Interviews,  Podcast,  Show Notes

S4E60: The Building Blocks of Story with Angelina Stanford and Timilyn Downey

Commonplace Tales: Tales of Imagination––Stories, again, of the Christmas holidays, of George and Lucy, of the amusements, foibles, and virtues of children in their own condition of life, leave nothing to the imagination. The children know all about everything so well that it never occurs to them to play at the situations in any one of these tales, or even to read it twice over. But let them have tales of the imagination, scenes laid in other lands and other times, heroic adventures, hairbreadth escapes, delicious fairy tales in which they are never roughly pulled up by the impossible––even where all is impossible, and they know it, and yet believe.

Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, Home Education

Show Summary:

  • Today on the New Mason Jar, Cindy and Dawn chat with friends Angelina Stanford and Timilyn Downey about the building blocks of stories in relation to a Charlotte Mason education
  • How Angelina came to learn about Charlotte Mason
  • Why Timilyn values the building blocks of story so much
  • What are stories versus literature?
  • What is the difference between how modernity sees art and stories and how the medievals saw them?
  • What is wrong with the idea of literature as a mirror or a window?
  • Some metaphors for approaching story
  • Why are unit studies problematic in approaching a Charlotte Mason education?
  • How can you learn the language of literature so that you can teach your children?

Last but not least, the fact that the story does not turn on children, and does not foster that self-consciousness, the dawn of which in the child is, perhaps, the individual “Fall of Man.”

Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

Listen Now:

Books Mentioned:

Northrop Frye

C. S. Lewis

J. R. R. Tolkien

Harold Goddard

“Meditation on a Toolshed” by C. S. Lewis

Aesop’s Fables illus. by Jerry Pinkney

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands illus. by Kadir Nelson

Find Cindy, Angelina, and Timilyn:

Morning Time for Moms

Cindy’s Patreon Discipleship Group

Mere Motherhood Facebook Group

The Literary Life Podcast

Cindy’s Facebook

Cindy’s Instagram

House of Humane Letters

Angelina’s Facebook

Angelina’s Instagram

The Literary Life Online Conference 2023



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  • Katie May McKenna

    Thank you for this episode. It was inspiring and fascinating; intriguing, yet also a bit more difficult to digest (because of the abstract nature of the content). I have a few questions:

    Can any modern/contemporary story rightly be called a “story” in the Northrop Frye sense? Do “standing the test of time” and a “trascendent quality” go hand in hand? Are the “Harry Potter” books, for example, “stories”? Are they literature? Does a book “become” Literature (with a capital L) depending on how it is approached/received? (There is some Hegelian/neo-orthodox undertones in that question, purposefully so. I don’t *think* that is what Angelina and the rest are implying, although I did wonder if there was some German philosophical Idealism coming out in some of the ways that “literature” and the transcendent were being described in this episode.) Should we be concerned about William Blake’s gnostic sympathies and how his heretical interpretations of Christianity (his Jesus was not divine and his “god” sounds more like “Human Imagination” than the Biblical God) might have influenced the likes of Northrop Frye’s literary criticism? This is not to say that William Blake should be thrown out wholesale; common grace (what Calvin called the “spark of divinity” in every person) is a very real thing — but surely his (Blake’s) presuppostions/worldview matters, if he indeed is the one on which Northrop Frye’s entire framework was based.

    How *do* we talk about literature, say, in a book club? Or in a homeschool co-op literature class, for example; surely we don’t pay tuition fees for a teacher to read aloud to our kids for 45 minutes. I have listened to countless hours upon hours of Cindy and Angelina discuss literature, and have gleaned so much! I must be misunderstanding something, then, when after episodes like this one, I am left with a feeling that if I try to discuss with my kids about the stories we are reading, I am doing something wrong. I think at one point in the episode Angelina even said “literature is not meant to be discussed!” I’m sure I’m not the only one who could benefit from some clarification — maybe some qualification? “The Literary Life” podcast, after all, is a podcast devoted to discussing great works of literature.

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