Writing Course Descriptions

Writing Tutorial Sequence

(3 semesters of 2 credits each during the second and third year of studies)
These tutorials allow students to meet in small groups to learn, in word and writing, the art of eloquent expression and how this art is connected to the other liberal arts and to the good life.  Tutorials will periodically (once a week) be accompanied by larger lectures that provide students with an introduction to the very nature of language.  Necessary to all disciplines, the tutorials and lectures include a study of figures in language (such as symbol, myth, and allegory), and hence an important defense of the imagination.  To assist the good formation of the imagination and improve the powers of memory, students will become acquainted with the works of the New England poet, Robert Frost.  The majority of time, however, will be dedicated to the regular writing of essays and their delivery in small tutorial sessions.  Over the course of two years, students will read from such works as Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Cicero’s On the Orator, Quintillian’s On Oratory, St. Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine, essays by Eliot and Tate, and other classics of language and rhetoric.

Tutorial I: “Writing & the Love of Learning”
“The expression of thought in word is an act of life,” said A.D. Sertillanges, O.P..  The first semester of the writing tutorials is dedicated to arriving at a proper understanding of the importance of clarity in expression, as well as an appreciation for the jeweled nature of language.  The student’s years are a time to be filled with a desire for learning and a desire to know in an orderly fashion, but that desire and that knowledge must be tethered to an ability to write well.  To write well, we should write often and enjoy healthy criticism.

Tutorial II: “The Essay & the Art of Rhetoric”
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.

Tutorial III: “Fidelity to the Word—Mastery of Prose & Verse”
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.

Poetics

(3 credits during 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.