Magdalen College: From the Summit

Mary Mumbach: “The Genres of Poetry: A Mapping that Takes Us Back to the Text”

February 11, 2020

How can an understanding of the genres of literature and poetry--lyric, comedy, tragedy, and epic--serve as doorways into a deeper experience not only of the works that we love most but also of the movements of the human soul?  In this dialogue, Mary Mumbach, a senior member of the college's faculty, considers the classic genres in light of the profound reflections offered by Louise Cowan and in their reception by the students of Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts.  She reflects on how an understanding of these genres can function as "maps" that take readers back into the works and give them an experience of incarnation in the concrete details of literary art.  In addition to considering the three stages of each genre and their archetypes (the psalms, Dante, Greek tragedy, and Homer), Dr. Mumbach takes up the questions of how forms such as the novel exist within these genres, how Christianity changed our experience of tragedy, and whether Plato might have been a better friend of the poets than we realize.  And finally, she considers how the study of these works by the college's students transform their vision and experience of life.

Links of potential interest:

Mumbach's "The courage of reason and the scandal of education" in Gained Horizons: Regensburg and the Enlargement of Reason

Additional interviews with Mary Mumbach and other members of Magdalen's faculty

The Terrain of Comedy

The Epic Cosmos

The Prospect of Lyric

The Tragic Abyss

Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts

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