Great Texts and Christian Formation in the Age of Information

One of the distinctive features of Classical education is the study of what are called “Great Texts” or “Great Books.” What are these texts? Why are they worth studying?

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A Theology of Knitting? Bonaventure, the Common Arts, and the Human Good

One of the most remarkable features of contemporary culture is that many of the “common” (mechanical) arts of tangible making that were once understood to be practical, now seem useless. The practitioners of almost any common art today, whether blacksmithing or bread baking, now find that they can no longer earn a living through these arts because they cannot compete with the economies of scale that industrial production makes possible. Nowhere is this more apparent than the art of knitting: why spend hours knitting a pair of socks when you can buy several pairs for a few dollars? Nevertheless, people do still knit, even if not for obvious economic advantage. What are the human benefits that come only through the practice of such common arts? Do the common arts contribute to the human good? If they do, what does the loss of these arts imply for post-industrial life and education? This workshop considers such questions by drawing on the account of the common arts offered by the 13th- century Franciscan theologian, St. Bonaventure, in his text “Retracing the Arts to Theology” (De reductione artium ad theologiam).

Phillip Donnelly

PHILLIP Donne y Phillip J. Donnelly, PhD, serves as Director of the Great Texts Program in the Honors College at Baylor University. His research focuses on the historical intersections between philosophy, theology, and imaginative literature, with particular a ention to Renaissance literature and the reception of classical educational traditions. He is currently nishing a book on the verbal arts and Christian faith.

Latin Leaning in the Age of Amnesia

Although many classical educators readily acknowledge the importance of the verbal and mathematical arts, there is often less con dence about the importance of studying Latin. Is Latin really essential to a Christian education in today’s cultural context? One dif culty with most arguments for the study of Latin is that they present it as a means to something that can also typically be achieved by other means—whether an improved vocabulary, cultural literacy, a better SAT score, or an improved ability to learn modern languages. Are there any bene ts that come only through knowing Latin? I suggest that there are; however, those bene ts are hidden from us because we typically suffer from an amputated imagination. Only by addressing this failure of imagination can we begin to understand why Latin is crucial for a Christian education that aims to prepare students for wise action in the so-called “age of information.” This presentation rst explains how the study of ancient (rather than modern) languages is uniquely suited for Christian education based on the verbal arts. We shall then consider how Latin is unique among ancient languages in that it equips students to practice intellectual leadership in any area of modern human inquiry. These practical bene ts are not obvious to us, I suggest, because we inhabit the “age of amnesia,” which systematically obscures from us the relevance of the past in almost every aspect of our daily lives.

Phillip Donnelly

Dr. Phillip J. Donnelly is Associate Professor of Literature in the Honors College at Baylor University, where he serves as Director of the Great Texts Program. His research focuses on the historical intersections between philosophy, theology, and imaginative literature, with particular a ention to Renaissance literature and the reception of classical educational traditions. The topics of his published work range from St. Augustine and post-modern critical theory to the Renaissance poetry of George Herbert and John Milton. This presentation is part of a larger book project on the verbal arts.

Panel: Logical Categories and Rhetorical Topics of Invention

Help your students develop a different way of thinking! The way students think about learning has major implications on what and how they actually learn. We will discuss Carol Dweck’s research on growth mindsets versus fixed mindsets to help improve our ability to more positively impact student learning and help students (and ourselves) think differently about challenges, mistakes, and even failures. Particular attention will be given to practical ways to give more effective and targeted student feedback

Phillip 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 a ention 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).

Andrew Selby

Martin Cothran

Rhetorical Reading of Paradise Lost

By giving a central place to the treatment of justice in an epic narrative, Paradise Lost arguably intervenes in the “ancient quarrel” between poetry and philosophy. The juxtaposition of mode and topic is striking because the text most famously associated with the indictment of poetry, and Homer specifically, was also one of the most influential ancient philosophic treatments of justice: Plato’s Republic. I contend that the explicit treatment of justice as a topic in the opening books of Paradise Lost is, in effect, part of a larger attempt to “justify the ways of Poets to Plato.” The first stage of this presentation draws on Peter Mack’s account of how renaissance rhetorical education engaged early modern discourses of ethical deliberation. The second part of the argument traces how the first books of Paradise Lost include no less than six points of direct engagement with parallel claims advanced in the Republic. In each case, Paradise Lost either articulates or explicitly dramatizes a given claim made in Plato’s text. Ultimately this opening book of Paradise Lost implies that a specific kind of union between poetic narrative and dialectical inquiry best illuminates questions concerning justice—most notably, questions regarding the character of tyranny and virtuous appearances.

Phillip 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 a ention 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).

Rhetorical Reading of Paradise Lost

By giving a central place to the treatment of justice in an epic narrative, Paradise Lost arguably intervenes in the “ancient quarrel” between poetry and philosophy. The juxtaposition of mode and topic is striking because the text most famously associated with the indictment of poetry, and Homer specifically, was also one of the most influential ancient philosophic treatments of justice: Plato’s Republic. I contend that the explicit treatment of justice as a topic in the opening books of Paradise Lost is, in effect, part of a larger attempt to “justify the ways of Poets to Plato.” The first stage of this presentation draws on Peter Mack’s account of how renaissance rhetorical education engaged early modern discourses of ethical deliberation. The second part of the argument traces how the first books of Paradise Lost include no less than six points of direct engagement with parallel claims advanced in the Republic. In each case, Paradise Lost either articulates or explicitly dramatizes a given claim made in Plato’s text. Ultimately this opening book of Paradise Lost implies that a specific kind of union between poetic narrative and dialectical inquiry best illuminates questions concerning justice—most notably, questions regarding the character of tyranny and virtuous appearances.

Phillip 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 a ention 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).

Grammar or Information: What’s the Difference in Historical Studies?

When classical educators describe the ‘grammar’ of a given subject, they often refer to the ‘information,’ or ‘facts,’ involved in a topic of study. Tje goals of this presentation are twofold: first, to show the educational benefits that are lost when ‘grammar’ is reduced to ‘information’; second, to illustrate, by means of a specific example, how a truly grammar-based study of history differs in a crucial ways from an information-based approach. The study begins with an explanation of how an appeal to ‘facts’ as the basic units of human knowledge involves a variety of doubtful assumptions regarding the character of human knowing. In contrast I suggest grammar needs to be understood as an art that is concerned with appropriate verbal making. The sense of what is appropriate concerns relations among words (such as diction and syntax) but also the manner in which words refer to reality. The second part of the presentation considers how this difference between information and grammar works practically. How does the difference between information and grammar shape our approach to a history project on the English Civil War? Ultimately, by learning to study and teach history (and other subjects) grammatically, rather than in terms of mere information, Christian educators can overcome some deeply-rooted assumptions about knowing that would otherwise undermine Christian fidelity.

Phillip Donnelly

Dr. Phillip J. Donnelly is Associate Professor of Literature in the Honors College at Baylor University, where he serves as Director of the Great Texts Program. His research focuses on the historical intersections between philosophy, theology, and imaginative literature, with particular a ention to Renaissance literature and the reception of classical educational traditions. The topics of his published work range from St. Augustine and post-modern critical theory to the Renaissance poetry of George Herbert and John Milton. This presentation is part of a larger book project on the verbal arts.