Why Study the Great Books?

In his introduction to his translation of Athanasius’s  On the Incarnation,  C. S. Lewis wrote, “Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”

Here’s what CLRC Great Books 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. 

Great Books has been, for me, a point to ground myself at, a place that the reader can see that others struggle and have struggled with the same ideas and problems that we have today. 

The whole of the Great Books has shown me how close and connected humanity is, even through pain and trial. “

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

“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.

“By reading the ‘Great Books’ we gain the insight and knowledge of our ancestors and begin to understand how we have been formed. These books are our guide through life by giving us morals, understanding, and perspective beyond ourselves.

These fundamental themes of Western Culture help us come to a better understanding of how our society was formed, and help us understand the problems and issues we face in our daily lives.

The Great Books do not discuss beliefs and ideas that are “ancient”, but rather ones that transcend time and culture, are part of our lives today, and likely will be as long as humanity endures.”

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

Sue Ellen Turscak, M.A.

sue-ellen-turscak-great-books-clrcSue Ellen Turscak began her teaching career at Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She 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, she is the director of the 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. She resides with her husband and two cats in Ohio, and attends St. Elia the Prophet Orthodox Church. She enjoys reading, cooking, international travel.