Over the years of homeschooling our children, I have come to realize that a true study of literature goes beyond just reading the book. I guess I always knew this, but like most things it does not really hit home until you begin to teach it. We recently read and are now posting a review of The Eternal Argument which is published by Analytical Grammar. Reading through this work really helped to affirm our family’s tendency to study history and literature of the same time and culture together. But there will be more on that further on in our review.
The Eternal Argument by R. Robin Finley and published by Analytical Grammar is a 285 page softcover work that presents a framework for understanding Western Literature and Culture. The book begins with a presentation of the basic questions of whether there is a God and who man is in relation to that God? These very questions are the basis to every worldview that has come about since the beginning of time. What man has done with those questions have formed nations, ideologies, and governments throughout the span of all time. The art and literature that has arisen in response is represetative of the answers that any people group have to these two fundamental questions.
After identifying this platform, the author does a survey in the subsequent chapters of the major time periods in world history and its pendulum movement from a humanistic view to a theistic view. Her discussion travels from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Neo-Classical, Romanticism, Realism, Natualisma, and finally to Modernism as seen in philosophies and literature. In each chapter, she uses different major works of literature to demonstrate the main ideologies and changes in literary themes found during the period. Major elements of World History are also introduces to provide the proper context for this discussion.
In the final chapters of The Eternal Argument, chapters are presented in sharing the vocabulary of the world of literary analysis as well as on how to apply all that was shared in this book to others books that are studied in high school literature classes as well as just as we read for pleasure. In concluding, Finley shares her own response to the eternal argument and the fact that we each have our own answer to those two fundamental questions. We approach our evaluation of literature, world politics, and cultures around the world by how we answer those questions, which can otherwise we termed our personal worldview. We are all biased by our fundamental beliefs and should recognize this as we analyze current events, the arts, or ships in world politics.
As I shared at the beginning of this review, our family has always had a tendency toward studying the same period and cultures in literature as what we are studying in history. When we began this approach, my thought was simply that great literature would help to really bring the historical events to life. I never really gave much thought to the reverse impact. What did the study of history and the historical context of literature bring to our understanding and response to literary works? The Eternal Argument has certainly made me think about this and really consider at a deeper level how to intertwine our studies in this coming year.
As a music major in college, I remember that when I first took music history courses that I felt like my carefree listening of music simply for pleasure was eternally wrecked by the thorough analysis of the time periods and developments that brought about the changes in music. Critically evaluating the changes in instrumentation, themes, harmonies, and the thickness of the music at first made something that was simply a pleasure into an academic experience. In starting our journey in reading The Eternal Argument I felt those same feelings evolving even without presenting it to my children. But then a lightbulb went on! My listening and enjoyment of music from various time periods now seems so much richer and deep, because I understand these different elements. It no longer feels academic, but has given me a greater appreciation for what I am listening to. As I worked my way through the chapters of this book, I came to realize that the same can be true for my children as they experience literary works. Their love of the richness and depth of literature will grow as they understand it not from an academic exercise, but in making it into their approach to reading.
The trick is in presenting this to them. Although this book is recommended for students in Grade 8 and above, my personal feeling is that the content in this book will be much more greatly received if I as my children’s teacher can use it as a reference and guide in leading my children on their journeys through literature. I could easily see how I could build a survey of World Literature course using this book as the basis and strategically present books as they follow these major periods of time. The discussion questions and major points presented would allow for assisting my children to process what they are reading beyond just the plot and discussion of the major and minor characters.
The Eternal Argument has created a deeper thinking for myself in how I choose to present and analyze literature with my children. In introducing this to them in a systematic way, I believe it has the power to forever change the way that they approach reading literary works and the depth to which they will enjoy them. We use our written word to convey truths from our own personal worldviews. It is in understanding the perspective and things influencing an author that truly helps us to understand what he or she was trying to communicate to the reader.
This book can be purchased from the vendor’s website for $24.95.
As always, be sure to check out what others are sharing about The Eternal Argument and other products reviewed from Analytical Grammar.