Apparently the place to be on Thursday nights is the Museum of Fine Arts for their monthly event Artful Thursday. The Brown Auditorium was packed last night, with people even sitting on the floor. During a standard Artful Thursday, the museum collaborates with "dance groups, musicians, singers, authors and artists" for an evening "inspired by the MFAH art collections and exhibitions," and last night's event nicely combined the museum's collection with the words of some of the greatest poets this world has known.
Last night's presentation featured a lecture by noted English professor and Scholar in Residence at Houston Baptist University, Dr. Louis Markos, whose talk was entitled "The Eye of the Beholder: How to See the World Like a Romantic Poet."
When thinking about the concept of "romantic," know that Markos isn't referring to Valentine's Day or a Reese Witherspoon flick. According to Markos, the romantic poets were considered such because of the manner in which they described their surroundings. They looked at the world from "outside of themselves." They saw life as if they were looking through the eyes of a child. Happiness for them, in a sense, was in the eye of the beholder.
To illustrate his thesis, Markos picked apart several of the romantic poets he considers paramount, such as Wordsworth and Blake. Markos is undoubtedly a huge fan of William Blake and cannot help but dance a little when describing his work. Additionally, to tie these ides together, he included passages from Milton, Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe's Faust. Each one of these references alluded to the same basic concept -- life is what you make it; wherever you go, there you are, and the like.
If the topic doesn't grab you, Markos would have. He is a professional entertainer du jour/scholar, complete with a range of jokes that made the weighty theme feel light and fun. He wore a white suit jacket and a black bow tie as if he had just stepped off of the stage of a cabaret. About halfway through his talk, his Broadway-loving counterpart (himself in a hat) wowed the audience with an excerpt from the musical Zorba! It was obvious he was enjoying himself, and since he had the microphone, there was little anyone could do to stop him. But he found a way to tie his performance into the text, and it even assisted in giving a clearer understanding of the romantics' philosophy.
As Markos spoke, a slide show of stunning paintings -- from the Impressionist period, with some Realists sprinkled in for good measure -- flashed behind him on the Brown Auditorium's oversize screen. As his lecture came to a close, Markos found a way to tie in the art with this concept of looking at the world from a different perspective. As many times as you may have seen a sunflower, Markos explained, when you see Van Gogh's famous Sunflower painting, you are seeing the bright yellow blossoms for the first time, again. It's all in the way you look at things.
Markos is an engaging speaker and a master of the topic of romantic poets. In addition to his teaching gig, he is an author with a new book, On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis, due out this fall. Additionally, he is on a mission to adapt the Greek classics for current productions, with a version of Helen, Euripides's famed work, to be performed in Houston on November 9 at Houston Baptist University's Dunham Theater.