Great Books Colloquium

Seaver professor glancing down at a book during the Great Books Colloquium

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 modern day, 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. The courses emphasize an open forum for sharing ideas, intellectual growth, and rigorous academic inquiry. 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.

Issues addressed include:

  • Justice
  • The Grounds of Moral Choice
  • Political Leadership 
  • The Joy of True Love
  • The Pain of Betrayal
  • The Nature of the Conscience

Enrolling in the Colloquium

There is limited enrollment for the Great Books Colloquium. Though the only prerequisite is eligibility for English 101, students interested in enrolling in the colloquium should also be willing to commit to the significant time and effort required to engage in the courses. There will be substantial amounts of reading and writing, but with such great challenge comes the opportunity for great intellectual and personal growth.

Though there is no requirement to remain in the colloquium for the entire series of courses, doing so will give students the maximum benefit the colloquium is intended to produce. Students usually enter the colloquium in fall of their first year, when they enroll in the first Great Books course to fulfill the First-Year seminar requirement. Generally, students can finish by the spring semester of their sophomore year but may complete the sequence later, particularly if they participate in an international program.

Students who complete the Great Books Colloquium sequence will fulfill the following GE requirements:

  • First-Year Seminar
  • Two courses from Group A
    • ENG 101, Upper-division literature
    • One course in the Humanities sequence (HUM 111, HUM 212, or HUM 313)
  • Two courses from Group B:
    • REL 301
    • COM 180
    • POSC 104
    • SOC 200

Students completing Great Books I receive credit for First-Year Seminar, even if they choose not to complete the sequence. Students who do not complete the sequence but complete a course or courses beyond Great Books I will receive unit credit toward graduation, but no General Education credit besides the First-Year Seminar. 

Courses in The Great Books Colloquium

GSHU 121 Great Books Colloquium I (4 units)

Using the shared inquiry method, this course considers works of philosophy, literature, religion, and political thought of the ancient world. Authors include Greek tragedians, Plato, Aristotle, and Virgil. The course requires intensive work in writing and participation in discussion. Prerequisite: Eligibility for entry in English Composition 101.

GSHU 122 Great Books Colloquium II (4)

Using shared inquiry method, this course considers works of philosophy, literature, religion, and political thought of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Reformation. Authors include Aquinas, Augustine, Dante, Machiavelli, Luther, and Shakespeare, as well as others. The course requires intensive work in writing and participation in discussion. Prerequisite: Great Books Colloquium I or permission of the Director of Great Books.

GSHU 123 Great Books Colloquium III (4)

Using the shared inquiry method, this course considers works of philosophy, literature, religion, and political though of the Enlightenment and Romantic periods. Authors include Descartes, Milton, Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau, Kant, Wordsworth, Austen, and others. The course requires intensive work in writing and participation in discussion. Prerequisite: Colloquium II or permission of the Director of Great Books.

GSHU 324 Great Books Colloquium IV (4)

Using the shared inquiry method, this course considers works of philosophy, literature, religion, and political thought of the modern period. Authors will be selected from Darwin, Marx, Freud, Kirkegaard, Nietzche, Dostoevsky, Sartre or Camus, as well as other modern playwrights and novelists. The course requires intensive work in writing and participation in discussion. Prerequisite: Great Books Colloquium III or permission of the Director of Great Books.

Student Testimonials