What is Great Literature?

II. July 17–July 28, 2023
Day & Time:
Monday-Friday, 12:00-3:00 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 variety of genres and a wide range of historical periods. Some of the authors we may cover include Homer, Sappho, Du Fu, Shakespeare, Kafka, Hemingway, Lorca, Elizabeth Bishop, Ralph Ellison, and Sheila Heti. While our approach is grounded in 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. .

Course participants are expected to contribute actively to class discussion, write a number of informal reaction pieces, and deliver oral presentations on works of their own choosing.

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

No previous knowledge or course work is required.

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 (D01) | Call Number: 10521

Further guidance on the registration process can be found here.


Mark Blacher

Mark Blacher holds a B.A. in English from Columbia University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude, and an M.A. in comparative literature from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). At UCLA, where his focus was on Anglo-American and Russian modernism, 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 has worked with Columbia’s Pre-College Programs for over thirty years, in instructional, administrative, and student life capacities, including several years as Director of Faculty and Instruction. When not teaching at Columbia, he provides private instruction in writing, critical thinking, and literary analysis.

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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.