A deeper understanding of calligraphy for IB teaching

Photo by Annamaria Rocca

I arrived at the Collegio Saint Guiseppe with mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation. A whole week devoted to exploring Japanese and Western calligraphy? And yet I had so little practical experience! My ostensible reason for coming was academic: to deepen an understanding of a famous text on Japanese aesthetics – In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki – that is central to my High School teaching syllabus for the International Baccalaureate. Would I be able to sustain such a concentrated spell of hands on learning?


Any fears were quickly allayed as I met the other participants, the tutors – Monica Dengo and Norio Nagayama – and Patricia Parpajola the course director. Everyone was so open and friendly. It was clearly going to be a most enjoyable week.

Day one and the expertise displayed by Monica and Norio was immediately inspiring. A IMG_0008.jpgteacher myself, I was struck by the generosity of spirit with which they not only gave advice and criticism but also actively demonstrated in their own work. Considerable risk is entailed in such ‘live’ performance and it embodied the sense of trust that underlies these courses. For me this was precious.


As one of the participants said on the last day, the course had exceeded even her highest expectations – a sentiment shared by all. Looking over the pieces we had each assembled during the seven days it seemed hard to believe the quality and sheer variety of work. This, in itself, is a testament to the encouragement given by the tutors to explore possibilities and find one’s own authentic form of expression.

In his collection of travel memoirs Italian Hours, the American novelist Henry James wrote of the charm he found “in the tone and the air and the happy hazard of things”. While he was describing his impressions of Italy as a whole, I can find no better way to capture what I have so profoundly appreciated about my week in Turin.

By Jonathan Jones, High School and IB English Teacher