Sunday, November 20, 2011

Info about "What Is Being?" Spring 2012

What Is Being?
Dr. Lori Landay

Ever wonder, "what IS being?"

This course, "What Is Being?" is a special opportunity for Berklee students to explore an age-old question in multiple ways: through reading touchstone texts of philosophy, literature, psychology, and other disciplines; through exploring of how the subtleties of being and seeming play out in performance; and by considering what is being in contemporary culture. It is funded by a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities, which pays for the students' books and tickets to plays, among other things. The class size is small (12) and the level of discussion is intense and interesting. We read into things. W look deeply. We keep asking questions and probably never really answer them fully. We'll read whole books and also parts of books, including a few choice sections from thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Erving Goffman, Heidegger, and Jean Baudrillard. You can shape your multimedia projects about topics that interest you. If you think you are interested in taking this course this semester, keep reading.

Course Description

The motto of Berklee College of Music is Esse quam videri, a phrase from Cicero’s essay “On Friendship,” which translates as “to be, rather than to seem.” The course “What is Being?” gives you the opportunity to focus and reflect upon the differences between seeming and being, and think deeply about existence, self, and image. Organized around three interrelated themes: seeming vs. being; performance on stage and in everyday life; and the power of images and illusion in contemporary culture, the seminar requires students to consider realworld issues by exploring in depth the great works of philosophy, literature and psychology. The course includes the reading and discussion of Plato’s Republic, Machiavelli’s The Prince, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities Enduring Questions grant, “What Is Being?” is a unique opportunity for serious seminar-style exploration of a foundational issue in human thought.

This course requires a commitment from the participants to:

attend class,

read the assigned material,

engage with the questions and ideas in multimedia and written assignments that will be turned in on time

attend at least one play (tickets provided by the NEH grant)

and participate fully in class discussion and activities.

Required Books

(to be provided free to students thanks to the National Endowment for the Humanities Enduring Questions Grant)

Plato. The Republic.

Machiavelli, Niccolò. The Prince

Wu, Ch’eng-en. Monkey: Folk Novel of China

de Cervantes, Miquel. Don Quixote. Campfire Graphic Novel adapted by Lloyd S. Wagner

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet.

Alcott, Louisa Man. Behind a Mask; or, A Woman’s Power

Larsen, Nella. Passing

The Performance Studies Reader (PSR)

NOTE: Readings may change slightly for Spring 2012, and we will read parts of other books than those listed here.

If you would like to sign up for LHUM P433, send a paragraph explaining your interest in the course to llanday at


Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon

Right away, this short story reminded me of Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is a strange thought to think that Victor couldn't realize that when he actually arrived to his destination, he didn't think it was real because the computer kept playing him the image in his head of arriving there. Is this kind of like watching a concert DVD and then going to see the band and not being as excited had you not seen the DVD? Tool (one of my favorite bands of all time) refuses to release DVDs because they believe it takes away from the concert experience. I want a Tool DVD soooo bad, but at the same time, I've only been to two of their concerts, and the experience was incredibly surreal. I will go see them again if they ever come around.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"To live is not to have the answers, it's about asking questions"

I think this quote is a great representation of the worry of Herbert Blau the author of "Virtually Yours: Presence, Liveness, Lessness". The concern is that information is too readily available on the internet. "In an age of information virtually everything to be known is out there on the net for the asking...Yet the more we ask, the more demoralized we may be" (541 Virtually Yours). I agree with this because children are "plugging in" more then ever and will continue to do so. The internet is a great tool but it shouldn't be a substitute for things that happen in real life. Also it is dangerous because the media has been moving its focus to the internet as well, ads and pop-ups are all over the place, TV media already impacts every person, now with it spreading to the internet it is nearly impossible to find an answer on the net with out being faced with an ad. Blau says that nearly everything we do has been predicted or facilitated by the media and it will only get worse as the internet situation grows, because it determines the answers we get.

Friday, April 15, 2011


I want to focus this post on Herbert Blau's reference to John Cage in his essay. Blau wrote "The beginning of the end could be said to have occurred in that ur-setting of theatricality, the anechoic chamber at Berkeley, in which, through the absence of other sound, Cage listened to his nerves and heart, then thought of himself listening. out of which came the performance, itself canonical now, of 4'33"-a silence lasting four minutes, thirty-three seconds." I had a pretty hard time understanding the way Blau wrote honestly, but I feel that just because something is a sound does not mean it is music. If his intent was to have each listener experience something different, then he succeeded. If he wanted to create music then I think he failed. To compare this to the beautiful works of classical music is upsetting to me. I hear a slight hum from the speakers I have on right now, and I hear my keyboard typing, but it is NOT music. It is not even close to evoking any emotion from me. By technicality and definition, maybe anything can be considered music, but that is a very idealist approach, and not everything is black and white like that. Especially music and performing arts. I love silence, and I appreciate a lot of things, and I think John Cage seems like a nice man, but when I heard 4'33", it was not music and what I saw was not a performance.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Darkness" by Lord Byron

Lord Byron writes about a world that we believe to be a place that is worse than hell. A place where the sun doesn't shine and where faith is no more. The poem was written in the summer of 1816 during the "Year Without a Summer". This time period was titled after the eruption of Mount Tambora casting enough ash in to the atmosphere to block out the sun and cause abnormal weather across much of northeast America and northern Europe. Lord Byron describes this place that seems to have lost all faith and live in a world of science. Maybe Lord Byron believes there is no G-D at all in this new, dark world. Byron also references a lot of Biblical items as well. He also mixes Biblical language with the apparent realities of science at the time.