2. Alan Jacobs on Wendell Berry


Alan Jacobs | 

Lessons from Wendell Berry and Yul Brynner.

If we eventually become a true counterculture for the common good, that counterculture (and that good) will simply be the product of our faithfulness.

Implicit in the question I have been asked to consider—”How can followers of Christ be a counterculture for the common good?”—is a judgment: that we followers of Christ are not now such a counterculture. It’s a sound judgment, I think, and it seems to call for a particular kind of discourse: what that great scholar of early American culture, Perry Miller, called the jeremiad.

Read the rest here.


1. The Importance of Imagination


“A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own.”


   -Percy Bysshe Shelley

This is one reason to read great literature, or so I tell my students.  Literature isn’t going to make us better people necessarily, but exercising our imaginations by entering empathetically into the lives of characters, feeling their pains and pleasures, can be a good “Christian” practice.  It prepares us to do the same thing in real life.  But reading a lot of imaginative literature doesn’t guarantee that we will do what Shelly recommends when it matters most (in real life) or that we will respond the appropriate and loving actions even if we do manage to use our imaginations empathetically.

Still, I suspect that–like the person who regularly practices anything–the person who regularly exercises the imagination in this way has a better chance of becoming more actively compassionate than the person who doesn’t bother with the practice.



Karli–a humanities major–blogs


She’s writing about “beauty.” It’s lovely. Enjoy.

in defense of liberal arts

“Life is not just acquisition and consumption. Engaging English prose uplifts the spirit in a way Twittering cannot. The anti-Christ video shown by the Smithsonian at the National Portrait Gallery will fade when the Delphic Charioteer or Michelangelo’s David does not. Appreciation of the history of great art and music fortifies the soul, and recognizes beauty that does not fade with the passing fad.

 America has lots of problems. A population immersed in and informed by literature, history, art, and music is not one of them.”

 See full article here: http://robbyprenkert.blogspot.com/2010/12/in-defense-of-liberal-arts-therapeutic.html

Hauerwas on the call to be a student

“To be a student is a calling. Your parents are setting up accounts to pay the bills, or you are scraping together your own resources and taking out loans, or a scholarship is making college possible. Whatever the practical source, the end result is the same. You are privileged to enter a time—four years!—during which your main job is to listen to lectures, attend seminars, go to labs, and read books.

It is an extraordinary gift. In a world of deep injustice and violence, a people exists that thinks some can be given time to study. We need you to take seriously the calling that is yours by virtue of going to college. You may well be thinking, “What is he thinking? I’m just beginning my freshman year. I’m not being called to be a student. None of my peers thinks he or she is called to be a student. They’re going to college because it prepares you for life. I’m going to college so I can get a better job and have a better life than I’d have if I didn’t go to college. It’s not a calling.”  …

You cannot and should not try to avoid being identified as an intellectual. I confess I am not altogether happy with the word intellectual as a descriptor for those who are committed to the work of the university. The word is often associated with people who betray a kind of self-indulgence, an air that they do not need to justify why they do what they do. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is the dogma used to justify such an understanding of what it means to be an intellectual. But if you’re clear about your calling as a student, you can avoid this temptation. You are called to the life of the mind to be of service to the gospel and the Church. Don’t resist this call just because others are misusing it.

Fulfilling your calling as a Christian student won’t be easy. It’s not easy for anyone who is serious about the intellectual life, Christian or not. The curricula of many colleges and universities may seem, and in fact may be, chaotic. Many schools have no particular expectations. You check a few general-education boxes—a writing course, perhaps, and some general distributional requirements—and then do as you please. Moreover, there is no guarantee that you will be encouraged to read. Some classes, even in the humanities, are based on textbooks that chop up classic texts into little snippets. You cannot become friends with an author by reading half a dozen pages. Finally, and perhaps worse because insidious, there is a strange anti-intellectualism abroad in academia. Some professors have convinced themselves that all knowledge is just political power dressed up in fancy language, or that books and ideas are simply ideological weapons in the quest for domination. Christians, of all people, should recognize that what is known and how it is known produce and reproduce power relations that are unjust, but this does not mean all questions of truth must be abandoned. As I said, it won’t be easy.”

a bunch of literary quotes



advice to writers

Read this post by Susan Orlean, writer for the New Yorker.  Her advice to aspiring writers, followed by mine.

Posted by Susan Orlean

I am dismayed to realize that much of the advice I used to parcel out to aspiring writers has passed its sell-by date. In the past, I had a fairly standard set of suggestions for anyone who wanted to write for a living. Move to a medium-sized city, I’d say. Get a job writing for the paper, any paper—don’t forget the alternative newsweeklies, the local rags, even the community newsletters. Don’t go to graduate school—it’s expensive, and no one cares about writing degrees. And, most important, don’t move back home! Your parents will make you go to law school!

So what happened? First of all, many of the medium-sized cities I used to recommend (say, Portland, Oregon) are now overrun with aspiring writers, and have gotten too expensive to qualify anymore as the place to go when you’re an aspiring writer with no hope for gainful employment. The newspapers—well, you don’t need me to tell you that the alternative newsweeklies have folded, the local rags have migrated online, and the community newsletters have been Craigslisted into oblivion. As for my admonition about graduate school, it turns out that if you get a teaching position as part of your deal, it probably pays better than many jobs you might get in that medium-sized city with the non-existent newspaper.

As for parents, that is the one thing that hasn’t changed. Parents, it seems, have an almost Olympian persistence when it comes to suggesting more secure and lucrative lines of work for their children who have the notion that writing is an actual profession. I say this from experience. Even after I’d published three books and had been writing full-time for twenty years, my father continued to urge me to go to law school. I think he deliberately misinterpreted my look of discomfort whenever we’d have this discussion. “Oh, there, there, don’t worry!” he’d say. “It’s not too late!”

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/susanorlean/2010/09/advice.html#ixzz10NpDJGtP


by Robby Prenkert

1.  Move to a cabin in the woods, but preferably one that has access to high speed Internet, or at least has a 3G wireless access.  And indoor plumbing.  Cable is nice, too.

2.  Start a blog and post something, anything, every day.  Start a twitter account and follow everyone.  Hope that they will follow and mention you as well.  Link every blog entry you write to your twitter and facebook accounts.  Have gazillions of facebook friends.  Wallah… readers.

3.  Fill a notebook a month with your “writing practice.”  If you want to write, you have to practice.  The world doesn’t need to see you parading your practice sessions, so keep it to yourself in your “notebook of the month.” With time, all those blog entries should start to improve.  And even if they don’t, someday long after your dead some doctoral student might discover you and write a dissertation about how brilliant and ahead of your time you were when she discovers all those piles of notebooks you filled in some old closet.

4.  Marry well; marry rich.  You’ll be able to both eat and write.

5.  Read a lot of Franz Kafka, which will likely yank the rug from under your romantic notions about being a writer.  Then, try to write a story about the time you woke up that one morning only to discover you’d been transformed into a giant dung beetle.

6.  Keep writing anyhow, because writing is good for you, even if what you write doesn’t ever get read by anyone else.  Readers are overrated anyhow.  What do they know; afterall, millions of them really loved the Twilight books.

7.  Ignore all the writing advice floating around in books, blogs, and websites.  Most if it is hogwash.  Trust yourself.

8.  Take long bike rides or take long walks as often as possible.  Sitting on your butt all day has a tendency–especially if you’ve married rich and have a lot to eat–to make your butt swell.  Exercise helps combat swollen butt syndrome.

9.  Get up early and do something for 20 minutes or so that makes you sweat.  I’m sure you can think of something.

10.  Never give up.  Never, ever give up.  Never, ever, ever give up.  Unless you discover you like playing wiffleball or gardening or restoring old cars a lot more than you like writing. In that case, drop the writing and do what you love.

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