Every student that comes to Patrick Henry College takes Western Literature I and Western Literature II—two foundational classes that make up a critical part of Patrick Henry College’s classical core curriculum. Out of 63-credits of classes, two semesters of literature may not seem like the most important pair of courses. But West Lit I & II are usually either freshman-level or sophomore-level classes, ensuring that students take them early in their time at PHC—and for good reason.
The purpose behind these classes is to expose students to some of the greatest thinkers and writers in the western tradition and to encounter deep truths behind the human condition as seen in literature. These classes explore Homer, C.S. Lewis, Dostoevsky, Virgil, Chaucer, and many other influential authors.
Literature, in a similar vein to art or philosophy, has a unique way of laying bare the central questions that societies have asked themselves throughout time. What is the good life? What is innocence? What is justice? What is revenge? Is hate worth holding on to? By studying the great written works, one can see that these questions say more about humanity that they do about books. Literature speaks to history, political theory, philosophy, cultural values and so many other facets of how readers would have understood the world around them. For Patrick Henry College students who have just begun their college education, a dive into literature is, at least in part, a gateway to larger questions.
That’s why West Lit I & II are part of the classical common core. It’s a large component of a liberal arts education.
The Greeks had a concept of a full or well-rounded education. It was, as they put it, the education a man needed in order to be free. That’s where we get the term “liberal arts education”—an understanding that an educated citizen needs a rich and broad education to understand the world around one’s self. At Patrick Henry College we believe that part of a well-rounded college instruction looks like equipping students with a context of the ongoing human discussion as seen in literature.
By the time they submit their last assignment in Western Lit I & II students will have read some of the most influential books ever written, increased their knowledge of literature, and expanded their worldview.
To learn more about literature at Patrick Henry College, click below!