Wednesday, January 22, 2014

From the Commonplace Book: Tolkien on Reading Difficult Books

"Life is rather above the measure of us all (save for a very few perhaps). We all need literature that is above our measure--though we may not have sufficient energy for it all the time. But the energy of youth is usually greater. Youth needs then less than adulthood or Age what is down to its (supposed) measure. But even in Age I think we only are really moved by what is at least in some point or aspect above us, above our measure, at any rate before we have read it and 'taken it in'. Therefore do not write down to children or to anybody. Not even in language. Though it would be a good thing if that great reverence which is due children took the form of eschewing the tired and flabby cliches of adult life. But an honest word is an honest word, and its acquaintance can only be made by meeting it in a right context. A good vocabulary is not acquired by reading books written according to some notion of the vocabulary of one's age-group. It comes from reading books above one."  J.R.R. Tolkien, letter, April 1959

Monday, January 13, 2014

From the Commonplace Book: Petrarch on Teaching and Virtue

"For although ten thousand years may pass and centuries pile upon centuries, never will virtue by praised enough; never will there be enough lessons about how to love God and to hate sinful pleasures; never will the road to the discovery of new ideas be closed to eager minds." -Petrarch, Letter to Tommas del Messina, in Renaissance Debates in Rhetoric, Rebhorn, ed.  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

From the Commonplace Book: Ethics and Eloquence

"Ethics and eloquence were as inseparable in the nature of classical rhetoric as eloquence and learning were Isocrates and Cicero. And it was the profoundly ethical character of eloquence which at first secured its adoption by the Fathers and later assured its cultivation by the medieval Church." -Marshall McLuhan, Classical Trivium 

 It is important for classical, Christian educators to remember that the training we're giving students in speaking persuasively must never be used to manipulate the audience. To inform, persuade, sometimes even sway the emotions if the audience is not predisposed to listen to our arguments or for some valid reason needs to be moved at the emotional level, are all legitimate. But we should make great effort to ensure that our students understand that whatever eloquence or persuasive ability they may have must be used in defense of what is true, good, and beautiful, and never merely for personal or party gain.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

From the Commonplace Book: Tasso on Philosophy

"Philosophy was born among and nurtured by the Gentiles of Egypt and Greece, and from thence came to us, presumptuous, bold, misbehaving and proud beyond measure, until Saint Thomas and the other holy doctors made her a disciple of and handmaiden to Theology. Through their work she grew modest and more decent, and ceased her reckless assertion of things opposed to what had been revealed to her Teacher and Mistress." -Torquato Tasso (1544-1595), 'Allegory of the Poem Jerusalem Delivered'