Natsume Soseki is one of the greatest writers in the history of Japan. The backdrop to his work is the disorientation and social anxiety of the early 20th Century as Japan undertook rapid modernization after centuries of being closed to the world. Soseki has had a huge influence on generations of Japanese authors and has obsessed some international artists. His work is taught to generations of school children in Japan and greatly admired by scholars but remains obscure to much of the rest of the world. Why?
Joining Bridget Kendall to discuss the life and work of Japanese writer Natsume Soseki: The author and critic Damian Flanagan; Michael Bourdaghs, Professor of East Asian Languages at the University of Chicago; and Reiko Abe Auestad, Professor of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages at the University of Oslo.
(Photo: Natsume Soseki on a 1000 Yen note, series D. Credit: A Dagli Orti/DEA/Getty Images)
In search of the good life: Epicurus and his philosophy
The popular view of an Epicurean is that of somebody who focuses on pleasure as our guiding principle, indulging in the finer things of life to achieve happiness. And yet what the Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus understood by pleasure was far more nuanced. In fact, Epicurus and his followers advocated a simple lifestyle, withdrawn from society, where we are content with little.
What is perhaps less known is how Epicurean writings on physics foreshadowed some of the most significant developments in early modern science – including Darwin’s theory of evolution and even Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
Joining Bridget Kendall is Catherine Wilson, visiting Professor at the Graduate Centre of the City University of New York, and the author of various works on Epicureanism, including How to Be an Epicurean: The Ancient Art of Living Well; Dr Sonya Wurster, Honorary Fellow at La Trobe University in Australia who’s working on a book about the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus; and philosopher and historian David Sedley, Emeritus Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, and the author of numerous publications on Greek and Roman thought.
(Image: Bust of Epicurus. Photo: DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini via Getty Images)
Artemisia Gentileschi: The painter who took on the men
One of the most celebrated female painters of the 17th century, Artemisia Gentileschi was the first woman to become a member of the Academy of the Arts of Drawing in Florence. Through her talent and determination - and despite massive obstacles - she forged a 40-year career, and was collected by the likes of Charles I of England and Philip IV of Spain. But after her death, it wasn’t until the 20th century that people began to reinterpret her work in the light of her remarkable life story, including the well-documented fact that she was raped at the age of 17 by fellow painter, Agostino Tassi.
Joining Bridget Kendall to discuss the life and work of Italian Baroque artist, Artemisia Gentileschi are four experts: Letizia Treves is curator of the 2020 Artemisia exhibition at London’s National Gallery; Mary Garrard is Professor Emerita of Art History at American University in Washington DC; Jesse Locker is Assistant Professor of Italian Renaissance & Baroque Art at Portland State University; and Patrizia Cavazzini is Research Fellow at the British School at Rome, Italy.
Image: Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Artemisia Gentileschi
Credit: National Gallery, London
Guide dogs for the blind: A history
We are now familiar with dogs helping people with sight loss but where did the idea come from? And how have the ways of selecting, training and using guide dogs changed over time?
Bridget Kendall explores the history of guide dogs with Pieter van Niekerk, Head of Public Relations for the South African Guide-Dogs Association and with Karin Floesser, one of the guide dog leaders of the German Federation for the Blind and Partially Sighted. Bridget is also joined by journalist and educator Miriam Ascarelli, biographer of Dorothy Harrison Eustis, the philanthropist who in the 1920s co-founded the American Seeing Eye school, and she hears from Michael Hingson, a blind survivor of the 9/11 attacks.
(Image: A guide dog in Shanghai, China. Credit: Wang He/Getty Images)
Oscar Niemeyer: Brazil's king of curves
Best known for his curvaceous buildings and his design of Brasilia, Oscar Niemeyer was one of Brazil’s greatest architects and a leading pioneer of modernism. During his seven- decade career, Niemeyer designed hundreds of remarkable buildings not just in his native Brazil but also in Europe and as far afield as Algeria. His experimentation with reinforced concrete produced organic curved shapes that were a significant departure from the austere style of European modernism. An ardent communist, Niemeyer hoped his beautiful buildings would be for all sections of society to enjoy, but how does his vision and influence endure today, and are his striking creations still functional and sustainable?
Joining Rajan Datar to discuss Oscar Niemeyer and his work are Professor Richard Williams from the University of Edinburgh and the author of “Brazil: Modern Architectures in History”; the Brazilian architect and lecturer at the University of Bath, Dr Juliana Calabria Holley, and Maria Paz Gutierrez, Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley.
(Image: a view of the Contemporary Art Museum (MAC) in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro state, with the Sugar Loaf mountain in the background. Credit: REUTERS/Pilar Olivares)