By placing before us examples of the high and noble, the classic works of literature ignite in us the desire to reach such heights of greatness as well. While distinct from philosophy and science, literature as an academic discipline is comparable to both in its breadth and depth of imparting knowledge. Moreover, as the ancient Greek writer Cicero pointed out, “nothing is sweeter and more useful than the study of literature” because of its power to illuminate the beauty of the truth about the human person. For these reasons, the English program approaches literature as a vehicle of truth that imparts wisdom.
Thus, the English curriculum seeks to cultivate the students’ ability to understand, appreciate, and respond to the great works of our literary tradition. Students search out the wisdom of the poets and refine their judgment by taking part in seminar discussions focused on the chief works of major authors. Students are encouraged to learn what the best of the writers understand about human nature and the human experience throughout the ages. In doing so, they also follow in the footsteps of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who so loved Dante’s great epic
The Divine Comedy
that he committed large passages to memory and would spontaneously recite them for his friends.
“…A selfless desire for a commitment to calling, a sense that honor is far more valuable than life—these are aspects of the soul that must be awakened by a vision of the high and the noble. And herein lies one of the great values of studying the classics: our poetic heritage gives imperishable form to the heroic aspiration.”
-Dr. Louise Cowan
Throughout the English course of study, students develop their ability to read and think critically, and then to express themselves orally and in written form. Special emphasis is placed on mastery of the written word through an intensive writing program that is carefully woven into each course.
The course sequence parallels the Ethics and Culture department courses. The freshmen English course is organized thematically around the question of the human person’s search for identity, thus dovetailing with the Ethics and Culture course,
The Human Person
. In the sophomore English course, the literature explores the question of man’s search for happiness, complementing the Ethics and Culture course,
Principles of Ethics: The Search for Happiness.
The study of logic, rhetoric, and analytical writing in the junior and senior courses also helps students as they address the more complex issues in Bioethics and in their senior writing project.
The mission of Frassati Catholic High School’s English Department is twofold: 1) for students to achieve
excellence in writing, interpretive, and critical language skills and 2) for students to achieve a certain excellence of soul, by learning to integrate the knowledge to be gained from great literature not only into their other courses but into their own lives.
from the article entitled “The Necessity of the Classics,” published in the Intercollegiate Review Fall 2001