Classical Literature, Writing is a reading and writing course which attempts to develop critical literacy and thoughtful written expression. These two objectives are always balanced by the overall purpose of the language arts: to hone skills of communication. Because reading and writing are so closely tied together, students will always work to improve their writing when they are dealing critically with a literary text and, through excellent writing, they will learn to be strong readers. Classical Literature, Writing deals with the literature of antiquity (predominantly Greek and Roman) and with a few classic works of European literature.

There is no class that prepared me more for college than Classical Literature, Writing. The course pushes your writing skills to new levels, refines your creative and analytic thinking, and improves your skills in time management. I cannot count the amount of times college professors have asked, “You mean you have read all of The Divine Comedy?”
— Marcus Archibald, 2011

The first part of the year treats the origins of the great Western literary tradition: works of Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, and Virgil. The second part of the year looks at major works of European literature such as The Confessions of Augustine, The Divine Comedy by Dante, Macbeth by Shakespeare, and The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. This class explores the traditional Western “canonical literature” and builds a foundation for college level literary study. Familiarity with classical authors and examples of “classic” literature will prepare students to study American, British, Continental, or World literature at the undergraduate level. 

Classical Literature, Writing helps students to think analytically about the literary works of various cultures, seeking to understand the philosophy, religion, social culture and literary style of the various peoples. The wonderful thing about studying texts written millennia ago, is how easily we relate to the universal human experience despite the very different societies of the authors and characters. Students also have the opportunity to study some of the early Christian literature, e.g., On the Incarnation by Athanasius the Great and Confessions of St. Augustine.

Again, the continuity of the expression of our love for Christ as believers can be seen across the centuries. Study of the Church Fathers can be both challenging and enlightening, and I believe this is a crucial component to a survey of ancient literature. This course will engage a more thorough-going approach to academic writing, preparing students to face the challenges of writing at the undergraduate level. Assignments cover a wide range of written expression geared toward the students’ specific ability levels: reflection, exposition, persuasion, apology, literary analysis, narrative, poetry, etc. As always, writing and classroom discussion will serve as the primary vehicles for language acquisition and reading comprehension.

Course Texts

NB: These texts may change before the start of the year, so do not purchase until summer. Links are the listing. 

To be purchased or borrowed by students:

Handouts Provided by Instructors:

  • The Apology of Plato (selections)

  • Poetics of Aristotle (selections)

  • Metamorphoses of Ovid, transl. Charles Martin (selections)

  • On Pascha, by Melito of Sardis

  • On the Incarnation, by Athanasius of Alexandria


  • The St. Martin’s Handbook (7th Edition)