About the CLRC
Great Books Program
The Great Books program at the CLRC is a series of Socratic tutorials covering the classic Western canon of “Great Books.” Students interested in this program must take the courses in sequence.
In addition to critical reading and engaged class discussions, CLRC Great Books courses cover the history and basic principles of classical rhetoric, and the skill of determining the structure of spoken communication (speeches, debates, arguments) and written works of all kinds — from the sentence level to paragraphs to whole books. Current articles are considered in addition to extensive reading and discussion of literary and historical primary sources. Papers include classical rhetorical exercises, literary analysis, historical essays, persuasive writing, and occasional creative responses to texts. CLRC Great Books courses emphasize the writing process, from outline to draft to revision, with extensive feedback addressing students’ individual writing challenges.
“My children have taken numerous writing and literature courses through other online providers. Not one of those classes comes close to the level and caliber of Great Books. I am ashamed to admit the amount of money that our family has spent on writing courses because I never felt comfortable teaching this particular subject; we have been disappointed time and time again with homeschool writing classes. For the first time in three years, my son has finally had a productive and exceptional year in this subject area thanks to his Great Books class and to his CLRC Literature and Composition class. He found both courses to be tremendously enjoyable, highly engaging, and most importantly, incredibly meaningful. Everyone I have talked to is in agreement – CLRC Great Books is an outstanding class!” — Tanya D., Massachusetts
After graduating from the CLRC Great Books program, Christianna entered Hillsdale College and found herself very well prepared for her courses there!
“I have been wanting to convey how appreciative I am to have had the opportunity to take Great Books with you. … thank you for exposing me to and making me love a type of literature that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise realized even exists!” Christianna L., student at Hillsdale College
What students have to say about the importance of reading, discussing, and wrestling deeply with the Great Books:
“[The Great Books] have stood the test of time because of their excellence in uncovering the human spirit. [They] are compelling and intensely relatable.[Studying the Great Books] has constantly forced me to change my perspective and question my beliefs. A kind of “trial by fire” for the mind leads the reader to a deeper sense of maturity, and a deeper appreciation for literature, and the arts in general.”
For the complete text of this student’s essay, CLICK HERE.
The CLRC Great Books program focuses on literary and historical primary sources from the ancient world through the Renaissance and the early modern world. The literature is read for its own merit and studied within the historical and cultural time period in which it was written.
In Year 1, as we read the Iliad and Odyssey, the backdrop of Homer’s great epic is an assumed faith in the Olympian pantheon. Students are not required to express belief in Zeus, Hera, Apollo and the other Olympian gods. The class will not seek to criticize or disprove the religious underpinning of the text. However, students must understand that this is the religious assumption on which the epic is based. Similarly, Year 2 focuses on the Foundational Texts of Ancient Rome. In the first semester students study the pre-Christian authors Vergil, Caesar, Livy, Sallust, Tacitus and Plutarch. The second semester moves on to the period of history which is dominated by the rise of the Christian Church. Students read Eusebius, Augustine, Athanasius and other early Christian writers. These texts and this period of history are essential to an understanding of the texts studied in Great Books 3 – the period of the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance – which is dominated by the conflict of Faith and Reason. As with the religion of Ancient Greece and Rome, students are not required to subscribe to belief in particular Christian doctrines, but they should understand that foundational texts of the Christian faith will be read in the second half of Year 2.
Students from all faiths and creeds are encouraged to read, understand, and write about the texts through the lens of their own beliefs, in an environment of open, caring, and conscientiously moderated discussion. Students who have questions or doubts reading ancient Greek and Roman texts, or texts of the early Christian church, may wish to contact the instructor for more information or choose a CLRC Literature and Composition class instead.
Sue Ellen Turscak, M.A.
Sue Ellen Turscak has been a teacher of Great Books, Literature, and Composition at Heritage Classical Academy in northeast Ohio since 2006. Prior to that she taught English for ten years at Western Reserve Academy, an independent college preparatory school, and before that, Russian language and literature at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia.
She earned her A.B. In History and Literature, magna cum laude, from Harvard University in 1986, and a Master in Humanities, summa cum laude, from Tiffin University in 2009. Her thesis was on the forms of contemporary classical Christian education.
During the summer months, from 2010-2017, she was the director of her own Merely Players Shakespeare Camp, a two-week day camp for 7th grade through early college focused on exploring Shakespeare thematically through performance. In 2013, she was the recipient of the American Shakespeare Center’s Words in Action Award “to deserving teachers to honor their commitment in bringing Shakespeare to life for their students.”
Sue Ellen homeschooled her two children through high school. Her son works as a data scientist for a major consulting firm, and her daughter is a software developer for Microsoft. Sue Ellen resides with her husband and one very grumpy cat in Northeast Ohio, and attends St. Elia the Prophet Orthodox Church. She enjoys reading, cooking, international travel, and all things Russian and Slavic in general.