Guest Blogger: Kristin Blanchfield

Mrs. Bach’s Honors Art History class was full of characters last week… Mario, Iron Man, Sting, and St. Thomas Aquinas.  Yes, it was Homecoming/Halloween week at Newman and this class with its costumed students was about to move from the Gothic period to the Proto-Renaissance with Sting and St. Thomas Aquinas as our guides.  St. Thomas Aquinas wanted to understand things in a different way Mrs. Bach explained.  As evidence, she appeared to channel him by starting the art history class with a recording by Sting.  Instead of an art history class in a darkened room with slides of important works, the country music strains from “Fill Her Up” by Sting filled the lecture hall.  We listened to the country sounds at the beginning that the students described as “comforting” and “predictable” and moved to the lofty strains of strings and a gospel choir, ending with jazz that reminded one student of “Houston’s.”  Mrs. Bach led the class through the piece.  She asked the students to listen to the music, describe the changes, and understand the narrative.  At the end of the piece, she asked what was most memorable and when one student (dressed as a princess I believe) said the gospel section, the lights were dimmed, a slide appeared, and we were transported to a Gothic period cathedral.  The music, like the cathedral she explained, inspire us through feeling.  St. Thomas Aquinas understood this type of feeling as “supernatural revelation,” but also believed in “natural revelation” through the acquisition of knowledge.  Then, Mrs. Bach asked us all to file outside.  She opened her door and encouraged students to recognize the variety of plants.  No less inspiring than a gothic cathedral, the monkey grass served as a metaphor for Aquinas’s notion of natural revelation that spiritual truth can be known through reason.  Returning to class, she explained that students are participating actively in a process of natural revelation every day through their work at Newman.  By studying, learning, asking, questioning, and understanding, students learn that that seeking knowledge or truth about a plant or the cathedral can still be magical.  Then, the lights came on, the bell rang, and I was left to wonder what will happen with the “special project” Mrs. Bach alluded to for the coming week…

 

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