It’s my birthday week, and so I’m taking a tiny little break from writing by sharing a wonderful piece written by someone else. It’s about the importance of fairy-tales, a cause near and dear to my heart, and one which has been on my mind lately. Right now I’m in the midst of figuring out the right direction to take my dissertation, and it’s looking increasingly likely that I’ll be focusing on the role of the imagination in neo-Platonic thinking. So much scholarship out there – influenced by Cartesian assumptions – takes the imagination as a passive foil for true, active thinking.
But fairy-tales show us that imagining is not simply recombining our sensory impressions until we create the illusion of something new and original, it’s the active conceptualization of narrative experience. It is, to borrow from Tolkien, sub-creation. And it’s a way of speaking to ourselves about ourselves. Fairy-tales share this in common with mathematics – they’re languages of reflection, of formal relationships, and they provide us a way to think bigger and more actively; fairy-tales allow us to think beyond what we are merely given empirically, and to create perceptions for ourselves that allow us to see things differently.
Fairy-tales feed the mind’s eye and the spirit, and teach us about our own creative capacity. I hope you enjoy this post by David Russell Mosley, from Letters from the Edge of Elfland.
David Russell Mosley
Lent 5 April 2014 On the Edge of Elfland Beeston, Nottinghamshire Dear Friends and Family, Over at Christ and University, Matt Moser has written another post about teaching Dante to which I feel inclined to respond. Moser notes and laments that as he and his students (along with Dante) entered Paradise in the Commedia, the students found it boring. As Moser himself notes, this is somewhat to be expected. Even in the best translation, this is still a translation of sixteenth century Italian epic poem. Even the Paradiso is filled with political and contemporary (to Dante) commentary. This, however, was not the centre of their boredom, rather the happiness was. Moser goes on to relate his own acquisition of an appetite for joy which was kindled by a reading of The Lord of the Rings.
He remembers how he had to foster an appetite for joy…
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