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July 21st, 2011

Condensed Orthodoxy



A while ago I left a comment on Making Light quoting a passage from Chesterton's Orthodoxy, which a couple of other people seemed to like, and which (they say) has inspired them to go look up that book. In fact it is one of my favorites, not only for all the witty asides but also for constantly challenging a lot of my own easy assumptions. 

When I was teaching a class at Le Moyne I thought I might want to share this book with my students, but on re-reading I realized that, good as it is, it is very difficult for a modern reader to get into. Chesterton wrote more than 100 years ago as a journalist, filling his work with references that the readers of his time and place would understand but which can be mystifying or misleading today. And he never uses just one example to illustrate a point when five other ones also come to mind.

In order to make his work more accessible to my students I came up with the idea of producing a "condensed" version. Granted, it feels like desecrating a fine work of art to attempt to “improve” or “update” him. And, it is wholly unauthorized and probably illegal... though surely it is well out of copyright. (I got my copy from Gutenberg.)

I mostly edited it by removing extraneous text, adding words only when needed to make the text understandable in the 21st century. On occasion I have placed in his parenthetical meanderings within parentheses, because even when it doesnʼt add to the argument in question thatʼs often where he has the most fun. I also Americanized the spelling, to stop my computer from yelling at me about the original (correct) spelling... in retrospect I probably shouldn't have, but I am not going to go back now and change everything back.

So my question now is... what should I do with this thing? Is there someplace appropriate to post it? Or should I just forget about it, and let the modern reader do some work? (Darn kids nowadays got everything handed to them... not like in my day... grumble grumble).

It currently resides on my iDisk public folder, if you want to take a look at it.

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