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The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric [Paperback]

Sister Miriam Joseph , Marguerite McGlinn
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1, 2002 0967967503 978-0967967509 Reissue

Who sets language policy today? Who made whom the grammar doctor? Lacking the equivalent of l'Académie française, we English speakers must find our own way looking for guidance or vindication in source after source. McGuffey's Readers introduced nineteenth-century students to "correct" English. Strunk and White's Elements of Style and William Safire's column, "On Language," provide help on diction and syntax to contemporary writers and speakers. Sister Miriam Joseph's book, The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric, invites the reader into a deeper understanding--one that includes rules, definitions, and guidelines, but whose ultimate end is to transform the reader into a liberal artist.

A liberal artist seeks the perfection of the human faculties. The liberal artist begins with the language arts, the trivium, which is the basis of all learning because it teaches the tools for reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Thinking underlies all these activities. Many readers will recognize elements of this book: parts of speech, syntax, propositions, syllogisms, enthymemes, logical fallacies, scientific method, figures of speech, rhetorical technique, and poetics. The Trivium, however, presents these elements within a philosophy of language that connects thought, expression, and reality.

"Trivium" means the crossroads where the three branches of language meet. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, students studied and mastered this integrated view of language. Regrettably, modern language teaching keeps the parts without the vision of the whole. Inspired by the possibility of helping students "acquire mastery over the tools of learning" Sister Miriam Joseph and other teachers at Saint Mary's College designed and taught a course on the trivium for all first year students. The Trivium resulted from that noble endeavor.

The liberal artist travels in good company. Sister Miriam Joseph frequently cites passages from William Shakespeare, John Milton, Plato, the Bible, Homer, and other great writers. The Paul Dry Books edition of The Trivium provides new graphics and notes to make the book accessible to today's readers. Sister Miriam Joseph told her first audience that "the function of the trivium is the training of the mind for the study of matter and spirit, which constitute the sum of reality. The fruit of education is culture, which Mathew Arnold defined as 'the knowledge of ourselves and the world.'" May this noble endeavor lead many to that end.

Frequently Bought Together

The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric + Quadrivium: The Four Classical Liberal Arts of Number, Geometry, Music, & Cosmology (Wooden Books) + Sciencia: Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Astronomy for All (Wooden Books)
Price for all three: $46.55

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Editorial Reviews


The Trivium is a highly recommended and welcome contribution to any serious and dedicated writer's reference collection. -- Midwest Book Review

About the Author

Sister Miriam Joseph (1898-1982) earned her doctorate from Columbia University. A member of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Sister Miriam was professor of English at Saint Mary's College from 1931 to 1960. She was also the author of Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language and many articles on Shakespeare and on the trivium.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Paul Dry Books; Reissue edition (May 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0967967503
  • ISBN-13: 978-0967967509
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
294 of 296 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barbara Celarent and a lot more September 10, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is as much fun as I've had from a book in quite some time, even though the subject matters (grammar, logic, rhetoric) are usually thought of as serious if not outright grim.
The book was originally written for first-year students at college in the 1930s and 40s. It is simply amazing how much knowledge the teacher could assume from her students and build on. Fortunately, the current edition has been copiously footnoted for us. These and other updatings occasionally give an anachronistic flavor to the material, but more often highlight its timelessness.
After introductory chapters on the liberal arts and on language, two chapters on grammar (which are not dull summaries of long-familiar rules - in the 1930s these could be taken as given) lead smoothly into several chapters on logic, ending with a fine chapter summarizing fallacies. This material will be challenging, but a lot of fun, and for the most part presented with great clarity. (I have to admit, however, that after repeated readings I still do not understand why John is a rabbit.) Along the way you get to meet Barbara Celarent. The book concludes with a sadly brief chapter on composition and reading (i.e., rhetoric) which I wish I had read many years ago. An appendix gives a brief biography of the author, a nun who taught for many years at Saint Mary's College (South Bend). A lecture by Mortimer Adler crystallized her interest in the trivium.
Highly recommended - a 6-star book if ever there was one.
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134 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why wasn't this taught when I was in school??? January 19, 2004
I wholeheartedly recommend this book; however, it's probably so different from anything you were taught in school that it might be difficult to incorporate anything into your writing style.
I was never taught logic in school--either high school or college. Thus, I found the sections on logic very interesting. The author describes every logical argument you could think of in detail, and (the editor) provides examples for most. Not easy reading, though--I found myself having to go back and re-read/study portions routinely.
As an aside, I think this book, unintentionally, does a lot to point out the failures of modern government-controlled schools. The "trivium" should be taught to all grade-school students.
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147 of 154 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From syllogisms, to common linguistic fallacies September 8, 2002
Deftly edited by Marguerite McGlinn, The Trivium: The Liberal Arts Of Logic, Grammar, And Rhetoric by Sister Miriam Joseph Rauh (1898-1982) is a "user friendly" guidebook to better understanding the structure and usage of the English language. Individual chapters address everything from syllogisms, to common linguistic fallacies, to hypothetical and disjunctive propositions, and more. A superbly presented and accessible guidebook The Trivium offers a solid grounding for writers of all degrees of experience and background in fiction, nonfiction, as well as especially academic writing where the interpretations and literal truth of linguistic expression is under an exacting scrutiny. The Trivium is a highly recommended and welcome contribution to any serious and dedicated writer's reference collection.
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57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect amount of information for weighty subject June 26, 2006
I must applaud the late Sister Joseph along with editor McGlinn for making available this fantastic book on the three fundamental discipline of Classical knowledge - grammar, logic and rhetoric, which were the central building block of scholarly education for the better part of two thousand years.

The book is divided into four major sections: introductory material (first section), grammar (second), logic (third) and rhetoric (fourth).

In the first section, Joseph defines the Trivium and frames it vis a vis the classification of "goods" (valuable, useful and pleasurable); then she goes on to explain the difference between liberal arts, fine arts or "servile" arts. All definitions are sound and solid, the examples are pertinent and the whole is crystal-clear in a way only a classically-educated person can be clear.

The second section contemplates grammar, but not as we understand it in the commonsense meaning (e.g. how to properly conjugate the verb "to be"); rather, the Trivium deals with "general grammar," the way words are used to construct logical symbols to represent reality. This is why an ancient Greek discipline applies equally well to English (or any other language for that matter), since the way the human mind formulates words representing the "substance" and the "accidents" of things is rather universal across geography and time. In all, I think this second section is where Joseph shines the most, although she is also extremely enlightening on the remaining sections.

The last two sections on logic and rhetoric are also treated in strictly Classical terms; we have subjects like the essence and construction of a syllogism, the main logical fallacies, and a compendium on rhetorical devices.
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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Guide to Western Philosophy December 27, 2005
This is certainly a wonderful place to start if you want to begin to understand the concepts underlying Western philosophy. I wish I had read it before starting to study philosophy at Oxford nearly thirty years ago, because it elucidates a lot of concepts my instructors never bothered to explain.

I have taught a course in introductory logic at a community college for the last two years using this as a text. Regretfully, I am dropping it this next term, because my students for the most part aren't at a reading level to be able to make the best use of it.

In short, this is a wonderful book. Some of its concepts and examples are rather quaint, and here and there there are defects in the editing that make the work needlessly obscure. But overall it is superb.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Trivium is a must read for understanding the Language Arts.
A very useful asset to anyone who chooses to free their mental faculties through a systematic approach of critical thinking via the Trivium!
Published 1 month ago by Mikveh555
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice
The book met my expectations. It is a job that is worth getting and is valid knowledge to have. Thank you.
Published 1 month ago by Adriel
5.0 out of 5 stars Not easy, but helpful
I found the book a little bit complicated, but that's fine if you read it carefully. There are a lot of definitions, and if you think they are hard, you can get them reading the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric
As a Liberal Arts Major I feel cheated that I did NOT have this work at hand as an undergraduate. People often say to me, "why liberal arts? Read more
Published 3 months ago by Daniel Roman
2.0 out of 5 stars Wasn't what I expected.
It was a very in depth lesson in all of the terms of writing. I didn't need a chapter dedicated to things like pronouns.
Published 4 months ago by Val
5.0 out of 5 stars Not too late to learn what we should have been taught in school
This dense, authoritative textbook takes all of Aristotle’s teachings on logic, grammar, and rhetoric, and some of his teachings of poetics, adds some of the insights gained in the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Paul Vitols
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading
I agree with Eva Brann. Whoever owns this book owns a treasure. It should be required reading for every person who reads, writes, teaches or communicates for a living.
Published 5 months ago by Gary Scott Postma
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be used modern day
I rated a 5 not because I loved reading it as a required text in a graduate course, but because Sr. Miriam does a great job of discussing what used to be the standard in... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I thought it would be
Try as I might, I could not get through this. When it talks about logic it means: If a = c and b = c then a = b not logical approaches to arguments or debates.
Published 6 months ago by James W. Ireland
5.0 out of 5 stars a must
pages 3-85 changed my life. i do not have time to write a decent description for you.
i truly love this book . i have read it at least 10 times in full… however, pgs. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Leslie
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