2nd visit to bad Germany, part 1

Friends -- I’ve been writing about the German Democratic Republic (aka East Germany, aka "bad" Germany)  in the light of discussions about communism, Russians, the cold war, and most recently fascism and the connections to all of these things in this country. Here’s the first installment of my 2nd trip. By 1985, I had received … Continue reading 2nd visit to bad Germany, part 1

Reading the 18th Century, March 12, 2017. Rousseau redux: The Discourse on Inequality continued with some cool info on people who read him

  Hi everyone -- welcome back as we take a second look at this seminal piece of writing by Jean Jacques Rousseau. Last time, I talked about Rousseau's theory of humans in the state of nature. Now we'll take a quick look at some of his other ideas. Part 2 of the Discourse starts off … Continue reading Reading the 18th Century, March 12, 2017. Rousseau redux: The Discourse on Inequality continued with some cool info on people who read him

Reading the 18th Century, 12/29/16 — rehearsing the revolution: Friedrich Schiller’s The Robbers

Friends – I talked last time about one of my favorite German Enlightenment writers, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and his play about religious tolerance, Nathan the Wise. I mentioned that when we talk about German Enlightenment writing we see less of an immediate influence on American thinkers, because – as John Quincy Adams points out – … Continue reading Reading the 18th Century, 12/29/16 — rehearsing the revolution: Friedrich Schiller’s The Robbers

Reading the Enlightenment: Nathan the Wise and imagining religious interconnectedness

Friends – Last week I shared some thoughts about Jonathan Swift’s autobiographical poem and the connection of some its ideas to the attitudes expressed by the Founding Fathers and indeed to one of the sentiments expressed in the Declaration of Independence. This week, I want to share some insights about a play written in 1779, … Continue reading Reading the Enlightenment: Nathan the Wise and imagining religious interconnectedness

Self-deprecation and the gesture towards improvement: Why I love Jonathan Swift’s weird poem about his own death

I have no title to aspire Yet when you sink I seem the higher (Jonathan Swift, “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift” transcribed from memory). Friends – The above is a quote from my favorite 18th Century poem “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift,” written by Jonathan Swift himself and published in 1739. … Continue reading Self-deprecation and the gesture towards improvement: Why I love Jonathan Swift’s weird poem about his own death

When satire gets serious about human rights: Encountering CANDIDE

As I mentioned in my last blog post, my friend Kathy and I are struggling through a very boring book for French class at a fancy private school in 1969... Kathy has news for me about this book. “It’s got cutting off asses in it,” Kathy whispers to me at the library. “What?” I reply … Continue reading When satire gets serious about human rights: Encountering CANDIDE