Christine Perrin, MFA
Christine Perrin, MFA, is the director of writing at Messiah College and has taught literature and creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, with Gordon College’s Orvieto Program, through the Pennsylvania Arts Council to students of all ages, and at the local classical school where her children attended. She attended Johns Hopkins as an undergraduate student and earned her MFA from the University of Maryland. Christine consults with classical schools in curriculum development and faculty development in poetry and writing, and speaks regularly at the CiRCE Institute as well as the Society for Classical Learning conferences. She is a two-time recipient of the PA Arts Council Artists Fellowship and a Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference Fellowship. Her own work appears in various journals, including The New England Review, Image, TriQuarterly, Blackbird, Christianity and Literature, and The Cresset. Christine is the series editor for the Writing & Rhetoric series and the author of The Art of Poetry, a textbook for middle and high school students. Christine and her husband, Christopher, are the parents of three grown children: Zoë, Elle, and Noah.
As a writer, Christine enjoys tracing the genealogical relationship of one writer to another, and sees writing as the highest form of reading. She is interested in the conversation that the philosopher Gadamer thought we were meant to have with literature: one that causes us to live differently. He describes poetry as “a nearness.” She has learned a great deal from her students—conversation partners. Another polymath influential in her career is the literary critic George Steiner, who insists that as readers we are here to serve the text, to dialogue with the writer, and to respond to art with art, to the extent that we are able. Some of her favorite work is guiding students through writing a senior thesis, a yearlong writing project.
Consulting and Speaking Topics
- How to teach students (middle school through high school) the skill of close reading literature (teaching students how to possess, read deeply, and converse with a book)
- How to design assessments that privilege close reading
- How to incorporate classroom experiences with literature that are performative and experiential
- How to develop a literature curriculum
- How to use literature to build community
Writing and Rhetoric
- Best practices in the writing classroom
- How to incorporate the curriculum school-wide according to your students’ preparation
- How to understand the centrality of narrative and imitation in writing instruction—the progymnasmata model
- How to understand the relationship of the Writing & Rhetoric series to expository writing
- How to teach the Writing and Rhetoric curriculum
- How to understand the interdependence of speaking, writing, and critical thinking
- How to help students apply Writing and Rhetoric tools across the curriculum
- How to understand the relationship between Writing and Rhetoric and later formal teaching of rhetoric
- Why poetry?
- How poetry is an essential discipline in the classical classroom
- How to teach this broadly human art accessibly
- How to use poetry to build community (public readings, liturgies, competitions, out-of-school events, common school-wide readings)
Specific Talk Descriptions
In addition to the mechanics of curriculum particulars, below are a few talks that Christine has regularly given to groups of educators and administrators as well as parents.
Poetic Knowledge and Literature
Poetic knowledge is essential in the classical tradition, but what is it? Literature introduces us to the world experientially in the following ways:
- Naming like Adam
- Produces the quality of attention, alertness: technology deficit syndrome, habits of mind, demands more of our attention
- Exercises the imagination
- Gives language adequate to our experience
- Helps us to understand our own lives
- Reminds us what faithful speech is (and therefore what is false)
- Awakens our imagination and our sense of the proportions of our lives; invigorates our daily experience
- Brings history alive, gives us the sensation of being there, a witness to history
- Demonstrates how to read the world; teaches interpretation
- Helps us to understand experience through metaphor; makes abstractions concrete
- Reminds us of our relational nature: that we are here to speak to one another, that we are not alone—we live next to each other
- Brings us into contact with the instrument of our bodies
Best Practices in the Literature Classroom
I. Close Reading
- teach students to possess a book, get dirty
- reading questions for each night’s reading, for discussion
- networking the books to other books in discussion and writing
- power of summary
- literature log
- classroom spaces: coffee, tea, and beanbag chairs
- reading aloud
- audio book experiences
- process, staged assignments
- Inklings writing and reading groups
- reading aloud for the process
- audience—let them hear what they sound like to other ears
- creative assignments that have worked
How and Why to Captivate and Delight Students of All Ages with Poetry
How do you engage students in the study of poetry and entice them into enjoying it? Why should we as classical educators be committed to doing so? This session will discuss why poetry matters and give general suggestions for incorporating it into any classroom (grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages).
The Art of Poetry and Dwelling
How do the fine arts—poems in particular—make us dwell? Why is this an essential ability for students and their teachers? Dwell is a verb—it is an action, one which we have not cultivated. How can poetry and the other fine arts require us to dwell in attention and even in adoration? How might we transfer what they teach us to the rest of our education?
Have you considered what your classroom design communicates to your students about what you expect to happen in the classroom? Seth Godin says we are in a post-industrial, post-geography world. This classroom is part of the industrial world, where we have the sense that you could create a formula, line all the parts up, and just crank out whatever you were making to whatever scale you desired.
These talks explore the work and biography of a given American writer. I’ve presented numerous versions, including but not limited to Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, William Carlos Williams, and T.S. Eliot. This seminar instructs in how to read and how to get inside the mind and work of a given master. It will aid the participant’s ability to teach the writer in his own classroom. We will look at the influential and lasting poems of the artist’s oeuvre, his or her craft commitments, and the attending context of the writer’s life and historic moment. The seminar will offer an implicit lesson in reading poetry well. We will aim to savor the work together.
The Art of Literary Interpretation
What does a poem mean, and how can we agree on meaning? Is the meaning of a poem purely subjective or purely logical? How do we nurture and negotiate these discussions in the classroom? What can interpreting poetry teach us about interpretation more generally? This session focuses on teaching upper-school students.
To see Christine teach high school and middle school students for an hour, watch this video recording.
To hear Christine interviewed about poetry, visit the below links:
Recorded audio talks and blog posts:
- Borrowing and Stealing: The Paradox of Finding Your Own Ideas and Voice through the Masters
- Poetic Knowledge Panel: A Lively Conversation about W.H. Auden’s “Shield of Achilles” In this annual conference feature, John Mark Reynolds, Christine Perrin, and Wes Callihan model effective, inspiring, and insightful conversation about a great poem.
- Metaphorical Judgment: Poetry as an Education in Metaphor
- American Classics: T.S. Eliot
- Christine’s posts on the CiRCE Institute blog
- Wonderful multimedia creations by Christine’s students based on two poems:
On-Site Pricing Information:
Half day (4 hours): $790 + travel
One full day (8–10 hours): $1,190 + travel
Two full days: $2,195 + travel
Long-term consulting packages negotiated
Online Consulting Fees:
90-minute session: $290
Classical Academic Press
E-mail: consulting (at) classicalsubjects.com