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Humanities & Teacher Education

Foundations for a lifetime.

The Great Books Colloquium is an integrated series of four courses in which students read and discuss some of the most influential, thought-provoking, and enjoyable books ever written.  From the ancient Greeks to the present, these books provide the perspective and ideas that enable us to think productively and insightfully about the decisive issues we face today.  Through reading, discussion, and writing, students build a solid educational foundation not just for college, but for life.

Assigned readings encompass literature, philosophy, politics, psychology, science, and religion.  Authors range from Plato to Nietzsche, from Homer to Dostoevsky, from Augustine to Freud.  Issues addressed include:

  • justice
  • the grounds of moral choice
  • maintaining humanity in the midst of conflict and war
  • the nature of conscience
  • political leadership
  • private property and economic justice
  • the nature of science and the tensions and convergences between science and religion
  • the joy of true love and the pain of betrayal

Students see the Trojan War come to life in Homer's vivid words, follow Aeneas from exile to the battles that founded Rome, tour the afterlife from Hell to Heaven with Dante, share Augustine's and Kierkegaard's struggle for faith, survive with Robinson Crusoe on his island and track the adventures of Candide or Gulliver, strive with Darwin to understand the natural world and with Freud to chart the human psyche.

The books we read are comic, tragic, profound, challenging, unsettling.  Students use them to engage ideas and to join in the lively conversation and continuing debate that are the life of our culture.  Our goal is not for students to think like the authors we read, but for students to build on the reading to think for themselves.

Great Books Colloquium Learning Outcomes

Students who complete the Great Books Colloquium will be able to:

  1. demonstrate detailed knowledge of selected seminal works in the intellectual and cultural traditions of the West
  2. read sophisticated texts closely and critically
  3. engage in purposeful small-group discussion of works
  4. write a paper in clear and correct prose that analyzes an important issue by engaging a relevant seminal work

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For more information contact:

Dr. Jane Kelley Rodeheffer
Fletcher Jones Chair of Great Books
(310) 506-7708