A word that has haunted me since high school. Well, no more fear of the words from the “Greats” because I now have a better understanding of the old written works of Western Literature.
Isaiah, my 13 year old son, and I have throughly enjoyed Robin’s writing. She brings to the stage numerous years of teaching and it shows in her written word. We both appreciated her humorous approach to the subject of Western Literature and it definitely has made the reading easier. The spin she puts on this eternal argument and her light humor made this book much simpler to read as well as to understand just what in the world most people are writing about.
Isaiah said, “I have a whole new perspective on literature.” (This coming from my reading machine! lol) And one of the best parts of the book for him was Robin’s use of the pendulum because it made it easier to understand exactly what Robin was explaining.
With each chapter Robin breaks down into bite sized pieces the story behind all of the written words in our life. She makes literature not nearly as daunting as I had always thought it to be.
Chapter 1: Why Should We Read All Those Books?
- Each book written holds a small peek into what life was really like when the author wrote the book. The Eternal Argument helps lay a framework (a basic understanding) explaining why these authors wrote as they did. Which for me shed an incredible amount of light on the stories I have read. They are finally making more sense!
Chapter 2: How Do You Stuff Stuff Into Our Heads?
- By having a much clearer understanding of the information being presented we (Isaiah and I) are able to process and retain the information. Thus the reasoning of the “framework” Robin speaks of. The visual in my head of where I can “hang” my newest information instead of letting it float around aimlessly.
Chapter 3: The Little Stinker
- A brilliant representation of everyones “bad side”, the one half of The Eternal Argument. Therefore the “good side” represents the other half of the Eternal Argument. The major division in every piece of literature.
- Bad (Little Stinker) = Sin
- Good = God
Chapter 4: What Are the Two Sides Fighting About?
- The most basic argument of all time…Who is right? and Who is in charge? Most writing can be placed into a Worldly View of life (Humanistic) or a Biblical View of life (Theistic). In essence, Who is to blame in society for all of the issues at hand – humans or an external force (God)?
Chapter 5: Does Someone Have To Be “In Charge”?
- Does someone always have to be in charge? Human ideas and plans versus Godly intervention and pre-laid plans. Each author usually chooses “which side” but as the reader you don’t necessarily have to choose. It is possible to believe in one side of the eternal argument but read with objectivity on the other side. This was an important key part of reading this book. Just because I believe on side more than the other, I can read with an open mind, therefore expanding my knowledge.
Chapter 6: What Is The Western Literature Platform?
- This was an excellent visual of how Robin breaks down the Western Literature written works. She states that so much of our written works can fall under 3 areas – Greek and Roman Mythology, The King James Version of the Bible, and Arthurian Legend (a smaller but vital piece of the platform). These have influenced our lives regardless if you “believe” in God or not. We have Bible verses sprinkled throughout our language and written word. There are numerous physical items named after Greek and Roman gods.
Chapter 7: Should We Quarantine Our Kids?
- My first reaction – Of course! This chapter though made me reevaluate my stand. With direct supervision the literary world can be approached with ease. All works can be monitored and discussed. Which will lead to less confusion. A younger reader can be lead along as the story goes, do not let them flounder alone. Openly discuss the stories in the books so there is a clear understanding of our culture. I still believe though that each book should be for appropriate age and maturity level.
Chapter 8: Really Old Guys: Ancients to the Middle Ages:
- The Bible, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle. Each influenced our lives to the point that most works truly began to reflect more Biblical and humanistic ideas from this point. Also many time periods, weather, and more effected what was written about. Thus began the use of the pendulum visual Robin uses. We were very much in the humanistic period in the very beginning, other than the Bible but during this period we, as a culture, swung well into the Theistic side of life. There was much death during the Middle Ages, so people were drawn back to the “there must be an external force making it all happen” side of this eternal argument.
Chapter 9: Just Old Guys: The Renaissance to Neoclassicism:
- But crawling out of the Middle Ages and moving into the Renaissance made an incredible difference in the writings, art and teaching that now influence our society. Once things began to get “better” in the world, the Humanistic ideas began to flow back into our lives via the written word. Things quickly swing back the other way though indicating that “man” doesn’t know everything like society thought and the literature again begins to reflect that during the Neoclassicism period.
Chapter 10: Somewhat Old Guys: The American and French Revolutions:
- This chapter was so very insightful into this period of time for Isaiah and I…wow! The Americans winning their revolution changed the world, and not all for the better. When the Americans won their war, it influenced the American writings to reflect progress and that hard work pays off. But unfortunately in France, where they wanted change also, it caused one of the bloodiest revolutions in history. Because of the death, destruction to the ruling class and the ruled class, it changed literature tremendously. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens was written to reflect the Reign of Terror in France, a book that has imparted much to society for those of us that did not live during that time.
Chapter 11: Newer Old Guys: The Romantics to the Realists:
- After so much going on in the world with America winning their revolution and France being forever changed also by their revolution, the literature of the world once again began to reflect life, as the authors wanted life to be. The pendulum swings back toward the Humanistic side of life. Romantics seemed to want to hide away from all of the death, destruction and major changes going on in the world so in effect, the writings for a short time delved into fantasy and vivid imagination. But because life was changing so rapidly during this point in our history, the authors were seeing more and more of life (through photography) , there were those that started to share life as they saw it…truthfully, bloody, hard and without ease. Thus the Realists made their appearance into our culture.
Chapter 12: Newest Guys: The Naturalists to the Modernists
- This is when “the thinkers” or the Naturalists showed up in our culture: Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche. Each brought to the scene much, more than anyone could ever imagine. With each man came ideas and written works that made such a profound affect on people that this men rank higher than the visionaries from days past. Essentially, each man made the point that God was no longer required for daily life and man could do it all, study it, remake it and live unhindered; an incredible swing back toward the Humanistic view of life.
- On the tail end of Naturalism is the newest view of life, the Modernistic view. I thought it would swing up back into the area of Theism but no, we continue to head off well past the Humanistic ideas that have long held us “grounded” in what we believe. This period (which we are now in) has moved us well beyond any of the hard laid ideas of Humanism. The direct result of essentially leaving God in the dust and making up our own plans as we go…..the 20th Century has been hard, so very hard. More death than humans have ever seen before and more wars, big and small. With so much to cope with, humans seem to be running away from God, instead of to Him.
Chapters 13, 14 & 15:
- Each chapter in the rest of the book digs into what you need to know to better understand literature.
- In chapter 13 she discusses the basics of literary vocabulary (protagonist, antagonist, plot and setting), 5 elements of a plot (conflicts, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution), 5 conflicts in literature (man vs man, man vs nature, man vs society, man vs god or the supernatural, and man vs self), point of view (first person, third person limited, third person omniscient, second person and objective), tone, mood and genre.
- In chapter 14 she breaks down each book she used as reference in each time period of literature.
- In chapter 15 she talks about herself and her own thoughts about the book.
With so much to go over in this book I hope I have given you enough to wet your appetite but not too much to make you run away screaming. Isaiah and I truly enjoyed this book and were continually amazed at the amount of information we learned from reading it. I was pleased at how well written it was and that the read aloud went rather smoothly.
At the end of each chapter there are discussion questions. Isaiah and I took it one chapter at a time, spending about 30-40 minutes on each chapter and the discussion questions. It was an insightful and very educational book for me as well as my budding highschooler.
With a $24.95 price tag I would suggest that you pick up The Eternal Argument for your literature studies. This book is perfect for 8th graders and up and it is formatted perfectly for open discussion learning.
I am so glad that we were given this book to review and I am so pleased that we both learned so much about the “behind the scenes” of Western Literature and Culture. This was the book I needed to help Isaiah move into some of the higher literature books that he (and I) need to better understand the world we live in.
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In His Grace.
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