Literary Education and the Reformation

Literary Education and the Reformation

As the Western world observes the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation – just kidding; I know most people are trick-or-treating instead – I am struck by its lasting effect on all things literary. It is amazing how, no matter what we believe theologically, we read and teach in a world informed by Martin Luther and those crazy 16th century theologians...

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Foreshadowing and the Judgment of Christ in The Bronze Bow

Foreshadowing and the Judgment of Christ in The Bronze Bow

The climactic moment of the children's classic, The Bronze Bow, is a simple smile. As I was preparing to teach this work to a room full of eager Junior High students, I was refreshed by Elizabeth George Speare's elegant style and careful attention to detail. Master that she was, she brought her novel to a perfect crescendo, using all her considerable literary tools to highlight one shining moment of turning: the climax!...

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What is a Literary Education?

What is a Literary Education?

The capacity for self-knowledge is the thing that makes us human. Since education is the cultivation of mature humanity in students, we conclude that education happens when a student catches a glimpse of himself as a thinking creature. In the best case scenario, this glimmer of self-knowledge leads him further, to understand himself as an imperfect creature - a sinful creature, desperately in need of Grace...

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What Mathematics Can Teach Us About Literature

What Mathematics Can Teach Us About Literature

Missy and I spend a lot of time showing parents how to teach short stories with pictures by means of simple questions like “does the main character succeed?” This approach has helped thousands of teachers get young students started in literary reading with children’s classics like Mem Fox’s Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, Patricia MacLachlan’s All the Places to Love, or Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon. But what, we are often asked, should older students do?...

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Me and Mr. Toad

Me and Mr. Toad

I recently began re-reading The Wind in the Willows for the umpteenth time, and, as classic novels are wont to do, it communicated to me in an entirely different way than it has before. I’ve been struck over the years by a lot of wonderful things in this little book, from Mole’s once-earned-never-lost loyalty, to Rat’s effortless hospitality, and Badger’s deep and abiding self-confidence. But one thing I hadn’t realized until now is that Mr. Toad and I are remarkably similar...

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Flowers, Seeds, and Students

Flowers, Seeds, and Students

I can’t stop thinking about the passage in C. S. Lewis’s The Weight of Glory that I wrote about last time, where he cautions us against idolizing our memories of the past: “they are only the scent of a flower we have not found,” he says. I am sure he chose that image because of a flower’s beauty, but I wonder if he also had in mind how fleeting that beauty was designed to be...

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Teaching the Past with Woody Allen

Teaching the Past with Woody Allen

Woody Allen’s 2011 movie Midnight in Paris has it all: a star-studded cast, fantastic music, beautiful settings, and great camerawork. However, its greatest feature is the story itself. The protagonist is aspiring writer Gil Pender, who stumbles into a magic vortex that allows him to travel back to 1920s Paris, a place and time that he considers the high point of Western culture... 

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Paltry Deities in The Heart of the Matter

Paltry Deities in The Heart of the Matter

Recently, I reread an old college essay I wrote on Graham Greene’s bleak classic, The Heart of the Matter. Immersing myself in thoughts which consumed my every waking hour for a whole semester two years ago, I remembered in a flash how dissatisfied I had been with the resolution of the piece...

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Anna Karenina and the Givenness of Life

Anna Karenina and the Givenness of Life

I was in a serious slump this February, drowning in a sea of unaccomplished tasks all loudly condemning my laziness and inefficiency. I felt incapable of stirring up my own enthusiasm for life to get my head above water, no matter how well I organized my planner or how early I set my alarm. But now it’s March, and things are looking up! My long and daunting to-do list is finally beginning to shrink...

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