A Randy Newman Roman Rant?

Brief item in the Gambit:

In January 2007, The New York Times ran a guest editorial by Randy Newman. It was, appropriately, the lyrics to a song, “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country,” which condemned the current state of American politics through a clenched-teeth grin, belittling modern leaders in light of the more accomplished imperialists of Nazi Germany and ancient Rome. Perhaps the most flattering Times music review ever, the placement drew Newman’s acerbic ire for what didn’t run: several lines about incest in the time of Caesar. “What are they protecting, Tiberius?” Newman told NPR. “These people have been dead 2,000 years. … Kevin Caesar isn’t going to come out of the woodwork and sue them.”

Anyone heard anything about this before?



Alexander’s Tomb In … Southern Illinois???

I don’t know which is more stupid … this claim or the fact that a news organization would actually give it any attention at all (to say nothing of a county board of some sort). From the CarmiTimes:

An Iuka man who believes the lost Tomb of Alexander the Great may be located in extreme southeastern Marion County encouraged a county board committee Tuesday night to pursue development of the site a tourist attraction.

Harry Hubbard presented artifacts he said were earlier looted and sold from the underground cave, WJBD Radio reported, along with a number of books and maps that he said confirm the location of the cave.

“The county could be rolling in revenues coming in from the outside,” he told the committee. “Any country in the world would love to have this repository within their boundaries… and it can be exploited.”

Hubbard said he believes gold and riches are still buried in the cave, even after what he calculated was the removal of over five thousand pieces and over $6 million in gold.

The brief report includes this link to a longer story, which I won’t bother to excerpt except this paragraph, which is probably all you need to know:

Hubbard has translated three European based languages on some of the artifacts, confirming the remains are not from American Indians. He believes as many as 50-thousand Europeans fled during the Roman Empire and arrived in the area by coming up the Mississippi River and then followed the Ohio River and Wabash River before traveling up the Skillet Fork to an area where he believes the cave is located.

… photos of some of the ‘artifacts’ are also there, for what they’re worth (not much …) and it’s probably some charitable divinity which is preventing WordPress from allowing me to post the last image there, which has the caption “Hubbard says this rock contains an ancient Latin language that shows the stone is from someone of European descent.” No word on whether Hubbard knows of the, er, non-Roman origins of Alexander. Besides, we know that Alexander’s tomb is in Gevgelija … no, I meant Australia … no, it’s over here, behind the couch …






Old Men in the Chorus

Umit Dhuga at Calvin has been working on a project related to tragic choruses of elderly folk:

His long study of the choruses in Greek drama has led Umit Dhuga to the following question: “Why are so many choruses composed of men who limp and complain about their decrepitude?” he asks,

Dhuga, a Calvin professor of classical languages, has recently published a new book, Choral Identity and the Chorus of Elders in Greek Tragedy (Lexington Books) in which he rehabilitates the reputation of one particular species of Greek chorister: old men.

Old male choruses are thought by scholars to serve a merely decorative, or even comic, function in ancient Greek drama, Dhuga says: “The older chorus is marginal by mere fact of its old age. In other words, I think that scholars for too long have conflated the idea of social marginality with dramatic marginality—which, in some ways, I think, shows how scholars can be rather myopic.”

The cure for this nearsightedness, Dhuga believes, is a less-modern point of view, “One had to wonder what preconceptions an ancient Athenian had when he saw a chorus of old men walk on the stage.”
Integral to the plot

What a Greek theatergoer saw in an old, male chorus was probably wiser and more central to the dramatic action than has been supposed, Dhuga argues: “As early as Homer—even earlier—old men are traditional repositories of wisdom …It would stand to reason that our choruses of old men might also play advising roles.”

Dugha’s concentrated his study on Greek plays featuring old-man choruses, what he calls “the chorus of elders.” He has examined the choruses in Sophocles’s Oedipus Coloneus and Antigone, Euripides’s Heraclidae and Hercules Furens, and Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, among others, concentrating on the actual language of the texts.

In all of these plays, he finds old men driving the action. “In Oedipus Coloneus , … every political decision is made by the chorus and then ratified by the king. In Antigone, the chorus is silenced throughout the play until the king realizes his folly, then begs for advice,” Dhuga argued.

The elderly-ness of the chorus is not a factor in their influence on a play: “The extent to which their advice is either heeded or ignored is based more their relationship to the ruler and less on identity per se,” Dhuga said, adding that the old Greek guys can also be hard to predict: “There is not a typical old-man chorus.”
Many choruses

Dhuga hopes his scholarship will enhance understanding of the role of the chorus in Greek tragedy. The choral tradition was important not only to the theater of the period, but also to the ceremonies of everyday life. “By the time your average male citizen was 35, he would have experienced hundreds of choruses,” he said. Greek youth were schooled in choral fundamentals such as singing, dancing, narrating, and acting.

Dramatic choruses took many forms—women, foreigners, others—all of them played by young men. “If I had a lifespan of 300 years, I could do a survey of every choral identity, but I don’t,” Dhuga said. “My idea was to take the identity that interested me most.”

He thinks his interest in choruses of elders was sparked through his friendship with Peter K. Marshall, an Amherst professor of Latin and Classics and Dhuga’s thesis advisor. “He was so good,” said his former student. “There was something about age, his experience, his gravitas, his stories.” Marshall died a week before Dhuga’s thesis presentation, and Choral Identity and the Chorus of Elders in Greek Tragedy is dedicated to him. (The book also served as Dhuga’s dissertation.)

“I don’t think that it’s any coincidence that I dedicated a book to my elderly advisor,” Dhuga said, “and through him that I became acquainted with antiquity.”

Dhuga has been teaching at Calvin for a year-and-a-half. “He is already well published, and so he raises the bar for the rest of us,” said classics department chair Mark Williams. “He challenges his colleagues as well as his students. He is also someone to talk English soccer with.”

Horace and the Mona Lisa

Just the other day I was wondering what my former prof Ross Kilpatrick was up to … a news item from Queen’s University suggests interesting things:

Queen’s University Classics professor emeritus Ross Kilpatrick believes the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, incorporates images inspired by the Roman poet Horace and Florentine poet Petrarch. The technique of taking a passage from literature and incorporating it into a work of art is known as ‘invention’ and was used by many Renaissance artists.

“The composition of the Mona Lisa is striking. Why does Leonardo have an attractive woman sitting on a balcony, while in the background there is an entirely different world that is vast and barren?” says Dr. Kilpatrick. “What is the artist trying to say?”

Dr. Kilpatrick believes Leonardo is alluding to Horace’s Ode 1. 22 (Integer vitae) and two sonnets by Petrarch (Canzoniere CXLV, CLIX). Like the Mona Lisa, those three poems celebrate a devotion to a smiling young woman, with vows to love and follow the woman anywhere in the world, from damp mountains to arid deserts. The regions mentioned by Horace and Petrarch are similar to the background of the Mona Lisa.

Both poets were read when Leonardo painted the picture in the early 1500s. Leonardo was familiar with the works of Petrarch and Horace, and the bridge seen in the background of the Mona Lisa has been identified as the same one from Petrarch’s hometown of Arezzo.

“The Mona Lisa was made at a time when great literature was well known. It was quoted, referenced and celebrated,” says Dr. Kilpatrick.

Dr. Kilpatrick has been looking at literary references in art for the past 20 years. He has recently found references to the mythical wedding of Greek gods Ariadne and Dionysus in Gustav Klimt’s famous painting The Kiss.

Dr. Kilpatrick’s Mona Lisa findings have now been published in the Italian journal MEDICEA.

via: Professor discovers hidden literary references in the Mona Lisa

Can’t find a web presence for MEDICEA (which I am unfamiliar with and which is possibly an abbreviation) … I also note this is being picked up by the usual news sources and a few are dropping the dreaded word ‘code’ …