Thursday, February 22, 2018

Kara on Humanism

Humanism (Kara Beasley)

            Humanism is a renaissance cultural movement that turned away from medieval scholasticism and revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought. Renaissance Humanism originated in Northern Italy in the 14th century then spread to Western Europe in the 15th and 16th century. Humanism signified a contemporary rebirth. Humans were regarded as optimistic, and humanistic ways promoted new ways of thinking and promoted education. Humans were praised for achievements which were attributed to humanity and effort rather than divine grace. One concern facing Humanism was people were lead towards more time benefitting others in their daily lives rather than otherworldly interests such as the Church. Renaissance Humanism was also a response to the utilitarian approach and what came to be depicted as the “narrow pedantry,” which was associated with medieval scholasticism. Humanists sought to create citizenry able to speak and write with eloquence, and clarity, and they wanted to engage in civic life to persuade people to think more virtuous and prudent actions. Some famous Humanist include, Niccolo Machiavelli (Italian diplomat), Thomas More (philosopher), Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello, Nicholas Copernicus, and Galileo.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

David on Luther, Calvin, and the Reformation

Luther, Calvin, and the Reformation (David Jones)

The Reformation, also known as the Protestant Reformation, was the religious revolution that took place in the Western church during the 16th century, between c1517 – c1648. The Reformation began as an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church and their practices of spreading false doctrine and open abuse of their power. This outcry against their corrupt practices led to the formation of Protestantism and its major branches, which include Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anglicanism, Methodism, and the Baptists.
                The Reformation began on October 31st, 1517, when a rebellious Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of his church after becoming disillusioned by the rampant open corruption of the Roman Church. The Ninety-Five Theses protested the pope’s sale of reprieves from penance, or indulgences. Indulgences were monetary donations to the church in exchange for a written promise from the Pope to reduce a sinner’s time in purgatory. Luther claimed that Bible alone held God’s truth and that the pope had no authority over purgatory, leading to his excommunicating in 1521.
                The foundation of Protestant Reformation lies in the Biblical principles that are taught by Lutheran and other Reformed branches called the Five Solaes. The earliest Solaes, which formed the basis of Lutheranism, advocated that scripture alone is the true word of God (sola scriptura), that faith alone is the only means of salvation, not good works (sola fide), and that salvation comes by divine grace or unmerited favor, not as something merited by the sinner (sola gratia). The spread of Lutheranism’s influence was rapid and by the mid-16th-century, it became the primary belief of northern Europe.
                The second most important figure in the Reformation was John Calvin. He fled to Switzerland where he wrote the “Institutes of the Christion Religion”, which viciously attacked the theological teachings of institutions that Calvin considered unethical, but also described different practices of Christianity, inspiring the ideas that would later become Calvinism. Another important figure residing in Switzerland was John Knox. Influenced by John Calvin, his work led to the establishment of Presbyterianism, a form of Protestant Church government in which the church is administered locally by the minister with a group of elected elders of equal rank. In England, Henry VIII, angry at Pope Clement VII for refusing to grant him an annulment of his marriage, established the Anglican Church, which permitted the beginning of religious change in the country. He declared that he was the ultimate authority in matters relating to the church. The Reformation was not a peaceful movement. There were decades of rebellions and open warfare, decimating nearly 40% of the German population as a result. The Reformation ended with Thirty Years War in 1648.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sierra on finding the love in MND

Finding the Love in MND (Sierra Miranda)

Louis Rhead. A Midsummer Night's Dream, Helena pursues Demetrius. Folger Shakespeare Library. (not after 1918)

Helena and Demetrius (2.1.188-244) 

In Act 2 Scene 1, Helena voices her unrequited love for Demetrius who loves Hermia. Demetrius continuously tells Helena that he does not want her, but Helena chooses to chase him. I have listed a few quotes from this scene.

I am your spaniel, and, Demetrius
The more you beat, me, I will fawn on you:
Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me,
Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,
Unworthy as I am, to follow you. 
What worser place can I beg in your love,--
And yet a place of high respect with me, --
Than to be used as your use your dog” (2.1.203-210).

It is not night when I do see your face.
Therefore I think I am not in the night,
Nor doth this wood lack worlds of company,
For you in my respect are all the world” (2.1.221-224)

It seems as though Helena is so overcome with her love for Demetrius that she would take maltreatment to continue on with him. This reminds me of the current concept that humans want what they cannot have. Demetrius makes it clear that she is not who he wants, but that has no effect on Helena’s feelings towards him. In today’s terms, Helena is desperate, thirsty, annoying, etc.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Andrew on Midsummer's Eve

                                      William Blake (1786)

Midsummer's Eve (Andrew Patterson)

Midsummer’s Eve is still a holiday that is celebrated but has been changed by Christianity, like Halloween and Christmas. It is of pagan origin and consists of people traveling out into the woods to drink, dance, and play games. In the time of Shakespeare it was illegal in several areas to participate in the festivities due to it being viewed pagan even after changing the name to St. John’s eve.
            Midsummer’s Eve was held for fertility and the harvest. Among the events was a maypole dance. It is still debated on whether or not the maypole is to meant to symbolize the male member, however it still brings it to mind for some. The disappearance of two couples in the Midsummer’s night dream and how they are married the next morning plays into a more literal interpretation of fertility.
            The consumption of alcohol could have similar effects to a love potion. It’s know that drinking occurred during the holiday even if looked down upon. The potion may not be ingested but it still causes people to care less about looks and be more reckless with themselves. Puck’s impression makes more sense to a set of impaired men who give chase despite it being the middle of night.   

Fyodor on the MND Intro

Greenblatt's MND Intro (Fyodor)

Greenblatt’s introduction notes that there’s a dark undercurrent to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, made of “emotional violence, masochism, the betrayal of friendship, the radical fickleness of desire.” He attributes this to the sexual politics present in the story, especially the struggle between men and women. Referencing one play we recently studied, Greenblatt says that here, as in Taming of the Shrew, the struggle is for male domination over women. This is seen best in the testy relationship between Oberon and Titania, with her independence and his attempts to curb it.
The friendships and love between the four young Athenians also succumb to this darkness, thanks to the faeries’ meddling and the ongoing power struggle between Oberon and Titania. The kids turn on one another, and this is usually dealt with in performance in one of two ways – a production can either focus on the comedy, making the insults come off as funny to the audience rather than cruel, or it can emphasize what Greenblatt calls “this play’s more troubling and discordant notes.” This darkness is contrasted with the play’s conclusion, where everything is fixed literally by magic. Greenblatt says that the final outcome doesn’t matter as much to us, the audience, as it does to the characters. Playing it as a lighthearted comedy easily makes us forget the dark things the characters have experienced.
I chose this picture, or rather typographic art, as an example of this underlying darkness. “Though she be but little, she is fierce” (Mid. 3.2.325) is frequently taken out of context. It isn’t a positive description of Hermia, it’s her now-former friend Helena attacking her: “Oh, when she is angry she is keen and shrewd. / She was a vixen when she went to school, / And though she be but little, she is fierce” (Mid. 3.2.323-325). This can easily be played for laughs, and people forget the context of “though she be but little...” but it’s an example of the havoc wreaked on people who were once friends.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Tara on Itallian Renaissance Architecture

Italian Arts & Architecture: Leon Battista Alberti & Lorenzo Ghiberti  (Tara Olivero)

                  (The “Adam and Eve” panel from the Gates of Paradise - Ghiberti, 1452)

Leon Battista Alberti

Leon Battista Alberti, born in 1404 in Genoa, Italy, was a humanist and a Renaissance man; he earned a doctorate in law, studied mathematics and natural sciences, became a playwright, and involved himself in painting and the arts, among other areas of interest. He entered minor holy orders in 1432 and served as a papal servant for most of the rest of his life, with his duties taking him around Italy. He composed a number of treatises, including Della Pittura (On Painting), De Sculptura (On Sculpture), and De re Aedificatoria (On Architecture). Originally published in Latin, Alberti translated Della Pittura and De re Aedificatoria into Italian and re-printed them for a larger circulation. Della Pittura served as an avenue to explain and teach about linear perspective, but it is Alberti’s treatise On Architecture, divided into ten books and officially published in 1485, which has had the greatest lasting impact.

Alberti became interested in architecture in the 1440s and, like Brunelleschi, appreciated and was inspired by ancient Roman architecture as well as the theories of Vitruvius. He also admired the achievements of contemporary architects from Florence, as well as the style of architecture that began emphasizing a more humanist outlook. According to On Architecture, all architecture in a city must work together in order for a city to be unified. Strength, utility, and beauty should be the most important components of architecture, and the harmony of a structure is dependent upon its proportions, which Alberti called concinnitas. This harmony should also mirror nature’s physical laws, as Brunelleschi and Vitruvius believed. Alberti also placed great significance on the use of columns as one of the principal ornamental, rather than structural, elements of architecture. Other popular elements of his designs included triumphal arches and temple fronts, (both inspired by Roman buildings), dim lighting, and windows placed higher up on the walls in order to inspire more pious thoughts through a view of the sky rather than the city. As an architect, Alberti did not concern himself with the execution of his designs but instead preferred to study and write about the theory of architecture. However, some of his creations do exist in physical format: he designed the architecture of the Church of Sant’Andrea in Mantua (1470) as well as the facades for the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimani (1450) and the Church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence (1470).

The latter is one of the greatest examples of Florentine Renaissance architecture. The medieval architecture of the Santa Maria Novella, a convent from the 1300s, already possessed some Gothic features in its building before Alberti added the facade. Mostly bare, the original facade included six tombs of noble citizens, which were immovable, as well as two immovable and arguably unattractive doors. Under Alberti’s design, these elements were harmonized with Renaissance design by enclosing the tombs with more rounded arches, and by replicating their green-and-white marbled pattern throughout the rest of the structure. A sense of harmony also shines through in the geometrical pattern, as the facade is covered with symmetrical geometrical shapes like circles, triangles, and squares, all of which were governed by simple proportions.

Ancient Greek and Roman elements are evident throughout the design: the upper level of the facade includes a temple front (columns holding up a triangular pediment) and the lower level is a form of triumphal arch (arches divided by columns). The facade’s lower level contains two larger pillars, between which sit four ornamental columns decorated with the family emblem of Giovanni Rucellai, the sponsor of the updated facade. There is a large arched portal between the two central columns. The astronomer and cartographer Ignazio Danti was commissioned for other ornamental components: the right side of the facade is a marble astronomical dial, and on the left is a bronze equinoctial armillary. The upper level contains four half-pillars and a large circular window, which was part of the original facade and was kept in Alberti’s design, brought into harmony by surrounding circular decorations. A triangle sits atop the wall, marked with the Dominican symbol of the sun. As a whole, the design of the facade is considered a masterpiece because it is aesthetically pleasing while also seamlessly merging medieval and Renaissance architectural elements.

Lorenzo Ghiberti

Born in Pelago, Italy, in 1378, Lorenzo Ghiberti trained in goldsmithing and painting in his youth. He quickly rose to prominence with his work in bronze, especially when he chose to submit designs for the northern doors of the Florence Baptistery (or Baptistery of St. John), a competition sponsored by the city of Florence in 1401. The two top contenders were Filippo Brunelleschi and Ghiberti. While Brunelleschi worked on his designs in secret, Ghiberti allowed any member of the public to visit his studio, see his work in progress, and give feedback. Because he was able to adjust his designs to suit popular demand, and because his bronze craftsmanship was superior to Brunelleschi’s, he won the commission. The 28 total panels of the doors, most of them focused on the life of Christ in the New Testament, were finished over twenty years later, in 1424.

They were such a success that Ghiberti was commissioned to design the doors for the east facade of the Baptistery, which were intended to portray the Old Testament. Ghiberti took 27 years to design and complete the 17-foot-tall eastern doors, which were scaled down from 28 panels to just 10 larger panels instead. In one, known as the “Adam and Eve” panel, Ghiberti combined four events from the Adam and Eve portions of the Bible into one singular panel. The size of the onlooking angels signifies the differentiation of the four events, as does the groupings of characters in different areas of the panel. Before Ghiberti’s work, the tradition was to only include one specific episode per artistic panel, so these panels significantly shifted the way that narratives could be told. In the “Jacob and Esau” panel, Ghiberti utilized a vanishing point, which was very much a Renaissance advancement, with this clear incorporation of perspective helping achieve greater realism of depth. The “David” panel, showing David battling Goliath, is also one of the more well-known panels.

In terms of craft and materials, bronze was more expensive than marble and far more difficult to cast. Ghiberti would use wax representations to create clay reliefs that he would then use to guide the bronze. Once the bronze panels were out of their molds, he was able to use his training as a goldsmith to hammer, carve, and polish the reliefs. To achieve a golden polish, he combined gold dust with mercury and painted the mixture across the finished reliefs. The panels were heated to burn off the mercury and leave only the gold, which was an incredibly dangerous method but, arguably, aesthetically effective. Most interestingly, when the doors were removed for conservation in the 1990s, conservators realized that the doors were each cast as a single three-ton piece of bronze, instead of creating smaller bronze pieces and molding them together. No one is quite sure how he managed to accomplish this feat, as he did not explain his technique in his autobiography.

The sides of the doors, along the edges of the panels, are framed by 20 prophets and 24 sculpted heads. The eastern doors were finally completed by 1452 and were later called the “Gates of Paradise” by Michelangelo. These doors, which brought realism, emotion, and artistic technique to the stories of the Bible, served as one of the lasting icons of Renaissance art.

Visual Presentation:


Additional Image Credits:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Zach on MND intro

Intro to A Midsummer Night's Dream (Zach Kieser)

The intro to A Midsummer Night’s Dream mentioned how many advanced rhetorical and literature techniques are used in the play. I wanted to define the ones that the intro mentions which are anaphora, anadiplosis, isocolon, and stichomythia. Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses. Shakespeare pokes fun at how badly people use this technique in Bottom’s unintentionally comedic speech in Act 5, Scene 1 where he says, “O night with hue so black \ O night, which ever art when day is not....” This speech also contains an example of the second technique, anadiplosis, which is the repetition of a word at the end of one clause and at the beginning of another. Shakespeare’s comedic example of this is when Bottom says, “O grim-looked night, O night with hue so black.” The anadiplosis is with the word “night” just as the anaphora was with the word “night”. Shakespeare does not always just mock literature techniques, though. He does seriously use isocolon, which is a figure of speech in which the sentence has two parts with equivalent structure, length, and rhythm. An example of this is in Act 1, Scene 1, when Hermia, declaring that she would rather be a virgin forever than marry Demetrius, says, “So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord.” “So live, so die” is isocolon since both phrases are exactly the same except for one word. Finally, an example of stichomythia, which is where two characters trade lines back and forth and thus create poetry together, occurs between Lysander and Hermia. As they are bemoaning the many obstacles to true lovers getting married, Shakespeare has them take turns saying lines of poetry. Overall, all these techniques reveal how Shakespeare was a master of literary techniques and when he chose to, could use a ton of them in a single play, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Romeo and Juliet.

Type: Watercolor
Year: 1870
Artist: John Simmons