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.
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.
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 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.
Once again Williams Project did not fail to impress when on Thursday 17th of January; Dr Nadine Rossol came in to speak to Chigwellians about everyday life in Nazi Germany. Dr Rossol spoke with passion and enthusiasm and provided a view on life in Nazi Germany differing from one which is learned within the classroom. Dr Rossol began her talk by speaking about her grandparents; two people who had lived through Nazi Germany, and one could certainly feel the connections Dr Rossol had with the topic she was speaking on. Dr Rossol talked about the involvement of ordinary people within the Nazi regime and used a photo of her grandfather to demonstrate how far down Nazism had penetrated into Germany. Dr Rossol spoke on a seeming ordinary photo of her grandfather on a football pitch, yet one could notice the young German players doing the Nazi salute. Dr Rossol explained that this was not a sign of Nazi appreciation as such, but more of an obligation that had to be fulfilled by these Germans simply because if not done these players would not have been allowed on the pitch. When learning about Nazi Germany, one must be wary of pinning the blame on the entire German population for what happened in World War 2 because as Dr Rossol explained there was indeed opposition to the Nazi regime, but also measures in place, such as the Gestapo, to keep Nazi opposition in the public at bay resulting in less open public opposition to the Nazi atrocities. Dr Rossol finished by referring to the Ringleblum archives; a collection of entries by people who desperately tried to reserve information about life in Germany pre-Nazi for future generations to learn about.
by Zain Raja
Robert Blakey – “Will criminal behaviour be treated one day like a brain-based cancer, rather than punished like evil?”
Monday the 4th of December marked the last Williams Project of 2018, as well as the last Williams Project with Mr Lord at the helm. With this in mind and with so many wonderful and insightful talks preceding him, Mr Robert Blakey, criminology doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, had a hard task ahead of him. I’m sure it’s no surprise to hear that he did so with pure charisma and flawless knowledge with regard to his subject. Mr Blakey began his presentation by outlining the big question he would be attempting to answer: ‘Will criminal behaviour be one day treated like a brain-based cancer, rather than punished like evil?’ He began by giving us four concepts that contribute to a person’s offending: genes, social environment, brain activity and free will, and asked us to decide in what order they run in when contributing to a criminal committing a crime. We then proceeded to have an interactive discussion as a group in an attempt to order these notions, culminating in our successful ordering of the ideas. Mr Blakey then read us two scenarios about free will: one where, from a psychological point of view, our decisions were all caused by factors outside our control, and another similar but described in terms of chemical activity in our brains. He then invited us to stand on the left side of the room if we still believed the person in the example had free will or the right side if we believed they didn’t. It was interesting to see how many people moved to the side of no free will, particularly in the chemical scenario. This activity was thoroughly engaging and gave us a real opportunity to think things through for ourselves. Mr Blakey continued his fascinating talk by presenting the idea of rehabilitating criminals, especially young offenders, in good social environments instead of prisons as he noted that prisons are poor repairing facilities, as well as being detrimental to the mind of a youth offender. We spent the final minutes of the presentation trying to decide how to rehabilitate offenders, and whether there would ever be a perfect way to help lawbreakers. It was a captivating and highly perceptive talk that challenged us to think laterally with regards to many issues. Many thanks must go to Mr Blakey who we are sure would be very welcome to return to Chigwell in the near future.
Rory Hankins and Julie Vytrisalova