The Great Books: Frequently Asked Questions

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Oedipus answers the riddle of the Sphinx


Q I have already taken a few of the courses on that list for my major. Can I count them toward the minor?
No s.h. of coursework in a student's major may count toward the minor.
Q Under what course prefix will Great Books Seminars be offered?
Not all Great Books seminars will be offered under the GRBK prefix. Existing courses may also be offered in the Great Books format, esp. CLAS 2220 and 2230. When courses with another prefix are taught in the Great Books format, they will be listed on the current offerings page of this site.
Q I have already taken some of the courses on your minor list, but not as Great Books seminars. Do I have to take them over again to get credit?
No. They count toward Great Books degrees in whatever format they are taught.
Q Can I pick other courses besides those listed here? Do I have to take Great Books Seminars?
Substitutions for the minor may be accepted with the approval of the Director. The multidisciplinary major option has considerable flexibility with only 30-36 sh of the total 54 sh forming the Great Books major concentration.
Q Why does a traditional major in great books have two foreign languages, including Greek or Latin, and a philosophical emphasis?
The Western intellectual tradition was shaped by Plato and Aristotle who wrote in Greek. Some of the Catholic great books programs emphasize the church fathers and Aquinas, and for that reason recommend Latin. To appreciate any of the ancient or medieval portion of the curriculum, some knowledge of the original languages is desirable.
Q Is this the dead white European male curriculum?
Although dead white European male authors have something to be said for them, there are great books in every tradition. Students are welcome to seek out a faculty mentor with a knowledge of courses that feature e.g., non-western or non-male authors of great books. The Great Books Program of ECU does not endorse any particular political, historical, or cultural viewpoint.
Q Is this for geeks with coke-bottle glasses and heavy backpacks?
Geeks strongly encouraged to apply. As for heavy backpacks - hey I'm reporting that crack about the visually challenged - Great Books courses tend to come in slender inexpensive paperbacks instead of those ponderous predigested textbooks that cost over $100 and deserve the suffix "books" only in the broadest generic sense. Perhaps more reading and thought and discussion will be expected, but after class you will be so lost in contemplation that you won't notice you're even wearing a backpack.
Q What can I do with a degree in the great books?
Anything your mind resolves upon. Most importantly, you can be a free person who is educated, the type of citizen the founding fathers hoped would inherit this country, and someone others would like to call friend.