Sunday, February 11, 2018

Daydream Syllabus: Great Books

This year's iteration of our institution's freshman "Great Books" class is not meant to imply that there is a single fixed canon of great books which, once read, are all ye know and all ye need to know, but rather seeks to offer an initial point of entry into a deeper dialogue with a range of art and ideas through time. But it is founded on the old-fashioned assumption that some books are better—more beautiful, interesting, or simply more influential—than others, and should perhaps be read sooner rather than later.

We knew that there were many works by male writers worthy of inclusion, but wracked our brains and could not bring ourselves to part with any of the influential acknowledged masterpieces in the syllabus as it stands. We assure you that they are all worth your time, and even those with which you may disagree most vehemently will have a formative effect on your own thinking. For those of you who are concerned about the lack of male writers in this class, we hope you will find that there is much time and energy to begin to pursue an understanding of men's writing in other courses and in your own independent reading.

Week 1:
The poetry of Sappho and Sulpicia's six elegies

Week 2:
Anna Komnene: the Alexiad

Week 3:
Héloïse and Abelard, Historia Calamitatum (and letters)
Hildegard of Bingen: Liber Divinorum Operum
Julian of Norwich: the Revelations of Divine Love

Week 4:
The letters of Madame de Sévigné

Week 5:
Mary Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
The poetry of Phillis Wheatley

Week 6:
Jane Austen: Emma

Weeks 7 and 8:
George Eliot: Middlemarch

Week 9:
The poetry of Emily Dickinson

Week 10:
The poetry of Anna Akhmatova

Week 11:
Zora Neale Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Week 12:
Virginia Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway

Week 13:
Toni Morrison: Beloved 

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