Archive of Weeks Seven and Eight Forum on Beauty--
Turning to Literary Texts:
What Do They Have to Teach Us About Beauty?

Current Forum and Forum Archives

Is this bothering anyone else???
Name: Kat McCormick (
Date: 02/23/2005 14:09
Link to this Comment: 13163

I am a biologist. As such, I find paintings beautiful. The way I see beauty as a scientist is not separated from the way that I see beauty as a human. There is no ³lens² that I need to adapt, or that I would suggest to others, that causes me to see beauty of what I do biologically any more than I need a special ³lens² to appreciate a beautiful sunset. Why then, with all our academic obsession with so-called ³interdisciplinary courses² are we still apparently DETERMINED to find a difference in the way scientists and humanists view the world? I thought the point of interdisciplinary work was to build across the schism rather than to further stereotype the divide. Anne, in particular, seems relentless in looking for ³the difference between art and science², and will invent one if none is apparent. I find myself wishing that none of us had identified ourselves according to discipline, that I spend most of my time trying to fight off the expectations that come with my major.
I also think that there are so many other divisions of beauty that we are not addressing because of the concentration along disciplinary lines- differences in beauty culturally, historically, ect.

diversifying the field
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 02/23/2005 19:23
Link to this Comment: 13187

Let's work together on this "crack" in the lens that Kat's identified: perhaps the question of how science and humanities see the world differently has served its function/outlived its usefulness, and we'll uncover new territory if we try looking for other divisions (or lack thereof?), differentiating, for example, among varieties of cultural and historical experiences of beauty. The texts that you will be reading together in your small groups over the next week will be an excellent way into these varieties....We look forward to hearing reports, here, about what you are discovering.

It Bothers Me too
Name: Annabella Wood (
Date: 02/23/2005 19:53
Link to this Comment: 13189

Kat, I can't agree with you more, and thank you for speaking up about it.
Anne, I noticed that in your response to Kat you said perhaps we could move on to "differentiating" some other views of beauty. I apologize that I don't have the exact quote. But how about not differentiating at all?
How about we find our common ground?
I guess this is important to me because in our world today, we are all so conscious and vocal about out differences, and our shared aspects go largely unnoticed, at least not vocalized.
I am much more interested in what we share than what we don't share. The "we" can be applied to me and whomever I am speaking with at the time.
I would love it if we used our classtime to learn to bridge gaps rather than exaserbate them. And I think it to be a life-skill that would be much more beneficial to all of us to have.
Anyone can tear apart. But skilled is the one who can bring together such that no one knows it was done.

not determined
Name: Sharon Burgmayer (
Date: 02/23/2005 20:13
Link to this Comment: 13190


i'm not sure what the reasons are that cause you to feel that we're "still apparently DETERMINED to find a difference in the way scientists and humanists view the world", but i'll add here my thoughts.

i agree with you, as a biologist or chemist or physicist or linguist or art historian, none of us can look at anything in the worldãbeautiful or notãwithout bringing those perspectives with us. to do so would not only be false to ourselves, it would probably be unhealthy to require such a splintering of ourselves. if it seems that the discussions and readings do seem to encourage or promote a sense of "this is how scientists (should) see beauty", i guess i'd defend the choices this way. our goal for the course is to widen everyone's awareness of beauty, including realms where they may have never explored. (for example, beauty in psychoanalysis that comes later). the beauty in science segment, then, was intended to be an opening for folks who have never tread there (unlike you) to hear about and participate in what some scientists see as beautiful. the goal is broadened experience, NOT labeling it, and certainly not labeling it in only one way.

as for your concern that "other divisions of beauty that we are not addressing because of the concentration along disciplinary lines- differences in beauty culturally, historically, etc.", hang in there! they are (at least some) yet to come!

Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 02/24/2005 21:46
Link to this Comment: 13216

We had such an interesting conversation "upstairs" today--beginning with descriptions of what folks learned in writing their papers, including a realization shared among a number of us that scientists and humanists turn out to be "not that different" in their responses to and appreciation of the world, not "another species" after all....

This led us into a discussion of why those differences have historically been highlighted in the academy, and perpetuated among ourselves; we acknowledged a possible psychological function of doing so: that disciplinary divisions enable us to comfortably "shut off" certain areas of experience/areas of learning that don't come easily to us, and still feel competent in a smaller compass....

This led into a conversation about the differences between the realms of science and religion, and the possible overlap between them (if religion could be less dogmatic, and science more expansive, might the two areas overlap entirely...?) I talked about the website Science and Spirit which Sharon and I created two years ago as a demonstration of our shared conviction that

the exploratory seeking that Quakers call "continuing revelation," the process of constantly "testing" in a social context, against what others know, what one knows oneself, against new experience and new information...are activities that, ideally, can be practiced in both the religious and the intellectual realms.

But where things got even MORE interesting this morning (to me, anyway) was when we started to explore the possibility that beauty is a "deceit." This is an idea we'll be returning to in late March/early April, when we talk about the Paradigms and Consequences and Misuses of Beauty; but what was by far the most striking aspect to me in today's conversation was something that Sharon and I hadn't anticipated in our design of the course: the notion that not only the work of making ourselves up, but the simplicity of a mathematical equation (for example) is an "illusion." These questions about the artifice of all scientific and artistic work were also discussed in last Friday's brown bag session led by Hiroshi Iwasaki, in which it was argued that

There is more room for play in the illusions of art than in those of science, but scientific narratives are just as much illusions or (in the language of postmodernism) constructions. There are multiple negotiations within each lab, whereby a fact becomes a fact (whereby it is agreed upon that an illusion is a fact, that we have decided to call something "truth").

This notion of the "deceitful" nature of beauty (directly contrary, of course, to Keats' "Beauty is Truth...") is finely imaged on Serendip's page of Ambiguous Figures :

emotion in music
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 02/25/2005 23:01
Link to this Comment: 13232

Seemed relevant. All invited:

Bryn Mawr College Department of Philosophy
presents a lecture by
Jenefer Robinson
University of Cincinnati
"Emotion in Music"
Thomas Hall 224
Wednesday, March 2, 2005
7:30 pm
Jenefer Robinson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati. She teaches and writes on topics in aesthetics and philosophical psychology, especially the theory of emotion. Robinson is the author of Deeper than Reason: Emotion and Its Role in Literature, Music and Art, published by Oxford University Press. Her views on emotion cast doubt on currently fashionable 'judgment' theories, and draws on psychological theories that stress the physiological aspects of emotion. Robinson applies this model of emotion to problems in aesthetics, such as the expression of emotion in art and the emotional experience of art by readers and audiences.

Refreshments will be served
Free and open to the public

Name: Brittany (
Date: 02/26/2005 13:26
Link to this Comment: 13235

It didn't strike me until I sat down to read them how similar my group's two beautiful texts are. We selected Primo Levi's "The Periodic Table" and Antoine de Saint Exupery's "The Little Prince." At first the two seem wholly different: "The Periodic Table" relies heavily on sometimes-obscure analogies/metaphors with chemical elements to add meaning to every chapter. "The Little Prince" is written as a children's story, written very simply and straight-forwardly. On the surface level, I think these two texts are a good demonstration of the fact that "beauty" does not have to be either simple or complicated.

But then, on a deeper level, I'm not so sure. One of the most important passages in "The Little Prince" reads: "It's only with the heart that one can see clearly; what's essential is invisible to the eye." The more I read Primo Levi, the more I see the same sort of thing going on. After all, doesn't the periodic table itself record the most "essential" building blocks of life? And aren't most of these structures normally invisible to an untrained eye? Furthermore, Levi "characterizes" each element with a specific human trait (for example, iron is personal/physical strength, as represented by a mountain-climber and dissident named Sandro). Like the molecule iron itself, Sandro's strength is outwardly invisible; yet it's what's most essential about his character. And in a way, the most essential aspect is also the most simple: it's the heart of things, the base, the sum, the root. On the surface, Levi's book is just a collection of stories that are, in some way, niftily tied to chemical elements. But on this "essential" level it's something much more... just as "The Little Prince" is outwardly a children's story about a kid from another planet, but essentially it's deep and beautiful and, I sometimes think, crucial reading for adults. In any case, in both books, the "invisible" aspect is simultaneously the most essential and the most beautiful.

Science and Humanities in Beauty
Name: Liz Paterek (
Date: 02/26/2005 17:10
Link to this Comment: 13239

I feel as though maybe the difference between the two forms of beauty is not in science vs. humanities/religion but perhaps in somethng related to each. What I mean is, scientists and scientific writers tend to be creatively analytical about concrete things, whereas humanists tend to be creative in a different sense more towards the realm of the less concrete. It feels different to me is all that there is. However, perhaps the reason that we find this huge difference and division is not because there is a divide in the theories but because those who gravitate towards science perhaps are more analytically minded. When interdiscplimary events occur, often the analytical nature of the scientist enters into the creative work. Renaissance painters included huge amounts of science and math in their paintings. The way they thought out the geomateric patterns shows the analytical painting style of a scientist. I don't really know where I'm headed. I think I just feel that people who like concrete analytical will enter that into everything that they do and will tend to gravivtate towards the use of science and math, and humanists are perhaps have a slightly different way of thinking, that causes them to gravitate that way and this causes a small natural divide. This natural divide is then further enhanced by society's requirement for specialization in a field, and the divide that has been constructed due to fights between science and religion or other social event.

fights between science and religion/not
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 02/26/2005 20:12
Link to this Comment: 13243

Stepping off from Liz's mention of fights between science and religion ....

I just came across a review, in this week's (March 10, 2005) New York Review of Books, of Pankay Mishra's An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World, which describes

the Buddha's almost scientific program of self-discovery....Einstein called Buddhism the religion of the future (since it was compatible with science, refusing to hold to what could not be empirically proved)....Buddhism, for Nietzsche," has the heritage of a cool and objective posing of problems...."

Bridging the gap
Name: Rachel Usala (
Date: 02/27/2005 10:51
Link to this Comment: 13250

It has always frustrated me that society portrays science and religion/spirituality as incompatible. For example, there seems to be an element of spirituality in pursuing a theory because it is symmetrical or beautiful. Isn't the scientist trusting something within himself, believing there is an inherent, inner truth that is guiding him whenever he invents something or pursues an idea that academia has not accepted or discovered?
My belief in the compatibility of science and spirituality is one of the reasons I thought Primo Levi's Periodic Table was a perfect read for this class. The chemist Levi is a Jew, and by my standards, a poet. He feels almost spiritual about chemistry: "For me chemistry represented an indefinite cloud of future potentialities which enveloped my life to come in black volutes torn by fiery flashes, like those which had hidden Mount Sinai. Like Moses, from that cloud I expected my law, the principle of order in me, around me, and in the world."
I know some in the class are frustrated with the way the class has evolved: we seem to be making stark contrasts between scientific and humanistic beauty. But in a way it's the only place to start. We have been asked all our life by society to make a distinction. Our cultural habits can't be broken in an instant: I'm struggling with it myself. I think the class has been structured this way in order to each give us something to relate to and to be exposed to things we never have before, as Dr. B suggested. I think the texts, like Primo Levi's book, will be a way of bridging the gap between scientific and humanistic beauty.

Name: Meera Jain (
Date: 02/27/2005 17:33
Link to this Comment: 13265

After Thursday's discussion about science and humanity, religion and beauty, I was left with a confused mind and needed to find some answers. For the past couple of months I have been reading books by a foundation called Osho that promotes "awareness, simplicity and detachment from materialistic things." Other authors along this type of philosophy are, Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle who all think "things are utterly the way they are, they are beautiful and I am immersed in them."
While reading some of Osho's work this weekend I went online to the website and found some answers.

First- the divide in religions and science is an ever pressing problem. Science explores the objective world, trying to come up with rational answers. Religion explores the subjective world. I agree with Osho, who says that there should be two types of sciences that can take over the phrase religion-objective science and subjective science. Why does science have to be related to things like chemistry, biology, physics but more about 'awareness, positive thinking, and enlightenment'?

Second- I think by talking about the interconnectedness between the science in religion we can dispel the notion that they are NOT connected. As a human, my heart and emotions will try to tell me what is true and beautiful but it will never give me the truth. The truth is in my conscience, and by using my head and heart while thinking about beauty and what is really beautiful i can develop a better understanding of it. Hence, I have to that whatever I think is beautiful IS beautiful and that should be my criterion of beauty.

Third- I started to read the beautiful texts this weekend (now I question are they really beautiful or is my heart fooling me). In The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, it was a poignant beginning where she is extremely descriptive and weaves the story of hatred, anger, discrimination into a beautiful tale. BUT- althought I find how she wrote to be beautiful, I dont agree with the idea of her story. I am drawn back to Osho and why I found this author's writing beautiful- these girls are unique in their own way. They will ALWAYS be different from the white girl with blond ringlets on the coffee cup and the candy wrapper. By recognizing Frieda and Pecola's (the black children) differences I comprehend why and how society makes them feel different, when their differences are natural. Each person has differences, why does there need to be a comparison of their differences? This only leads to self-doubt, aloneness and bigger ego's.

Reading My Group's "Beautiful" Texts
Name: Alanna Albano (
Date: 02/27/2005 23:15
Link to this Comment: 13281

The texts that my group decided on were The Wild Iris (book of poems), Kassandra and the Wolf (book), and Lost in Translation (movie). Here is what I have learned so far in trying to look at each of these:

Lost in Translation will have to wait a seems to be a very popular movie at BMC and HC, and I'm the second person to place a hold on it at BMC...if that takes too long I will either find someone who owns the movie or rent it...

I recently finished reading Kassandra and the Wolf. I honestly did not find anything beautiful about that book -- when we get into our groups on Tuesday I will have to ask why one of my group members found the book to be beautiful -- because whatever beauty may have been in it I could not find. The book tells the story of various life events through the eyes of a six year old named Kassandra. This may seem innocent enough, but upon reading the book one finds that her perspective on the world is a bit "darker" than expected. She's from a wealthy family, but from what I understood, her family relatives tend to neglect her -- leaving her in the care of governesses who aren't very nice to her at times, and a butler who apparently is molesting the little girl. Kassandra locks a playmate in a cupboard for three days at one point in the story. There is also another part where Kassandra demands a kitten from her Grandmother. The Grandmother won't buy Kassandra her own kitten, but instead lends a kitten from someone else and lets Kassandra borrow it for the week. Kassandra plays with the kitten, but when it comes time to give it back, she kills it instead. This did not sit too well with me, an avid animal lover. I do not find beauty in killing.

I am currently reading the poems in The Wild Iris. The poetry can be a bit complicated at times, but Louise Gluck's words are very beautiful, no less. Many of her poems revolve around the natural world (especially flowers), as well as human relationships and growth. I love reading about these types of topics, and Gluck's poems are infused with them. I start to read them and their beauty instantly draws me into the pages. Sometimes the poems evoke good memories about past events in my life, and that is one reason I find them beautiful. Another reason is just the style in which the poems are written: the words flow harmoniously, and I am able to envision the scene which the author describes in the poem. The poems are comforting and soothing to me, and I don't mind reading them again and again. That in itself is beautiful.

all connected
Name: Sharon Burgmayer (
Date: 02/27/2005 23:35
Link to this Comment: 13282

The above postings bear witness to a lot of powerful musings going on as a result of åbeautiful¼ class discussions. I thought I¼d weigh in on several of them.

The putative conflict of science and religion (or more generally, spirituality) surfaced only briefly in our group, I think because most of the group did not in fact see why a conflict was necessary at all. Indeed, I would point out (this is my independent voice now) that there is no fight, no conflict between science and religion, there is only conflict between people, some who may hold to the (their) scientific „doctrine¾ as more worthy than a religious doctrine, or vice versa. I daresay that these folks do not even represent a majority. There¼s been lots and lots of books written on this „conflict¾ (some listed here), some whose goal is to find the science/spirituality connections and some who maintain that the realms wherein operate science and the spiritual are separate. My own position embraces both and I can offer two examples from you, members of the class. Rachel U. reported „The chemist Levi is a Jew, and by my standards, a poet. He feels almost spiritual about chemistry.¾ Just so: the same internal experiences one brings to one¼s religion or spiritual life can also appear in the context of doing science. There is not, need not be, some internal door one shuts and opens to separate one¼s being as spiritual from one¼s being as scientist. In another context, Annabella offered what is my current favorite metaphor to illustrate the separate science and spiritual realms. She compares the entirety of life, „reality¾ out there, to a movie, say on a DVD. And science is like the trailers, all those little pieces that explain how the movie was made. But the movieãthe world of being and experienceãis so much more than those trailers describe. You only have to see it (the movie), live it (reality) to know neither trailers nor science can produce the whole experience. What „else¾ is out there, each of us has to determine for ourselves. Hopefully beauty will follow us along the way.

Our group did not however veer onto a path whereby we contrasted and separated beauty seen from a scientific view from beauty seen from a humanistic one. (Correct me if you felt otherwise, beautiful folks!) We did discover along the way that a pervasive quality that showed up in our beauty experiences which crossed all kinds of categorical divides was this: beauty was very often the result of making connections. Connections between mental constructs, between mental constructs and something „real¾ out there, connections (of course) between people, and memories and something „real¾ out there and ä well, you get the idea. „Connections¾ rather shocks me as a not-very-beautiful descriptor, but it really does summarize for me lots of my experiences. Try it on: does it work for you too?

Name: Muska (
Date: 02/28/2005 09:16
Link to this Comment: 13292

My group picked two very different books as representatives of "beautiful texts." The first book, "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison is a book with a very serious tone. The plot is of a young black girl by the name of Pecola Breedlove who has become obsessed with the white ideal of beauty. She idolizes Shirley Temple and is constantly aware of how different her appearance is in comparison. The most tragic part of tale is Pecola's intense desire for blue eyes. Pecola believes that blue eyes are the ticket to beauty, and therefore will grant her the love and attention which she never received from her family, or from society. The tone is very serious, and often times forces the reader to reevaluate her/his own ideals of beauty. The second book is "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris. David Sedaris is known for his clever wit and humor. "Me Talk Pretty One Day" is written in vinettes of different humors episodes in his life. Sedaris has a way of expressing some very important issues in a way in which brings to light the humor behind the pain. Tragedy and comedy have always been linked together as a form of entertainment, and has also given people an avenue to take life less seriously, even in the advent of some very serious events. Humor is particularly beautiful to me because of the way in which it unites people together. Often times I feel as if comedic writing does not get the credit it deserves, while some of the best writing and most efficient records of social struggles comes through in humor. Reading these two texts in relation to one another is a very exciting experience because I get to see beauty from opposite sides of the spectrum and perhaps see how the two perspectives intersect.

Lost In Translation
Name: enewbury at (Liz Newbury)
Date: 02/28/2005 16:13
Link to this Comment: 13297

One of the 'texts' we had to 'read' for our small group was the movie, Lost In Translation, starring Bill Murray. I had never seen this film prior to this class, and I still don't think it will qualify as my favorite movie of all time. It is one of the most beautiful movies I've seen, though, both cinemagraphically and from the stand point of the message in it.

With an effort not to ruin the plot for anyone else, it follows a man and a woman who are in Tokyo. Strangers, there for completely different purposes, who find a connection with each other and go around exploring the city. It doesn't have a fairy tale ending, which I think it what disappointed me.

The scenary is absolutely breathtaking. This is not to say it was all sweeping landscapes, but rather little nuggets of life, involving aspects of a culture that is fairly different from my own. There are scenes in a karoke bar, there are scenes in an arcade -- and all I could think is how interesting this was, to see the commonalities between Japan and the life I know, to see that yes, it is different. Foreign, strange, the film almost had a texture to you could feel. But instead of smacking you with just the differences, the film maker seemed to be trying to show you a door that you could use to relate to what you were seeing.

I think the beauty, beyond the aesthetics, is that it is a meshing of two worlds, to entirely different ways of seeing life. The girl is an idealist, and the man is a realist. And yet, despite this, despite the fact that they come from different worlds, different ways of thinking, and different age groups (the girls is much, much younger then the character Bill plays), they find a connection. They can get past their differences and have a good time, and even grow to respect and care for one another. And I think this is beautiful, this connection, this ability to see commonality in a sea of differences.

Beautiful text
Name: Alice Kaufman (
Date: 02/28/2005 16:14
Link to this Comment: 13298

I'm in Muska's group, and I also read The Bluest Eye. I haven't read the David Sedaris book yet (there are hours between now and class!)

I found this book to be very beautiful. The events that take place are terrible, but it's written so well, and the issues brought up are so important. I know this sounds narrow, if not outright stupid, but I didn't think that young African American girls would idolize white actors just like white children. Maybe that's because I'm living after the "black is beautiful" movement, at a time when there are many African American actors/people in the media, and books in my elementary school had children with brown skin. But the most obvious reason I didn't realize this is that I'm white.

The book is incredibly poignant, makes me see a new side of the effects of popular culture, and written in a beautiful way.

Beautiful Texts
Name: Beatrice (
Date: 02/28/2005 16:33
Link to this Comment: 13299

My group had decided to read J.D. Salinger's "Franny and Zooey" and a film entitled "Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance."

This is the first time I am reading Franny and Zooey - or any Salinger book for that matter - and I'm really enjoying it. It's interesting observing family dynamics and the connection between these two youngest siblings. I'll probably post more on it later once I've finished it.

As far as Koyaanisqatsi, I'm not sure I'm getting the message I'm supposed to be. This film had been my recommendation because I had heard about in passing one day, and did a little bit of reading up on it. What I enjoyed about it is the fact that it seems to allow the viewer to interpret it in any way he or she may choose. I had read reviews a long time ago that suggested that the purpose of the film was to criticize the way in which man's technology has been altering/destroying nature. I'm not sure I could really agree with that assessment. I liked the opening shots of nature; some scenes shown in time-lapse imagery, and others in slow motion. Of course, some shots of the industrial world were not as appealing, but I could not help but stare in awe at the constant movement of the world arround us. It was amazing. There were also some slow motion shots of individual people, and I found that to be interesting as well - almost as if they were meant to showcase how unique each one of us is.

I guess this film is a bit difficult to describe to someone who has not seen it. It is unlike anything I have seen before. There is no speech, no dialogue, only music (sometimes fast, sometimes slow). The viewer is shown one image after another, thus there is no obvious plot. And, although some of the images of industrialization and technology don't make me feel as good as the scenes in nature do, there is something to be said for man's ability to build and create.

Name: Catherine E. Davidson (
Date: 02/28/2005 16:50
Link to this Comment: 13301

One of the books my group is reading is Survival of the Prettiest by Nancy Etcoff which explores the effect of society's conception of physical beauty on beautiful and ugly people. The book discusses the evolution of beauty and how the human ideal has changed. I found it interesting that the emphasis on the importance of beauty has gone down over time. The book quotes Keats, "Beauty is truth, and truth is beauty" - which we have read more about and discussed in class, and may be true on some level. Sappho, "what is beautiful is good and what is good will soon be beautiful"- while modern perception of beauty is more relative... beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Etcoff investigates the changes in the human ideal of beauty and its effects by noting the influence of fashion trends on beauty, and the effect of horomones on ones conception of beauty, and how personal beauty affects happiness, success, etc. As the human ideal of personal beauty is ever changing, all areas of science and the humanities are constantly changing. As we discussed in class, a theory that is known to be true today, may be obselete in a few decades. Similarly, at that time, new art and literary forms will have been developed and common words may no longer be used in every day discourse. Every area of study is dependant on the next. I like to think of our liberal arts education (and this class for that matter) as a flower. Some of us will look at the flower and see the photosynthetic process, etc, that allow the flower to grow and become colorful. Others will look at the flower and try to paint it. And others yet will think of how to say flower in several different languages, or think of a poem about a flower. You get my point. What makes different areas of study commonly viewed as different is a result of the different way of perceiving the world.

"When did you forget you were a flower?"
Name: Malorie Garrett (
Date: 02/28/2005 17:01
Link to this Comment: 13302

One of the text my group is reading is the poem „Howl¾ by Allen Ginsberg. I¼m not that big of a poetry fan, but I love Ginsbergs poems. There is something about them that just speaks to me. I¼m not sure if I can explain what it is or why, but his poems move me like Dickinson or Yates just doesn¼t for me. Part of the reason may be that my high school teacher had recordings of him reading his poems. The way he read them just was just so beautiful. I am excited to talk about his poems with everyone in my group!

The quote in my title is from a poem of his called Sunflower Sutra. I first heard this quote this time last year during hell week, and it made me cry.

Not Finding the Beauty
Name: Annabella (
Date: 02/28/2005 18:44
Link to this Comment: 13305

Our group is reading "One Hundred Years of Solitude." I have heard this is a great book, and it came highly recommended, so I chose this group. I have as yet not been able to connect with the beauty of this book. Maybe because it is so different from my expectations and I haven't melted into what it is rather than what I wanted it to be.
From the title I thought is would be a book about deep introspection and reflection of one's motives and desires and drives. I love that inner stuff. But it is a book of action and people and activity, with little time given to heart matters. As I write this I am thinking more and more that it is me not seeing what must surely be there.
But for whatever reason, I have not found the beauty here. I am still working through the book, and am hopeful that the ending will justify all the time I have spent reading it. It is a long book.
People I have talked to about it say it is worth sticking with, so I am.
I find that it is actually a little irritating for me to read because the author uses a very stilted style of writing, and all the characters have three names, but two of those three names are the same as someone else's three names, so I have to spend a lot of time looking everyone up to keep up with who is who. I feel like I should have been taking notes or something!
Our other book is "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and I have read it before. I absolutely loved it. So I am saving reading it until after I finish this one, using it as a reward for my efforts.

Name: ()
Date: 02/28/2005 19:27
Link to this Comment: 13307

Our group picked 3 books as our beautiful texts in order to get a feel for everyone's idea of beauty (we only have 3 people in our group): Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty (the book I haven't gotten to yet), Interpreter of Maladies: Stories (my personal choice), and The Great Gatsby.

Although I haven't read Survival of the Prettiest, it really seems to be promising: the book is a collection of scientific studies that talks about the biological basis for beauty, and the author even makes an argument about how looking good has some survival value to it (linking back to natural selection.) Although the book talks about beauty, it'll be dealing with mostly scientific facts- I'm not sure if I'm going to personally find this book beautiful.
The Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of different types of stories of Indians throughout the world/in different settings. Although all of the stories are melancholy and there really aren't happy endings to speak of, the simple language Lahri uses to convey these stories and the manner in which she explains them is absolutely beautiful. I also think this book hits a personal note, being a member of the Indian diaspora- so at times I felt like the stories were a perfect reflection of people I know or people I've seen back in India. Stories like "the interpreter of maladies" (the short story of the taxi driver) also makes you wonder what kind of stories a stranger in a subway has to tell.
The final book, the Great Gatsby, is a great book but one that I don't personally find beautiful. Fitzgerald is a good author and I do love his use of color throughout the book, I definitely didn't feel like the book hit a string with me like Interpreter or other books on my favorites list have. I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow's discussion session- even though we all picked what beautiful texts we wanted to read, we never really explained why we each found them so beautiful... and now I'm interested to find out what their reasons were.

Group readings
Name: Marissa (
Date: 02/28/2005 19:29
Link to this Comment: 13309

I am really having a wonderful time with the books my group has chosen. Our first choice, The Great Gatsby, was one I have always wanted to read and I never got around to it. Though I don't understand why it is is a particularly amazing piece of literature that most people read during high school, I really liked the story the interconnectedness of the characters.
I am halfway through with my own contribution, Survival of the Prettiest: The search for beauty. I am finding this book very interesting. It showcases different traits (such as skin and hair characteristics) and things (such as babies) that are often thought of as beautiful, but the author adds intercultural, historic, and even evolutionary perspectives to her descriptions of each trait.
The third book we read was a selection of short stories called Interpreter of Maladies. While I am not a huge fan of short stories often, I think that this was one of the best books I have ever read and I actually have a waiting list to read it in my dorm. I would highly reccomend it to everyone!

Beautiful Texts?
Name: Tanya Corder (
Date: 02/28/2005 23:33
Link to this Comment: 13319

First, to adress the controversy of religion and science, I feel that both are accurate representations or explanations of the world. They tell the same exact stories but in different perspectives. Neither are true but both are valid based on how much faith we have in them. It's like the faith we have in the value of money. Technically it is not backed with gold and therefore has no value, but our faith in the currency system is what gives the dollar its value.

Now, Yes Anabella! I totally agree with you. I feel it's hard for me to dive into this book (One Hundred Years of Solitude) because I am constantly having to look up names, questioning whether the author is decieving me, etc. Before I began reading I asked a couple of my friends who had read it, what it was all about and not one of them could actually give me a plot summary. They all responded by saying that it was eloquently written, but it was confusing so they could not remember what it was specifically about. It reminds me a lot of another book I have read before called Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich. Oh, it also reminds me of the movie "Big Fish." It also seems way too dense in terms of literary aspects. There are too many literary devices compacted into one piece that it prevents flow. It guess that aspect of it makes it gaudy and not beautiful to me.

I am too looking forward to beginning Mya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." I find it beautiful because of her writing style and the fact that it is a true story; I find her struggle and life admirable and motivating, making her story beautiful. It's been a while and I feel it will too be sweet icing on a bad cake.

PS - This may be a little off topic, but because "One Hundred Years of Solitude" made Oprah's Book Club, I find it a bit relavent. Anyways, I do not care much for Oprah's taste in literature, but I still love her show :)

Deceptive beauty...
Name: Brittany (
Date: 03/01/2005 21:34
Link to this Comment: 13332

Had to post this, even though it's sort of off-topic now. So I'm reading "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" by Annie Dillard for another class. Flat-out beautiful book. Definitely going to give it a good re-read when I don't have to analyze it for class. Anyway, the last chapter of the book contains this fascinating tidbit (Dillard is reflecting on an article she read):

"In a winter famine, desperate Algonquian Indians 'ate broth made of smoke, snow, and buckskin, and the rash of pellagra appeared like tattooed flowers on their emaciated bodies--the roses of starvation, in a French physician's description; and those who starved died covered with roses.' Is this beauty, these gratuitous roses, or a mere display of force?
"Or is beauty itself an intricately fashioned lure, the cruelest hoax of all?"

This "roses of starvation" makes me think... I mean, reading it, I imagine literally a body covered in rose tattoos, not the ugly rashes I'm sure pellagra actually creates. But to keep to that initial thought for a second: what seems to make beauty such a repulsive "hoax" for Dillard is the fact that these beautiful fever-roses actually stand for something spiritually ugly (starvation). They're "covering" the fever in a sense because the two are inextricably connected; the one signals the other. But my question here is: do the fever-roses *have* to be deceptive? ugly at heart? What forbids us from looking at these roses---the cloak, the hoax---as beautiful in and of themselves? Must we necessarily make the connection to the sickness they signal, or are we allowed to regard them as separate manifestations of beauty?

To transplant this idea onto an example frequently brought up in class, the "perfect" bodies of magazine girls. We don't like them because they're deceptive. At least, as a description of reality, they're misleading and even dangerous to our own self-perception. But... does that make them any less beautiful for what they are? Does beauty (especially sensual beauty) have to adhere to a moral standard for it to be "truly" beautiful? For that matter, does (should?) beauty have a code of ethics at all? I've seen pictures of Nagasaki after the bomb, and in some sense the desolation is beautiful---and I'm sickened and horrified and embarrassed at myself for thinking so. Does my emotional response invalidate my aesthetic reaction?

Name: Brittany ()
Date: 03/01/2005 21:50
Link to this Comment: 13333

I should keep reading before I leap up and post stuff.

So two paragraphs down Dillard writes:

"No, I've gone through this a million times, beauty is not a hoax--how many days have I learned not to stare at the back of my hand when I could look out at the creek? Come on, I say to the creek, surprise me; and it does, with each new drop. Beauty is real. I would never deny it; the appalling thing is that I forget it."

I wish I weren't so impressionable... now I don't know where I stand on this question. I think, though, deep-down, I really want to agree with Dillard here. I *know* I'm a hopeless incurable romantic, and I actually felt relieved reading Dillard's next paragraph. But the questions in my last post still apply... haha. I'm such a waffler; good thing I'll never run for President. :)

Name: Amy Martin (
Date: 03/02/2005 12:36
Link to this Comment: 13341

I didn't know we had to post for Monday so here is my attempt at posting...
At first I clearly defined how I felt about our two books-
The Little Prince was a beautiful text- in its simplicity and its message. I literally sobbed at certain parts. It's cheesy but true.
The Periodic Table- although it had some parts that affected me or caused me to have an aha moment was clearly not a beautiful text...its words didnt move me in the same way those of the little prince did.
Yet, after our group meeting in class we had to go back and re read certain chapters of the Periodic Table in preparation for our presentation. After going back and after the discussion with my group I suddenly found the text and ideas of those chapters so much more inherently beautiful than I had before. But again, I do agree with everyone else I felt like I was searching to find something that could fit the word beauty when my appreciation of the periodic table and certain parts of the little prince had little to do with the vague valufe of beauty.

Keeping the Course Beautiful
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 03/02/2005 17:34
Link to this Comment: 13349

To the beautiful--

A couple of course-keeping matters:

1. We will need to schedule four presentations for the Tuesday after break, and three for Thursday; please let me and Sharon know tomorrow when your small group would prefer to present, and we'll get a schedule up by the end of the day.

2.We've been discussing the possibility of creating another beauty survey, to supplement the one with which the course began. We see two problems: if I take pictures of your beautiful objects w/ my digital camera, we are likely to be dissatisfied w/ the aesthetic results; if you provide us w/ images you've found on the web, we will need to attend to matters of copyright: You'll have to verify that there are no copyright restrictions on the image you select, and then--if there are none--to be sure and provide us w/ a link to the site where you found it. Let us know, also tomorrow, what you think about our pursuing this project as a class.

3. Check, before leaving campus for spring break, that you are up-to-date on your postings (six required so far).

4. Folks in my group also please check in w/ me about getting your papers returned.

Starless Galaxy
Name: Elizabeth Newbury (enewbury at
Date: 03/03/2005 01:09
Link to this Comment: 13370

Since we are discussing, vaguely, beauty in science, I thought I'd share this article I found:

Scientists Discovery A New Galaxy

The catch is the galaxy doesn't appear to have any stars in it, and is comprised primarily of dark matter. Which, because this contradicts so many scientific theories, I find to be quite beautiful.

Name: Lauren Sweeney (
Date: 03/03/2005 01:22
Link to this Comment: 13371

I just realized that I forgot to post on Monday, so in a flailing, desperate attempt to stay afloat in this week's conversation, here I go:
After rereading "The Little Prince" for this class I have discovered that there are certain elements of it which are so relevent to what we have been talking about as what constitutes beauty, particularly in regard to the sciences. The simplicity of the novel, the way things are phrased and symbols are used are perfect examples of the beauty of simplicity (and also Muska's now-famous "deceptive quality") of simplicity which stands for complexity. The prince's philosophical principals are some of the most profound (in my opinion) but presented in the way that only a child would see them. But then again, I have always beena sucker for all that "out of the mouths of babes" stuff. I really believe that children can teach us a thing or two about what's really beautiful because they have a method of seeing with a certain clarity which we cannot help but lose with age. Its a result of socialization and our common culture and for the most part, it cannot be helped.

Beautiful Poetry
Name: Katy McGinness (
Date: 03/03/2005 09:47
Link to this Comment: 13376

I find poetry and song lyrics far more beautiful than text, personally. A poem is succinct, and it delivers its message in just so many words while also allowing for imagery and other such literary wonders. My group is doing Allen Ginsberg, and my favorite of his poems is probably either "Sunflower Sutra" or "136 Syllables at the Rocky Mountain Dharma Center." The imagery in both poems is stunning, and I love the fact that both titles contain allusions to Eastern philosophy (which is far wiser than the West could ever be). I just love all the Beat poets (I thought about including Charles Bukowski but decided that his stuff was probably pushing the boundaries for this class), and I also love Dylan Thomas. I can easily see the beauty emanating from certain types of poetry. Seeing the beauty of a larger text is a task that is proving more difficult for me.

more keeping the course beautiful....
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 03/03/2005 17:58
Link to this Comment: 13389

To you Beautiful Ones--

3 more course-keeping matters before you head off for break.

1. The schedule for presentations is

Tuesday, March 15:
Group 1 (Liz P, Lauren, Amy, Rachel, Brittany)
Group 2 (Alice S, Amanda, Annabella, Kara, Tanya)
Group 4 (Eebs, Maloire, Katy, Krystal, Mo)
Group 6 (Nancy, Meera, Alice K, Muska, Gwen)

Thursday, March 17:
Group 3 (Marissa, Jaya, Catie)
Group 7 (Bea, Alix, Rebecca, Megan)
Group 5 (Kat, Flora, Liz N, Alanna)

2. A reminder to keep free the first Saturday morning after break (3/19) when we will make our second group trip to the Barnes--where you will be making observations for your third paper in this course, "on reading a picture."

3. We continue to extend the invitation for all of us to produce a new "beauty survey" as an excellent archive/product of this course. You might be looking, over break, for items/images you would like to contribute; alternatively, if you're not interested in doing this project, please let us know.

Anne and Sharon

Random tidbit
Name: Brittany ()
Date: 03/03/2005 22:52
Link to this Comment: 13399

This is utterly moronic and showcases my nerdiness, but...

So I was watching Jeaopardy tonight. (cue laugh track here)

One of the categories was "Paintings at the Barnes." Guess who got every question right? Haha!

What I found interesting, though, was that the questions were all artist-identifications. Considering how Barnes put the artists' names in tiny typeface at the bottom of the paintings (and wanted to de-emphasize the "museum-type framework" of which artists' names are a part), I thought it was pretty ironic how all of the questions were a picture of a painting and a "This artist blah blah."

But it was nice that they had a question about the ceiling mural that Matisse did for the main viewing room.

6th entry!
Name: Meera Jain (
Date: 03/04/2005 12:52
Link to this Comment: 13413

After having our small group discussions of our literary texts, our group came to a unique conculsion, as a class why have we not discussed the physical appearances of human beauty? When I first signed up to take this class, I assumed that would be one of the first things we would be talking about: body image, societal views of beauty, makeup and plastic surgery and why women are so subjected to non-traditional ideals. Our group chose to read The Bluest Eye, which deals with a young black girl who desires to be the white girl with blond hair and blue eyes. She is constantly unhappy because she thinks a new skin color can make her happy. I particulary could not find this book beautiful because it tells a story of something that occurs to women of color throughout their life, and even though Toni Morrison does a fantastic job writing I understand what this young girl is experiencing. Muska said in our group, "I find beauty in such a sad tale" (the gist of her quote) and I am the opposite, I find beauty in happy tale. Finally, I wish that some our class time can be devoted to talking about why and how the ideals of beauty are placed on women are so strong but not as strong on men? For example, why are there so many magazines like Cosmo, Glamour that have skinny women and when they choose to have normal looking women they manage to only have a couple? And why are the races featured generally lighter looking (the black women are so light skinned they don't look black)? Our discussion led us to another point, are the prettiest women really insecure because they have to prove themselves as not JUST being pretty but diverse in talents also?
Have a great break!

discussiof beautiful texts
Name: Alice S (
Date: 03/04/2005 14:53
Link to this Comment: 13416

Our group has had some interesting discussions regarding magical realism and 100 Years of Solitude. Half of the people in our group thought the book was beautiful and half did not. I confess I was surprised because I enjoyed the book so much that I assumed the everyone wouuld love it. But I realize that we all get something different out of the book because we are all looking for something different from a novel.

One of the interesting things we discussed in our group is the way that the characters in 100 Years of Solitude do not go through a moral or spiritual journey. I think this may have been the distinction between the those who enjoyed it and those who did not. I felt that I can still connect with the characters, but some said that they could not connect or sympathize with the characters because of this. I enjoyed the book immensely despite the fact that some characters fail and never succeed, and I still walk away from that book with a very profound message. For me, a beautiful text does not have to have some kind of lesson that I can apply to my own life. I think this story is beautiful despite the fact that it is sad and that the characters suffer. I also believe that this book does not have a negative tone despite its sadness. I was discussing this book with someone and she described how the book made me feel in a way that I could not articulate; she said it left her "breathless." She also said that both during and after she read it, she found herself "trying to get my mind back into the real world." It is complete escapism; the beautiful language and captivating stories literally carry me away to a dream world. And I love that feeling.

Name: ()
Date: 03/05/2005 17:07
Link to this Comment: 13429

I think that literature is able to vocalize feelings that perhaps otherwise would not be articulated. This is not to say that all feelings must be "translated" or transmitted through the use of words but that sometimes performing through the act of either reading or writing can be powerful.

Poetry to me also has as particular quality that makes it powerful for me. The gaps, the careful choice of words, and the space in poems allows for more room for interpretation.

Name: Tanya Corder (
Date: 03/10/2005 12:00
Link to this Comment: 13448

This is a little off-topic, yet it was so beautiful I felt that I needed to share it. While studying for my chemistry midterm, I read a section that would not be on the test, but ended up being the most interesting part of the text- the section regarding Micelles. Every single aspect of the section expanded upon their beauty. They are ambiophilic molecules, meaning they have both polar and nonpolar regions. This duality makes them almost like a super-molecule. They are represented as lolipop structures with a squiggly stems, and in order to maximize their dissolution in water, they form a sphere with their squiggly stems (nonpolar region) pointing towards the center and the lolipop heads (polar region) as the perimeter. It looks like those flowers that when you blow on them and they scatter and float away. The last aspect that made them so beautiful were their uses. Micelles are in soaps and detergents to remove oil or other dirtying agents. The nonpolar stems cling to the dirty stuff and form the sphere to encapsulate them. Then they can dissolve in the water and be removed with the water. (Oil and the other substances otherwise do not dissolve in water). The most important use of the micelles are cell membranes in organisms. Rather than forming spheres, micelles form a sandwich-like structure with the nonpolar stems facing the center of the sandwich and the lolipop head on the outside. These sandwich structures bend to form a sphere with water enclosed within them. These are how our cells form. These molecues were amazing because I found their physical representations flower-like and gorgeous, their dual nature very fascinating, and their purposes very significant. Understanding how various things in the world work makes it all a little more beautiful.

Beautiful Literature
Name: Amanda G. (
Date: 03/14/2005 16:30
Link to this Comment: 13491

I am in the group that read "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". I was one of the people who when we had to write down three beautiful texts wrote the title "One Hundred Years..." but now as I think back on that decision I realize that I would probably pick something else. My initial three texts were "The Red Tent", "Romeo and Juliet", and "One Hundred Years..." I find "The Red Tent" beautiful in not only its literary makeup but the story it tells. Also, I find it empowering for women. It is something that I sugggest all women read at least once, whether or not you are interested in biblical tales. "Romeo and Juliet" I find tragically beautiful and again I think it's a text that everyone should read, and everyone usually does in high school English. When I read it in class though, in high school, when looking for the themes and at the "English terms" I hated it. But, reading it for pleasure I found it a literary beauty.
I initially read "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" by Gabriel GarcÌa Marquez in high school. I loved the writing style of the book so much that I read "Love in the Time of Cholera" and "One Hundred Years..." I think that the reason "One Hundred Years..." jumped into my head as a beautiful text is the popularity of it. On the other hand, now that I think back, "Chronicle" is probably my favorite of the three books. It is GarcÌa Marquez's style that draws me to his work: "There were new gympsies, young men and women who knew only their own language, handsome specimens with oily skins and intelligent hands, whose dances and music sowed a panic of uproarious joy through the streets, with parrots painted all colors reciting Italian arias, and a hen who laid a hundred golden eggs to the sound of a tambourine, and a trained monkey who read minds, and the multiple-use machine that could be used at the same time to sew on buttons or reduce fevers, and the apparatus to make a person forget his bad memories, and a poultice to lose time, and a thousand more inventions so ingenious and unusual that JosÈ Arcadio BuendÌa must have wanted to invent a memory machine so that he could remember them all. In an instant they transformed the village" (One Hundred 17). The pictures that GarcÌa Marquez paints with his words drew me in.

literary text and beauty
Name: eebs (
Date: 03/14/2005 21:00
Link to this Comment: 13497

for the past several weeks, we discussed in class how beauty comes in the form of aesthetical pleasure, and also in understanding 'the works'. i dont know if it is just me or whatnot, but i can always recall a beautiful text or an idea, but not a beautiful artwork. this is not to say that i dislike art; i love art (i was actually planning on majoring in studio arts when i applied to bmc)... but there seems to be something MORE in a thought or a text that makes it more memorable and beautiful to me. perhaps the "MORE" that exists (for me) in text is the personal connection the artist/author has with his writing; it has a more 'detectable' meaning compared to an expressive artwork. we say a piece of art is "expressive" but we dont or cant usually explain HOW it is expressive. in text, the notions of theme, symbolism, is not limited to shapes and colors.. but also to ideas and emotions. i think most eveyrone can agree that emotions can be shared, mostly the happy emotions. the more depressing emotions cannot be shared unless you have experienced it also. the beauty behind writing is that the author enables you to share the same emotions by taking you through the experience he created/had. this is particularly true for one of the texts we are reading in our groups, Angela's Ashes. for the most of us, the only way we can experience a poor-irish-catholic childhood is through words. to me, words are powerful in that they give you an opportunity to learn from and experience another person's through their words.

Name: Meera Jain (
Date: 03/15/2005 00:14
Link to this Comment: 13502

My mom sent me this reading in an email- I think its very appropriate and gives a different perspective on interpreting beauty. Perfect for our trip to the Barnes on Saturday.

When I look carefully, I see the nazunia blooming by the hedge! Basho

Now, there seems to be nothing of great poetry in it. But let us go into it with more sympathy, because Basho is being translated into English; in his own language it has a totally different texture and flavor.

The nazunia is a very common flower  grows by itself by the side of the road, a grass flower. It is so common that nobody ever looks at it. It is not a precious rose; it is not a rare lotus. It is easy to see the beauty of a rare lotus floating on a lake, a blue lotus  how can you avoid seeing it? For a moment you are bound to be caught by its beauty. Or a beautiful rose dancing in the wind, in the sun...for a split second it possesses you. It is stunning. But a nazunia is a very ordinary, common flower; it needs no gardening, no gardener, it grows by itself anywhere. To see a nazunia carefully a meditator is needed, a very delicate consciousness is needed; otherwise you will bypass it. It has no apparent beauty, its beauty is deep. Its beauty is that of the very ordinary, but the very ordinary contains the extraordinary in it, because all is full of Godeven the nazunia flower. Unless you penetrate it with a sympathetic heart you will miss it.

When for the first time you read Basho you start thinking, What is there so tremendously important to say about a nazunia blooming by the hedge?

In Bashos poem the last syllable, kana, in Japanese  is translated by an exclamation point because we dont have any other way to translate it. But kana means, I am amazed! Now, from where is the beauty coming? Is it coming from the nazunia?because thousands of people may have passed by the side of the hedge and nobody may have even looked at this small flower. And Basho is possessed by its beauty, is transported into another world. What has happened? It is not really the nazunia; otherwise it would have caught everybodys eye. It is Bashos insight, his open heart, his sympathetic vision, his meditativeness. Meditation is alchemy: it can transform the base metal into gold; it can transform a nazunia flower into a lotus.

When I look carefully.... And the word carefully means attentively, with awareness, mindfully, meditatively, with love, with caring. One can just look without caring at all, then one will miss the whole point. That word carefully has to be remembered in all its meanings, but the root meaning is meditatively. And what does it mean when you see something meditatively? It means without mind, looking without the mind, no clouds of thought in the sky of your consciousness, no memories passing by, no desires...nothing at all, utter emptiness.

When in such a state of no-mind you look, even a nazunia flower is transported into another world. It becomes a lotus of the paradise, it is no longer part of the earth; the extraordinary has been found in the ordinary. And this is the way of Buddha: to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, to find all in the now, to find the whole in this  Buddha calls it tathata.

Bashos haiku is a haiku of tathata: this nazunia, looked at lovingly, caringly through the heart, unclouded consciousness, in a state of no-mind...and one is amazed, one is in awe. A great wonder arises, How is it possible? This nazunia  and if a nazunia is possible then everything is possible. If a nazunia can be so beautiful, Basho can be a buddha. If a nazunia can contain such poetry, then each stone can become a sermon.

When I look carefully, I see the nazunia blooming by the hedge! Kana.... I am amazed. I am dumb. I cannot say anything about its beauty  I can only hint at it.

A haiku simply hints. The poetry describes, the haiku only indicates, and in a very indirect way.

judgment call=aesthetic judgment?
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 03/15/2005 12:33
Link to this Comment: 13510

I want to say something about the judgment call I made today, to keep each of the presentations to the 15-minute time limit Sharon and I had asked you all to respect. I felt divided: on the one hand, I was impressed w/ the richness of all your thinking, and wanted to hear more; on the other, I was conscious of wanting to assure that each group would have equal time. Apologies if you felt cut off (reminder also, when you are giving a presentation, to set up ahead of time, and to rehearse).

Know what? I think my own aesthetic (of the pared, the trimmed down, the shaped) was also in play this morning: I expect that a good deal of the "beauty" I see in, and pleasure I derive from, academic work has to do w/ this sort of selection and ordering, the making of necessary distinctions between what is essential, what not, then highlighting the former, and letting the latter fall away....

In other words, in asking you to stop w/in the time allotment, I was also asking you to acede to my aesthetic. Necessary, perhaps; problematic, certainly.

Anyhow, I learned a lot this morning, and want to thank you all for your good thinking. A number of ideas I hope we can return to in future discussions:

"The Beauty Inside"
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 03/15/2005 12:37
Link to this Comment: 13511

some of you go, find out what you can find out?
Join WOMENS WAY on Wednesday, March 23rd, 7 PM at InterAct Theatre, located at 2030 Sansom Street in Philadelphia, for the world premiere of Catherine Filloux's "The Beauty Inside".
Directed by Kay Matschullat, this drama follows a promising young attorney who passes up a lucrative offer at a large American firm to defend the survivor of an attempted honor killing in her native Turkey. She undergoes a life-changing journey of social activism and self-discovery, while developing a bond of sisterhood with her visionary client.
Our special performance will be followed by a "Coffee Conversation," at which company artists will join us for an informal discussion about the production.
Tickets are only $22 and may be reserved by calling InterAct Theatre directly at 215-568-8079 or visiting its box office at 2030 Sansom Street in Center City. Simply say that you are with WOMENS WAY. 20% of the proceeds from this night's performance will directly benefit WOMENS WAY.

Beautiful and WRONG (?)
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 03/15/2005 12:40
Link to this Comment: 13512

One more opportunity, then I'll quit. Tomorrow's Visual Cultures talk (Wed March 16, Thomas 224, 12:30-1:45), by Heather Love of the Penn English Department, is entitled "Beautiful and Wrong: Funeral Splendor in Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now. Perhaps another useful extension of the ideas we were talking about today....?

Beautiful Texts?
Name: Tanya Corder (
Date: 03/15/2005 14:41
Link to this Comment: 13519

You'll find Group 2 (Alice S, Amanda, Annabella, Kara and Tanya)'s contribution now available on-line as a powerpoint presentation: Beautiful Texts?

Dressing up the Subject Matter
Name: Tanya Corder (
Date: 03/15/2005 15:32
Link to this Comment: 13523

I was thinking about the connection between language and content and their contribution to beautiful literature. The analogy that I found best describes my feelings is this: the subject of a piece is a woman and the language is make-up. Some people are beautiful naturally and do not need make-up and even tend to look worse with make-up. This describes Frank McCourt¼s „Angela¼s Ashes.¾ The book is beautiful without dressy language, because his life is beautifully expressed in his natural voice. Long descriptions and lyrical passages would definitely take away from the piece¼s beauty. It would seem unnatural. Some people, however, look better with make-up on because they are not that great looking naturally. That is how I felt about „One Hundred Years of Solitude.¾ The story line was a little dreary and what I did appreciate as beautiful was his language and descriptions. Then there are those who look decent, but pound on the make-up to look like Mimi on the Drew Carey show. I¼m not sure if this is true for „The Bluest Eye¾, but I find most of Tony Morrison¼s novels way to descriptive and decorated. It comes off gaudy and although the storylines are interesting, the long, continuous elaborations and descriptions slow the book down and cause me to dislike them and under-appreciate their beauty. Just my thoughts.

Group 1's presentation
Name: Brittany ()
Date: 03/15/2005 16:16
Link to this Comment: 13528

Hey all! For those of you that are interested, here's the link to group 1's presentation.

Wild Iris
Name: kat (
Date: 03/16/2005 21:27
Link to this Comment: 13558

I know it is way past the time we are supposed to comment on this, but one of the texts my group choose as beautiful, Wild Iris by Louise Gluck I just had to comment on as separate from beauty. The Wild Iris has a strong theme present throughout the book of creator speaking with created. At times the narrator seems to be angry with God for things ( one of the most humorous I find is for giving the narrator hope of growing tomato plants, and then making the weather impossible to grow tomatos in). Other times, the narrator is speaking from what seems to be the voice of God, and is speaking to the things which He created. All of this is tied to the flowers that Gluck uses for analogies and imagery. I just thought it was incredible, and wanted to recommend it to anyone else...Also, When I went to New Orleans for spring break, one of the day trips we took was to the swamps just outside the city- and there, surprisingly, were many Wild Iris just about to bloom. Amazing!

Wild Iris
Name: kat (
Date: 03/16/2005 21:27
Link to this Comment: 13559

I know it is way past the time we are supposed to comment on this, but one of the texts my group choose as beautiful, Wild Iris by Louise Gluck I just had to comment on as separate from beauty. The Wild Iris has a strong theme present throughout the book of creator speaking with created. At times the narrator seems to be angry with God for things ( one of the most humorous I find is for giving the narrator hope of growing tomato plants, and then making the weather impossible to grow tomatos in). Other times, the narrator is speaking from what seems to be the voice of God, and is speaking to the things which He created. All of this is tied to the flowers that Gluck uses for analogies and imagery. I just thought it was incredible, and wanted to recommend it to anyone else...Also, When I went to New Orleans for spring break, one of the day trips we took was to the swamps just outside the city- and there, surprisingly, were many Wild Iris just about to bloom. Amazing!

Name: Katy (
Date: 03/16/2005 22:50
Link to this Comment: 13566

I was intrigued by people's choices of beautiful texts. Personally, I found very little actual beauty per se in one of my group's choices ("Angela's Ashes"). I prefer more flowery language and imagery, which is partly why I enjoy poetry more than regular prose, I think. Some people find beauty in the content of writing, while others find it in the style of writing. Others appreciate both aspects. I like to think that I fall into the last group, but I often find myself appreciating style over substance when it comes to text. It might just be that I'm not exactly a big reader. However, I'd be interested in checking out some of the texts that other groups reported on. "100 Years of Solitude" sounded especially interesting to me. I'm already a huge fan of David Sedaris. It was interesting, though, to see such an obvious split in preferences among many of the groups regarding literary style as opposed to literary substance. The choices of texts really highlighted this (such as my group's "Angela's Ashes" on one side of the spectrum and "Sunflower Sutra" on the other).

By the way, here is "Sunflower Sutra:"
" I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and
sat down under the huge shade of a Southern
Pacific locomotive to look at the sunset over the
box house hills and cry.
Jack Kerouac sat beside me on a busted rusty iron
pole, companion, we thought the same thoughts
of the soul, bleak and blue and sad-eyed, sur-
rounded by the gnarled steel roots of trees of
The oily water on the river mirrored the red sky, sun
sank on top of final Frisco peaks, no fish in that
stream, no hermit in those mounts, just our-
selves rheumy-eyed and hungover like old bums
on the riverbank, tired and wily.
Look at the Sunflower, he said, there was a dead gray
shadow against the sky, big as a man, sitting
dry on top of a pile of ancient sawdust--
--I rushed up enchanted--it was my first sunflower,
memories of Blake--my visions--Harlem
and Hells of the Eastern rivers, bridges clanking Joes
Greasy Sandwiches, dead baby carriages, black
treadless tires forgotten and unretreaded, the
poem of the riverbank, condoms pots, steel
knives, nothing stainless, only the dank muck
and the razor-sharp artifacts passing into the
and the gray Sunflower poised against the sunset,
crackly bleak and dusty with the smut and smog
and smoke of olden locomotives in its eye--
corolla of bleary spikes pushed down and broken like
a battered crown, seeds fallen out of its face,
soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air, sun-
rays obliterated on its hairy head like a dried
wire spiderweb,
leaves stuck out like arms out of the stem, gestures
from the sawdust root, broke pieces of plaster
fallen out of the black twigs, a dead fly in its ear,
Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O
my soul, I loved you then!
The grime was no man's grime but death and human
all that dress of dust, that veil of darkened railroad
skin, that smog of cheek, that eyelid of black
mis'ry, that sooty hand or phallus or protuber-
ance of artificial worse-than-dirt--industrial--
modern--all that civilization spotting your
crazy golden crown--
and those blear thoughts of death and dusty loveless
eyes and ends and withered roots below, in the
home-pile of sand and sawdust, rubber dollar
bills, skin of machinery, the guts and innards
of the weeping coughing car, the empty lonely
tincans with their rusty tongues alack, what
more could I name, the smoked ashes of some
cock cigar, the cunts of wheelbarrows and the
milky breasts of cars, wornout asses out of chairs
sphincters of dynamos--all these
entangled in your mummied roots--and you there
standing before me in the sunset, all your glory
in your form!
A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent
lovely sunflower existence! a sweet natural eye
to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited
grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden
monthly breeze!
How many flies buzzed round you innocent of your
grime, while you cursed the heavens of the rail-
road and your flower soul?
Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a
flower? when did you look at your skin and
decide you were an impotent dirty old locomo-
tive? the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and
shade of a once powerful mad American locomo-
You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a
And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me
So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck
it at my side like a scepter,
and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack's soul
too, and anyone who'll listen,
--We're not our skin of grime, we're not our dread
bleak dusty imageless locomotive, we're all
beautiful golden sunflowers inside, we're bles-
sed by our own seed golden hairy naked ac-
complishment-bodies growing into mad black
formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our
eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive
riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sit-
down vision."

i didn't mean superficial
Name: Sharon Burgmayer (
Date: 03/16/2005 23:23
Link to this Comment: 13569

In Tuesday's end-of-class discussion, I attempted to point out what I found to be a provocative difference among the presenters that day: that some of you spoke about how the words in a text, how they sounded, how their rhythms moved, were the source of your beauty sensation. Others reacted to ã or wished to have been affected byã the content and/or meaning of the text.
Of the former response, I used the descriptor "superficial"...and thinking about this since, I realized that's really NOT the word I wanted. "Superficial" carries a negative connotation which I did not intend to bestow on those of you who felt that aesthetic for the texts. Rather, I was struck by how some of you reacted with an immediacy to the words, at a level above where meaning is pierced. After further thought, these two responses seem the same as when I have an immediate response to perceived visual beautyãsay of a natural beautyãwhich might be followed by an awareness and appreciation of it's underlying structure or raison d'etre. My curiosity was about the differences between those people who have an immediate beauty response to words and text and those people who desire a meaning in order for the text to acquire beauty. Is this completely parallel to beauty immediately perceived in the physical world, a beauty which can be enhanced when explainedãgiven meaningã by physical science? Or, for some of us, do words seem to insist on being "taken seriuosly", where they demand to have meaning before we can allow them a beauty status?

Beauty Presentations
Name: Meera Jain (
Date: 03/17/2005 11:52
Link to this Comment: 13580

With the WIDE range of beautiful texts (I now have a really long list of books I want to read) it was obvious to me that people chose the beautiful texts based on the way it related to their life. For example- Jaya liked Interpreter of Maladies because she felt privileged to understand what a second generation Indian is and Muska enjoyed The Bluest Eye, because when she was young she identified with the main character who wanted blue eyes. Beauty is really in the eye of the beholder. I am glad our group went into the direction it did, to discuss the aesthetics of human beauty and what makes someone beauty and someone ugly. Although Amy Sedaris' tv show "Strangers with Candy" was not one of our beautiful texts, we used her show to exemplify the differences between societal beauty standards. Pecola Breedlove's life is in shambles and she will never consider herself beautiful because society at that period in history liked blue eyes and blond hair, but today I think a huge shift has been made. Although advertising has a huge impact on what people think is beautiful, Amy Sedaris portrays how pointless it is to believe what society thinks is beautiful but rather find a personality/soul more intriguing. But I think she is capable of doing this, because she FITS the mold of beauty defined by society. Could someone different do the same thing or would they be mocked? I think this will be a good introduction to the physical appearances of beauty- what makes a person beautiful and does that determine how successful, intelligent, nice, character traits that person has?

Beautiful Texts Presentations...and a Side Discussion on Women and Beauty
Name: Alanna Albano (
Date: 03/17/2005 12:24
Link to this Comment: 13581

Wow! We had some really interesting presentations this week! Not only have I gained many different perspectives from which to look at beauty, but I also have a new list of books that I want to read!

I was glad to be able to hear and see the students' different interpretations on beauty -- what they found to be beautiful or not so beautiful in the texts that they chose. The presentation on AMy Sedaris really stands out in my mind...I liked how the group creatively presented the two versions of beauty and ugly in the same person. However, what troubles me are some of the responses that I heard from the class to the presenters' questions (recall that we had been asked if we thought the pretty Amy Sedaris was intelligent, would we hire her for a job, etc. versus the "ugly" Amy Sedaris). The overall responses tended to say that they would hire the ugly Amy for the job and that she was intelligent, whereas the beautiful Amy was not intelligent and would not be hired for a job (try to forget about that weird apron dress that she was wearing -- this is serious). The responses that I heard from the class seemed to indicate to me that we don't associate beauty with intelligence; in other words, a woman cannot be both beautiful and intelligent at the same time -- that she must choose one trait or the other -- which is utter NONSENSE. Does a woman have to make herself "ugly" or "plain" in order for society to recognize her intelligence? Does a woman's beauty detract from her intelligence? Does a woman's beauty automatically make people think that she must not be intelligent? Does the media provoke this stereotype in society, that women's beauty and intelligence cannot go hand in hand? How often do we see "beautiful" women portrayed in intelligent roles on TV and in the movies?

What Is Beauty?
Name: Meera Jain (
Date: 03/17/2005 16:11
Link to this Comment: 13584

You'll find Group 6 (Nancy, Meera, Alice K, Muska and Gwen)'s contribution now available on-line as a powerpoint presentation: What Is Beauty?

As promised....
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 03/17/2005 16:55
Link to this Comment: 13597

Here are the course-keeping details we discussed this morning:

And while I'm here...

And while I'm here...
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 03/17/2005 17:03
Link to this Comment: 13598

These are (a few of the many) questions I had after today's three presentations (for which thanks): I saw a

I expect that's enough questions for today... :)

Visuals From Our Presentation
Name: Alanna Albano (
Date: 03/17/2005 18:49
Link to this Comment: 13608

For anyone who is interested, here is the link to the nice website that Liz made for our group presentation (Liz N., Flora S., Alanna A., Kat M.):

Ooops! Second Try on Link...
Name: Alanna (
Date: 03/17/2005 19:02
Link to this Comment: 13610

Let's try that link one more time:

Sorry, I don't know how to type it in so that it automatically connects you to the website...if anyone could explain that to me I would greatly appreciate it.

Name: ()
Date: 03/18/2005 14:49
Link to this Comment: 13626

Ginsberg/McCourt powerpoint

Powerpoint Again
Name: Mo Rhim ()
Date: 03/18/2005 15:02
Link to this Comment: 13627

Ginsberg/McCourt again

Giving up on technology
Name: Mo Rhim ()
Date: 03/18/2005 15:10
Link to this Comment: 13628

Allen Ginsberg & Frank McCourt¼s Angela¼s Ashes

Poetry and Prose

ÄThere are specific attributes of poetry that make it distinct from prose, which is one reason why we chose to read some poetry and then a novel.

Poetry: The Good and the Bad


Artistic and Lyrical

Some consider more beautifully written than prose


Hard to understand

Hard to read

„School Structure¾ãforced to over analyze poetry

Allen Ginsberg

Ä Allen Ginsberg was a beat poet

Ä Beat poetry has it¼s own rhythm

Ä Anti-pop culture

Ä Humorous

Ä Words and subject resonate with you-Beautiful when read aloud:

„The Sunflower Sutra¾

Ä „Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a flower? When did you look at your skin and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive? the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and shade of a once powerful mad American locomotive?You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower!And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me not!¾

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Genre: The Memoir

Ä What is a memoir? A memoir is a piece of autobiographical writing, usually shorter in nature than a comprehensive autobiography. The memoir, especially as it is being used in publishing today, often tries to capture certain highlights or meaningful moments in one's past, often including a contemplation of the meaning of that event at the time of the writing of the memoir. The memoir may be more emotional and concerned with capturing particular scenes, or a series of events, rather than documenting every fact of a person's life

Memoir: Expectations

Ä The intimacy of the memoir immediately gives the reader a sense or an expectation of a narrative of human experience and emotion.

Ä More than just facts strung together, a reader expects a memoir to portray emotional events and personally significant experiences

Angela¼s Ashes: Synopsis

Ä Frank McCourt¼s memoir, „Angela¼s Ashes,¾ tells his story of growing up surrounded by poverty and despair in the slums of Ireland. The death of his siblings, his father¼s abandonment, and abuse from family and neighbors are some of what plagues McCourt¼s childhood. McCourt, however, manages to recount such things without waxing poetic. The poverty, the hungeräthe constant abysmal conditions that McCourt endures as he grows up are all described in a simple, straightforward manner that allows the reader to feel sadness but also appreciate the humor and humanity in much of what he endures. The spark of hope in times of despair, the humor during times of tragedy, and the idea that it is possible to persevere which are seen in „Angela¼s Ashes¾ are woven together to help in creating part of the book¼s beauty. The beauty of „Angela¼s Ashes¾ also stems not only from McCourt¼s style of writing but rather from the reader being able to relate to what McCourt narrates. Whether it¼s the realistic imperfection of characters (McCourt¼s father, Malachy, for example, can be a good father to his children but he¼s also an irresponsible drunk), off-beat family, or memories of sexual awakening, there¼s something to which readers can relate.


Ä Not the writing itself, but rather, what the style creates:

Ä The style of the book is not necessarily what creates the beautiful experience in that it is not the writing in particular what we found appealing. Rather it is the style that allows the reader to become immediately connected with the human experience, the honesty and the rawness attached to the narrative. The absence of superfluous or extravagantly constructed prose lent the writing a certain bareness that allowed for the seemingly real and honest emotion and experience shine through the writing. In this book, it was not the beautiful passages of prose that created beauty in the writing, but it was the accessibility of the actual experience and emotion created by the stark and bare bones writing style that connected the reader to the intense human experience and emotion in the narrative. Ultimately it is this connectivity and access that makes the reading/experiencing of the text beautiful.

Excerpts from Angela¼s Ashes

Ä „When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood. People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years. Above all- we were wet." (McCourt 11)

Ä "I know Oliver is dead and Malachy knows Oliver is dead but Eugene is too small to know anything. When he wakes up in the morning he says, Ollie, Ollie, and toddles around the room looking under the beds or he climbs up on the bed by the window and points to children on the street, especially children with fair hair like him and Oliver. Ollie, Ollie, he says, and Mam picks him up, sobs, hugs him. He struggles to get down because he doesn't want to be picked up and hugged. He wants to find Oliver. .. Malachy and I play with him. We try to make him laugh...He doesn't say Ollie anymore. He only points. Dad says Eugene is lucky to have brothers like Malachy and me because we help him forget and soon, with God's help, he'll have no memory of Oliver at all. He died anyway." (McCourt 82)

Ä "[Uncle Pat] says there's no food in the house, not a scrap of bread, and when he falls asleep I take the greasy newspaper [that held Uncle Pat's fish and chips] from the floor. I lick the front page, which is all advertisements for films and dances in the city. I lick the headlines. I lick the great attacks of Patton and Montgomery in France and Germany. I lick the war in the Pacific. I lick the obituaries and the sad memorial poems, the sport pages, the market prices of eggs butter and bacon. I suck the paper till there isn't a smidgen of grease. I wonder what I'll do tomorrow." (McCourt 296)

Excerpt and explanation

Ä „You might as well.¾ (McCourt 150)

Ä When the boys ask to go out and play, the mother simply states „You might as well¾ and without having to explain with unnecessary prose the sense of defeat or despair felt, McCourt is able to convey all of the emotion and the struggle with four simple words spoken by the mother.

Ä Throughout the novel, McCourt does not even use quotation marks, adding even more to the sense of a „bare¾ writing style that is not weighed down by anything other than the simplest and most direct methods to convey the emotion and honest experience


Ä Though Ginsberg and McCourt have different and distinct styles of writing, both are able to give a sense of beauty or an experience of beauty.

Ginsberg and McCourt
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 03/18/2005 17:48
Link to this Comment: 13630

(With a little help from Anne):
HERE's the powerpoint presentation on Ginsberg and McCourt,
by Eebs, Malorie, Katy, Krystal and Mo.

HTML tricks
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 03/18/2005 17:58
Link to this Comment: 13631

The trick, Alanna, is explained @ the top of the posting page.
If you type this,

<a href= > Lost in Beauty </a>

you'll get this:

Lost in Beauty

(If you wish to learn more about using HTML tags, see info on advanced posting).

Gatsby Malady Survival
Name: Sharon Burgmayer (
Date: 03/20/2005 19:46
Link to this Comment: 13686

Finally for your viewing pleasure, here is the powerpoint presentation on The Great Gatsby, Interpreter of Maladies and Survival of the Fittest,

by Marissa Patterson, Jaya Vasudevan and Catie Davidson.

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