Monday, August 15, 2011

Pater on the Value of Play

"Often such moments are really our moments of play, and we are surprised at the unexpected blessedness of what may seem our least important part of time; not merely because play is in many instances that to which people really apply their own best powers, but also because at such times, the stress of our servile, everyday attentiveness being relaxed, the happier powers in things without are permitted free passage, and have their way with us." --Walter Pater, "The School of Giorgione," The Renaissance

Fresco attributed to Giorgione (ca. 1498)
Here Pater is talking about the pleasure that comes from listening to music or to life in general, but I think it applies in the classroom as well. When my work is playful, I do my best work. When class is playful, students are at their most creative. We're not servile; we're masters of ourselves, at least for that moment.

I'm really enjoying re-reading The Renaissace. Pater is a wonderful stylist. I didn't appreciate him at all in grad school. I've put a section of his work on my British Culture syllabus, which has a heavy emphasis on discussions about art. Hopefully the majors will be more interested in such things than my gen-ed students were when I last tried them.

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