“Literature is the center of a classical curriculum for it is through stories that we receive instruction most effectively. The scriptures are the best illustration of this truth: God did not reveal a systematic theology, but a highly unsystematic collection of historical narratives and literary works”, Robert Spencer reminds us in his essay “Speak, Write, Act”. The Bible acquaints us with the outline of history — with Creation, Rebellion, and Redemption — as Dorothy Sayers puts it. Great literature, ancient or modern, grapples with these facts of human existence. That is why we study ancient writers and the very best of the modern writers. The study of literature serves many purposes. It focuses on the highest literary and artistic achievements of Western civilization, elevating the mind and soul. It introduces students to the greatest books in their original sources, not just textbook summaries, encouraging the development of critical thinking. It illustrates the synthesis between belief and human actions, demonstrating the inter-play between the two in our world.
Literature introduces students to the world of imagination and to the workings of the author’s and the characters’ mind(s). It is a living laboratory of moral choices, and must be judged from the standpoint of the Christian worldview in order to be appreciated for all it has to teach us. Kolbe students are taught to view literature as a fundamentally moral and religious activity, one that inspires us to right action and to works of charity. Reading for the Kolbe student involves four essential attitudes: the assimilative, critical, vocational, and recreational. In other words, Kolbe students read to form themselves properly in body, mind, and soul. They read to form a reasoned critique of the world around them, to gain mastery in a vocation, and to use leisure time well. Additionally, high school students are taught how to apply the four-fold test to literature. They read to become acquainted with the facts, the literal level; to correctly judge the moral actions of men, the city or the nation, the moral level; to understand the actions of men as they relate to the redemption of the individual soul, the allegorical level; and to deepen their understanding of human life as a journey to Heaven, the eschatological/biblical level.
When human beings tell stories, they are acting in imitation of the author of the universe. When they are informed by the Catholic vision of the world, they engage the world in such a way that hearts, minds, and wills may be won for the Faith. Laboring to create works of enduring beauty, as God himself creates, they act as good stewards of the gifts that God gave them. Though certainly not all Kolbe graduates will go on to work as novelists, poets or dramatists, they will have opportunity to read, discuss, view and present literary and dramatic works all of their lives as they fulfill the vocations to which God has called them.