Share in the poet's search for wisdom.
The philosophic character of literary study within the Institute is reflected in a
concentration upon major authors whose works can claim philosophic scope and penetration. Students
inquire into the issues treated by great writers, considering the literary treatment
as one voice in a conversation in which philosophers, theologians, and political thinkers
Enter into the Western tradition.
The poet seeks to supplant opinion with knowledge by constructing a coherent vision
of reality; philosophers seek the same end through dialectic. The aim of study therefore
is to share in the poet's wisdom concerning a reality already constituted before imagination
sets to work on it, but imperfectly irreducible to other modes of knowledge. The poetic
vision of reality cannot easily be translated into other kinds of knowledge, yet is
best studied in their company, because it explores the same reality.
Institute students join teachers dedicated to grasping how, and what, verse can teach
us about reality.
Students learn to apprehend the form of literary art by attending to the qualities
of poetic speech and by studying the kinds of poetry. They investigate such constants
of the art as myth, symbol, analogy and figure, image, prosody, and style. In the
process they come to appreciate the notable congruence of particularity with generality
that characterizes the poetic mode of being and that has led thinkers to define a
poem as a "concrete universal."
The kinds of poetry, the perennial genres, need not be taken as prescriptions arbitrarily
imposed, for they can be understood as the natural shapes literature displays when
it envisions different human actions.
Neither the constants of poetic speech nor the continuities of genre sufficiently
specify the particular purchase upon human issues offered by any great poem. To bring
this meaning into sharper resolution requires the final act of literary understanding,
interpretation of individual poems, an undertaking in which the comparison of poem
with poem has its instructive part.
Critical interpretation entails the most careful and sustained attentiveness to elucidating
meaning and culminates in critical judgment of the contribution of that meaning to
one's grasp of the truth.
The interpretive dimension of the program is reflected in courses that find their
formal object sometimes in a genre (Epic, Lyric, Tragedy/Comedy, Menippean Satire
or Russian Novel), sometimes in a literary movement (Renaissance Drama, Romantic/Victorian
Literature, Augustan Literature, American Literature, Southern Literature, Twentieth-Century
Literature), sometimes in major authors (Dante, Chaucer, Spenser, Milton, Shakespeare,
Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Hawthorne, Melville, or James).
Students confront the claims of classical, Christian, and modern poets. They thereby
enter into the issues that cause the Western tradition to be a tradition of controversies.