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Allegro non troppo

Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto is not what you thought. Tessa Carman talks about the Bells of Ordinary Time in seven liturgical hours, more or less. Libby Nelson presents Twenty-Five Maps that Explain the English Language, as if such a thing were possible. Linda Rodriguez explains how World War One made wristwatches happen.

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William Harris

The essays of the late William Harris, professor of classics at Middlebury College, are archived on the college website under the title of Humanities and Liberal Arts. Of interest to Latin and Greek students: The Intelligent Person’s Guide to Greek and The Prolegomena to Latin. The index to Greek Language and Literature includes a good deal on Homer as well as commentaries on Sappho and Heraclitus.

Slow Down Krishna

St James School is teaching Sanskrit. On YouTube: here and here. Junior School books teach the stories of Krishna and Rama. Senior books one and two are available online, among other resources at ISER. More from the India Tribune and an interview with teacher Elena Jessup.

This is a fascinating endeavor and a useful template for the teaching of any classical language, incorporating culture and community. It’s true that classical languages provide excellent training in grammar. But most Latin and Greek textbooks currently in use are based on analytical grammars, providing an efficient and thorough overview of linguistic structure at the expense of vocabulary, syntax, and practical use. This is suitable for college-level study, which assumes fewer classes and greater independence on the part of the student. But an ideal middle or high school curriculum would make better use of class time to teach pronunciation, handwriting, vocabulary, conversation, and reading. No such curriculum really exists for Greek, though W.H.D. Rouse and other talented teachers have had great success with the Direct Method at the Perse School and elsewhere. Sanskrit, of course, is still more challenging, but these are precisely the challenges that primary and secondary school students ought to be tackling: learning to shape unfamiliar sounds and letters, chanting and reading stories, building an effective vocabulary, learning grammar inductively as well as systematically.

Wonder and Weirdness

Rod Dreher talks about making Christianity weird again. It always has been, but sometimes we forget to pay attention. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry makes some interesting points about Mary and modernity. Joseph Pearce invokes Chesterton on trees and tradition, talking about Tolkien.

Meanwhile, Mike Chasar has some things to say about orality and literacy and poetry, and Maria Popova is quite taken with Mary Oliver. It’s hard not to like Mary Oliver, but like many contemporary poets, she skims along the surface of words and meaning. Beautiful platitudes are no less beautiful or true for being platitudes, but they don’t wrestle with language and reality the way Hopkins does, nor are they quite so subversively simple as Robert Frost can be. Nothing against Mary Oliver; but we should reserve our highest praise for the best and bravest words.

As in poetry, so in religion: the best and the bravest are the ones who stand against modernity and relativism; the ones that are rooted and living and strange. Further up and further in.