The Effect of Cultural Differences in the Roman Empire on the Art of Ancient Rome

This essay attempts to show how the expansion of the Roman Empire led to acculturation – the transfer of values and customs from the Romans to the other peoples that became part of the Empire. I argue that, although the Romans copied the art of other civilizations, as the Empire expanded to less developed societies, “Romanisation” – the spreading of Roman culture throughout the Empire – took place, and this was reflected in the art of those peoples living on the fringes of the Empire.

A Comment on Thomas L. Friedman’s (2016) New York Times article: “Donald Trump Voters, Just Hear Me Out”

Friedman makes an attempt to communicate with Trump’s electoral base by appealing to rational arguments: Trump is not a decent person; his policies to help the working class are a façade, etc. I argue that he fails because, although his supposed target audience is “Middle America” (blue–collar workers), his real audience is more intellectual – the kind of person who would read The New York Times. Friedman falls into the same trap that led to Hilary Clinton’s defeat by preaching to the converted: a middle-class America that might appreciate Friedman’s invention of the word “STEMpathy”. Trump voters voted against “the establishment”; Friedman is getting his articles read by it.

Monarchs and the Nobility as Patrons of the Enlightenment

The Enlightenment, stretching from the latter half of the 17th century to the start of the French Revolution, marks a philosophical turn away from the obscurantism imposed by the Church during the Middle Ages. Two major classes – the clergy and the aristocracy – wielded power over the mass of the people. The king served as a guarantor of the status quo, ideologically protected by the dogma known as the ‘divine right’ of kings to govern. The exercise of reason posed a serious threat to the established order. Given that the French Revolution may be seen as the culmination of enlightened thinking, it is odd to imagine that the very classes threatened by the enlightened thinkers were prepared to patronise them. It was in the interests of the privileged classes to curry favour with them out of fear of possible exposure in the press, and also to show them off as acquisitions which convey the prestige of the patron. This essay attempts to show how patronage varied throughout Europe.

The Political Situation in Iraq: A Snapshot from 2016

This essay attempts to assess the political situation in Iraq from a viewpoint in 2016. The political situation is extremely volatile and, given the major political events which have taken place on the world stage – the election of Trump, increasing tensions between Russia and the West, and Turkey’s unpredictable politics – any analysis can only be a snapshot of the way things are at a given moment. The essay looks at the antagonistic internal forces (Sunnis, Shias and Kurds); the geopolitical strategies of the major political world powers dating from the Sykes–Picot agreement involving the British and the French to the present–day involvement of the major world powers of Russia and the USA; the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); and the prospect of a federal solution to the problem. The essay posits the problem of dealing with ISIL as the fundamental problem for the political future of Iraq.

The Effect of Technological and Scientific Advances on French 19th Century Painting (Extract)

This essay looks at the effect of 19th century scientific and technological discoveries on French painting. The most obvious advancement was photography which, although it initially threatened painting, later freed the artist from the need to recreate what could be seen. Other inventions also helped, including the metal squeezable tube and newer more gelatinous paints which prevented smudging.

The Importance of being Earnest: Social Criticism through Humor

Most of the literature written on the subject of humor in Wilde’s work concentrates on its psychological aspects or on the literary devices which make the humor work. In this essay, little attention is paid to either those psychological aspects or the literary devices. Instead, the essay provides a sociological approach to the play and focuses on the society that Wilde was attacking through humor. It is important to understand that late Victorian society was benefitting and suffering from the effects if the Industrial Revolution. The two major moneyed classes – the old landowning class and the bourgeoisie, the new capitalist class which had thrived on industry – now jostled for prestige in high society. In particular, Wilde exposes the landed gentry as being contemptuous of education, pretentious and overpreoccupied with appearances.

John Locke and Political Power (Extract)

Locke is recognised as one of the most prominant empiricists of the early Enlightenment but he was also a strong believer in liberty. It is possible to separate his philosophical ideas from his political beliefs but, I argue,  there was more room for religious faith for the rationalists than for the empiricists. The Church was the dominant power, along with the monarch, in the 17th century, and Locke had to contend with ideologues of power such as Robert Filmer. Filmer argued that kings ruled by divine right thus unifying the two most powerful forces. So Locke, who believed that the people had a right to revolt against an unjust king, had to tread carefully.

Celibacy, Good and Evil and Sin and Free Will, Belief in God, and Human Existence in Augustine’s Confessions

This essay takes a thematic approach to Augustine’s Confessions centering on four of the issues he struggles with: celibacy; good and evil and sin and free will; belief in God; and human existence. I attempt to highlight those aspects of Augustine’s thinking which are relevant to us in the 21st century. The resounding theme throughout Confessions is Augustine’s struggle to find God.

Exchange at Christmas: An Anthropological Perspective

History and anthropology reveal that the activities of giving and receiving are not limited to specific cultures or times. Marcel Mauss showed us that exchange is an activity which is so fundamental it may be an innate human characteristic. Mauss describes three obligations that accompany the practice of giving: the obligation to give, to receive, and to repay the gift. Christmas encapsulates these obligations which are present in diverse human societies.

A Comparison of the Domes of the St. Peter’s Basilica (Rome) and the Suleymaniye Mosque (Istanbul)

This essay looks at the similarities and differences of the domes and why they differ. Both developed during the time of the Italian Renaissance and both look back at earlier classical structures. The essay shows how Michelangelo, influenced by Brunelleschi, adapted Bramante’s original plan of St. Peter’s Basilica and how Sinan’s Suleymaniye Mosque was influenced bythe Hagia Sofia. There are notable differences – the Suleymaniye Mosque has several domes rather than only one. Architectural differences are also functional – the huge space below the main Suleymaniye dome was designed to allow for great numbers of worshippers without the barriers that are formed by pillars. The essay concludes by arguing that it is better to see both domes as illustrations of architectural genius rather than as typifications of styles (Renaissance, Turkish, etc.).

The Evolution of Design in the Twentieth Century

The 20th century witnessed a large number of changes in design or “movements” beginning with the final stages of the Arts and Crafts movement, and finishing with Postmodernism/Deconstructivism. This essay focuses on a few of the major movements in Western society and, in particular, the way they reflect changes in society as a whole. The main focus is on architecture because, as Jameson argues, it is “in the realm of architecture […] that modifications in aesthetic production are most dramatically visible.” However, even if we can decipher certain trends, there will always be personal elements that are only attributable to the characteristics of the designer.

A Comparison of Politics in Britain and Politics in the USA

Britain and the US appear to have a lot in common: both have democratic structures in place and both allow free speech; both enjoy an electoral system with universal suffrage; both have a two tier system of government – although, given the power of the president, it could be argued that the Americans have a three tier system. There are, however, huge ideological differences which reflect the history of the formation of the political systems. One example is that of the Second Ammendment to the United States Constitution; another is the absence of a national health service – a belief in individual rather than collective rights.

Orientalism in French Cinema: Pépé le Moko (Duvivier)

Said’s concept of Orientalism “connotes the high-handed executive attitude of nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century European colonialism”. Duvivier’s film is shot through with Orientalist ideology. It gives us the perspective of the colonizers; never that of the colonized. Without doubt it is well–crafted but, like other films of its time, the basic ideology of white Western civilization pitted against primitive races of all types goes unchallenged.

Postcolonial Culture Clash in French Cinema: La Haine 

La Haine shows us the colonized subjects as immigrants in the banlieues of the colonizing countries, where they come into contact with the brute force of the state on a daily basis. Here, multicultural tolerance is a rarity. There is no veneer of acceptance. They are ghettoized in council estates where they have no work and are viewed with suspicion by the local population. Fanon described the geographical “compartmentalized” configuration of the colonial world as the key to its social organization. Here too, in the metropolis, geographical space defines social space. But we do not follow the young immigrants from a neutral position as independent observers: the camera moves with the protagonists and gives us their point of view or shows us the POV of the local population.

Ottoman Architecture History – Beylerbeyi Palace

Built in the middle of the nineteenth century by an Armenian, Serkis Balyan, and his father, Karapet, for the sultan, Abdulaziz, Beylerbeyi Palace combines traditional Ottoman styles with the Western influences of the Renaissance and the Baroque. Ottoman architecture may have been undergoing a process of “Westernization” since the end of the eighteenth century, and the Balyans, who had trained in Europe, hired architects who had trained in France and Germany to work on the Palace. This essay attempts to explain some of the history of the Palace and shows parallels with the architecture which was flourishing in Western Europe.

The Graphic Revolution: Power and the Image

Boorstin’s term, the ‘graphic revolution’, refers to the way images pervade every aspect of everyday life. Central to this revolution is the way such images can be manipulated in order to persuade people to act in predetermined ways. The media becomes essential in this process and in what Boorstin refers to as ‘pseudo events’. This essay explores how the image plays a role in the manipulation of people for political ends and the way in which people opt for a vicarious existence, or for a bubble, via the new IT paraphernalia.

John Locke and Political Power

This essay focuses on Locke’s political and economic thinking rather than on his thinking as an empiricist. He was particularly opposed to the idea that the sovereign ruled by divine right so he effectively challenged the established power not only of the king but also of the Church. Additionally, his economic ideas challenged the established protectionist and interventionist ideas of the government of the time. Most importantly, he believed that there was a social contract between the people (those who could vote) and the government, so the people would have a right to revolt against the sovereign if there were a breach of that contract.

The Effect of Technological and Scientific Advances on Nineteenth–Century French Painting

The most important scientific and technological advances that affected French painting in the latter half of the nineteenth century were the invention of the squeezable metal tube in 1841, premixed and synthetic paints, and photography. At first, artists such as Paul Delaroche probably felt threatened because there would be no need to hire an artist for a portrait when a photograph would be more accurate. But the new technology freed the artist from having to paint accurately and opened the door to impressionism, surrealism and cubism while pointillism mimicked the effect achieved by the photograph.