Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"The Web was Woven Curiously" Extra Credit

The prolific Victorian painter John William Waterhouse
got all the weaver's details right in one of two
famous paintings of the Lady of Shalott.
Class Notes and Meditation

If it isn't clear, the previous post marked the first session of Dr. Bear's free online course, which might be called "How the Internet is Making Us Stupid and Wicked." Or, more poetically, "I'm Half Sick of Shadows."

Last time, the Bear wanted to get you thinking about how you can separate content from its medium. If you suspect he is going to say we not only should, but must, go to the head of the class.

There can be no question that different media are suitable for some content, and unsuitable for other content. Think of a Tweet versus an article in a journal. Or, if you remain unconvinced, do you think Dostoevsky could have written The Brothers Karamazov in smoke signals? Form limits content.

The Bear feels certain you will agree that (1) you can separate content from its medium and (2) some media are objectively better at transmitting rational thought than others.

The Bear leaves you with selections from Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott to think about. Next class session is Tuesday. The Bear, too, is "half sick of shadows." (The painting above shows her before her mirror, compulsively weaving her web. Can you find the shuttles and the swift? Note her foot upon the treadles. The Bear looks up from writing this and sees a nearly identical loom belonging to Red Death.)

No time hath she to sport and play:
A charmed web she weaves alway.
A curse is on her, if she stay
Her weaving, either night or day,
       To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be;
Therefore she weaveth steadily,
Therefore no other care hath she,
       The Lady of Shalott.


But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often thro' the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
       And music, came from Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead
Came two young lovers lately wed;
'I am half sick of shadows,' said
       The Lady of Shalott.


[Turning from her mirror-view of the world, she beholds it as it is, but is cursed.]

She left the web, she left the loom
She made three paces thro' the room
She saw the water-flower bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
       She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
'The curse is come upon me,' cried
       The Lady of Shalott.


'The web was woven curiously,
The charm is broken utterly,
Draw near and fear not,—this is I,
       The Lady of Shalott.'

Entire poem here.

Suggested by Martha (see comment).


  1. I'd like to proffer this painting of the Danaides, also by Waterhouse (the Pre-Raphaelites are a favorite of mine), as another exemplar of Your Brain on Twitter. Not sure if I attached the image correctly...

    1. I bumped it to the main article. I got me a picture book of Waterhouse paintings. Lots of purty girls. Of course, I am mainly interested in the evocation of mythological themes.

  2. It's an amazing article in favor oof all the online viewers; they wiol take benefit ffrom it I am sure.

  3. Ok read the cliff notes. She was psychotic. The voice whispering the curse was in her head. She sealed her own fate and fulfilled her own prophecy by going out underdressed in the cold on the river and dying of hypothermia. But at least she looked hot in the boat and
    she got Lancelot to admire her in the end.

    Seattle kim

  4. How do I view this course? Sorry if that’s a dumb question but I can’t find a link to it anywhere and at this point I’m not sure if Bear is just being tongue-in-cheek lol (I’m new around here)

    1. First, please choose some sort of name to sign your posts, perhaps an animal of your choice. And this IS the course. Or you could call it a series or a Chautauqua. The reason the Bear calls it a course is that, as you will see, this introduction to basic concepts is going to be followed by some slapdash real scholarship about stuff like neuroplasticity. Also, as a course, you get 3 hours credit at an institution of higher learning run by talking animals.

    2. So, go back a couple of posts and you’ll be all caught up for next Tuesday’s official session. (This was supplemental material.) Thank you for your interest.

  5. Your funny reply to Martha re the "real" reason you have the Waterhouse book reminds me of a comment I frequently heard about a certain mag: "yeah, so there are pics of naked ladies, but the articles are written for the intelligent man" or some such nonsense.
    Recently saw the motto of a news station that piqued my interest: News that informs, not influences.
    This is a very interesting course. Thank you for the time you take to teach.


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