Category Archives: Literature

The Contemplative Reader

The contemplative reader

How we approach a book can parallel the way we approach life itself. We can spend our time merely in pursuit of pleasure or we can strive toward a higher goal—the pursuit of what John Henry Newman calls the “philosophical habit of mind.” We would never dismiss the pleasure that reading can bring, but we […]

Lightning & Other Uncertainties

man walking in front of a wall with lightning in distance

Herman Melville’s (very) short story, “The Lightning-Rod Man,” should be required reading for anyone who consumes the daily news. It rings with modern relevance despite being published in 1854. In the story, we meet a homeowner who lives in a mountain region in Albania known since ancient times as Cape Thunder. He is enjoying a […]

The Novel as Music

Drawing of a man in a hat. The Novel Is Music

Literature stands in intimate relationship with each of the arts, but its closest relationship is with music. The purest form of this relationship involves a composer’s timeless desire to take a poem, wrestle with it, and turn it into a song. Yet what about the novel? Can a complex narrative be transformed into music? The […]

Stories Are Maps For The Soul

Stories: A pile of books on one another

Stories help us chart a course through the often wild and dangerous geographies of being human. They give us direction— direction toward what, of course, is in large part at the discretion of the tale. This is the inherent potency of stories: Powerful stories compel us toward a version of ourselves either virtuous or vicious. […]

More Important Than The Cosmos Itself

More Important than the cosmos man in front of board, with equations floating around him

Education, it has been said, should knock windows into the world for us. We are born into a closed and darkened room: As the windows are opened, we see, here, man, with all his character and capacities, experiments, endless achievements, and possibilities, there, the material world itself, the elements that compose, and unexpected laws that […]

How to Think About Literature

Man Reading A Book Showing Us How To Think About Literature

What is the classical view of literature? In his great book on literature, The Mirror and the Lamp, M. H. Abrams observes that there are four elements to consider when discussing the different ways of viewing any kind of art, including literature. First, and most obviously, there is the artistic work itself; second, there is […]

Why We Tell Stories

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” So begins Dickens’ David Copperfield. It’s a wonderful passage and immediately confirms Dickens’ reputation for having captured the “feel” of childhood as few others have. The dream of […]

In Defense of Grasshoppers

an illustration of stack of books written in defense of grasshoppers

In Aesop’s well-known fable, “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” the lazy Grasshopper fails to prepare for the future, choosing instead to sing away autumn days in the sun. The industrious Ant, by contrast, works hard collecting grain and preparing for the upcoming winter. The story tells us that when winter finally comes, the hungry Grasshopper […]

Sacrificial Friendship In Charlotte’s Web

a young farmer's daughter sits on a log with her piglet friend thinking contemplatively

Charlotte’s Web, written by E. B. White in 1952, is a quintessential book for children. While conveying important truths about the nature of people and the world, it is also an imaginative, happy story about life on a family farm. The book gives us a clever glimpse into the lives of our animal friends while […]

Befriending Books

a Woman in an eclectic orange dress reading book

I was going to write an essay about why everyone should read Jane Austen’s novels. I was going to make an impassioned case that her books are not just the smart girl’s romance novels or guides for men seeking to understand the female mind but truly great books, as insightful in their way into the […]

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