Week 31: Composition in the Classical Tradition and Lilith

Composition in the Classical Tradition, by Frank J. D'Angelo

This is really a high-school level textbook on writing, but it's quite different from what you would find in most schools. D'Angelo follows the classical system called the progymnasmata, which is a systematic graded series of exercises in rhetoric, meant to develop one skill at a time. Those of us used to the modern way of teaching writing find the classical system to be rather strange; who knew that rhetorical techniques could be mapped out on a graph and strictly classified? But that is exactly what the progymnasmata do. I think that aspect of it would really appeal to more analytic types who find it difficult to wade through the frustratingly indefinite discipline of writing, so if your child is that sort, I recommend giving this system a try.

The exercises start with the simple fable, and work their way up to arguing cases of law. At all times, the exact use of each type of rhetoric is explained. This book can be used as a textbook for at least a year's worth of writing class, or you could use it as a supplement. It's not an inexpensive book, but I think I'll find it useful when my children are a little older.

Lilith, by George MacDonald

George MacDonald wrote many fairy tales and a few long imaginative novels for adults. You could call them 'fantasy' and certainly they have been very influential in that genre, but they are not much like any modern fantasy novel. Lilith was published in 1895 and labeled 'a romance.' The story features Mr. Vane, who has visionary travels to another world, where he encounters good and evil in strange guise.

It's a very weird book, but very good.


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