Newsletter #1

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Newsletter #1

Post by Josephine Livingstone on Thu Jan 28, 2016 4:17 pm

Dear reader,

Welcome to the first Medieval and Modern Concepts of Nature newsletter. You are now a digital auditor of this, my spring 2016 Columbia undergraduate seminar. You will receive one email per week, linking to the texts under consideration for class and containing some prompts for your consideration. You can find the full syllabus at the class site, here.

With that housekeeping done, click through for C. S. Lewis’s essay “https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/19760007/C%20S%20Lewis%20-%20Studies%20in%20Words.pdf,” taken from Studies in Words (1960). You may know Lewis from his Chronicles of Narnia series, but he was also a professor of literature who mostly worked on medieval studies (he had this in common with his close friend J. R. R. Tolkien, who was a medievalist at Oxford at the same time). Studies in Words is a series of essays about some very ordinary English words (including ‘wit,’ ‘sad’,’ and ‘free’). As we will see, however, contemporary words often contain multiple secret histories—some stretching back into the medieval period and beyond, into antiquity.

The essay is long-ish and difficult in places, but overall very readable. Before you start reading, consider the following questions:


Is it possible for the word natural to have an antonym?
If so, which of these words in your opinion most precisely fits the bill?
- Artificial
- Supernatural
- Unnatural
- Non-existent
- Conventional
Why?

Make a note of your answer and then, after you have read the essay, see if you feel any differently.

All the best,
Josephine

Josephine Livingstone
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