Category Archives: fine arts

on the proper use of moral clichés

In Joseph Roth’s finely wrought novel The Redetsky March (1932), a simple and good-hearted peasant orderly tries to make a huge financial sacrifice to help his boss, Lieutenant Trotta. The feckless Trotta is badly in debt, and the orderly, Onufrij, has … Continue reading

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St. Margaret of Cortona and medieval populism

This is highlight #3 from our recent vacation in Italy. St. Margaret of Cortona was a remarkable person–more on her in a moment. The picture is a narrative of her life painted around 1298, or just one year after she … Continue reading

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civic republicanism in medieval Italy: the Lucignano council frescoes

This is highlight #2 from our recent time in Italy. Lucignano is a small medieval town in Tuscany, notable for its street plan of concentric ellipses capping a steep hill. During the middle ages, it was contested by larger city-states, … Continue reading

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Donatello’s Madonna in Citerna

This is highlight #1 from our recent Italian vacation. In the little Umbrian hill town of Citerna, in the church of San Francesco, a small, badly damaged, and heavily painted terracotta Madonna and Child stood on a shelf above the … Continue reading

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empathy: good or bad?

I am speaking next week on a panel about empathy: “Generative Empathies” (Rabb Room, Lincoln Filene Hall, Tufts University, March 30, 12 pm) with … Amahl Bishara, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Tufts Doris Sommer, Ira Jewell Williams, Jr. Professor of … Continue reading

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when Dante came out

In “Dante on Trial” (New York Review of Books, Feb. 19), Robert Pogue Harrison writes, “Dante seems to reveal that he himself had homosexual leanings, and that it was only fear of damnation that prevented him from acting on them.” This surprised … Continue reading

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Orozco’s Gods of the Modern World

(Hanover, NH) It’s amusing to be at Dartmouth, talking earnestly with high school civics teachers–after a week of thinking about the civic mission of higher education–while nearby stand the forbidding professors of “Gods of the Modern World,” a pertinent panel … Continue reading

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Goya’s Familia del infante Don Luis

I’d call this large painting the highlight of the Goya exhibition at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts: Goya depicts himself at the bottom left, painting the Spanish nobleman Luis de Borbón and his family in 1784. Don Luis was a … Continue reading

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Pied Beauty, illustrated

Glory be to God for dappled things For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough; And áll trádes, … Continue reading

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Joyce’s The Dead

James Joyce’s “The Dead” is certainly the most famous chapter of Dubliners, the only part made into a Hollywood film. Like the other chapters, it is a short story that can be read on its own. But having recently experienced … Continue reading

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