Shakespeare’s Restless World: A Portrait of the Bard’s Era in 20 Podcasts

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The BBC’s acclaimed podcast A History of the World in 100 Objects brought us just that: the story of human civilization as told through artifacts from the Egyptian Mummy of Hornedjitef to a Cretan statue of a Minoan Bull-leaper to a Korean roof tile to a Chinese solar-powered lamp. All those 100 items came from the formidable collection held by the British Museum, and any dedicated listener to that podcast will know the name of Neil MacGregor, the institution’s director. Now, MacGregor has returned with another series of historical audio explorations, one much more focused both temporally and geographically but no less deep than its predecessor. The ten-part Shakespeare’s Restless World “looks at the world through the eyes of Shakespeare’s audience by exploring objects from that turbulent period” — i.e., William Shakespeare’s life, which spanned the 1560s to the 1610s: a time of Venetian glass goblets, African sunken gold, chiming clocks, and horrific relics of execution.

These treasures illuminate not only the English but the global affairs of Shakespeare’s day. The Bard lived during a time when murderers plotted against Elizabeth I and James I, England expelled its Moors, Great Britain struggled to unite itself, humanity gained an ever more precise grasp on the keeping of time, and even “civilized” nations got spooked and slaughtered their own. Just as the study of Shakespeare’s plays reveals a world balanced on the tipping point between the modern consciousness and the long, slow awakening that came before, the study of Shakespeare’s time reveals a world that both retains surprisingly vivid elements of its brutal past and has already begun incorporating surprisingly advanced elements of the future to come. Even if you don’t give a hoot about the literary merits of Richard III, Titus Andronicus, or The Merchant of Venice, these real-life stories of political intrigue, gruesome bloodshed, and, er, Venice will certainly hold your attention. You can start with the “tabloid history of Shakespeare’s England” in the first episode of Shakespeare’s Restless World above, then continue on either at the series’ site or on iTunes. And if you find yourself getting into the series, you can get MacGregor’s companion book, Shakespeare’s Restless World: Portrait of an Era.

via Metafilter

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


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Everyday Economics: A New Course by Marginal Revolution University Where Students Create the Syllabus

In 2012, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, two econ professors at George Mason University, launched Marginal Revolution University (otherwise known as MRUniversity) which delivers free, interactive courses in the economics space. During its early days, MRUniversity created courses on The Great EconomistsDevelopment EconomicsInternational Trade, and The Economic History of the Soviet Union. And now it’s creating a somewhat unconventional new course called Everyday Economics. The course tries to show how economics impacts people’s day-to-day lives. And, rather suitably, MRUniversity is inviting its students — everyday people around the globe — to vote for topics the course should cover. It’s what’s called a “student-driven” course.

The course is being built in stages, and you can already watch lectures (above) from the first section, taught by Don Boudreaux. It covers Trade and Prosperity broadly speaking, and gets into topics like The Hockey Stick of Human Prosperity and How the Division of Knowledge Saved My Son’s Life.

The next section, to be taught by Tyler Cowen, will focus on Food. And right now MRUniversity wants your input on the topics this section might focus on. For example, you might recommend that they explain “Why is tipping so prevalent in restaurants but not in other parts of the economy?” You can make your suggestions here.

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What other topics will the course cover as it unfolds? It’s all still TBD. But, again, you’re invited to help shape the syllabus. Bigger picture suggestions are being sought here.

For more courses on the Dismal Science, don’t forget to peruse our list of Free Online Economics Courses. It part of our meta collection called, 1000 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Watch a Hand-Painted Animation of Dostoevsky’s “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”

Published in 1864, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground has a reputation as the first existentialist novel. It established a template for the genre with a portrait of an isolated man contemptuous of the sordid society around him, paralyzed by doubt, and obsessed with the pain and absurdity of his own existence. Also true to form, the narrative, though it has a plot of sorts, does not redeem its hero in any sense or offer any resolution to his gnawing inner conflict, concluding, literally, as an unfinished text. Thirteen years later, the great Russian writer, his health in decline but his literary reputation and financial prospects much improved, wrote a similar story, “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.”

In this tale, an unnamed narrator also meditates on his absurd state, to the point of suicide. But he observes this spiritual malaise at a distance, recalling the story as an older man from a vantage point of wisdom: “I am a ridiculous person,” the story begins, “Now they call me a madman. That would be a promotion if it were not that I remain as ridiculous in their eyes as before. But now I do not resent it, they are all dear to me now.” This character, unlike Dostoevsky’s bitter underground man, has had a transformative experience—a dream in which he experiences the full moral weight of his choices on a grand scale. In a moment of instant enlightenment, our protagonist becomes a kinder, more humane person concerned with the welfare of others.

It is the difference between these two tales which makes the static, internal Underground a very difficult story to adapt to the screen—as far as I know it hasn’t been done—and “Ridiculous Man,” with its vivid dream imagery and dynamic characterization, almost ideal. The 1992 animation (in two parts above) uses painstakingly hand-painted cells to bring to life the alternate world the narrator finds himself navigating in his dream. From the flickering lamps against the dreary, darkened cityscape of the ridiculous man’s waking life to the shifting, sunlit sands of the dreamworld, each detail of the story is finely rendered with meticulous care. Drawn and directed by Russian animator Alexander Petrov—who won an Academy Award for his 1999 adaptation of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea—this is clearly a labor of love, and of tremendous skill and patience.

The technique Petrov uses, writes Galina Saubanova, is one of“Finger Painting”: “Forcing the paint on the glass, the artist draws with his fingers, using brushes only in exceptional cases. One figure is one film frame, which flashes within 1/24 of a second while watching. Petrov draws more than a thousand paintings for one minute of his film.” In Russian with English subtitles taken from Constance Garnett’s translation, the twenty-minute “animated painting” sublimely realizes Dostoevsky’s tale of personal transformation with a lightness and lyricism that a live-action film cannot duplicate, although a 1990 BBC production called “The Dream” certainly has much to recommend it. If you like Petrov’s work, be sure to watch his Old Man and the Sea here. Also online are his short films “The Mermaid” (1997) and “My Love” (2006).

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 


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Charles Schulz Draws Charlie Brown in 45 Seconds and Exorcises His Demons

Would that we had a dime for every cartoonist whose course was charted happily copying Charles Schulz’s seminal strip, Peanuts, while other, more athletic children played together in the fresh air and sunshine.

Such admissions proliferate in interviews and blog posts. They’re nearly as numerous as the online tutorials on drawing such beloved Peanuts characters as Woodstock, Linus Van Pelt, and Schulz’ sad sack stand-in Charlie Brown.

The short video above melds the educational ease of a YouTube how-to with the self-directed, perhaps more artistically pure aspects of the pre-digital experience, as Charles Schulz himself pencils Charlie Brown seated at Schroeder’s toy piano in well under a minute.

You’ll have to watch closely if you want to pick up Sparky’s step-by-step technique. There are no geometric pointers, only a spiritual disclosure that “poor old Charlie Brown” was a scapegoat whose suffering was commensurate with that of his creator.

His voiceover downgrades the psychic pain to the level of lost golf and bridge games, but as cartoonist and former Peanuts copyist Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, pointed out in a 2007 review of David Michaelis’ Schulz biography, Schulz’s unhappiness was deep seated:

Schulz always held his parents in high regard, but they were emotionally remote and strangely inattentive to their only child. Schulz was shy and alienated during his school years, retreating from nearly every opportunity to reveal himself or his gifts. Teachers and students consequently ignored him, and Schulz nursed a lifelong grudge that so few attempted to draw him out or recognized his talent…

Once he finally achieved his childhood dream of drawing a comic strip, however, he was able to expose and confront his inner torments through his creative work, making insecurity, failure and rejection the central themes of his humor. Knowing that his miseries fueled his work, he resisted help or change, apparently preferring professional success over personal happiness. Desperately lonely and sad throughout his life, he saw himself as “a nothing,” yet he was also convinced that his artistic ability made him special.

Good grief. I have a hunch none of this found its way into the lifelong workaholic’s own guide to drawing Peanuts characters. It’s not a secret, however, that a dark side often comes with the territory as a slew of recent autobiographical graphic novels from those drawn to the profession will attest.

Via Kottke

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Ayun Halliday is an author, homeschooler, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday


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A Photographic Tour of Haruki Murakami’s Tokyo, Where Dream, Memory, and Reality Meet

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Last week saw me in line at one of Los Angeles’ most beloved bookstores, waiting for a signed copy of Haruki Murakami’s new novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage upon its midnight release. The considerable hubbub around the book’s entry into English — to say nothing of its original appearance last year in Japanese, when it sold a much-discussed million copies in a single month — demonstrates, 35 years into the author’s career, the world’s unflagging appetite for Murakamiana. Just recently, we featured the artifacts of Murakami’s passion for jazz and a collection of his free short stories online, just as many others have got into the spirit by seeking out various illuminating inspirations of, locations in, and quotations from his work. The author of the blog Randomwire, known only as David, has done all three, and taken photographs to boot, in his grand three-part project of documenting Murakami’s Tokyo: the Tokyo of his beginnings, the Tokyo where he ran the jazz bars in which he began writing, and the Tokyo which has given his stories their otherworldly touch.

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Murakami’s “depictions of the loneliness and isolation of modern Japanese life ingratiated him with the country’s youth who often struggle to assert their individuality in the face of societal notions of conformity,” David writes, noting also that “such comparisons fail to do justice to his unique brand of surreal fantasy and urban realism which seamlessly blends together dream, memory and reality against the backdrop of everyday life in Japan.” Knowing the city of Tokyo as well as he knows the Murakami canon, David works his way from the Denny’s where “Mari, while minding her own business, is interrupted by an old acquaintance Takahashi in After Dark“; to Waseda University, alma mater of both Murakami himself and Norwegian Wood‘s protagonist Toru Watanabe; to both locations of Peter Cat, the jazz café and bar Murakami ran with his wife in the 1970s and early 80s; to Meiji Jingu stadium, where Murakami witnessed the home run that somehow convinced him he could write his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing; to DUG, another underground jazz bar visited by students like Toru Watanabe in the 1960s and still open today; to Metropolitan Expressway No. 3, from which 1Q84′s protagonist Aomame climbs down into a parallel reality.

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David also drops into spots that, if they don’t count as fully Murakamian, at least count as Murakamiesque, such as an “antique shop-cum-café” opposite the first site of Peter Cat: “Like a surreal plot twist in one of Murakami’s books the scene of me sitting there amongst the mounds of antique junk drinking tea from a porcelain cup was verging on the absurd. More than once I glanced outside the window just to check that the real world hadn’t left me behind.” If you find he missed any patch of Murakami’s Tokyo along the way, let him know; he has, he notes at the end of part three, almost enough for a part four — just as much of Colorless Tsukuru‘s follow-up has no doubt already cohered in Murakami’s imagination, that fruitful meeting place of the real and the absurd. Here are the links to the existing sections: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


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Moebius’ Storyboards & Concept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune

A decade before David Lynch’s flawed but visually brilliant adaptation of Dune hit the silver screen (see our post on that from Monday), another cinematic visionary tried to turn Frank Herbert’s cult book into a movie. And it would have been a mind-bogglingly grand epic.

By 1974, Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky had already directed two masterpieces of cult cinema – El Topo and The Holy Mountain. Both films are hallucinatory fever dreams filled with nudity, violence, Eastern mysticism and pungently surreal images. Jodorowsky himself is what they call in Los Angeles a spiritual wanderer. He threw himself into every variety of religious experience that he could – from shamanism to the Kabbalah to hallucinogens. In preparation for shooting Holy Mountain, the director and his wife reportedly went without sleep for a week while under the care of a Zen master. Not surprisingly, leading figures of the counterculture were big fans. John Lennon personally kicked in a million dollars to finance his movies. When French producers asked Jodorowsky to adapt Dune, he was at the peak of his prestige.

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As the 2013 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune shows, the director managed to assemble a jaw-dropping group of talent for the film. This version of Dune was set to star David Carradine, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali and Mick Jagger. It was going to have Pink Floyd do the soundtrack. And it was going to have the then unknown artist H. R. Giger along with French comic book artist Jean Giraud, otherwise known as Moebius, design the sets. Sadly, Jodorowsky’s grand vision proved to be too grand for the film’s financiers and they pulled the plug. The movie clearly belongs in the pantheon – along with Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon and Welles’s Heart of Darkness – of the greatest movies never made. Compared to those other films, though, Jodorowsky’s movie sounds way groovier.

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Of all the talent lined up for the project, Moebius proved to be central to helping Jodorowsky realize his grandiose vision during pre-production. Below Jodorowsky describes how the famed, and blindly fast, illustrator proved indispensable to him. Above is a clip from Jodorowsky’s Dune, where the director and Moebius describe more or less the same story.

I needed a precise script… I wanted to carry out film on paper before filming it… These days all films with special effects are done as that, but at the time this technique was not used. I wanted a draughtsman of comic strips who has the genius and the speed, who can be used as a camera and who gives at the same time a visual style… I was by chance with my second warrior: Jean Giraud alias Moebius. I say to him: “If you accept this work, you must all give up and leave tomorrow with me to Los Angeles to speak with Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey)”. Moebius asked for a few hours to think about it. The following day, we left for the United States. It would take too a long time to tell… Our collaboration, our meetings in America with the strange ones illuminated and our conversations at seven o’clock in the morning in the small coffee which was in bottom of our workshops and which by “chance” was called Café the Universe. Giraud made 3000 drawings, all marvelous… The script of Dune, thanks to his talent, is a masterpiece. One can see living the characters; one follows the movements of camera. One visualizes cutting, the decorations, the costumes…

In this post, you can see some of the storyboards and concept art that Moebius produced. (More can be found at Duneinfo.com.) Looking at them, you can’t help but wonder how cinema history would be different if this film ever hit the theaters.

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Via Coudal

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrowAnd check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring one new drawing of a vice president with an octopus on his head daily. 


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Did Joe Strummer, Frontman of The Clash, Run the Paris and London Marathons?

As a kid who wore Doc Martins to high school gym class and refused participation on principle, it was my firm belief that “sports aren’t punk.” But had I known then what I know now about the athletic prowess of one of my heroes, Joe Strummer, I might have been a little more motivated to try and compete with the great man’s ability. A champion runner during his lonely years at boarding school, Strummer never lost the runner’s bug, supposedly finishing two marathons, and possibly a third, while with The Clash. Let’s begin with that “possibly,” shall we? First, watch the clip above from the documentary Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten.

For context, know that before the release of 1982’s Combat Rock, the band’s manager Bernie Rhodes suggested that Strummer disappear to Austin for a while to stir up some controversy and increase ticket sales. Strummer instead went to Paris without telling anyone—turning a hoax A.W.O.L. story into a real one. He tells it above, casually tossing out, “and I ran the Paris Marathon, too,” a burying of the lede Grantland’s Michael Bertin compares to Buzz Aldrin mentioning his moonwalk between a bass fishing story and his wife’s casserole. People train for months, years, for marathons; Strummer, it seems strolled onto the course with his girlfriend of the time, Gaby Salter, and “allegedly”—alleges this Wikipedia entry—finished in an astonishing 3 hours, 20 minutes. Later, asked by a reporter to describe his regimen before the race, he said, “Drink 10 pints of beer the night before the race. Ya got that? And don’t run a single step at least four weeks before the race.”

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Everything about this story seems suspect, including the fact that in the supposed photograph of Strummer and Salter post-race (above)—both in running gear but looking as fresh as if they’d just strolled out of the hotel patisserieneither one wears a bib number … “something,” Bertin points out, “that a race participant should have.” What’s more, Strummer was “capable of rewriting history to make himself look better,” which may explain his cagey reluctance to elaborate. Bertin offers many more reasons to think the story a fabrication, yet there is at least one highly credible fact to support it: The London Marathon, which Strummer most decidedly did run (see him below, race bib and all), finishing with a most respectable time of 4:13 without any prior training at all. Chris Salewicz’s Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer quotes Gaby Salter saying “He hadn’t trained. He just bought some shorts and said, ‘Let’s run a marathon.’” Salter petered out halfway through. Later in the book, Antony Genn, Strummer’s collaborator in the Mescaleros, recounts the hard-drinking Strummer saying of his marathon experience, “I didn’t fuckin’ train. Not once. Just turned up and did it.’”

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While this seems patently impossible, perhaps it’s true after all that the frontman of the The Clash, who weathered the rise and fall of punk better than any of his contemporaries, had such natural physical endurance he could casually toss off a marathon in-between drunks and packs of smokes. Real runners will surely scoff, but if Joe Strummer ever did train, no one ever saw him do it. If he were alive now, he’d be 62 years old and probably still making records and knocking ‘em back. Maybe he’d even breeze through the New York Marathon on his way to the studio. And if we asked him for his secret, he’d probably tell us something like he told that reporter who asked about Paris: “’Do not try this at home.’ I mean, it works for me and Hunter Thompson, but it might not work for others.” Yeah, ya think?

via DangerousMinds and Reddit

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


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Dennis Hopper’s Photography, Now On Display in London, Documents a World “On Fire With Change”

Early in his long career, Dennis Hopper found time to “do history a favor,” using his camera to document a world “on fire with change.”

Good timing. The period from 1961 to 1967 was a less than fertile period for him as an actor after some less than professional behavior landed him on the Hollywood naughty list. His interest in photography may not have kept him out of trouble, but it did help him maintain a sense of artistic purpose whilst picking up a healthy number of guest appearances on TV.

Busy busy busy. (Something tells me James Franco and Ethan Hawke would approve.)

Having redeemed his reputation with The Trip and Cool Hand Luke, Hopper was back on track for movie stardom, but not before he chose the most stirring of thousands of images for a solo exhibition at the Fort Worth Art Center, held in 1969-70.

In the estimation of curator Petra Giloy-Hirtz, who recreated this show for the London Royal Academy of Art’s “Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album,” the work that captured the average Joe’s experience during this period of upheaval places him among the best photographers of the period.

He also did pop culture a favor, by turning his lens on certain glittery subjects from the art and film worlds, including Andy Warhol, the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones, and actress Jane Fonda and director Roger Vadim on their wedding day.

If you can’t make it to the exhibit at the London Royal Academy of Art, you can view some of Hopper’s 400 photographs in this online gallery hosted by the BBC.

via Laughing Squid

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Ayun Halliday is an author, and the Chief Primatologist of the award-winning East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday


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George Orwell Reviews a Book by That “Bag of Wind,” Jean-Paul Sartre (1948)

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Yesterday we featured George Orwell’s review of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf — not just an isolated newspaper piece, or one of a scattered few, in a life otherwise spent churning out important novels like Animal Farm and 1984, but a particularly perceptive book review among the many in his prolific journalistic career. (He even wrote “Confessions of a Book Reviewer,” the definitive article on that practice.) Today we have another of Orwell’s pieces taking on a well-known 20th-century Continental figure: this time, the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and his book Portrait of the Antisemite.

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But as a prelude to the review, have a look at the October 1948 letter above, posted originally at Letters of Note. In it, Orwell writes to his publisher Frederic Warburg, keeping him posted on the state of the manuscript of 1984. Then, at the very end, he adds that “I have just had Sartre’s book on antisemitism, which you published, to review. I think Sartre is a bag of wind and I am going to give him a good boot.” That “good boot,” which ran in The Observer the next month, goes like this:

Antisemitism is obviously a subject that needs serious study, but it seems unlikely that it will get it in the near future. The trouble is that so long as antisemitism is regarded simply as a disgraceful aberration, almost a crime, anyone literate enough to have heard the word will naturally claim to be immune from it; with the result that books on antisemitism tend to be mere exercises in casting motes out of other people’s eyes. M. Sartre’s book is no exception, and it is probably no better for having been written in 1944, in the uneasy, self-justifying, quisling-hunting period that followed on the Liberation.

At the beginning, M. Sartre informs us that antisemitism has no rational basis: at the end, that it will not exist in a classless society, and that in the meantime it can perhaps be combated to some extent by education and propaganda. These conclusions would hardly be worth stating for their own sake, and in between them there is, in spite of much cerebration, little real discussion of the subject, and no factual evidence worth mentioning.

We are solemnly informed that antisemitism is almost unknown among the working class. It is a malady of the bourgeoisie, and, above all, of that goat upon whom all our sins are laid, the “petty bourgeois.” Within the bourgeoisie it is seldom found among scientists and engineers. It is a peculiarity of people who think of nationality in terms of inherited culture and property in terms of land.

Why these people should pick on Jews rather than some other victim M. Sartre does not discuss, except, in one place, by putting forward the ancient and very dubious theory that the Jews are hated because they are supposed to have been responsible for the Crucifixion. He makes no attempt to relate antisemitism to such obviously allied phenomena as for instance, colour prejudice.

Part of what is wrong with M. Sartre’s approach is indicated by his title. “The” anti-Semite, he seems to imply all through the book, is always the same kind of person, recognizable at a glance and, so to speak, in action the whole time. Actually one has only to use a little observation to see that antisemitism is extremely widespread, is not confined to any one class, and, above all, in any but the worst cases, is intermittent.

But these facts would not square with M. Sartre’s atomised vision of society. There is, he comes near to saying, no such thing as a human being, there are only different categories of men, such as “the” worker and “the” bourgeois, all classifiable in much the same way as insects. Another of these insect-like creatures is “the” Jew, who, it seems, can usually be distinguished by his physical appearance. It is true that there are two kinds of Jew, the “Authentic Jew,” who wants to remain Jewish, and the “Inauthentic Jew,” who would like to be assimilated; but a Jew, of whichever variety, is not just another human being. He is wrong, at this stage of history, if he tries to assimilate himself, and we are wrong if we try to ignore his racial origin. He should be accepted into the national community, not as an ordinary Englishman, Frenchman, or whatever it may be, but as a Jew.

It will be seen that this position is itself dangerously close to anti-semitism. Race prejudice of any kind is a neurosis, and it is doubtful whether argument can either increase or diminish it, but the net effect of books of this kind, if they have an effect, is probably to make antisemitism slightly more prevalent than it was before. The first step towards serious study of antisemitism is to stop regarding it as a crime. Meanwhile, the less talk there is about “the” Jew or “the” antisemite, as a species of animal different from ourselves, the better.

In Philosophy Now, Martin Tyrrell writes on Orwell’s relationship to the subject, which he saw “as a kind of gratuitous cleverness and he had no appetite for that. In Orwell’s writings, fiction or non-fiction, there are few good intellectuals. Where they appear, then it is usually only to spin words without meaning. At best, they are inadvertently confusing; at worst, deliberately so: Marxists, for example, or nationalists or Anglo or Roman Catholics. Or Jean-Paul Sartre. [ … ] Bewildered by existentialism, what most irked Orwell about Sartre was his seeming denial of individuality.” Tyrrell describes Orwell as “an individualist so much so that, when he came to list his reasons for becoming a writer, he put ‘sheer egoism’ at the top. In addition, and much more controversially, his review of Mein Kampf sees in Hitler more than a little of the tragic Orwellian hero, the small man embarked upon a doomed revolt.” Not everyone, of course, will agree with Orwell’s aggressively plainspoken takes on Hitler and Nazism, or Sartre and existentialism, but try substituting a variety of other controversial “-isms” for “antisemitism” in the review above, and you’ll see how we’d still think more clearly if we bore his observations in mind today.

via Letters of Note 

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Folger Shakespeare Library Puts 80,000 Images of Literary Art Online, and They’re All Free to Use

TheLondonStage

Has a writer ever inspired as many adaptations and references as William Shakespeare? In the four hundred years since his death, his work has patterned much of the fabric of world literature and seen countless permutations on stage and screen. Less discussed are the visual representations of Shakespeare in fine art and illustration, but they are multitude. In one small sampling, Richard Altick notes in his extensive study Paintings from Books, that “pictures from Shakespeare accounted for about one fifth—some 2,300—of the total number of literary paintings recorded between 1760 and 1900” among British artists.

FolgerMidsummer

In the period Altick documents, a rapidly rising middle class drove a market for literary artworks, which were, “in effect, extensions of the books themselves: they were detached forms of book illustration, in which were constantly assimilated the literary and artistic tastes of the time.” These works took the form of humorous illustrations—such as the As You Like It-inspired satirical piece at the top from 1824—and much more serious representations, like the undated Currier & Ives Midsummer-Night’s Dream lithograph above. Now, thanks to the Folger Shakespeare Library, these images, and tens of thousands more from their Digital Image Collection, are available online. And they’re free to use under a CC BY-SA Creative Commons license.

RichardIIICostume

As Head of Collection Information Services Erin Blake explains, “basically this means you can do whatever you want with Folger digital images as long as you say that they’re from the Folger, and as long a you keep the cycle of sharing going by freely sharing whatever you’re making.” The Folger’s impressive repository has been called “the world’s finest collection of Shakesperean art.” As well as traditional paintings and illustrations, it includes “dozens of costumes and props used in nineteenth-century Shakespeare productions,” such as the embroidered velvet costume above, worn by Edwin Booth as Richard III, circa 1870. You’ll also find photographs and scans of “’extra-illustrated’ books filled with inserted engravings, manuscript letters, and playbills associated with particular actors or productions; and a great variety of souvenirs, comic books, and other ephemera associated with Shakespeare and his works.”

FolgerFuseli

In addition to illustrations and memorabilia, the Folger contains “some 200 paintings” and drawings by fine artists like “Henry Fuseli, Benjamin West, George Romney, and Thomas Nast, as well as such Elizabethan artists as George Gower and Nicholas Hilliard.” (The striking print above by Fuseli shows Macbeth’s three witches hovering over their cauldron.) Great and varied as the Folger’s collection of Shakespearean art may be, it represents only a part of their extensive holdings. You’ll also find in the Digital Images Collection images of antique bookbindings, like the 1532 volume of a work by Agrippa von Nettescheim (Heinrich Cornelius), below.

Folger1532Binding

The collection’s enormous archive of 19th century prints is an especial treat. Just below, see a print of that tower of 18th century learning, Samuel Johnson, who, in his famous preface to an edition of the Bard’s works declared, “Shakespeare is above all writers.” All in all, the immense digital collection represents, writes The Public Domain Review, “a huge injection of some wonderful material into the open digital commons.” Already, the Folger has begun adding images to Wikimedia Commons for use free and open use in Wikipedia and elsewhere on the web. And should you somehow manage, through some voracious feat of digital consumption, to exhaust this treasure hold of images, you need not fear—they’ll be adding more and more as time goes on.

FolgerDrJohnson

via The Public Domain Review

Related Content:

Read All of Shakespeare’s Plays Free Online, Courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Puts 400,000 High-Res Images Online & Makes Them Free to Use

Download 35,000 Works of Art from the National Gallery, Including Masterpieces by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Rembrandt & More

Free Online Shakespeare Courses: Primers on the Bard from Oxford, Harvard, Berkeley & More

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


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