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    Book Club: Poetic Knowledge {Chapter 2, Part 2}

    April 19, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    Well, I don’t know about you, but I had Charlotte sightings everywhere throughout this portion of the reading {which seems to be par for the course.} I also had a an idea that I struggled with, so I’ll attempt a discussion of that as well.

    Ties to Charlotte
    What I think I am beginning to understand {once again, for I know I’ve had this thought before} is that Charlotte Mason is not as unique as we are tempted to think. She is so revolutionary to us because she says things that most of us have never heard. But as I saw Taylor tracing the history of this sort of intuitive, loving experience of knowledge from Aristotle and Plato, through Augustine and Aquinas and the Benedictines, I realized once again the Charlotte Mason exists in a line. Just as each of these men before her offered true learning up once again to their generation, so Mason did not just for her generation, but for ours as well.

    So not only does Taylor tell us that poetic knowledge has a great history, but we also realize that Charlotte Mason exists within that history. One informs the other, so to say.

    We see where Charlotte gained her wisdom, even in the seemingly small things. I was reminded of her remark in one of her volumes that children needed to know things in reality before they read the symbols of the things in their reading. She gave the example of a poem or story {I don’t remember which} about a bee, and the children in a city school did not comprehend it because they had never seen a bee. And then we read Taylor, who says,

    Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of EducationTo learn to “read” by first learning to listen to the voice in the book of nature, which includes our own human nature, was the first task of the monk, as a prerequisite for taking up later the book of Scripture, which often contains both “voices” as in Psalm 18. The clear connection is still with us here, echoing what St. Augustine said, that one cannot really read and know the words–the signs of things–without first a knowledge of the things themselves, which we must come to love.

    Charlotte doesn’t use the word love as much as Taylor, but she does say the question we use to assess the job we have done with the student {as teachers} is “not how much does the child know, but how much does he care about?”

    The Struggles
    One of my biggest struggles was early in on the reading, when Cardinal Newman is quoted as pitting poetic knowledge against science:

    Poetry, then, I conceive, whatever be its metaphysical essence, or however various may be its kinds, whether it more properly belongs to action or to suffering, nay, whether it is more at home with society or with nature, whether its spirit is seen to best advantage in Homer or in Virgil, at any rate, is always the antagonist to science. As science makes progress in any subject matter, poetry recedes from it. The two cannot stand together; they belong respectively to two modes of viewing things, which are contradictory of each other.

    This seems to contradict some of what Taylor {and those he quotes} said earlier. Last week, the portion of Chapter 2 we read emphasized over and over that poetic knowledge is for the beginner–it is the proper starting point for all learning. I thought the idea was that poetic knowledge is the foundation, and all other modes of knowledge, though completely appropriate, need to be built upon that foundation to “work” well. But here we have Newman pitting poetry so much against science that I’m a little confused. I thought we were supposed to progress to science {well–where science is actually appropriate–modernity is a huge over-extension and over-application of science to realms outside of its purvey–this I completely grant}.

    So tell me: is it true that science and poetry cannot co-exist? Because I look at the likes of some of the great men of history, and I am tempted to say that they can. Perhaps I am misinterpreting what Newman means by science here?

    More Tomorrow
    -I don’t have a lot of time tomorrow, and I realize I’ve only just begun on the chapter, so I think I’ll write a second entry then…
    -Don’t forget to read the other club entries linked at Mystie’s blog
    -Buy the book and read along!

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  • Reply Mystie April 20, 2011 at 4:42 am

    I decided I would read everyone’s posts before writing my own because I’d write about something else if someone had already developed the rabbit trail I was thinking of taking. 🙂

    That particular coinciding with CM was the one that stood out most to me as well. It made me wonder if we should be more intentional about field trips. !

  • Reply Silvia April 20, 2011 at 1:42 am

    Gretchen, that sounds like an interesting book.

  • Reply Silvia April 20, 2011 at 1:41 am

    Brandy, this may not be at all what you were looking for, I do not think there is a spine for history (I noticed you asked Karen about it), but it may be of interest,
    it is a list with books for several periods from a classic mom, if I am not wrong, some books maybe more readers, others may be more “spine type”

  • Reply Shari April 19, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    I think Newman meant poetry vs. science like Taylor used the horse of Gradgrind’s class in chapter one. Bitzer is scientific, Sissy is poetic. There doesn’t appear to be room for poetry in Bitzer whereas Sissy could learn horse facts without losing her poetic knowledge. So I think you are correct to think that poetic language can lead to scientific knowledge but that knowledge is encompassed in the poetic. Good post, Brandy. Lots to think about here!

  • Reply GretchenJoanna April 19, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    I’m reading the book *Why Us?* by LeFanu right now. He reminds us that scientists in the 19th century were still “natural philosophers” with a sense of wonder at the creation, which attitude was reflected even in textbooks in the early 20th century. But now, he says, he doesn’t see any of that sense of mystery in career scientists, who are materialists. So…what one means by science makes a difference.

  • Reply Rebekah April 19, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    I purposly chose not to read any posts before I got mine up. It’s up now and I’m surprised at how it relates to your question! Maybe Cardinal Newmans quote was based on the idea of science excluding poetic (or spiritual) as it so often does. In that way they are opposed. But perhaps that type of science in not based in truth then? If so then only true science can and must have a foundation of poetic knowledge. *shrug* I don’t know! 🙂

  • Reply Silvia April 19, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Brandy, you, Kelly and the other ladies are a much enjoyable and enhancement to my rheumatic neurons. It seems that I kept thinking through all your posts and comments, but in a much eloquent way, 🙂
    About CM. I share your experience. I also thought about her as so unique (and not that she is not, but since I have always approached her from my homeschooling front, I never thought she was also a piece of the puzzle of the mankind thinkers, philosophers, and a magistrate mind in the continuum of a line of thought. Now I see how much of Plato, Aristotle, and others that I don’t even know about, is in her. Karen pointed to that and I’m glad that I don’t have a floating Mason anymore, but a rooted thinker specially fertile in the education field.

    Your question is now mine, since I got the same doubts after reading about it. My attempt of an answer would be this. May it be that Cardinal Newman is expressing that when, at the moment, of poetic knowledge, scientific knowledge has no room, and vice verse. They are opposites as ways of grasping reality, one excludes the other. But Taylor’s idea of poetic knowledge preceding may point to the place of poetic knowledge in the life of a person. We start with poetic knowledge as children, we always keep it, even when we move to the scientific “phase”. And that would precisely be the problem with our scientific society. The problem is that, given this antagonism, they have kicked poetic knowledge out of life COMPLETELY. Or they try. I’m maybe venturing much with this hypothesis, but it is sort of these two knowledge ways have to exist in different compartments but in the same individual and in the same society. Our life is a constant fluctuation between visiting these two landscapes of the same country. We can’t permanently move to one of those and never take care of the other, this will make us sick. And even though they are TWO places, this should not lead to schizophrenia but to a normal rhythm of life that takes us to our place for leisure and holidays, and back to our working residence.
    I may just be trying to desperately look for a solution to your *mine now, struggle. I’m very non confrontational and tend to fill holes all the time! I may have chosen the wrong putty, though.

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