Oct 2, 2014

Émile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life

[The] stimulating action of society is not felt in exceptional circumstances alone. There is virtually no instant of our lives in which a certain rush of energy fails to come to us from outside ourselves. In all kinds of acts that express the understanding, esteem, and affection of his neighbor, there is a lift that the man who does his duty feels, usually without being aware of it. But that lift sustains him; the feeling society has for him uplifts the feeling he has for himself. Because he is in moral harmony with his neighbor, he gains new confidence, courage, and boldness in action – quite like the man of faith who believes he feels the eyes of his god turned benevolently toward him. Thus is produced what amounts to a perpetual uplift of our moral being. (Durkheim [1912] 1995: 213)

You can read online the following edition of The Elementary Forms at Project Gutenberg: Durkheim, Émile. (1912) 1915. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Translated by Joseph Ward Swain.  London: Allen & Unwin.
However, two other translations are strongly suggested:

Why we need to read and interpret (again) Durkheim? Because here we can find the gist of the sociological discourse, as Jeffrey Alexander incipit states…

On one thing most of Durkheim’s readers, past and present, have always agreed: he, like Marx, emphasizes social structure. Durkheim helped to create classical sociology because he located social forces “outside” the individual actor. But from this point on, theoretical agreement ends. The problem for Durkheim and his interpreters, just as for Marx and his interlocutors, is what does structure mean? How does structure hold individuals within its limits? Of what are these limits composed? If structure exists, somehow, outside of
the individual, can it act only in opposition to freedom?
The problematics of Durkheim interpretation, then, are precisely the ones around which Marxist inquiry has always revolved. The fundamental question has been how Durkheim stipulates the relation between structured and free action. People keep reading Durkheim, and arguing about him, to find out whether the determinateness of social structures must involve the sacrifice of autonomy and, conversely, whether insisting on human agency entails denying external control. How generations have understood Durkheim – and answered these theoretical questions through such interpretive understanding – has fundamentally shaped the pattern of sociological discourse. Debates over the meaning and path of Durkheim’s work are, inevitably, arguments about the most basic directions of sociological explanation and more general social thought.
Is there a fundamental conflict between Durkheimian and more materialist forms of sociology, whether Marxist, Weberian, organizational, or behaviorist? Many have contended there is not, and they have found not only occasional passages but large sections of Durkheim’s work to prove it. The present essay will engage in a meticulous reconstruction of Durkheim’s theoretical development, from his earliest writings to his maturity. This hermeneutic effort will demonstrate that these interpreters are mistaken. We will see that Durkheim reached his theoretical maturity after a prolonged, if confused, flirtation with materialist forms of structural theory, and eventually a fierce struggle against them.
- Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2005. "The inner development of Durkheim’s sociological theory: From early writings to maturity." The Cambridge Companion to Durkheim: 136-59.

Whoever wants to have a comprehensive and meticulous understanding of Durkheim’s thought should read the whole book:
Contributors: Jeffrey C. Alexander, Philip Smith, Marcel Fournier, Philippe Besnard, Robert Alun Jones, Randall Collins, Karen E. Fields, Robert N. Bellah, Chris Shilling, Roger Friedland, Alexander Riley, Edward Tiryakian, David B. Grusky, Gabriela Galescu, Zygmunt Baumann, Mark Cladis.
You can read and download for free the introduction to the book:
- Alexander, Jeffrey C. and Philip Smith. "Introduction: The New Durkheim": 1-37.
And here you can find two more free articles by Jeffrey Alexander…
- Alexander, Jeffrey C. 1986. "Rethinking Durkheim's Intellectual Development I: On 'Marxism'and the Anxiety of Being Misunderstood." International Sociology 1(1): 91-107.
- Alexander, Jeffrey C. 1986. “Rethinking Durkheim's Intellectual Development II: Workingout a Religious Sociology.” International Sociology, 1(2): 189-201.

Selected works by Durkheim
-      Division of Labor in Society. Translated by George Simpson. New York: Free Press, 1964 [1933].
-      Division of Labor in Society. Translated by W. D. Halls. Introduction by Lewis A. Coser. New York: Free Press, 1984.
-      Durkheim and the Law. Edited by Steven Lukes and Andrew Scull. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983.
-      Durkheim on Politics and the State. Edited and with an introduction by Anthony Giddens. Translated by W. D. Halls. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1986.
-      Durkheim on Religion: A Selection of Readings with Bibliographies. Edited by W. S. F. Pickering. Translated by Jacqueline Redding and W. S. F. Pickering. Boston, MA: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975.
-      Durkheim: Essays on Morals and Education. Edited and with introductions by W. S. F. Pickering. Translated by H. I. Sutcliffe. Boston, MA: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979.
-      Durkheim’s Philosophy Lectures. Edited by Neil Gross. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
-      Education and Sociology. Translated and with an introduction by Sherwood D. Fox. Foreword by Talcott Parsons. Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1956.
-      Émile Durkheim on Morality and Society: Selected Writings. Edited and with an introduction by Robert N. Bellah. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1973.
-      Émile Durkheim: Contributions to L’Anne´e sociologique. Edited by Yash Nandan. New York: Free Press, 1980.
-      Émile Durkheim: Selected Writings. Edited, translated, and with an introduction by Anthony Giddens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972.
-      Ethics and the Sociology of Morals. Translated and with an introduction by Robert T. Hall. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993.
-      Evolution of Educational Thought: Lectures on the Formation and Development of Secondary Education in France. Translated by Peter Collins. Boston, MA: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977.
-      Incest: The Nature and Origin of the Taboo. Translated and with an introduction by Edward Sagarin. Together with “The Origins and the Development of the Incest Taboo” by Albert Ellis. New York: L. Stuart, 1963.
-      Montesquieu and Rousseau: Forerunners of Sociology. Foreword by Henri Peyre. With “Durkheim, Montesquieu, and Rousseau,” by Georges Davy and “Note,” by A. Cuvillier. Translated by Ralph Manheim. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1960.
-      Moral Education: A Study in the Theory and Application of the Sociology of Education. Foreword by Paul Fauconnet. Translated by Everett K.Wilson and Herman Schnurer. Edited and with a new introduction by Everett K. Wilson. New York: Free Press, [1961] 1973.
-      Pragmatism and Sociology. Translated by J. C. Whitehouse. Edited and with an introduction by John B. Allcock and a preface by A. Cuvillier. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
-      Primitive Classification (with Marcel Mauss). Translated and edited with an introduction by Rodney Needham. London: Cohen and West, 1963.
-      Professional Ethics and Civic Morals. Translated by Cornelia Brookfield. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957.
-      The Radical Sociology of Durkheim and Mauss. Edited by Mike Gane. London: Routledge, 1992.
-      Readings from Émile Durkheim. Edited by Kenneth Thompson with new translations by Margaret A. Thompson. New York: Tavistock Publications, 1985.
-      Rules of Sociological Method and Selected Texts on Sociology and its Method. Edited and with an introduction by Steven Lukes. Translated by W. D. Halls. London: Macmillan Press, 1982.
-      Rules of Sociological Method. New York: Free Press, 1966.
-      Socialism and Saint-Simon. Edited and with an introduction by Alvin W. Gouldner. Translated by Charlotte Sattler from the version originally edited by Marcel Mauss. Yellow Springs, OH: Antioch Press, 1958.
-      Sociology and Philosophy. Translated by D. F. Pocock and with an introduction by J. G. Peristiany. Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1953.
-      Suicide: A Study in Sociology. Translated by John A. Spaulding and George Simpson. Edited and with an introduction by George Simpson. New York: Free Press, [1951] 1966.
-      Textes. Vol. 1, Eléments d’une théorie sociale. Edited byVictorKarady. Paris: Editions de Minuit [1889] 1975.
-      Textes. Vol. 2, Religion, morale, anomie. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1975.

Cross Cultural Communication, Fall 2014

"Fantastic Four": Matthew Parker, Stefano Sangiacomo, Amanda Lockwood, Allie Valasek


Sep 25, 2014

Identity and Culture, Fall 2014

Bambola Vanessa, Borders Savannah, Cirillo Caroline, Del Piano Sabrina, Downes Marissa, Dundon Lauren, Filannino Alyssa, Frey Christine, Giese Madeline, Guariglia Emily, Julien Samuel, Lechner Lauren, Levy Danielle, Mara Charlotte, McNulty Marykate, Morales Sydney, Moroski Rebecca, Roberge Jessica, Rolland James, Speirs Carson, Yates Emily.

Jul 22, 2014

Identity and Culture, Summer 2014

Block Cole
Bruno Janisse
Clasen Phoebe
Giannini Katharine
Isola Jacquelyn
Macleod Michelle
Po Valerie
Pollio Alexandra
Roblee Rachel
Sandolo Victoria
Shahrir Ria Shabira
Smaglis Lauren
Wong Heather

Identity and Culture, Spring 2014, Sec. 2

Andresen, Emily
Angueira, Carmen
Bacon, Kyle
Brody, Rachel
Ciancio, Christine
Darwick, Alexandra
Dobin, Rachel
Garneau, Abigail
Gat, Nora
Jacobs, Katherine
Lynn, Bridget
McGowan, Michael
McGowan, Patrick
McGrath, Ashlie
Orser, Stephanie
Papo, Alexander
Pepe, Catherine
Richiger, Megan
Rooney, Katherine
Valcourt, Patricia
Werth, Emily
Wexler, Karen

Identity and Culture, Spring 2014, Sec. 1

Adcroft, Patrick
Akhundzadeh, Sara
Bartelli, Samantha
Bisaccio, Nora
Byrne, Mary
Califano, Olivia
Eichen, Adam
Famiglietti, Elise
Fraser, Ainsley
Gaudet, Caroline
Ginsberg, Joshua
Gordon, Kathleen
Green, Charles
Kivell, Samuel
Looman, Juliana
Mangione, Amanda
Meissel, Emily
Powers, Catherine
Shor, Emma
Tejada, Johan
Walsh, Emily
Whalen, Joanna

Cultural Globalization, Spring 2014

Bies, Alicia K.
De Ganna, Taylor J.
Faley, Mary K.
Harris, Elizabeth A.
Nordeen, Natalie M.
Pignolet, Carli C.
Reilly, Valerie A.

Sociology of the Arts, Spring 2014

Black, Maria P. 
David, Sarah A. 
Dunn, Brigid E. 
Faley, Mary K. 
Grant, Casey H. 
Harris, Elizabeth A. 
Herreman, Taylor L. 
Ramirez, Ricardo R. 
Valkas, Jenna N. 
Wadas, Craig M. 
Woodworth, Nicole B. 
Yi, Jessica K.

Apr 11, 2014

Pleasure Land: Italy is at the last place in Europe for young adults with a college degree

In 2013, the highest proportions of those aged 30 to 34 having completed tertiary education were observed in Ireland (52.6%), Luxembourg (52.5%), Lithuania (51.3%), Sweden (48.3%), Cyprus (47.8%) and the United Kingdom (47.6%), and the lowest in Italy (22.4%), Romania (22.8%), Croatia (25.9%) and Malta (26.0%). You can read here the latest Eurostat results.
In Italy, 55% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, much less than the OECD average of 74% (OECD Better Life Index). The level of tertiary attainment among 25-64 year-olds is one of the lowest among OECD and G20 countries with available data: 14.9 %, rank 34/36 (OECD Education at Glance 2013, you can download the full report here). We could rename Italy The Pleasure Land, or Pleasure Peninsula or the Pleasure Pen- (prefix from Latin paene (“nearly, almost”) Island: The Pleasure Penisland.... A word to the wise.
You can watch below the scene of the arrival in The Land of Toys (Pleasure Island in the Walt Disney adaptation (1940).

And here’s the passage where Lamp-Wick describes the Land of Toys to Pinocchio, in the book by Carlo Collodi (pseudonym of Carlo Lorenzini) Le Avventure di Pinocchio: La storia di un burattino (1883; The Adventures of Pinocchio: The Story of a Marionette). You can read the whole book online here.

Pinocchio, instead of becoming a boy, runs away to the Land of Toys with his friend, Lamp-Wick...
"You are making a big mistake, Pinocchio. Believe me, if you don't come, you'll be sorry. Where can you find a place that will agree better with you and me? No schools, no teachers, no books! In that blessed place there is no such thing as study. Here, it is only on Saturdays that we have no school. In the Land of Toys, every day, except Sunday, is a Saturday. Vacation begins on the first of January and ends on the last day of December. That is the place for me! All countries should be like it! How happy we should all be!"
"But how does one spend the day in the Land of Toys?"
"Days are spent in play and enjoyment from morn till night. At night one goes to bed, and next morning, the good times begin all over again. What do you think of it?"
"H'm—!" said Pinocchio, nodding his wooden head, as if to say, "It's the kind of life which would agree with me perfectly."
 "Listen, Lamp-Wick," said the Marionette, "are you really sure that there are no schools in the Land of Toys?" "Not even the shadow of one."
"Not even one teacher?"
"Not one."
"And one does not have to study?"
"Never, never, never!"
"What a great land!" said Pinocchio, feeling his mouth water. "What a beautiful land! I have never been there, but I can well imagine it."

Apr 5, 2014

Mozart: Genius and Creativity

“This was music I’d never heard before,” says Salieri, whose face melts into ashen jelly. “It seemed to me the voice of God.” From the initial production of Peter Shaffer’s ‘Amadeus’ at the National Theater in London in 1979, through all of the refinements that preceded the play’s New York premiere in 1980, and now, in the even more extensive rewriting and adjustments made by Mr. Shaffer for Milos Forman’s handsome, music-filled screen version (Amadeus 1984), one thing has remained constant and exhilarating . That is Mr. Shaffer’s ability to celebrate genius—in this case, that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—in a fashion that is simultaneously illuminating, moving and just. It’s a major achievement, especially in films where genius is usually represented and dramatized as some kind of ill-humored, social eccentricity (Vincent Canby, NYT)—see also How Amadeus was translated from play to film (Michiko Kakutani), and here's the movie script.
Adopting Howard Becker’s typology, we could interpret Salieri as the “integrated professional” and Mozart as the “maverick”—although only recognized mavericks are “true” mavericks, and once you are recognized you become part of conventional art world .
“The four modes of being oriented to an art world—as integrated professional, maverick, grassroots artist, or folk artist—suggest a general scheme for interpreting the way people can be oriented to any kind of social world, no matter what its focus or its conventional round of collective activities. Insofar as the world has built up routine and conventional ways of carrying on those activities its members usually engage in, people can participate in it as fully competent members who know how to do easily and well whatever needs to be done. Most of what is done in that world will be done by people like that—the generalized analogue of integrated professionals. If the activity is one that every member of the society, or every member of some large subcategory engages in, the folk artist may provide a closer analogue. Some people, knowing what is conventional, will nevertheless choose to behave differently, with predictable ensuing difficulties in involvement in the world’s collective activities. Some few of the innovations such people propose may be taken up by the larger world from which they have differed, making them into honored innovators (at least in retrospect) rather than cranks. Some will not know of the world’s existence, or care much about it, and invent the whole thing for themselves—the generalized version of the naïve artist. In this way, we might say (with rather more warrant than it is usually said) that the world of art mirrors society at large” (Becker 1976, 717).

Mozart vs. Salieri

Norbert Elias (1993) sees Mozart as a paradigmatic example of the passage from craftsmen’s art to artists’ art. Mozart’s curse was being “born into a society which did not yet know the Romantic concept of genius, and whose social canon had no legitimate place for the highly individualized artist of genius in their midst” (19). Mozart’s decision to become a free-lance artist, giving up his secure job with the archbishop of Salzburg, was taken in a period when “the social structure actually offered no such place for outstanding musicians” (29). Caught up in an unplanned social process and unable to support himself, Mozart would spend his remaining days in and out of poverty. Yet out of his suffering, Elias insists, Mozart created some of his most profound works, including Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, and several of his late piano concertos (Kapsis 1994). Craftsmen’s art is produced for high-status patrons by low-status artists. Here the taste is subjugated to the patron, and art works are not revered in themselves. Artists’ art is instead created for anonymous buyers and marketed through dealers and impresarios. The artist has greater social status and more independence from the canons of taste of a small group of patrons. Art works, in a certain sense, becomes art works: admired in themselves and not merely as they reflect on the magnificence or taste of the patron.
According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1999) creativity is as much a cultural and social as it is a psychological event. Thus, creativity is the result of a cultural and social system who is making judgments about individual’s products. Csikszentmihalyi points out two prominent aspects of this system: a cultural, or symbolic, aspect (domain) and a social aspect (field). The creative process can be understood only at the intersection ,where individuals, domains, and fields interact: “For creativity to occur, a set of rules and practices must be transmitted from the domain to the individual. The individual must then produce a novel variation in the content of the domain. The variation then must be selected by the field for inclusion in the domain” (313).

You can find below some passages from Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (1996) where Mozart appears; and Csikszentmihalyi’s advice to cultivate curiosity.

“If someone becomes outstanding, we want to believe that unmistakable signs of greatness were there early for all to see. Whether it is the Buddha, Jesus, Mozart, Edison, or Einstein, genius must have revealed itself in the earliest years of life. In fact, it is impossible to tell whether a child will be creative or not by basing one’s judgment on his or her early talents. Some children do show signs of extraordinary precocity in some domain or other: Mozart was an accomplished pianist and composer at a very early age, Picasso drew quite nice pictures when he was a boy, and many great scientists skipped grades in school and astonished their elders with the nimbleness of their minds. But so did many other children whose early promise fizzled out without leaving any trace in the history books. Children can show tremendous talent, but they cannot be creative because creativity involves changing a way of doing things, or a way of thinking, and that in turn requires having mastered the old ways of doing or thinking. No matter how precocious a child is, this he or she cannot do. Mozart in his teens might have been as accomplished as any musician alive, but he could not have changed the way people played music until his way of making music was taken seriously, and for this to happen he had to spend at least a decade mastering the domain of musical composition and then produce a number of convincing works. But if the real childhood accomplishments of creative individuals are no different from those of many others who never attain any distinction, the mind will do its best to weave appealing stories to compensate for reality’s lack of imagination.” (112)
“Training, expectations, resources, and recognition are to no avail, however, if the young person has no hope of using his or her skills in a productive career. In our culture, a huge number of talented and motivated artists, musicians, dancers, athletes, and singers give up pursuing those domains because it is so difficult to make a living in them. In a study of American adolescents, we found that almost 10 percent of thirteen-year-olds wanted to be architects when they grew up. At a rough guess, this is probably a thousand times what the field of architecture can accommodate. It is not realistic to expect a great deal of talent to be attracted to a domain, no matter how important it is, if there is little chance of practicing it. The people who succeed in the smaller fields are like Vera Rubin, to whom not being an astronomer was “unthinkable.” After hope, one also needs to have real opportunities to act in the domain. It has been said that the great musical creativity that blossomed in Germany in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was in large part due to the fact that each aristocratic court that ruled the many principalities had to have an orchestra to amuse itself and to show its superiority over the others. There was constant interest in and competition for new musical talent. A Bach, Handel, or Mozart had no difficulty in having his music performed and then evaluated by an eager crowd of connoisseurs. If there are fewer creative classical composers now, it is probably not due to a lack of talent but to a dearth of opportunities to display it.” (237)
"The important thing to remember is that creative energy, like any other form of psychic energy, only works over time. It takes a certain minimum amount of time to write a sonnet or to invent a new machine. People vary in the speed they work—Mozart wrote concerti much faster than Beethoven did—but even Mozart could not escape the tyranny of time. Therefore, every hour saved from drudgery and routine is an hour added to creativity.” (251)

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1996) tells us that curiosity is the starting point of creativity. How can interest and curiosity be cultivated, assuming that you feel the desire to do so? Here's some advice from Csikszentmihalyi.
Try to be surprised by something every day.
Try to surprise at least one person every day.
Write down each day what surprised you and how you surprised others.
When something strikes a spark of interest, follow it
Wake up in the morning with a specific goal to look forward to.
If you do anything well, it becomes enjoyable.
To keep enjoying something, you need to increase its complexity.
Make time for reflection and relaxation.
Find out what you like and what you hate about life.
Start doing more of what you love, less of what you hate.
Develop what you lack.
Shift often from openness to closure.
Aim for complexity.
Find a way to express what moves you.
Look at problems from as many viewpoints as possible.
Figure out the implications of the problems.
Implement the solution.
Produce as many ideas as possible.
Have as many different ideas as possible.
Try to produce unlikely ideas.


Becker, Howard. 1976. “Art Worlds and Social Types.” American Behavioral Scientist 19, 6: 703-718.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 1999. “Systems Perspective on Creativity.” In Handbook of Creativity, edited by R. Sternberg, 313-35. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 313–35.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 1996. Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: Harper.

Elias, Norbert. 1993. Mozart: Portrait of a Genius. Oxford: Polity.

Kapsis Robert E. 1994. “Musical Genius: Theme and Variations.” Contemporary Sociology 23, 3: 432-434.

Sadie, Stanley. 2006. Mozart: The Early Years, 1756–1781. New York: Norton.

Solomon, Maynard. 1995. Mozart: A Life. London: Hutchinson.

Mar 27, 2014

A Personal Experience Gone Public: How the Media Negatively Affects Students Studying Abroad (Taylor Fitzpatrick)

Before traveling outside of the United States and Canada, my concept of America was most probably consistent with the pop-culture stereotypes. I considered it a melting pot, a leading political power, the land of the free, as well as a symbol of hope and opportunity.  Moreover, when I tried to picture a typical American, it conjured up images of obese, lazy, greedy, stupid and ignorant people with little consideration of or tolerance for differences in other individuals, lifestyles, societies, and cultures. 
            I found that my peers both at home and on this trip have or previously had a similar concept of America and what it means to be an American.  Since traveling, my concept of America(ns) has been confirmed in some regards, primarily through the realization that most citizens of other countries view America almost exactly by my previous definition.  However, some components of that schema have altered.  After realizing how far this stereotype had traveled, I began to question it.  The worldliness of this conception frustrated me.  Did I automatically embody all these negative attributes?  Was that the first thing people saw when they met me?  I began to think of all the people I knew that weren’t obese, lazy, greedy, stupid, and ignorant.  I came to the conclusion that Americans can’t achieve too strong, specific, or narrow of a stereotype since the collective population entertains every stereotype across the board.  I found some of the attributes of my previous American stereotype to be also present in other cultures.  Eventually, my concept of America and Americans became much weaker and broader.
            Then, when I was asked to define Italy and Italians according to my own concept, the first images brought to mind were overly romantic scenes enriching and tantalizing to every sense.  The taste of the olive oil, the smell of the Chianti, the feel of the supple leather, the whimsical sensation of walking down narrow, “Disney-like” streets with brightly colored apartments and a street violinist playing in unison with my footsteps. I pictured old, Italian men, complete with their short stature, mustaches, and explicit hand-gestures, sweeping the streets in front of their family-owned bakeries.  I pictured very heavy-set, Italian mothers creating overly abundant, culinary masterpieces for their very large and very emotionally involved families.  Furthermore, I thought of Italy (particularly Florence) as “the museum of the world” that would contain all the richest history and the artwork I would find to me my favorite in the world and most pleasurable to my senses. 
            Content with the romance of these images, I never dared to let my mind wander behind the scenes of the façade that is Italy to give anything the chance to taint my completely inaccurate portrait of perfection.  However, now that I have been living “behind the scenes of the façade,” I’ve been forced to taint the perfect painting, or should I say ‘buon fresco’.  I’ve been first-handedly exposed to the faults and downsides of Italy.  I’ve become aware of many accounts of political turmoil through protest and conversation.  From my experiences, it does not seem outlandish to say that the majority of Italians are dissatisfied with at least a few aspects of the current government system.  I have been exposed to the unfortunate unemployment statistics causing Italian “children” to live with their parents even into their 30s. I have also experienced first-handedly and witnessed the incredible bouts of sexism and vulgarity towards women that my mother warned me about.
            Moreover, now that I’m burnt out from visiting museums, I realize why I never went to them in the first place.  I’ve purposely neglected all but a few that America has to offer.  My hometown in the middle of nowhere in Connecticut has museums as well, but I’ve never made as much of an effort to explore them as I have while in Florence.  Why couldn’t it be possible for me to like the contents of the museums at home more than the contents of the museums in Florence? Does renaissance artwork have to be the best in everyone’s opinion?  Do I have to travel all the way Pisa to take a picture with a particular building, even though I know nothing about the building itself and Pisa has nothing else at all to offer me aside from it.  That’s one expensive and meaningless photograph.  I thought it was called “The Leaning Tower of Pizza” when I was kid for God’s sake.      
            This realization helped me bring Italy (and Europe for that matter) down from the pedestal that I had put it on.  I was taking a picture to participate in a Rite of Passage. So that others could look at my Instagram photo and be envious of me, like I was of them when they were studying abroad. 
            Without these images of perfection blinding my view, I was able to see Italy (and Europe) for what it really was.  This has helped me, once again, confirm and disconfirm some of the aspects of my initial concept of Italy.  Some confirmed facets of my conception are the extreme sexism present in Italian culture – more than I have ever experienced in America or elsewhere. 
            On a lighter note, I’ve also confirmed their slow pace of life and active participation in “the art of living”.  I can also confirm that yes, the food the good. They way they live is decadent and fabulous.  It is in the moment. They appreciate the conversation and linger on your words while Americans blink their vacant eyes and nod just waiting for their turn to speak.  They treasure hospitality. Their need to express their emotions (exteriority) is also hard to miss and you witness small personal bouts of theater in the streets – anything from a beautiful young couple kissing on the steps of Santa Croce to an enthusiastic and passionate debate next to the carousel in Piazza Della Republica.  The stereotype of Italians expressive hand gestures is also confirmed. 

Mar 18, 2014

Family Matters and Pontormo & Rosso Fiorentino

Family Matters: Portraits and Experiences of Family Today ― Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence (14 March-20 July 2014).
Portraits and experiences of family today presents the works of eleven international artists (Guy Ben- Ner, Sophie Calle, Jim Campbell, John Clang, Nan Goldin, Courtney Kessel, Ottonella Mocellin and Nicola Pellegrini, Trish Morrissey, Hans Op de Beeck, Chrischa Oswald, Thomas Struth) that encourage an investigation into the images, dynamics and structures that define the concept of family in the contemporary world. Each individual has his or her own personal experience of family, but when we seek out a shared definition, what do we mean by this term? Read more…
Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino: Diverging Paths of Mannerism ― Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence (8 March-20 July 2014) ― devoted to the work of Pontormo and of Rosso Fiorentino, the two painters who were without question the most original and unconventional adepts of the new way of interpreting art in that season of the Italian Cinquecento which Giorgio Vasari called the ‘modern manner’….
Visitazione, Pontormo
Pontormo, always a favourite with the Medici, was a painter open to stylistic variety and to a renewal of the traditional approach to composition. Rosso Fiorentino, on the other hand, was more tightly bound to tradition, yet at the same time he was fully capable of flights of originality and innovation, influenced also by Cabalistic literature and esoteric works. Read more… 
You can watch Bill Viola’s The Greeting. Viola—one of most celebrated exponent of video art—relies little on computer editing and uses slow motion in an intensive way.