This week: Bloomsday, the Trojan War, Jacob’s Pillow & more.
In Search of the Trojan War with Michael Wood: Lovers of Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation will find a hidden gem in Michael Wood’s 1985 six-part series on the Trojan War, part of a grand tradition of beautifully filmed, gracefully presented British historical television documentaries. Assuming his audience’s basic familiarity with Homer’s poem and the history of the war, Wood does not retread obvious territory. Instead, he takes us on a tour of archaeological sites, artifacts, and surviving cultural traditions. Wood explores lesser-known stories from Troy’s longer history, such as Heinrich Schliemann’s quixotic quest to locate the city’s lost ruins, his discovery of countless precious objects, and Troy’s “second destruction,” when the Berlin museums containing these treasures were bombed in World War II. As with Clark’s Civilisation, Wood’s narration in the field lends the series authenticity and intimacy, whether he is exploring still damaged sections of Berlin, attending a Turkish bardic concert, touring Schliemann’s house in Athens, or climbing the hill of Troy itself. It leaves a mark: watching the series as an elementary school student sparked my own lifelong interest in ancient history. Available on YouTube and the Internet Archive. —IS
“Dance We Must” at Jacob’s Pillow: There may be few dance venues more rooted in place than Jacob’s Pillow. The storied center and its eponymous summer festival in Becket, Massachusetts, inaugurated by Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis in the early 1930s, is named for the cushion-shaped stone beside this hilltop farm that was once approached up a ladder-like stagecoach road. With this rustic setting now shuttered and the 2020 season canceled due to COVID, the Pillow has organized a virtual festival night and gala called “Dance We Must.” Hosted by Pillow trustees Wendy Whelan and Kyle Abraham, and free with registration, this event on June 20 at 7 p.m. EDT will feature performances by Kyle Abraham, Michelle Dorrance, Irene Rodríguez, Jabu Graybeal, Daniel Ulbricht & Danielle Diniz, Christopher R. Wilson, and others. —JP
“The Urbanism of Greenwich Village (Part I),” with Rodrigo Bollat Montenegro via the ICAA: Strange to think now, with towering Midtown anchoring the island of Manhattan, but at one time Washington Square was the center of New York, if not exactly geographically, then certainly socially—witness the works of Henry James and Edith Wharton. In many ways, Washington Square, with its gracious park surrounded by red-brick townhouses, is still the center of Greenwich Village. To learn more about the square, and the greater Village via a virtual walkthrough, view a lecture from the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art delivered by the architect Rodrigo Bollat Montenegro. —BR
Virtual Bloomsday activities: “Bloomsday,” celebrated on June 16 each year to commemorate the single date depicted by James Joyce in his monumental tome of high modernism, Ulysses, has become something of a goofball holiday: literary nerds dressing up in turn-of-the-century garb; trailing the “path” of Leopold Bloom as he wandered aimlessly around Dublin; and dropping a pint of Guinness at each public house mentioned along the way. The first celebrants, a group of six Joyceans that included the writers Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien, hardly made it past lunch before calling off the walking tour—more rounds at The Bailey were a far more appealing way to spend the afternoon. Alas, none of this translates very well into the age of COVID, so most of the usual hijinks, which have since spread far beyond the shores of Sandymount Strand, have been canceled this year. A few online events have been scheduled, however, including Symphony Space’s “Virtual Bloomsday on Broadway,” with actors reading from the novel on livestream throughout the day. And for those interested in the book itself but intimidated by its size and its reputation for complexity, this online guide has a number of excellent resources to help you break in. —AS
“Music for a While #27: Vexed & unvexed”
Jay Nordlinger, music critic of The New Criterion, talks music—but, more important, plays music.
From the archive:
“The French connection” by Anthony Daniels (February 2013). On relations between the French intelligentsia and the Soviets.