Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Mending Wall"

In the "Mending Wall" essay, I interpreted the speaker's neighbor as a symbol of human complacency. The neighbor does not provide any reasons for his insistence upon the need for a wall. Instead, he just continues to respond that fences make good neighbors. The speaker provides practical, rational reasons as to why a fence in unnecessary, but his neighbor fails to change his mind. He remains set in his old ways and those of his father, representing the unyielding opposition to change.

1st Semester

Since this week we have been just practicing for the AP essay, we really don't have much to talk about on the blog. I thought that I would just ask what everyone's favorite piece of literature we studied this year was? Just wanted to know what yall liked. My favorite was probably No Exit or Hamlet. What about yall?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Frederick the Great's Relationships

I found the mention of Frederick the Great's intimate relationship with Voltaire to be quite interesting today.  I discovered a little more information about this relationship in my research and learned about Frederick's other questionable relationships. Because Frederick showed no interest in his wife and was speculated to have a romantic relationship with Hans Hermann von Katte, historians believe that he was either bisexual or homosexual. In fact, Frederick's father was aware of his relationship with Katte and had both men arrested when he heard about their plan to run away. Consequently, the King ordered Katte to be beheaded outside of his son's prison window. Following this execution, the King forced his son to marry a woman who he truly did not love. Voltaire, Frederick's contemporary, became his lover and moved in with him in 1750. Despite their contentious disagreements and arguments, the men were "passionate lovers."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Candide- Best of All Possible Worlds
I found this video of a 2005-"Live on Broadway"-version of Candide, with the New York Philharmonic conductor Marin Alsop. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

This made me lol.

Just thought I'd share this bit of humor with y'all since the role of women and feminism is often discussed in class.

I hope it makes you (Eric Fabio) lol too.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Voltaire's Theism

Today in class we discussed this quote of Voltaire's: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." In this quote, Voltaire asserts that people need something to cling to; they need faith in a greater being to overcome the misfortunes in the world. Voltaire was a “theist” and therefore believed that God exists and is involved in the world. Theists believe in a personal God who is present and active in overseeing the universe. I think theism is a very interesting doctrine that Voltaire supports in his "Candide." Can you all think of any quotes in which Voltaire advocates his theist beliefs?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Voltaire and Swift

The more I read Candide, the more I discover similarities between Voltaire's rhetorical devices and those of Jonathan Swift. In  "A Modest Proposal", Swift completely satirizes British authority by using irony and extreme examples of hyperbole, especially when he sardonically suggests that Irish children should be cooked and eaten. Similarly, Candide makes absurd references to cannibalism and satirizes religious structure. Both writers make statements about their respective views of society through comedic (and often horrific) details.

Rape- War Crime

As we have recently discussed in class, rape is a huge aspect of Candide thus far. I can't believe that rape is such a common element during the war. Cunegonde and the Old Woman both have experienced rape. I think it is horrible that woman are used to hurt men of a certain country. I think that this is a clear example of how women are thought of as property.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Voltaire on Women

I found this great article online that describes Voltaire's various critiques on society, including his views on women.

The author states that although it may seem progresive that Voltaire portrays women as subject to violent male desire through stories of rape, enslavement, and submission, it is more likely that Voltaire believes women are weak and incompetent. Cunegonde and the Old Woman are repressed by men and are strangely represented in the novel; Voltaire depicts them as helpless victims which also show strength in the facing adversity. The author of this article write, "It seems however, that the 'strength' that these women show might not be a statement on the internal powers of women, but rather that they have no choice than to adapt to a gruesome and misogynistic situation." What do you all think? Was Voltaire portraying women as strong figures or as weak creatures who adapted to their environment?

Hamlet Reference?

As I was reading Candide over the weekend, I noticed that one of the old woman's quotations sounded extremely familiar. At the end of her story, the old woman explains how her life's suffering has been so painful that she has at times contemplated suicide. Like Hamlet in his "To Be or Not to Be" Speech, she explains that the decision not to commit suicide is a great act of cowardice. She asserts, "I wanted to kill myself, but always I loved life more. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our worst instincts; is anything more stupid than choosing to carry a burden that really one wants to cast on the ground?" I thought it was such a coincidence to come across this line so soon after reading Hamlet. Do you all think Voltaire intentionally alludes to Shakespeare's "To Be or Not to Be" Speech?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bernstein's Candide Overture

Since we are reading Voltaire's Candide, I thought I would include a link to a video of Leonard Bernstein conducting his Candide Overture. Bernstein, who composed the music to West Side Story, also composed Candide as an operetta in 1956. The music in the overture, though contemporary, somehow maintains a feel proper to Voltaire's novella. Perhaps one could relate this to how Candide ought to be disconnected from any time period or context. Anyway, enjoy!

Friday, November 12, 2010


I find it interesting that quite a few famous writers and philosophers have spent time in exile. Ironically, this is where many often felt inspired and produced some of their greatest works. As we learned in class today, Voltaire spent 3 years in exile in England, because he criticized the French aristocracy. Obviously this expulsion did not stop him from writing satiric verses; instead, many of his experiences during this time probably encouraged him to continue and even sparked new ideas. What other writers or philosophers that we have discussed benefitted from exile?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Sistine Chapel

This site is so friggin cool. One of my friends just found it and posted it on Facebook. If you've evre been to the Sistine Chapel, this site will give you some nostalgia. If you've never been before, it will give you a great virtual view of the Sistine Chapel's interior. Minus the other several hundred people crammed in.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Descartes: Mind and Body

I think our discussion about the mind and body being two completely different entities is a very interesting concept. The belief that the mind is non physical substance, is a very different belief than what we think of today. We usually think of the mind as part of the brain. This whole concept is remarkable to me. What do yall think about the seperation between mind and body?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Descartes vs Freud

In his "Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences," Descartes asserts that humans, as rational beings, should not value their dreams since they are illusionary. He states, "For, in fine, whether awake or asleep, we ought never to allow ourselves be persuaded of the truth of anything unless on the evidence of our reason." Descartes gives an example of this when he writes about the sun, and how we should not think that the sun is only as big as we perceive it.
In contrast, Freud wrote his "Interpretations of Dreams" in which he suggested that the unconscious exists and is important in understanding actions. Freud called dreams the "royal road to the unconscious," meaning that dreams show the "logic" of the unconscious mind.

Rene Descartes

Since we started reading Descartes, I decided to do a little bit of research about him. Born in 1596, the French philosopher, physicist, mathematician, and writer is known as the “The Father of Modern Philosophy,” as Mrs. Quinet mentioned today in class. Descartes’ greatest contribution to the world of mathematics was his development of the Cartesian coordinate system. As far as philosophy, his most famous piece of work is his Meditations on First Philosophy. He was a major proponent of the rationalist movement and fought against the empiricists. Descartes died of pneumonia in 1650 in Stockholm, Sweden, where he had been serving as the teacher of Queen Christina of Sweden.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Entertainment for the Masses

I've always found it rather interesting that we consider Shakespeare "high culture" in a modern context whereas the common people of England during the Renaissance found his works entertainment for the masses. I guess because his works are written in an older version of English, his words are considered foreign and must be interpreted and are thus automatically referred to as "high culture". On the other hand, they make witty remarks about societal and cultural issues of the time period, which the common mass would have found hilarious. We can see those sorts of things in witty movies that we often see today. Maybe in another four hundred years our movies will be considered "high culture" elsewhere. Who knows?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hamlet and Le Cid

I think it's interesting that there are so many areas of overlap between the two works. However, there were several differences. In Hamlet, there's a focus on filial piety versus cultural values, while in Le Cid, the characters are torn between filial piety and love. Though the two stories are completely rooted in seeking revenge, the degrees to which they take action are quite different. Hamlet is more contemplative and emotionally distraught, while Rodrigo, Chimene, and the other characters in Le Cid are more rational, straight forward, and logical. Have you guys discovered any more similarities or differences between the two that we haven't already discussed?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sparrow Reference

In class today Mrs. King mentioned that the quote on page 1868 in Act 5 Scene 2 included a Biblical reference. Hamlet says to Horatio, "Not a whit; we defy augury; there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readniess is all; since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes? Let be." This quote not only provides another portrayal of Hamlet as a wordsmith, but also refers to when, in the New Testament, Jesus reassures his disciples that not even a sparrow can fall without God's notice. (Luke 12:6; Matthew 10:29). Why do you all think that Shakespeare alludes to the New Testament here, and what is Hamlet really asserting?
We ended class today unable to identify the biblical allusion in the quote, "Not a while, we defy augury. There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow." I've done some research online and uncovered this exciting mystery. The quote alludes to one of Jesus's parables in Matthew where Jesus states, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your father." I believe that Jesus's parable demonstrates God's awareness of all things and his divine power over all. Hamlet is basically telling Horatio that he is now confiding in divine providence over human initiative.

What do ya'll think?


Although I really enjoyed the movie, I thought it was interesting how Mrs. Quinet pointed out some historical errors today. After some research, I found a few more discrepancies between the movie and history. Firstly, Elizabeth was arrested and sent to the Tower in 1554, but was then placed under house arrest as Woodstock (not Hatfield) for four years. Another mistake is that the Pope did not excommunicate Elizabeth and encourage assassination attempts by Catholics until 1570.

Tudor Family Tree

I found this image of a Tudor family tree. These lineages helped me understand the royal relationships I studied last year in AP Euro. I hope this helps yall!


I found it really interesting in the movie today how the messenger priest was given the message that anyone who would kill Elizabeth would be welcomed in heaven. The controversy of Elizabeth's time was over the different religions, yet the Church was being so hypocritical in its attempt to save its own church.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Virgin Queen

I thought it was very interesting to learn about Elizabeth's relationship with Lord Robert from the movie today. Because Elizabeth is known as “The Virgin Queen” due to her decision not to marry, I did not realize that she was involved in any intimate affairs. Therefore, I decided to further research Lord Robert and the details of their relationship. Robert Dudley was born in 1532, the year before Elizabeth’s birth. The fifth child of thirteen, Robert met Elizabeth when he was only eight years old, and the two immediately established a friendship. In 1550, Robert married Amy Robsart, the daughter of a Norfolk squire. This marriage was most likely arranged, and Elizabeth actually attended the wedding. With Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne, Robert was granted special honors, and their relationship reached a new, intimate level. The people of the state knew about this love affair and some even believed that she carried his child at one point. As a result of this information, I wonder why Elizabeth has retained her title “The Virgin Queen.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

sup with Gertrude?

I find it interesting that Hamlet delays conversation with his mother. Gertrude speaks very little in Shakespeare's play until Act III.  As I read I wondered how the plot would have shifted if Hamlet had communicated sooner with Gertrude about his feigning madness or about the murder of his father. When they meet in the closet, however, their conversation is intimate and intense...which reminded me, as we discussed in class, of the Oedipal Complex. In scene 4, Hamlet finally unleashes his rage upon his mother. What do you guys think of her role in the play? How was Gertrude significant?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I thought the discussion we had at the end of class today about suicide was really interesting. Personally, I believe that committing suicide is a very cowardly act. Life is very difficult but everyone must face it. They few who chose to end their time on earth are taking an "easy" way out. Death is inevitable and is not a choice but suicide is a choice. What do yall think? (Sorry, I know its not a very uplifting topic!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is Hamlet really mad?

Today in class, the issue of Hamlet’s madness arose. We discussed how he tells Horatio and Marcellus that he plans to act crazy and that they must not display any reaction to this. We came to the general consensus that Hamlet purposefully feigns madness in order to establish himself as a loose canon incapable of deviously plotting the king’s murder. The more I thought about this, however, I began to wonder if Hamlet truly is mad. It would definitely be logical for someone who loses their father, witnesses their mother marry their uncle, and then learns from a ghost that this uncle is a murderer to lose their sanity. Although Hamlet claims that his crazy behavior is an act, do you think he might really be mad?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shakespeare Adaptations

We mentioned briefly in class right before the break of the many adaptations of Shakespeare in modern time. The one reference that immediately came to mind was the movie with Amanda Bynes She's the Man that is based on The Twelfth Night. This is just one of the many references to Shakespeare in pop culture, what other allusions can you guys think of?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I thought the performance of Antigone was excellent! I especially liked Creon and Tiresias's conversation, which reminded me of Tiresias's words to Oedipus. Just as Oedipus's tragic flaw was his stubbornness in his pursuit of knowledge, Creon's downfall was his pertinacity and pride. Creon persistently tried to keep his power, resulting in his downfall, as well as the death of his family.

The Great Chain of Being

In The Elizabethan World Picture, Tillyard places a great deal of focus upon the Great Chain of Being. Although we were introduced to the idea of this Chain last year in Mrs. Klebba’s class, Tillyard provides us with inordinate detail of the specifics of this concept. The most interesting thing about the Chain I learned is the idea of how each inferior link possesses one value superior to that of the greater link above it. For example, beasts are more powerful than humans, and humans have a greater capacity to learn than angels. What do you find most fascinating about the Great Chain of Being?

Da Vinci's "Last Supper"

This is the picture the humanities class took last year. Since it's a tradition, I suggest we do this soon, in order to bolster our understanding of Da Vinci's oil/tempura painting.

Sacre Coeur

This is a photograph of "Sacre-Coeur" in Paris. Its architecture was probably influenced by Florentine domes. If I remember correctly, the inside of these domes were formed by squinches and pendentives, similar to the Duomo di Ravenna.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Elizabethan Age connected with India

While I was reading "The Elizabethan World Picture," Tillyard quotes Starkley when talking about the Correspondences which were rampant in the Elizabethan period. This quote of Starkley made me think of India's caste system: "To the head, with the eyes ears and other senses therein, resembled may be right well the under officers by princes appointed, for as much as they should ever observe and diligently wait for the weal of the rest of the body. To the arms are resembled both craftsmen and warriors which defend the rest of the body from injury of enemies outward and work and make things necessary to the same; to the feet the ploughmen and tillers of the ground, because they by their labour sustain and support the rest of the body."
Similarly, in Indian culture the mouth symbolized the Brahmin class consisting of clergy and teachers wielding religious authority, the arms represented the kshatriyas or warriors and administrators, the thighs symbolized the vaishyas, who were merchants and farmers/cattle herders, and lastly, the feet represented the shudras, who were the servants or enslaved peasants.
I thought it was interesting that there are such noticeable parallels between the Elizabethan and Indian cultures.

Rose Window

Over the summer, when I was in Paris, I took a tour of the Notre Dame. This is a picture of the rose window in the cathedral. Mrs. Quinet reminded me of this picture when we were learning about art in the Middle Ages.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

No Exit

Towards the end of No Exit, there was one particular scene that really stuck with me. When Garcin explains how he feels he is a coward, he states some of the basic ideas of existentialism. He asks, "Can one judge a life by a single action?" Later, he says, "I made my choice deliberately. A man is what he wills himself to be." Sartre speaks through Garcin explaining how man is defined by his actions and those actions are all personal choices he makes while keeping in mind the responsibilities his actions bear. From my understanding, Garcin is saying that what you think of yourself doesn't matter in defining yourself, your actions are the only important thing.

Love Triangle in "No Exit"

I really enjoyed reading Sartre's "No Exit" and observed a love triangle that I thought was interesting. Throughout the play, Estelle pursues Garcin, who seems intrigued by Inez, who loves Estelle. The pains of love can often seem like hell; we saw earlier in Catullus's poems how the pain of love can seem overwhleming. Sartre's assertion that "Hell is other people" manifests itself in the aches of unrequited love.

Five Themes of Existentialism

I think the five basic themes of existentialism are essential to understanding the foundations of the philosophy. Discussing point three of "humanism" specifically interested me. This is one of the first points in which man is the center of focus. The study of the individual is supported by the other theme that existence precedes essence, such that our essence or who we are, is constructed by our choices. Although the individual is highlighted, existentialism, when put into practice, often involves other humans and their own choices. I believe that our essences are somewhat dependent on the shaping of others' essences.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Being a Waiter"

The particular concept of "being a waiter" really intrigued me from today's class discussion, possibly, in part, because I am a waiter. The existentialist idea that one's actions are not defined by one's profession or identity but are instead directly dictated by conscious, free choices seems clear to me. However, there are certain actions in any given profession that you perform. There may be no overbearing force to perform any particular action, but certainly performing particular actions confers an advantage to the subject. For example, as a waiter, one of the actions I must perform is taking an order. I voluntarily choose to take the order, but I do so in order to keep my job. So "being a waiter" may not dictate my actions or who I am as a person but obviously directly influence my actions and choices. However, each particular waiter brings to the table, in this case literally, preconceived notions for how to perform the actions of a waiter. Though this may be in bad faith, a waiter acts as what that person conceives to be the duties and manners of a waiter by the simple declaration that he or she is a waiter. I would argue that this is indeed not in bad faith because these preconceived notions of the idenity of a waiter come from personal perception and experiences. Rather than one trying to be what one isn't, one is actually trying to be what one conceives he/she should become based on personal experiences and not through an inherent perception of what that identity is. The ideal form for a waiter is interpreted differently by each waiter and therefore each waiter has unique actions and makes unique choices. And this interpretation is a subset of personal experiences from a perspective that only that person has had. One learns to "be a waiter" from watching other waiters and judging their performances. So "being a waiter" is actually learned rather than something that appears from birth. And for that reason, though one may seem to be trying to be an identity for the sake of being that identity out of bad faith, one is actually being one's own self; it is inevitable.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Marcus Aurelius in Providence

While studying for the art slides test, I realized that there is a Marcus Aurelius statue on Brown's campus. Moses Brown Ives Goddard (class of 1854) donated the statue, which stands at the top of Lincoln Field, behind Sayles Hall, facing Thayer Street. I thought this was interesting, as well as indicative of how Roman sculpture remains a part of our culture.
The statue intrigues me because even though Aurelius is portrayed as a powerful leader, he does not carry any weapons, perhaps showing his desire to be seen as a peacemaker.

Jean-Paul Sartre

I am intrigued by both Jean Paul Sartre and our discussion of him today, so I decided to further research his background information. Sartre was born in Paris in 1905 to an Officer in the French Navy and a mother of Alsatian origin. His interest in philosophy began in his teenage years after reading Henri Bergson's essay regarding consciousness. In addition to supporting the philosophy of existentialism, during his lifetime, Sartre served in the French army, fought in World War II, and was a political activist who embraced communism. The most interesting fact I learned about Sartre was that he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in October of 1964 and declined it. He died on April 15, 1980 from pulmonary edema in his native city of Paris.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I found Dali's post-modern artwork extremely unique and interesting. His eccentric talent also reflected the historic events of his time, such as the" soft construction with boiled beans" (as a premonition to the civil war). The one Dali piece that most of us are familiar with is the "Persistence of Memory", which invokes Freudian theology--causing us to question where dreams come from.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Purgatorio and Paradiso

Since we only read one of the three canticas of Dante's The Divine Comedy, I have been curious as to what happens in the Purgatorio and Paradiso. Therefore, I decided to research these canticas. I learned that the primary difference between the Inferno and Purgatorio is that the sins of souls in the latter realm are products of thoughts, motives, and intentions, rather than actual actions. In Paradiso, however, Dante explores the four cardinal virtues and three theological virtues. Here, the Pilgrim encounters numerous righteous saints, including Thomas Aquinas, St. Peter, and St. John.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Another Harry Potter Connection

While reading about Cerberus in Canto VI, I was reminded of Fluffy, the three headed dog in "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone."

Date of The Publication of La Divina Commedia

Of the different sources I have read, the general consesus seems to be that Dante did not finalize his publication of La Divina Commedia until right before he died of malaria in 1321. However, different sources claim that he began public readings of his poem in 1312, and one source claims that he actually began releasing pieces of it as early as 1308, about the same time as his publication of De Monarchia.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Inferno

This illustration of The Inferno is more detailed than other versions we have seen, and it helped me to better envision each circle of hell. Since it's hard to see the illustration in this blog entry, I posted a link that will allow you see it better. Then, you can click on the image to magnify it.

Cleopatra's Suicide

I thought our class discussion of why Cleopatra was in the circle of hell involving the sin of lust instead of suicide was very interesting. I personally agree with what chrissy said, the sin of lust she committed before her suicide provoked the suicide itself, so therefore she was in the circle of hell involving lust. Although, as Ms. King said, every suicide is the result of an original sin, so why is Cleopatra the exception? I think that Dante must have thought that the sin that caused the suicide in Cleopatra's case was different. Maybe Dante could have related to something in Cleopatra's life? Or maybe Cleopatra's sin that provoked her suicide was less sinful according to Dante...What do yall think?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Virgil's "Prophecy"

I found the reference in class today of Virgil’s “prophecy of Christ” very interesting and decided to research the topic further. As we discussed in class, Virgil did not foresee the birth of Christ, but rather referred to the birth of a redeeming king. The association between Virgil’s quotation from his Fourth Eclogue most likely became associated with Christ’s birth as intellectuals from the medieval period tried to make the non-Christian Virgil seem “pro-Christian.” However, in reality, the quotation just serves as an extremely ironic coincidence.
Below is the actual quotation from the Fourth Eclogue:
“Now comes the last age by the song of the Cumaen sybil; the great order of the ages is born anew; now the Virgin returns, now the reign of Saturn comes again; now a new child is sent down from heaven above.”

Dante's death (wikipedia is a beautiful thing.........)THIS IS BEING POSTED DURING OUR BREAK, NOT CLASS TIME

He finished the Paradiso, and died in 1321 (at the age of 56) while returning to Ravenna from a diplomatic mission to Venice, possibly of malaria contracted there. Dante was buried in Ravenna at the Church of San Pier Maggiore (later called San Francesco). Bernardo Bembo, praetor of Venice in 1483, took care of his remains by building a better tomb.
On the grave, some verses of Bernardo Canaccio, a friend of Dante, dedicated to Florence:
parvi Florentia mater amoris
"Florence, mother of little love"
The first formal biography of Dante was the Vita di Dante (also known as Trattatello in laude di Dante) written after 1348 by Giovanni Boccaccio;[4] several statements and episodes of it are seen as unreliable by modern research. However, an earlier account of Dante's life and works had been included in the Nuova Cronica of the Florentine chronicler Giovanni Villani.[5]
Eventually, Florence came to regret Dante's exile, and made repeated requests for the return of his remains. The custodians of the body at Ravenna refused to comply, at one point going so far as to conceal the bones in a false wall of the monastery. Nevertheless, in 1829, a tomb was built for him in Florence in the basilica of Santa Croce. That tomb has been empty ever since, with Dante's body remaining in Ravenna, far from the land he loved so dearly. The front of his tomb in Florence reads Onorate l'altissimo poeta—which roughly translates as "Honour the most exalted poet". The phrase is a quote from the fourth canto of the Inferno, depicting Virgil's welcome as he returns among the great ancient poets spending eternity in Limbo. The continuation of the line, L'ombra sua torna, ch'era dipartita ("his spirit, which had left us, returns"), is poignantly absent from the empty tomb.

Dante's Death Conflict

According to Wikipedia:

Eventually, Florence came to regret Dante's exile, and made repeated requests for the return of his remains. The custodians of the body at Ravenna refused to comply, at one point going so far as to conceal the bones in a false wall of the monastery. Nevertheless, in 1829, a tomb was built for him in Florence in the basilica of Santa Croce. That tomb has been empty ever since, with Dante's body remaining in Ravenna, far from the land he loved so dearly. The front of his tomb in Florence reads Onorate l'altissimo poeta—which roughly translates as "Honour the most exalted poet". The phrase is a quote from the fourth canto of the Inferno, depicting Virgil's welcome as he returns among the great ancient poets spending eternity in Limbo. The continuation of the line, L'ombra sua torna, ch'era dipartita ("his spirit, which had left us, returns"), is poignantly absent from the empty tomb.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Design Your Own Creation...

"Do you design your own creation?"

Well, if this question is approached from the perspective that God ultimately is man's creator and is ultimately in control of whether or not certain people will find us, then no, one is unable to design his own creation--creation in this sense would mean one's life pathway. However, I see an inherent flaw in this view of God's involvement with man with the belief of free will. If God gives man free will, then he has burdened humanity with the responsibility of finding Him. Though God may aid humanity in doing so, he cannot ultimately have power over whether or not humanity does. If he does, then free will no longer exists. And as a result, humanity is unable to design its own course of life, its creation.

Yes, that is Daryl in front of the Colosseum. And yes, that is a nun taking a photo. The photo of the inside of the stadium shows the holding cells underneath the main stage (which obviously no longer exists). To demonstrate naval battles, they obviously flooded all the holding cells and above.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Soul's Return to "home"

Our discussion today about Plato's idea of a soul having a memory that can be evoked to bring the person back to that divine place. Mrs. Quinet proposed the question "is he going home?"
When she said this, I thought of the song Home Again by the Disco Biscuits. The only lyrics are "Never had home like this and the prophets said 'be careful what you wish'. Never had to think twice, always knew my home was in paradise."
I think this song is similar to Plato's idea of the soul. Although I doubt this song wasn't written to emulate Plato's ideas, do you guys think the lyrics relate to the soul?

Love, Lust, and Pain

Augustine suffers from the discrepancies between love and lust. He relates his passionate lust and bodily interests to sin and endures the pain of not really finding love. He is ashamed for his "madness of lust"-"needing no license from human shamelessness, receiving no license from Your laws". His love for love, in his opinion, is a disappointment to God and and pollutes his soul. As Chrissy said in class, Augustine's work may demonstrate that true love can only reside in God, and his Confessions exhibit his dedication, love, and devotion for God alone.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Augustus's Confessions

While reading Augustus's "Confessions," I noticed that he discussed how people enjoy watching others suffer. He writes, "Yet the spectator does want to feel sorrow, and it is actually his feeling of sorrow that he enjoys." (page 909) I thought this was an interesting and somewhat accurate observation of humankind. Augustus asserts that if a spectator cries because of a tragedy, he is satisfied and believes the show was effective, whereas if no emotion is evoked, he is left feeling disappointed. I think, to a certain extent, that Augustus's observation holds true today. For example, dramatic movies and plays that evoke emotion are usually regarded as better than those that do not. This ties into Aristotle's definition of tragedy as a genre that must elicit pity and fear from the audience, as well as generate a catharsis. Augustus comments on pity and fear in his "Confessions" as well: "Now when a man suffers himself it is called misery; when he suffers in the suffering of another, it is called pity."

Stevens' Sunday Morning

This is a link to Wallace Stevens' "Sunday Morning," the poem Ms. King referred to in class. Stanzas 5 and 6 are particularly related to our discussion about whether love can exist without pain. Stevens parallels those ideas presented in Tristan and Iseult by questioning in his poem if beauty can exist without death. He says that without permanent changes in the world, nothing new can come about. In other words, life without death would be boring because things would never change/new beauties would never be created. He believes that death is necessary. Any more ideas about these related topics?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Animal Domestication in Tristan and Iseult

I found it very interesting that animals are significant creatures in the story of Tristan and Iseult. Horses are key figures in battle scenes, especially when Tristan fights the monster. Dogs also appear as domesticated companions. For example, Iseult asks Tristan to leave her his dog, Hodain, as a representation of their love. Not only do dogs play a role in seeking scents and hunting deer, but they are symbols of friendship or companionship. Can you guys find other examples of animal domestication or their roles in the story?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hildegard von Bingen

Today as our guests from Musica da Camera discussed Hildegard, they referred to her illuminations. Hildegard had her works illuminated for both decorative and illustrative purposes. Although she did not make them herself, she oversaw the construction carried out by other artists. Because the illuminations contain such bright colors, some believe that Hildegard suffered from migraine headaches. Below is an example of one of these illuminations.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Roman Creations PPT

Two years ago I made a presentation on various Roman inventions, innovations, and creations as part of a Latin assignment. I thought that somebody might find it interesting, particularly in light of the Roman architecture we have studied.

The formatting has been changed slightly... I recommend downloading the file from Google Docs.

"The Song of Roland"

While reading "The Song of Roland," I noticed a lot of similarities between Roland and Rama from "The Ramayana." Both protagonists are marked by extreme loyalty. Roland displays his loyalty as a warrior and subject to the Great King Charles, constantly declaring his dedication to the him. Likewise, in "The Ramayana," Rama strives to remain loyal to his father by honoring the wish for him to journey into the forest and renounce his throne. In addition, each character exhibits humility, despite their high social status.

Pop Culture References to Catullus

Can y'all find any other songs that relate to Catullus?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Colosseum and Aqeducts

I'm still astonished by the size and overall organization of the Roman Colosseum and  the Aqueducts. When I went to Rome, I was amazed to stand inside--I could almost imagine the battles between gladiators and wild animals. The Romans constructed this grand building with brick, rocks, dust, lime, and water, and incorporated elements of Greek culture such as the three columns. Additionally, Trajan's system of Aqueducts carried water from mountains to towns several miles away. These sources of water were innovative and greatly altered the early stages of irrigation and water channeling.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Byzantine vs Roman art

In Chapter 5 of "Arts and Ideas," Byzntine art is contrasted with Roman art. Flemming describes Byzantine art as typically ornate, two dimensional, having a shimmery background, and stressing the divinity of Jesus and his remoteness from wordly matters. On the other hand, Roman art is usually three dimensional, simpler than Byzantine art, and has a natural background, such as hills, the sea, or a blue sky. Also, Flemming emphasizes that the Arian-Roman panels depict Christ's wordly life and human suffering, unlike the Byantine frieze which accentuates his divinity and remoteness from worldly matters.
The picture to the right is an example of Byzantine art.

Gustav Holst - The Planets - Jupiter

This post really doesn't have much to do with our class discussions. I'm posting just for fun. I don't listen to classical music very often, but this song is quite awesome. Link below:


my pictures of the Parthenon/Acropolis (plus Cassidy)

This photo better demonstrates how the acoustics would have worked in Greek amphitheaters. As far as I can remember, this shot was taken from the Akropolis in Athens on the other side of the hill from the one that is still in tact in my last post.

Greek Amphitheater

This may not be the best photo of a Greek amphitheater, but I took this shot from the top of the Akropolis in Athens. If you fill in the rest of the image with your mind, you can easily figure out how the acoustics were so well designed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hellenic vs Hellenistic Culture

While reading Chapter 3 of Arts and Ideas, I found many similarities and differences between the Hellenic and Hellenistic cultures. For instance, although art is a major part of both cultures, Hellenistic art focuses on emotion, like in the "Laocoon Group" (page 81) and "The Dying Gaul" (page 66), whereas Hellenic art seems to focus more on balance and composure, as shown by the statue of Zeus (page 42).
The underlying themes of the Hellenic culture, humanism, idealism, and rationalism, greatly contrast with the main ideas of Hellinistic culture, which are individualism, realism, and empiricism.
Did you all notice any other differences or similarities?

The Theater at Epidaurus

This is a picture of the the theater at Epidaurus I took on my vacation. If you can see, there is a circle in the center of the stage; the aucustics were designed so that if an actor was standing at this point, the entire audience could hear him speak.


The Arts and Ideas textbook makes a reference to Pompeii as an ancient Roman city. This is a picture from my trip to Pompeii. You can see the different orders of columns in this picture (Doric in the center and Corinthian on the right).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It is hard to sympathize for Medea by the end of the tragedy. At first I feel for Medea because she gives up everything to be with a man who eventually leaves her for another person. However, even early on, Medea portrays inhumane and sadistic behavior when she murders her own brother and cuts him into pieces. By the end of the story, it is nearly impossible to sympathize for Medea because she poisons the innocent princess and the beloved king. Later on, she slaughters her own children. I, personally, could never identify with a person willing to kill her own children and thus have zero pity or sympathy for Medea by the end of the play.

What do you guys think? Do you sympathize for Medea?

Sympathy for Medea?

I don’t think I could sympathize with Medea because she makes such rash and radical decisions. Her husband did leave her for another women but she was a barbarian woman. He left for material reasons and still offered to provide support to her, however, that is his karma not hers. He may not have made the right decisions but she let her jealousy over power her. It is unfair for her to murder her children because of her husband's actions. She should love them wholeheartedly and want to protect them from any further loss.

Medea and Jason: Who is the Tragic Hero?

Since the action in Euripides' Medea revolves around Medea's plan to take revenge against her unfaithful husband, many readers probably jump to the conclusion that Medea is the tragic character in the play. I could certainly argue that Medea embodies many tragic characteristics. However, I could similarly contend that Jason is the true tragic figure in Medea. I consider the end of the play morally ambiguous; thus, the tragic character's identity is unclear. Who do you consider to the be true tragic character?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Tragic Hero

In Oedipus the King, Oedipus demonstrates hubris and extreme zeal, which leads to his downfall. According to Aristotle, tragedy is the result of free choice and not necessarily accident, but Oedipus's "hamartia" becomes evident in his realizations about his relationships with his mother and children. Oedipus appeals to the audience through his heart breaking awareness, and leads to a true catharsis. He cries about his curse, "you are fated to couple with your mother, you will bring a breed of children into the light no man can bear to see-you will kill your father, the one who gave you life!" and even gouges his eyes. What are some other examples in the story that stood out to you that categorizes this as a true tragedy (using specific quotes, maybe?)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Eye Imagery in "Oedipus Rex"

After reading "Oedipus Rex," I discovered many references to eyes and blindness. Just as previously discussed in Collin's post about the similarities between eye imagery in "The Bhagavad-Gita" and Plato's "Allegory of the Cave," sight in "Oedipus Rex" symbolizes enlightenment. However, in "Oedipus Rex," it seems as though blindness paradoxically indicates true vision. For example, the blind prophet Tiresias knows the truth about Oedipus; even though he is physically blind, he is enlightened. While the chorus and Jocasta prefer to be blind to the whole truth, Oedipus is persistant in his quest for verity. After Oedipus finds out the truth of his past, he blinds himself, unable to look at those around him because of his shame.

The School of Athens

This image is a close up view of Raphael Sanzio's painting, The School of Athens. It is the image of Plato and Aristotle that Mrs. Quinet was talking about today in class.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eye Imagery in Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" and the "Bhagavad-Gita"

I find the common element of eye imagery in these two texts is particularly interesting. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna is able to comprehend the divine through the gift of a third celestial eye. Plato plays on essentially the same idea in his allegory when he compares the understanding of divine knowledge to gazing upon the sun for the very first time. Can anybody else find other interesting similarities between these two texts?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Upon reading allegory of the cave, I could not stop thinking about Marquez's "100 Years of Solitude". In "100 Years of Solitude", Ursula believes her children will have pig tails becasue of her incestuos behavior and ultimatly reality conforms to her perceptions and she does. Plato, in "Allegory of a Cave", displays a vivid image of chained men watching the shadows of reality, however they percieve the shadows as reality and therefore, for each of the chained men, it is their reality.

I just thought this was interesting. Do ya'll think the idea of subjectivieness to reality is portrayed in a similar or different manner in both writings? Could it be somewhere in between?

Similarities between "The Apology of Socrates" and "The Bhagavad-Gita"

I also noticed similarities between "The Apology of Socrates" and "The Bhagavad-Gita.” The most significant example is the use of dialogue in both works. In "The Apology," Plato at times employs dialogue, the Socratic Method to be more specific, as a tool for Socrates to bolster his defense. Likewise, the basis of the "Bhagavad Gita" is the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna as the avatar of Vishnu attempts to justify to the warrior his sacred duty.

Similarities between Plato's "The Apology of Socrates" and "The Ramayana of Valmiki"

While reading "The Apology of Socrates," I came across some similarities between "The Apology of Socrates" and "The Ramayana."
For example, Socrates's sense of duty is similar to Rama's devotion to dharma. Socrates feels he has been ordered by the gods to examine people who think they're wise but aren't. Socrates's practice of philosophy is his dharma, and he is willing to die to fulfill it. Similarily, Rama feels it is his duty to carry out his father's wishes.
After Socrates is convicted and sentenced to death, Plato writes that Socrates proclaimed, "You see, it's likely that what has happened to me is a good thing and that those of you who suppose death to be bad make an incorrect supposition." Socrates does not mourn his imminent death, but rather accepts it and sees it as a possible path to happiness. Similarly, Rama is not perturbed by his father's order to give up the kingdom and go into exile.

Inaction as Action

Today in class we discussed the transmission of "inaction" in regards to following one's dharma. We can trace the nonviolent movements of Martin Luther King, Ghandi, and even Thoreau all the way back to the Bhagavad Gita. How is this inaction considered an action? How do these nonviolent movements relate to Karma, Dharma, or Brahma?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Kama, Karma, Artha

We discussed how dharma works in the Ramayana today in class. Can anybody find examples of how kama, karma, and artha manifest in the text?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Gunther Grass's Creditability

As evidenced by the article "War and Remembrance" from The New Yorker, Gunther Grass was involved in the Waffen S.S. as a youth. Although this viewpoint may be very anti-Foucaultian, I believe Grass's involvement with the Waffen S.S. directly impacts the reader's judgment of the creditability of his discourse. Personally, because Grass has a first-hand perspective of the horrendous actions taken by the Nazi Germans, he, above others, is given the opportunity to critique these actions in a valid manner. And because he actually performed actions for the Nazis, he is in a way self-critiquing himself. I believe that a self-critique is more challenging and therefore more convincing than a critique of others. Do you guys also believe that Grass's participation in the Waffen S.S. makes his discourse more or less valid? Or is this information irrelevant because, in a sense, the author is "dead" after his work has been published?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Columbian/Venezuelan Crimes

I found this article and thought it was interesting. In  the "News of a Kidnapping", we learned about FARC's influence on the Columbian drug trade. It's amazing to me that such vicious crimes are still taking place in Columbia, and according to this article, Venezuela.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Grass's Hero

While I was reading Grass's Nobel Prize Speech, I noticed he talked about the concept of a "positive hero," one that gives people hope. This "positive hero" figure conquers people in the globalized world, is suave, fit, and admired; his example is James Bond. Instead of crafting a novel centered on this type of hero, Grass writes about Oskar, certainly an atypical hero, if he is one at all. Oskar is certainly not suave nor fit, and I myself can't say I admire him.
Why do you all think that Grass decided to create a character who, rather than provides us with hope, deeply unsettles us?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fizz Powder

Hello class and teachers, this is my post about fizz powder:

I think that this was one of the more excruciating readings of the book. Gunter Grass, fortuantly or unfortunatly (depending on the reader), paints a picture of the fizz power occasion in tremendous detail. I find the "fizz power" incident interesting becuase it helps support the unreliability of the author. When Oskar asks Anna if she recalls their fizz powder encounter she denies and recollection of these events. Maria may be lying out of denial but regardless I find this event bewilderingly interesting.

Free will or Predestination

In the end of One Hundred Years of Solitude, after the last Buendia baby dies, his father, Aureliano, reads manuscripts that tell him the story of the Buendia family. The papers include the prophesy of the baby with a pig's tail and Aureliano's death. He reads each prediction of his life as it occurs. These manuscripts could have been written 100 years ago before hand and therefore explain the fate of each member of the Buendia family. If this were to be true, there would be no free will in Macondo and everything would be predetermined. Another option could be that the story was written alongside the family's life; each moment that occurred was documented. This option would declare free will in the city. Which version do you guys think it is?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Oskar's Accountability

I think that Oskar's perspective of reality is completely unreliable. His mental instability, in the context of an unstable society and cultural ambiguity, "stunts" his growth. However, not only does Oskar demonstrate an inability to be reliable or responsible for his actions, but society as a whole shows their psychological disconnection from the atrocities happening in Poland and Germany during the war. I also don't think that Oskar is truly culpable because his insanity overrides mental growth. I know that many of you guys would disagree, though. What do you think? Is Oskar accountable for what happened?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


In both pieces of work, incest appears multiple times. It occurs often in 100 Years of Solitude as well as in the movie The House of the Spirits with Esteban falling in love with both sisters, his sister falling in love with Clara, and Esteban's bastard son making sexual moves on his step-sister Blanca on separate occasions. I am not quite sure why Marquez and Allende would have their characters have incestuous relationships in times that reflect modern points of history. One thought I had for the employment of incest in 100 Years of Solitude is that it is used as another depth to the solitude of the Buendia family. It is a problem in their family possibly because they are too confined to their own family/town of Macondo. In The House of the Spirits Esteban (the bastard son) even tells Blanca they have the same blood running through their veins as he runs his hand along her inner thigh, so I am not quite sure why Allende would include this in the story. What do you guys think?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The House of the Spirits vs. One Hundred Years of Solitude

Now that we haved watched most of The House of the Spirits and read One Hundred Years of Solitude, what similarities have you found? The obvious theme in both is the use of magical realism but there are more similarities. There is the fighting between the Liberal and Conservative parties that hugely impact the book and the movie. The liberals in the movie share some of the same concerns that the Buendia family and the entire city of Macondo had in the book. In both the movie and the book there are conflicts within the families regarding marriage. In the movie, both sisters were in love with one man, just as this appears in the book. These are just a few of the similarities I have found. What else can you think of?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Foucault and Marquez

After discussing the analyses of the role of the author, it made me wonder what a conversation would be like between Foucault and Marquez. Although I acknowledge the authorial reticence in "100 Years" and Marquez's objectivity, I believe that Foucault would argue with Marquez's employment of historical implications. Foucault emphasized the significance of cultural and historical influences on discourse; thus, I think he could have argued with Marquez's metafiction, as well as his subversive texts. What would Foucault have said to Marquez about his work??

Foucault Reactions

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Jesus vs. the Witch

I am not sure of how well I managed to interpret Oskar's connection to Jesus, but I think that there may be a dichotomy between Jesus and the Witch. I don't think we can call Oskar "good," but what is good? At the very least, he is "pure," unchanging in his being as he is in his intellect and stature. For example, he resolutely denies loving Jesus, and he becomes a rock worthy of a foundation. Perhaps this purity frees him from the burden of guilt (thus, he does not fear the Witch for the majority of the book, nor does he dive during the trial). He is an ambiguous form of Jesus, fitting for our time. Therefore, I connect Oskar's fear in the Witch at the end with a sacrifice. Is it possible that Oskar's adoption of a fear of the Witch, in the guilt of mankind, makes him a martyr? When he was admitted to an asylum, did Oskar "die" for man's sins? Or perhaps it would be more accurate to connect Oskar's actions with Jesus being made man?

I really have no solution to this line of thought, nor do I know if I am even looking at these motifs in the proper way. I just thought that it may be worth the consideration. What do you all think?

The Witch

In The Tin Drum, Oskar has an obsession with the “Witch.” He first refers to this witch as he mentions a few games that the neighborhood children play, one of which is called “Where’s the Witch, black as pitch?” Later in the novel, Oskar progressively references the witch more and more as his fear of her amplifies. At one point, he mumbles about the witch in conjunction with his dread of Lucy Rennwand. Ultimately, as Oskar flees from the authorities at the end of the piece, he relates to the reader that his fear of the Witch has become incapacitating. He senses that she follows behind him as he climbs the escalator and then faces him. Although Oskar claims that he is unaware of the Witch’s identity, I have been asking myself this question. I believe that the witch represents a force of evil in Oskar’s life and the overwhelming guilt that he has accumulated through the implicit murder of his mother, Jan, and Matzerath. What do you all think the witch represents?