Agreeing with the ancients that the primary ends of literature are to instruct and to delight, the purpose of these classes is to use the masterpieces of the canon to first examine the world and human nature in all of its vast and varied manifestations. With the imagination stimulated by this presentation, the ultimate aim is to aid the student in analyzing literature’s exposition of truth, especially of the three great transcendental ideals of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Over the course of reading and analyzing “the best of what has been thought and said,” the student experiences delight, that higher form of entertainment that involves the soul being elevated, the mind exercised, and the heart quickened.
As Pope Pius XII lyrically put it, the best literature “opens a window to the infinite.” Taught this way, literature classes work in harmony with every other class, especially religion, philosophy, history, music, and art.
With this understanding of literature, it is easy to understand why, in the quest to form solid Catholic gentlemen, each student takes four years of literature at La Salette. The goal is not to produce literary scholars per se, but rather to expose students to the greatest thoughts, to a noble manner of thinking and acting that is proper to a Catholic man. Consequently, only the greatest works of literature are emphasized, with some parallels to the time periods being studied in history, but by no means slavishly so.
An education in the liberal arts also involves the disciplines of grammar and rhetoric so that the student can learn to express the truth with clarity, dignity, and ease. As a result, every literature class incorporates robust instruction in English grammar, vocabulary, and expository and argumentative composition. Finally, a number of public speaking engagements are demanded of the student so that he may learn to feel comfortable and confident when expressing himself orally.
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