FT 012-J “Hemingway and Casanova walk into Harry’s Bar...” The City of Venice in Art, Literature and Film
Alexandra Hoerl, Department of Political Science.
“If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you’ve imagined. Venice is—Venice is better.”
–Fran Leibowitz, American humorist
“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.”
–Truman Capote, American author
“A realist, in Venice, would become a romantic by mere faithfulness to what he saw before him.”
–Arthur Symons, Welsh poet
“And silent rows the songless gondolier/Her palaces are crumbling to the shore”
–Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
“Men are we, and must grieve when even the Shade/Of that which once was great is pass’d away”
–William Wordsworth, On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic
The city of Venice, Italy has been in dire straits for a very long time—Byron and Wordsworth made their observations about the crumbling city about 200 years ago! The city is sinking into the sea, raising questions about whether or not it should be saved, or allowed to die a lingering death. Despite this doom—or perhaps because of it—Venice has spent the last two centuries suspended in beautiful decadence while managing to hold off ugly decay. The city has always been exotic and seductive, and Venice has played host to a stunning array of intellectuals and artists like Hemingway, Proust, Wagner, and Voltaire, while nurturing native talents like the composer Vivaldi, the artists Titian and Tintoretto, and the notorious intellectual and lover Casanova.
Venice’s residents have adorned her public places with gold and marble; enshrined her in timeless art; and used her winding canals, elaborate churches, glittering palaces, and tight, dark streets as inspiration for works of literature and film that engage the central topics of humanity: the experiences of birth and death; the passions that drive us toward sex or crime; and the nature of existence and reality. In this tutorial we will become better acquainted with this mysterious fantasy of a city and think critically about these eternal topics of death, sex, and existence from a variety of perspectives by engaging some of the major books, works of art and films that Venice herself has inspired. Your summer reading will be Daphne DuMaurier’s supernatural novella Don’t Look Now, which is set in Venice and concerns two parents in mourning for their dead daughter and their encounter with unsettling, possibly psychic twins. You will also receive a map and city guide to help you navigate the story! Other authors we will encounter during the semester include (but are not limited to!) Hemingway, Casanova, and Thomas Mann. This tutorial engages important authors and works in order to spur students to engage in the flexible, critical and interdisciplinary thinking that is at the heart of a top-notch liberal arts education. However, these important works ask students to seriously and maturely grapple with themes of violence, sexuality and death. Students who are not comfortable confronting content with explicit depictions of sex and violence should not enroll in this tutorial.