Seminar Class 10/15/12

On monday’s class, Professor Kahan began class by giving background information on the famous composer Mendelssohn. We discussed Mendelssohn’s well known Symphony No. 3, which was played during sunday’s Philharmonic. Mendelssohn came from a very wealthy family and was very educated. His music was very well known during the mid 1800s, or the Victorian Age. Besides Symphony No. 3, Mendelssohn also wrote another very famous composition. This work is known as The Wedding March which is the song played during the bride and grooms exit of the church. This song, amazingly, is still used and favored today in many, if not all weddings.

After the discussion of Mendelssohn, we started to talk about the novel Washington Square and our opinions on it. We mainly focused on Catherine Sloper’s character, the protagonist of the novel. She is known as a plain and ungraceful girl who has a fine taste in clothing and is soon to be an heiress. Even though she likes to dress well, she does not do it to impress others. She does it to please herself. He father, Dr. Austin Sloper, does not like when Catherine dresses this way because she makes it seem like she “wears her money.” We also discussed why Henry James chose to set the book in New York in the 1850s. Since the book was written in 1880 during the rise of the civil war, the author chose to set the book before the civil war occurred to show New York during its prosperous times.

The we watched scenes from two movies: Washington Square and The Heiress. We compared how these two movies differ with the presentation of characters and how they act during the film. I felt that in the film Washington Square Catherine’s role was very much like the character in the novel in the sense that she was very unsociable and ungraceful. In the film The Heiress, I felt that Catherine should have been more awkward and unsociable.  In Washington Square, Marian, Catherine’s cousin, introduced her to Morris Townsend. In The Heiress, Catherine’s Aunt Penniman introduced her to Morris Townsend. One particular difference that truly shocked me was Catherine’s dress in the movie Washington Square. Instead of Catherine wearing a cherry red dress just as her mother did in the past, the director of the movie disregarded this and had Catherine wear a huge and extravagant yellow dress. I was glad Professor Kahan decided to show us these scenes from the two movies in order to give the class a taste of what the broadway show would be like.