Ben McCabe - Augustine Academy Director
"We have spent thousands of years watching ourselves act and telling stories about how to act. A good story has a universal quality, which means that it speaks a language we all understand. Any universally comprehensible language must have universal referents, and this means that a good story must speak to us about those aspects of experience that we all share." - Jordan Petersen, Maps of Meaning
While the biologist studies the body and the neurologist, the brain; the student of literature grapples with the nature of man’s very soul, understanding its deepest workings, motivations and fears. The truths revealed implicitly through literature offer an insight into the nature of the human condition in a way no other discipline might. Narrative functions as a vehicle for communicating answers to those the perennial truths that beset humanity:
What should I strive for?
How should I structure my hierarchy of values?
What can be done in the face of existential catastrophe?
What is the true nature of love?
What does it mean to know yourself?
How do we navigate our unconscious fears?
Beginning with the cosmogonic myths of the ancient Greeks and Babylonians, students will look at the earliest attempts to understand the meaning inherent in reality. The course will also look at writers such as Cicero and Augustine who wrestle with such questions as ‘why a divine being chose, at a given point in time, to create a cosmos?’ The course will then delve into the great epics of Homer, studying the actions of his protagonists from an Aristotelian ethical framework. The course will then move into an in-depth analysis of Greek tragedies, covering such playwrights as Aeschylus & Euripides.
LITERARY WORKS COVERED
Homer - The Iliad & the Odyssey
Hesiod - Theogony & Works and days
Aristotle - Nicomachean Ethics
Cicero - The Nature of the gods
St. Augustine - City of God & The Confessions
Aeschylus - Prometheus Bound, Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers
Euripides - Medea
Nathanial Hawthorne - Medusa
Beginning with Beowulf, this unit surveys a range of medieval literature. A number of Anglo-Saxon poems are studied before moving on to the Middle English literature of Chaucer and the Arthurian legends. The Christian allegories embedded in literature of this period are studied, as well as the effects that feudalism had upon heroic archetypes.
In this unit a number of Shakespeare plays are studied. Cervantes’ famous work Don Quixote provides an insight into the shift of attitudes that occurred in the early modern period. The themes of free will and divine omniscience are explored in John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. The literary theory of Philip Sydney and allegories of Edmund Spenser are also explored during the course.
In the final term of literature we examine some of the most prominent writers of the modern era, including William Wordsworth, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mark Twain, Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. The course looks at the movement of Romantic poetry, and it explores the themes of eschatology, ethics, sociology and national identity through the viewpoint of the modern authors.