Tuesday, December 19, 2017

F. Scott Fitzgerald's Catholic Paradise: Further Thoughts on David S. Brown's Paradise Lost

The January 5th edition of Commonweal contains my review of David S. Brown’s biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Paradise Lost. My take is that though Brown’s book gives us a unique angle on Fitzgerald’s work, it doesn’t do enough to give us a complete portrait of the author. A large part of that, as I argue in the review, stems from Brown’s misunderstanding of the kind of paradise that animated Fitzgerald’s art, and I’d like to elaborate on that a little more in this post.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Teaching Western Civ Backwards

As someone who has both taken a Western Civilization sequence as an undergraduate and taught it as a teacher (my school has an interdisciplinary program that all Sophomores take) I have spent a good deal of time thinking about the scope of such a comprehensive undertaking. What is the best way to introduce students to the thought and culture that connects Greece and Rome all the way to the good ‘ol US of A? Which thinkers should we teach? How do we do proper justice to the tradition and confront the darker aspects of Western culture as well as acknowledge its achievements? There aren’t easy answers, of course, which makes the task even more interesting and keeps me coming back to the question.

Monday, August 28, 2017

St. Midas Goes to Print!

The September 8th issue of Commonweal includes my article "St. Midas's Prep: What Catholic Schools Can Learn from Fitzgerald." The article was published on the magazine's website last fall, and at that time I wrote two follow-up posts to the issues I raised:

"More on St. Midas, Part 1: Identifying the Problem"

"More on St. Midas, Part 2: Three Suggestions for a Return to the Humanities"

Also, see my review of William Deresiewicz's book Excellent Sheep, which I draw upon in the Commonweal article.

Thanks to Commonweal for getting it to print! My review of a recent biography of F. Scott should be forthcoming in their magazine as well.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tolstoy's Ivan Ilyich and the Socially Mediated Self (LMM #4)

(This is the fourth installment in my Literature for the Modern Mind series. To learn more about the series, see here.)

This past year I had the opportunity to teach Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich for the first time. In re-reading the novella, I was struck by how well Ivan’s character, who orients his life around the avoidance of discomfort and the pursuit of the approval of his peers, resembles the kind of self-understanding that our modern culture—especially social media—works to create in us.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Jacques Maritain Prize at Dappled Things

I'm honored to have received 3rd place in Dappled Things' annual Jacques Maritain essay contest, for my 2016 article on William Giraldi's Hold the Dark. I'm especially humbled to see the other names ahead of me--artist Daniel Mistui and the philosopher/writer James Matthew Wilson. Both are quite accomplished in their respective fields. Congrats to them and thanks to Dappled Things for the award.

Sorry for the sparse blogging of late. I hope to return soon, once some upcoming events and obligations are behind us.

See my original essay here: http://dappledthings.org/9303/catholic-novelist-confused-apologist-william-giraldi-and-the-nature-of-religious-fiction/

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Contemplation and Catholic Education: on Rik Van Nieuwenhove and Simone Weil

I came across a great article published recently in The Journal of Catholic Higher Education (Villanova U.) that argues that the distinct identity of Catholic education lies in religious contemplation. The author, an Irish professor named Rik Van Nieuwenhove, draws heavily on one of my favorite essays, Simone Weil’s “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God.” I would upload a .pdf of the article, but it I imagine it wouldn’t be kosher, since Villanova doesn’t make it available online. Thankfully, the author has posted the piece to his academia.edu profile, where you can view the article or even download it if you sign up for a free account, which I did.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Follow me on Twitter

Say it ain’t so! After much back-and-forth between the angel and devil on my shoulders, I decided to join the wide world of Twitter (I’m not sure who won the argument…but I don’t really think I want to know).

I don’t plan to do much original Twittering, but to use the medium to give more visibility to this blog and my writing in general. I will Tweet out new posts, and probably some old ones, too, so if that is your platform of choice, I invite you to follow me: @Mike_StThomas

And you can always contact me the (relatively) old-fashioned way: thecatholiclitclassroom@gmail.com

Monday, April 3, 2017

More thoughts on Nicholson Baker's Substitute: Going to School with a Thousand Kids

Commonweal Magazine’s latest issue contains my review of Nicholson Baker’s Substitute, in which the best-selling novelist observes classroom life in your everyday American public school. You can read the piece here. I found the book to be a painfully accurate depiction of life on the ground in our educational technocracy. In this post I'd like to include some observations that I didn’t have the space or time for in the review itself, not the least of which is the book’s relevance to Catholic educators.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Community, Consumption, and the Canon (Part 2)

In my first post, I discussed Augustine’s idea that a community is bound by common “objects of love,” by real things which people experience in common. I hope here to use that definition to get a better handle on why the canon—the art and ideas that are foundational to our culture—needs to be central to any academic community.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Community, Consumption, and the Canon (Part 1)

What makes a community? And what sustains it? Important questions in any age, and certainly in ours, for whatever glue it is that holds us together has never seemed more brittle.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sir Gawain and the Sin of Self-Preservation (LMM #3)

(By Unknown - http://gawain.ucalgary.ca, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=621711)

This is the third installment in my slow-to-develop “Literature for the Modern Mind” series. For an overview of what it’s all about, see here.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the role Catholic education plays in helping students understand the ways in which our Christian inheritance comes into conflict with the modern technocracy. My recent article on “St. Midas’ Prep” deals with this subject directly, and as I’ve thought about it more and more, I’ve come to conclude that everything at stake here can be boiled down to one essential question: Does the world exist for us, or do we exist for the world?