Posted by: mattcolvin | July 24, 2013

5th grade Comp Lit

It is a pity, but we will probably be putting Ezekiel in school this year. Homeschooling him has been challenging, partly because of my other commitments, partly for other reasons. We believe Faith Academy will be good for him, and expect that he will enjoy it.

On the other hand, I will miss being his main teacher. We read Beowulf this year, and Ezekiel delighted me with his observation on these lines about Grendel’s breaking-and-entering:

He came to the hall hungry for man-flesh,
exiled from joy. The iron-bound door
smith-hammered hinges sprang at his touch
raging then for gore he gripped in his hand-vise
the ruined bolt-work, wrenched it away
leapt into the hall loomed with blood-rage…

Said Ezekiel, “This is like Samson. Grendel tears the doors right off the hinges. And it shows how strong his hands are. So when Beowulf tears his arm off later, you know Beowulf must be even stronger than Samson.”

Well, yes, son. You could say that. I’m not sure if the Beowulf poet had Samson in mind – I think he probably didn’t – but the connection is well within the boundaries of literary association that characterize, say, the Biblical Horizons school of hermeneutics. Here’s Judges:

But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron. (Judges 16:3)

Better, Ezekiel showed me that he is able to think in terms of parallel scenarios and situations. This is the sort of thinking that separates good literary critics from any fool with a computer search engine: to see such connections, you need to have read widely, and recall details of what you have read. It is not enough to use a search engine to find words in common between the two passages, for there may be no words in common; the similarity or parallel may lie entirely in the situation. This is the sort of scholarship that is most delightful to me, and I would be glad if my son went on to do it. But as God wills.

Below: the doors of Heorot, by illustrator John Howe:


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