Thursday, October 13, 2016

`Correctness Has Its Own Elegance'

“I was not myself regarded as a tough teacher, but I prefer to think that I never fell below the line of the serious in what I taught or in what I asked of my students. What I tried to convey about the writers on whom I gave courses was, alongside the aesthetic pleasures they provided, their use as guides, however incomplete, to understanding life. Reading Joseph Conrad, Henry James, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Willa Cather, and other writers I taught was important business—possibly, in the end, though I never said it straight out, more important than getting into Harvard Law School or Stanford Business School. When I taught courses on prose style, I stressed that correctness has its own elegance, and that, in the use of language, unlike in horseshoes, close isn’t good enough; precision was the minimal requirement, and it was everything.”

[Joseph Epstein, “The Death of the Liberal Arts,” A Literary Education, Axios, 2014.]

1 comment:

Brian said...

A wonderful book by a beautiful writer. Epstein's firing from The American Scholar was a signal event for me. It was like Chicago firing Michael Jordan, Princeton sacking Einstein, or schools banning Frost. What could they be thinking? Exploring the reasons for such insanity has led me far from the liberal platitudes of my youth - a sadder but a wiser man etc.