Five Famous and Influential Works of Philosophy

Simone de BeauvoirAs I’ve read a bit more about the history of philosophy I’ve learned that there are some philosophers and some works of philosophy that have had an enormous impact on the way everyone who came after thought. Some of those works have become famous. Others remain largely unknown. Here are a few of the most famous ones. Continue reading “Five Famous and Influential Works of Philosophy”

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A Brief History of English Poetry

 

Rupert Brook The Soldier 1915
Rupert Brooke, ‘The Soldier’, 1915

Throughout its history, the glory of the English artistic spirit has always found its clearest expression in words, and while prose writing began to gain ascendency with the evolution of the novel in the 18th century, the roots of poetry extend much further back. Indeed, so far back do they go that the earliest poems are lost in the mists of time. What follows, then, is a very brief summary of some 1,500 years of literary history. Continue reading “A Brief History of English Poetry”

A Very Short History of Art: The Early Christian to the Gothic

Jesus c375
Early depiction of Jesus, c.375 C.E.

As the Roman Empire fell into decline and collapse another unifying cultural force began to spread through Europe, this time not by a process of conquest and empire-building, but through the gentler methods of persuasion and spiritual transformation. Legalised by Emperor Constantine I in 313 C.E. and declared the official religion of the Roman Empire under Theodosius I in 380 C.E., the rising influence of Christianity and the waning power of Rome had a huge influence on art throughout Europe.

Christianity had inherited from its Jewish roots strong taboos against idolatry and nudity. Moreover, the new religion emphasised the pursuit of spiritual over physical perfection. Where once the athlete’s sculptured muscles and the maiden’s curvaceous beauty had epitomised all that was most desirable in humanity, now the focus was on gaining spiritual enlightenment and eternal life in the hereafter. Continue reading “A Very Short History of Art: The Early Christian to the Gothic”

A Very Short History of Art: The Prehistoric to the Ancient

Lscaux Horses
Horses from the Lascaux cave paintings.

I’m at it again, compressing decades, and in this case millennia, of history into a few hundred words. This time I’ve set my sights on the world of European Art, and am starting at the very beginning: with Palaeolithic art and the ancient cave paintings of Lascaux.

I’ve already posted about these under Paintings You Should Know, but suffice it to say no-one now knows what motivated our ancient ancestors, over 17,000 years ago, to work by the light of flickering torches deep underground to paint, with prehistoric brushes and pigments, gigantic images of the animals then plentiful in ice-age Europe. What we do know is that no other animal that we are aware of has ever set out to create visual or symbolic representations of the things they observe in the world around them: the impulse to create art seems to be uniquely human. Continue reading “A Very Short History of Art: The Prehistoric to the Ancient”

Classical Music: The 20th Century and Beyond

The twentieth century saw massive change in the world of classical music. One of the first composers to seize upon the advances in recording technology that it brought was the English composer Edward Elgar. In his lifetime he oversaw the recording, and in some cases as technology advanced still further re-recording, of many of his works. Between the ‘wireless’ and the gramophone, for the first time ever people didn’t have to go out to hear orchestral music, or have someone around who could play them the piano – all they needed was the requisite technology. Whereas once you might have heard a favourite piece only three or four times in your life – if you were lucky, and if the piece were popular – now you could play it over and over again to your heart’s content.

Continue reading “Classical Music: The 20th Century and Beyond”

Paintings You Should Know: The Lascaux Cave Paintings (C. 15,000 B.C.E)

Hall of the Bulls Lascaux
The Cave of the Bulls, Lascaux.

On September 12th 1940 a young man named Marcel Ravidat discovered the entrance to a cave at Lascaux in France. Returning with three friends, they entered the cave and discovered what is to date the most extensive and detailed series of Palaeolithic cave paintings ever seen. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: The Lascaux Cave Paintings (C. 15,000 B.C.E)”

Christianity, culture and Culture

It is sometimes difficult in our modern, secularised world to remember just how big a part religion has played in most people’s lives throughout history. By today’s standards I’m something of an oddball: a 30-something female who regularly goes to church, reads her Bible, and believes that Jesus Christ is the one true Son of God, the giver of salvation and eternal life. Continue reading “Christianity, culture and Culture”

Poet Profile: Wilfred Owen

‘Was it for this the clay grew tall?
– O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?’

(Wilfred Owen, ‘Futility’)

In 1914, Europe and her dominions became embroiled in the most terrible and destructive war the world had ever seen. Continue reading “Poet Profile: Wilfred Owen”

English Literature in 10 Classic Reads

The French may have a reputation for making the best wine. The Italians and the Dutch may have been renowned for centuries as the world’s finest artists. Germany may have produced some of history’s greatest composers. But when it comes to words, no-one does it quite like the English. Continue reading “English Literature in 10 Classic Reads”