‘Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical art. It would be μóρφωσις, not ποίησις. The rules of the IMAGINATION are themselves the very powers of growth and production. The words to which they are reducible, present only the outlines and external appearance of the fruit. A deceptive counterfeit of the superficial form and colours may be elaborated; but the marble peach feels cold and heavy, and children only put it to their mouths.’ [Coleridge, Biographia ch. 18]

‘ποίησις’ (poiēsis) means ‘a making, a creation, a production’ and is used of poetry in Aristotle and Plato. ‘μóρφωσις’ (morphōsis) in essence means the same thing: ‘a shaping, a bringing into shape.’ But Coleridge has in mind the New Testament use of the word as ‘semblance’ or ‘outward appearance’, which the KJV translates as ‘form’: ‘An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form [μóρφωσις] of knowledge and of the truth in the law’ [Romans 2:20]; ‘Having a form [μóρφωσις] of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’ [2 Timothy 3:5]. I trust that's clear.

There is much more on Coleridge at my other, Coleridgean blog.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Joseph Lancaster: Educationalist

In the early nineteenth-century, Lancaster's theories of education were popular, and widely imitated. He believed pupils that performed well should be given rewards, to incentivise them to continue to excel and others to imitate them. And he believed that pupils who did badly or transgressed the rules should be punished, for instance by being beaten. But a simple flogging was not the only approach he recommended to teachers. Humiliation and ridicule, he noted, were often far more effective disincentives.

An example: for some reason Lancaster had a peculiar dislike of boys using a sing-song voice when they read aloud in class. Below is his suggestion as how to counter this monstrous delinquency: it's a little perfect storm of emotional sadism and pettiness, with a little random anti-Semitism thrown in.

[This is from Lancaster Improvements in Education as it Respects the Industrious Classes (1803), 89]

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