Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata


Oscar Wilde's "The Nightengale and the Rose" (PDF)


I found this article about the mathematics of facial beauty:

I especially liked this quote:

"The golden ratio, briefly, is the proportional relationship between two lines a and b such that (a + b) is to a as a is to b; in other words, the ratio between the whole and one of its parts is the same as the ratio between its two parts. This doesn't sound like much in algebra form (a/b = (a + b)/a) and still less when expressed as a decimal (1:1.61814). But draw a rectangle - or build a Parthenon - with sides of a and b, and the sheer cosmic rightness of the thing leaps out at you."
- Bruno Maddox


Meghan Rose


  • Is our response to beauty strictly emotional?
  • Can it be described?
  • How does beauty change with time?  (Both our perceptions of it, and the beautiful thing itself?)
  • How do we appreciate beauty?  How do we respond to it?
  • Are there different kinds of beauty?  Do we use one word to mean lots of things, when we really mean something a little more specific?  (like love:  I love brownies, but I also love my brother?)  Hebrew has 3 different and specific words for love.  Bahasa has 2 different words for beautiful: cantik, used for people, and indah, used for things.  You can't mix the two up.
    • simplicity: babytalk, solid banks of color,
    • detail: the streaks in someone's irises, the veins in a blade of grass, the cross-section of a paint chip . . .
    • infinite: the stars, the sky, the ways to express someone, the face of God . . .
    • temporal: people, flowers, pancakes. . .
    • from hard work or thought: the Constitution, a good race, life stories
    • situational: handshakes, glances, acts of mercy and kindness, favors
    • particular:
  • Is beauty in opposition to anything?  Of necessity?
  • Does beauty breed agreement?  Peace?  Hope? Joy?
  • Why does beauty seem to be so subjective anyway? 

[David adds: photos of the Indonesian shadow puppet Meghan Rose brought in]





The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they must be felt in the heart

---Hellen Keller


Sticking with the "what we learned in our other classes" idea, we recently learned cultural significance of the word for beauty in Greek (καλλος, which also means good or noble.) Ancient Greek culture didn't have the idea of "don't judge a book by it's cover" that we hold in modern societies. Beaut was supposed to signify a special preference by the gods and thus those who were more beautiful on the outside were believed to have greater beauty inside.

I was also thinking about how much this concept has slipped into our modern culture, despite our trying to fight it. Even in ugly duckling stories, the ending isn't very happy unless the hero/heroine goes through some sort of beautification at the end of the story. Some people dislike romantic movies, not for the plot or script, but for the attractiveness of the actors.

Alison - The egg I presented in class was given to me during my first production at the theater I used to work at in Minneapolis, Theater de La Jeune Lune. It was a production of The Seagull, and, fittingly, the company had hired an old Russian woman to play Polina. She was a typical older actress; jaded, slightly cranky, and constantly correcting our performances. "She was never very kind. We never thought much of her, until she gave us this." This was a beautiful handpainted egg, she had made one for each member of the cast. I still have mine today. I think it is so beautiful both because of the time and effort it must have taken to make, and because of the truth which is that this woman had a truly kind heart, one that I was never able to experience because I was never able to get past her rough exterior.

[David is sorry it's so blurry]



















Also ... a movie called The Russian Ark... It is a 96 minute movie that takes place in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, a site specific and only one shot (no cuts) theatrical event through Russian History and Art ... not to be missed...    


PN1997.2 .R877 2003 

















3 examples of using physical beauty and earthly love to describe the beauty of love for, and by, the divine.

Song of Songs --- Chapter 4

Behold, you are fair, my beloved; behold, you are fair; your eyes are like doves, from within your kerchief; your hair is like a flock of goats that streamed down from Mount Gilead.

Your teeth are like a flock of uniformly shaped ewes that came up from the washing, all of whom are perfect, and there is no bereavement among them.

Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your speech is comely; your temple is like a split pomegranate from within your kerchief.

Your neck is like the Tower of David, built as a model; a thousand shields hanging on it, all the quivers of the mighty men.

Your two breasts are like two fawns, the twins of a gazelle, who graze among the roses.

Until the sun spreads and the shadows flee, I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense.

You are all fair, my beloved, and there is no blemish in you.

With me from Lebanon, my bride, with me from Lebanon shall you come; you shall look from the peak of Amanah, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from mountains of leopards.

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one of your eyes, with one link of your necklaces.

How fair is your love, my sister, my bride; how much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than all spices!

Your lips drip flowing honey, O bride; honey and milk are under your tongue, and the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.

The Rising Sun by John Donne

BUSY old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run ?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices ;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams so reverend, and strong
Why shouldst thou think ?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long.
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and to-morrow late tell me,
Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou left'st them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, "All here in one bed lay."

She's all states, and all princes I ;
Nothing else is ;
Princes do but play us ; compared to this,
All honour's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world's contracted thus ;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere ;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.

In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel

love I get so lost, sometimes
days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
when I want to run away
I drive off in my car
but whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are

all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn
without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

in your eyes
the light the heat
in your eyes
I am complete
in your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
in your eyes
the resolution of all the fruitless searches
in your eyes
I see the light and the heat
in your eyes
oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light
the heat I see in your eyes

love, I don't like to see so much pain
so much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired of working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive

and all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn
without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

in your eyes
the light the heat
in your eyes
I am complete
in your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
in your eyes
the resolution of all the fruitless searches
in your eyes
I see the light and the heat
in your eyes
oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light,
the heat I see in your eyes
in your eyes in your eyes
in your eyes in your eyes
in your eyes in your eyes

  1. Mar 09, 2009

    Mirabel ~ Casey was telling me about studying this in her bio class last week!  There's a theory that facial symmetry and 'perfect proportions' makes people more attractive, because it indicates that their genes are also symmetrical and perfect and thus make more desireable partners (strictly biologically speaking).  Something like that anyway.

     Anna ~ "It's still too early to write a book about beauty and not use the word 'rose,' which is perhaps a sign of whatever remains to us of wholesomeness."  - Crispin Sartwell in his book Six Names of Beauty 

  2. Mar 18, 2009

    Going back over all the research I discovered that Eva too references the Russian Ark!


  3. Mar 19, 2009

    @Deb — oops sorry, that was actually my add (the Ebert quote) after you told me about the movie and I was doing a little research on it.  I thought the quote was too perfect for what Eva had been talking about, though!