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Literature


 

Literature

 

 

Our emphasis in our courses is first to enjoy literature as a whole. Learning to engage in a meaningful dialogue with an author through his text fosters delight in exploring his ideas. Learning to appreciate a writer's artistry and the subtleties of how he conveys his message further enhances both a student's understanding and pleasure. Students experience the excitement of reaching epiphanies as they explore the relevance of encountered themes to their lives today. Increased appreciation of literature is a primary objective of every class.
 
A thoughtful study of classic literature also nurtures discernment. Stories depicting life, including an individual's emotions, character traits, and choices with their consequences provide vicarious experience. Students learn to evaluate whether these depictions are authentic representations of life; whether decisions were wise, pragmatic, or biblically sound; whether alternative courses of action would have produced better outcomes, and whether ideas and worldviews represent truth or falsehood. Thus, literature becomes a tool for growing in wisdom.

At the same time, before we examine a work to assess its worldview, we must first read the text with a heart and mind to thoroughly grasp the story. To fully understand an author's message and viewpoint, we must experience his or her world through the culture and times in which the writer lives, through the perspective of the author, his characters, and their life experience. Only then can we begin to comprehend an author's message entirely. We cannot accurately assess what we do not first understand. When addressing this same point, in their Teaching the Classics: Worldview Supplement, Missy and Adam Andrews of The Center for Literary Education quote the Christian author and literary analyst C.S. Lewis in An Experiment in Criticism as follows: 

 

We must not make books the vehicles of our own subjectivity. We must begin by laying aside as completely as we can all of our own preconceptions, interests, and associations. Then, we must use our eyes. We must look and go on looking until we have seen exactly what is there. We sit down before the picture in order to have something done to us, not that we may do things with it. The first demand any work of art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way. (There is no good asking first whether a work before you deserves such a surrender, for until you have surrendered you cannot possibly find out.)

 

Only first having "surrendered," can the Christian reader move on to fully grasping a work and to considering its theme and worldview accurately.  Thus, in reading any literary work, students learn first to lay aside their preconceptions and fully understand the text, then to analyze worldview as they contemplate any wisdom they might glean from the text.  This process results in lively class discussions and increased enjoyment of the books.  At the same time, students learn how to analyze the text from a literary perspective, gaining not only a literary vocabulary but also a deep understanding of how to use the tools of literary analysis to deepen their appreciation and comprehension of the works they read.

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