Anthroposophy, Astigmatic, Prehensile, Pastiche, Copse

Semi-weekly, I post new-to-me words (and their definitions) discovered during my literary rambles (you can read more about how I easily capture these and why I started this series here). Following each definition, I provide the word in context of the sentence I read.

We learn nothing from the things we know. – John Cage

  • Anthroposophy: a system of beliefs and practices based on the philosophy of Rudolph Steiner; it claims to integrate the practical and psychological in child-centered education | "There were the books, but I had to ask my friends the titles of them. I remembered a sentence from Rudolf Steiner, in his books on anthroposophy, which was the name he gave to his philosophy." Jorge Luis Borges, "Blindness", Selected Non-Fictions
  • Astigmatic: of or relating to a defect in the eye or in a lens caused by a deviation from spherical curvature which prevents light rays from meeting at a common focus and so results in distorted images | "We have even made the mistake of thinking of early photography as imperfect, slightly astigmatic, a primitive craft improved and modernized only recently." Paul Theroux, Sunrise with Sea Monsters
  • Prehensile: 1) adapted for grasping especially by wrapping an object around it 2) having a keen intellect 3) immoderately desirous of acquiring e.g. wealth | "Consider three words: "apprehend," "comprehend," "prehensile." There is, deep in the process of human knowing, a necessary and active reaching out - to understand is to grasp, to take in." - Jane Hirshfield, Ten Windows
  • Pastiche: a musical composition consisting of a series of songs or other musical pieces from various sources. | "And yet, now matter how magnificent, signed by a contemporary composer it would be laughable. At best its author would be applauded as a virtuoso of pastiche." - Milan Kundera, The Curtain
  • Copse: a dense growth of bushes | I've looked up this word three times (a testament to my terrible memory). First, I read it in Cormac McCarthy's Suttree: "stripped and rotting in its copse of trees by the river". Then, in John Kinsella's potent narrative poem "The Hunt" (Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems): "copse surrounded by fluorescent green crops of wheat" and finally, Mary Oliver uses the word in her essay about the Jesuit poet (one of my favorites) Gerard Manley Hopkins: "His one escape from a life of self-restraint, labor, and humility was his feeling for the natural world—landscapes and waterways and copses, and especially the yearly gift of spring—in which he read the proof of God." (Winter Hours)