Ben Jonson is Alright

I spent part of this morning wrapped up in a sweatshirt, dreading the next strong breeze, and the other part enjoying the gradually warming day, both down at Fort Yargo State Park, at a picnic table on the lake, reading my heart out for comps. I dusted off three of John Donne’s sermons and a hefty chunk of Ben Jonson’s Timber, and Jonson grows on me as I become more and more familiar with his work. I’m still not a giant fan of his comedies, probably because I still haven’t taught them and remain glued to the footnotes to make basic sense of them, but his poetry and essays (he calls them discoveries rather than essays, and they’re shorter than Montaigne-style pieces, but that’s the closest generic designation that I can come up with for his commonplace book entries) show me a person who respects deeply the ancients without being bound to them so tightly that he cannot make his own moves. Since that’s close to the ideal towards which I strive in my own teaching, Timber was a fairly easy piece through which to work.

Incidentally, it’s kind of fun to think of a blog as a 21st-century hypertext commonplace book. I think I might start developing some kind of assignment for a Renaissance Lit course that involves constructing one’s own electronic CP book as we read sections of Herbert’s, Milton’s, and Jonson’s. And come to think of it, a blog is also not dissimilar to a coterie book of the sort that Donne would have been passing around.  Yes, that sounds like a fun thing to make the critters do.

Now I’ve only got an excerpted version of Leviathan to work through, and I’ll be finished with the prose section of Dr. Freer’s comps list. I still have Arcadia ahead of me (yes, I’ve managed to put it off until just over two weeks before the exam), but other than those two pieces, I’m at the review stage for his list. Since Dr. Teague gives no list and takes none, I’ve got one more play that I want to have under my fingers, and I’ll be ready to start systematizing for her exam. And I’m down to a couple articles and one book of essays for Dr. Medine’s, and I’ll have the afternoons of the actal comps week to dust those off, given that hers is the last exam.

In other words, I’m going to be working my tail off in the next seventeen days, but I can see the finish line. Oh, and did I mention that I’m preaching John 17 and starting portfolio double-grading this Sunday? No?

I looked at my blog’s stats this afternoon, and I’m pleased that I’m getting as many readers for my reflections on Scripture and literature as I am on Christians, Republicans, and abortion. Jonathan has faithfully chimed in when I dared to venture into his specialty (love ya, Wizzle!), but El Ick and Matt have also provided some chatter on the questions of whether or not there’s any such thing as “just” literature and whether reading can be other than literary.


1 Comment

Filed under Books, comps, Self-promotion, teaching

One response to “Ben Jonson is Alright

  1. Also, he avoided execution for murdering a soldier by being able to sign his name.

    Literacy saves lives.

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