woody allen

HISTORICAL HOMIES: Ugolino della Gherardesca

Most Prof. Prattle posts are freewheeling, digressive, madcap. Once in a while, though, we prefer to temper the tangential tendency and train our eye on a single subject for an in depth analysis of an HISTORICAL HOMIE. The first HISTORICAL HOMIE piece (declared as such retroactively) was the compelling story of that legendary daughter of Poughkeepsie, Lee Miller. Today our insatiable knowledge lust demands we go further afield to bring to you a tale of derring-do and double-dealing. Without further preamble, the legend of Ugolino:


Lecture notes

I’ve added the lecture notes from yesterday’s class. They’re jpegs because the department closed early today and I didn’t get to the copy machine in time, but they look pretty good. There’s even a nice white border around each page. Pretty fancy. There’s also a bit of a grease mark on one of the pages because I dropped a piece of Gouda on the page when I was writing them up. You know how I do! My bad tho.

Probably like two or three of you were disappointed this morning to get the homework announcement with no added bonus supplementary extra nonsense with it. It was a bit late for me to write my customary ramble. In fact, if you check your email you’ll see that it was 4:48 a.m. when I sent that email; that time is significant because 4.48 Psychosis is the name of the last play that Sarah Kane wrote before she took her own life back in 1999. That play was named for the time when Kane, suffering from severe depression, often woke. To be honest, I’ve never actually read the play, but ever since I read about it after reading Kane’s more famous play Blasted a few years back, the name has stuck with me, and every time I happen to be awake at 4:48 a.m. I think about it. Blasted is a terrifying, disturbing, and profound play about war, sexual violence, and human interaction; it premiered in London to great controversy when Kane was just 23 years old, but is now generally recognized as a major work. The U.S. premiere was at Soho Rep. in 2008 and is one of those shows that it still pains me to have missed (others include Sweeney Todd with Patti LuPone and Michael Cerveris and the recent Glass Menagerie with Cherry Jones). One evening I went down to the theater and waited in line for 90 minutes in the hope of getting tickets, but to no avail.

To get back to art about depression , it’s tough to broach that subject without mentioning David Foster Wallace. Two of his better short stories are “The Depressed Person“, from the collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and, especially, “Good Old Neon” from Oblivion. They each delve deeply into the complexities of human thought; the dangers of recursive, inwardly spiralling introspection; and the impossibility of language expressing anywhere near the scope of what goes on in any one person’s brain. If you’re a smarty-pants you should read “Good Old Neon”; it’s challenging in an interesting, engaging way, not the boring way of some of Wallace’s other stories (e.g. “Mister Squishy”) which mostly just annoy me.

Unfortunately, just as 4.48 Psychosis came from a very real place in Kane’s psyche, Wallace knew whereof he wrote. He was somewhat more successful in managing his depression, but in 2008 he, like Kane, hanged himself.

While I’m on the subject of tortured geniuses who hanged themselves, the 2011 exhibition Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrated the work of the English fashion designer Alexander McQueen.


Incidentally, that exhibition also falls within the “Big events that I missed” category. I went to the Met to see it one day, but the wait to get in was three hours! I was like “Umm chill dude that’s wilin”; on the plus side, the rest of the museum was less crowded than usual. There were some spectacular pieces on view, though.

mcq2  mcq3

Sorry this post was a bit of a downer. Let’s close by considering Yayoi Kusama, who is very much alive and whose work is super chill, though her persona is consistent with the theme of this post (she has a book called Manhattan Suicide Addict and apparently has suffered from intense suicidal thoughts for her whole life).


That’s her (and some of her famous polka dots) in a publicity picture from her big show at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York this past autumn that, you guessed it, I am really bummed about missing. I swear I sometimes actually do some of the things I want to do. I’m just modest so I talk about the stuff I miss. Would’ve been sweet to have gotten a selfie in the Infinity Mirrored Room, though, like all the cool kids did! Could’ve been a really original profile pic.


jk that ish is played dawg errybody did it.

“What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.”