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Posts Tagged ‘Faust

“All poets write bad poetry. Bad poets publish them, good poets burn them.”*…

 

Thunderstorm with the Death of Amelia 1784 by William Williams active 1758-1797

Thunderstorm with the Death of Amelia, by William Williams, 1784. Photograph © Tate (CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0).

 

Readers may recall an earlier nod to William Topaz McGonagall, widely considered to be the worst published poet in British history.  McGonagall, best known for his widely-excoriated verse recounting of “The Tay Bridge Disaster,” distributed his poems, often about momentous events, on handbills and performed them publicly (often, it is reported, to cat calls and thrown food).  And he collected his verse into volumes including Poetic Gems, More Poetic Gems, Still More Poetic Gems, Further Poetic Gems, and Yet Further Poetic Gems.  Imagine your correspondent’s surprise and delight to find a learned appreciation of McGonagall’s place in poetic history:

Not unjustly, McGonagall is rarely mentioned without an epithet: some version of “the worst poet in the English language.” And by any reasonable account, any judgment based on the most universally shared values of poetics, prosody, and taste, there is little to admire in McGonagall. The rest of his corpus shares—replicates, really—the faults of “The Tay Bridge Disaster”: its lapses into bathos, its involuted syntactical structures, its rhymes so slanted as to be more or less horizontal.

There have been worse poets, of course, and as such it would be more accurate to describe McGonagall as the worst famous poet in the English language, a testament in part to the man’s powers of self-promotion and the caprices of literary history. But McGonagall’s notoriety still owes much to the singularly strange power of his own badness. There’s something, I think, in poems like “The Tay Bridge Disaster”—as well as McGonagall’s many poems on his great themes of death and destruction—that is worth examining; something that might redeem him, ever so slightly, from the annals of amusing semi-obscurity; something unsettling about his ostensibly blinkered artistic vision that might help to account for why he lingers as the patron saint of misbegotten verse…

On William Topaz McGonagall, the worst famous poet in the English language: “The Disaster Poet.”

(Readers will find a selection of McGonagall’s poems here.)

* Umberto Eco

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As we bathe in bathos, we might spare a thought for the decidedly more-accomplished poet (and playwright, artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and philosopher) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; he died on this date in 1832.  Probably best remembered these days for Faust, he was “the master spirit of the German people,” and, after Napoleon, the leading figure of his age.

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Written by LW

August 28, 2020 at 1:01 am

“For she had eyes and chose me”*…

 

eye-colors_620

 

Psychologist David Perrett’s… Perception Lab recruited 300 men and 400 women, all of whom had heterosexual partners and had been raised by two parents. They learned that romantic partners tend to look alike — the participants and their partners tended to have similar hair color and similar eye color.

This might be explained by a self-similar preference or narcissism, but on looking deeper into the data Perrett’s team found that the single best predictor of one’s partner’s eye color was the eye color of one’s parent of the opposite sex. If a woman’s mother had blue eyes and her father had brown eyes, she would most likely be partnered with a brown-eyed man. If a man’s mother had blue eyes and his father had brown eyes, his partner most likely had blue eyes. Similarly, the hair color of a man’s mother was the single best predictor of his partner’s hair color. “These results indicate that individuals choose partners who resemble their opposite-sex parent both in eye and hair color.”…

The mysteries of human attraction: “Eye to Eye.”

Read the underlying paper: Anthony C. Little et al., “Investigating an Imprinting-Like Phenomenon in Humans: Partners and Opposite-Sex Parents Have Similar Hair and Eye Colour,” Evolution and Human Behavior 24:1 [2003], 43-51.

* William Shakespeare, Othello

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As we peer through the window to the soul, we might spare a thought for playwright, poet, artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; he died on this date in 1832.  Probably best remembered these days for Faust, he was “the master spirit of the German people,” and, after Napoleon, the leading figure of his age.

In 1810, Goethe published his Theory of Colors (Zur Farbenlehre), which he considered his most important work.  In it, he contentiously (and incorrectly) characterized color as arising from “the dynamic interplay of light and darkness through the mediation of a turbid medium.”  Still, Goethe was the first systematically to study the physiological effects of color; his observations of the effect of opposed colors led him to a symmetric arrangement of his color wheel, “for the colors diametrically opposed to each other… are those which reciprocally evoke each other in the eye.”  Indeed, after being translated into English by Charles Eastlake in 1840, his theory became widely adopted by the art world, most notably by J. M. W. Turner.

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Written by LW

March 22, 2020 at 1:01 am

“A library implies an act of faith”*…

For almost 30 years Candida Höfer has photographed interiors, mostly representational spaces accessible to the public– staircases, lobbies, reading halls or exhibition spaces.  Rather than staging them, she captures them in as she finds them, with both discretion and humor.

Now, she’s trained her lens on libraries across Europe and the US: the State Archive in Naples (above, via), the Escorial in Spain, the Whitney Museum in New York, Villa Medici in Rome, the Hamburg University library, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, the Museo Archeologico in Madrid, the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, and many, many others.

Luxuriate in these temples of knowledge– and enjoy Umberto Eco’s exquisite introductory essay– in Libraries.

And on a lighter note, from Literary Man, “If Libraries Could Get Any Sexier“…

“What’s New, Pussycat?” (1965): Woody Allen, Romy Schneider, two ladders, and an open book.

* Victor Hugo

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As we remain quiet, please, we might spare a thought for playwright, poet, artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; he died on this date in 1832.  Probably best remembered these days for Faust, he was “the master spirit of the German people,” and, after Napoleon, the leading figure of his age.

 source

Written by LW

March 22, 2013 at 1:01 am

Tottering Towers…

From The Economist:

The British Parliament’s Clock Tower (more commonly known as Big Ben) is leaning north-west by 0.26 degrees, or 17 inches (43.5cm), according to documents that were recently made public. But Big Ben isn’t alone; architects have been correcting the Leaning Tower of Pisa since the 1170s when it was still being built. Germany’s Leaning Tower of Suurhusen, which at an angle of 5.19 degrees holds the Guinness World Record for the most tilted tower in the world, dates back to the 1450s. In modern times, many buildings have been designed at a deliberate slant. The 165-metre Montréal Tower, finished in 1987, is the world’s tallest man-made leaning tower and inclines at a 45-degree angle. In 1996, the Puerta de Europa in Spain was completed with two towers sloping towards each other at a 15-degree angle. Late this year the Capital Gate is set to be finished in Abu Dhabi at a slant of 18 degrees.

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As we hum “Lean on Me” to ourselves, we might send soulful birthday greetings to Robery Leroy Johnson; he was born on this date in 1911.  A master of the Mississippi Blues, Johnson’s guitar work and vocals have been hugely influential: he ranks fifth on Rolling Stone‘s list of all-time greatest guitarists, and is cited by Eric Clapton as “the most important blues singer that ever lived.”  But this regard developed posthumously; during his lifetime, Johnson was effectively unknown– an itinerant, playing juke joints and street corners.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that a legend has arisen around Johnson: as a young boy committed to music, he was “instructed” to take his guitar to a crossroad near Dockery Plantation at midnight. There he was met the Devil who, after bargaining for Johnson’s soul, took the guitar, tuned it, played a few songs, and then returned it– giving Johnson his otherwordly mastery of the instrument.

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Written by LW

May 8, 2012 at 1:01 am

Indigestion through the ages…

 

It’s only fair, after Friday’s post, to give equal time to culinary pursuits less thoughtful. And so, to Aspic and Other Delights, a Tumblr devoted to food that’s both bad and bad for one…

More (more perhaps than readers can stomach) at Aspic and Other Delights.

 

As we reach for the ipecac, we might wish a disciplined Happy Birthday to playwright, poet, artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; he was born on this date in 1749.  Probably best remembered these days for Faust, he was “the master spirit of the German people,” and, after Napoleon, the leading figure of his age.

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