English Literature on Rome

I think that what hit me most from an English literary work regarding Rome was the quote in A Room with  a View”

“A smell! a true Florentine smell! Every city, let me teach you, has its own smell.”

“Is it a very nice smell?”  said Lucy, who has inherited from her mother a distaste to dirt.

“One doesn’t come to Italy for niceness, ” was the retort; “one comes for life” (chapter 2)

And this notion of Lucy’s ideals or perceptions of “nice” is in regards to her own experiences.  She expects the scent to be “nice” or “proper”, but in realty, every ity does have its own smell–because it has its own way of life… It is something that I was aware of, but you cannot truly understand until you have been somewhere other than the place you are used to; Rome did not smell nice. There were places that smelt nice inside of Rome, like the bakery, but as a whole Rome did not smell nice.  It doesn’t need to smell nice.  It smells of vibrancy, and life, and those who live there.  It smells as it should–different than what we are used to, and I truly appreciated that.  I may not have enjoyed some aspects of the scent at the time, but I am glad that it did smell different than I had expected, because it was powerful, and I remember it now.

Reflection; Wanderlust

I think something that speaks to the idea of reflection was something I wrote during some free writing in our last class.  I know Meg asked me to send it to her, so I thought I would post it here:

Feeling big while being small; Wanderlust

Rome is tethered—a spider web of ideas, emotions, and action—to the past.  It is made up of all the things done before, things that fill your lungs and mind—a wind that, once inside, causes you to feel big, though you are still small.

Rome has a way of getting under your skin, connecting you—injecting you, with all these ideals, you are a Caesar, you are Aurelius, you can fly high, riding the glory of those who came before you, as you peer down from aloft on Capitoline Hill.

You come, you become.

You haven’t changed.  Look at your form—you are small, you are pale, you still quake from the fear that you do not belong.

But look.  You have changed.

You have let them fill up your atoms—

They are with you—move in time.

You are small, you quiver, but you are alive—now, so are they.

They move beside, in your shadow

As you gaze up in wonder—the Colosseum, the Forum—think back on the time past, on them, on lives lived as you do—on humans—

Its human condition, the human experience, it doesn’t change with time—

You are them—they are you

We all move, taking in all that we can for the moments we are breathing

Becoming more than we could have hoped for,

Though all still desperate for more—to own more, see more,

Be more.

Be you.

That was the piece I wrote… and I was really inspired by the readings of Lucretius, Aurelius, Ovid, and Sulpicia…  To see that the human experience does not change.  The things that we are worried about today—they worried about.  Love, lust, desire, jealousy… all of these things are not original to us as a generation.  I think that’s something we often forget.  We desire so much to be original—the world is only about us—that we forget all of those who came before us… It was something that hit me hard, and I saw the common thread stringing all of time ad humanity together… It was a truly inspiring journey and I do not regret a minute of it…I just hope that I can return someday, in an attempt to quench my insatiable wanderlust.


I think that what I was mostly disappointed by was the negativity that seemed to surround certain aspects of the trip.  I was having the time of my life and was happy to smile through the pain and ignore some of the hurtful things that were said, but upon reflection, no one should have to endure being treated poorly, even if in the interest of making the trip run smoothly.

I think that fretting the little things hinders people from enjoying themselves in the best way that they can.  Smiling through the sore feet, the heat, all of those things makes the trip so much better! J I tried to take everything in stride and turn every negative into a positive.  I hope that came across in my interactions with others, as I wanted everyone to enjoy the trip, and the fact that some people have made it known that they didn’t, hurts.  I feel for them and wish they could have enjoyed a life changing experience.  I never thought I would get to travel or see any part of the world—and to be in London and Rome… is breathtaking. It makes me feel as though anything is possible.

My roommate and I actually ate most of our meals in our apartment.  We did go out once or twice.  We sampled the delicious pizza, which is nothing like any pizza I have had over here in the States.  We tried the most amazing risotto at a restaurant in Trastevere, right near where we met every morning.  It was the most delicious asparagus risotto… I actually  had a dream about it one night since being home.

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I think though, that because my roommate and I went to the grocery store for most of our meals, we gained a better understanding of the culture and what it would actually be like to live in Rome.  We ate fresh baked bread, pesto, and mozzarella (and inexpensively, I might add) for lunches and dinners, we had eggs and yogurt for breakfast.  It may not seem grand, but it was a completely wonderful experience.  We loved walking to the store and using our little wheeling baskets.  We loved figuring out the produce sticker/weighing machine.  It was all a part of making us feel like we truly lived in Rome, and that’s not something you can get eating at a restaurant.

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The Sketch

I sketched The Rape of Proserpina from the Borghese Gallery.  It is a Baroque marble statue by Bernini, which was completed when he was only 23 years old. It depicts the Abduction of Persephone or “Proserpina”, when she was seized and taken to live in the Underworld by the god Pluto, or Hades.  I chose this one because of the beautiful movement that the marble contains.  I have no idea how someone can draw out such movement and fluidity from something so rigid and solid.  I loved standing before the piece and attempting to move my pencil quickly to capture the movement, rather than be rigid and accurate to every line.

The piece reminds me of my studies in life drawing classes, where you draw from the human form.  You move your pencil quickly to capture the movement of the human form, rather than every detail.  You try to breathe life into your piece, and that is exactly what Bernini captured here.  I loved sketching this sculpture and I hope that I captured some essence of the movement and life that Bernini injected into his work. IMG_4014


Shakespeare’s Ceasar

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Inside the Forum, nestled into a small enclosure, was a stone—not something that you would see and attach anything of grandeur…. But it stands regardless.  Coins are thrown around it, cover it, and light filters in from the top of the enclosure.  It is beautiful in its own way.

We had the powerful experience of reading Julius Caesar at the Forum.  The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day—though as we began out reading the wind began to kick up and swirl about.  It was strong and the more we read, the more powerful it seemed to become.  Call it a placebo—we are reading Julius Caesar directly beside the place that it took place, so we attach meaning.  It was still an amazing experience.  When we got to the part where Caesar is killed there seemed to be a startling calm in the air.  It was emotional and powerful and hit home.  To read this piece by Shakespeare beside the place where Caesar was cremated was chilling.  It reinforced the political and social fears and demands that brought about such a bloody action.  It was a very powerful experience, and one I will not soon forget.

Pardon me, Julius! Here wast thou bayed, brave hart;
Here didst thou fall; and here thy hunters stand,
Signed in thy spoil, and crimsoned in thy lethe.
O world, thou wast the forest to this hart,
And this indeed, O world, the heart of thee.
How like a deer, strucken by many princes,
Dost thou here lie! (3.1.217-224)

The rock that remains, and is nestled inside the Forum, is the altar where Julius Caesar’s body was set alight, as on a funeral pyre.  It is very emotionally charged, walking behind the wall and coming face to face with the altar. It is amazing to see the flowers and coins left by people, who still feel some connection to this place.

Reflect on the Past

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The forum was something that I wasn’t prepared for—something where I had no idea what to expect from the trip.  I didn’t have much background with the Forum—sure I knew it existed, but I wasn’t equipped to understand the gravity of the site.  The site was socially important to the people of the time period.  It was where you went for the news and the politics.  It was the heart of the community-where everything important happened.  Walking around the site and seeing how it is now was overwhelming.  I liked what Adriana, our tour guide, continued to say to us, “Reflecta”—you need to think about what it was like back then, what the people were living through, what their lives were like.

It was almost painful for us to see the buildings as they are now—with gouges and holes here the metal, a precious commodity to the people, was torn from the actual structure.  People in the group couldn’t understand why someone would deface something so beautiful, and Adriana helped us put things into perspective.  She explained that people would come and they would pillage, they would rip your children from your arms and hurt them, unless you had the means to protect yourself.  The people would tear the metal from the wall to sell it—but not from greed, rather out of the severe need to protect their family.  It was difficult to listen to her speak of this, while picturing the way the people lived.  I would close my eyes and imagine them walking around, as we were then—what did they look like, what were their names?  It was like stepping back through time.  It was a powerful tour and I truly loved the reflection time that it allowed.  The forum was an amazing experience and I hope to return one day and sit for a couple hours and just sketch.  To sketch is to take it all in—every detail.  I would love to spend more time in reflection at the Forum.

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The Vatican

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Regardless of religious beliefs, The Vatican is something everyone should see.  It is massive and it is overwhelming but it is beautiful.  So much happened when I went there, from the museum where I saw beautiful art work, to the crowds which made me claustrophobic, to the Basilica—everything was an experience.  The church was richly decorated, almost to the point of looking gaudy, but I suppose that is the style 😛

I think what hit me the hardest was the sheer size of everything and the amount of collecting the church did… There is so much stored there and it is overwhelming. It is also overwhelming how much power the church had over art during the period that many of these were painted.

Once we were through the museums and saw the Sistine Chapel, we made it to St. Peter’s Basilica, and went inside the church.  We happened to be there just as the service was starting and saw the procession of choir and priests. It was a different experience than the other churches I had been to in London.  With the giant center piece in the middle of the church, it was almost overwhelming, which distracted and took away from the service.  It was an intense experience and I understand now why Doerr and his wife rushed so early in the morning to go see the museum and the Sistine Chapel.  The experience was amazing but very intense.


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I have held a deep connection with Caravaggio ever since I took an art history class at Mt hood community college.  He was troubled, suffered from bad publicity, and was criticized in his art techniques.  I think that I have always connected with the trouble artist, seeing as Van Gogh is another one of my soul connections.

I felt connected to Caravaggio in a way, not just because I liked his art, but because I felt for him—pain, sorrow, empathy, I don’t know what to call it, but I felt something.  The entire trip I felt as though I was waiting with baited breath until the moment I would stumble upon one of his works and come face to face with the man’s spirit, who I admired.

Painting—art in general, but specifically painting– (perhaps because I paint, I feel more in tune with this medium) is very emotional to me.  I am standing in front of canvas, but every single stroke that is placed onto the surface was done so by the artist that I admire.  Every choice, every color, every line was created by the, with their hand, and that is something I have never taken lightly.  Every time I see a painting in person done by someone I admire, it becomes truly an emotionally draining experience, and the Caravaggio pieces were no different.

I was rushing through the Borghese; I could not—would not, look at anything until I had seen them, because I knew they were there, in that building, somewhere.  I searched every floor, not even slowed by the massive staircase that one must climb to reach the top floor.

When I found them I had no words.  I still have none, so I will leave this post by saying that Caravaggio’s work (dark, powerful, beautiful) was benefitted by the pain he suffered, the outcast that he was, and because of this a line is passed down through time.  You can stand before his work and feel the beauty in pain, and the pain in beauty.  You open yourself up to it, and it will take your breath away.

The Rape of Persephone

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I have always loved mythology, and the story of the seasons and their origins are a tragic, but beautiful story.  The Rape of Persephone was a statue that I have seen many times in my art history classes, and in my studies, but I never thought I would actually get to sit and sketch it in person.  The movement and life captured within marble is breathtaking.  The fingers pressed tightly, violently, into the young girl’s skin is something that would be difficult to render in oil painting, let alone carving out of Marble.  It is something that is difficult to comprehend, but standing before the statue and trying my hardest to capture the movement only put the work of art into more perspective.

What makes Bernini’s work so startling here is the humanity that he has captured out of stone.  You see the anguish, the pain (both physical and mental), and you see the degradation of a life, once happy, now turned sour.  You feel the young girl’s anguish as she is ripped from the life she loves and is now thrown in to literal hell.  It is a beautiful piece and I fear I will never comprehend just how much sill, talent, and passion went into creating something so human, so real—out of stone.  I cannot wrap my mind around it—literally it hurts me to think about.  I absolutely loved the Borgese Gallery… and I want to return and sketch this piece many more times.

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