“Nay, but let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master; and while he recognizes and acknowledges the truth, even in their religious literature, let him reject the figments of superstition, and let him grieve over and avoid men who, when they knew God, glorified him not as God, neither were thankful.”
- Saint Augustine, De doctrina christiana, Bk 2, 18.
Fisher More College’s Literature program seeks to introduce the student to the great works of human story-telling. The texts are chosen for their importance in the history of the Western tradition, but also for their moral content. Students study great works such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. The goal of the program is to examine the integration of theology, philosophy of man, aesthetics, and history through the medium of literature.
All students are required to take the following Literature courses in the Core Curriculum:
LIT 1341 · Epic I. Ancient Epic. An introduction to the epic genre through a close reading of the first great epic texts of Western civilization: Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid. The themes considered in the study of ancient epic include the hero and his vocation, honor and the virtues, the relation of man to the gods, the meaning of time, Christian typology in pagan literature, and the importance and meaning of myth. This course also serves as an introduction to the study of literature and to the basic principles of literary criticism. All texts are read in entirety. Required texts: Homer’s Iliad, Odyssey; Virgil’s Aeneid.
LIT 1342 · Epic II. Medieval and Modern Epic. The epic genre depicts the heroic vocation of man as he responds to the eternal values that he encounters in the temporal world. Medieval and modern epic literature is concerned with the epic theme of establishing right order in the city and the soul that has been revealed in ancient epic. However, this theme is studied in the specifically Christian context of Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost, in which the full epic pattern of the soul’s journey toward God and the attempt to build the New Jerusalem are embodied. This course may also include study of Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. All texts for this course are read in their entirety.
LIT 2341 · Tragedy and Comedy. Study of the tragic and comic genres in literature reveals two related but different modes of human experience. Tragic texts are concerned with man’s confrontation with guilt and the choice he makes to accept or deny that guilt. Comic works reveal a universe permeated with grace in which the highest virtue is receptivity or humility. The readings for this course are studied as offering paradigmatic expressions of these two possibilities of human experience.
LIT 2342 · Lyric Poetry. The lyric genre embodies themes of vision, knowledge, love, and wholeness, exploring man’s memory and intuitions of an unfallen world. Thus, study of the lyric genre includes the themes of poetic intuition, love between man and woman, and love between the soul and God. This course considers the patterns of the lyric genre from its roots in Genesis, the Song of Solomon, and the Psalms and proceeds through English and American poetry to the twentieth century, with particular emphasis upon seventeenth- and early nineteenth-century British poetry. Although the entire pattern of the lyric genre is considered, the focus in this course is on the love between man and woman and the soul and God, since the lyric theme of poetic intuition is extensively studied in LIT JS344, “Literary Criticism and the Creative Process.” The list of poems which embody the nature and stages of the lyric genre studied in this course continually expands. Additionally, students are required to give weekly presentations, interpreting lyric poems which are not in the syllabus; in this way, also, new poems are introduced into the course.
LIT 3341 · Novel I. This course offers study of five to six literary works of art, some originally written in English and some read in translation. The novels read are exemplary in their depiction of man in modernity, embodying themes such as alienation, a preference for the abstract over the concrete, and the failure to interpret reality according to its true character. This fourth course in the literature sequence also deepens the student’s insight into the epic, comic, and tragic genres as they are manifested in this most recent major literary form.
LIT 3342 · Novel II. As with all true literary works of art, the novels of the great Russian writers embody insights into the most profound questions of mankind: the meaning of existence and of suffering, the relationship of man to God and to his fellow man, the reality of human freedom and responsibility, and man’s calling to a life of active love (as Father Zosima puts it in The Brothers Karamazov). The Russians’ works, like Shakespeare’s, are worth studying for this reason alone. There are also, however, particular insights into the meaning of human experience to be gained from the specific sensibility of the Russian people—from their understanding, for instance, of the relationship of man to the earth, to culture, and to community.
The following courses are required for students seeking a Literature concentration:
LIT 4349 · Literary Criticism and the Creative Process. This course focuses on literature and the other arts as modes of knowledge through examining the origin of works of art in creative intuition; the process of embodying creative intuition in the work; mimesis; the organic form and unity of works of art (particularly literary works of art); the analogical imagination and levels of analogy in the literary work of art; the eschatological nature of works of art; the telos of the work of art; the transmission of creative intuition through the work to the reader; and the proper critical approach to explicating literary works of art. Readings include literary criticism, poetry, a novel and short story, and essays on the creative process. SPRING OF SENIOR YEAR.
LIT 3346 · Twentieth Century Novel, Short Story, and Theatre. Twentieth century literature, in general, reveals the particular nature of modernity. Modernity owes much of its character to the immense changes in culture which immediately followed the first World War: a certain cynicism; some degree of despair; a feeling that past beliefs cannot be recaptured. Some of the readings in this course reflect this character of modernity, and it is a very good thing for students to be aware of such cultural changes since they form the background from which the culture of the twenty-first century is growing. Toward the end of the twentieth century, however, cultural perspectives changed somewhat. This is most easily seen in the Modern Poetry course, but various dramatists and novelists of the late twentieth century reflect this upward swing in perspective and new hopes for the culture. Works read in this course are selected from Conrad, Lord Jim; Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, and selected short stories; Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Cheever, selected short stories; Cather, One of Ours, The Song of the Lark, selected short stories; Forster, A Passage to India; Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera; Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, selected short stories; Endo, Deep River; Havel, selected plays; Stoppard, Arcadia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
LIT 3347 · Modern Poetry. Poetry of the early twentieth century reflects the wide-sweeping cultural changes which ensued largely as an aftermath of World War I. One has only to think of the early poetry of T. S. Eliot to see the beginnings of the “Lost Generation.” But poets are not easily constrained, and many poets of the twentieth century, particularly the latter part of the century, have again learned to praise. Poets studied in this course actually begin before the twentieth century, with Emily Dickinson, Matthew Arnold, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and William Butler Yeats. Study continues with Dylan Thomas, A. E. Housman, W. H. Auden, early T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Richard Wilbur, and Seamus Heaney, among many others.
LIT 3349 · Southern Literature. The South of the United States retained a distinctive character in literature, wholly different from the literature of the North. The distinctive literature of the South has been attributed to Southerners not embracing the technological advances of the North, being rooted to particular pieces of land on which they practiced agriculture, and, above all, retaining a more traditional, classical education in their schools. Texts studied in this course reveal the distinctive character of Southern literature, as well as many other things arising from the particular author’s proclivities. Works read are chosen from Faulkner, Flags in the Dust, The Reivers; O’Connor, Mystery and Manners, selected novellas and short stories; Welty, The Eye of the Story, One Writer’s Beginnings, selected short stories; Agee, A Death in the Family; Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel; Taylor, A Summons to Memphis, selected short stories; Percy, The Moviegoer; Porter, selected short stories; Warren, All the King’s Men, Band of Angels, World Enough and Time, A Place to Come To; Gordon, The Women on the Porch, The Strange Children, selected short stories; Ransom et alii, I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition. Essays and poems by the Fugitive Group (John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson, Allen Tate, Cleanth Brooks, Robert Penn Warren, and Andrew Lytle), as well as essays by Richard Weaver, may also be read.
LIT 3348 · T.S. Eliot: Four Quaretets & Other Poems and Plays. With his discovery of religious faith, T. S. Eliot’s poetry changed radically in theme, diction, and tone. Four Quartets is a poem which requires much study to arrive at an interpretation; its study will occupy a major portion of this course. Poems such as “Ash Wednesday” and “The Journey of the Magi,” among others, will also be studied, as well as selected plays.
The following are electives in Literature:
LIT 3342 · Faulkner. Almost fifty years after being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, Faulkner continues to be one of the least understood of the truly great writers, although he has been called by those who have come to understand him the “Dante of the twentieth century.” Faulkner has said that it is the “eternal verities” which are the subject of great literature and that “the human heart in conflict with itself” is the only thing worth writing about, and a close study of his work reveals that indeed it is the perennial human condition which is his subject. This course examines the full scope of Faulkner’s vision, from the earlier novels embodying a tragic view of the world through the later works which reveal his deepening insight into man’s experience as fundamentally comic, permeated by grace, love, and hope, and issuing in glory. Works read include Absalom, Absalom; The Sound and the Fury; Go Down, Moses; The Hamlet; The Town; and The Mansion.
LIT 3345 · Topics in Literature. Topics outside the courses constituting the required curriculum and approved by the Fellows are offered from time to time. These courses do not fulfill degree requirements unless approved for this purpose by the Academic Dean before registration.