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Posts by richard blot

IMPORTANT! Revised schedule of classes, reading and writing assignments

Please review carefully, very carefully, the following revised schedule of classes, events, reading and writing assignments, and due dates for papers. I will hold you responsible for following it to the letter! Also, please remember to submit $25 to me NO LATER THAN November 21st!

Seminar 1:  Revised Schedule of classes and assignments

Tuesday, November 5th            Discussion of Walter Benjamin: “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

Thursday, November 7th            Discussion of Frances Berenson, “Understanding Art and Understanding Persons” and Peter Schjeldahl, “Shapes of Things”

N.B. ALL students must post comments on the Berenson reading.

Tuesday, November 12th            Discussion of John Berger, Ways of Seeing, pages 1-81. The piece by Berger, “The basis of all painting and sculpture is drawing” I did not distribute, so do not worry about it.

Thursday, November 14th            11:00 a.m. Lehman Brass Quintet Concert in the Recital Hall of the Music Building, 3rd floor

12:30 p.m. Jose Roldan solo performance of his “Forgive Me Father for I Have Sinned” in the Lovinger Theatre

Tuesday, November 19th             Discussion of John Berger, Ways of Seeing, pages 83-155. and Linda Nochlin,  “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” also Gould, pages 137-155.

N.B. ALL students must post comments on the Nochlin piece.

Thursday, November 21st              Discussion of Frank Sibley, “Aesthetic concepts” and  discussion of Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) and 5 Pointz

N.B. ALL students must post comments on the Sibley piece

Tuesday, November 26th            NO CLASS MEETING

Wednesday, November 27th         As this is a Friday schedule we will use the opportunity to attend the Magritte exhibit at MOMA in the afternoon

Tuesday, December 3rd            Discussion of The Nutcracker versions by Hoffman and Dumas. Please bring the Penguin Books 2007 version translated by Joachim Neugroschel to class with you.

Tuesday December 3rd   N.B. Second writing assignment due. (Absolutely no late papers!)

 Thursday, December 5th            No Class Meeting.  Meet for The Nutcracker performance by the New York City Ballet at 7:00 p.m., David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center

Sunday, December 8th             Snapshot Event at Macaulay, 67th Street

Tuesday, December 10th            Review of The Nutcracker performance

Response Logs Due

William Kentridge video “Anything is Possible”


Thursday, December 12th            Summing Up & Final Paper Due

















The Nose

Think about the opera as an adaptation of the story — Shostakovich not only translated from text to music to the stage, but also shifted the political context from the czarist bureaucracy to the early Communist period. What does that help you see?

Important Announcements: Reminders & Possible Schedule Changes

Next Tuesday, October 22nd, Seminar 1 meets at its regular time but in the Lehman Art Gallery. Please be sure to be on time as we will be getting a tour of the “Morphology of the Print” exhibit.

On Wednesday, October 23rd, we will attend the theatre performance at 3:30 in Lehman’s Studio Theatre. You must arrive a few minutes before 3:30 to get decent seats, but more important, they’ll give your ticket to someone waiting if you’re not there at the latest 10 minutes before showtime. If you have a conflict for the Wednesday show, which runs without intermission for approximately 1 hour 45 minutes let me know on Tuesday. You can then attend an alternate performance as the show runs from Thursday through Sunday. But check the times: Thursday & Friday at 7:30 p.m. I’m not sure for Saturday and Sunday.

On Thursday, October 24th our class is  supposed to meet in the Costume Shop, at our regular time, but I am attempting to change the date to the following Tuesday, October 29th. I will let you know on Tuesday. If we change our Costume Shop visit, we will move the Walter Benjamin reading to October 31st.

And last, remember that we have the performance at the NY Philharmonic on Thursday, October 24th at 7:30.

Questions for “The Nose”

Gogol’s Nose: Considerations



1.You have read Gogol’s Overcoat and his Nose.  Both stories are about loss. How do they differ? Tragic and comic?  

2.Gogol’s admirers called him a “realist” because of his social criticism. Is the Nose a realistic piece?  Is there criticism of society?

3.Dostoevsky said of himself and other nineteenth-century writers, “we all came out of Gogol’s Overcoat.”  He had in mind, it seems, the psychological realism of the great Russian novelists.  Can you see the roots of this realism in the Overcoat or the Nose?

4.How does Gogol portray the bureaucracy and bureaucrats of Nicholas I’s Russia in each story?

5.Shostakovich changed the setting of the Nose from the Russia of Nicholas I to the Russia of Stalin. How are these two settings comparable?  By modernizing the setting, was Shostakovich perhaps preserving something essential in Gogol’s story?

6.One critic (Simon Volkov) has concluded that Shostakovich turns Gogol’s hero (who is presented rather dispassionately) into a tragic figure and gives him a “heartbreaking, passionate aria.”  Kovalev in the opera is tortured by the establishment, punished and turned into a pariah.  Does this change the impact of Gogol’s original?

7.Look up (Google) this site on the artist William Kentridge (who created this production of the opera) and check out the essay “Serious Play.”  See the commentary on Shostakovich and the Russia of his time. 

8.There is a copy on this site of the libretto for the opera which the Russian writer Zamyatin helped write (author of the dystopian “We” – progenitor of Brave New World and 1984).  Is there an element of the anti-utopian in this opera?

9.Look up Russian constructivism and modernism. How does Shostakovich fit in this  early Soviet cultural milieu?

10.Considering the stories of the operas you know, does the plot of the Nose seem like opera material?  What should you expect at the Met?

11.For your amusement check out Russian animators’ attempts to retell the story of The Nose “Animated Gogol.”

R. Whittaker

Date change for Compass Rose

Hi, everyone,

The date of “The Compass Rose” in Ryan’s Pub is Thursday, September 19th, not the 24th as I had thought. Please update your calendars.


“…it is appropriate to stress the social abnormality of the concert ritual itself. What attracts audiences to concerts is that what performers attempt on the concert or opera stage is exactly what most members of the audience cannot emulate or aspire to. But this unattainable actuality, so strikingly dramatic when we see it before us on a stage, depends on the existence of unseen faculties and powers that make it possible: the performers’ training and gifts; cultural agencies like concert associations, managers, ticketsellers; the conjunction of various social and cultural processes (including the revolutions in capitalism and telecommunication, electronic media, jet travel) with an audience’s wish or appetite for a particular musical event. The result is what can be called an extreme occasion, something beyond the everyday, something irreducibly and temporally non repeatable, something whose core is precisely what can be experienced only under relatively severe and unyielding conditions.” Edward W. Said, Musical Elaborations. NY: Columbia University Press, 1991, pp. 18-19.

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