Shimer College

What is a Great Books College ?

At Shimer College, we read masterful texts, great books, that have a lasting impact on the way we think.

And there is not a textbook in sight.

From the very beginning of your study at Shimer College, you read actual, un-pre-digested writings by the greatest thinkers to ever put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, in some cases).

Your professors guide you through the experience of these great texts, some classic, some modern, helping you understand what’s being said and develop your own critical insights.

You’ll encounter these texts both in your core courses, which virtually everyone at Shimer takes, and in your electives, which you select based on your specialized interests.

The texts read in core courses is reviewed at regular intervals. The current complete list of texts in the core courses follows below. Imagine, you will be familiar with all of these great books by the end of your time at Shimer. Impressive, isn’t it?

The Shimer Core Curriculum, 2014-15

HUMANITIES 1: ART AND MUSIC

Albers, Interaction of Color

Alberti, On Painting

Cooper, Learning to Listen

Leonardo, Notebooks

Plato, Ion

Rilke, Letters on Cezanne

Steinberg, Leonardo’s Incessant Last Supper

Taylor, Learning to Look

Tolstoy, What is Art?

Vasari, Lives of the Artists

HUMANITIES 2: POETRY, DRAMA AND FICTION

The Norton Anthology of Poetry

Aristotle, Poetics

Auerbach, “Odysseus’ Scar”

Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

Homer, Odyssey

Sophocles, Oedipus the King, Antigone

Shakespeare, Hamlet

Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

HUMANITIES 3: PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY

Anselm, Proslogion

Aquinas, Summa Theologica

Aristotle, Metaphysics

Augustine, Confessions

The Bible, Genesis, John, I Corinthians

Descartes, Meditations

Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

Locke, Essay on Human Understanding

Pascal, Pensées

Plato, Apology, Phaedo, Phaedrus, Symposium

Teresa of Ávila, Autobiography 

HUMANITIES 4: MODERN CURRENTS IN THE HUMANITIES

Beauvoir, Ethics of Ambiguity

Buber, I and Thou

Derrida, Dissemination

Kafka, The Trial

Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics

Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics

SOCIAL SCIENCES 1: SOCIETY, CULTURE, AND PERSONALITY

Benedict, Patterns of Culture

Chodorow, “Family Structure and Feminine Personality”

Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk

Durkheim, Suicide

Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis

Gilligan, In a Different Voice

James, Psychology:  The Briefer Course

Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts

of 1844

Piaget, “Moral Feelings and Judgments”

Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments

Weber, Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

SOCIAL SCIENCES 2: THE WESTERN POLITCAL TRADITION

Aristotle, Politics, Nicomachean Ethics

Douglass, Story of My Life

Hobbes, Leviathan

Locke, Second Treatise on Civil Government

Machiavelli, The Prince

Plato, Republic

Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of

Inequality, Emile

Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Women

U.S. Declaration of Independence

U.S. Constitution

Federalist Papers

SOCIAL SCIENCES 3: MODERN THEORIES OF SOCIETY AND POLITICS

Arendt, The Human Condition

Beauvoir, The Second Sex

Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, Philosophy of Right

Marshall, Principles of Economics

Marx, Das Kapital, “Manifesto of the

Communist Party”

Mill, On Liberty

Sartre, Essays on Existentialism

Smith, Wealth of Nations

Tocqueville, Democracy in America

SOCIAL SCIENCES 4: SOCIAL PERSPECTIVES AND SOCIAL ACTION

Durkheim, Rules of Sociological Method

Foucault, History of Sexuality

Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Geertz, Interpretation of Cultures

Harding, ed., Feminism and Methodology

Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities

Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia

Milgram, Obedience to Authority

Weber, “Objectivity in the Social Sciences”

NATURAL SCIENCES 1: LAWS AND MODELS IN CHEMISTRY

Aristotle, Physics

Bacon, New Organon

Cannizzaro, Sketch of a Course in Chemical Philosophy

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things

Pascal, Scientific Treatises

The Presocratics

Selections from Boyle, Priestly, Lavoisier, Thompson, Dalton, Avogadro, Joule, Faraday, Mendeleev, Curie

NATURAL SCIENCES 2: EVOLUTION, GENETICS, ANIMAL BEHAVIOR

Aristotle, On the Soul, On the Parts of Animals

Chetverikov, On Certain Aspects of the Evolutionary Process

Cuvier, Revolutionary Upheavals on the

Surface of the Globe

Darwin, Origin of Species, Descent of Man

Goodall, Chimpanzees of Gombe

Hardy, Hardy-Weinberg Law

Lamarck, Zoological Philosophy

Lorenz, On Aggression

Mendel, “Experiments in Plant Hybridization”

NATURAL SCIENCES 3: THE NATURE OF LIGHT

Descartes, Optics

Galileo, Dialogues Concerning the Two New Sciences

Huygens, Treatise on Light

Newton, Opticks, Principia

Selections from du Fay, Franklin, Faraday, Hertz, Maxwell, Oersted, Young

NATURAL SCIENCES 4: MODERN SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS

Carroll, Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Dyson, Origins of Life

Einstein, Relativity, “Photoelectric Effect”

Feynman, QED, Character of Physical Law

Gamow, Thirty Years that Shook Physics

Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy

Schrödinger, What is Life?, ”Four Lectures on Wave Mechanics”

Selections from Crick, Davisson, Millikan, Spermann

INTEGRATIVE STUDIES 5: HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION

Epic of Gilgamesh

Aeschylus, Oresteia

Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles

Aristotle, On the Heavens

Augustine, City of God

The Bible, Genesis, The Gospels

Dante, Inferno

Herodotus, Persian Wars

Hildegard of Bingen

Homer, Iliad

Plato, Republic

Ptolemy, Almagest

Sappho, Poetry

Thucydides, Peloponnesian War

Virgil, Aeneid

INTEGRATIVE STUDIES 6: HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION

Chaucer, Canterbury Tales

Copernicus, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres

Galileo, “On the Heavens”

Goethe, Faust

Hume, Treatise on Human Nature

Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysic of Morals

Kepler, Epitome of Copernican Astronomy

Luther, Three Treatises

Milton, Paradise Lost

Pizan, Treasure of the City of Ladies

Shakespeare, Tempest