Much has been written about Surrealist painting and sculpture, but most of the erotic, disorienting and exquisite Surrealist photographs of Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Brassai, Salvador Dali, Andre Kertesz and Hans Bellmer have remained all but unknown – until now. Traditional criticism has viewed Surrealist photography as a pale imitation of authentic Surrealist work. The assumption has been that photography, a “realistic” medium, is fundamentally incompatatible with a cause devoted to the wildly subjective, the world of dreams and the unconscious. As a consequence, Surrealist photography, a major body of 20-century art, has remained largely unexplored. L’Amour Fou studies the crucial role photography played in the Surrealist movement. It shows how photographers enlisted into the service of “subjective” Surrealism their medium’s very claim to “objective” reality. Of greatest interest, of course, is the book’s abundant reproductions of the fantastic and distorted photographic creations that must be acknowledged as an important part of the Surrealist oeuvre.

And for lovers of realism at any price, who would tire of these perpetual allusions to secret and unusual attitudes of the mind, there is still the eminently realistic performance of the double who is terrified by these apparitions from the beyond.  These tremblings, this childish yelping, this heel that strikes the ground rhythmically in time to the mechanism of the liberated unconscious, this double who at a certain point hides behind its own reality, offers us a portrayal of fear which is valid in every latitude and which shows us that in the human as well as the superhuman the Orientals have something to teach us in matters of reality.

A kind of terror grips us as we contemplate these mechanized beings, whose joys and sorrows do not really seem to belong to them but rather to obey established rites that were dictated by higher intelligences.  . . . And it is the solemnity of the sacred rite–the hieratic quality of the costumes give each actor something like a double body, a double set of limbs–and the actor stiffly encased in his costume seems only the effigy of himself.

There is something umbilical, something larval in their movements.  At the same time one must note the hieroglyphic aspect of their costumes, whose horizontal lines and segments extend beyond the body in all directions.  They are like huge insects covered with lines and segments designed to connect them to some natural perspective of which they seem to be no more than a detached geometry.

One senses in the Balinese Theater a pre-verbal state, a state which can choose its own language: music, gestures, movements, words.

And beyond the Warrior, bristling from the formidable cosmic tempest, is the Double, who struts about indulging in the childishness of his schoolboy sarcasms, and who, roused by the afteraffects of the surging storm, moves unaware through charms of which he has understood nothing.

–Antonin Artaud, “The Theater and Its Double”

That photography is a function of doubling–not only does it ‘mirror’ its object but, technically, its prints exist as multiples–made it a perfect vehicle for Surrealism, which exploited this aspect in its use of double exposures, sandwich printing, juxtapositions of negative and positive prints of the same image, and montaged doubles to produce this sense of world redoubled as sign.  The first issue of La Révolution surréaliste carried several photographs by Man Ray in which doubling was at work.

But doubling, as was pointed out, has a certain psychoanalytic content, one aspect of which Freud discusses in his essay “The Uncanny” (1919).  Ghosts, the very stuff of uncanniness, are doubles of the living; and it is when live bodies are redoubled by lifeless ones–as in the case of automata or robots, sometimes with dolls, or people in states of seizure–that they take on the uncanniness of ghosts.  That doubles should produce this condition is due, Freud explains, to the return of early states of dread.  One of these derives from infantile feelings of omnipotence, in which the child believes itself able to project its control into the surrounding world only to find, however, these doubles of itself turning round to threaten and attack it.  Another is castration anxiety, in which, similarly, the threat takes the form of ones phallic double.  More generally, Freud says, anything that reminds us of our inner compulsion to repeat will strike us as uncanny.

–Rosalind Krauss, Art Since 1900



MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS: They will be used for their qualities as objects and as part of the set. Also, the need to act directly and profoundly upon the sensibility through the sense organs invites research, from the point of view of sound, into qualities and vibrations of sounds to which we are absolutely unaccustomed, qualities which contemporary musical instruments do not possess and which compel us to revive ancient and forgotten instruments or to create new ones. They also compel research, beyond the domain of music, into instruments and devices which, because they are made from special combinations or new alloys of metals, can achieve a new diapason of the octave and produce intolerable or ear-shattering sounds or noises.

SPECTACLE: The idea of total spectacle must be revived. The problem is to make space speak, to enrich and furnish it; like mines laid in the wall of flat rocks which suddenly give birth to geysers and bouquets.

CRUELTY: Without an element of cruelty at the foundation of every spectacle, the theater is not possible. In the state of degeneration, in which we live, it is through the skin that metaphysics will be made to enter our minds.

–Antonin Artaud, The Theater and Its Double

Against Bourgeois Costumes

Posted: April 6, 2020 in Uncategorized


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Immerse yourself in the creative explosion that was the Ballets Russes (Russian Ballet). Ballets Russes: the art of costume includes costumes by Natalia Goncharova, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, André Derain, Georges Braque, André Masson and Giorgio de Chirico. The vivid and innovative dance design of the early 20th century is brought to life through 150 costumes and accessories from 34 productions from 1909 to 1939; one third of the costumes have not been seen since they were last worn on stage. The exhibition also features photographs, film, music, artists’ drawings and more.

(click images to see excellent website)

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The Ballets Russes Showcased Some of Picasso’s and Matisse’s
Most Experimental Work

The Doors were an American rock band formed in 1965 in Los Angeles, with vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and John Densmore on drums. The band got its name, at Morrison’s suggestion from the title of Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, which itself was a reference to a quote made by William Blake, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” They were unique and among the most controversial and influential rock acts of the 1960s, mostly because of Morrison’s lyrics and charismatic but unpredictable stage persona.

Offhanded admiration from Antonin Artaud:

Go on behaving like snobs, flocking to hear some singer or other, some admirable performance which does not go beyond the realm of art (and even the Ballets Russes, at the height of their glory, never went beyond the realm of art).

There is no film footage of  Vaslav Nijinsky available, so far as I know. So, you’ll just have to settle for this video of Ekaterina Kondaurova, of the Mariinsky Ballet. Bummer. Not.

Anyone, interested in how theater design, in particular that of the Russian Ballet, and Surrealism destroyed Pablo PIcasso? If so, this is the book for you.

Trisha Brown re-shaped the landscape of modern dance with her game-changing and boundary-defying choreography and visual art. [Art historian] Susan Rosenberg uncovers the importance of composer John Cage‘s ideas and methods to understand Brown’s contributions.

“In this overarching, finely detailed book, Susan Rosenberg situates Trisha Brown’s evanescent choreography among the painters and sculptors who were her muses and colleagues. An insightful and enlightening translator, Rosenberg connects the mercurial body to the incisive mind, so that we can read Brown’s work, and see her thought.”

—Nancy Dalva, Merce Cunningham Trust Scholar in Residence

Working On The Final Paper

Posted: April 5, 2020 in Uncategorized

Here’s an example of sound thinking and planning by one of your peers. I’m very encouraged by the direction in which this project is heading. Please feel free to check in with me about your own ideas and questions on the final. I’m always here for you!

Dear Student,

Brecht on radio sounds like a great topic for your final. Sure, the text is brief. But that will offer the advantage of helping you keep your thesis focused. More to the point, it will allow you to do exactly what the prompt asks, which is to offer sound advice to students who now have access to education only via modern media technologies.

We communicated earlier, if memory serves, about Brecht’s thoughts on theater and education. What I didn’t mention is that, in addition to stage plays (such as the Life of Galileo, which deals with optical technologies), Brecht also wrote a number of radio plays (for instance, The Flight of Lindbergh), all of which were meant to be pedagogical. Not that you need to look these up or reference them. But it might help you to know they are out there.

What will be essential for you to consider as you write is Brecht’s notion of pedagogy, which I am certain you already understand. Education, for Brecht, is not the frictionless transfer of neutral information, but it is rather the posing of provocative questions or puzzles which the audience/student is left to answer or solve for herself. I’m sure you can produce a great paper on this topic, one I suspect you will actually enjoy writing.

Feel free to check in with me as you start to draw up more specific ideas. I’m busy here doing a lot of typing and reading, but it’s not as though I have anywhere to go. I very much look forward to seeing what you develop.

That’s it for now. I hope you are well. I’m so glad and encouraged to see you sticking with this course, which has – as it seems we are both discovering – turned out to be far more relevant than either of us could have imagined a month ago. Let’s try to make the best we can out of these circumstances. Good luck to you as you continue forward!

Brian K.

Vulnerable Students

Students, parents and teachers all face challenges adjusting to remote learning, as schools nationwide have been closed and online learning has begun.

Some experts are concerned that students at home, especially those living in unstable environments or poverty, will miss more assignments. High school students who miss at least three days a month are seven times more likely to drop out before graduating and, as a result, live nine years less than their peers, according to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report.

Among the most vulnerable: the more than 6 million special education students across the United States. Without rigorous schooling and therapy, these students face a lifetime of challenges.

Brave New Land of The Free!

Posted: April 4, 2020 in Uncategorized

I right now find myself watching this landmark 1986 film, Home of The Brave, by performance artist Laurie Anderson. It is right up there with Talking Heads‘ Stop Making Sense. It occurs to me as sit here that this is a sterling example of the kind of “Theatricality” Michael Fried found so objectionable, so unremittingly as war with high art and culture. This is postmodernism in its ‘purist’ form. I can’t imagine a better time than now to look back and the end of modernity, the beginning of our own times.

Any comments on whether or not this performance draws upon the thoughts of Brecht? What about Artaud? I’d love to hear from you.

p.s. Here’s Stop Making Sense.

Dear Students,

Here are some remarks I just wrote one of your peers. Perhaps they will help the rest of you both understand Brecht a bit better, and also begin reflecting on a possible topic for your final paper. I do hope so!

As you know, the focus now is on writing a good final. Under these conditions, I can now, less than ever, expect perfection from anyone. So, rather than worry about how this assignment might hurt you, instead consider the ways that writing it might personally help you. Remember, the prompt is to offer advice to your peers suited to the present moment. It doesn’t seem it would be helpful to admonish students (many of whom are flipping out!) to worry even more than they already are. So, why not take that piece of advice to heart yourself. Just relax and use this assignment as an opportunity to reflect, with the help of one reading, on what matters most now, or one one thing would can learn from the present situation. If you can demonstrate that you actually dedicated yourself to the assignment for a few hours and came out of it having seen one thing that was either new or genuinely helpful, that will be all I could possibly expect at this moment.

As for essay topics, Brecht and Artaud would be fine choices. They can be tricky, but so was virtually everyone else this semester. Meanwhile, Brecht and Artaud are still new and fresh in your mind, and they actually do say things that are relevant to our current situation.

Brecht, for instance, believes that the imperative to create characters to whom the audience can relate, which is so important to Aristotle, is in actual fact highly problematic. We may attend a play or film and get totally caught up in, ‘absorbed’ by, the lead’s impending fate. Consequently, we end up sitting there, passively feeling, but never critically thinking. Genius intellectual though he was, Aristotle did not believe theater was supposed to teach us anything, much less teach us how to teach ourselves; rather, the point of tragedy, for him, is simply to manage our emotions for us, because we are capable of doing it for ourselves. Simply put, Aristotelian tragedy, for Brecht, is highly manipulative, patronizing.

Meanwhile, Brecht wanted theater to be liberating, indeed revolutionary – which is precisely what landed him in from of Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee, as seen above. Brecht emphatically does want theater to teach us, but certainly never in any patronizing manner. Theater, though educational, should be the very opposite of ideological indoctrination. Theater should not simply feed us information we are expected blindly to accept, but it should teach us how to become our own teachers, how to analyze and judge for ourselves, how control our own responses.

Brecht will try to achieve such a liberating form of theater by deliberately and carefully employing various devices (today, we might called them ‘glitches‘):

1) fractured plot
2) inconsistent character
3) the bold advertisement of absurd thoughts and questionable values (i.e., vices)
4) non-sequitor and nonsense dialogue and lyrics
5) awkward (‘bad’) speaking, singing, melody
6) deliberate exploitation of ‘deus ex machina’ to exposure of the stagecraft used to generate spectacle (ropes, scrims, lights, noise generators, etc.)

As you must be able to recognize, the six items listed above are ways Brecht strategically subverts Aristotle’s view of theater, ways Brecht interrupts, frustrates the dramatic unity Aristotle thought so essential to drama. Brecht does this deliberately to distance or ‘alienate’ his audience. The point is to prevent the audience from becoming absorbed in the action, or strategically to allow for absorption only to rudely or hilariously interrupt it. For Brecht, such provocations, such jolts, such ‘mistakes’, can be some of the most powerful and instructive aspects of a dramatic performance.

And yet we seem always to expect and prioritize seamless continuity. But is life always, or ever like that? Does life seem like an uninterrupted flow of foreseeable and meaningful events to your right now? Maybe the smooth continuity of everyday life has always been just an insidiously crafted illusion? Further, perhaps it is possible to use planned failures within a dramatic performance as a means of revealing all the hidden labor (i.e., exploited labor) whose very invisibility allows a production to appear as a commodity – a manufactured object or experience designed to appear natural, and whose only value would seem to be the price of admission. With all this in mind, what then might be the value of ‘glitchy’, Epic Theater? What might we learn from it?

If nothing else, this kind of deliberately fragmented Epic theater might teach us how easily we can be fooled, hypnotized and manipulated, by stagecraft; i.e., modern media technologies. On the other hand, Epic theater might, on the other hand, also show us how the shrewd use of media technologies might be directed toward liberating, revolutionary ends. What if we take the assertion “The spectator and not the actor is the central focus of Brecht’s stagecraft,” and substitute the word student for spectator, the word teacher for actor?

Let me then ask you if you can see how, at this very moment, all this might pertain to students who are suddenly and unexpectedly told they must switch from live face-to-face instruction to the exclusive use of emails, websites, and videos exclusively – what we now call ‘distance learning‘? Yes, distance learning is much harder, more glitchy, more alienating. But does that mean it’s necessarily a total wash and we should just give up on teaching and learning right now? Is it possible to make the best out of our current quarantined and alientated state, actually learning something important from it? That’s an example of the kind of topic you might consider for your final. Thinking along these lines, what one piece of advice might you – if called upon to do so – email to your fellow students?

Well, this is just me riffing off the top of my head. You’ve got a whole month to dream up your own topic and write a paper that feels more ‘you’. I’m certain you can do that. The paper will be due on April 30th. You are always welcome to check in with me before then. Good luck!

In writing to at least a few of you, I’ve mentioned that one of Brecht’s most popular and respected plays is the Life of Galileo. If Brecht is indeed interested in modernity and its use of technologies powerfully to disrupt our vision of the world, to reveal the ‘reality’ we take for granted to be an artificial and oppressive illusion, why might he then want to turn his attention to a cranky old man who died 400 years ago?

Any thoughts?

“GALILEO: I won’t compromise my esthetic.” –Bertold Brecht

“Nigra sum sed formosa.” (dazzled by darkness)



• Optical Distortions and Magnifications
• Saturated Color
• Extremes of Contouring, Modeling and Texture
• Intense Directional Light Source
• Hyperbolic Ascents and Abysses of Consciousness and Sensation
• Sudden Reversals of Value



What do you notice when we place Galileo’s sepia washes alongside Georges de Latour‘s paintings of St. Joseph and the boy Jesus or the angel Gabriel? Can you see the resemblance between the aspects of the Moon and the heads of the painted figures? In both Galileo’s cosmos and Latour’s visual world, a single internal light source creates deep shadows and dazzling highlights, and reveals a variety of curious surface irregularities.

Ideally, it is possible to elude the interpreters in another way, by making works of art whose surface is so unified and clean, whose momentum is so rapid, whose address is so direct that the work can be . . . just what it is. Is this possible now? It does happen in films, I believe. This is why cinema is the most alive, the most exciting, the most important of all art forms right now. Perhaps the way one tells how alive a particular art form is, is by the latitude it gives for making mistakes in it, and still being good.

– Susan Sontag

There is, however, one art that, by its very nature, escapes theater entirely–the movies. This helps explain why movies in generally, including frankly appalling ones, are acceptable to modernist sensibility, whereas all but the most successful painting, sculpture, music, and poetry is not. Because cinema escapes theater–automatically, as it were–it provides a welcome and absorbing refuge to sensibilities at war with theater and theatricality. At the same time, the automatic, guaranteed character of the refuge–more accurately, the fact that was is provided is a refuge from theater and not a triumph over it, absorption not conviction–means that the cinema, even at its most experimental, is not modernist art.

– Michael Fried


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Dear Students,

Comments on the blog have been minimal over the last few weeks. Nor have I heard from more than a handful of you via email. I will take this as evidence that most of you are more concerned about recent and developing events than your grades, or perhaps you’re simply on an extended vacation. That’s your personal choice, as we all have our priorities, especially at times such as this.

However, it would be wise to remind yourself that I am officially obligated by the university to give you a grade, just as I would at the end of any semester. Please chime in with your thoughts on these matters, including the content of this post, especially if you plan to take a grade in this class. I can’t force you to do anything at this point – as if I ever could. I’m just here to help you as best and can. Again, I am obligated to give you some sort of grade at the end of the semester. Keep that in mind and manage yourself accordingly. Best wishes to you all!

In my last post, I discussed Aristotle in general, his overall view of tragedy, and the importance of a unified plot. Now I will move on to the other elements of tragedy.

Character: The main character of tragedy is an individual who gets caught up in a serious conflict, or ‘agon‘, hence the term ‘protagonist’ for him or her, and ‘antogonist’ for their rival. Tragedy heroes need to be good persons. By this Aristotle does not mean morally good in any Christian sense. Rather, he means they must be born well, in good social standing, possessed of friends and influence, etc. In a word, they must be ‘noble’. Mch as been made of the hero’s ‘hamartia’, the so-called tragic flaw. Most persons assume it is this flaw which leads the the hero’s downfall, or ‘catastrophe’. However, Aristotle never says this. Rather, he says the hero needs a flaw so that he will not seem to be anything more than human. If we seems godlike or immune to all fault or harm, there is not possibility for us to identify with him, to care about his ultimate fate. And this will seriously weaken the overall effect of tragedy, which is to to stir up powerful emotions in the audience.

The audience is supposed, if tragedy is well-wrought to feel intense pity through out the drama, to feel a mounting sense of suspense and anxiety as the hero comes closer and closer to his foreseeable demise. We pity the hero for the horrifying ruin his life will become, and we fear that the same could happen to us, because he is a man, or a woman, just like us.

Thought: Thought or idea, may seem to students to refer to the moral of the story, the ‘big ideas’ which tragedy wants to convey to the audience. Once again, this is a popular misconception. Aristotle never says anything about tragedy and lessons designed to make you a wiser person. Thought, to my mind, simply refers to the conflict values between which the hero must choose: Which do I value more, my country or my family? my family or my church? my relationship or my grades? Ect. Though we’d like to have it both ways, the hero will be thrown into a difficult circumstance in which is is force to pick one entirely over the other.

Diction: This is way the characters’ values, as we cannot see directly into their heads, comes out in spoken form.

Melody: This refers principally to the poetic language, the memorable turns of phrase, the striking verbal images, the rhymes and rhythms which make diction striking and memorable. It also refers to actual songs sung and played on musical instruments.

Spectacle: Interestingly, the last of Aristotle’s components of tragedy, which is to say the least important of them, is the one we consider most important – spectacle. By spectacle, Aristotle means ‘optics’, or anything which strikes the eye. The would be sets, costumes, masks, and, so fascinating to us, special effects. While Aristotle believes special effects, and visuals in general, can be helpful, the are the thing least essential to tragedy.

Do you agree with Aristotle’s hierarchy of elements? Is plot really that important? Why does Aristotle believe spectacle is so unimportant? Do you agree with Aristotle’s hierarchy? Which of these six components if most important to you?

Finally, what is the point to all this? Aristotle says all this must have a final cause, a purpose for which they exist the way they do? If the point of tragedy, for Aristotle, is not to teach us a moral lesson, and if it is neither simply to entertain us (as spectacle is the least of tragedy’s components), why does tragedy exist at all? What is it for?

Lots of material here to keep your brain and soul free and active under lockdown. Check it out!

Thoughts On Aristotle

Posted: March 28, 2020 in Uncategorized

As if our world hadn’t become confusing enough already, yesterday’s earthquake threw yet another rock at our collective head. Consequently, for those of you who are even trying to do school at all any more (I have no doubt my students will simply disappear), I’m not sure what you have are haven’t read for today. I will cover both Aristotle and Vernant here today as best I can. Feel free to chime in as you like once my thoughts appear in this post later today. If we can get through both these text by the wend of this week, then we can simply watch videos of two different tragedies for our homework next week. Hang tight while I collect my thought and post them here. I hope everybody has decompressed a bit after yesterday’s events. Take care!


OK, Aristotle, a renegade disciple of Plato, is the first of what we call the ‘analytical’ philosophers. As many of you have remarked, Aristotle meticulously broke tragedy down into its constituent part, then showed how each fit together with all the others to form a functional whole. This is not something Aristotle reserved for tragedy alone, but he applied this analytic method to all the various phenomena, natural and artificial, which he saw around him. For Aristotle, things did not simply exist, but rather everything existed for a reason. Everything had to have a cause, or it wouldn’t exist a all. His famous doctrine of the cause argues that everything which exists – which the sole exception of God – requires the four causes or conditions to be met: material (what a thing is made of), formal (the shape of a thing), effcient (the act of shaping the thing, final (the reason it was shaped in the first place). Consider a simple tool. A pencil is made of wood and graphite, which allows one to make a mark without staining one’s fingers; shaped as a long and thin stylus for ease of grasping it; created through a mechanical process of fixing graphite dust in a plastic or resin medium and gluing a grip around the graphite; and used in order to takes notes and aid one’s finite memory.

But does the world really work as simply and linearly as Aristotle would like to believe?

Tragedy, which did exist in Aristotle’s day, had, because it exists, to meet all four of these identifiable conditions. Poetics, which merely means ‘to make’, is simply a description and instruction of the production of tragedies. It’s is a recipe. Further, the recipe, as it is rational description of how tragedies must be to function well, can also be used as a set of criteria for judging better or worse tragedies. Though today we claim all things are equal, declare all preferences are subjective, and insist no one has the right to say what is better than something else; Aristotle simply did not believe our current liberal cant. He had preferences, he created hierarchies, and believed he could demonstrate, though a technique he vastly and systematically expanded and improved, that he called “logic”, which assertions and arguments were necessarily true, which were undeniably also, and which were merely possible or probable.

Do you believe that the world works logically, in ways we can capture in language and proofs? Or is the world irrational and full of contingencies and absurdities, instances of sheer coincidence and accident that happen for no reason whatsoever?

Aristotle begins with the origins of tragedy anthropologically and historical. Tragedy comes about because humans have an innate appreciation for mimesis, imitation. We like to see imitations, and we like to make imitations – so much so that even representations of ugly and disgusting things give us at least a certain amount of pleasure. But historically, tragedy originates from earlier rituals and mimed performances. Aristotle refers to these a Priapic rituals and satyr plays. Simply, he’s talking about fertility cults, and probably hunting cults too, in which persons re- or pre-enacted powerful actions in order to gear up to perform them for real. This fine, but it’s irrational and not especially artful.

Do you believe people like horrible representation because they are representations, or is it rather than some representations are intriguing to us because of the horrifying content? Does everybody respond the same way to imitations? Are the in fact certain persons who have no interest in imitation whatsoever?

More advanced is epic, which strings together a lengthy narrative around the adventures of a some hero, say, Odysseus. For Aristotle, this form of literature is superior to satyr plays, because it is unified by a single narrative voice (say, that of Homer), and by sustained appearance of the main character. However, the individual adventures of the hero (epoi) are set in an arbitrary order. I makes no difference whether Odysseus meets the Cyclops or the cattle of the Sun, or the Lotus Eaters, or anyone else first. You could just as easily tell the same story in a different sequence, so long as Odysseus final made it home. Therefore, the unity of epic, when there, feels both incidental and imposed from without.

But do all epics really work this way? What evidence could you enlist to answer this question?

When we get to tragedy however, the sequence of events in the story, or plot, work to gather in such a way that the slowly and inexorably lead to a probable result, a foreseeable conclusion. Consequently, tragedy, because of this consistency and coherence, is greater than epic. Though tragedy has multiple components (plot, character, thought, diction, melody, spectacle), Aristotle, hierarchizing as always, will declare that plot is the very ‘soul of tragedy’. To botch the plot is to destroy the whole enterprises. The most important part of plot it is be a rational progression of events – with a beginning, middle, and end – one leading foreseeably into he next. Further, a plot must be unified. A plot – while subject to discoveries and reversals of fortune – cannot permit suddenly wild swings of directions, heading first toward one foreseeable conclusion but then suddenly veering off to another. Additionally, a plot must have unity of time and place. A plot can begin on one side of the Aagean in the morning and end up on the other side by late afternoon. And again, a plot shouldn’t show a guilty man coming to a good end, nor should it show an innocent man coming to a bad end, but it must only show a guilty man coming to a bad end, which we call ‘poetic justice’. Finally, the very worst thing you can do to spoil is to employ the so-called “deus ex machina” ending; a write most not allow for any sudden and unexpected intervention into the plot of external forces, someone or something swooping in from out of nowhere to change the ultimate course of events.

Why is this predictability so important? Why is unity of action, time, and place, absolutely essential here? Why is it so important to show only guilty men coming to bad ends? Why is a “deus ex machina” ending such a bad thing?

(More to come.)

Holycrap. Tune in for the sake of hope, sanity, and, survival!

Everybody Loves Estro-Jen!

Posted: March 26, 2020 in Uncategorized

Here’s Some Inspiration From A Better Time Than Now

Dear Students,

You have some important decisions ahead of you with regard to your potential grade options for this semester. I’ve been meaning to discuss this matter with you for a few days now, but I felt it best to postpone this conversation until after I had furnished the prompt for your final – something the attentive among you will already have seen.

Below is a link the the university’s current official policies regarding credit/no-credit and pass/fail options for this semester. Please read your options carefully and choose wisely, as I remain professionally obligated to grade this course in a way which meets the university’s standards for accreditation. Please note, I am not an academic advisor, and so I’m not the best source to consult with regard to how this decision will affect your GPA or general academic standing. It would be best, if you have questions on these matters, directly to consult your actual academic advisor. I strongly recommend that.

However, I am your professor, and in that capacity I will gladly consult with anyone regarding their final paper, on which your overall grade will largely depend. Please feel free to stay in touch with me. I am here for you.

Best wishes!
Brian K.

I Wanna Go Back!

Posted: March 25, 2020 in Uncategorized

If You Don’t Feel This Song Right Now, Who The Heck Are You?

~ Dear Students,

You don’t like how things are going now? What would you say if you held the microphone?

In this current time of crisis, affecting us all bodily, mentally, and economically, public speech has become, more than ever, a powerful force, either unifying or dividing us as a nation, either keeping us individually or collectively safe and secure, or throwing us in the path of misery or death.

In this assignment you will develop and present an argument in the form of personal/public statement that Honors might send to students struggling to make sense and negotiate ‘contingency college’. What would you say if the Dean of Honors asked you to offer advice to your peers at the present moment?

It has not been a long time – though it certainly seems like it – since we were living under relatively normal conditions. However, over the last few to several weeks, and especially over the day or so, you will no doubt have learned many things, about Honors values in specific, and human values in general. Many of your earlier assumptions about what matters most in college, and in life, will suddenly have come to seem obsolete and absurd to you. Meanwhile, you will have, over the last weeks and days, discovered a number of things you wish you had known before entering into quarantine.

In a ten-page personal statement/public address (i.e., the very thing we’re now seeing all over the media in this current state of crisis), please share one piece of wisdom – drawn from an assigned reading – with persons who are now having to make sense of attending college in the time of social distancing. Say something that will help them orient themselves more successfully within this new and strange paradigm. What advice, if called to that duty, would you offer to your fellow students? What concept, attitude, practice, or sensibility would you recommend to them? Or, what harmful habit or attitude might you discourage?

The consideration of these matters, as well as appropriately responding to them, is the very heart and soul of the art known as rhetoric, public speaking, or indeed statesmanship. In our current state of emergency, these considerations couldn’t matter more.

Once again, you don’t like how things are going now? What would you say if you held the microphone?