Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Kundera also shows how humans struggle to be authentic because they are too busy living in delusion, kitsch. Kundera explains that the more people try to find meaning and purpose in something, the less true and real it becomes. This is a critique of society which makes it seem that there are always going to be cracks and imperfections wherever you arc, it's about embracing them and attempting to find the beauty in what is true.

Body vs. Soul

Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being depicts the contrast between mind & body. Kundera is exploring the dichotomy between the soul & the body. Here, Kundera depicts the human condition signifying how the body represents the more materialistic side of life whereas the mind symbolizes the intellectual side of things. Tereza struggles to find purpose for herself because she can't seem to get the right balance between material & intellectual things in life. Kundera is illustrating how in general, human existence is measured by how well an individual is able to juggle both realms, but also highlights the parts of human existence where people struggle to have either.

What is a Tragic Hero?

Looking over my notes in preparation for the midterm in English, I recall discussing how both Oedipus and Medea do not completely conform to the ideals of Artistotle's tragic hero. For example, Medea cannot truly identify as a tragic protagonist or hero because she never gets a justified punishment, rather, ends with everything turning out how she wanted them to. Medea ends up more as the antagonist in the sense that whereas the reader once pities her in the beginning of the play, we ultimately realize her evil, manipulative ways which changes our viewpoint of her character. In Oedipus, the debate over free will vs. fate is discussed. If Oedipus's actions are predestined, then he can't be classified as a tragic protagonist because his downfall did not stem from his own error in judgment, rather, something he couldn't control. This signifies him as the antithesis of the typical tragic hero. These two plays do not completely conform to Aristotle's definition of a tragic protagonist.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Voltaire on Free Speech

Voltaire was a huge advocate for free speech in the 1700s. This really wasn't a good time for freedom of speech in Europe, and many of the issues he faced back then are still issues we face today. Voltaire's name came up a lot in talks about the Charlie Hebdo attacks that happened in 2015. In many parts of the world, like China and North Korea, people are still heavily censored, especially when it comes to critique of government.

Voltaire loves you! Unless you're Turkish

Voltaire was super ahead of his time when it came to his views on humanity. He believed that all men were created equal, and only their actions should determine their standing in life. He said, "All the citizens of a state cannot be equally powerful, but they may be equally free." But, it is widely known that he was skeptical of organized religion as a whole, which is fine. You can disagree with someone's ideas without hating them. And, for the most part, this was true of Voltaire. He respected many of the important people of his time, regardless of their religious affiliation. This, however, did not apply to the Turks. In this case, he said that simply the fact that they were born in the ottoman empire that they were predisposed to believing the superstition that is Islam.

Critique of religion and Jesuits

Voltaire consistently critiques most religious establishments in Candide. Everywhere Candide goes, he sees priests and other religious figures doing sacrilegious things such as having male lovers, having mistresses and children, and being more involved in war and the economy instead of religion. The Jesuit baron is a prime example of this. He becomes a Jesuit because he was a "pretty boy," which insinuateshomosexuality. Also, he is described as both a colonel and a priest. Finally, even after Candide buys him from slavery, the baron refuses to allow Candide to marry an ugly Cunegonde because his family history goes back one less mark than Cunegonde's.

A sharp wit

How does Voltaire like his fruit?
Voltaire may not make use of many puns such as the one above, but instead his humor is more subtle. In Hamlet, we saw direct puns, but Voltaire keeps with the theme of satire by hiding his comedy and therefore indirectly mocking his enemies and others instead of directly insulting them. Voltaire's situations seem so bizarre that they are unbelievable, but he does this to further his criticisms. For example, characters such as Cunegonde and Pangloss seem to come back to life after dying.