Great Books

In contrast to most colleges and universities where lectures, textbooks, and tests provide the essential elements of learning, a Great Books program is distinguished by three key features:

  • Students approach learning through the study of the classic texts that constitute the “great conversation” of Western Civilization. In addition, opportunity will be given to examine classics in non-Western traditions.
  • There are no lecture-based courses. Instead, all instruction takes place in seminars, tutorials, and laboratories characterized by highly participatory discussions among students and faculty.
  • There is a single, unified curriculum for all students. This fosters an unparalleled sense of community and collegiality as spirited conversations emerge from shared encounters with profound ideas.


What are the benefits of the C.S. Lewis College’s Great Books curriculum?

The Great Books curriculum and related educational experiences of C.S. Lewis College are designed to nurture the development of exceptionally well grounded students in several ways:

First, by instilling and refining those intellectual virtues that enable sound learning, including the abilities to read carefully and tenaciously, to grasp and evaluate complex theories, and to engage in sharp analysis and reasoning.

Second, by fostering an appetite for knowledge and wisdom that culminates in a mature understanding of the full range of ideas that inform the Western intellectual tradition, as well as key ideas originating in non-western cultures.

Third, by sharpening the ability to communicate and respond to ideas effectively, both verbally and in writing.

Finally, by cultivating a deep respect for those foundational Christian moral, spiritual, and theological understandings that inform our appreciation for goodness, truth, and beauty.


How do the visual and performing arts fit into a Great Books program?

Existing Great Books colleges are committed to a curriculum that focuses upon the examination and discussion of written texts. In contrast, C.S. Lewis College deems it essential that students interact with ideas expressed both in written form and in the visual and performing arts. By so doing, students will be better prepared to understand and constructively engage contemporary culture.


Are there other Great Books colleges?

St. John’s College, with campuses in Annapolis, MD, and Santa Fe, NM, pioneered the development of the first complete Great Books program, launched in 1937.

Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA, is a Catholic Great Books college founded in 1971.

Shimer College in Chicago, IL, is a Great Books college founded in 1853.

Gutenberg College in Eugene, OR is a Great Books college founded in 1994

Many other colleges and universities have since offered Great Books programs to complement their traditional academic programs.