When we think about the Renaissance, we think of a great flowering in artistic creativity and intellectual innovation; we think about the beautiful paintings and sculptures of Michelangelo, the astute discoveries of Copernicus, the timeless plays of Shakespeare.
Ironically though, this great creative flowering was spurred by men who were educated under a system that, by our modern lights, can seem rather rigid and rote.
My guest today unpacks this seeming paradox. His name is Scott Newstok, and he’s a professor of English and the author of How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons From a Renaissance Education, in which he uses the Bard as a jumping off point to explore broader insights into matters of the mind. We begin our conversation with the ways Scott thinks our modern educational system is lacking, and how students’ approach to learning has changed over the years. We then discuss how the Renaissance model of education, with its emphasis on language and verbal fluency, provides possibilities for strengthening our reading, writing, speaking, and thinking skills and making their refinement a lifelong habit. We delve into how artists and thinkers in the Renaissance thought about originality differently than we do, and how they believed that imitating and even copying the work of others can actually help you find your own voice. And we discuss how Shakepeare’s sonnets demonstrate the way in which constraints can counterintuitively enable creativity. We end our conversation with how you can incorporate Renaissance thinking into your day to day life.
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- How does our modern education system compare to what Shakespeare received? Where does it fall short?
- How have students changed over the last couple decades?
- The power of language (and learning a second language!)
- What is “Shakespearean” thought?
- The craft of thinking and writing (and how it’s evident in Shakespeare’s plays)
- What does originality really mean?
- How can the Great Conversation contribute to your education?
- The lowdown on Shakespeare’s sonnets
- How constraints can contribute to your success and creativity
- How can adults get back some of the life of the mind?
Resources/Articles/People Mentioned in Podcast
- The Surprising Power of a “Useless” Liberal Arts Education
- Is College for Everyone?
- How to Learn Another Language
- Why You Should Learn the Lost Art of Rhetoric
- AoM series on honor
- Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction
- Shakespeare: who put those thoughts in his head?
- Was Shakespeare Educated?
- The Benjamin Franklin Method: How to (Actually) Be a Better Writer
- Want to Become a Better Writer? Copy the Work of Others!
- Shakespeare’s Originality
- Seneca on Combinatorial Creativity
- Folger Shakespeare Library
- How to Achieve Creative Success
- How to Be a Creative Genius Like da Vinci
- Shakespeare’s sources
- The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge
- The Best Books on Shakespeare’s Sonnets
- We Would All Do Well To Think More Like Shakespeare
- The Hidden Pleasures of Learning for Its Own Sake
- Literature as Equipment for Living
- Why You Need to Join the Great Conversation
- Restraints vs. Constraints
- The Pleasure of Limits
- On the Joys and Travails of Thinking
- Libraries of Famous Men series
Connect With Scott
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