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didactic

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Definition:

Intended or inclined to teach, preach, or instruct, often excessively. Noun: didacticism.

Didactic writing often makes use of the second-person point of view.

Highly regarded writers of didactic essays from the Victorian era include Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859), Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Thomas Macaulay (1800-1859), and John Ruskin (1819-1900). (See Examples and Observations, below.)

See also:

Etymology:

From the Greek, "to teach, educate"

Examples and Observations:

  • "What . . . do we mean by 'didactic literature'? It can be argued that every text in the early modern period had the potential to be viewed as didactic. Indeed, when Sir Philip Sidney conceived of reading of any sort as the best grounding for 'the trade of our lives,' he was far from alone in his commitment to this catholic interpretation. . . . [W]e have chosen . . . to concentrate mainly on those texts which were explicitly framed to instruct through the material they contained: amongst these are what we might today label 'how-to' books. Such books made their claims to educate and inspire from the outset, and were constructed both textually and physically, to achieve those goals: the ideal didactic text of this sort was ideally 'a Manual that shall neither burden the hands to hold, the Eyes in reading, nor the mind in conceiving.'"
    (Natasha Glaisyer and Sara Pennell, Introduction, Didactic Literature in England, 1500-1800, Ashgate, 2003)


  • "Dr. Spock could never understand why such critics as the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale and Spiro Agnew saw him in the 1960's as a proponent of instant gratification and rebelliousness. In advising parents, he was neither permissive nor authoritarian. His most famous suggestion was 'trust yourself,' a dramatic break from the rigid, didactic advice contained in parent guides until that time."
    ("Dr. Spock's Children," The New York Times, March 17, 1998)


  • "The flowery style is not unsuitable to public speeches or addresses, which amount only to compliment. . . . But the flowery style ought to be banished from a pleading, a sermon, or a didactic work."
    (Voltaire, A Philosophical Dictionary, 1764)


  • The Personal Essay and the Didactic Essay
    "One kind of essay, called the personal essay, seems to be the natural overflow of the writer's feelings. Another kind, called the didactic essay, seems to be the result of the writer's set purpose. In the personal essay, the writer takes the attitude of a confidential friend, and in setting forth his opinion indulges in much self-revelation. In the didactic essay, the writer takes the attitude of an instructor, and gives information and expresses opinion with an air of authority which is not offensive, but which is the natural dignity of the person who is talking about something concerning which he really is an authority, on account of his personal experience with the subject. The writer of the personal essay is at his best when he is playful and humorous; the writer of the didactic essay, when he is logical. In the personal essay the interest centers chiefly in the writer's personality; in the didactic, it centers in the proposition, or subject-matter. In the personal essay the opinion or proposition is delicately suggested; in the didactic essay, it is flatly stated. Both forms of the essay are good art.

    "The Didactic Essay.
    A writer with a clear mind, one which naturally acts logically, will be apt to develop so strong an opinion that he will be rather serious in setting it forth, and will naturally use the didactic or logical method, and simple, direct, and vigorous expression. Such a writer makes one clearly defined theme the nucleus of his essay, and chooses only such material as is appropriate for expanding that theme, for detaining the reader's mind upon it, and for directing the reader's attention to its different aspects, until it becomes as interesting a subject of thought to the reader as it is to the writer. He aims at careful plan. Divisions are few and distinct. The whole leaves a sense of completeness. The reader feels that just the points are given which are necessary to make a satisfactory whole; he does not feel that something may have been forgotten, or that anything could be left out. The author seems to have seen, before he started, the limits within which he would keep, and so completes a circle of thought. The art of this kind of essay consists in the choice of illustrations, and the way they are applied. All the facts and illustrations stand in perfectly clear relation to the theme, they are themselves full of suggestiveness and beauty, and are so arranged as to give them their greatest effectiveness. It is selection of material, combination of material, and style of language, which count in this kind of literary composition."
    (Angeline Parmenter Carey, The Reader's Basis. Echo Press, 1908)
Pronunciation: di-DAK-tik
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