“The Stoic Guide to Happiness” – A New Course by Wes

Wes has developed a new course called The Stoic Guide to Happiness, available from Himalaya Learning. Use promo code STOIC for a 14-day free trial: himalaya.com/stoic. Can Stoicism actually make us happier? Isn’t it just an injunction to ignore our emotional distress, develop a stiff upper lip, and relate to life as robotic, Spock-like logicians? The truth is, Ancient Greek Continue Reading …

(sub)Text: Against Specialization in Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler”

Hedda Gabler is not a fan of specialization: not in the professor she has married, and his esoteric scholarly interests; not in domesticity, and the specialized affections required by marriage and motherhood; not in any lover’s infatuated specialization in her; and perhaps not in the form of specialization arguably required by life itself, with its finite and confining possibilities. Is there any way, short of suicide, to transcend such limits? Wes & Erin discuss Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler.

(sub)Text: Order and Innocence in Melville’s “Billy Budd”

Bill Budd is a beautiful man. Not just good looking, but exquisitely good natured, something that costs him no effort and has required no instruction. And yet it is ultimately his beautiful soul and good nature that get Billy killed. Wes & Erin discuss Herman Melville’s final and unfinished work of fiction, and whether a good heart and good intentions are more important than obedience to authority and adherence to civilized norms.

(sub)Text: Slouching Towards Bethlehem in W.B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming”: Part 2

Wes and Erin continue their discussion of W.B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming.” In Part 1, they analyzed the first stanza of the poem, in particular Yeats’ use of “gyre”; the meaning of the phrases “things fall apart” and “the center cannot hold”; and the conflict between aristocratic and revolutionary values. In Part 2, they discuss — with a little help from Nietzsche — the anti-redemption of the second stanza, and the meaning of Yeats’ vision of a “rough beast” slouching towards Bethlehem. 

(sub)Text: Things Fall Apart in W.B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming”: Part 1

In 1919, the world seemed to have descended into anarchy. World War I had killed millions and profoundly altered the international order. Four empires, along with their aristocracies, had disintegrated. Russia was in a state of civil war, and Ireland was on the verge of its own. It’s these events that helped inspire William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming,” which famously tells us that “things fall apart,” that “the center cannot hold,” and that a new historical epoch is upon us. Just what rough beast is it that slouches, as Yeats has it, toward Bethlehem? Wes & Erin discuss. 

(sub)Text: Filial Ingratitude in in Shakespeare’s “King Lear”

Do we owe parents our gratitude for our upbringing? What if they haven’t done such a great job? And anyway, perhaps we inevitably resent all the forces that have shaped the characters that confine and limit us. If so, the quest for filial gratitude is ultimately hopeless. It could even be a kind of madness: a foolish attempt to transcend the same formative forces that we resent in our parents, to be “unaccommodated,” free of the “plague of custom.” Wes and Erin discuss William Shakespeare’s King Lear.

(sub)Text: Mastery and Repetition in “Groundhog Day”

When egotistical weatherman Phil Connors gets trapped in a time loop in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, he gets drunk, steals money, manipulates women, binges on breakfast food, plays God… and finally grows up. The story charts Phil’s development over the course of thousands of repeated February 2nds. Along the way, it raises questions about our own capacity for growth. How do we go about improving ourselves? How can we escape boredom? Achieve fulfillment? Wes and Erin discuss the 1993 film Groundhog Day.

(sub)Text: A Discussion of Todd Phillips’ Film ‘Joker’

Wes Alwan and William Sharp (psychoanalyst and professor at Northeastern) discuss the film at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis

Why has this film done so well? It offers no spectacle, and good doesn’t triumph. It is psychologically true and expertly performed. The audience can enjoy tragedy and identify deeply with a social outcast and villain. The film successfully exploits the relationship between humor and violence, and comedy and tragedy.

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