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Fragments and Formalisms: Re-associating our Sensibilities through the Poetic Mode


Kathryn Smith


The great modernist poet T.S. Eliot famously observed that in the latter half of the seventeenth century “a dissociation of sensibility set in,” essentially meaning that thought and feeling were severed from one another, that the mind and the heart were torn asunder. For someone like Eliot, modern fragmentation could be traced to this pivotal shift in Western civilization. While he made these remarks nearly a century ago, arguably his diagnosis of the problems of the modern age still stand as starkly as ever. As it applies to schooling, we might see the effects of this dissociation in the institutionalization of the academy and the lack of integration in the curriculum.

The question for classical educators is whether or not this form of education can prove therapeutic in addressing this malaise, one often depicted in images of fragmentation. One of the promising features of the classical model is the prominence given to poetry and the arts as a means for fostering the development of students’ hearts as well as their minds. This presentation will offer some practical advice and explore how we might continuously integrate the mind and the heart through a poetic mode of instruction.