Transcending Incidental Music: Musical Theatricality in Schumann’s Manfred Overture

Alexandra Huang | May 12, 2018
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) is a music composer in high Romanticism. His symphonic rearrangement of the dramatic poem Manfred by Lord Baron Byron (1788-1824) to this day shares the limelight with Byron’s original text. The Manfred Overture is the opening introduction set in the beginning of his Symphony Op.115, Manfred: Dramatic Poem with Music in Three Parts along with the Overture (1848). In terms of genre, the piece is the apotheosis of incidental music, music composed for atmospheric accompaniment for dramatic actions in a play. Originating from ancient Greece, incidental music is a musical practice that looms large in the nineteenth century (Oxford Companion to Music). Interestingly, Shumann’s Manfred Overture is also a critique of the genre in that the place of music is as important as the dramatic scenarios.

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A “Bittle” Love

Christa M. Burgin | May 1, 2018
For those of you who haven’t seen Love, Simon, there are numerous reasons why you should, most important of which is this: Simon, as we’re told early on, is just like you. He has a normal life with the exception of “one huge-ass secret.”1 In fact, this secret is so large that Simon doesn’t reveal he’s gay until he begins emailing “Blue,” a fellow student at his high school. Complications arise when another student reads Simon’s messages on one of the school computers. As a result, Simon is blackmailed into helping his classmate win over a girl in order to protect his identity.

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Cardboard Critics: The Language of Protest

Anna Kemball | April 30, 2018
A picture says a thousand words, they say. When it comes to how we take collective action, how much can be said through pictures and words, hastily scribbled on a scrap of cardboard? What impact do these transitory collections of text, image and object have in relation to more permanent messages associated with our universities?

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On Conferences as Political Spaces

Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo | April 13, 2018
When I began my academic career, as a student on a Masters degree by research, conferences seemed both exciting and daunting. They were exciting because, as an unexperienced researcher, the prospect of being in a space with people who had been doing research for years, exchanging ideas, and being treated seriously as a researcher, was extremely appealing. They were daunting because of the competitive aspect that they represented— an opportunity to share research and thoughts, and an opportunity for those with more knowledge and experience to point out the flaws therein. They would involve inherently awkward situations where you would be forced to make small talk with someone whom, in all likelihood, you shared nothing in common with, else you would stand in the corner of a crowded room, staring at your phone screen. Nevertheless, they were something to be endured because they were a necessity on the curriculum vitae of any aspiring academic, and a space to make contact with people who might be valuable to your professional network.

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The Mary Beard Effect: A Brief Review of ‘Women & Power’

Mary A. Pura | April 12, 2018
If you’ve been wandering through Blackwell’s and Waterstone’s lately, you’ve probably noticed the beautifully arranged and aesthetically pleasing displays featuring popular female authors. Partly inspired by a surge in public attention to the #MeToo Movement, there has been an outpouring of new and old literature addressing women’s equality. Amidst the heaping piles, you’ve likely caught sight of the shining silver and gold design adorning Mary Beard’s new publication, Women & Power: A Manifesto. Over the past twenty years, Beard has become a kind of celebrity academic. You may recall an incident back in 2012 consisting of public outrage towards the late AA Gill regarding his statement that Beard was “too ugly for television.” Her response placed her among the feminist gods:

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Rethinking Celtic Medieval Tales: The Worlds of Sarah J. Maas

Sonia Garcia de Alba | April 11, 2018
I have met many adults who confess to reading Young Adult novels for fun. While we may be willing to admit that we use them to disengage from our routines or to while away time, we should question whether such entertainment is the sum of these texts. Some of these books, like the novels of Sarah J. Maas, prompt us to explore and learn about other things, like the fairy tale tradition and Celtic folklore.

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Capitalist Palliatives: Antidepressants, and How Not to Talk About Them

Vivek Santayana | March 30, 2018
A few weeks ago, the philosopher and literary critic Timothy Morton took a dig at his late colleague Mark Fisher, who committed suicide last year after a lifelong struggle with depression. Morton claimed the one big difference between himself and Fisher was that he took antidepressants, and so is still alive to write his new book. He was commenting on Fisher’s critique of neoliberal ideologies that shape discourses around mental health and pharmacological treatment. Morton’s tweet read like an insensitive gloat at his outliving his colleague whose opinion he disagrees with. At best, it was an ad hominem attack dismissing Fisher through a crude, mischaracterised version of his argument.

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Stories Worth Telling: Black Panther and the Rise of Diversity in Popular Culture

Patricia Ng | March 28, 2018
No matter what you say about the Marvel cinematic franchise, they are making some bold moves. Rather than simply making films about popular superheroes, they have now moved on to lesser-known characters, especially those belonging to minority groups. The newly released Black Panther is certainly one of their best examples. Featuring T’Challa (Black Panther), the king of the fictional African nation Wakanda, as the lead, the film can be seen as yet another attempt to diversify the entertainment industry. In recent years, Hollywood has been producing more and more movies with female leads and a culturally diverse cast, like the upcoming female spin-off of Ocean’s Eleven and the multi-ethnic cast in the new Star Wars reboot films. There is nothing wrong with creating films that don’t have white male leads, and we should welcome narratives that promote diversity. Yet, with the rise of such a trend in popular culture, one has to question what it means for a diverse narrative to be good.

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Fantastic Catharsis and Where to Find It

Laurie Beckoff | March 27, 2018
Fantasy, science fiction, and other speculative genres are often pejoratively labelled ‘escapist’, accused of being too distant from real-world issues and allowing audiences to dissociate from reality to indulge in daydreams. They let us forget about the problems plaguing our society so that we can enjoy an action-packed adventure or a whimsical jaunt through a magical land.

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