"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

04 June 2012

A Theology of Reading

I've been working at reading Alan Jacobs' A Theology of Reading: The Hermeneutics of Love for several months now.  He's an excellent writer, but I don't have the background in philosophy that would make for easier reading, so I can only take it a bit at a time while working at absorbing it.  I'm sure I'm missing more than I'd like, but I do think I'm getting the main ideas.  I'll reread when I finish and would like then to give a review of the book.  Overall, he's making the case for reading with charity toward the text and the author, seeing books as gifts that should be offered and received in a spirit of love.  It's a wonderful book, one I hope to draw from as I read, write, and teach.

In the chapter I was reading yesterday, Jacobs offers this from Petrarch, who is explaining his frequent use of quotations from classical authors:
Nothing moves me so much as the quoted axioms of great men.  I like to rise above myself, to test my mind to see if it contains anything solid or lofty, or stout or firm against ill-fortune, or to find if my mind has been lying to me about itself.  And there is no better way of doing this -- except by experience, the surest mistress -- than by comparing one's mind with those it would most like to resemble.  Thus, as I am grateful to my authors who give me the chance of testing my mind against maxims frequently quoted, so I hope my readers will thank me.
Another reason to be well-read and pass on what we learn.

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