Storied Living (or, Why Literary Criticism Trumps Self-Help) via Circe

Lindsey Brigham on the art and craft of storytelling, and how it relates to real life-living in our homes, our schoolrooms, our workplaces, our communities, our churches. A must read!

We must begin with the “matter” of a story, not its “meaning”—for the meaning comes only in the matter, like the soul in the body and the grace in the sacrament.

Too often we reverse this pattern. When we set ourselves to “interpret” a novel, we tend to jump to what it means, usually expressed as a sort of lofty abstraction. We pronounce, for instance, that “Midsummer Night’s Dream is about the way that, despite their appearance of lunacy, love and art operate by an intrinsic and unassailable reasoning.” But this entirely skips over what it says, which is more fundamental . . . The first business of interpreting a novel is to experience its story, for any meaning it carries exists within and not apart from that, and can only be reached through it.

Similarly, if we set ourselves to write—perhaps not a novel, but any sort of narrative—we must go about it not by devising the meaning we want to say through it, but by summoning the characters and setting and story we want to tell. Continue reading at Circe

Titania Lying Asleep by Arthur Rackham, 1909

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