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 the metaphors of gardens, building, and feasting 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
David I. Smith
“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.”
— David I. Smith
Professor of German, 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.
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“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.’”
— Susan Felch
In this conversation, English professor, Susan Felch, co-author of Teaching and Christian Imagination, 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.
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D. C. Schindler
“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.”
— D. C. Schindler
Philosopher, D. C. Schindler, discusses 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.
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“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.”
— Malcolm Guite
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.
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J. A. C. Redford
“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.”
— J. A. C. Redford
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 — such as Malcolm Guite’s “O Antiphons” — seeing himself as a type of “illuminator of texts,” who merges the words with another kind of world to expand and layer the encounter.