Thursday, October 27, 2011

Music as Math

I remember thinking as a child when I was learning to play the scales on the piano how much it was like math counting the intervals and such. Then I remembered thinking how foolish I was because I thought that music was an art and it could in no way be a math. Anyway, I just though it was really interesting that music in fact is influenced by math. In fact, it is not only influenced by it, but heavily based on it. When I read this for the first time in the Greek chapter of Fleming, I was presently surprised!

Man on the Moon

I was looking up the man on the moon, and this is all that I found when I Googled it. Apparently it is just a household tale that Dante alludes to. Cain apparently was forced to circle the world as the moon and see what he could not have due to his betrayal.

One medieval Christian tradition claims him as Cain, the Wanderer, forever doomed to circle the Earth. Dante's Inferno alludes to this:
"For now doth Cain with fork of thorns confine
On either hemisphere, touching the wave
Beneath the towers of Seville. Yesternight
The moon was round."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


We discussed this a little bit back in August when we were talking about our summer reading books, but it seems to me that ants are a common symbol of decay and death in literature and art. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the ants appeared as the house was decaying and as a symbol of ultimate decay at the end when they consume the last Aureliano. The Buendias have been destroyed by ants. Also in The Tin Drum, the ants appear when the Russian soldiers enter the cellar where Oskar and the others are. This is the scene where Matzerath dies, but Oskar is solely focused on the ants.
I am blogging about this today because we talked briefly about Dali's The Persistence of Memory in class today. Dali painted this in the mist of the turmoil between the two World Wars. I think it is interesting how most critics noted that Dali is emphasizing the relative nature of time with the melting clocks. Furthermore, I think that the ants on the clock could signify the end of "man-created" time. Ants are certainly a powerful symbol.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dante's Inferno Study Guide

Let's try make a Dante's Inferno study guide..

Circle, Sin, Punishment, Monster, Representative Sinners, Notes.

At 35 years-old on Holy Friday, Dante awakes in dark wood and faces the three beasts: lion, leopard, and she-wolf. He cannot make it to the top of the hill and then meets Virgil. He tells him to make a journey through Hell with him.

Sin: Neutrals - couldn't choose a side, denied from both Heaven and Hell
Punishment: They must continually chase a banner and are also being stung by insects
Representative Sinners: Pope Celestine V, neutral angels
Notes: They encounter the Gates of Hell. Vestibule is also called the Ante-Inferno

1st Circle (Limbo):
Sin: Being a pagan or not being baptized (includes everyone born before Jesus)
Punishment: Not really a punishment. They can have friends and live in a nice castle.
Representative Sinners: Virgil, Homer, Ovid, Horace, Lucan, Euclid, Cicero, Socrates, Plato, Julius Caesar, Camilla, King Latinus, etc.
Notes: Also called Limbo. It is somewhat unfair to go to Hell, but they have an Elysian Fields sort of Hell. Virgil lives here, but he can travel with Dante along the different circles via the decree from many female figures (Virgin Mary, Beatrice.)

This is the trailier for the 2008 movie "Dante's Inferno." I'm not sure how closely it follows the book because I know its a modern variation of the "Inferno" but it looks intresting anyway.

Dante Paper

This is a video project by someone who had to do a modern Dante's Inferno. It's really funny and, though he did all seven circles of hell, it's well done and pretty similar to our paper.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"There is nothing new under the sun."

As once written in Ecclesiastes, "there is nothing new under the sun." As we read more and more works, I'm beginning to realize how true this verse is. The Divine Comedy was inspired by Virgil and Virgil was inspired by Homer. They all share similar mythological creatures and characteristics of an epic. Furthermore as Meredith pointed out in class, many elements of the Harry Potter series can be seen in these classics.  Other things, like the Roman architecture and art were also inspired from the past, the Greeks, who were in turn inspired by the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians. Maybe like Marquez suggested in One Hundred Years of Solitude, time really is circular. Well, at least to some extent.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dante in today's world

This is the official website for the official Dante's Inferno video game. It was not rated so highly, but after checking out the website it does provide a good bit of information.
In the section "The Poem" it gives a lot of historical dates.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Devil's Number?

As I was reading the intro for Dante, I kept coming across references labeled "Aeneid 6" which were obviously referring to Book 6 where Aeneas journeys through the underworld. However as I kept looking at this citation I began to wonder if 6 became associated with the devil's number because Aeneas travels to the underworld in Book 6.
So, I did some research. Wikipedia tells me that it was actually from the Book of Revelation of the New Testament. Furthermore, as most of us already know, the devil's number is actually 666 as mentioned here. Wikipedia also told me that this was mentioned in Chapter 13. Is this why the number 13 is considered unlucky in pop culture?
It's pretty interesting when you start to question some of the origins of popular beliefs. I don't think I've actually stopped to consider the significance of the things we associate with numbers. I'm pretty amazed right now.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Courtly Love"

I found the whole "courtly love" thing very interesting. It's kind of cool to think that it was almost acceptable for women to cheat on their husbands during this era. Though it doesn't seem like a big deal (men have been notorious for all sorts adultery throughout history) this must have been a big step for women of the time. Even if it was acceptable only in literature, it's a step towards having women be equal to men.

Friday, October 14, 2011

King Mark

King Mark was certainly an interesting character. I definitely feel pity for him throughout the story since he is a very innocent character. King Mark never did anything wrong by the story we know yet he is betrayed by both his most loyal vassal and his wife. Furthermore, although the 4 traitors were right, throughout the story he seems to be at the whims of their suggestions. It is definitely interesting to consider the tale from his perspective.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Iseult with the White Hands

I just wanted to say that I thought that Iseult with the White Hands was evil. She listened in on Tristan's conversation telling his friend to go fetch Iseult the Fair for him. She was portrayed as conniving and vengeful, as many women were in literature (Medea). When Iseult the Fair and Tristan could be reunited once more for the last time, Iseult with the White Hands betrayed him and caused his death by telling him that Iseult the Fair had not come. I did not expect the story to play out this way, but it definitely was more interesting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pitiful Irony

I found some lines of Tristan and Iseult's dialogue very intriguing. The lines of special interest to me are the ones when they realize King Mark is listening in the tree. I've included a couple of short excerpts from page 65:

"But the felons of this land made him believe this lie, for it is easy to deceive the loyal heart." -Iseult
"The cowards would remove from the King's side all those who love him; they have succeeded and now mock him." -Tristan

I felt a lot of pity toward King Mark because as Tristan and Iseult are saying all these remarks about others deceiving him, when it is actually them who are deceiving the king. This irony is so obvious to the reader as Tristan and Iseult know that they are manipulating the king because he has a "loyal heart" and they are "now mock(ing) him."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Roman Art

I think that the Romans, although they seem barbaric to some, were the smartest civilization. They used the method Iron Fist to basically conquer everyone. Their empire was very large at a time. In regards to art, the Romans basically copied from everyone else and built upon it. When they defeated the Etruscans, who were great collectors of Greek art, the Romans absorbed the Etruscan art. So, much of the Roman artwork was inspired by the Greeks. They also thought highly of the the Greeks by making copies of their statues and even building Greek libraries. They were also very practical in their ideas, especially in architecture. In sum, the Romans were extremely smart in their strategies and ideas and that's the reason that they built such a large empire.

Friday, October 7, 2011

James Franco & Isolde


I don't know how accurate this is yet, but I guess I'll find out......

Trajan's Column

Personally, I think that the most impressive piece of art that we have studied so far was Trajan's Column. The level of detail that went into making it is simply incredible. It was over 100 feet tall and showed the entire story of Trajan. The artist was very talented in the use of low spiral relief. I cannot even imagine how much time and effort went into created this thing. He also had to be creative in representing the different scenes and ages of Trajan. He was differently depicted many times with armor or body shapes. The artist had to figure out how to symbolically represent certain things that would've been to hard to carve, such as wavy lines for the ocean or lines in the background for a mountain. I am truly impressed by this column and would like to visit it one day.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery"

As I was commenting on Meredith's post, I came to realize that the Romans certainly lived up to this cliche. The Romans were notorious for copying elements of culture, art, and architecture from previous civilizations such as the Greeks, Etruscans, and other groups of the Mediterranean. However, I think it is important to note that the Romans not only copied ideas and works of other cultures, but they improved these works. For example, the Romans were the first to use concrete. They used concrete in the columns of the Colosseum which previously would have been made of marble. Moreover, in the Roman appreciation of other cultures, they have preserved many elements of Greek culture for scholars today to study. For example, many of the sculptures of the Hellenic and Hellenistic period that we have been studying only exist today through Roman marble copies. Without these copies, we may not even be aware of these pieces except through ancient texts which were also preserved in Roman libraries. The Romans tendency to imitate and improve elements of past civilizations certainly helped evolve sculpture and architecture and preserve other ancient cultures for our study today.

Columns & Superiority

I thought the fact that the Colosseum had 3 levels with 3 different kinds of columns, 1 variety on each level, was really interesting. So I found this:

Most buildings (and most clients) are satisfied with just two orders. When orders are superposed one above another, as they are at the Flavian Amphitheater - the Colosseum - the natural progression is from sturdiest and plainest (Doric) at the bottom, to slenderest and richest (Corinthian) at the top. The Colosseum's topmost tier has an unusual order that came to be known as the Composite order during the 16th century.

I think that maybe this goes back to the superiority complex that I talked about in class. The royal residence in Pergamon sat at the highest point of the city so that they could experience a feeling of domination.Corinthian columns (the ones at the tops) are the most ornate, and the most artistic, so therefore they would deserve their position at the top. Whereas, in Athena's precinct, only doric columns were used, this was to preserve the graceful simplicity of the structure, which was much smaller than the Parthenon and the surrounding temples. In conclusion, art can give insight to the thoughts of society in ancient Greece.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Comparing Epics

Last year I had to read Gilgamesh for NOCCA and it interestingly bares a lot of similarities to the Aenid. Gilgamesh, a Mesopotainian epic written in cuneiform on stone tablets, follows a Tyrannical king, his Wildman companion, their completion of several herculean tasks, the death of the companion, and Gilgamesh’s journey to the land of the dead. (While this is dramatically different plot-wise from the Aneid, there are many subtle thematic similarities between the epics.) Gilgamesh is comprised of 12 stone tablets similar to the twelve books of the Aeneid. Gilgamesh is a demigod like Aeneas, and Enkidu, the companion, was created by the gods as Gilgamesh’s equal. All three men are godlike mortals who complete herculean tasks that involve monsters. In both epics, the heroes receive prophesy in one form or another; in Gilgamesh, heroes receives prophetic dreams and Aeneas has to wrestle with his fate as revealed to him by Mercury. Gilgamesh’s experience with the Netherworld is quite similar in many ways to Aeneas’s journey through Hades; first both are only allowed through the gates of the underworld because of their half-god statuses, second, they both come to a river of the Dead that morals cannot touch and only a ferryman can cross, third, both must convince the ferryman to take them across the water to the land of the dead with foliage/trees (Gilgamesh has to cut hundreds ferry poles while Aeneas has to present a golden bow of a magic tree.) Both heroes cannot pass into the land of the dead (Elysian Fields or further into the Netherworld.) Both heroes are motivated to journey to the Netherworld to both see their lost loved ones (the companion/Aeneas’ father) and ascertain their own fate (Aeneas must found Rome, Gilgamesh must die because he will never attain the immortality he seeks.)

Also, thematically there are similarities; priestesses have prominent roles as guides in both epics (the Sybil, and a temple prostitute that “civilizes” Enkidu) and there is constant intervention/sacrifice to the gods along the way. Both heroes travel by sea or river and both have a love interest that ends badly (Dido’s death or an enraged goddesses wrath.) Fate plays a major role in both epics; Gilgamesh faces mortality and Aeneas must found Rome. Fighting in both epics is seen as, in some places, futile and a distinct part of the human condition however both heroes are ironically champion fighters whose tragic flaw is hubris.