How to Use This Course
This course examines worldviews and how they manifest themselves in literature. Taught by Dr. Steven Hake, the Chair of the Department of Classical Liberal Arts and Director of the Literature major at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, this advanced literature study will look at how authors have answered the “big questions” of philosophy. There are discussion questions in the form of weekly written assignments for the student to complete, along with one-page journal entries and a ten-page final paper. If this course is taken in full, completing all reading assignments and written assignments, the course is worth a minimum of .5 language arts credit. If the student explores this course in depth and spends approximately 180 hours completing this course (two hours per day for eighteen weeks or one hour per day for thirty-six weeks), it is worth one high school credit in language arts. As always, please check your own state’s academic requirements.
*Important note: students are required to read several works in this course as listed in the Course Introduction under the Course Details tab. These books will need to be obtained from your library prior to beginning the class.
This course examines worldviews and how they manifest themselves in literature. This course is presented to help students better understand the Christian faith and how it relates to the world around them. However, many of the worldviews studied are contrary to, and even hostile toward, a Christian worldview, and these books explore some difficult topics. Parents are encouraged to review this course carefully before sharing it with their students to determine if they are mature enough and spiritually discerning enough to engage with this course.
Everybody has a worldview. Every author has a worldview. Every literary work embodies a certain attitude toward life; it assumes certain answers to the “big questions” that have always been asked by artists and philosophers: Where have we come from? Where are we going? Does human history have any purpose? Literature, unlike philosophy, is concrete, and appeals to the feelings and senses as well as the mind. One of the best ways to really understand a worldview is to look at a literary embodiment of it.
An overall pattern and historical development is discernible among the worldviews found in western literature. Insight into this helps greatly in understanding both the intellectual history and literature of the West. The six novels (and one poem) we will read are: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Christian theism), “The Universal Prayer” by Alexander Pope (Deism), The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (naturalism), The Trial by Franz Kafka (nihilism), The Plague by Albert Camus (existentialism), Siddharthaby Herman Hesse (eastern pantheistic monism), Island by Aldous Huxley (new age), and White Noise by Don DeLillo (postmodernism). In addition, we will read together The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog by James Sire to help us unify and focus the course.
I should warn you. These novels (with the exception of the first) portray worldviews that are disturbing. They portray them in ways that disturb. I am assuming on the part of the students in this course a real measure of spiritual maturity in approaching these works. These are all serious, well-written novels by major authors. We can learn much from them as Christians. May God guide us through our study of them.
Length: 18 weekly lessons
Includes: Eighteen printable weekly lessons
Age/Grade: High school (see note in Course Introduction)
Eighteen lessons are designed to be completed weekly or once every two weeks.
Here is a printable reading list of the books covered in this course.
If this course is taken in full, completing all reading assignments and written assignments, the course is worth a minimum of .5 language arts credit. If the student explores this course in depth and spends approximately 180 hours completing this course (two hours per day for eighteen weeks or one hour per day for thirty-six weeks), it is worth one high school credit in language arts.