Tag Archives: research


“Formalism:  A central tenet of modernist art criticism that emphasized the importance of line, color, and space (significant form). Representational content was considered irrelevant in the eyes of formalist critics. Since formalism provided ‘objective’ methods for looking at all art whether Western or not, ancient or contemporary, it was thought of as egalitarian. But the advent of Pop Art necessitated a different analysis that went beyond the work itself and examined influences from popular culture. Postmodern approaches to art-making and criticism investigate both form and content, as well as the context of art and its role in society.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

The Manchurian Candidate

The Manchurian Candidate: A memorable film (1962) directed by John Frankenheimer, based on Richard Condon’s novel of the same name (1959). It tells the story of a Korean War ‘hero’ (played by Laurence Harvey) who returns to the USA as a brainwashed zombie triggered to kill a liberal politician, his ‘control’ being his ambitious mother (played by Angela Lansbury). She goes on to order him to kill the presidential nominee, so that her husband, the vice-presidential candidate, can take over. Manchuria is a region of communist China to the north of North Korea. The expression ‘Manchurian candidate’ has subsequently been used to denote a person who has been brainwashed by some organization or foreign power and programmed to carry out its orders automatically.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

Term of Art: Social Work

Social Work: The generic term applied to the various applied methods for promoting human welfare through the prevention and relief of suffering. In the late nineteenth century, social work was largely voluntary (notably as a charitable activity on the part of middle-class women), and aimed primarily at the alleviation o fmaterial poverty. In the period since the Second World War, social work practice has become increasingly professionalized, and now has a much wider remit embracing emotional and mental as well as economic well-being.

Contemporary social work tends to suffer from a lack of differentiation from the various other social services which comprise the modern welfare state. In Britain, for example, social workers have no legal obligation (and no practical resources) to deal with issues of unemployment, housing, and poverty—all of which are responsibility of other social services. What they are expected to deal with are the wide range of problems which diminish the ‘quality of inner life’; for example, problems and crises associated with adoption, fostering of the young and old, marital reconciliation, sexual and physical abuse, and people’s relationships with one another generally.


There are several models of social work practice. The ‘problem-solving’ approach involves the social worker in reinforcing the client’s emotional and organizational resources to deal with his or her difficulties. The various ‘psycho-social therapies’ stress the need for prior psycho-social diagnosis as a prerequisite for psycho-social treatment. Partly as a reaction against the deterministic and mechanical view of action implied in these approaches, ‘functionalists’ have emphasized the role of the social worker in helping (rather than treating) the client, by sustaining an appropriate supporting relationship with him or her. Other models are oriented towards behavior-modification, crisis-intervention, and short-term task-centeredness. In reality, practice tends to be characterized by eclectic pragmatism, rather than adherence to a specific method. Strong recent influences include feminist theory and anti-oppressive practice. Good recent overviews are Malcolm Payne, Modern Social Work Theory (1991) for Britain, and J. Heffernan et al., Social Work and Social Welfare (2nd edn., 1992) for the United States.

Not surprisingly, many outside observers have expressed concern at the periodic psychotherapeutic takeover of social work; similarly, given its inherently moral character, social work practice has been subject to repeated controversy involving those who view it as primarily a political tool—either for promoting or hindering social justice.

Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.


“Silhouette: A profile likeness of a person or scene cut from black paper and usually mounted against a white background. Named for French amateur practitioner of the art, Etienne de Silhouette, Louis XV’s finance minister.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

3 Furies

Megaera * Tisiphone * Alecto

The furies (Erinyes) were also known in Athens by the cautious euphemism of the Eumenides—‘the kindly ones’—and were worshipped in a cave below the Parthenon. Megaera the jealous, Tisiphone the blood avenger and Alecto the unceasing were elemental figures of human power—the relentless winged spirits of Conscience, Punishment and Retribution hunting down the guilty.

Later traditions identified them as the daughters of Gaia, inseminated when the bloody testicles of the ancient god Uranus, who was castrated by his son Cronus, fell to the earth. They are sometimes depicted like a winged spirit of victory, sometimes like a Medusa figure dripping with gore and a scalp sprouting a mane of thrashing serpents.

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

The Order of Things: Longest Rivers

Here is another lesson from The Order of Things, this one on the longest rivers in the world. You’ll also need the list and comprehension questions that are the work of this lesson.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Book of Answers: Ten Days that Shook the World

What are the Ten Days that Shook the World? They are the days of the Russian Revolution of 1917, which brought an end to the imperial rule of the czars and replaced it with communism. The title refers to the 1919 eyewitness account of the revolution by American writer and sympathizer John Reed (1887-1920).

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Term of Art: Harappan Script

“Harappan Script: That of the Harappan civilization, flourishing in the Indus valley in the 3rd-2nd millennia BC. Undeciphered and not demonstrably connected to later Indian scripts.”

Excerpted from: Matthews, P.H., ed. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.


“Troubadours: Poets of southern France, northern Italy, and Catalunya who flourished from the 12th to the 13th century and wrote primarily in Occitan. The term is derived from the Occitan verb trobar, to compose. Troubadour poetry is best known through the elaborately formal lyrical Canso which celebrated courtly love and chivalry, and for proposing a fusion of aesthetic sensibility with the ability to love. During the 13th century nonlyrical genres, such as the sirventes, and the narrative works, such as the Canso de la crozada, became prevalent. Eleanor of Aquitaine was a noted patron of troubadours who introduced troubadour themes and lyrical conventions at the courts of northern France. The trobairitz were female poets of southern France who wrote in Occitan in the same period. Most trobairitz, such as Beatrice de Dia, Cara d’Andeza, and Na Castelloza practiced the Canso and other lyric genres. (See TROUVERES; GUILLAUME IX; BERNARD DE VENTADOR; and BETRAN DE BORN.)”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Term of Art: Sacred, Sacred versus Profane Distinction (in a Time of Gaslighting this Dichotomy)

“Sacred, Sacred versus Profane Distinction: For Emile Durkheim and all subsequent sociologists of religion, the recognition of the absolute nature of the distinction between these two terms was and has been fundamental to their subdiscipline, both as a social fact and as something to be explained. Durkheim’s classic statement or the distinction is that ‘Sacred things are those which the [religious] interdictions protect and isolate; profane things, those to which these interdictions are applied and which must remain at a distance from the first’ (The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1912). Sacred phenomena are therefore considered extraordinary and set apart from everything else.”

Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.