March 23 2019

Early Romantics XVI Wed 3-20-19 Mainly Lucy, mainly “A Slumber Did my Spirit Seal”

Basically a class where we rush through "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal," with a little reference to a couple of Shakespeare sonnets Wordsworth was probably thinking of -- 73 and 104.

March 22 2019

Imagining Money XXIII Thursday 3-21-19

In which we go over the answers to the midterm -- you don't need to read it, since I read the questions out.  A little discussion Merchant of Venice: paying with all my heart, and of Ulysses: Leopold Bloom's joke advertising jingle, "Tell me where is fancy bread? At Burke's the Baker's, it is said."

March 21 2019

Imagining Money XXII Wed 3-20-19 Prisoner’s Dilemma

Using the game show Golden Balls, we look at some Prisoner's Dilemma situations, and discuss Golden Balls as a more classic PD than it might seem at first (it's certainly at the least a modified PD).  Episodes for watching are available here (an anthology) and here ("Weirdest split or steal every").  Different ways of valuing, different ways of strategizing.

March 20 2019

Early Romantics XV Monday 3-18-19 How Wordsworth is like Milton is like Blake

Wordsworth on Gray in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads.  Like Blake he channels Milton's view that poetry is something other than artifice, and like Blake he corrects the Miltonic example.  Home at Grasmere vs. Paradise Lost.

March 15 2019

Imagining Money XXI Wed 3-13-19 Adam Smith on Beauty and Utility

Adam Smith on utility and beauty -- revealed preference as a tautology -- utilitarianism -- Smith on how preference isn't a tautology -- different from Mandeville.  Smith on utility here.  This will lead to Smith on self-command.

March 14 2019

Early Romantics XIV Wed 3-13-19 Mainly WW: “We Are Seven” with “Lines Written in Early Spring, and “Two April Mornings”

Mostly Wordsworth and the mysterious power of the absurdly great "We Are Seven," as well as a consideration of "Lines Written in Early Spring" and "Two April Mornings."

March 13 2019

Early Romantics, XIII, Monday 3-11-19 Lyrical Ballads — Goody Blake and Harry Gill

More about ballads and their relation to the supernatural, in a discussion of Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads.   Some exemplary ballads. "Goody Blake and Harry Gill" as an example of an apparently supernatural ballad which isn't one.  Beginning of "We are Seven," with Coleridge's collaborative first stanza.

March 12 2019

Imagining Money XX 3-11-19 Mandeville, Hume, Inflation

A little more on Mandeville and the line that leads from him through Hutcheson (whom I didn't mention by name) to Hume and Smith.  The nature of inflation, due to money's only having exchange value, and the nature of stimulus, as analyzed by Hume.  A beginning of a discussion on the beauty of utility, according to Smith.

March 8 2019

Imagining Money XIX Thursday 3-7-19 More Mandeville and value of honor and altruism

Mandeville's analysis of acting for reputation -- does it, can it, make sense, and if so how?  Here's the fascinating passage we began looking at:


The Soldiers, that were forc’d to fight,

If they surviv’d, got Honour by’t; [p. 22, l. 1]


[From Mandeville’s notes:] The Man of Manners picks not the best but rather takes the worst out of the Dish, and gets of every thing, unless it be forc’d upon him, always the most indifferent Share. By this Civility the Best remains for others, which being a Compliment to all that are present, every Body is pleas’d with it: The more they love themselves, the more they are forc’d to approve of his Behaviour, and Gratitude stepping in, they are oblig’d almost whether they will or not, to think favourably of him. After this manner it is that the well-bred Man insinuates himself in the esteem of all the Companies he comes in, and if he gets nothing else by it, the Pleasure he receives in reflecting on the Applause which he knows is secretly given him, is to a Proud Man more than an Equivalent for his former Self-denial, and over-pays to Self-love with Interest, the loss it sustain’d in his Complaisance to others.

If there are Seven or Eight Apples or Peaches among Six People of Ceremony, that are pretty near equal, he who is prevail’d upon to choose first, will take that, which, if there be any considerable difference, a Child would know to be the worst: this he does to insinuate, that he [72]looks upon those he is with to be of Superior Merit, and that there is not one whom he wishes not better to than he does to himself. ’Tis Custom and a general Practice that makes this Modish Deceit familiar to us, without being shock’d at the [79] Absurdity of it; for if People had been used to speak from the Sincerity of their Hearts, and act according to the natural Sentiments they felt within, ’till they were Three or Four and Twenty, it would be impossible for them to assist at this Comedy of Manners, without either loud Laughter or Indignation; and yet it is certain, that sucha Behaviour makes us more tolerable to one another than we could be otherwise.

It is very Advantageous to the Knowledge of our selves, to be able well to distinguish between good Qualities and Virtues. The Bond of Society exacts from every Member a certain Regard for others, which the Highest is not exempt from in the presence of the Meanest even in an Empire: but when we are by our selves, and so far remov’d from Company as to be beyond the Reach of their Senses, the Words Modesty and Impudence lose their meaning; a Person may be Wicked, but he cannot be Immodest while he is alone, and no Thought can be Impudent that never was communicated to another. A Man of Exalted Pride may so hide it, that no Body shall be able to discover that he has any; and yet receive greater Satisfaction [73]from that Passion than another, who indulges himself in the Declaration of it before all the World. Good Manners have nothing to do with Virtue or Religion; instead of extinguishing, they rather inflame the Passions. The Man of Sense and Education never exults more in his Pride than when he hides it with the greatest Dexterity;1 and in feasting on the Applause, which he is sure all good Judges will pay to his Behaviour, he enjoys a Pleasure altogether unknown to the Short-sighted, surly Alderman, that shews his Haughtiness glaringly in his Face, pulls off his Hat to no Body, and hardly deigns to speak to an Inferior.



March 7 2019

Early Romantics XII Wed 3-6-19 Blake’s Milton with special guest

After a snow day, a special guest leads a class on Blake's Milton and the dynamics of the relations among the Immortals.  We focus in particular on Milton himself and Urizen and how Milton overcomes his own spectre.

March 6 2019

Imagining Money XVIII Wed 3-6-19

Some discussion of sunk costs and throwing good money after bad, poker strategy, the doubling cube, Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" and more Mandeville.

March 1 2019

Imagining Money XVII Th Feb 28 2019 Mainly Mandeville

Mandeville on the advantages of self-dealing and selfishness. Discussion of morality of plane flight,  since that's all the rage these days, from a Kantian and from a game-theoretical point of view. Free riding and problems of collective action.  Mandeville compared and to some extent contrasted with Rand.

February 28 2019

Early Romantics XI Wed 2-27-19 A class on Orc, Urizen, and Los

We discuss Blake's mythology in general, then his America, fairly briefly, and then some of The Book of Urizen, in particular the coming into separate being of Urizen, the coming into being of Los as the allegory of Urizen's separation from him, and the binding of Orc with the chains of jealousy.

February 27 2019

Imagning Money XVI Wed 2-27-19: More on the Gift

More on gift-giving and its manifest and latent content.  Obligation and acceptance of obligation.  The gift as pure use value -- at least manifestly.  A bit more on The Merchant of Venice.

February 26 2019

Early Romantics X Monday Feb 25 2019 Blake Marriage of Heaven and Hell

We try to sort out some preliminary confusions about who's who in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.  I try -- stumblingly -- to give an account of the Romantic idea that loss is (as Harold Bloom puts it) "shadowed gain."

Imagining Money XV Monday Feb 25 2019

Given the sheepish coughing you'll hear, by people acknowledging they weren't keeping up with the reading, this turned into an exposition mainly of Marcel Mauss's great work The Gift, along with some mention of Joel Waldfogel's notorious article "The Deadweight Loss of Christmas."

February 17 2019

Imagining Money XIV Thursday 2-15-19 Mainly Merchant of Venice and the Bible

Mainly the Merchant of Venice, with discussion of its Biblical source: Jacob as trickster; Laban as trickster; Shylock as trickster; Portia as trickster; much about Jacob, Esau, Isaac, and the man Jacob wrestles with; the meaning of the turquois ring and the pound of flesh.

NB: this coming week is vacation so no updates till the week of Feb 25.

February 15 2019

Early Romantics IX Wed 2-13-19: Book of Thel

A last class on Blake's Book of Thel, with much attention given to the Clod of Clay's line: "I ponder and I cannot ponder."

NB: February vacation next week, so no new episodes till the week after.

February 14 2019

Imagining Money XIII Wednesday Feb 13 2019, mainly about usury

A class mainly about interest, usury, compounding of interest vs. Malthusian limits to biological growth -- the interesting fact that if Judas had invested his 40 pieces of silver at prevailing rates of compound interest, he'd own an amount of silver more greater than the entire volume of the earth (so that Christ's redemption, compounded over two millennia, would indeed more than repurchase the entire world).

February 12 2019

Early Romantics VIII Monday Feb 11 2019 mainly on most of Thel

With a quotation from Blake's description of his (lost) painting "A Vision of the Last Judgment":

I assert for My self that I do not behold the Outward Creation & that to me it is hindrance & not Action it is as the Dirt upon my feet No part of Me. What it will be Questiond When the Sun rises do you not see a round Disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea O no no I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty I question not my Corporeal or Vegetative Eye any more than I would Question a Window concerning a Sight I look thro it & not with it.


February 11 2019

Imagining Money XII Feb 10 2019 Kawabata, Exodus, Shakespeare

(February 11, actually, but I think if I change the title I may change the link.) We start with Earle Stanley Gardner on writing by the word -- then on to Kawabata and the spookiness of the story.  Then The Merchant of Venice, and the significance of the rings and their value.  The reason Shylock is a stranger, and that all the Jews in Venice are: because Deuteronomy permits lending at interest to a stranger, so the Christians wanted to be strangers to the Jews so made the Jews strangers to them.  The stranger in Simmel mentioned: "The wanderer [the merchant] is he who comes today and goes tomorrow; the stranger is he who comes today and stays tomorrow."  At least I am sure it may be so in Venice.

February 9 2019

Early Romanticism VII — more Blake

In particular "The Garden of Love" and "London," "To the Evening Star," and a touch of The Book of Thel

February 8 2019

Imagining Money XI, Thursday 2-7-19 Game theory: Keynesian Beauty Contests, Stampedes and Panics

Buying and selling based on predictions of what others will buy and sell: Keynesian Beauty Contests (cf. "Family Feud") and what they have to do with narrative interaction.   An in class demonstration in which a student wins a dollar!  Some discussion of other manipulative games.

NB that previous episode was mistitled as Monday's: It was actually Wednesday's....

February 7 2019

Imagining Money X Wednesday February 6 2019 — Merchant of Venice and Ezra Pound

Functions of money.  Ripping a bill in half.  A little more on the etymological background of interest as breeding. Usura Canto in Pound, with youtube audio of him reading it. Kinds of wealth in The Merchant of Venice, following James Buchan.

February 6 2019

Romanticism VI 2-4-19 Blake’s There is no Natural Religion, and some songs of Experience

Some discussion of "There is no Natural Religion" and then some Songs of Experience: "The Chimney Sweeper," the two versions of "Holy Thursday," "The Clod and the Pebble," and -- a Song of Innocence -- "The Little Black Boy."

« Older episodes · Newer episodes »