Monday, February 28, 2011


There is so much in this play--revenge, sanity and insanity, the genre of tragedy, family relationships,
doing and thinking, corruption and decay- but we are going to focus on two themes in particular: performance, and appearance vs. reality.

We are going to watch different film versions of the play, and compare performances, stagings, and interpretations, as well.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Performance, Being & Seeming

What do we mean by "performance?" As "performers" we know what it means to be on stage. We know that an action on stage is "performed" and the very same action offstage is "done." What is the difference?

There have been a lot of people thinking about this, from Shakespeare (and before) in Hamlet (which we turn to next week) to more recent thought including Goffman's ideas about the performance of everyday life, and the interdisciplinary field of "performance studies." Some useful ideas from performance studies that we can toss around include:

the definition of performance as any behavior consciously separated from the person doing it


the idea that all performance involves a consciousness of doubleness, an awareness that the performance is FOR someone.

*Further reading: Marvin Carlson's Performance: A Critical Introduction

NEXT WEEK: Hamlet!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Performance in Everyday Life--& in/of Don Quixote

What does Goffman mean by "performance?" To be "taken in" or "cynical?" By "setting" and "personal front?" To what does Goffman's perspective turn our focus?

As we explore Don Quixote in a range of manifestations--the Cervantes text, art, ballet, musical theater, in popular discourse, and in the documentary about Terry Gilliam's failure to make a film based on Quixote--let's think about how the concept of performance, and of being taken in or being cynical about one's own performance, or mask, connect to one of the famous lines from Cervantes' Don Quixote: “I know who I am, and who I may be, if I choose.”

Web "tour" about Don Quixote I suggest the text-based version.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Monkey King and Youth Appeal

Today we start exploring enduring characters and the questions they ask, ponder, and symbolize in culture(s) at different times and in different media--with Monkey. We've read excerpts from the classic Chinese novel, and we'll see how others have interpreted Monkey since the late 16th century when the novel was published.

The Monkey King and Youth Appeal

MFA 3d animation thesis

BUDDHISM: Dipping our toes into another way of looking at Being

Foundations and Transformations of Buddhism: An Overview
John M. Koller

Central Teachings: The Noble Fourfold Truth and the Noble Eightfold Path

After attaining enlightenment, the Buddha presented the central teaching of Buddhism as the Noble Fourfold Truth. The four parts are:

  • Life as it is usually lived is profoundly unsatisfactory and full of suffering ( duhkha ).
  • The Buddha saw that suffering arises because of ignorance about existence, an existence that is dynamic and ever-changing, consisting of interrelated processes. If the very nature of everything that exists is to be continuously changing and if everything that exists is interrelated and interdependent, then the human craving for permanence, separateness, and independence will be inevitably frustrating.
  • Overcoming the craving for a separate and permanent existence will eliminate suffering.
  • The fourth part offers a way of practice that can eliminate the ignorance and selfish grasping that causes suffering : the Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path consists in wisdom (namely the acquisition of right views and wholesome intentions), virtuous living (right speech, right actions, and right livelihood), and meditative insight achieved by right effort, mindfulness, and concentration. Therefore the eight parts are:

  1. Right views
  2. Right or wholesome intentions
  3. Right speech
  4. Right actions
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Timeline: Putting it all together (so far, and then some)

To help you understand what we've been reading/will read and talking about in a historical context, here is a timeline. Some dates are approximates, because we don't know exactly when some of the works were published.

c. 380 B.C. Plato, The Republic
1532 Machiavelli, The Prince
1590s Wu Ch'eng-en, Monkey (also known as Journey to the West)
1605 Cervantes, Don Quixote Part 1
1615 Cervantes, Don Quixote Part 2
1599-1601 Shakespeare, Hamlet

Some other things happening 1500-1600ish (mid-Renaissance into the Baroque period in classical music)

1503-19 Leonardo da Vinci paints Mona Lisa
1522 Magellan's ship circumnavigates world
1536-41 Michelangelo paints the Sistine Chapel
1543 Copernicus publishes On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, his theory that the earth revolves around the Sun; Andreas Vesalius publishes On the Fabric of the Human Body (considered the start of the "Scientific Revolution")
1558 Queen Elizabeth II's rule begins (until 1603)
1565 St. Augustine established by Spanish in Florida, 1st European town in what becomes United States
1587 Sir Walter Raleigh founds 1st English colony in North America in North Carolina
1590 Galileo Galilei experiments with falling objects
1610 Galileo sees moons of Jupiter through his telescope, confirms Copernicus
1619 First African slaves brought to Jamestown (est. 1606)
1620 Mayflower lands at Plymouth, bearing Pilgrims!
1630 Boston founded
1631 Taj Mahal begins to be built in India
1633 Spanish Inquisition forces Galileo to recant
1644 Descartes publishes Principles of Philosophy
1664 Isaac Newton experiments with gravity

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Case for Seeming Over Being: Machiavelli

Machiavelli's view of goodness in context: "A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good" (63).

Ch. 18: Machiavelli uses the mythic example of Chiron, the centaur, and the animals of the lion and the fox to illustrate some of the ways a prince must act.

Ultimately, and most importantly for our focus, he concludes:

"It is not, therefore, necessary for a prince to have all the above-named qualities, but it is very necessary to seem to have them" (73).

Ch. 23: Echoing Cicero's warning against flatterers, Machiavelli picks up the question, really, of friendship, and to whom a prince should listen to for counsel.