Pan’s Labyrinth, Goya, and Greek Myth

Goya, "Saturn Devouring His Son" (1819-1823)

Goya, “Saturn Devouring His Son” (1819-1823)

Here are a few links that will aid you as you follow up on some of the mythological references in Pan’s Labyrinth. For a very detailed analysis, see the discussion of the movie here and here.

The image on the left is Francisco Goya‘s Saturn Devouring His Son. Saturn was the Roman name for the Greek god Cronos, father of Zeus. He ate his children for fear of being overthrown by them. (Question: how does this connect to the plot and themes of the movie?) A lengthy and interesting discussion of Goya and this painting can be read here.

The young heroine of Pan’s Labyrinth is named Ofelia, and Ophelia is also, famously, a major character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Given the translation of the title, we can infer that the Faun character is a version of Pan, who was another character from Greek myth (though Pan was not the only faun). There are also certain similarities between Ofelia and Persephone, who was stolen by Hades, Greek god of the underworld.

For some additional discussions of the movie, here are a few reviews and articles from the New York Times, Roger Ebert, and Wired magazine.

Blogging Ideas, 4/22/13

The New York Times reports on ongoing crimes against children in India.

The parents of the Boston bombing suspects held an emotional news conference in Russia, claiming their children could not have participated in it.

The US government is now saying they suspect Syria used chemical weapons against their own citizens.

Landfill Harmonic

If you missed either of the videos today on the Recycled Orchestra, view and read the Kickstarter page and watch the video below.


A Word on Moodle Forum Responses

Some of you might wonder, How can I improve my scores on Moodle forum responses? If so, here are a few suggestions. Each category assumes you are trying to rise to the level just above it.

If your most common score is “1”…

Make sure you’re showing up for class. Put the phone away and pay full attention to discussions and viewings. Read the reading assignments. Listen to directions carefully. Read the directions carefully on the writing assignments. This may all seem obvious, but if you’re consistently at the very low end, chances are very good that you’ve gone wrong with some of these.

If your most common score is “2”…

Pay close attention to the reading/viewing assignments, without letting yourself get distracted. Double-check to confirm that you understood the question correctly. Make sure you’re making a claim of your own in response to the question, not just summarizing some of the events of the book/film/article you’ve been asked to respond to. Find specific examples, rather than referring to very general events. Cite your evidence using page numbers.

If your most common score is “3”… 

As you’re reading/watching, look for connections between the book/film/article you’re going to write about and other texts or big ideas we’ve discussed in the class. Take notes. Review those notes after you’ve read the writing assignment prompt. Attempt, within your first few sentences, to write a Clear, Interesting Thesis. When coming up with your Clear, Interesting Thesis, pass up obvious or simple ideas in favor of more complex ideas.

Draft your response, then look through it to see if there’s room for another example. At the end of a paragraph, explain the connections between your evidence and the claim you made at the beginning of your answer. Ask yourself if there’s any way the writing could be a little more sophisticated than plain. Use the author’s name instead of saying “the author” every time. Whenever possible, use characters’ names instead of saying “that one guy.” Have a point. Do not assume your reader will understand what that point is without being told.


The Slums of Dharavi

If you missed class on Monday, please watch and listen to this photo/radio essay, courtesy of The Guardian.

Two reading assignments for everyone: first, the accompanying Guardian story by Dan McDougall; second, the Slate story I posted a while back, about a plan to give the poor apartments in some of the high-rises being built in place of the slum.


Blog Post Ideas, 3/28/13

NPR had an interesting story this morning about women in India trying to make their journeys safer by riding in a women-only compartment on the metro. Relatedly, here is a story from the New York Times about the new laws concerning crimes against women in India. Also, today marks the beginning of one Indian woman’s journey up Mount Everest. The former volleyball player had to have her leg amputated two years ago, after she resisted a robbery on a train and was thrown from it.

And in news from India’s next-door neighbor, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head last year by the Taliban, is going to publish a memoir this fall entitled, I Am Malala.

M. Gandhi, “Does Economic Progress Clash with Real Progress?”

Here is another version of the Gandhi speech we read from Reading the World: Ideas that Matter. We will use if for our next writing assignment on Moodle. Don’t let the title page fool you; it’s the same speech.

For blogging purposes, you may also be interested in this essay by the American Catholic activist John Dear.

“I am not a saint who has strayed into politics,” Gandhi once wrote. “I am a politician who is trying to become a saint.” While Adolf Hitler organized genocide in Europe, Franklin Roosevelt militarized America, Winston Churchill cheered on the Allies and Harry Truman ordered that atomic bombs be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Gandhi was attempting an entirely new kind of politics based on the transformative spirituality of nonviolence. Gandhi wanted independence for his people, but he did not want to kill anyone for it. He wanted the basic human rights of food, clothing, shelter, education, jobs, healthcare, and dignity for the hundreds of millions of impoverished Indians. But he called for justice by first living in radical solidarity with the poorest of the poor.

Slums and High Rises in India

A couple of weeks ago, the online magazine Slate had an interesting story that’s relevant to our discussion of Q&A. Although India has been well known for having enormous slums full of the desperately poor, they are attempting, at least here and there, to change that image. But whether they’re changing the reality is an open question.

The Mumbai slum redevelopment policy is the brainchild of local starchitect Hafeez Contractor, who is not coincidentally the designer of Imperial Towers. “I used to always say something should be done about the slums. And I always used to say that the best way of [dealing with] slums was that you give them free houses, keep the land, and build on it and make money,” Contractor told me when we met in his office near the Mumbai stock exchange. “When I first told them in 1982 … everybody said I am crazy. Today, they are implementing it.”

The program doesn’t rent the apartments to the residents of these slums, it gives it to them; they own it. However:

But because the policy calls for rehousing the poor without doing anything to raise their incomes, many end up unable to pay for utilities or contribute to the upkeep of the buildings through residents’ association dues.

There’s much to blog about here, if you read the whole thing.

Gandhi Documentary

If you missed the BBC Documentary, Mahatma Gandhi: Pilgrim of Peace, which we watched in class on Monday, please watch it outside of class and take notes. Your notes should be aimed at helping answering our Central Question regarding social institutions and oppression.

Blog Post Ideas, 2/11/13

Pope Benedict XVI is resigning, citing his advanced age. He is the first Pope to resign in six hundred years. 

More on the war inside Syria.

A map from reveals a surprising fact about which countries don’t require employers to offer paid sick leave.

And for those studying Hinduism right now, the New York Times has a video up showing the festival of Kumbh Mela, “one of the largest religious gatherings in the world.”