Is fiction good for us?
Jonathan Gottschall, author of “The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human,” and teacher of English at Washington & Jefferson College, explores the question in a piece in the Boston Globe titled “Why Fiction is Good for You.”
“For a long time literary critics and philosophers have argued, along with the novelist George Eliot, that one of fiction’s main jobs is to “enlarge men’s sympathies.” Recent lab work suggests they are right. The psychologists Mar and Keith Oatley tested the idea that entering fiction’s simulated social worlds enhances our ability to connect with actual human beings. They found that heavy fiction readers outperformed heavy nonfiction readers on tests of empathy, even after they controlled for the possibility that people who already had high empathy might naturally gravitate to fiction. As Oatley puts it, fiction serves the function of “making the world a better place by improving interpersonal understanding.””
Mastery of language is the most important skill a student will learn at Immanuel. Words, speech, language are at the core of Classical Lutheran Pedagogy. The world was created by God’s words (Genesis 1:3-26), and continues to be understood by man from the smallest phonograms to the most intricate stories and songs. Knowledge and use of language is at the core of understanding and connections weaving together every other subject. Our salvation, after the Fall,caused by Man believing the words of a serpent, came through “the Word made Flesh.” (John 1:14).
Literature is both a tool that teaches us language use and a reward of the use of language in and of itself. In addition to teaching students how to decode and use language, great Literature teaches students about the beauty that can be portrayed with detailed imagery, the significance of context and setting to a story, and the very plight of Man in this fallen world; his failures, redemptions, and triumphs; moments of cowardice, love, or courage. Literature opens worlds that students may never otherwise realize.
In a blog post from last year, Ms. Kramer explained the joy of literature classes in the upper school, writing:
“Literature classes are possibly some of the most fun classes to plan for a teacher. They are the perfect integration point for almost any subject: you can write about the story, you can logically analyze it, you can study the time period, you can experiment with the science present or natural knowledge, you can talk about it and think about it. The thing I most love about literature though, is that really quality literature changes us. If you really throw yourself into an excellent story, if you allow yourself to "suspend your disbelief," and allow yourself to be absorbed into it, you learn about so much more than just history or literature. You learn to appreciate the universal truths and themes of the book.”
Last year, the 7th and 8th grade classed embarked on a year-long study of "the quest." What is a quest? What common themes does a quest deal with? And then, more personally, what are our own quests? The unique thing students discovered is that every character can be seen to have a quest, but not every character can say his quest is intentional. This prods our own conversations to ask: what SHOULD our quests be?"
What books are you reading? What has captured your imagination? You may enjoy looking through this list of book recommendations that our faculty shared last year to find something new to read (or a favorite worth picking up again).
As we all continue on our journeys as life-long-learners, please also stay tuned in the new year for details on an exciting new partnership ILS is entering with the Trinity Forum and additional opportunities for our families.