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Cultivating a Vision of the Good Life Through Literature

Dec 15, 2022

Reflecting on his conversion to Christianity, C.S. Lewis stated that he was led to faith by his imagination. When he read myths and fairy tales where good triumphed over evil, he longed for these things to be true. Ultimately, he realized that these desires could only be fulfilled in Christ

Lewis’s conversion story is an excellent example of the way that literature encourages us to love what is good, true, and beautiful.  Stories are uniquely able to help us develop a vision of the good life because they dramatize virtues and help us imagine a world without sin.

Narrative Fiction Dramatizes Virtue 

Stories teach students to love virtue. Through their descriptive language and well-developed characters, they help students see what it looks like to be brave, noble, caring, etc. These depictions are often more winsome than a dictionary definition of a specific virtue.

For example, in the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien illustrates courage through the character of Frodo. His riveting descriptions of Frodo’s encounters with Gollum, Orcs, and other wicked creatures show students what it looks like to be courageous in the face of fear.

Stories Teach Us to Long for Heaven

As students root for the courageous Frodo, they learn to long for a day in which peace reigns. Similarly, students who read The Green Ember, a children’s story in which two orphaned rabbits flee from a pack of wolves, learn to hunger, as these rabbits do, for the “Mended Wood,” a place of beauty and peace.

As we learn to love the characters in our books and long for their good, we will begin to want the same visions of justice and peace for ourselves and our neighbors. Books, then, can shape the desires of our heart.

Ultimately, studying literature is not merely an entertaining way to gain writing skills but also an opportunity to develop a vision of what it looks like to live a good life. As such, English Classes and the books they expose us to, help us fulfill the command given in Philippians 4:8

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (ESV)

Sydney Sinni believes that people can encounter visions of beauty, goodness, and truth through great literature, and she loves engaging in deep conversations about such books with her students.

Sydney graduated from Baylor in 2022 and currently resides in Waco with her husband, who is completing a Ph.D. in English at Baylor. When she is not talking about books with her husband over a warm cup of tea, Sydney enjoys gardening, cooking, and long conversations with friends. 

For Sydney, online teaching is a special opportunity to share the skills and the knowledge she has gained with the homeschool community. Sydney was homeschooled from K-12th grade and discovered her love for literature in an online class. She knows that literature can be delightful and morally formative, and she is anxious to help other students experience the joys of literature.

The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the author and should not be taken to represent the views of Excelsior Classes, LLC or the consortium of teachers.