Saturday, 27 October 2012

Newman and the Gnu Atheists, Garraghan's Prose Types in Newman

I never knew until I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that rhetoric was studied in American universities. It appears that there was a hiatus in its study for about 40 years until the explosion in college education in the 60‘s. Now you can even do a Phd. in it, doubtless swimming in turbid theory.

I’m looking at a book which I got for €1 called Prose Types in Newman by Gilbert J. Garraghan S.J. which draws on various extracts from Newman’s writings to illustrate the elements of Rhetoric. It was published in 1916 and the author is identified as a teacher at St.Louis University.

I bought the book because I am a great admirer of what James Joyce called Newman’s ‘supple periodic prose’ a balance for the crisp definitions of the Penny Catechism
Q: What is presumption?
A: A foolish expectation of salvation without making use of the means necessary to obtain it.

The selections by Fr. Garraghan cover the topics of Narration, Description, Exposition, Argumentation and Persuasion. In the back of the book he lays out Topical Analyses:
Narration he breaks down into its
(2) Place,
(3) Plot,
(4)Character (dialogue)

II :Structure
(1) Unity - relevance of details
(2) Coherence - arrangement for order
(3) Emphasis - arrangement for effect
(a) A beginning to interest
(b) Suspense
(c) Climax

III. Style: vividness (picturesqueness, animation, movement, force) the typical quality.

So he goes on breaking down the Topics of Description &c.

I find it all very interesting laying out the cogs, racks and pinions and springs but I am not convinced that such close analysis is safe. The patient may not survive the operation. An intuitive cultivation of style through a constant reading of good prose may in the end be more effective. I have the same reservation about the French passion for explication de texte.

In secondary school we had books of essays which were part of the curriculum. Johnson, Steele, Addison, Belloc, Chesterton, Hazlitt, Lamb etc., All the classic masters of good style were simply read without dissection. I can’t lay my hands on Senior Prose at the moment. I think that this extract from The Idea of a University was in it under the title The Definition of a Gentleman. It can be found at

Here is an extract that the gnu atheist hobbledehoys might take to heart:

If he be an unbeliever, he will be too profound and large-minded to ridicule religion or to act against it; he is too wise to be a dogmatist or fanatic in his infidelity. He respects piety and devotion; he even supports institutions as venerable, beautiful, or useful, to which he does not assent; he honours the ministers of religion, and it contents him to decline its mysteries without assailing or denouncing them. He is of religious toleration, and that, not only because his philosophy has taught him to look on all forms of faith with an impartial eye, but also from the gentleness and effeminacy of feeling, which is the attendant on civilization.

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