And So It Begins…


At the start of every new year in the Core Curriculum, we like to begin at the very beginning, with the Epic of Gilgamesh. And while it technically remains the same story from year to year, we’re always delighted to watch how different students and professors bring their own views and interpretations to the text. This year, the students in the first CC101 lecture wasted no time shooting up their hands to ask questions at the end of the lecture, giving a resounding end to what may have been the first class of college for many of them. We’ve transcribed some of these landmark questions along with Professor Jorgensen’s answers below– you may remember asking similar ones in your first Core lecture, or perhaps this new crop of young minds has something new to offer:

Q: Do you think Gilgamesh is an example of the monomyth?
A: Yes! Of course, probably the oldest one – but different from the others in that the hero fails, rather than succeeds.

Q: What do you mean by how the walls seem to rise out of the landscape like consciousness out of unconsciousness?
A: The walls help humans define themselves, reflect them back on themselves, and make possible thinking and business and reading and writing and so on, just as consciousness does.

Q: You mention that Gilgamesh’s second journey is a journey inward as well as outward… what do you think that is?
A: First read it and discuss it in your sections, and then email me and we’ll talk more about it!

Q: In what tone does Gilgamesh says those final words about the city?
A: First read it and discuss it in your sections, and then email me and we’ll talk more about it!

Q: Why do you think they treat the flood as such a negative thing? Why couldn’t it be purification and starting over again?
A: Well it IS negative — it nearly wiped out the gods themselves! — and B) they feel that life is a very uncertain thing, and unexpected events can happen that cancel everything; the flood is their way of dealing with that.

Q: Why was Humbaba without his seven auras? And what are they?
A: First read it and discuss it in your sections, and then email me and we’ll talk more about it!

As wonderful as it is to see students so engaged with a subject, this lecture was so packed with knowledge that the excited students did not have time to listen to a reading of Gilgamesh in its original language. So as a special epilogue to our first class of the semester, you can listen tothe recording right here, and keep the enlightenment flowing!

Congratulations to the 2019 Polytropos award winners!

A big round of applause to our seniors for their dedication to the Core Community. The award is given both in recognition of what a student has accomplished and in expectation of what he or she will accomplish, and in gratitude for ongoing mindfulness of the Core Curriculum. The word polytropos, is the first adjective applied by Homer to the hero of his Odyssey. The declaration of the award reads as follows:

In both recognition and expectation the faculty of the Core Curriculum honors the Odyssean virtues of this their graduating student. Recognizing that, throughout the junior and senior years at Boston University, it has been his or hers mindfully and resourcefully to venture, to see, to answer, and, with all these, courageously to remember and return; expecting in future years the continuation of these actions; expecting that, whether cyclopes dwell faroff or in many offices, whether Poseidon be calmed or much reamplified, yet the gray-eyed one will not long be absent from her or him; recognizing and expecting these things, the faculty hereby bestows the high honorific cognomen of Polytropos.

Congratulations to our 2019 winners: Lee-Or Bentovim, Caroline Louise Brantley, Madison Maeli Crosby, Francis J. DiMento III, Jonathan Yifeng Han, Reed Charles Kimzey, Matthew Lewis Moon, Mara Antonieta Rondn Anzola, Kassandra Jean Round, Ata Sunucu, and Kaci Xiaodian Kealohamakamae Tavares.


To read more go to:

“College Confusion” with Seth Godin

the hidden curriculum

From Seth Godin in his though-provoking blog, asking how we define the value of education. His thoughts below, and more here:

While a high-status college admission confers a measure of status, it doesnt automatically grant a great education.

Sometimes, a student gets both, but not always. Because learning is taken as much as given.

Along the way, many of us have conflated the status with the learning.

Were also confused about the correlation between big college sports and the expected outputs of a university.

One symptom: We often say good college when we mean famous college.

And so, the college one goes to doesnt tell us very much at all about what someone learned, or even about who they are. It merely demonstrates that when they were 18 years old, a combination of luck and signaling led to them being chosen (or not).

Its not personal. And its not predictive. Unless we allow it to be.

BU Astronomers Stare into Darkness

black hole

Last week, a team of astronomers announced that they had captured the first-ever image of a black hole in space. While this discovery is amazing for a myriad of reasons, we can personally take pride in knowing that some Core DNA went into this amazing discovery. As Core alum Peter La Fountain pointed out, Core Curriculum professor and BU Astronomer Alan Marscher was one of the 200 scientists on the black hole team. La Fountain continued to say that “Research doesn’t come out of a… black hole… it comes from prioritizing resources to advance public knowledge.” We couldn’t agree more!

While we’re on the topic of black holes, please enjoy some Jukebox the Ghost!

Core’s Very Own on CNN

Caroline Brantley, Core alumna ’18 and CAS ’19, appeared on CNN last week talking about the 2020 election. The clip can be viewed below:

Postcards to the Core: from Paris, March 2019

Our Core alumna sent us a digital postcard all the way from Paris! Thank you to Hannah Jew for her note.

As a conversation with a certain little Cat revealed that my real postcard got lost dans la poste, a digital postcard:

Dear Core,

I hope the semester back home is moving along swimmingly. Here in Paris, I’ve been enjoying the historic Caveau de la Huchette, home to jazz luminaries and down the street from Shakespeare and Co, the closest thing I can find to a Parisian Core Office (no photos allowed, sadly). Their motto- Live For Humanity. Sounds like one of our t shirts, non?

With love,

* Corelovespostcards. Whether youre at home or abroad now, wed love to get one from you. Our address is easy: Core Curriculum, Boston University, Boston MA 02215.

Bach Remembered with Interactive AI


I think this is how Johann Sebastian Bach would have wanted to be remembered– with an interactive AI on the homepage of a massive search engine.

Today’s Google Doodle allows the user to input their own melody and create a four-part Bach-esque piece. The machine analyzed 306 Bach compositions to learn how to recognize patterns and harmonies, and uses this knowledge to emulate Bach’s signature style. Try it for yourself here!

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”.