Great Books Seminars

Class Outside Of O Shaughnessy Hall

At the core of PLS are the Great Books Seminars: small classes of 10-16 students devoted to the study of foundational texts beginning in ancient Greece and ending in mid-twentieth-century America. There are no textbooks in these seminars. Rather, students encounter a wide variety of primary works that have shaped individuals and societies, influenced historical change, and continue to inspire and trouble readers today.

“PLS taught me how to think critically, be a good writer, and read massive amounts of pages quickly and efficiently. It was the perfect preparation for law school. PLS was a very big part of my life at Notre Dame, and it shaped me not only as a professional but also as a human being.” - Kiki Manzur, PLS '17, Yale Law '20, First-Year Associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, New York, NY.


PLS 23101 Seminar I

The first in a series of six Great Books seminars, this course focuses on ancient Greek literature and is designed to introduce students to the great books seminar method, which emphasizes discussion, close reading, and the communication of complex ideas. Authors include Homer, Sappho, Herodotus, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Thucydides, Aristophanes, and Plato.

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PLS 23102 Seminar II

The second seminar in the Great Books sequence, this course represents a continuation of Great Books Seminar I. The material studied extends from ancient Greece through the Roman period to early Christianity and into the Middle Ages. It also includes texts from various Asian traditions, which either were historically or are thematically in dialogue with the Greek and Latin works of this period. Authors include Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Cicero, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Vergil, Ovid, Epictetus, Plotinus, Augustine, Santideva, and Anselm.

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PLS 33101 Seminar III

Continuing from Great Books Seminar II, this course focuses on great works of the High Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Authors include Ibn Tufyl, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Dante, Petrarch, Chaucer, Julian of Norwich, Erasmus, Machiavelli, Thomas More, Luther, Montaigne, Teresa of Avila, and Cervantes.

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PLS 33102 Seminar IV

Continuing from Great Books Seminar III, this course focuses on works from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment period. Authors include Shakespeare, Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Milton, Pascal, Swift, Hume, Rousseau, Voltaire, Adam Smith, Mozart, Kant, Goethe, Austen, Mary Shelley.

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PLS 43101 Seminar V

The first in the senior Great Books seminar sequence, this course focuses on classic texts from the nineteenth-century in Europe and America. Authors include Tolstoy, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Tocqueville, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Melville, Thoreau, Marx, Flaubert, and John Stuart Mill.

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PLS 43102 Seminar VI

The second in the senior Great Books seminar sequence, this course focuses on works of seminal importance from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Europe and America. Authors include Darwin, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Du Bois, Max Weber, William James, Thomas Mann, Freud, Primo Levi, Woolf, Wittgenstein, Ralph Ellison, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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