Early Moderns 4
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Western Culture 4-4: The Novels


The Novels is the fourth unit of Early Moderns, year four in the Old Western Culture curriculum on the Great Books. The Novels wraps up the series of the great books with a study of some of the great novels of the 19th century.


Old Western Culture: The Novels wraps up the series of the great books with a study of some of the great novels of the 19th century, Wesley Callihan guides students through Dickens’s heartwarming A Christmas Carol, and then turns to Dostoevsky’s darker Russian tale, The Brothers Karamozov, as well as Chekhov’s The Bet. A study of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice looks at both the story and the social setting of England during this period. Old Western Culture concludes with a hat-tip to two of the 20th-century revivors of the great books: C. S. Lewis, who coined the term “old Western culture,” and J. R. R. Tolkien, with guest lecturer Jonathan McIntosh, who guides students through the story and themes of The Lord of the Rings.

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Additional information





1/2 HS

Credit Amount



Lesson Length

35-45 minutes


Wesley Callihan, Jonathan McIntosh





Lecture List for The Novels

  1. Introduction to The Novels
  2. Jane Austen I
  3. Jane Austen II
  4. Charles Dickens
  5. Fyodor Dostoevsky
  6. Russian Short Stories
  7. J. R. R. Tolkien I: Fairy-Stories and The Lord of the Rings
  8. J. R. R. Tolkien II: Escape, Consolation, and Eucatastrophe
  9. J. R. R. Tolkien III: Themes in The Lord of the Ring
  10. C. S. Lewis I
  11. C. S. Lewis II
  12. Overview of Old Western Culture and the 20th Century

Sample Lesson


What is “Old Western Culture”?

“Old Western Culture” is a literature curriculum named after a term coined by C.S. Lewis to describe the fabric of ideas that shaped Western Civilization. For centuries, a “Great Books” education lay at the heart of what it meant to be educated. It was the education of the Church Fathers, of the Medieval Church, of the Reformers, and of all the Founding Fathers of the Unites States.

– It is a CLASSICAL EDUCATION, based on the great books of western civilization.
– It is a CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, which sees the history and literature of the West through the eyes of the Bible and historic Christianity.
– It is an INTEGRATED HUMANITIES CURRICULUM, bringing together literature, history, philosophy, doctrine, geography, and art.
– It is a HOMESCHOOL oriented curriculum, made by homeschoolers with the needs of homeschooled in mind, including flexibility, affordability, and ease-of-use.
We bring a master-teacher into your home, and encourage parents to gain an overview of Western Civilization themselves by watching the video lessons with their children.

How does Old Western Culture work?

Old Western Culture is a video course. It is built around master teachers. This unit is taught by Wes Callihan and Jonathan McIntosh. With decades of teaching experience, they guide students through the story of Western civilization. The Novels contains 12 video lessons (approx 35-45 min each).
Each lesson begins with a brief review before jumping into summary, commentary, analysis, and inter-disciplinary connections of the works covered. After each lesson, students complete the assigned readings, and answer comprehension questions in the Student Workbook or online workbook.

Are there any prerequisites?

Old Western Culture is intended for mature and discerning students. We recommend this course for ages 14 and up. The course will deal with mature themes such as paganism, sexual immorality, battle scenes (mostly in actual reading), and classical paintings. Old Western Culture is meant to equip your child with a Biblical lens from which to process these themes. We assume your child has a working knowledge of the Bible and basic Christian doctrine.

How many credits is this course worth?

The Novels is 1/2 High School Credit in either literature or history. Each year of Old Western Culture is a double-credit Humanities course which is most commonly broken down into 1 Literature credit and 1 History credit. The double-credit assumes that the student will watch all the videos, read the required reading, answer the daily worksheets, and take 4 exams (one for each unit). This a robust course academically, and requires a fair bit of reading. Wesley Callihan or Jonathan McIntosh will coach your student on how to approach the reading in the video. Average daily reading load is 30-40 pages.
As an “integrated humanities” course, Old Western Culture will constantly be incorporating history, literature, theology, philosophy, art, and art history, all through the eyes of the Great Books.


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