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A central convention of Greek mythological narratives called katabasis, the hero’s journey to the underworld or land of the dead. Marcella Cheng/The Conversation NY-BD-CC

Essays On Air: Journeys to the underworld – Greek myth, film and American anxiety

Journeys to the Underworld – Greek myth, film and American anxiety. The Conversation36,9 Mo (download)
Our new podcast, Essays On Air, features the most beautiful writing from Australian researchers. Today, classics expert Paul Salmond explores how modern cinema directors borrow from Greek legends.
Our first episode is from Paul Salmond, an expert on the Classics and Ancient History at La Trobe University, reading his essay ‘Journeys to the underworld – Greek myth, film and American anxiety’. Wes Mountain CC-BY-ND

Essays On Air: a new podcast from The Conversation bringing the best writing to you

Essays On Air 01: Introducing Essays On Air.
The Conversation is launching a new podcast, Essays On Air. It's the audio version of our Friday essays, where we bring you the best and most beautiful writing from Australian researchers.
The Fall of the Titans, Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem, circa 1590. Wikimedia

Friday essay: the myth of the ancient Greek ‘gay utopia’

The dream of a "gay utopia" is a constant in gay and lesbian historical imaginings over the last 200 years. But the Greek attitude to same-sex attraction was not nearly as permissive as many have assumed.
Mount Mazama, a volcano in Oregon. Indigenous stories preserve tales of its eruption more than 7,000 years ago. Shutterstock.com

Friday essay: monsters in my closet – how a geographer began mining myths

Old stories from around the world tell of drowned islands, volcanic eruptions and upheavals to the land around them. Increasingly we are realising these tales preserve actual memory, often from thousands of years ago.
The Rolling Stones performing in Hamburg during the ‘No Filter’ European tour: the band’s legacy is entwined with the pioneers of black American music. Morris Mac Matzen/Reuters

Friday essay: the art of the pinch – popular music and appropriation

Pinching musical phrases and stylistic approaches has always been a part of art making and can be a respectful exchange. But shallow, ill-informed appropriation only perpetuates tired stereotypes.
Edmund Dulac’s 1910 illustration of Sleeping Beauty. Wikimedia images

Friday essay: why grown-ups still need fairy tales

Fairy tales can be brutal, violent, sexual and laden with taboo. But they are are excellent narratives with which to think through a range of human experiences: from disappointment, and fear to envy and grief.
Fossilised ancient human footprints at the Mungo National Park. How are we to engage with a history that spans 65,000 years? Michael Amendolia/AAP

Friday essay: when did Australia’s human history begin?

Over the past half century, Australia has experienced a 'time revolution' with Indigenous history pushed back into the dizzying expanse of deep time. The latest discovery reminds us that science, like history, is an ongoing inquiry.
Exhibition installation view of Robert Mapplethorpe: the perfect medium at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 27 Oct 2017 – 18 Feb 2018. All artworks © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission. Photo: AGNSW, Christopher Snee

Friday essay: Mapplethorpe and me

The distinctive visual style of Robert Mapplethorpe’s beautiful, oversized images seems now more classical than shocking. But he can still reveal the subconscious of an era we think we have outgrown.
Detail from Little Big Woman: Condescension, Debra Keenahan, 2017. Designed and made by Debra Keenahan, Photograph by Robert Brindley.

Friday essay: the female dwarf, disability, and beauty

For centuries, women with dwarfism were depicted in art as comic or grotesque fairytale beings. But artists are challenging these portrayals and notions of beauty and physical difference.
Heaven only knows what sort of excursion Wooredy and Truganini thought they had embarked upon on when G.A. Robinson took them to Recherche Bay in 1830 to make an overland trek to the Tasmanian west coast. Cassandra Pybus

Friday essay: journey through the apocalypse

Wooredy and his second wife Truganini set off into the Tasmanian wilderness with settler George Robinson in 1830, on a "conciliatory" mission to find other original Tasmanians. Their stories bear witness to a psychological and cultural transition without parallel in modern colonialism.
Beauty is still understood as a process of ongoing work and maintenance. Shutterstock.com

Friday essay: toxic beauty, then and now

The history of dangerous cosmetics shows us the harms that women have suffered to meet expectations of what is beautiful.
Wild horses, known as brumbies, in Australia. Shutterstock.com

Friday essay: the cultural meanings of wild horses

From 30,000-year-old cave paintings to The Man From Snowy River, wild horses have always been part of human culture. As Australia debates what to do with 'brumbies' in mountain environments, it's time to reconsider their place.
Gil Birmingham (Cory) and Jeremy Renner (Martin) in Wind River: grieving fathers who come together in the realm of the dead. Production Co: Acacia Filmed Entertainment, Film 44, Ingenious Media

Friday essay: journeys to the underworld – Greek myth, film and American anxiety

American cinema mines Greek myth most strongly at times of profound social anxiety. In the age of Trump, we are already seeing key political battlegrounds framed as underworld quests in film.
A Victorian AIDS Council volunteer training weekend in Kyneton Victoria, 1987. Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives.

Friday essay: recognising the unsung heroes of Australia’s AIDS crisis

The AIDS crisis arrived in Australia in 1982 and triggered an enormous (and successful) public health response, largely driven by volunteers. These people, often from marginalised communities in their own right, deserve recognition in Australia's proud volunteer tradition.
New technologies are taking books and libraries to places that are, as yet, unimaginable. Shutterstock

Friday essay: why libraries can and must change

The history of the library is replete with mechanical marvels. More than collections of books, libraries are social, cultural and technological institutions that house the very idea of a society.
Claire Danes as CIA agent Carrie Mathison in Homeland: in one episode, she stops taking her medication in order to solve the puzzle of who is attempting to kill her. Teakwood Lane Productions, Cherry Pie Productions, Keshet Broadcasting

Friday essay: TV’s troubling storylines for characters with a mental illness

A spate of recent TV shows feature protagonists whose mental health condition gives them special skills. But these are often accessed by rejecting medication.
Joan of Arc depicted on horseback in an illustration from a 1505 manuscript. Wikimedia Commons

Friday essay: Joan of Arc, our one true superhero

Forget Wonder Woman and Batman. The Maid of Orléans - an uneducated, teenage girl who led armies to victory - is a hero for our times.
A wonderful evocation of the horrors of last year’s long election campaign by David Rowe in the Australian Financial Review. Amid industry turmoil, newspaper cartooning is increasingly becoming a niche activity.

Friday essay: political cartooning – the end of an era

One of the great satirical achievements of the mass media era, the editorial cartoon, is losing its centrality in the digital age. Yet the 'visual terrorism' of cartoons can cut through the verbiage of political commentary.

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