Reading the 18th Century (and the 19th and the 21st), 01/23/17: From Schiller to Hugo to Rogue One and back again

Friends – In my last post I talked about the important work done by playwright/poet/historian Friedrich Schiller. As I mentioned last time, Schiller wrote frequently about rebels. Almost all his plays feature protagonists (sometimes a man, and sometimes a woman) who are frustrated with the status quo and who revolt against their society, for both … Continue reading Reading the 18th Century (and the 19th and the 21st), 01/23/17: From Schiller to Hugo to Rogue One and back again

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

me and the enlightenment 1 – 11/27/16

Friends of the unreal -- Well, here we are. The unreal is upon us, and has become fact. Barring a miracle, a surprising recount, an indictment, or an unforseen force majeure, Donald Trump ascends to the presidency. Alot is being said and has been said about the Founding Fathers, our "national character," "who we are," … Continue reading me and the enlightenment 1 – 11/27/16

keeping it real, just this once

Dear friends of the unreal -- I was preparing an inspiring post talking about 4 wonderful artists when the US elections happened. The final tally is in process, but it seems probable that Mr. Trump will become the presidential incumbent. One of the reasons I love magical realism is that this kind of writing allows … Continue reading keeping it real, just this once