Literature Philosophy

Literature Philosophy Statement

The study of literature goes beyond simply examining plot or mechanics: It is an exploration of the human experience in all its facets. For all of human history, we have told stories to convey not only personal experiences but also deeper truths about ourselves and the world. Studying literature means entering into these stories and conversations about what is good, what it means to be human, and what our ultimate purpose is. Good literature wrestles with these questions but does so in a way that speaks to both the soul and the mind through the beauty and power of stories, language, and human emotion. The study of literature is ultimately an interpretive study of the complexities of life itself.

In keeping with the Mount Saint Joseph Mission, the goal of the English department is to equip students with the skills needed to engage with literature and enter the conversations it raises. In selecting works of literature to study, we consider the following questions:

  • Why is this work of literature worthy of study?
  • What is the central message and related themes of this work?
  • How does this work lead to discussions regarding Catholic beliefs and values, especially those regarding the dignity of the human person, morality, and social justice?

Because the study of literature is a study of the human experience—in all its goodness and brokenness—students may encounter works that contain mature content (violence, sex, racism, language, etc.). If this occurs, our aim is to help students process and evaluate the content with the guidance of a teacher and in the light of Catholic teaching. We hope that students who engage in critical thinking and effective discourse in the classroom will be better equipped to navigate the complex situations they will inevitably encounter throughout their lives. When evaluating whether to include a work of literature that contains mature content, we weigh the following aspects:

  • What is the author’s stance on the material? Is he or she condemning it, simply acknowledging something that exists, or actively promoting it?
  • What is the justification for the content? How does it further the author’s purpose?
  • What is the balance of the content within the overall scope of the novel?
  • What grade level would read it? Can the students be expected to possess the maturity to understand and discuss it in an academic setting?
  • When would it be read, with the guidance of a teacher or independently (e.g. during the summer)?

It is our goal to equip young men to be strong students of literature and virtuous men of faith and conviction—as we say at Mount Saint Joseph, to help them “become the men God intends them to be.” The study of literature and the ensuing conversations provide an ideal opportunity to engage in this mission.

Mount Saint Joseph High School

Mount Saint Joseph is a Catholic, college preparatory school for young men sponsored by the Xaverian Brothers.