anthroposophy, astigmatic, prehensile, pastiche, copse

  • 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)

Words is an occassional posting of new-to-me words I discover via my literary rambles (you can read more about how I capture these and why I started this series here).