Grammar in a Dangerous Time: The Future of Spiritual Reading

Phil Donnelly June 7, 2013

Presented at:
SCL Conference 2013


Christian Classical education today rightly emphasizes the importance of recovering the unity of truth, goodness, and beauty in student formation. There is, however, already a long tradition of Christian spiritual reading that is oriented toward discerning that same unity in the person of Christ. This presentation first considers the ways in which a variety of Biblical texts suggest a unity between knowledge, ethical action, and beauty. We shall then consider how a medieval tradition of spiritual reading transposes those aspects of reality into modes of reading that are understood as part of Christian formation— an activity that does not isolate moral and intellectual formation from worship practices. The third part of this presentation shows how a specific passage in Dante’s Divine Comedy offers not only an example of such reading, but an opportunity to participate in that practice. Ultimately, I suggest that the cruciform character of such spiritual reading is both a distinctive charism of Christian Classical education and one of the most dangerous counter-cultural challenges facing Christian teachers today.


Classical Education Grammar Reading


Phil Donnelly
Phillip J. Donnelly serves as Director of the Great Texts Program in the Honors College at Baylor University. His research focuses on the historical interaction between philosophy, theology, and imaginative literature, with particular attention to Renaissance literature and the reception of Classical educational traditions. He is the author of Milton’s Scriptural Reasoning (Cambridge University Press, 2009). His recent essays include: “Latin Pedagogy and Ethical Ends in the Royal Grammar (1542),” in Transformations in Biblical Literary Traditions, edited by D.H. Williams and Phillip J. Donnelly (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), and “Historical Appearance in Areopagitica,” in Milton and Questions of History, edited by Feisal Mohamed and Mary Nyquist (University of Toronto Press, 2012).

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