Great Books Seminars

Each semester the program offers a humanities seminar in the Socratic method on a theme such as "Love," "The Meaning of Life," "Self-Discovery and Inquiry in Medieval and Renaissance Literature," or "Revolution and Evolution in the 19th-20th Centuries." There is an emphasis upon complete texts ("the book") where possible, and upon transformational ideas when selections are used. Students learn how to read complex works by looking for the key passages and symbols that stand out to guide a reader's response. Each will take a turn as a primary and secondary respondent, which entails having sufficient familiarity with the book to answer questions and point the class to key interpretive passages, and leading discussion by asking questions that help explicate these passages. As in a Socratic dialogue, the instructor will not lecture as a rule, but will facilitate discussion by referring the class to other passages and asking probing questions. Most of these seminars fulfill the humanities requirement of the Foundations Curriculum (FC:HU).

Minor in Great Books

It is possible to pursue a minor in Great Books by taking three of these seminars and three other Great Books electives. Many approved electives are taught by Great Books faculty and feature a learning style that is student centered and Socratic. Other approved electives include standard format classes with content from the great ideas, books, and works of art that form the subject matter of a cultivated mind. It is also possible to complete all 18 sh using Great Books seminars and/or take a capstone seminar in the Great Books as an independent study, and even write an undergraduate thesis with a faculty mentor. Substitutions in the minor are also permissible with the approval of the Director.

Major Option: Great Books Concentration in the Multidisciplinary Studies BA

The BA / BS in Multidisciplinary Studies serves two purposes: to allow motivated students to design a unique curriculum in consultation with a faculty mentor, or to provide an umbrella under which small programs like ours can offer a major concentration. Great Books faculty are ready to assist students in designing a curriculum that meets their needs. Interested students should contact the Director of Great Books, Helena Feder in the Department of English, who can help with declaring this major and will serve as the default mentor and advisor (unless another is desired).

A major concentration of 30 sh uses the same curriculum as the GRBK minor and consists of six courses from the core (of which two must be above 2999), and four courses from the electives. The 48 sh MULT degree requirements may be completed with another minor (or double major) or additional "structured electives" as agreed by the mentor and student. Students wishing to make their degree comparable to those of other Great Books programs might incorporate two foreign languages into the foreign language requirement for the BA and structured electives – either Classical Greek and German (as at St. John's) or Latin and French (as at St. Thomas More). Between the major and minor, at least 24 sh must be above 2999. To be eligible for admission, students are to have completed at least 30 sh with a 2.0 gpa.

Great Books Authors