- Paperback: 292 pages
- Publisher: Paul Dry Books; Reissue edition (May 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0967967503
- ISBN-13: 978-0967967509
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 106 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric Reissue Edition
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"The Trivium is a highly recommended and welcome contribution to any serious and dedicated writer's reference collection."Midwest Book Review
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"Whoever owns this book owns a treasure."
I couldn't agree with her more. Between the covers of this excellent book the reader will find a wonderful introduction to Logic, Rhetoric, and Grammar. These three disciplines were known to Scholastics collectively as The Trivium. They formed the foundation for the Liberal Arts and stood as the first three of these Liberal Arts. Simply speaking, logic is about clarity of thought. Grammar is about clarity of writing. And Rhetoric is about clarity of expression, or communication. Excellence in each discipline is achieved through clarity. And clarity is one factor that is sorely missing in much of the discourse of our modern world.
As a lifelong student, I highly recommend this wonderful little book. It is a treasure, to be sure. Yet, is also a joy to use this book as a guide to delve into the deep riches of understanding the nature and function of language. Although I understand that the book was intended to serve as material for a first year college course, I believe that students of any age can richly benefit from a serious, and joyful, study of this essential material. God bless.
“The utilitarian or servile arts enable one to be a servant – of another person, of the state, of a corporation, or of a business – and to earn a living. The liberal arts, in contrast, teach one how to live; they train the faculties and bring them to perfection; they enable a person to rise above his material environment to live an intellectual, a rational, and therefore a free life in gaining truth.”
-Sister Miriam Joseph
To begin, this book is readily accessible and enormously valuable to students of any proficiency level. Those who, like me, already have some knowledge of the topics discussed are perhaps at a disadvantage to those approaching the book without prior knowledge since the book is somewhat antiquated in its terminology. Written in the 1930's, the book predates many movements that have swept into the universities, such as linguistics and modernist critical theory. So, for example, the book uses the term "phantasm" while I was more familiar with the linguistic term "prototype," though the two terms are identical. The book does not feel outdated, however; Marguerite McGlinn (the editor) has done a thorough job of noting instances where modern research is at odds with, or illuminates, Sister Joseph's words and provides context for the discrepancies.
True to its nature, the book reads exactly like a textbook from the 1930's. Those familiar with more modern textbooks, in which the author assumes a playful, almost unserious tone to keep the student's interest, might find this book's tone unappealing. It is just the facts, ma'am, throughout.
There are instances, particularly in chapter two, where Sister Joseph's aims become unclear and I was left questioning the value of what I was reading. This aimless sense continued for me through chapter 5 and then it all came together splendidly when the importance of general grammar in constructing syllogisms and deconstructing fallacies became apparent in the portion on logic.
It was tempting for me to say, "Well, Sis, I already know what adverbs do so I'll see you in chapter 5!" and skip ahead a hundred pages. But there is a difference between general grammar (the relation of words of ideas) and special grammar (the relation of words in a specific language like English). Knowing the latter does not necessarily help you in understanding the former. Bearing this distinction in mind will help you slog through the first 5 chapters.
The bulk of the book concerns logic and provides a very thorough education in it. There is so much here that I don't know where to begin, so I won't. But rest assured it covers all the biggies: validity, syllogisms, fallacies, mood, etc. And (finally!) Sister Joseph provides exercises for the reader to complete, and she uses examples and quotations from classic writers to illustrate her points. This makes the tedium of the grammar chapters far more tolerable.
Sadly, the portion on rhetoric is the shortest. She discusses figures of speech (such as cliches), forms of writing (like short stories), and various aspects of poetic structure (like meter), all the while using these topics to discuss various rhetorical devices like parallelism and assonance. After an entire book of deep inquiry into each topic, the shallow, almost fleeting treatment of rhetoric is somewhat jolting. You still learn the particulars of various devices and they are illustrated with interesting examples, but the section does feel rushed and I wondered if there wasn't more to be uncovered.
Happily, I have Farnsworth's book dedicated to the subject of rhetoric to read next!
Overall, an excellent book that gives back in proportion to what the reader invests.
As a Saint Mary's student in the 60's I can remember Sr. Miriam Joseph. We were all assigned this book as well as her 'Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language' (Columbia University Press) sometime during our years there.
I have to agree with one of the other reviewers that the new footnotes and examples help to explain A E I O and S and P and M, etc. etc.--or maybe it's that I have gained a deeper understanding of the importance of grammar, logic, and the language arts during the passing years...for those who are interested in studying language and writing clearly "The Trivium" is highly recommended.