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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Book Bag: 'Landscape and Gender in Italian Opera'

Senici, Emanuele, et al., ed. Landscape and Gender in Italian Opera: The Alpine Virgin from Bellini to Puccini (Cambridge Studies in Opera) (Cambridge, 2005). [P-A-G-toc-exc]

Why the need to invent mountains where in reality there are none? In short, because the female protagonists of I Puritani and Le Pardon de Ploërmel, Elvira and Dinorah, are virgins. To be sure, the nineteenth-century lyric stage was densely populated by virgins who live happily in flat or modestly undulated lands, from Rosina in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia (Seville) to Amelia in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra (Genoa), from Fenella in Auber's La Muette de Portici (Naples) to Charlotte in Massenet's Werther (a German town), from Marzelline in Beethoven's Fidelio (a castle near Seville) to Eva in Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Nuremberg). These characters' virginity is not one of their defining traits, however, nor does it constitute a central theme of the operas to which they belong – it is not the object of elaborate choral praise, for example. In the cases of Bellini's Elvira and Meyerbeer's Dinorah, though, bodily purity and what the nineteenth century considered its emotional and psychological manifestations, such as innocence and modesty, are emphatically thematised. In nineteenth-century opera the portrayal of an emphatically virginal heroine is often associated with a mountain setting, most frequently the Alps, where the clarity of the sky, the whiteness of the snow, the purity of the air function as symbols for the innocence of the female protagonist. The ideal playground for two virgins with a capital V, then, is the mountains, and amidst mountains they were duly placed, notwithstanding geographical reality. This conventional association between a vividly depicted mountain landscape and emphatically virginal female characters is present in all the main national traditions of nineteenth-century opera. Intro

Book Bag: 'Augustine And Postmodernism'

Caputo, John D., et al., ed. Augustine And Postmodernism: Confession And Circumfession (Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion) (Indiana U Press, 2005). [P-A-toc]

Situated at a point still very early in the formation of the tradition of metaphysical theology and more than a millennium before the formation of modernist systems of onto-theologic, Augustine's search for God is at once philosophical and scriptural, Neoplatonic and personal, metaphysical and anchored deeply in the dynamics of pre-philosophical experience. Nowhere is this more evident than in the pages of the Confessions, which are astir with the passion of his search for God, or of God's search for him, so that his confessions are the records, the "acts" (acta), more of God's doings than his. It is little wonder that it is the Confessions that have drawn the attention of Heidegger, Derrida, and Lyotard. The enduring timeliness of Augustine is in no small part a function of his passionate phenomenology avant la lettre of the temporality of the heart's restless love of God. Intro


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Book Bag: 'A Companion To Digital Humanities'

Schreibman, Susan, et al, ed. A Companion To Digital Humanities (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture) (Blackwell, 2005). [P1-P2-A-G-toc]

Computers and the techniques they made possible have over the years altered how many historians have understood their craft. To some they have opened the historical imagination to new questions and forms of presentation, while to others they have instead shuttered the historical imagination, at best limiting and channeling historical thinking and at worst confining it to procedural, binary steps. This chapter traces where the historical profession has come in the years since these professional debates and tries to assess how computing technologies have affected the discipline and how they will shape its future scholarship. p.56