itself is used to separate them from “real poets” aka dead white, straight, cisgender, males.” As opposed to some more esoteric poetry, Instagram poetry is both easily accessible and easily understood by the general public. So are Instapoets letting poetry evolve and survive in the new digital world, or destroying it all together?

The Good-Enough Life


As Er watches dead souls choose new lives in Plato’s Myth of Er, he is surprised to see Odysseus chooses a life of a farmer. Instead of another life of greatness and fame, he chooses the middle path of an ordinary man.

Many thinkers and characters strive for greatness, and some even manage to achieve it (Core is a “Great Books” program, after all). But as Avram Alpert writes in his award winning op-ed, greatness is not necessarily good. While the good-enough life may not lead to fame and fortune, learning to seek the good is learning to find happiness where you are.

You may not be immortalized by the gods, but if you can enjoy little things like some good coffee, a book, or some unseasonably warm weather, you may be better off than Odysseus in the long run.

“Donald in Mathmagic Land:” Ancient Math in Animation

Back in the heyday of Disney’s educational production, the company produced a 27 minute featurette which was wildly popular, having been used in American schools throughout the 60s and nominated for an Academy Award. Donald Duck enters a word where tress have square roots, birds recite pi, and the voice of adventure guides him through the wonderland of mathematics. Relevant for us in Core, Donald meets Pythagoras, who not only shares with him the secret of the Parthenon, but conveys to Donald and the audience that math isn’t just for eggheads but gives us music, architecture, art, games, and reveals to us the secrets of the human body. The golden rectangle of old is all around us, so maybe we should be less afraid of math and more willing to do our CC212 homework instead of putting it off until the last minute.

The video can be found here. Don’t fear numbers for, as Galileo says,“Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has written the universe”.

God in Binary

We talk a lot about God in Core. Humans have found unimaginably different ways to conceive of superior beings, and this 2002 episode of the animated series “Futurama” is no exception. Check out the clip above for a God that speaks in binary, sees everything, does little, and can predict your every move (unless you do something he didn’t predict).

#iHeartCore Day Valentines

Can’t choose between your boo and your favorite philosopher? Now you don’t have to! In honor of both Valentine’s Day and #iHeartCore day, we present these Core-themed Valentines, fit for spreading all kinds of Core love.


Historical Finds: Soviet Gulag Prison Tattoos

Russian Gulaggulag

Think you could get ink like this in Cambridge?

The Soviet Gulag was an expansive system of imprisonment, as “undesirables” were removed from society through prisons, camps, and remote exile. Yet a new culture emerged from this alienation, captured here in almost 3,000 drawings of prison tattoos captured by a prison guard in the middle of the 20th century. These tattoos identified a prisoner’s status, their time spent in the system and where they had been imprisoned, their reason for imprisonment, and also used just for decoration and political statements. And through these images, we can see the prisoners of the gulag system through a humanized lens (after all, most of them are incredibly amusing).

Sample, Cover, Remix Away

That’s right, it’s time to do thatcover of “We Have No Bananas Today” you’ve been dying to do.


As of January this year, the intellectual property rights on thousands of works from 1923 have expired, allowing these works to enter the public domain. Without copyright restrictions, these pieces of art, music, literature, and film are open to use by the general public. So go ahead and remake a Charlie Chaplin classic, or sample that Igor Stravinsky hit in your Soundcloud rap. The Internet Archive, which celebrated this release, encourages all experiments with works of art as an important part of our culture. But I’ll let your Soundcloud followers be the true judges.


Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved?


Hell is everywhere we look. It is integral to religious belief systems, literature, and even popular TV shows. As editor of the new compilation “The Penguin Book of Hell,” Scott Bruce explores 3,000 years of this damnation, from Odysseus traveling to Hades to Climate Change as Hell on Earth. While doing so, he reckons with human’s fixation on Hell that seems to outweigh that of Heaven.

Core authors like Homer, Virgil, Dante and Milton offer us concrete views of Hell, complete with physical torture and situations within the realm of perception. Conceptions of Heaven are often more abstract, as Dante states that it is literally indescribable to man. But wouldn’t it be nice to imagine Heaven in the same way? If we must see the gluttonous with snakes writhing in their stomachs in Inferno, can we also envision a heaven where dogs stay puppies forever? The air smells like bacon or books or lavender? The T is never crowded or late?

A Heaven that includes functional public transportation seems much more divine than any indescribable Dantean verse.

Core Meets Core: Virginia Woolf on Jane Austen

In her 1913 essay, Virginia Woolf writes on the merits and failings of Jane Austen. While Woolf describes Austen as “singularly blessed,” she also critiques Austen’s lack of rebellion of her “artificial” life. For Woolf, Austen someone satirizes middle class life and the fools who inhabit it, but never fully pushes away from it.

Perhaps she feels her Clarissa Dalloway and Elizabeth Bennet should duke it out for claim to most rebellious middle class woman?

On Education and a New Semester

As we welcome students from break and from Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we offer some timely thoughts from the Boston University alum. In his paper “The Purpose of Education,” King argues for education that extends beyond logic into an more enlightened education of the soul. While education must help people achieve their goals, he fears for education without moral virtue:

“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals… We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.”

Education of character, virtues, morals, souls… sound familiar? King discusses what many Core authors have before him, where an education of the “experience of social living” can create a whole and rounded person rather than a logic machine.

Go forth towards your accumulated experience of social living, and best of luck to all in the coming semester.