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  • Middle School Great Books Program

    “True freedom is impossible without a mind made free by discipline.” ~ Mortimer Adler, author of How to Read a Book

    Great Books

    What is a “Great” Books program? What makes a book “great”? Why do some books seem to remain popular even if they were written 2800 years ago?  Why is the study of the “classics” often called the “humanities”? What does it mean to practice the “liberal” arts?

    At St. Peter’s, we are committed to Catholic identity. This means that we not only provide religious instruction, but that we cultivate an authentically Catholic curriculum in both content and instructional methodology. Crucial to the fulfillment of this mission is the fusion of faith and culture- to equip all of our students with cultural literacy to understand the foundations of our post-modern culture by means of the lens of our Catholic faith, to cultivate a love of virtue, and to learn powerful lessons from our history.

    Aside from religious instruction, there is no greater way to do this then to do so by a love of good, classical literature that is consistent with a Catholic worldview. A Great Books program empowers students in all these dimensions and allows literature to come alive in the imagination of students. In a truly Great Books approach, the powers of the soul are cultivated beyond merely providing information: the imagination, the memory, the intellect/understanding are all strengthened through dramatic reading, discussion, and a range of other instructional methods.


    Please have the following books by January 30, 2017!

    Below are the readings for the 3rd quarter (2017) with the essay questions that will be given at the end of the quarter.

    Eighth Grade:
    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Genre: Mystery Fiction. Any version will suffice as long as it includes the following cases:

    • A Case of Identity
    • A Scandal in Bohemia
    • The Speckled Band
    • The Man with the Twisted Lip
    • The Red-Headed League
    • The Case of the Five Orange Pips
    • The Boscombe Valley Mystery

    Essay Question: What is deductive reasoning? Using one of the above referenced cases, explain how Sherlock Holmes uses deductive reasoning to solve the case. Last, conclude your essay by answering the following question in the last paragraph: what are the limitations, if any, of deductive reasoning? Explain your answer supporting it with various examples from the story.

    Seventh Grade:
    The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Genre: Fantasy Fiction. Any version will suffice.

    Essay Question: What is Divine Providence according to the Catholic Church? How does the story reflect Catholic teaching on Divine Providence? Students must discuss at least three examples from the text in answering this question. Students must conclude their essay by answering the following question, “What lessons can be learned from Bilbo’s adventure that apply to my life?”

    Sixth Grade:
    The Adventures of Robin Hood, by Roger Lancelyn Green. Genre: Medieval English Legend recast in modern prose. Any version will suffice as long as it is by Roger Lancelyn Green. Versions by other authors will be too varied to follow along.

    Essay Question: What is the virtue of justice? In what way(s) is Robin Hood a “just man” even though he is an “outlaw”? Students must provide examples from the various stories that show Robin Hood’s virtue of justice.

    Fifth Grade:
    The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. Genre: Christian allegory. Any version will suffice.

    Essay Question: What makes the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe a “Christian Allegory”? In this essay students must discuss what an allegory is and how this particular story is an allegory for the Gospel. They must provide at least three examples from the text that support this analysis of the story. Last, students must answer the following question in the last paragraph: Why do you think C.S. Lewis chose to create a fantasy world (Narnia) that teaches us a Christian message?