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UCL events news and reviews


Philosophy and theatre

By uclzean, on 4 June 2014

Friedrich Nietzche

Friedrich Nietzsche

Forty minutes into Tom Stern’s (UCL Philosophy) UCL Festival of the Arts lecture he had the audience humming a drone-like melody and clapping their hands in time. A 12-strong tragic chorus concealed their faces with masks and turned to the stage as two volunteers recited the opening lines of Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex.

CREON: Before you came, my lord, to steer our ship of state, Laius ruled this land.

OEDIPUS: I have heard that, but I never saw the man.

CREON: Laius was killed. And now the god is clear: those murderers, he tells us, must be punished, whoever they may be.

OEDIPUS: And where are they? In what country? Where am I to find a trace of this ancient crime? It will be hard to track.

The audience continued to hum and clap but the hedonism was soon interrupted due to a complaint from a conference in the room below. A pity as it interrupted the near completion of the Apollonian unity Nietzsche had envisioned these events to be about. We had, at least, tasted what it would have been like to be at a religious worship of Dionysus that took place in amphitheatres over festival periods in Ancient Greece.

Stern is fresh from the publication of his book entitled Philosophy and Theatre which investigates how the two relate. He began by providing background into the history of both. This inevitably led to Ancient Greece, the birthplace of western philosophy and western theatre. ‘The tradition begins here. Both are Greek words. Philosophy means the love of wisdom  and theatron means a place for viewing’.


An appointment with Dante

By uclzean, on 30 May 2014

Dante, by Sandro Botticelli

Dante, by Sandro Botticelli

Into the spirals of UCL Roberts building I descended. My second UCL Festival of the Arts event was an hour of getting to grips with 13th century epic-supremo – il sommo PoetaDante Alighieri.

Professor John Took’s (UCL School of European Languages Culture and Society) profound love and passion for this subject seeped through this hour-long seminar. He must have drawn breath on all of one occasion as he delivered a great river of speech on the man he considers to be the ‘world’s greatest love poet’.

There’s nothing effete about Commedia – the Divina was added later by Dantian disciple and fellow wordsmith Bocaccio. Hell-like apparitions abound. The Roman poet Virgil leads Dante from the dark wood through the layers of the Inferno, through to Purgatorio and Paradiso. Most of all, Took says ‘enjoy the story, my goodness is he a yarn spinner’.


Subtitles, Surtitles & Supertitles

By Siobhan Pipa, on 30 May 2014


Surtitling in action

Subtitled films and programmes used to be the preserve of art house cinemas or specialist TV channels, whilst English speaking versions of popular foreign shows would be commissioned to fill prime-time slots.

And although English speaking recreations are still being commissioned, we are now much more likely to catch the original, in all its subtitled glory, right alongside it.

As a whole we seem to be more accepting of subtitles than ever before, especially if the wave of hugely popular Nordic noir dramas to hit our screens is any indication and in her UCL Festival of the Arts talk ‘Subtitles, Surtitles & Supertitles’, Dr Geraldine Brodie (UCL Translation Studies) has her own theory as to why this is.


Pain, pleasure and the capacity to relate

By uclzean, on 30 May 2014

Melencolia I, 1514 by Albrecht Dürer

Melencolia I, 1514 by Albrecht Dürer

My first UCL Festival of the Arts lecture began with Tim Matthews (UCL French) and Juliet Mitchell (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) discussing the relationship between art and psychoanalysis.

Mitchell, a well-known figure in literary criticism and psychoanalysis, has written on sexual difference, hysteria and siblings. Matthews’s work currently focuses on the work of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti.

The talk was introduced as how psychoanalysis uses art and myth in order to find representations of psychic issues. ‘Art is about reaching out to others’, said Matthews, ‘its subjectivity relates to people who aren’t there.’ Psychoanalysis occupies a similar realm it is a client ‘reaching out to people who are not there, the events are in the past’.

Both psychoanalysis and art and indeed life, according to Mitchell, deal with unconscious purposes. ‘We live largely through unconscious processes’, psychoanalysis seeks to find out what those unconscious processes are and art attempts to represent them.