literature

The New Secular Puritan Covenant

Thanksgiving brings back memories for Americans of the Pilgrims and Puritans, carrying out their “errand into the wilderness” to build a “city on a hill,” surviving that first bleak Massachusetts winter of 1620-21. As a kid, I remember that cutting out Puritan hats from black construction paper and taping them to the school windows was [...]

What Was Mr. Bennet Reading?

“Books—oh no! I am sure we never read the same, or not with the same feelings.” “I am sorry you think so; but if that be the case, there can at least be no want of subject.” ~ Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen As a family, we watch Simon Langton’s BBC version of Pride and Prejudice at [...]

Perfect Lenten Reading

Lent is the best time for spiritual reading focused on self-improvement, especially for those who have promised to give up or cut back on sports or entertainment, freeing up time in the process. For us who consider ourselves bad Catholics—or at least not-good-enough Catholics—there is always room for improvement. What sort of books make good [...]

How Common Core Literary Standards Undermine Education

With the growing acceptance of the Common Core State Standards, a set of benchmarks that seeks to raise the literacy of our elementary and secondary school students, a debate is underway over the wisdom or folly of a federally crafted plan that aims to have a major hand in the education of our nation’s children. [...]

Using Fiction to Vindicate the Gospels

Recently, I reconnected with a friend from long ago, one of those “reunions” made possible, though impersonal, by the Internet. In the course of catching up with each other, one Facebook message at a time, he revealed that he had abandoned his once vibrant Christian faith because he could not overcome doubts provoked by the [...]

Gratitude For Those Who Are Gone

An old and valued friend, who retired after a half-century cheerfully and productively spent in the classroom, used to tell me that it was silly to think anyone would remember him once he was gone.  “Like a stone falling into a river,” he’d say, using one of several similes to which he was drawn, “I’ll [...]

Common Core’s Substandard Writing Standards

I’ve donned my boots and leggings, and done what I had no desire to do.  I am examining, with tedious scrutiny, the so-called Common Core Curriculum for literature and English, a new’n’improved set of standards for reading and writing in our schools from kindergarten to twelfth grade.  I have read the essays, written by students, [...]

Beyond Newspaper Chewing: Why it Matters What is Read in High School (Part II of II)

 Editor's note: The first part of this essay was published in Crisis on July 4, 2013 and can be read here. Whether one's reading-tastes are developed in the school, the public library, or the family, there are certain patterns of reading by which a normative consciousness is developed. These patterns or levels persist throughout one's [...]

Beyond Newspaper Chewing: Why it Matters What is Read in High School (Part I of II)

In many American high schools, the teaching of literature is in the sere and yellow leaf. One reason for this decay is the unsatisfactory quality of many programs of reading; another is the limited knowledge of humane letters possessed by some well-intentioned teachers, uncertain of what books they ought to select for their students to [...]

101 Books Gen Ys Must Read Before They Die

The must-read list for people who hate to read. “Must read” – not in the sense that something very scary will happen if they don’t, and not in the sense that they won’t be allowed to die if they don’t (read about the “struldbrugs” in Gulliver’s Travels for this possibility). No, what we mean is [...]

John Senior: In Piam Memoriam

How the time does pass . . . it was on April 8, 1999—already thirteen years ago—that Professor John Senior returned to our Father’s House. Since then, we have been all the more orphaned and greater has been our yearning for Paradise. By what right should I, a Frenchman, be writing today about this eminent [...]

A Poet of the Passion of Christ

To T. S. Eliot, the poet’s function is a kind of mediation between experience and language. In great poetry, he suggested, “there is always the communication of some new experience, or some fresh understanding of the familiar, or the experience of something we have experienced but have no words for, which enlarges our consciousness or [...]

The Man Who Saved the Original Papers of San Juan de la Cruz

It was March 1936. A series of anti-clerical riots swept through Toledo. Churches were burnt and priests and monks were attacked in the streets. During these disturbances, several Carmelite monks, disguised in lay clothes, sought shelter in the home of the British poet, Roy Campbell, who had moved to the city with his wife, Mary, [...]

Peter Rabbit

“Once upon a time, there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter...” so begins a series of delightful tales of the lives and adventures of woodland creatures and farm animals.   Penned by Beatrix Potter at the turn of the 20th century, these examples of good imaginative literature have retained [...]

Knowledge without Wisdom

There is nothing wrong with vocational training; a fulfilling career is an important part of a good life. Much of my academic work over the years has been devoted to career preparation. I was once a Dean of Medicine and there are few more vocational courses than medicine. Our students were all bright but they [...]

Shakespeare Good and Great

Well did John Senior advise parents and teachers to prepare today’s youngsters for great study, with experiences of the good, such as gardening, graceful dancing, and gazing at the stars dancing above, and also making sure to delight in a thousand good books, before getting to the hundred or so great books by the master [...]

Household Stories of the Brothers Grimm

“It was the middle of winter, and the snow-flakes were falling like feathers from the sky, and a queen sat at her window working, and her embroidery-frame was of ebony. And as she worked, gazing at times out on the snow, she pricked her finger, and there fell from it three drops of blood on [...]

The Last Word: Settling In

The phone call took place only a few weeks ago; it is still fresh in my memory. Would I be interested in moving from Washington to South Bend, to become editor of Catholicism in Crisis? Yes, I would; and here I am. To establish a successful new magazine requires vision, energy, courage, and persistence. Ralph [...]

MENU