NOTE: Both Great Books III and Great Books IV will be Offered for 2021-22!

Great Books III: Foundational Texts of the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance

In this rigorous Socratic tutorial, students read many of the foundational texts of the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance. Students explore the medieval epic and the beginnings or literary culture in Europe: the age of chivalry, feudal society, British history and legend, and the Scholastic writers. Assignments focus on the ideas that moved those ages: the tensions between faith and reason, morality and “courtly love,” the culture of earthly glory and heroism and a growing introspection and reflection on the nature of the soul.

Each week, students produce thoughtful, text-based responses to topical and reflective questions, as well as 300-word Summae–short essays that expand upon ideas raised in class discussions. Students write several longer essays in analytical, expository, and creative/analytical formats. The instructor provides feedback on both content and composition, nurturing the development of students’written expression and writing proficiency.

This class meets once a week. Classes are two hours in length. Students should expect approximately 6 hours of homework (reading, study questions, and composition) per week. Because of this rigorous amount of work, the course may be counted for up to two high school credits, depending on your state’s requirements.

High school students may also take this course for dual enrollment credit through the University of St. Katherine. Upon completion, the University will issue the student a transcript with 3 college credits per semester. USK credits are transferable to other colleges and universities.

“I am so delighted with Mrs. Turscak’s Great Books III class this year!!  My daughter likes it and is reading and thinking and writing way more than she’s done for any other Great Books class we’ve used!  Wish I had committed to it three or so years ago when I first heard about it!”
– Yvonne B, California

Great Books III is a course in Literature, History, and Composition.

Literature and History:

Major themes in the course come from the works themselves including the values they endorse and the metaphors for understanding life they offer.

Texts include the following in their entirety:
1) Beowulf
2) The Song of Roland
3) The History of the Kings of Britain (Geoffrey of Monmouth)
4) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
5) Le Morte d’Arthur (Malory)
6) The Canterbury Tales (Chaucer)
7) Amleth and Shakespeare’s Hamlet
8) Scholastics and mystics: Anselm, Bernard de Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine,
Hildegard of Bingen
9) The Prince (Machiavelli)
10) Henry V (Shakespeare)
11) The medieval morality play, Everyman
12) The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Dante)
13) Doctor Faustus (Marlowe)


This course continues to refine students’ writing skills through the study of classical rhetoric. Students will be able to identify and analyze the structure of spoken and written communication, applying the techniques to their own writing about the literature and history of the Medieval and early Renaissance periods. Students read and discuss primary sources from the Great Books III Literature and History texts and compose weekly summae – written responses of approximately 300 words in response to ideas presented in the texts. Other writing assignments include classical rhetorical exercises, literary analysis, writing about history, persuasive writing, and occasional creative responses to texts. The writing process is emphasized — from outline to draft to revision. Students  receive extensive feedback from the instructor at each stage of this process with multiple opportunities to revise and re-submit their work. Students learn to use MLA format for in-text citations and bibliographic references for each essay and summa.

“Because of their Great Books classes with Sue Ellen Turscak, my children have an incredible love and understanding of great literature and can express it in writing in a manner that is rarely seen today and almost never seen in high school students.”
— Heidi B., Ohio

Additional Note:

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 preChristian 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.

What students have to say about the importance of reading, discussing, and wrestling deeply with the Great Books:

“When we [read the Great Books], we see a pattern relating people’s happiness in life to where they place their focus. Specifically, when people are self-absorbed, they tend to be unhappy. When people focus their energy on others, and step outside of themselves, they find true fulfillment. The great books of Western culture show us that the good life is achieved by actively striving to serve other people.”

For the complete text of this student’s essay, CLICK HERE.

Prerequisites: Great Books II, or equivalent at the high school level with permission of instructor
Instructor:  Julia Connors; supervising teacher Sue Ellen Turscak will be working closely with the instructor for this class
Age Level:  Ages 13 – 17
Minimum Enrollment Required: 4
Maximum Enrollment: 12  
Tuition per Semester (Regular):  $425
Tuition per Semester (Dual Enrollment): $625
Class Meets: Tuesdays, 10:30 – 12:30 AM Pacific. (PLEASE NOTE: Class begins the week of August 30)

Fall enrollment is closed. Students may be able to enroll with the instructor’s permission. Please contact Spring registration opens Oct 18th.

(If you would like to enroll in this class but cannot attend at the posted time, please contact us.  We may be able to open an additional section.)

Problems Registering?    Click here    for help.  

Julia Connors, B.A., Great Books III Instructor

Julia Connors has been involved in classical education for most of her life. After attending Heritage Study Center where she studied Great Books with Sue Ellen Turscak, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature at Grove City College, along with a minor in Classical Christian Education. She went on to teach at Holy Trinity Classical Christian School in Beaufort, South Carolina for four years, where she taught a variety of courses from English to Latin to classical literature.
Julia now lives in northeast Ohio with her cat, Ember. She is completing a Master of Library and Information Science Degree at Kent State University and enjoys reading, knitting, and spending time outdoors.

Sue Ellen Turscak, M.A., CLRC Great Books Supervisor

sue-ellen-turscak-great-books-clrcSue 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.


  1. Beowulf
  2. The Song of Roland
  3. The History of the Kings of Britain (Geoffrey of Monmouth)
  4. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  5. Le Morte d’Arthur (Malory)
  6. The Canterbury Tales (Chaucer)
  7. Selections from the Scholastic writers (texts provided by instructor)
  8. Amleth and Hamlet
  9. The Prince (Machiavelli)
  10. Henry V
  11. The medieval morality play, Everyman
  12. Dante’s Inferno
  13. Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus
  14. The Middle Ages (Morris Bishop)


Students in this course are REQUIRED to use the SPECIFIC EDITIONS of the texts listed below.
In a course based on detailed discussion of classic works, it is imperative that students use editions with the same pagination, section divisions, and line numbering. These particular editions also contain helpful maps, summaries, etc. which are extremely valuable for students.

Amazon links for textbooks and materials are provided for the convenience of our parents and students. 
The CLRC is an Amazon Associate.



Song of Roland


The History of the Kings of Britain


The Divine Comedy:Inferno


Sir Gawain & The Green Knight


Le Morte D’Arthur


The Prince


Dr. Faustus


The Middle Ages




Henry V


In addition, the following readings will be provided by the instructor as links or PDFs:

1) The Lay of the Host of Igor (Slavic epic) (PDF provided by instructor)
2)  Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (Prologue and several selected tales; linked by instructor)
3) Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love (excerpts; linked by instructor)
4) Amleth (linked by instructor)
5) Scholastics and mystics: Anselm, Bernard de Clairvaux, Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Hildegard of Bingen (provided by instructor – links and PDFs)
6) The medieval morality play, Everyman (provided by instructor)