True Ease in Writing comes from Art, not Chance,
As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance.
-Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism
The Thomas More College Writing Tutorials program is a contemporary response to the traditional emphasis on grammar, logic, and rhetoric in the classical liberal arts.
The instruction in these courses follows the time-honored method of learning through imitation; students read selections from great works of the past—by authors ranging from Marcus Tullius Cicero through Dickens to Chesterton and Walker Percy—and craft their own writing in emulation of the classics. Paradoxically, students produce more creative and individual work by beginning with imitation than they would starting from scratch. That is why Shakespeare, St. Thomas More, Erasmus, Milton, and other widely venerated authors honed their talents through imitation before proceeding to original work.
In the second semester, the student considers correct diction and style, and ponders the abuse of words and the Platonic criticisms against mere “rhetoric.” Sobered by the possibility that words—and hence truth—could be obscured and abused, the student proceeds with the response of Aristotle, Isocrates, and the Roman orators. As a writer and a reader, he will begin to observe how a well-written theme can reveal what Richard Weaver called “the deep-laid order of things.” Time is given to the study of great essayists such as Johnson, Belloc, and Orwell.
In this final semester, the student begins to move, as the medieval Cistercians would say from sciendum to experiendum—from what must be known to what must be experienced. In addition to completing his writing skills with advanced prose forms as well as metrical compositions (understanding poetry from within as both reader and maker), the student begins to consider the centrality of his own writing as a constituent part of his own nature, writing not merely for the sake of discursive analysis, but as an act contributing to his own flourishing.
(3 credits during the second year of studies)
This class is an intensive examination of the traditional role poetry has played in deepening our understanding of the nature of language. In conjunction with the writing tutorials, this course develops the student’s basic knowledge of figures in language, as well as equipping them with the means to communicate the tone and dramatic situation of a poem. The whole course explores the way poetry can help us to become attuned to the goodness of reality. Authors and texts include: Aristotle’s Poetics, Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks’ Understanding Poetry, the English poet community in Rome (Keats, etc.), Richard Wilbur, and Robert Frost.
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