Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reading Questions, 8 (Kandinsky, Marinetti)

First, questions from this week's group; below, some from me.

1. Kandinsky describes two similarities of art today and past, the internal and external. Define and explain the two.

2. Why does Kandinsky believe music to be "the best teacher" in regards to it being able to express the inner self?

3. In his conclusion, Kandinsky states that from the proper use of the encroachment of the arts upon one another will arise the art that is truly monumental. What does this "truly monumental" art look like to you; what qualities do you think it will or should possess?

4. How do Kandinsky’s and Marinetti’s notions of “materialism” differ?

5. In what ways are museums graveyards, according to Marinetti? Do you agree?

6. Why does Marinetti consider aggression and violence to be of such crucial significance to Futurism?

7. What other past readings can we compare Marinetti to? (for example: Freud, Goethe...?)

8. How did the readings make you feel? Which emotions were you left with after each?

1. How does Kandinsky connect to other thinkers we’ve seen who are skeptical about positivism? What are his specific objections to “the nightmare of materialism”?

2. What does he seem to think that visual art should do now? On what basis is “good” art to be evaluated?

3. What, for Kandinsky, is the relationship between the arts and spirituality? After decades of growing secularism in Europe, is Kandinsky calling for a kind of religious revival?

4. What, for Kandinsky, is the social role of the painter (or other artist)?

5. What is actually taking place in the strange scene Marinetti describes at the outset of the Manifesto of Futurism? How does that relate to the themes and declarations that follow?

6. Describe the relationship, in the Manifesto, between technology and modernism in the arts. Marinetti clearly loves the material of technological change, but is he a materialist?

7. What do you make of Marinetti’s discussion of struggle, violence, and war? Does this seem in line with, or a strong departure from, other texts we’ve seen so far?

8. What, for Marinetti, is the social role of the painter (or other artist)?

9. Contrast Kandinsky and Marinetti’s pieces. Both are crucial figures in modernist art, but they do seem rather different. Highlight and examine at least one such difference, or, on the other hand, one point they seem to have in common.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reading Questions, 7 (Freud), part 2

Here are questions from your colleagues in group 5:
As always, feel free to answer one of these, or one from my list (below, scroll down)...
Do try to listen to some of the music Jason has posted, and brace yourselves for a wild ride on Wednesday...!

1. Lecture One provides an example of how people are attached to the past. Provide (and explain) other examples of attachment to horrific memories of the past.

2. Discuss the short case on page 19 in which Janet's patient is overcome with hysteria after returning from a shopping trip. Is Freud making a commentary on capitalism such as Zola's "Ladies Paradise"?

3. Freud mentions intellectual resistance towards psycho-analysis in Lecture 3. What are some problems that come up when believing in Psycho-analysis? How does Freud counteract these resistances? (clue: p. 41)

4. What is the importance of the interpretation of dreams to a psycho-analysist?

5. Define repression according to Freud. Further, elaborate on repression as expressed in Lecture Four. What does this show about society and the individual?

6. What does Freud describe as homosexuality? (Lec 4).

7. What is the Oedipus Complex? Is Freud correctly utilizing Oedipus as an analogy for his definition? Why or why not?

8. Lecture 5 explains the various methods of addressing repression and the connection "repression" has to "sublimation." Explain the methods to deal with repression and their effectiveness on the person being treated.

9. According to Freud, what is the role that sexuality plays on a person's psychological well-being?

THE RITE OF SPRING by Igor Stravinsky

No other work of 20th C. music has acquired so much mythology as The Rite of Spring. By mythology I mean not only myth in the sense of fiction, but myth in the sense of cultural symbolic significance. Like Picasso's famous "primitive" painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)- the Rite is seen as a watershed, a breaking point with the past, the beginning of the modern era in art with all that this labeling entails.

Historians now know that much of what people have said about the infamous premiere of the work in Paris on the night of May 29, 1913, is glamourous fiction. People certainly rioted and made a ruckus... but why? Stravinsky always promulgated the idea that it was the music- but more than likely it was the bizarre jumping-up-and-down choreography by Nijinsky and the deliberate mixing of classes through Diagilev's seating arrangements of the audience that got the ball rolling.

Whatever the reason... the music STILL shocks and delights the ears. We are lucky that the Joffery Ballet has recreated the original production and that it has been filmed. If you have the time please watch at least some of it. I have also posted a video of the Rite arranged for four-hand piano. This particularly allows the listener to hear the dazzling shift of tempos and rhythms. Incidentally- the dancers HATED the work- not only because the choreography was so unorthodox, but because constant change of key signatures in the music made it almost impossible to stay in step with the music- and with one another.

For a fascinating interview about the costumes listen in on a talk recently given at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. They own hundreds of costumes of the Ballet Russes, the company that premiered The Rite of Spring. It was interesting to hear that the costumes were made of heavy wool and that the performers were drenched in sweat- and pretty dehydrated by the end of the ballet. No wonder they hated it so much!

The Rite of Spring: part 1

The Rite of Spring: part 2

The Rite of Spring: part 3

Excerpt of The Rite of Spring- arranged for 4 hand piano

SALOME by Richard Strauss

On Wednesday I'll be lecturing on sexuality and death in modern art and modern music at the end of the 19th C. and the beginning of the 20th C. Our two entry points into this subject will be Richard Strauss's opera SALOME (1905) and Igor Stravinsky's ballet THE RITE OF SPRING (1913). I'll be showing how various cultural streams of thought and aesthetic styles (decadence, Art Nouveua, Symbolism, primitivism, Orientalism, psychology, early anthropology etc.) fed into and informed the making of these two works. SALOME has long been associated with the idea of decadence, ruin and lust connected to death. THE RITE, on the other hand, while just as violent and shocking, draws on another narrative about the primitive and the affirming powers of life. Thus I unfold SALOME through an analysis of its negative decadence and THE RITE through that of its positive dynamics.

If SALOME is a symbol for the death of old Europe then THE RITE is a symbol for the hope of a new Europe- freed from the shackles of decaying morality and modern malaise.

Please take a few minutes to listen to a bit of each of these remarkable pieces of music! See you all on Wednesday for Freud, Strauss and Stravinsky! It's going to be lots of fun.

The princess Salome has Jokanaan (John the Bapstist) brought out of the well where he is kept to sing to him of her longing. He rejects her and she is infuriated. Notice the object of lust is being raised out of his prison: a well- something longed for (and later hated) is hidden in a deep, dark place.

SALOME- Karita Mattila Met. Opera, 2004

The Dance of the Seven Veils is probably the most famous strip-tease of all time.
Salome has convinced King Herod, her step-father, to give her whatever she asks for, if she dances for him. Guess what she wants. The next 5 clips are the dance (1-2) and the final scene (3-5) where Salome sings to the severed head of the prophet with whom she was in love/lust.
This is Teresa Stratas as SALOME from a 1970's filmed version of the opera. Notice the blatant Orientalism and racialist imagery--- this is usually avoided by contemporary adaptations, though it's true to the long tradition of the opera's staging. This an old European trope: the eastern, the African, the exotic signify lust and "savage" primal appetites. Hmmm- can you say PROJECTION?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Poem: In Memory of Sigmund Freud by W. H. Auden

In Memory of Sigmund Freud
by W. H. Auden

When there are so many we shall have to mourn,
when grief has been made so public, and exposed
to the critique of a whole epoch
the frailty of our conscience and anguish,

of whom shall we speak? For every day they die
among us, those who were doing us some good,
who knew it was never enough but
hoped to improve a little by living.

Such was this doctor: still at eighty he wished
to think of our life from whose unruliness
so many plausible young futures
with threats or flattery ask obedience,

but his wish was denied him: he closed his eyes
upon that last picture, common to us all,
of problems like relatives gathered
puzzled and jealous about our dying.

For about him till the very end were still
those he had studied, the fauna of the night,
and shades that still waited to enter
the bright circle of his recognition

turned elsewhere with their disappointment as he
was taken away from his life interest
to go back to the earth in London,
an important Jew who died in exile.

Only Hate was happy, hoping to augment
his practice now, and his dingy clientele
who think they can be cured by killing
and covering the garden with ashes.

They are still alive, but in a world he changed
simply by looking back with no false regrets;
all he did was to remember
like the old and be honest like children.

He wasn't clever at all: he merely told
the unhappy Present to recite the Past
like a poetry lesson till sooner
or later it faltered at the line where

long ago the accusations had begun,
and suddenly knew by whom it had been judged,
how rich life had been and how silly,
and was life-forgiven and more humble,

able to approach the Future as a friend
without a wardrobe of excuses, without
a set mask of rectitude or an
embarrassing over-familiar gesture.

No wonder the ancient cultures of conceit
in his technique of unsettlement foresaw
the fall of princes, the collapse of
their lucrative patterns of frustration:

if he succeeded, why, the Generalised Life
would become impossible, the monolith
of State be broken and prevented
the co-operation of avengers.

Of course they called on God, but he went his way
down among the lost people like Dante, down
to the stinking fosse where the injured
lead the ugly life of the rejected,

and showed us what evil is, not, as we thought,
deeds that must be punished, but our lack of faith,
our dishonest mood of denial,
the concupiscence of the oppressor.

If some traces of the autocratic pose,
the paternal strictness he distrusted, still
clung to his utterance and features,
it was a protective coloration

for one who'd lived among enemies so long:
if often he was wrong and, at times, absurd,
to us he is no more a person
now but a whole climate of opinion

under whom we conduct our different lives:
Like weather he can only hinder or help,
the proud can still be proud but find it
a little harder, the tyrant tries to

make do with him but doesn't care for him much:
he quietly surrounds all our habits of growth
and extends, till the tired in even
the remotest miserable duchy

have felt the change in their bones and are cheered
till the child, unlucky in his little State,
some hearth where freedom is excluded,
a hive whose honey is fear and worry,

feels calmer now and somehow assured of escape,
while, as they lie in the grass of our neglect,
so many long-forgotten objects
revealed by his undiscouraged shining

are returned to us and made precious again;
games we had thought we must drop as we grew up,
little noises we dared not laugh at,
faces we made when no one was looking.

But he wishes us more than this. To be free
is often to be lonely. He would unite
the unequal moieties fractured
by our own well-meaning sense of justice,

would restore to the larger the wit and will
the smaller possesses but can only use
for arid disputes, would give back to
the son the mother's richness of feeling:

but he would have us remember most of all
to be enthusiastic over the night,
not only for the sense of wonder
it alone has to offer, but also

because it needs our love. With large sad eyes
its delectable creatures look up and beg
us dumbly to ask them to follow:
they are exiles who long for the future

that lives in our power, they too would rejoice
if allowed to serve enlightenment like him,
even to bear our cry of 'Judas',
as he did and all must bear who serve it.

One rational voice is dumb. Over his grave
the household of Impulse mourns one dearly loved:
sad is Eros, builder of cities,
and weeping anarchic Aphrodite.

From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by The Estate of W. H. Auden.

Sigmund Freud: Analysis of a Mind (A&E, Biography)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reading Questions, 7 (Freud)

Reading Questions on Freud, Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis

Note: make sure to look up words you're not familiar, say, "pathogenetic," or "somatic innervations," etc...

1. What is Repression? How, according to Freud, does it work, and why do we (or our minds) do it?

2. How does Freud characterize the human mind, and each human individual personality overall? Is it a single, stable thing, or the site of complex conflict among multiple forces? Why might his overall vision of the mind been significant at the time (circa 1900)? Is this vision related to any other important thinkers we've dealt with?

3. Why are dreams of interest to Freud? Explain his theory of why they are useful. Is this convincing?

4. In some sense, his theory of psycho-analysis represents a broad critique of civilization. What is this critique? That is, simply put, what does civilization do to us, and what's wrong with that? Does Freud suggest a solution to the problem? (See especially pp. 37, 43, 60-61)

5. Does Freud seem to want above all to understand the normal human mind, or to cure the sick (neurotic, hysterical, etc) mind? If you think he wanted to do both, explain what the connection was between these two projects for him.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Eros & Thanatos I: Arthur Schnitzler

"Dream and waking, truth and lie flow into one another.
Safety is nowhere."

- Arthur Schnitzler

Arthur Schnitzler (1861-1931) was an Austrian dramatist, novelist, short story writer and critic, who dealt with the theme of illusion and reality in many variations. Several of Schnitzler's plays and other writings about the decadent mood of fin de siècle Vienna have found their way onto the screen.
Click here for text source and full biography

Schnitzler and Freud moved in many of the same circles but probably never met, although they corresponded with one another by letter. Both men explored the inner life- especially the sexual life- of the middle class. Anxiety, lust, repression, infidelity, deception, social duplicity and the veneers of social custom were the subjects of Freud's psychoanalysis and of Schnitzler's novels and plays.

Here is a letter from Freud to Schnitzler dated May 14, 1922.

This letter was published in 1957 by Time Magazine.

"My dear Doctor:
I shall make you a confession ... I have been struggling with the question of why I have never, in all these years, made an effort to meet you ... I think I have avoided you out of a kind of fear of finding my own double [Doppelgänger Furcht] . . . When I read one of your beautiful works I seem to encounter again and again, behind the poetic fiction, the very presumptions, interests and conclusions so well known to me from my own thoughts . . . Your ability to be deeply moved by the truths of the unconscious, the recurrence of your thoughts to the polarity of love and death—all of this had for me an uncanny familiarity . . . Forgive me for straying into analysis—that is, after all, all I know."

Historian and musicologist Norman Lebrecht has written a fascinating, brief article on the two men and their cultural connections- both explorers of the hidden drives and sexual consciousness of Viennese bourgeois society.

Schniztler's most famous play is La Ronde. It is essentially a sexual daisy-chain, that is a group of men and women connected to one another through sex. Two character go to bed and in the next scene one of them appears with a new partner. That partner then takes up the next episode with someone else and so on. In the last scene the chain comes round again to the first person the play began with. The film version was directed by the legendary Max Ophuls. It is no coincidence that Ophuls was Stanley Kubrick's favorite film director- someone he looked up to immensely both for his choice of subjects and his mastery of cinematic style. Kubrick would become obsessed with Schnitzler's mysterious novella TRAUMNOVELLE or "Dream Story" and would spend forty years trying to figure out how to bring it to the screen. He finally succeeded. It would be his last, and most controversial (some say most misunderstood) film: EYES WIDE SHUT.

Poster for Ophul's film LA RONDE (1950)

the tag-line was "a wonderful merry-go-round of love with eleven stars"

Is it getting warm in here or is it just my wool uniform covered in gold braid?

Simone Signoret and Serge Reggiani as the beautiful prostitute and the dashing officer.

The opening scene of Ophul's LA RONDE

It is the novella TRAUMNOVELLE (1926) (trans. English as Rhapsody or Dream Story) that finally made it to the screen as Kubrick's film EYES WIDE SHUT (1999), and put a popular spotlight back on Arthur Schnitzler. The story has a very simple structure. A "happily" married middle class doctor and his wife reveal some of their secret fantasies to one another. The husband is shocked by his wife's admission that she has had sexual feelings for other men, though she has not acted on them. Unable to deal with his wife's honesty, the doctor sets off on a midnight journey which begins to take on the qualities of a bizarre dream. His own sexual fantasies begin to materialize in the form of a young prostitute, the nymphet daughter of costume shop keeper and finally a gorgeous masked women at an orgy held at a country mansion.

Schnitzler's theme is that of middle-class hypocrisy and the underworld of sexual desire which manifests as both anxiety and as clandestine sexual exploits... things experienced but not able to be spoken of openly without invitation of dire consequences.

Although Kubrick's film EYES WIDE SHUT updates the setting to contemporary New York, all the fin de siecle trappings of late 19th C. Vienna are present. Many critics commented on the surreal quality of this choice- we appear to be in the present historical moment, but situations and characters seem to be obeying rules and customs from an alien, far-off epoch. If you haven't seen the film read the book first and then watch the Kubrick. There's a lot to take in- all very subtle, very slow and very chilling.

The gaze of lust or fear?

The female body as geography

Vagina ocula? The posterdesigner may be calling on an older form found in Freudian writing, that of the vagina dentata- or devouring "toothed" vagina- ultimate symbol of sublimated male dread.

It is obvious from these posters that TRAUMNOVELLE/EYES WIDE SHUT is told from the male perspective. The female body, "the unknown, desired geography" represents danger, the unknown, even death. Is Kubrick merely commenting or buying into the idea that women truly are the source of many men's anxiety and fascination? Can it be both? I go back and forth on this point when I watch the film- the female body is constantly on display- but it is always shown clinically, coldly--- even culminating in a beautiful naked corpse which the main character believes may have been the woman who saved his life. The more I think about the film the more I believe in Kubrick's dark sense of humor and desire to tell the truth about the repressed-side of human nature. This is all very Freudian of course!

Freud and Schnitzler were both fascinated with the Romantic German idea of the Doppleganger or ghostly double of a person- said often to appear as an indicator of doom or death. Here the main characters of the story a"loving couple" Bill and Alice, gaze into a mirror as they prepare to make love. ? Freud's French follower Jacques Lacan would later build an entire psychoanalytic theory around the idea of mirroring in the development of the human child.

Her secret desire: "If you men only knew..." Alice confesses to Bill that at one point desire so seized her she worried that she might leave her husband and little girl to experience passion with a mysterious stranger. A deeply moving scene from EYES WIDE SHUT

Bill leaves Alice for the night and begins a slow descent into an increasingly bizarre world of sexual temptation and possible physical danger. But nothing is ever consummated- and we are left wondering what is real and what has been merely fantasized or imagined or dreamed.

Disguised in a rented tux and mask, Bill attends a masked ball held in secret at a far-off country mansion. Here the elites of society participate in a strange ritual orgy. Bill is immediately warned by a nude woman in a mask to leave before it is too late. "You don't belong here." she says.
But he tarries too long and is brought into the circle of elites to face punishment. The moment is terrifying, sexually suggestive and never-explained... much like a dream in which one is tantalized and horrified by the taboo. Here sex and death once again merge into a confusing melange of dark things, never fully explained or fully experienced.

"Would you follow me sir."

"Kindly remove your mask... now... remove your clothes... or would you like us to do it for you."

Red Cloak is the lord of the ritual orgy. His garb in reminiscent of a Catholic bishop, his golden mask that of the legendary Greek King Agamemnon.

Freud's work draws heavily on Greek stories: Oedipus complex, Elektra complex etc.

At the last moment Bill is "redeemed" by the mysterious masked woman. When Bill asks "What is going to happen to that woman?" Red Cloak declares that "no one can change her fate now. When a promise is made here it must be kept." Bill is then warned that he and and his loved ones will be in mortal danger if he ever dares mention what he has seen at the mansion. The promise and the forgetting motif are reminiscent of Nietzsche's ideas in The Genealogy of Morals.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND: Bill's wife Alice awakens when he returns from the midnight orgy. Coincidentally she has had a dream about an orgy in which she participates sexually. In the dream she welcomes each man who wishes to make love and even mocks her husband in front of the participants. But when she awakens she is horrified and sobs on her husband's shoulder, unable to reconcile the unconscious desires manifested in the dream and her conscious identity as a loyal mother and wife.

According to Freud, it is in dreams that the mask is set aside and the hidden selves are released from their daylight prison of convention and cultural morality.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Zarathustra and the Three Transformations

Three Transformations of the Spirit, artist unknown, source is the Kubrick article mentioned below

In Nietzsche's "Thus Spake Zarathustra" he imagines the metamorphosis of the human spirit, in the guise of first a camel, second a lion and thirdly a child. The camel is loaded down with the great commandments and the intellectual encumbrances of the past. As it enters the desert the camel becomes a lion that must slay the dragon named "Thou Shalt", on whose every scale is written a law. Joseph Campbell gives an incredibly lucid and beautiful gloss on this text. Once the dragon is slain the spirit is transformed into a beautiful child... echoing the verse in Isaiah which imagines a millenial kingdom: "And a little child shall lead them."

Nietzche says the child is like "a wheel rolling out of its own center."
Internal autonomy and spiritual apotheosis seem to have been achieved.

German composer Richard Strauss was inspired to write his great work of music bearing the same name as Nietzsche's book. In 1968 when Stanley Kubrick used that music for his epic space opera 2001: A Space Odyssey it became an instantly recognizable composition.

Here is an interesting essay on the themes of Thus Spake Zarathustra as seen in unfolding narrative of Kubrick's famous film.

Nietzsche and the Gods

"To live alone one must be a beast or a god, says Aristotle. Leaving out the third case: one must be both -- a philosopher."

- Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche ( like all of the German scholars of his time) was steeped in the study of classical Greece. Before becoming a radical thinker he was known as an imaginative and highly controversial philologist. His work was intensely criticized by fellow scholar Enno von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff. Although Nietzsche and his philosophy are new for me personally, I've long known the titles of his principal works- through reading various histories of the era. Something that often surprised me was the use of religious and mythological references in so many of his book's titles. For someone so often coupled with the quote: "god is dead" (see here for an analysis of what Nietzsche was actually talking about) god, gods, heros and prophets come up a good deal. Hmmmmm.

The Birth of Tragedy (1872)

Nietzsche introduces his ideas about the Apollonian and Dionysian forces within the human being. Apollo, Greek god of mental and social order, sunlight, music and geometric form is imagined as the representative of the consciousness of rationality. His half-brother, the chthonic, Dionysus, Greek god of wine and unbridled animalistic passion is imagined as the bringer of physical abandonment to the urges of the body and sometimes frenzied violence.

Apollo, with lyre and laurel crown as painted on an Athenian red-figure kylix, C. 5th B.C.,
Archaeological Museum of Delphi

Dionysus being pulled in his chariot by tigers, while a female follower (maenad or bacchante) plays her tambourine and wild animals gambol. In many strains of European thought, Dionysus is seen as having come from the "exotic" east- he represent luxury, sensuality and the physical powers of the body.

"The Train of Dionysus", mosaic, late Roman 3rd C. AD
Sousse Museum, Sousse, Tunisia

Ecce Homo (1888, published posthumously 1908)

His autobiography (written as he began to suffer mental breakdowns, finally collapsing into insanity) bears the title of the words spoken by Pontius Pilate to the crowd ready to kill Jesus.

Ecce Homo, Martin Schongauer, copperplate, German, 1480

Although once famously adulatory to Wagner and his operatic works, Nieztsche later changed his mind and became highly critical of the revered German musical patriarch. The Twilight of the Idols (Götzen-Dämmerung) is a play on the name of Wagners' opera The Twilight of the Gods (Götterdämmerung).

Early 20th C (?) llustration of Aesgard/Valhalla, home of the gods being destroyed on the final day of the world- called Gotterdammerung in German and Ragnorak in Norse. The fall of Valhalla is the culmination of Wagner's gigantic tetrology The Ring Cycle or The Ring of the Nibelungs.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Reading Questions, 6 (Nietzsche, Le Bon)

Study Questions: Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals and Thus Spoke Zarathustra (excerpt); G. Le Bon, The Mind of Crowds (excerpt)

The greatest conspiracy theory ever told, and other highlights from the greatest thinker of the late-nineteenth-century revolt against the modern (bourgeois) world -- plus a quick look at a more practical application of end-of-century elitism.

1. What is Nietzsche's project here? What does it meant to construct a "genealogy" of moral systems?

2. What is the evidence N. uses in Essay 1 to trace the genealogy of ideas of good and bad? Is this convincing? Why or why not?

3. Sections 6-8 offer the core of N.'s historical argument, explaining the position in world history of Judaism. In what sense did Judaism (and then Christianity) represent “the slave revolt in morality”?

4. What is the culture of "ressentiment" (which means resentment, more or less)? Does this make psychological sense to you? Is Nietzsche making a racial (racist?) argument here?

5. In section 11 and 12, Nietzsche vents his disgust with the “man” of his age – “maggot man…the hopelessly mediocre and insipid man” (43). Who does he seem to be talking about? Have any of our other authors had similar concerns? (Hint: notice that Nietzsche is concerned that European man is becoming “more Chinese” (44) – what’s he talking about?)

6. If “the meaning of all culture is the reduction of the beast of prey ‘man’ to a tame and civilized animal” (42) then what does that seem to say about culture over all? Why (and to whom) would this have been shocking then? Is it still shocking now?

7. In the second essay, Nietzsche turns to the development of conscience and guilt. What is the process by which humans were made into the "animal with the right to make promises"? Or, to put this another way: What does it mean to claim that “blood and cruelty lie at the bottom of all ‘good things’!” (62)

8. Second Essay, section 12 is a fascinating discussion of N.'s historical method; be ready to put this argument into your own words. How might this technique be applied to questions other than that of punishment? [History majors and History MA students are especially encouraged to read this section carefully!]

9. Second Essay, section 16 provides the core of Nietzsche’s argument, but his explanation of the origins of conscience becomes a theory of civilization itself. Again, what is the overall vision of “civilization” here? Does this argument affirm man's animal nature? If so, does Darwin (whom N. mentioned in the preface), seem important here?

10. The final sections of Essay 2 tie up loose ends, specifying the argument with regard to history, violence, art, and religion. The burning question is: if this diagnosis is correct, what should we do about it? What happens next? Does N. answer that question? Does he provide any (ever so cryptic) hints?

11. Turning to our reading from Thus Spoke Zarathustra (in the reader): How does the metaphor of “the three metamorphoses” encapsulate the basic message of the Genealogy of Morals?

12. Does the search for new values happen alone or in society? Why? But aren't values necessarily "social"? What does it mean if they're not?

13. Why do you think Nietzsche wrote this way? What is the effect of this strange, metaphorical, personalized manner of presenting his arguments?

14. Finally: what is Le Bon’s main goal in “The Mind of Crowds”? What is his core argument? How do his concerns here seem similar or different from those of Burke, Mill, or Nietzsche?

15. In an age of expanding democracy, what kind of political attitudes are reflected by Le Bon’s description of the crowd?

And now, questions from the good people in Group 4. (As always feel free to have your written response answer one of these, or one of mine, as you prefer.)

1) Le Bon concludes that while crowds are intellectually inferior to
the individual, crowds are capable of heroic feats that would be
unattainable by an individual. What does this suggest?

2) What does Le Bon’s theory of crowds suggest about the permanency of

3) How is Le Bon’s theory of crowds similar to Nietzsche’s view of
noble behavior (pgs. 40-41)?

4) In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche designates three stages of the
spirit. Does Nietzsche consider the metamorphoses inevitable or
something else?

5) On pages 27-28, Nietzsche addresses the "etymological significance" of "good" and "bad." What linguistic implications do these words have? Why are these implications significant?

6) Nietzsche has strong opinions about the morality of the Jews. Why does Nietzsche label Jews as "priestly people" on page 33? How do Nietsche's feelings toward the Jewish population tie in with Wagner?

7) What does Nietzsche mean when he says a sovereign man "has the right to make promises?" (p. 59) What other qualities does a free man possess?

8) Why does Nietzsche refer to the "bad conscience" as an "illness?" What are the symptoms of this illness?

9) What kind of biblical allusions does Nietzsche make in Thus Spoke Zarathustra ? What is their significance?

10) What is "ressentiment" according to Nietsche? How does this concept differ from master morality?

The Passion of Emile Zola


Following text by Donald E. Wilkes, Jr., Professor of Law, University of Georgia School of Law.

The article, by Emile Zola, the great French novelist, appeared in a Paris literary newspaper, L'Aurore (The Dawn) on Thursday, Jan. 13, 1898, "an essential date in the history of journalism," according to historian Jean-Denis Bredin. Written in the form of an open letter to the President of France, the 4,000 word article, entitled J'Accuse! (I Accuse!), rightly has been judged a "masterpiece" of polemics and a literary achievement "of imperishable beauty." No other newspaper article has ever provoked such public debate and controversy or had such an impact on law, justice, and society.
The appearance of Zola's article was the greatest day of the Dreyfus Affair, which tormented France for twelve years. The Affair, "one of the great commotions of history," in the words of historian Barbara W. Tuchman, arose out of the 1894 arrest and conviction for treason of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer in the French army. Dreyfus, who was completely innocent, received an unfair trial at his court martial; the prosecution's case had no substance, and the conviction was based on false, supposedly incriminating documents, not introduced into evidence or disclosed to Dreyfus, which were secretly delivered to the trial judges after they had retired to consider their verdict. Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment and expelled from the army. He was incarcerated off the coast of South America on Devil's Island from 1895 until 1899.

Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935) in military uniform

Emile Zola, photograph by Nadar, 1910

French newspaper cartoon of Zola

Illustration of Dreyfus being publicly humiliated by the military.
His sword was broken and his military regalia torn from his uniform.

Anti-semitic cartoon of Dreyfus as a hydra-like creature, labeling him both a horror and a traitor

The ruins of the prison complex on Devil's Island in French Guiana

Although the film "The Life of Emile Zola" (1937) is highly romanticized, it is never-the-less an excellent introduction to the Dreyfus Affair and to the life and work of Emile Zola. The movie won best picture at the 1938 academy awards and Joseph Schildkraut won a best-supporting actor Oscar for his heart-rending performance as the maligned and long-suffering Alfred Dreyfus.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Impressionism: Two Claudes and the Sea

Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Claude Monet (1840-1926) are the best known representatives of Impressionism, the first in music the second in visual art. Although Impressionism in visual art came first, there are strong cultural and intellectual connections between the aesthetic ideas of the movement in both visual and aural media. Below are portraits of the two Claudes taken around the turn of the century by the famous French photographer Paul Nadar (1856-1939)- the Annie Liebowitz of his day.

Claude Debussy, photograph by Nadar, 1908

Claude Monet, photography by Nadar, 1899


is a movement in painting and music that developed in late-19th-century France in reaction to the formalism and sentimentality of academic art and of much 18th- and early-19th-century music.
Claude Monet - The Cliff at Sunset (Étretat), 1882-83

Claude Monet - Rock Arch West of Étretat (the Manneport), 1883

Valery Gergiev conducts the London Symphony Orchestra performing Debussy's La Mer (1903-05).
Recorded in March, 2007.
Impressionism in painting

Impressionism in painting arose out of dissatisfaction with the classical subjects and painting techniques of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, which set French art standards. Rejecting these standards, impressionists painted outside, choosing landscapes, street scenes, and figures from everyday life. Impressionists were concerned more with the effects of light on an object than with exact depiction of form. Using short brushstrokes, they juxtaposed primary and complementary colors, which blended in brilliant hues and luminous tones when viewed from a distance.

Édouard Manet, sometimes called the first impressionist, demonstrated that light could be shown in painting by juxtaposing bright, contrasting colors, rather than by shading with intermediary tones. The various impressionists developed individual styles but, as a group, benefited from their common experiments in color. Claude Monet painted many series of studies, each done at different times of the day and in different seasons.Camille Pissarro used a subdued palette and concentrated equally on the effects of light and on the structure of forms. Edgar Degas caught the fleeting moment, especially in ballet and horse-racing scenes. Pierre Auguste Renoir preferred to paint the female form. Berthe Morisot painted subtle landscapes that gained strength from brushwork rather than color.

French impressionism influenced artists throughout the world, including American J. A. M. Whistler, Englishman Walter Sickert, Italian Giovanni Segantini, and Spaniard Joaquín Sorolla. Impressionism also affected the development of painting. Painters who began as impressionists created other techniques that started new movements in art, including pointillism, postimpressionism, cubism, and expressionism.

Impressionism in music
French composer Claude Debussy led the impressionist movement in music. Musical impressionism emphasized tonal color and mood rather than formal structure such as that found in sonatas and symphonies. Debussy, combining new and ancient musical devices, used the whole-tone scale and the complex intervals of the ninth and higher, and he returned to the parallel fourth and fifth intervals of the medieval church modes. French impressionist music continued to develop in the work of Maurice Ravel. Other impressionist composers were Frederick Delius and Ralph Vaughan Williams in England, Ottorino Respighi in Italy, and Manuel de Falla in Spain.

All text from: Encarta Concise Encyclopedia

The Serious Maintenance of Middle-Class Appearances

"Universally acknowledged to be the best cook book ever written" (Eric Quayle), Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management sold 60,000 copies in its first year and well over 2 million by the end of the decade.

Before Martha Stewart there was Isabella Beeton (1836-1865)

Mrs. Beeton essentially set the domestic bar for middle-class domesticity with her massive book on cookery and house-keeping. Covering an enormous range of subjects, the good middle-class woman could consult Mrs. Beeton on any subject relating to the maintenance of the dulce domum and the appearance of perfect respectability, refined gentility and matronly duty.

But who was Mrs. Beeton?

~The Visuality of the Victorian Repast,
according to Mrs. Beeton~ or
What to serve at your haute bourgeoisie
luncheon or dinner party:

English dinner party, c. 1865

The Calling Card: no respectable middle-class caller is complete without one!

Read more about the ritual of the afternoon "call"

Five-o-clock tea in the parlor of a fashionable Parisian hostess, 1893.
In England tea-time was an hour earlier.

English couple dancing, c. 1840

The ability to dance well was an important tool for the maintainence of social ties and for social networking. Read more about dance and 19th C. sociability

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Human Culture, an Evolutionary Force

Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images
Genes enabling lactose tolerance, which probably resulted in more surviving offspring, were detected in cultures like this Kenyan shepherd’s.

Human Culture, an Evolutionary Force

From THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 1, 2010.

As with any other species, human populations are shaped by the usual forces of natural selection, like famine, disease or climate. A new force is now coming into focus. It is one with a surprising implication — that for the last 20,000 years or so, people have inadvertently been shaping their own evolution.

The force is human culture, broadly defined as any learned behavior, including technology. The evidence of its activity is the more surprising because culture has long seemed to play just the opposite role. Biologists have seen it as a shield that protects people from the full force of other selective pressures, since clothes and shelter dull the bite of cold and farming helps build surpluses to ride out famine. Because of this buffering action, culture was thought to have blunted the rate of human evolution, or even brought it to a halt, in the distant past. Many biologists are now seeing the role of culture in a quite different light.

Although it does shield people from other forces, culture itself seems to be a powerful force of natural selection. People adapt genetically to sustained cultural changes, like new diets. And this interaction works more quickly than other selective forces, “leading some practitioners to argue that gene-culture co-evolution could be the dominant mode of human evolution,” Kevin N. Laland and colleagues wrote in the February issue of Nature Reviews Genetics. Dr. Laland is an evolutionary biologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

The idea that genes and culture co-evolve has been around for several decades but has started to win converts only recently. Two leading proponents, Robert Boyd of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Peter J. Richerson of the University of California, Davis, have argued for years that genes and culture were intertwined in shaping human evolution. “It wasn’t like we were despised, just kind of ignored,” Dr. Boyd said. But in the last few years, references by other scientists to their writings have “gone up hugely,” he said.

The best evidence available to Dr. Boyd and Dr. Richerson for culture being a selective force was the lactose tolerance found in many northern Europeans. Most people switch off the gene that digests the lactose in milk shortly after they are weaned, but in northern Europeans — the descendants of an ancient cattle-rearing culture that emerged in the region some 6,000 years ago — the gene is kept switched on in adulthood.

Lactose tolerance is now well recognized as a case in which a cultural practice — drinking raw milk — has caused an evolutionary change in the human genome. Presumably the extra nutrition was of such great advantage that adults able to digest milk left more surviving offspring, and the genetic change swept through the population.

This instance of gene-culture interaction turns out to be far from unique. In the last few years, biologists have been able to scan the whole human genome for the signatures of genes undergoing selection. Such a signature is formed when one version of a gene becomes more common than other versions because its owners are leaving more surviving offspring. From the evidence of the scans, up to 10 percent of the genome — some 2,000 genes — shows signs of being under selective pressure.

These pressures are all recent, in evolutionary terms — most probably dating from around 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, in the view of Mark Stoneking, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Biologists can infer the reason for these selective forces from the kinds of genes that are tagged by the genome scans. The roles of most of the 20,000 or so genes in the human genome are still poorly understood, but all can be assigned to broad categories of likely function depending on the physical structure of the protein they specify.

By this criterion, many of the genes under selection seem to be responding to conventional pressures. Some are involved in the immune system, and presumably became more common because of the protection they provided against disease. Genes that cause paler skin in Europeans or Asians are probably a response to geography and climate.

But other genes seem to have been favored because of cultural changes. These include many genes involved in diet and metabolism and presumably reflect the major shift in diet that occurred in the transition from foraging to agriculture that started about 10,000 years ago.
Amylase is an enzyme in the saliva that breaks down starch. People who live in agrarian societies eat more starch and have extra copies of the amylase gene compared with people who live in societies that depend on hunting or fishing. Genetic changes that enable lactose tolerance have been detected not just in Europeans but also in three African pastoral societies. In each of the four cases, a different mutation is involved, but all have the same result — that of preventing the lactose-digesting gene from being switched off after weaning.

Many genes for taste and smell show signs of selective pressure, perhaps reflecting the change in foodstuffs as people moved from nomadic to sedentary existence. Another group under pressure is that of genes that affect the growth of bone. These could reflect the declining weight of the human skeleton that seems to have accompanied the switch to settled life, which started some 15,000 years ago.

A third group of selected genes affects brain function. The role of these genes is unknown, but they could have changed in response to the social transition as people moved from small hunter-gatherer groups a hundred strong to villages and towns inhabited by several thousand, Dr. Laland said. “It’s highly plausible that some of these changes are a response to aggregation, to living in larger communities,” he said.

Though the genome scans certainly suggest that many human genes have been shaped by cultural forces, the tests for selection are purely statistical, being based on measures of whether a gene has become more common. To verify that a gene has indeed been under selection, biologists need to perform other tests, like comparing the selected and unselected forms of the gene to see how they differ.

Dr. Stoneking and his colleagues have done this with three genes that score high in statistical tests of selection. One of the genes they looked at, called the EDAR gene, is known to be involved in controlling the growth of hair. A variant form of the EDAR gene is very common in East Asians and Native Americans, and is probably the reason that these populations have thicker hair than Europeans or Africans.

Still, it is not obvious why this variant of the EDAR gene was favored. Possibly thicker hair was in itself an advantage, retaining heat in Siberian climates. Or the trait could have become common through sexual selection, because people found it attractive in their partners.
A third possibility comes from the fact that the gene works by activating a gene regulator that controls the immune system as well as hair growth. So the gene could have been favored because it conferred protection against some disease, with thicker hair being swept along as a side effect. Or all three factors could have been at work. “It’s one of the cases we know most about, and yet there’s a lot we don’t know,” Dr. Stoneking said.

The case of the EDAR gene shows how cautious biologists have to be in interpreting the signals of selection seen in the genome scans. But it also points to the potential of the selective signals for bringing to light salient events in human prehistory as modern humans dispersed from the ancestral homeland in northeast Africa and adapted to novel environments. “That’s the ultimate goal,” Dr. Stoneking said. “I come from the anthropological perspective, and we want to know what the story is.”

With archaic humans, culture changed very slowly. The style of stone tools called the Oldowan appeared 2.5 million years ago and stayed unchanged for more than a million years. The Acheulean stone tool kit that succeeded it lasted for 1.5 million years. But among behaviorally modern humans, those of the last 50,000 years, the tempo of cultural change has been far brisker. This raises the possibility that human evolution has been accelerating in the recent past under the impact of rapid shifts in culture.

Some biologists think this is a possibility, though one that awaits proof. The genome scans that test for selection have severe limitations. They cannot see the signatures of ancient selection, which get washed out by new mutations, so there is no base line by which to judge whether recent natural selection has been greater than in earlier times. There are also likely to be many false positives among the genes that seem favored.

But the scans also find it hard to detect weakly selected genes, so they may be picking up just a small fraction of the recent stresses on the genome. Mathematical models of gene-culture interaction suggest that this form of natural selection can be particularly rapid. Culture has become a force of natural selection, and if it should prove to be a major one, then human evolution may be accelerating as people adapt to pressures of their own creation.