What is Great Literature?

Fall - September 18–November 21, 2021
Modality, Day & Time:
Online - Saturday, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Mark Blacher

Course Descriptions

Why do we still read The Odyssey almost three thousand years after it was composed? Why is Shakespeare considered to be so important? What makes great literature great? Is it still being written today? Does literature still matter? Can it be important to our lives?

We explore these questions by looking closely at and thinking deeply about works from a wide range of historical periods and in a variety of genres. Some of the authors we may cover include Homer, Sappho, Du Fu, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Elizabeth Bishop, and James Baldwin. While there is a strong emphasis on close reading and formal analysis, we also pay attention to how literature sounds, how it makes us feel, and whether it has personal relevance to us.

Students learn how to read actively, think analytically, present their ideas coherently (in both written and spoken form), and collaborate with their peers--all skills that will be invaluable to them in college and in their personal and professional lives.

Registration Guidance & Call Number(s)

To view detailed information on a particular offering, click on the call number to be directed to the Directory of Classes catalogue.

LITR0104 | Call Number: 15341

Further guidance on the registration process can be found here.


Mark Blacher

Mark Blacher holds a master's degree in comparative literature from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where his focus was on Anglo-American and Russian modernism. While at UCLA he taught classics of world literature from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Calvino’s Invisible Cities, and tutored students in close reading and expository writing. Mark's undergraduate degree is from Columbia University; he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude. He has worked with Columbia’s Pre-College Programs for over thirty years, in administrative, instructional, and student life capacities; for the past several years he served as Director for Faculty and Instruction.

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Specific course details such as topics, activities, hours, and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.