Great Books Seminar

Great Books Seminar

In this course students will study those larger works that have not already been covered in other courses. The books have been chosen not only for their critical acclaim but also for their timeless themes. Many of the books subtly discuss the human condition or astutely observe the reality of death, social and personal corruption, man’s psychology, life struggles, false aspirations, and social conventions. Although some of the works do not offer the solutions to the difficult issues discussed, they present the issues for honest confrontation and evaluation.

Reading and Literature

Students will read and study the following works and then be tested on their content as well as on the material presented in the lectures, which will include the authors’ biographies, the works’ themes and literary techniques.

  1. George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, Burmese Days or Homage to Catalonia (Edited)

  2. Charlotte Bronte, Villette

  3. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Scarlet Letter

  4. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

  5. Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd

  6. Charles Dickens, Bleak House

  7. Henry James, Portrait of a Lady

  8. Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome

  9. Alfred Tennyson, Idylls of the King

  10. William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet or Antony and Cleopatra

  11. Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich

  12. Isaac Asimov, TBA

  13. Wilkie Collins’ Moonstone.


Students will write a two-page critical paper on at least three of the above works. They will learn the importance of using textual support in their analysis and of hedging statements that are not objectively conclusive. Students  will also write four formal essays according to an assigned format, using professional models. Students will analyze the theme, technique and various other aspects of the professional essays in class and implement what they learn in their own essays. Students will review the elementary principles of good writing, such as using detail, description figures of speech and dialog (when appropriate), using active instead of passive voice, making revisions, omitting needless words, etc.). In tandem with learning various essay formats, student will study terms pertaining to formal composition, such as thesis statement, voice, mood, style, irony, and tone. Student will study these terms in relation to the essays that he reads and to his own writing when applicable. Instruction will also include discussing the importance of sensory detail, concrete images, and specific examples. The essays used for professional models include those written by

  1. Addison and Steele

  2. George Orwell

  3. Thomas Babbington Macaulay

  4. Steven Leacock

  5. Charles Lamb

  6. William Hazlitt

  7. TBA

Rhetoric and Speech

Students will write one speech to be presented before an audience. In preparation for this speech, students will review/study, read examples of and implement the learned rhetorical devices, such as antistrophe, rhetorical question, reasoning by questioning, antimetabole, anadiplosis, asyndeton, anaphora, epitheton, enthymeme, scesis onomaton, anesis, aposiopesis, epizeuxis, symploce, antithesis, sententia, maxim, and, epigrams, climax, or, gradation, word play, emphatic pause and suspension. Students will also study figures of speech and their appropriate use in speech making, such as metaphors, litote, etc. Students will learn the important aspects of delivering a speech, including poise, gestures, and the regulation of the voice’s pitch and volume.