Cahiers Péguy

7Jan/112

A Liberated Liberal Arts

Posted by Fred

(with apologies to Peter Maurin)

I'm for the liberated liberal arts not the monetized
and politicized liberal arts,
the virginal liberal arts, not the pandering liberal arts.
The humanities after all, belong to the humans and the humane.
Why should the university be the gatekeeper of the human?

In the university, students do not learn to connect
the particular to the whole, but instead
to regard each subject as the master of all the others
during class... and as an abstraction immediately afterward.

A bachelor of arts is a certified human;
a master of arts is a certified teacher;
a doctor of arts is a certified teacher of teachers;
but certification is not essential to the human.

What’s essential to the human person is
connection to the whole, establishing ties,
that is, religion.
Without religion, says Peter Maurin,
so-called education is:
“plenty of facts
but no understanding.”

Without religion,
universities are no longer the wardens of merit, but
the gatekeepers of mammon and power.
In their book Trust Agents, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith advocate
gatejumping for the sake of the human.
A gatejumper builds credibility
man to man — without the approval of gatekeepers.
Gatejumpers are not automatically worthy of trust
but at least they don’t rely on credentials
purchased with borrowed funds.

Is it just for students to complain
that the liberal arts are too pricey when they borrow
with the expectation of earning many times the amount?
Is it just for the university to train adjunct professors at costs
beyond what can be recovered?

If you want to be human,
learn the liberal arts at personal cost.
Read The Quiet Light as background to The
Divine Comedy
. Read Christopher Dawson
for a non-sanitized history. Fr. Giussani gave books
to his friend, Enzo Piccinini.
These books became Books of the Christian Spirit.
And Spirito Gentil is a classical music series
with notes from Fr. Giussani.

So on vacation, on lunch break, in the evenings,
and weekends, get together with friends to
learn appreciation for music and drama;
learn politics and philosophy and economics and
the sciences.
For Christ’s sake,
for humanity’s sake,
for yourself and your children,
and their children.

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1Jan/110

A Christmas Carol of Doctor Who: Review

Posted by Fred

"Doctor Who 'Christmas Carol': When Half-Spent Was the Night" IlSussidiario.net - The 2010 Christmas episode of the Doctor Who series was based on "A Christmas Carol" by Dickens. In this Christmas Carol change is caused by a love for beauty and sorrow at one’s own pettiness

In you video below, you can hear the beautiful voice of Katherine Jenkins from this holiday special:

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31Dec/100

The Meeting in Cairo

Posted by Fred


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Something happened in Cairo October 2010: a cultural event inspired by The Meeting in Rimini, as may be seen in the photo slideshow above. Davide Perillo describes the course of events in the #10 issue of Traces. Here's a snippet, but go read the whole account: "You Have Brightened Egypt"

The clear impression is that it is as if the very idea of 'dialogue between religions' has been swept away, leaving room for reality: people who are in dialogue precisely because they are religious–that is to say, zealous for the heart, for the question of meaning, for beauty. One distinguished man, unidentified, during a pause, began a discussion with Emilia Guarnieri: (the English is rather improbable, but the point gets through), 'You spoke of certainties and the fight against relativism; can you explain better?.' She explains, and he nods, and replies, saying something like: 'I understand. Whatever is an obstacle to man’s imagination is to be fought.' In his own way, he sounds like Fr. Giussani when he speaks of 'the category of possibility,' which keeps reason open to the Mystery. Another point made by an Egyptian friend and highlighted was: 'We are looking at things with your eyes.'

The final concert was an apotheosis of what we have in common and of what distinguishes us. The Schubert Trio and classical music inside the walls of Saladin’s Citadel: all eager to hear beauty (Brahms, Paganini, and Dvorak), many ready to acknowledge that it is only a relation of the other music, played by the Sama’a group the previous evening: Eastern chorales and polyphony entwined with 'our' melodies. They, too, are beautiful, but different, without that note of melancholy that echoes, so to speak, in the 2nd movement of Schubert’s Trio, presented as 'one of the pieces that Fr. Giussani loved most.' At this point, we realize how often that name has been quoted continually over these days, on the stage and off it, in both Italian and Arabic speeches, and how alive Fr. Giussani still is, present more than ever.

The editorial in the same issue of Traces notes the remarkable contours of this event:

"For two days, there were assemblies and exhibitions, a demonstration of earthly beauty as the basis for a dialogue, in an Islamic country. It was organized by Muslims, people who live their tradition deeply, but who were struck by a friendship with those who live Christianity deeply, making it flesh and blood–that is, culture."

Although I haven't seen The Meeting in Cairo or The Meeting in Rimini, I will have the opportunity to see the American edition of The Meeting: The New York Encounter. It's happening January 14-17. The presentations are free and open to the public — I hope to see you there!

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28Dec/105

Galassi’s Translation of Leopardi: Reviews

Posted by Fred

Canti by Giacomo Leopardi. Translated by Jonathan Galassi

Canti by Giacomo Leopardi. Translated by Jonathan Galassi

Reviews are out for the new English edition of Giacomo Leopardi's Canti, translated and annotated by Jonathan Galassi. When it comes to translating Leopardi, I recall that translator J.G. Nichols cited a warning from Leopardi himself: "Those foolish poets who, seeing that descriptions are pleasing in poetry, have reduced poetry to continual descriptions, have taken away the pleasure, and substituted boredom for it." Nichols noted that in English poetry is highly descriptive, so that's what readers expect and translators tend to deliver.

What do I want in a translation? Accuracy above all, but also an enrichment of English poetics. Having read Nichols's translations of Petrarch and Leopardi, I'm interested in the learning more about the relationship between the two Italian poets...

The poet Peter Campion reviews the new translation in the New York Times, acclaiming Galassi's balance between poetry and scholarship. Campion highlights Galassi's ability to communicate the beauty and originality of the original:

"The 41 poems in Leopardi’s collected 'Canti' are distinct, and beautiful, for dwelling on a threshold between feeling and thought, between the sensuous world and the mind, between presence and absence. [...] What makes Jonathan Galassi’s translation of Leopardi’s poetry so superb is that he understands, and renders, that delicate movement of thought and feeling."

The Washington Post's Michael Dirda calls Galassi's translation moving, summarizes the life and significance of Leopardi, and gives a helpful overview of the contents as an example of great publishing:

"Galassi's own rich edition of the 'Canti,' prefaced by a long introduction, Italian originals and his English translations on facing pages, an annotated timeline of Leopardi's life and a hundred pages of often-detailed textual commentary. The last is particularly valuable for its citations from Italian scholarship"

I'm especially intrigued that "Galassi underscores that Leopardi confronted and eventually transcended the overwhelming influence of Petrarch."

Helen Vendler, editor at The New Republic , highlights the pessimism of Leopardi and expresses disappointment at the plainness of the translation. Article is behind a subscriber wall, so you may find a copy at your local library (date is Dec 2, 2010).

The Wall Street Journal review finds that pessimism is not the complete story for Leopardi. Alluding to classicist D.S. Carne-Ross, Eric Ormsby finds that Leopardi goes beyond pessimism toward a tragic vision: "[Leopardi's] 'Canti' bow to the inevitable even as they sing out against it."

Like other reviews, perhaps setting the tone, the New Yorker focuses mainly on Leopardi's background and biography. An abstract of the review is online.

As many of the reviews note, a new translation of Leopardi into English is a major event, and an invitation to read this great poet. Another opportunity to deepen our appreciation for Leopardi will happen at the New York Encounter on Monday, January 17th. 10:30 am:

Giacomo Leopardi: Infinite Desire

A homage to the Italian poet on the occasion of the publication of his poems in the U.S. with speakers Jonathan Galassi, President and Publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Davide Rondoni, Author and Poet; and Joseph Weiler, University Professor at NYU School of Law.

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23Dec/100

Claudel’s: The Tidings Brought to Mary

Posted by Fred

“For a great play such as this one you try to get out of the way as much as possible, to let the play talk,” says Director Dobbins, though he adds that this is really no easy script to direct: “I just try to, as Shakespeare would say, ‘fit the word to the action and the action to the word.’ I have no concept on top of it; I just try to make my best attempt at understanding what Paul Claudel is doing and then I try to help my actors get that.”
The Hammerstein Ballroom has a huge and impressive stage, but Mr. Dobbins is considering that “the beauty of this play is in its simplicity.” He plans on creating a different, smaller stage where the actors will be much closer to the audience. “I just think that would set the absolute right mood,” explains Dobbins.
The Tidings Brought to Mary will be performed on Saturday, January 15th, at 8:00 pm, as one of the events of the 2011 New York Encounter. This production is a perfect, concrete example of manifesting our reality to the world, a perfect “stage” to set as the New York Encounter prepares to tackle the diverse and important subjects of science, reason, religion, the economy, literature, music, and much more with the awareness that a play like this, with Giussani’s help, brings to us. We urge everyone to read it and to attend the performance, to be confronted with the challenge of Catholic ideals, and to attend the whole of the New York Encounter with this desire to face it as an opportunity for all.
The Tidings Brought to Mary (Claudel)

The Tidings Brought to Mary (Claudel)

The Traces article on Claudel's play, The Tidings Brought to Mary, is online now: "The Design Seen in Tidings."  Here's a snippet:

“For a great play such as this one you try to get out of the way as much as possible, to let the play talk,” says Director Dobbins, though he adds that this is really no easy script to direct: “I just try to, as Shakespeare would say, ‘fit the word to the action and the action to the word.’ I have no concept on top of it; I just try to make my best attempt at understanding what Paul Claudel is doing and then I try to help my actors get that.”

The Hammerstein Ballroom has a huge and impressive stage, but Mr. Dobbins is considering that “the beauty of this play is in its simplicity.” He plans on creating a different, smaller stage where the actors will be much closer to the audience. “I just think that would set the absolute right mood,” explains Dobbins.

The Tidings Brought to Mary will be performed on Saturday, January 15th, at 8:00 pm, as one of the events of the 2011 New York Encounter. This production is a perfect, concrete example of manifesting our reality to the world, a perfect “stage” to set as the New York Encounter prepares to tackle the diverse and important subjects of science, reason, religion, the economy, literature, music, and much more with the awareness that a play like this, with Giussani’s help, brings to us. We urge everyone to read it and to attend the performance, to be confronted with the challenge of Catholic ideals, and to attend the whole of the New York Encounter with this desire to face it as an opportunity for all.

Ticket information for this special performance is available on the NYE Website:

http://www.newyorkencounter.org/schedule/2011/1/15/the-tidings-brought-to-mary.html

The New York Encounter also has a blog with information on all the events, exhibits, and presentations:

http://www.newyorkencounter.org/blog/

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