Sailor Principle of Education #3

Emotional Formation:[1]

Literature: Literary forms are not the primary focus.[2] Writes O’Connor: “Meaning cannot be captured in an interpretation. If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction. Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply.”[3] So first, we look at literature and get in it. We ask, what would it feel like to be this person, experience this situation? We must weep with the weeping and rage with the enraged, feel what they feel, so we may learn what they learn.

Posts relating to this can be found here (2008-2010).

[1] As Plato writes “education in music and poetry is most important . . . first, because rhythm and harmony permeate the inner part of the soul more than anything else, affecting it most strongly and bringing it grace, so that if someone is properly educated in music and poetry, it makes him graceful, but if not, then the opposite. Second, because anyone who has been properly educated in music and poetry will sense it acutely when something has been omitted from a thing

and when it hasn’t been finely crafted or finely made by nature. And since he had the right distastes, he’ll praise fine things, be pleased with them, receive them into his soul, and, being nurtured by them, become fine and good. He’ll rightly object to what is shameful, hating it while he’s still young and unable to grasp the reason, but, having been educated in this way, he will welcome the reason when it comes and recognize it early because of its kinship with himself" (Plato, Republic, trans. G. M. A. Grube, 2nd ed., revised by C. D. C. Reeve (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1992)), Bk III, 401d3-402a3.

[2] Helen Vendler’s Poems, Poets, Poetry provide a method for teaching poetry that enables students to enjoy poetry properly and in a way that contributes to a strong sensory-emotional formation. See also Jon Balsbaugh’s Teaching Poetry at Trinity Schools, unpublished document, 2008.

[3] Flannery O’Connor, “To a Professor of English,” 28 March 1961, in The Habit of Being, ed. Sally Fitzgerald (New York: Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 1979), 437.



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