Read and Discuss Classics

Read and Discuss Classics

Classic books are past milestones of human intellectual achievement that continue to speak to the present — and to the future. They are what English cultural critic Mathew Arnold once called “the best which has been thought and said” (to which one might wish to add: “so far”).

Live on the Shoulders of Giants

As such, classic books are rewarding to study both in their own right and for their ability to put contemporary issues in a variety of useful perspectives. And because they are often a lot of fun. None of this is to say, however, that classic books are always right or that they have a monopoly on truth. On the contrary, the great thinkers of the past often seem to be as prone to error as the rest of us. It is to say, however, that our own lives — and the communities of which we are a part — are made better through an appreciation for both the great insights and the great mistakes of the great thinkers of the past. To borrow from Sir Isaac Newton: “We see further when we stand on the shoulders of Giants.”

For Intellectually Curious Adults ...

Although there are many ways to study great books of the past, we at Great Discourses believe that one of the best ways to study them is simply to read the books themselves. After all, reading enables a first-hand acquaintance with a great book and all that it contains and evokes in ways that no second-hand reportage can hope to match. And one must presume that, because they are books, great books were written to be read.

... with Intellectually Curious Adults

Unfortunately, reading by itself, though necessary, frequently turns out to be insufficient as a means of mastering a great book (not to mention also often a little lonely). The missing component, it turns out, is discussion with other readers of the same book. Indeed, as American educator William Mathews once observed:

Solitary reading will enable a man to stuff himself with information; but without conversation his mind will become like a pond without an outlet — a mass of unhealthy stagnature. It is not enough to harvest knowledge by study; the wind of talk must winnow it, and blow away the chaff; then will the clear, bright grains of wisdom be garnered for our own use or that of others.

Collaborative Close Readings of Classics

This is why Great Discourses’ Great Books discussion courses are “collaborative close readings of classics” in which participants read and discuss great books with the guidance of a professional educator. Each course is designed and led to faciliate participants’ first-hand engagement with one or more classic books in ways that help them transform the challenging into the exhilarating and elevating thorough “Aha!” moments of profound discovery not easily attained through solitary reading, passive consumption of lectures and programs, or amateur book groups.

General Interest Courses

Our general interest courses span a wide range of topics from the ancient to the modern and the sacred to the secular, and often combine texts in unusual ways that highlight each work’s unique characteristics. Courses are open to adults (and mature teens with parental consent) but class sizes are limited in order to provide educational experiences of the highest-possible quality. No specialized prior knowledge or experience is required. Students typically do a modest amount of reading homework in preparation for each live class session, but there are no papers, no tests and no grades; and all readings and discussions are in English. Most courses are eligible for Continuing Education Units (CEU) as well as tuition discounts and waivers for qualified students.

For Adults from All Walks of Life

Great Discourses discussion courses connect great people with great books, great ideas and each other in ways that often lead to great friendships among folks who otherwise would not have met. They are suitable for intellectually curious adults from all walks of life, including:

  • “Great Bookies” and “Book Clubbers;”
  • Working Adults and Stay-at-Home Parents;
  • Seniors and Retirees;
  • Mature Homeschooled Teens;
  • Limited-Mobility Individuals;
  • Advanced “English as a Second Language” (ESL) Students; and,
  • Non-Native “English as Second Language” (ESL) Teachers;

not to mention:

  • anyone who simply wishes s/he’d paid more attention in school; and,
  • anyone who simply couldn’t get enough of school at the time, but was forced to leave.

Master Challenging Classics Yourself, Together

We invite you to read and discuss the best which has been thought and said in one of our free online introductory classes or one of our upcoming online discussion course. We think you’ll find Great Discourses to be a great addition to your life and we look forward to meeting you. Please contact us if you have questions or want additional information.


Next, Learn More About:
What Makes a Classic Book?
Jeffrey Brenzel @ The Floating University
Learn about the five characteristics often thought to mark a book as “classic.”
Mark Twain
19th Century, United States
“A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”