"Subjects" of some kind there must be, of course. One cannot learn the theory of grammar without learning an actual language, or learn to argue and orate without speaking about something in particular. The debating subjects of the Middle Ages were drawn largely from theology, or from the ethics and history of antiquity. Often, indeed, they became stereotyped, especially towards the end of the period, and the far-fetched and wire-drawn absurdities of Scholastic argument fretted Milton and provide food for merriment even to this day. Whether they were in themselves any more hackneyed and trivial than the usual subjects set nowadays for "essaywriting" I should not like to say: we may ourselves grow a littleweary of "A Day in My Holidays" and all the rest of it. But mostof the merriment is misplaced, because the aim and object of the debatingthesis has by now been lost sight of.
A glib speaker in the Brains Trust once entertained his audience (andreduced the late Charles Williams to helpless rage by asserting that inthe Middle Ages it was a matter of faith to know how many archangels coulddance on the point of a needle. I need not say, I hope, that it never wasa "matter of faith"; it was simply a debating exercise, whoseset subject was the nature of angelic substance: were angels material,and if so, did they occupy space? The answer usually adjudged correct is,I believe, that angels are pure intelligences; not material, but limited,so that they may have location in space but not extension. An analogy mightbe drawn from human thought, which is similarly non-material and similarlylimited. Thus, if your thought is concentrated upon one thing--say, thepoint of a needle--it is located there in the sense that it is not elsewhere;but although it is "there," it occupies no space there, and thereis nothing to prevent an infinite number of different people's thoughtsbeing concentrated upon the same needle-point at the same time. The propersubject of the argument is thus seen to be the distinction between locationand extension in space; the matter on which the argument is exercised happensto be the nature of angels (although, as we have seen, it might equallywell have been something else; the practical lesson to be drawn from theargument is not to use words like "there" in a loose and unscientificway, without specifying whether you mean "located there" or "occupyingspace there."
It is, of course, quite true that bits and pieces of the mediaeval traditionstill linger, or have been revived, in the ordinary school syllabus oftoday. Some knowledge of grammar is still required when learning a foreignlanguage--perhaps I should say, "is again required," for duringmy own lifetime, we passed through a phase when the teaching of declensionsand conjugations was considered rather reprehensible, and it was consideredbetter to pick these things up as we went along. School debating societiesflourish; essays are written; the necessity for "self- expression"is stressed, and perhaps even over-stressed. But these activities are cultivatedmore or less in detachment, as belonging to the special subjects in whichthey are pigeon-holed rather than as forming one coherent scheme of mentaltraining to which all "subjects"stand in a subordinate relation."Grammar" belongs especially to the "subject" of foreignlanguages, and essay-writing to the "subject" called "English";while Dialectic has become almost entirely divorced from the rest of thecurriculum, and is frequently practiced unsystematically and out of schoolhours as a separate exercise, only very loosely related to the main businessof learning. Taken by and large, the great difference of emphasis betweenthe two conceptions holds good: modern education concentrates on "teachingsubjects," leaving the method of thinking, arguing, and expressingone's conclusions to be picked up by the scholar as he goes along' mediaevaleducation concentrated on first forging and learning to handle the toolsof learning, using whatever subject came handy as a piece of material onwhich to doodle until the use of the tool became second nature.
Stretch'd and still lies the midnight,
Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the darkness,
Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking, preparations to pass to the
one we have conquer'd,
The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his orders through a
countenance white as a sheet,
Near by the corpse of the child that serv'd in the cabin,
The dead face of an old salt with long white hair and carefully
The flames spite of all that can be done flickering aloft and below,
The husky voices of the two or three officers yet fit for duty,
Formless stacks of bodies and bodies by themselves, dabs of flesh
upon the masts and spars,
Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the soothe of waves,
Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels, strong scent,
A few large stars overhead, silent and mournful shining,
Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass and fields by
the shore, death-messages given in charge to survivors,
The hiss of the surgeon's knife, the gnawing teeth of his saw,
Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild scream, and long,
dull, tapering groan,
These so, these irretrievable.
“Othello is unique among Shakespeare's great tragedies.
Student Services has been running study skills and essay writing drop in sessions in the Reid Library since 2005. These sessions have become so popular that they are now daily during teaching weeks and study breaks. STUDYSmarter Advisers have also now been joined by Librarians so you can get advice on study, writing, referencing and research in one place!
WorksheetsDebatesPursuasive WritingMovies The quote James Farmer Jr.
The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside,
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and weak,
And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him,
And brought water and fill'd a tub for his sweated body and bruis'd feet,
And gave him a room that enter'd from my own, and gave him some
coarse clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,
And remember putting piasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass'd north,
I had him sit next me at table, my fire-lock lean'd in the corner.
The story is one of Shakespeare’s great tragedy themed plays.
The third essay in this set stands out from the rest. Had the panel who were grading the compositions understood the context of this essay in light of the six others in the set, they probably would have given it more credit. Its strength lies in its funny, lighthearted approach-it shows a completely different aspect of the candidateâs personality. Without it, he would have appeared deadpan serious and probably a bit dull. However, showing the wittier side of himself strengthens the set considerably. It is a good example of allowing yourself to take a risk in one essay, as long as more serious approaches in the others balance it.