MARS HILL AUDIO Journal
Guests on Volume 132: David I. Smith, on how metaphors assumed by teachers lead them to imagine the vocation of teaching; Susan Felch, on how biblical metaphors and rituals can inform the task of education; D. C. Schindler, on philosopher Robert Spaemann's understanding of a teleological nature; Malcolm Guite, on his seven sonnets based on the ancient “O Antiphons” sung traditionally during Advent; J. A. C. Redford, on setting Malcolm Guite’s “O Antiphon” sonnets to music.
Click here to download printable informational materials for this issue.
David I. Smith, on how metaphors assumed by teachers lead them to imagine the vocation of teaching well (or badly), and what difference this makes for curricular planning and in the classroom
“There’s been a lot of literature in the last 30 years pointing out that in fact images are part of what we think with. Our mental furniture, again, is not just a set of propositions that state what we believe about the world, or a collection of facts that we find trustworthy, but that we organize our thinking with images and that those images then start to shape the way we perceive our surroundings, the way we perceive our role in our surroundings, and therefore what we actually do. And this applies to classrooms.”
In this first segment, German professor, David I. Smith, discusses how metaphors, whether consciously or unconsciously, inform how teachers view their vocation and shape the ways they organize their classroom. Smith and his colleagues, in the book Teaching and Christian Imagination, reintroduce certain biblical metaphors that have been used throughout the Tradition to think about learning and teaching. Christian teachers, remarks Smith, have not given enough attention to how scripture and the Christian tradition can help them think about education.
Susan Felch, on how gardens, building, and feasting are biblical metaphors that can inform the task of teaching and on the importance of ritual in pedagogy
“Every single piece that you’re doing in the classroom — from how you set up the chairs and tables to how you design each activity — you want to be thinking how you’re forming these students as learners in this particular ‘field.’”
In this interview with English professor, Susan Felch, co-author of Teaching and Christian Imagination, Felch describes how choosing a rich metaphor, such as the biblical metaphors of fasting and feasting, can help teachers find fresh and innovative approaches to their goals as well as provide stabilizing criteria against which to justify what they teach. Felch also talks about the need for rituals in the classroom and shares some practices that her students have found especially formative.
D. C. Schindler, on the significant role that the meaning of nature plays in the thought of philosopher Robert Spaemann
“For Spaemann, the heart of freedom is what he calls ‘recollection of nature.’ At one point, he says, ‘the deepest act of freedom is the act of letting be.’ . . . A grateful surrender where we acknowledge the givenness of our nature. . . . The project of freedom is an acceptance of, a consent to nature (and our own nature) in a way that then fruitfully transforms it and opens up genuinely fruitful possibility.”
Philosopher, D. C. Schindler, joins us in this segment to discuss the thought of contemporary German philosopher, Robert Spaemann and his defense of a purposeful structure in nature. Reality possesses an interiority, a type of intentionality to which it is appropriate, observes Spaemann, that we respond with our poetic and seemingly naive anthropomorphisms. Though Spaemann is best known for his work on the philosophy of personhood, what is in fact more fundamental to his thought than the “ontology of humanness” is “talking about reality humanly.” This underlying distinction has significant implications for how we then think about personhood, education, and freedom.
Malcolm Guite, on his seven sonnets based on the ancient “O Antiphons” sung traditionally during Advent, which were collated in the hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel"
“The advantage of having a text in front of you, I find, is that you already have a conversation partner. You have a series of terms that already mean a great deal, but which you feel free to take from the original text and, as it were, set in living the life and motion in the new context.”
On part two of this issue, poet and priest Malcolm Guite talks about his seven sonnets corresponding to the seven “O Antiphons” traditionally sung at the vespers service each night the week preceding Christmas. Guite describes how he approached the metaphors for Christ used in the antiphons in a way that attempts to reveal what these terms mean for contemporary listeners.
“I like to think that in this cycle the way that I’ve set the poems will be honoring to the metaphors and images that are in the poems and present a particular point of view that might help the audience respond both intellectually and emotionally to the poem in a different way than they would if they just heard it read without the music.”
In this final interview, composer J. A. C. Redford talks about the ways music is able to attach itself to different sensations and experiences, such as color, motion, and memory. He also discusses his goals as a composer when setting a text to music, seeing himself as a type of “illuminator of texts,” who merges the words with another kind of world to expand and layer the encounter.