What is an examined life? Can I survive the death of my body? What is justice? Do I have free will? Great books and works of art explore these and other big questions.
Great books and works of art continue to shape the world. Enhance your understanding of contemporary institutions, practices, literature, and art by studying the great works that came before them.
A rich understanding of the west’s cultural heritage is key to a full appreciation of non-western cultures. The study of great books and works of art fosters deep knowledge of western culture.
Narrow specialization is dangerous in a world where most people have several careers. For skills that give you flexibility in a changing work environment, nothing beats the study of great books and artworks. You will learn to master complex ideas, analyze and construct arguments, solve complicated problems, and write clearly and eloquently. These skills will serve you well wherever you go.
What you believe about beauty, justice, truth, freedom and many other issues is shaped by social institutions and practices, which in turn are deeply influenced by great books and works of art. Understanding what has molded your beliefs frees you to consider what you ought to believe and what kind of person to become.
Meet the Faculty
- Karánn Durland (director of WIT, philosophy) enjoys thinking about the great ideas of some pretty great dead philosophers, especially David Hume and other luminaries of the 17th and 18th centuries.
- Tom Blake (English) teaches medieval European literature, including Chaucer and Chretien de Troyes. His research focuses on medieval race, gender studies, and thing theory in late medieval romance.
- Bob Cape (classics) teaches Latin, Greek, and ancient history, with special interests in Latin prose, rhetoric, women in antiquity, and Roman social and intellectual history.
- Daniel Dominick (music) never ceases to be amazed that writers in the past were dealing with issues that seem current and applicable to today.
- Kirk Everist (theater) explores the past through production, directing plays from Aeschylus to Moliere, and has been known to improvise like the Elizabethans.
- Jeff Fontana (art history) teaches courses in ancient, medieval, renaissance, and early modern art. He is particularly interested in Federico Barocci and 16th-century drawing and painting, and artistic responses to the Italian Renaissance in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
- Alex Garganigo (English) teaches early modern British literature, including Shakespeare and Milton. His research focuses on the intersection of literature and politics after the English Civil War and Restoration.
- Max Grober (history) studies the history of ideas from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. He also teaches history of science courses on such topics as Galileo, European Environmental History, and the History of Medicine.
- Mark Hébert (philosophy) teaches Ancient and Medieval Philosophy.
- Elizabeth Ashcroft Terry-Roisin (history) is an early modernist with an abiding love for the Middle Ages, which means she would love you to ask her about imperial Spain, Renaissance learning, and Roman-inspired cathedrals, as well as the long history of crusading, knighthood, and nobility. Her research focuses on the strategies used by a family of Muslim converts to Christianity to assimilate into the nobility of early modern Spain.
- Martin Wells (Classics) teaches Latin, Greek, classical mythology, and ancient civilization. His research interests include archaeology, Hellenistic and Roman Asia Minor, and Greek and Roman Art and Architecture.
“No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.” – Mary Wortley Montagu, LETTERS
“To apply oneself to great inventions, starting from the smallest beginnings, is no task for ordinary minds; to divine that wonderful arts lie hid behind trivial and childish things is a conception for superhuman talents.” – Galileo, DIALOGUE CONCERNING THE TWO CHIEF WORLD SYSTEMS
“It is not strength, but art, obtains the prize, And to be swift is less than to be wise.” – Homer, THE ILIAD
“I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.” — Milton, AREOPAGITICA
“Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.” – Bacon, APOPHTHEGMS
“Wisdom is the conqueror of fortune.” – Juvenal, SATIRES, XIII. 20.
“The excellence of things is in the middle.” – Mandeville on Aristotle in THE TRAVELS OF SIR JOHN MANDEVILLE
“True nobility consists in virtue.” – Dorotea in Cervantes, DON QUIXOTE
“And as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.” – Theseus in Shakespeare, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM V.i.12
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” — Milton, PARADISE LOST
“To have beauty is to have only that, but to have goodness is to be beautiful too.” – Sappho
“There is no wish more natural than the wish to know.” – Montaigne, ESSAYS
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Letter from Sir Isaac Newton to Robert Hooke
“But professional musicians we speak of as vulgar people, and indeed we think it not manly to perform music, except when drunk or for fun.” – Aristotle, POLITICS
“For knowledge is not given as gift, but through study. The free mind, not afraid of labor, presses on to attain the good.” – Laura Cereta, EPISTOLAE