From ancient times, the transmission of stories has been considered the most important element of the education of the young. Since the days of ancient Greece and Rome the analytical study of literature and language (grammar, logic and rhetoric) has formed each successive generation of orators and writers thereby both perpetuating and developing the vast record of thought which we call “the great conversation”.
Our Literature course is one of the broadest in Europe, giving students the opportunity to study writing in English from its origins in Anglo-Saxon England to the English language literature of the 20th and early 21st centuries across the world. As well as reading English literature, our students are (in other parts of our core programme) simultaneously introduced to Latin, French and even Spanish authors in the original languages, and to other key international writers in translation.
Literary studies at Chavagnes promote the development of sophisticated reading skills and the ability to place literary texts in their wider intellectual and historical contexts, with the help of the historical, theological and philosophical subjects studied in parallel. We also require our students to consider the critical processes behind analysis and appreciation of a text, to learn about literary form and technique, with a view not only to criticise the work of others but also to hone one’s own ability to speak and write incisively, powerfully and convincingly.
Literature is like a mirror held up to life. It deals with the same essential questions as philosophy, but in the concrete rather than in the abstract, and it powerfully engages our emotions, not just our intellect, in reflection on these profound questions. The poetic voice is part of man’s heritage and identity, individually and collectively. It is in this voice that since the dawn of time God has spoken to man, and man has spoken to God. At Chavagnes, we are not so much concerned about the question of how we can save the canon of the ‘Great Books’ from extinction (though that is a noble struggle), but rather how they can, with God’s grace, help to save us from the same fate.
Approached in this way, the study of literature, like the study of philosophy, is sapiential: it is about each generation listening humbly at the feet of its teachers to the stories and wisdom of our civilisation. In this particular field of study our students may, in a profound sense, pick up an ancient torch and themselves become bearers of the Tradition for future generations.
Apart from the cultural and spiritual advantages of this course, the literature studies in the Chavagnes BA degree will fully equip students to become teachers of English languages and literature, or to pursue academic research in the humanities.