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Durer Melancolia engraving image

The Earth-Bound Angel: The Melancholy of Feminine Suppression in Durer’s Angel by Marie-Claire Blais

One of the striking profundities of the engraving Melencolia I (1514) by Albrecht Durer is the evocation of both heaviness and lightness in the image of the seated angel.  The image is emblematic of the melancholy state of being as it was perceived in the Renaissance, and harked a renewed connection between melancholy and genius in the consciousness of the age, a connection which arches over all of the vast field of the subject of melancholy.[1] The symbol of the angel in the engraving represents the potential of flight, brilliance, genius and transcendence, all of which are  weighed down by a profound heaviness, perhaps produced by the contemplation of grave spiritual and scholarly matters.  As a general symbol, an angel represents the elevated aspects of particular human existences that aspire to transcendence – whether it be artistic, intellectual, philosophical, or spiritual.  But beyond the ineffable impressions that arise from the contemplation of Durer's image, it is difficult to arrive at a definition of melancholy.  In A Field Guide to Melancholy, Jacky Bowring writes: “Suffering and joy.  Pleasure and sadness.  Melancholy is a conundrum, a riddle of contradictions.  The latent richness of the concept grows out of these paradoxes, and three…
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Antigone Holderlin

Antigone’s Realm: An Exploration of the Unity of Life and Death in Sophocles’ Antigone

There is an illusion of solidity in the idea of the original ancient Greek text of Sophocles' Antigone, an artefact of literary archaeology preserved and cherished like the marble statues of Greek antiquity.  But beyond, behind and within the ancient Greek words inscribed on paper lies a realm of meaning and significance; and in this realm, the questions posed by Antigone whirl and eddy in ceaseless motion.  The play is surrounded by a vast sea of scrutiny, translation and interpretation, its vastness fed by the long history of the play[1] and the enduring relevance of the questions the play poses about the nature of humanity, chaos, civilisation, life and death. George Steiner writes in his book Antigones: 'In the act of philosophical interpretation, in the poet's recasting, we confront the fundamental constancy of homecoming, the backbone of theme and variation in western sensibility. The Antigone myth reaches unwavering across more than two millennia.  Why should this be?'[2] The answer to this question proves to be surprisingly elusive.  In the first attempt to answer it, one only discovers more questions, such as “What is it that makes the play great?”, and  “What compels us continually to return to its themes?”  Each…
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N Swami woman and flute

The Power of Generation in the Novels of Toni Morrison

  The stories told in Toni Morrison’s novels are strongly rooted in the fictional communities and familial structures of her main protagonists and concern the African-American’s experience in America, from the tragic social by-products of slavery to a continually evolving sense of cultural identity drawn from a fusion of the violently fragmented segments of African-American history.  One of the main motifs in her novels is the idea of generation, with its accompanying associations of cycles, fertility, and power.  Some of the many resonances encompassed by this motif are how the economy of slavery was involved in the birth of America as a country; the idea of reproduction – human and social; the suspended ambiguous relationship between the old and the new; how nourishment and sustenance of this bond are necessary for regeneration; the retention of African culture across the generational break that happened as a result of forced migration; and the birth of ideas through language.  This study will explore how these ideas mingle and interact in the novels The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Paradise, with emphasis on Song of Solomon and Paradise. Peter Kolchin describes how in colonial America the combination of a world “with few ideological…
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Orpheus hands mirror

The Orpheus Myth: Life and Death in Media

Writing - black traces on white paper, with symbols peculiarly, arbitrarily fashioned –  and film – the captured moving image – are means of capture, storage and absorption.  What is contained in a written trace?  And what is contained in thought?  And why is one compelled to contain thought in a trace?  How are thought and perception captured by film?  A contemplation of the nature of media traces inevitably leads one to consider questions of aliveness.  The static materiality of the written trace exists in a complex relationship with the airy, lively presence of thought, suggesting a duality analogous to that of life and death.  In considering the nature of writing, Derrida writes “...access to the written sign assures the sacred power of keeping existence operative within the trace and of knowing the general structure of the universe...”[1]  Unfolding the word “existence” reveals the questions at the heart of this seeming duality in the nature of the trace.  Lurking barely under the surface of the word is the unsolvable puzzle at the heart of existential philosophy: What are the edges of existence?  Is there a divine presence in this world?  What happens when we die?  Is there another realm of…
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