"Tell me what text you find most beautiful (or a couple of them....)
and/or a text that has taught you the most (important thing) about beauty."

A Survey of Bryn Mawr's English Department (and associated others)

Gloria Nayler's Mama Day

The Song of Songs (The Bible)

The Bluest Eye and The Color Purple

Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra and The Winter's Tale and Chaucer's Troilus and Creiseyde

Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans for its audible beauty and ee cummings for its visual beauty

Is it in "Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking" that Whitman says "Death is the mother of beauty?" That's an important idea, for me.

i know that the shapes will open.
flying will fly and singing will sing.
because the only power of man is in good.
and all evil shall fail.
i believe in the truth.
i believe that every good thought i have,
all men shall have.
i believe that what is best in me
shall be found in every man.
i believe that only the beautiful
shall survive on the earth.
--Kenneth Patchen

this isn't a quick one to answer. beauty in the text and texts about beauty are so different...one 'beautiful text' really doesn't come to mind, it's like choosing a favorite something--makes me think of all the different ways you can take beauty, flash on all the texts that are beautiful in diff. ways, so can't/won't do this one! as far as texts teaching me about beauty, that's hard too but 2 or 3 things come to mind...dorian gray (obvious one) and linda hogan's essays in a different way.

I have always regarded The Waves by Virginia Woolf as the most beautiful text. Here are some fumbling attempts to explain my choice: the book seems to favor the sheer beauty of words over any imagined scenes those words are describing; the book is sensual as opposed to intellectual--and for that very reason, is the most obscure, hardest to read, and hence regarded as the most intellectual of Woolf's texts. At the same time, many of Woolf's works, especially The Waves, are about the dangers of beauty, both as a gendered concept that particularly restricts women to being sensual as opposed to intellectual (and so condemns Rhoda, who cannot find a face or a set of words to make herself visible, to suicide) and as a general quality that soothes and assuages rather than disrupts and presses for something more--beauty is a form of consumption rather than a form of production.

so, i started reading waves. huh? but it has had the weird effect of leaving in my head this rhythm of waves coming in. the words actually do that! i wonder if that's what [your colleague] thought was beautiful? it's kinda cool, but mind-boggling if you're trying to extract the meaning from the text. ????

Holy cow. How does a survey help you answer this question? The last thing I read and loved is usually the most beautiful. Possibly bec. I think of beauty as a) something in-making, an attribute of the performance rather than a quality of a thing perceived; and b) that attribution or perception of beauty as fundamentally an element of social transactions. So I don't think I can answer your question as asked, which seems to want aesthetic examples, which already puts me into the arena of b). But perhaps:

FYI, Michelle Strizever had the college buy, for quite a pretty penny, a copy of Guillermo Gomez-Pena's "art book" (which means a book that is, in its very substance, art), Codex Espangliensis. It's an INCREDIBLE and HUGE (you have to "read" it on several of the library's tables) book that takes the Mayan book form (kind of an acordian book). Anyway, it's incredibly beautiful, incredibly moving, intervenes into all sorts of western reading practices, and it's in the Rare Book Room at the library. You can read about it in Michelle's senior essay, if you want, which is in E-house lounge. The chapter on that book is chapter 2, I think. Which I guess leads me to the confession that I have always found illustrated books fascinating and gorgeous (I have a bunch of them), perhaps especially early comic art like Winsor McCay's (terribly racist) Little Nemo in Slumberland, or the incredible Rockwell Kent illustrations for Moby Dick. Perhaps this is just because I have an underdeveloped eye for beauty in writing? Or because I'm fascinated by where someone else (an illustrator) finds the moment of beauty or at least of visualization? I get all weepy over "Peace in the Valley" and "Nearer My God to Thee," but at that point I'd best just STOP.

This is a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I'm giving it the old college try. First of all, I don't think I think about complete texts as beautiful: the beautiful functions for me, I think, as an interruption or a moment in a text. (The beautiful is difficult to sustain? I think I may be confusing the beautiful and the sublime; see below.) My examples of this from cinema might be some predictable moments of astonishing visual splendor, which I think may be closer to the effect of the sublime, because they have to do with magnitude (close-ups, which are intensifications or magnifications of certain actors or actresses - say, Maggie Cheung, Gong Li, Montgomery Clift - and so forth; or shots of massive crowds, moving as a single body, like Busby Berkeley's choreography in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 or DAMES, or the scenes near the end of Zhang Yimou's recent HERO). But I think also of moments of sublime physical comedy as beautiful: perhaps the best examples of this for me are W. C. Fields in IT'S A GIFT and Jerry Lewis in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR: both of these films are about a bodies that wreak havoc on the social world and its physical trappings. I think it's the quality of imminent chaos, of an always-about-to-occur accident or disaster that strikes me as beautiful in these films: the same way that beauty is (like pornography) something you know only when you see it (and can't say why; like love?), there's something of the inexplicable in the presence of the accident in the everyday life of these characters. (I realize I'm completely out of step with the history of philosophy in describing beauty in terms of an inexplicable, personal response...) If it's literary texts we need: I think of almost anything by Roland Barthes as beautiful, especially the opening pages of S/Z, the introduction to MYTHOLOGIES, CAMERA OBSCURA. Same goes for Foucault; good examples here are the short essay I referred to in the Americanist group, "War in the Filigree of Peace," which is a remarkable summary of a course he taught and the lecture that's reproduced in THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE, in part because they're so lucid and so effortless in laying out an entire system of research and criticism (in the latter case, planned to cover decades). I also happen to think of THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG as a beautiful work, perhaps for the same reason I find Fields and Lewis beautiful.

i think that the little prince is a beautiful story. it isn't beautiful in the way a hand-woven blue blanket is, but in a the way that a bubble is beatiful because it is so light and delicate and simple and quaint. and beacuse it reflects so many colors. but i'm going to keep thinking aobut it, and maybe i'll come up with something else.

the little prince is right up there with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for me....yes, i had forgotten... how his rose alone is so beautiful to him, because of the connections... makes me cry to just start thinking about it!

Mayra Santos-Febres...is the Puerto Rican writer I was speaking about. I fell in love with her writing when I read Urban Oracles, a collection of her stories translated from the Spanish. There is one story titled, "Brine Mirror," which starts off like this..."Exactly alike, deliriously so, in all our parts. The motel, the smell of motel soap, of gas from the air conditioner, the smell of disinfectant and Spanish cider and her, naked against my skin my stomach cramp, my nakedness which never seemed so identical, so repeated, my exact cramps in her stomach, talking, talking, talking." I really think this is beautiful text--hardly any other piece of literature has invoked such feelings in my body. I highly recommend reading her work for consideration, particularly this story.... Also, Paul Monette's collection titled Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog were so heartbreaking they were beautiful to me....Finally, (well for now) I would suggest for your reading pleasure and for more examples of beautiful texts I recommend Reinaldo Arenas Before Night Falls, a memoir written by a Gay Cuban man which has the most lovely, vivid and haunting images of childhood and home I have ever read. Yes, it's a movie (which I also recommend) but the book of course is oh so good.