Thursday, February 14, 2013

Shared Texts, and Mennonites

John Granger tells of Allan Bloom (The Closing Of The American Mind, A) belittling freshman students for their absence of shared texts.

Bloom asserted that Granger's “great-grandparents” (my great-greats) proceeded in life with a social confidence that their immediate peers had read, and frequently memorized passages from, the Bible, Pilgrim's Progress and Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks & Romans.

Sidestepping Granger's (and most certainly Bloom's) argument for a moment, I'm not at all confident that my great-greats were familiar with Plutarch. Even Bunyan's classic is a bit iffy. But the Bible, most certainly (along with the guiding principles — thoroughly memorized — of the Katechismus aus der Kleine Gemeinde). And most churches, and not a few households, had a copy of Martyr's Mirror.

Rachel Yoder (Mennonite name, hers — Swiss Mennonite, mind you) encounters the field of Mennonite Romance Novels for the first time, and contrasts it with the material found in Martyr's Mirror. Do read Yoder's piece, but also bear in mind some facts she (or, more likely, her editor) has withheld. The woodcut of “Anneken Heyndricks, bound to a ladder, (her) eyes cast heavenward in sublime abandon as flames lick her body” is indeed arresting and memorable. What Yoder neglects to mention is that Heyndricks is, in fact, being tilted by her captors so that she falls face first into the fire. Her mouth has been stuffed with gunpowder.

Hers is one of the speedier deaths in this enormous volume of broken bodies and spilled blood.

I hope I can be forgiven if I'm slow to push some shared texts on my daughters.
Girls, would you rather read this...

...or this?
(There's no way to answer this question without horrifying your father.)
Continued -- here.


Joel Swagman said...

I don't remember the post, but you've mentioned this somewhere before I think. Did you say the woman with gunpowder in her mouth was an ancestor of yours?

dpreimer said...

No relation that I'm aware of, though if you shake the family tree hard enough you're likely to catch a few "Heinrichs." But it's a deeply ingrained tradition for Mennonites to tell, and absorb, stories of the many ways we've put up with every conceivable humiliation before having our mortal coil shed on our behalf.