Close Reading in the Classroom

Too often, the teaching of English literature lacks the developmental sense that other disciplines have. As you go from a basic English course to an advanced one, it isn’t clear how one step builds on the other. Each math course, for instance, presumes knowledge developed in previous courses, and other humanities fields have a graduated curriculum.

Flannery O'Connor: Stamped but not Cancelled

On June 5, 2015, the U.S. Postal Service published a commemorative stamp in honor of Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor is an anomalous candidate for such acclaim, since her work stands at a critical distance from the American project, both in its older and more recent iterations. Precisely in her . . . . Continue Reading »

Ulysses and the God of Irony

Allow me to summarize the plot of a 644-page Modernist masterpiece, James Joyce’s Ulysses: Two guys meet one day. The day in question is June 16, 1904 (Happy 111st anniversary!). The guys in question are Stephen Dedalus, twenty-two, poet; and Leopold Bloom, thirty-eight, ad canvasser. Stephen . . . . Continue Reading »

Frequencies of Thought

Stephen Meredith argues a thesis that seems to me correct, important, and widely overlooked—the triple crown in the Interesting Assertions sweepstakes. It is that the scientific attitude must respect the nonscientific grounds of its actions, or else it shall slide into a dehumanizing instrument . . . . Continue Reading »

Who Were the Inklings?

The name they chose for their group was, J. R. R. Tolkien self-effacingly recalls, “a pleasantly ingenious pun . . . suggesting people with vague or half-formed intimations and ideas plus those who dabble in ink.” The description conjures a picture of “donnish dreaminess,” a rag-tag band of tweed-clad writers who met for a pint from time to time. Continue Reading »

Dismantling the Cross

Generally speaking, there are two principal vocations in the life of the Catholic Church: marriage on the one hand, and celibate priesthood and religious life on the other. Both are expressions of conjugal love. In the normal calling of marriage, an individual binds himself for life to another human . . . . Continue Reading »

Books of 2014

The books of 2014, like the books of any year, utterly exceed our grasp. In one aspect, they suggest (they mimic, we could say) the divinely gratuitous excess of Creation; seen from another angle, their multiplicity reflects our fallenness, our propensity to error, our confusion. We need to hold . . . . Continue Reading »

Honor Thy Child

Lila: A Novel by marilynne robinson farrar, straus and giroux, 272 pages, $26 Of Pieter Bruegel’s sixteenth-century de­­pic­­tion of Icarus crashing into the sea, W. H. Auden observes “how everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster.” Bruegel’s painting shows a tragedy . . . . Continue Reading »