Racine uses classics to teach in modernity

February 5, 2008

“The passions are portrayed merely in order to show the aberrations to which they give rise; and vice is painted throughout in colours which bring out its hideousness and hatefulness. That is really the objective which everyone working for the public should have in mind. And it is what the tragedians of early times aimed at above all else. Their theatre was a school in which virtue was taught not less well than in the schools of the philosophers. Hence it was that Aristotle was prepared to lay down rules for drama; and Socrates, the wisest of philosophers, did not disdain to lend a hand to the composition of Euripides’ tragedies. It would be greatly to be desired that modern writings were as sound and full of useful precepts as the works of these poets. This might perhaps provide a means of reconciling to tragedy a host of people famous for their piety and their doctrine who have recently condemned it and who would no doubt pass a more favourable judgement on it if writers were as keen to edify their spectators as to amuse them, thereby complying with the real purpose of tragedy.”

-Racine’s Preface to Phaedra (translated by John Cairncross, Penguin Group, London, 2004.)

As artists of the contemporary world, do you feel compelled to teach?


Community and Art

December 21, 2007

Today was the last day of school for my old high school of which my sister is now a senior. I being an alumnus snuck myself to watch this winter tradition. I bring it up here because I think that it so perfectly describes the power of art in education.  The performance was one hour long and consisted of different acts by different grades, for example some 6th graders read their own poetry while the first graders performed a procession and high school groups both sang and danced. The most memorable for me was what the fifth graders did; the sword dance. A highly choreographed performance involving swords that are incorporated into a star by the intercrossing of the dancer who are marching in a circle, sounds complicated, looks complicated, but as being once a fifth grader who did it, it isn’t that hard to pull off.


Regardless of what was performed, the performance as a whole brought the school together, from kindergarten to twelfth grade, from students to faculty, and my push will be to get alumni there as well. What I am trying to say is that it helps connect that community; it removes the boundary of age, of position, of background and allows us all to enjoy something together. Even better is the fact that there was no one dominating medium of artistic production, we had costumes, dancers, musicians, singers, writers, and of course an audience interaction and response (which I count as a whole other medium).


Sorry I don’t have much more to say just yet but I guess I want to add this one final thought.


I talk about art and write about art and produce art because it is fundamental to community.



Mysticism is religion is literature?

November 24, 2007

I am currently involved in a course dealing with mysticism. So what does that mean? I believe each of us has our own definition of mysticism, at the very least some separate it from religion, if not the majority. Yet all I have read in this class are texts tied to religion, and therefore, because of their religious foundation, are not challenged as literature. My professor, one of the leading Rumi scholars of today, refuses to allow us to engage in a debate over the formal merits of these works because she believes that these works are not “total works” as Wagner sought to create, but rather they are simply messages of a greater experience, that of the mystical experience itself, therefore we cannot criticize their presentation because we have to start by assuming the honesty and sincerity of the author. After all, it is their experience.


Now I would love to engage the question on whether or not this is an academic approach, and furthermore if this is not an academic approach and perhaps one would argue, like my professor, that this topic needs its own approach separate of academia, then I would say that this has no place in academia and should never be placed on the same level as real academic work. Why?


Why is the key here and I will explain it briefly for myself but then I do want feedback more on the idea of how to integrate mysticism and literature. For me the difference between mysticism and academia, literature, and even philosophy (which mystics love to compare themselves to) is that it requires a leap of a faith, a belief in something without evidence. I being an atheist cannot comply with that requirement and therefore cannot accept that in a university. A university is a place for open minded education, a place where those from all backgrounds can come together to understand, comprehend, and debate ideas and issues. Presenting an idea that requires a leap of faith has no place here.

 Lastly I want to make something clear, I use atheist because no other word exists. I am non-religious, by that I mean I have received no formal religious education and grew up in a household void of religion. I feel that today atheism implies some sort of active rejection of god; well I would not agree with that because I am not doing anything active when it comes to religion, I just live separate from it.


First step towards understanding the end

November 13, 2007

Well now that I have a blog I may as well start a journal log of this rather confusing and complicated experience that is my last year in college. It’s a warm feeling, knowing that one has a place to share thoughts in such a manner as to receive feedback which can take the form of advice, support, concern, etc. What I would like to say on the eve of what promises to be a hell of a busy week is that I feel no fear what so ever in accomplishing that which I have set out to do. I know that I can achieve my goals.

But that is not all there is to it. Finding that balance between work and play, knowing when to take a break and when to buckle down and focus are hard. I don’t understand those concepts now in my 16th year of education. But I do know the journey, the struggle that is education that makes it all worth it in my mind. To be able to freely work on such an endeavor as to map out where blogs fit into our society is giving me such a purpose and a framework for this last year.

I didn’t start this post to talk about school yet it is very influential on my thoughts. I started this post to discuss the ramblings of me, because I can and want to. I want the internet world to know that I am extremely excited for the release of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Why might you ask, or maybe not if the answer seems obvious, is that I love imagination, childhood, and toys. God how I miss those childhood days of FAO Schwarts and G.I.Joe toys. Though for the record I am well aware of the sexism and male stereotyping that took place in that cartoon show, the toys were just simply awesome. Anyway I believe in the Neverland in all of us, that eternal child that will never cease giving us unimaginable pleasures through our imaginations. That is why I focus my academic attentions on art. For art represents the expression of that imagination, because in the end that is the best way to describe art. It is not an object, person, place, or thing. It is NOT a genre, movement, manifesto, or museum. What art is, what art can only be is an interaction, something that exists not in one part of that relationship between interacted and interactor, but rather it is that relationship. See Duchamp I found a place for Fountain, which keeps the Mona Lisa and the Olympia in place.

But I do know what lies hidden in this definition of art, the transitory nature of an interaction, the nature that an interaction can and probably will end. Thus am I suggesting then that the Mona Lisa, the most revered and commercialized piece of art in history can become a non-art object? The answer is YES. But I doubt that that will ever happen. However perhaps it already has, because who is to say that what people are going to see is not it but the ownership of that statement “I saw it” well defenders of the traditional and high art, is that interaction, that voyage and documentation, those pictures and post-cards they brought back with them, is all that art?

But wait again I am misguided, because those same traditionalists would say that no, it isn’t, but the piece remains as art because its existence as art is unaltered by how our interaction with it evolves. Here is where a disagreement develops that probably has no resolution, but I will stick by my definition of art because I do believe that the Mona Lisa is beginning to decrease in artistic value and that one day it will cease being a work of art. But then again, maybe not.