2020

August

 31 

September

 14  21  28 

October

 5  12  19  26 

November

 2  9  16  23  30 

December

 7  14 

2021

January

 4  11  18  25 

February

 1  8  15  22 

March

 1  8  15  22 

April

 5  12  19  26 

May

 3  10  17  24 

Course Overview

Notre Dame de Paris. View of the city from the tower.
Notre Dame de Paris. View of the city from the south tower. Photograph © Copyright 2010, Bruce McMenomy

This course is designed to expose students to a wide variety of readings and topics they would probably not otherwise encounter in high school, and many do not encounter in college either. They collectively form at least part of the foundation of Western culture. As such the course contains a curious mixture of the familiar and the strange. An obvious problem is that all the original works we read in this course (i.e., except for critical works) antedate modern English, and so we have to read them in translation. But less obvious — and more subtly tricky — is the fact that they also antedate many modern sensibilities, contain ideas or presuppositions that cannot be translated, but need to be understood on their own terms. Some of these will be comfortably familiar; others will challenge students to stretch their imaginations in ways that may well be difficult. It is a challenging course, involving a lot of work, but students willing to do the work typically find it rewarding. It also will help considerably to contextualize what students are learning in Latin or Greek.

I have not found a single anthology or textbook that offers enough of these works to justify buying it; accordingly I have had to assemble our reading-list from a variety of sources, while avoiding a ruinous book bill. I have asked you to purchase a few great classic works that will be read entirely or almost entirely; other materials will be presented via the Web. Of these, some will be found at other sites devoted to classical and mediaeval literature; some will be local to this website: translations done by friends and family, or typed in from older translations now lapsed into the public domain; a few I have done myself. Where there is a good published alternative available for one of the Web-based readings, I have attempted to indicate this among the optional citations on the textbook page. You may buy any or all of these; you need not buy any. Whether you buy all the extra books or not, however, you will need to be on your toes, and be comfortable using a Web browser. For some of the items there are no options.

I have tried to follow a few structural principles in assembling the course:

The course has a very large reading list, and I have attempted to explain my overall rationale somewhat in the discussion under “General Expectations” and more specifically in the discussion “About the Reading List” (see the links in the top panel).

I have, finally, prepared a small volume, available through our bookstore or on Amazon, Western Literature to Dante: A Parents’ Guide, to help parents who would like more information about the course and its rationale to decide whether this course is suitable for their students, and to help parents who have already made the commitment to help their students get the best benefit from it.