"Close Reading" and Postmodern Criticism

"Close Reading" and Postmodern Criticism

My mother hates the term “Close Reading.” To her it is emblematic of the postmodernist deconstructive literary criticism she encountered during her own college years in the late 80’s. To engage in this sort of “close reading” was to focus so intently on the trees that you missed the forest entirely; to purposefully evade and ignore the overarching thematic meaning of an author’s text and to decide what the work “meant to you” by evaluating how the granular details of the story made you feel...

Read More

On "Getting the Right Answers" to Socratic Questions

On "Getting the Right Answers" to Socratic Questions

One of my favorite, daily tasks at CenterForLit is answering emails from parents and educators who write with questions about literature and homeschooling. I look forward to these conversations, albeit virtual, because I remember the isolation endemic in much of my own homeschooling work...

Read More

On Faith, Hope, and Fear

On Faith, Hope, and Fear

January and February were difficult months for us Andrews types. The new year brought with it two car accidents, a health drama, and a broken furnace in the coldest week of the season. I would love to report that we handled it all with faces “set like flint,” hearts full of faith, and unflappable confidence in God’s goodness, but that wouldn’t be honest... 

Read More

Sculpture and Sabbath in Jeremiah

Sculpture and Sabbath in Jeremiah

Making Jeremiah the prophet relevant to modern day high school students is a neat trick, and I’d like to have a long talk with the teacher who can pull it off.  The problem is Jeremiah’s preoccupation with idolatry, the crafting and worshiping of wooden statues. The entire prophecy is a diatribe against this practice, and since few of my students are pagan sculptors, they have a hard time relating...

Read More

In the House of Tom Bombadil

In the House of Tom Bombadil

Blog articles always seem to start with some catchy hook – a ‘lede,’ we used to call them in my college writing class. A reader will only persist in finishing the article, so said my professor, if the earliest lines are pithy, terse, and challenging, like the turn in a sonnet, or the rhetorical question in a stump speech. I don’t have one of those this time around. I do, however, have a rambling thought or two about human nature brought on by contemplating one of my favorite characters in all of literature: Tolkien’s master of the woods, Tom Bombadil...

Read More

Trapped by the Rules: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Trapped by the Rules: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Emily and I just had the distinct pleasure of teaching a tricky and delightful poem called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Picture this: King Arthur and his noble Knights of the Round Table are busy throwing a Christmas feast, when in through the big double doors rides, you guessed it, a Green Knight. Now, before your 21st century modern imaginations dress an entirely normal, if large, knight in green clothes and call it good, allow me to emphasize a poetic reality: this dude is green... 

Read More

How Then Shall We Read? – An Apology for Literary Analysis

How Then Shall We Read? – An Apology for Literary Analysis

Much has been made in recent years of the prime opportunity childhood presents to shape lifetime readers. Reading aloud, in particular, is the word on the street where methodology is concerned. With videos and entertainment on the cultural rise, parents no longer have the luxury of throwing a book at a child and hoping it will “take.” Now, they must read it to them, guide them, captivate, and verily, enchant them into the magical kingdom of imaginative literature...  

Read More

A Review of Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express

A Review of Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express

I'm just going to say it: I loved Kenneth Branagh’s recent film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic mystery novel, Murder on the Orient Express. Partially this is due to the fact that it was visually stunning. But what did I expect? That a lavishly furnished steam engine, winding its atmospheric way through snow-capped mountain passes, carrying a richly costumed cadre of some of the finest actors of our generation would be difficult to look at?...

Read More

Dawes, Art, and Good Criticism

Dawes, Art, and Good Criticism

So, I’ve been listening to an album recently, and it has me thinking about the purpose of “art.” The album is perkily titled, We’re All Gonna Die, and I’m thoroughly obsessed with it. I’ve spent hours unpacking the lush orchestration, focusing this time on the perfectly liquid bass parts, next on the engrossing and sensitive drum tracks, and then on Taylor Goldsmith’s quietly pitch perfect voice. I just can’t seem to get enough. But, being a reader by nature, I also can’t help but be confronted with the sadness written into each track...

Read More