I have created this collection of web pages because I have gotten seriously involved with the Britannica Great Books of the Western World (GBWW), have begun the Ten Year Reading Plan, and am participating in the ongoing discussions at the Yahoo Great Conversation (or "Group I") and More Great Conversation discussion groups. For more information about these groups, click here.
This web page provides links to many general web sites as well as to my (few so far) articles, reviews, summaries, and selected quotes, and possibly discussions of the GBWW. Most of this is forthcoming; so far there's only a little here.
Since I am owner of Group I and only a member in other groups, please be aware that this site is mostly specific to Group I and doesn't necessarily apply to Group Too or Group Cath except for the similarity of reading plans.
This page is under construction, last updated 7/25/05.
To more easily read this site, I suggest setting your View/Text Size to "Larger" (MS Explorer)
Please note: this site refers exclusively to the 54-volume first edition of the Britannica Great Books, and only incidentally to the 60-volume second edition that is currently in print. The second edition mostly adds new texts and replaces some translations, and overall is a better set, in my opinion. Why, then, follow the ten-year reading plan of the first edition and not that of the second? Because the reading plan of for the second adds about 50%, and the first edition plan is quite enough reading for ten years.
Here's a link to the current group guidelines on reading and writing for Group I. The only real rules are:
Read the assignments
Comment to the group on or after the 15th of the month in which the text is assigned
Keep it friendly
Completion of reading and writing assignments is entirely voluntary, but Great Conversation group members are expected to participate. I am requesting members to withhold their comments on each month's reading until the fifteenth of the month, to avoid influencing the experience and understanding of other members of the work in question. In other words, I am encouraging a diversity of opinion rather than a consensus.
The Reading Assignments
These lists of reading assignments are the "ten-year reading plan" described in vol. 1 of the GBWW, broken up into months. These lists are "official" only for the Great Conversation group, though the other groups will be following these lists more or less closely.
Changes may be made in the future; in particular, I'm thinking about not splitting up the five novels (including Don Quixote and War and Peace) between two years, as specified in the original ten-year plan. Any such changes will receive thorough discussion in the Group before this becomes official.
I have added page counts and split the year up into months, generally assigning minimal or no reading to December each year. For the complete unmodified list see the book itself, Vol. 1: The Great Conversation or the "Detailed contents" link below.
To learn about the GBWW and the ten-year reading plan, examine these files:
Detailed contents of the GBWW (first edition), showing in which year of the ten-year reading plan each selection is included.
Ten-Year Reading Plan, showing all ten years, month-by-month, APPROXIMATELY as scheduled for the Great Conversation Yahoo group. Subject to change.
Comparison of the two editions, volume-by-volume (not including names of translators).
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The following index to this site shows just the names of the volumes, not detailed contents (for which see above). Check each volume page for links to online texts, study questions, collected quotes, summaries, and comments (as they are added). Volume numbers in red include assigned reading for 2005.
Vol 1: The Great Conversation, by Robert Maynard Hutchins: quotes, commentary by A.N.
Vol 2: The Great Ideas I
Vol 3: The Great Ideas II
Vol 4: Homer
Vol 5: Aeschylus/Sophocles/Euripides/Aristophanes
Vol 6: Herodotus/Thucydides
Vol 7: Plato
Vol 8: Aristotle I
Vol 9: Aristotle II
Vol 10: Hippocrates/Galen
Vol 11: Euclid/Archimedes/Apollonius/Nicomachus
Vol 12: Lucretius/Epictetus/Marcus Aurelius
Vol 13: Virgil
Vol 14: Plutarch
Vol 15: Tacitus
Vol 16: Ptolemy/Copernicus/Kepler
Vol 17: Plotinus
Vol 18: Augustine
Vol 19: Thomas Aquinas I
Vol 20: Thomas Aquinas II
Vol 21: Dante
Vol 22: Chaucer
Vol 23: Machiavelli/Hobbes
Vol 24: Rabelais
Vol 25: Montaigne
Vol 26: Shakespeare I
Vol 27: Shakespeare II
Vol 28: Gilbert/Galileo/Harvey
Vol 29: Cervantes
Vol 30: Francis Bacon
Vol 31: Descartes/Spinoza
Vol 32: Milton
Vol 33: Pascal
Vol 34: Newton/Huygens
Vol 35: Locke/Berkeley/Hume
Vol 36: Swift/Sterne
Vol 37: Fielding
Vol 38: Montesquieu/Rousseau
Vol 39: Adam Smith
Vol 40: Gibbon I
Vol 41: Gibbon II
Vol 42: Kant
Vol 43: American State Papers/The Federalist/J.S. Mill
Vol 44: Boswell
Vol 45: Lavoisier/Fourier/Faraday
Vol 46: Hegel
Vol 47: Goethe
Vol 48: Melville
Vol 49: Darwin
Vol 50: Marx/Engels
Vol 51: Tolstoy
Vol 52: Dostoevsky
Vol 53: William James
Vol 54: Freud
The best single link to get you started is probably the Wikipedia article on the GBWW. It gives some history on the set, links to online books, and criticism. Also, all the authors and most of the works in the GBWW have their own Wikipedia pages.
Note that pages for the individual volumes above will have supplemental links more specific than those below, though only a few of those pages have been created so far. For example, if you're looking for links specific to Plato's Apology, start with my page on Plato. I'll try to keep a month ahead of the reading plan on these individual pages.
University of Adelaide etext collection, only 700 classic works, but in the easiest-to-read-online format that I've found; includes most of the GBWW except the math and science; often links to Gutenberg.
Bartleby: reference works, verse anthologies, complete Harvard Classics and Shelf of Fiction, Oxford Shakespeare, broad general coverage but not deep in the classics; very good for online reading.
Perseus Digital Library: Greece, Rome, Papyri, English Renaissance (Shakespeare, etc.), historic London, Robert Boyle (science) collection, and early American history. Appears to have a very complete collection of Greek and Roman classics, but not the easiest for online reading.
University of Michigan Electronic Text Resources. Confusing and hard to use; mostly Americana, math, and foreign language originals. To find what's publicly available, select a category, "Show Descriptions," then search for the word "Internet." An easier way in is to click here and then "Browse."
Online Books at the University of Pennsylvania, mostly collects links to other sources
Project Gutenberg: vast but primitive, 20,000 texts in ASCII format (no hyperlinks), apparently mostly intended for downloading rather than online reading, and each starts or ends with about six pages of self-promotion, disclaimers, and the like.
Poetry in Translation, Tony Kline's online archive of poetry and translations. Homer, Chaucer, Goethe, Dante, more, with hyperlinked notes.
The Literature Page, 226 works by 85 authors, which isn't much but you can customize the online display (font, size, color)
Hanover Historical Texts Project has perhaps a hundred works not widely available; focus is mostly on "primary texts" such as journals, letters, and edicts. Looks good on the Presocratics. Last updated 2001.
4Literature, not that big (2000 titles), hard to use, but maybe they have what you want
Constitution Society, home of the impressive Liberty Library of Constitutional Classics. Just in case "Vol 43: American State Papers" only whets your appetite.
Ancient Greece article in Wikipedia, excellent historical summary (776 BC to 323 BC) with links to many other pages
Bernard Suzanne's excellent site on Plato and His Dialogues also includes marvelous maps of Athens during Plato's time.
Hellenistic Greece article in Wikipedia, excellent historical summary (323 BC to 146 BC) with links to many pages
Hellas, Michael Lahanas' large, complex site covering most topics relating to ancient Greece, in fractured English.
Links page at E-Classics. Well-organized, but I haven't checked the links.
Bill Thayer's site with a ton of "Roman Antiquities," including translations of Latin classics.
Ancient Rome article in Wikipedia, a comprehensive index to many Wiki articles on Ancient Rome
Ancient History (Greece, Rome, and others)
List of free scholarly journals in English on archaeology, classical studies, and the like. These are not "popular" magazines, eh?
Livius, articles on ancient history, written by Jona Lendering; 1606 web pages, but the organization is a bit chaotic. Greece, Rome, Egypt, Persia, Anatolia, Judea, lower Germany, Mesopotamia, and Carthage; many photos.
About: Ancient Classical History, includes newsletter, forums (free registration required); not as trivial as most of what you find at "About," this is moderated by a Ph.D., but still heavily commercialized.
WWW VL (World Wide Web Virtual Library) "History Central Catalog" of the European University Institute, Florence, Italy. Despite the grandiose title, a rather lame site of broken links and links to junk. However, the Ancient Greeks page works, so some others may as well.
Malaspina Great Books site has background and historical information on probably all the authors in the GBWW as well as many more. Their text is mostly cribbed from Wikipedia, the Catholic Encyclopedia, and other online sources, so you'd probably do better to start with the Wikipedia.
Wikipedia, a great place to start any research. User-written articles (almost 450,000 so far) on almost every conceivable subject, hyperlinked together and indexed/searchable; surprisingly, this works well.
Geometry.net, a well organized index of links, plus extracts from other sites. A valuable way to find the sites you want.
Open Directory Project, user-written index of the whole Internet, it seems. More links than you can possibly check out, but maintenance is spotty. For example, the History category claims to have 12,000 links in various subcategories.
GradeSaver Classic Notes has brief biographies of some GBWW authors plus summaries, analysis, essays, quizzes, and links for some titles.
Cambridge History of English and American Literature, published 1907-21: "essay topics ranging from poetry, fiction, drama and essays to history, theology and political writing. The set encompasses a wide selection of writing on orators, humorists, poets, newspaper columnists, religious leaders, economists, Native Americans, song writers, and even non-English writing, such as Yiddish and Creole." At Bartleby.
Encyclopedia Mythica offers many mythologies, folklore, bestiary, religion, genealogies, and an image gallery.
Second Edition contents, a page created by Robert Teeter. He's done a lot of indexing; his Home Page is worth a look
Comparison of the two editions, volume-by-volume; also available as a MS Word document.
New Yorker article from 1952, Dwight Macdonald, "The Book-of-the-Millennium Club," highly critical of the GBWW project--for those who want to be talked out of starting the ten-year reading plan.
Sidney Hook here offers a scathing criticism of the St. Johns College curriculum, a degree program based on the Great Books.
Who Killed Homer? Critical article about "multicultural classicists" and the decline of knowledge about the ancient Greeks and Romans. If you read this, you'll also want to read A Reply to Our Critics.
Ten year reading plan, first edition, with links to online texts. Does not provide details of page or chapter assignments, just the title.
Britannica Store where you can buy the 2nd edition of the GBWW if you want to pay list price ($1,195.00). Or a site called LifeWisdom has it at $695.00 (plus $45.00 for shipping) through Amazon. By going to Amazon directly the price is $845.75 with free shipping. I'd try eBay and eBay Stores first, though (Buy-it-Now prices are typically $699.95). Slightly used sets are cheaper, or you can get the first edition if you'd rather.
Jump to Top or Top of Links Disclaimer: While I consider myself to be sensitive to issues important to feminists and "persons of color," I make no apologies for the fact that the Great Books collection includes only the works of dead white men. I am not responsible for the choice of works included. While I consider the "Great Books" to be a valuable part of a liberal education, I see them as a part only, and just the beginning of a true education.
You can buy the second edition of the Great Books of the Western World from Amazon; if you buy it through this link, I'll get a percentage. So I am shilling shamelessly for Amazon.com. (Note: that "best price" is for a single used volume).