Bernard Williams: Ethics from a human point of view.

Prof Paul Russell, professor of Philosophy at Lund University and the University of British Columbia.

 

Thinking Stoically about Emotions.

Dr John Sellars, Lecturer in Philosophy at Royal Holloway.

Surely, when we think of Emotions, we imagine the most intensive ones. And rightly so, Seneca claimed that emotions were “temporary madness”. Surely, when we think “stoic”, we imagine someone unfeeling, perhaps even unwell. This is how Dr Sellars started his presentation, not necessary wanting to provoke any reactions but wanting to share his learning from Stoics. In particular, the fact that emotions are a product of judgement. What he explained to us is that “pathe”is more accurate word for affection and passion, therefore not naturally controlled “emotions”. Dr Sellars suggested stoical solutions to how to manage our emotions. The audience was captivated and this was expressed in variety of questions: is there an end product for stoicism such it is eg. in buddhism? How long does it take to train yourself to be “virtuous” person? Can becoming rational reduce empathy? One might ask if we get our answers. To some extend whatever, one has taken from this lecture, it might bring some element of satisfaction, change of intentions or simply broaden our minds. It was an excellent lecture!

Rosemarie Swinfield: The world of William Shakespeare

On Tuesday the 5th of February Rosemarie Swinfield, lecturer, make-up designer and author with an international reputation and a series of lectures about Europe in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries,  covered the world of William Shakespeare without presenting simple facts about him that can be found with a simple Google search and instead detailing all we do and don’t know about Shakespeare as a person and the tales surrounding the legendary poet and playwright. Her lecture also included details on the world he lived in. This included the Elizabethan attitudes towards theatre, their methods of makeup, housing, certain rules everyone had to follow to keep pedestrians safe and even their attitudes towards milk! Rosemarie also went on to discuss Elizabethan portraits and the Mask of Venus, a template of sorts that artists had to use in order to replicate the way Elizabeth I wanted to be portrayed, and the singular painting where this format was not followed. Rosemarie also presented different rumoured paintings of Shakespeare speaking about the likelihood of them all being true representations of the playwright and her opinions on each one. In the question and answer section of this Williams project Rosemarie was questioned about the stories she told and further opinions on aspects of her lecture of which she all answered with confidence and a deep understanding of the topic. She was finally asked about the question of Shakespeare being the true writer of his plays where she expressed that she does not truly know the answer to the question nor does she believes it matters as it does not change the content of the plays themselves.

Sebastian Armstrong

Mr Simon Pepper, Chigwell School: The Emergence of Electronic Dance Music and the Politics of Public Spaces.

Mr Pepper using his own equipment illustrated the growing tension between music and socially low status of various disadvantaged groups in the USA in 1980s, such as Black Americans, LGBT people, Latinos. This helped the industrial music to emerge to demonstrate strong relation between machine and a man, which expressed itself in the development of the electronic pop. The controversy of the “oppressed” groups relieving their frustration and their need for change in music led to a moral panic in the Great Britain, particularly under the rule of Margaret Thatcher. This backlash against thatcherism was also an expression against the popular drive for consumerism, capitalist success and the productivity of individuals. Fascinating, how much we can learn from the simple movements on the floor and use of discarded industrial equipment.

Dr. Katya Rogatchevskaia: Propaganda and life in Russia.

Dr. Katya Rogatchevskaia from the British Library made a fantastic presentation on the dangers and intentions of the propaganda in general and using specific examples from Russia, ranging from the first time used it by the last Romanovs in 1900s to the current leaders of the Russian Federation. Various issues were raised by her critical approach, which was illustrating potential power of propaganda used by any regime or system to pass a message to targeted and receptive audience. She focused on Noam Chomsky’s “The 5 Filters of the Mass Media Machine” to explore factors behind the Propaganda; its authority, message (which is difficult to disagree with), and intentions, particularly with the usage of selected aesthetics.

Can something stop being a propaganda? What influences these changes in “unloading” the objects, buildings, piece of art from the intention to indoctrinate? How much do we need to know to understand the context of the time to read the message and to be bothered by it?

We are very grateful to Katya for the thought-provoking lecture, where we need to reassess our own critical and therefore independent thinking, which we apply or not to assess the credibility and intent of the messages and news selected and presented  in current media.

Teresa Kwiecinska

Dr Clarinda Calma, Poland Yesterday and Today: The Heritage of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and its implications today’

It is difficult in the space of 1 hour to present hugely rich and complicated history of a country currently standing nearly 40 mln citizens. Dr Calma, from Polish Embassy has used several interesting maps to effectively show the ever-changing borders of Poland. Today almost mono-ethnic and predominantly Catholic, Poland was once a multi-cultural polity, inhabited by Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Jews, Tatars, Armenians and Germans. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as it was called from the 16th to the late 18th century, was one of the earliest confederate countries in early modern Europe. As Dr Calma pointed out, for a long time, it also boasted a tolerant policy towards different ethnicities and faiths. It was fascinating for students to see many cultural and political links between Poland and Britain. Dr Calma talked with passion. Her presentation was followed by long discussion with some of our international boarders.

Dr Liz Gloyn: Meeting Medusa. Why does the Ancient Monster survive in the Modern World?

 

Dr Liz Gloyn visited us on 22nd January to speak about how the ancient Greek monster Medusa is portrayed in modern society, and why the monster still exists in the 20th century. Dr Gloyn showed how medusa is presented in modern films, and in video games and discussed the character of medusa in The Clash of the Titans films of 2010 and 1981 and the Percy Jackson series, the wrath of the titans 2012 the Hercules 2014 movie. Dr Gloyn focused on what Depictions of Medusa Say about the Way Society Views. How much of the approach to gender equality or stereotyping is influenced by the different eras in film particularly, could be seen through comparison of one film but made in two different times. Dr Gloyn also focus on the differences in how the monster is portrayed and the effects this had on the audience. Medusa’s beauty—and, in particular, her femininity—remains as dangerous as her original monstrosity. The majority of hybrids (half-human, half-animal monsters like sirens or Gorgons) in ancient Greece were female. “In a male-centered society, the feminization of monsters served to demonize women,” she said. Medusa was always the most popular hybrid, and remains the most identifiable even today.

Teresa Kwiecinska

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