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Teaching the Great Books

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  1. Introduction
    Teaching the Great Books: Course Introduction (Preview Content)
    4Topics
    |
    1 Quiz
  2. Lessons
    Lesson 1: What Should We Read? (Preview Content)
    4Topics
    |
    1 Quiz
  3. Lesson 2: How Should We Read the Classics?
    4Topics
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    1 Quiz
  4. Lesson 3: How to Do Deep Reading
    5Topics
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    1 Quiz
  5. Lesson 4: Ancient and Modern Modes of Interpretation
    4Topics
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    1 Quiz
  6. Lesson 5: How to Teach Great Books—Part I
    4Topics
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    1 Quiz
  7. Lesson 6: How to Teach Great Books—Part II
    5Topics
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    1 Quiz
  8. Lesson 7: Classroom Habits and Practices
    4Topics
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    1 Quiz
  9. Lesson 8: Who Do We Teach?
    4Topics
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    1 Quiz
  10. Lesson 9: Students Afflicted with Acedia or Ennui
    2Topics
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    1 Quiz
  11. Lesson 10: Helping Students Overcome Acedia or Ennui
    2Topics
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    1 Quiz
  12. Lesson 11: Who Is the Teacher?
    2Topics
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    1 Quiz
  13. Class Observations
    Lesson 12: Observe 7th Grade Classroom (with preclass interview)
    1Topic
  14. Lesson 13: Observe 10th Grade Classroom (with pre- and post-class interviews)
    1Topic
  15. Lesson 14: Observe 10th Grade Classroom (with pre- and post-class interviews)
    1Topic
  16. Lesson 15: Observe 10th Grade Classroom (with pre- and post-class interviews)
    1Topic
  17. End of Course Test
    End of Course Test: Teaching the Great Books
    1 Quiz
Lesson 9, Topic 3
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Acedia

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Acedia comes from a combination of the negative prefix a- and the Greek noun kēdos, meaning “care, concern, or grief.” (The Greek word akēdeia became acedia in Late Latin, and that spelling was retained in English.)
—Merriam-Webster Dictionary

What the desert fathers meant by acedia does imply a failure of effort, a failure linked to a lack of love—the Greek word they use (a-kedeia) literally means “lack of care.”

Icon of Saint John Cassian

“Our struggle is what the Greeks called ἀκηδια [acedia], which we can refer to as a wearied or anxious heart. It is [akin] to sadness and is the peculiar lot of solitaries and a particularly dangerous and frequent foe of those dwelling in the desert.… Once [acedia] has seized possession of a wrecked mind it makes a person horrified at where he is, disgusted with his cell.… He groans quite frequently that spending such time [in his cell] is of no profit to him.…”

Scenes from the Lives of the Desert Fathers by Fra Angelico
Dorothy Sayers
Dante and His Poem by Michelino

The sin which in English is commonly called Sloth, and in Latin, [acedia], is insidious, and assumes such Protean shapes that it is rather difficult to define. It is not merely idleness of mind and laziness of body: it is the whole poisoning of the will which, beginning with indifference and an attitude of “I couldn’t care less,” extends to deliberate refusal of joy culminates in morbid introspection and despair. One form of it which appeals very strongly to some modern minds is the acquiescence in evil and error which readily disguises itself as “Tolerance;” another is that refusal to be moved by the contemplation of the good and beautiful which is known as “Disillusionment,” and sometimes as “knowledge of the world;” yet another is that withdraw into an “ivory tower” of Isolation which is the peculiar temptation of the artist and the contemplative, and is popularly called “Escapism.” The penance assigned to it takes the form of the practice of the opposite virtue: an active Zeal.

—Dorothy Sayers’s commentary on (her translation of) Dante’s Purgatorio, canto XVIII