Literature transports students beyond the limits of their experience to contemplate from within humans whose lives can illuminate their own hearts and souls. Students embark on epic journeys with Dante and Virgil, Huck and Jim, Sancho and Don Quixote, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam, each pair of travelers challenging readers to fundamentally rethink and reevaluate their own experience of the world. Readings range from novels such as War and Peace and Mrs. Dalloway to the close analysis of tragedies by Sophocles and Shakespeare, and lyric by poets such as Donne and Dickenson.


Literature is one of the many subjects studied in the college’s interdisciplinary great books curriculum. There are no majors at St. John’s. Instead, students explore all these subjects over the course of all four years. Learn more about St. John’s classes.

Books and More

Aeschylus Agamemnon, Eumenides, Libation Bearers, Prometheus Bound

Dante Alighieri Divine Comedy

Aristophanes Clouds

Aristotle Poetics

Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice, Emma

Charles Baudelaire Les Fleurs du Mal

Elizabeth Bishop Poems

Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote

Geoffrey Chaucer Canterbury Tales

Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness

Emily Dickinson Poems

John Donne Poems

Fyodor Dostoevsky Brothers Karamazov

George Eliot Middlemarch

T. S. Eliot Poems

Euripides Bacchae, Hippolytus

William Faulkner Go Down Moses

Gustave Flaubert Un Coeur Simple

Gabriel Garcia-Marquez One Hundred Years of Solitude

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust

Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlett Letter

Homer Iliad, Odyssey

Franz Kafka The Metamorphosis

Madame de La Fayette La Princesse de Clèves

Jean de La Fontaine Fables

Lucretius On the Nature of Things

Andrew Marvell Poems

Herman Melville Benito Cereno

John Milton Paradise Lost

Molière Le Misanthrope

Flannery O’Connor Selected stories

Jean Racine Phèdre

Arthur Rimbaud Poems

Sappho Poems

Franz Schubert Songs

William Shakespeare As You Like It, Hamlet, Henry IV, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Richard II, Sonnets, The Tempest

Sophocles Ajax, Antigone, Oedipus at Colonus , Oedipus Rex, Philoctetes

Wallace Stevens Poems

Jonathan Swift Gulliver’s Travels

Leo Tolstoy War and Peace

Mark Twain The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Paul Valéry Poems

Virgil Aeneid

Virginia Woolf Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse

William Wordsworth The Two Part Prelude of 1799

William Butler Yeats Poems

Hebrew Bible

New Testament

Poems by Other 16th- and 17th-Century Poets

Aeschylus Agamemnon, Prometheus Bound

Dante Alighieri Divine Comedy

Hannah Arendt The Human Condition

Ariosto Orlando Furioso

Aristophanes Frogs

Aristotle Ethics, Rhetoric, Rhetoric and Poetics

Jane Austen Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion

Mikhail Bakhtin “Epic and Novel”

William Blake Jerusalem

Jorge Luis Borges Ficciones

Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre

Mikhail Bulgakov The Master and Margarita

Lord Byron Don Juan

Albert Camus The Myth of Sisyphus, The Plague (and other writings)

Louis-Ferdinand Céline Journey to the End of the Night

Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote

Geoffrey Chaucer Canterbury Tales

Anton Chekhov Short stories

Joseph Conrad Lord Jim, Under Western Eyes

E. E. Cummings Selected Poems

Charles Dickens David Copperfield

Sue Dongpo Poems and writing

Fyodor Dostoevsky Demons, The Devils, Brothers Karamazov

W. E. B. Dubois Souls of Black Folk

George Eliot Middlemarch, Daniel Deronda

Euripides Alcestis, Plays: emphasis on Bacchae

William Faulkner A Fable, The Sound and the Fury, “Snopes Trilogy”

Gustave Flaubert Madame Bovary

William Gaddis The Recognitions

Gabriel García Marquez One Hundred Years of Solitude

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust, Parts I and II

Martin Heidegger Bremen and Freiburg Lectures; Poetry, Language, Thought

Geoffrey Hill Poems

Homer Iliad, Odyssey

Ibn al-‘Arabi The Ringstones of Wisdom (The Bezels of Wisdom)

David Hume Essays, Moral, Political and Literary

Henry James The Portrait of a Lady

James Joyce Finnegans Wake, Ulysses

Lucretius De rerum natura

Machiavelli The Prince, Discourses on Livy, and Mandragola

Thomas Mann Doctor Faustus, The Magic Mountain

Herman Melville Moby-Dick

John Milton Paradise Lost

Albert Murray Stompin’ the Blues

Robert Musil The Man Without Qualities, Vol. I

Vladimir Nabokov Lolita (and other writings)

Alexander Pushkin Eugene Onegin

Flannery O’Connor Wise Blood (and selected short stories)

Ovid Metamorphoses

Gustave Pécuchet Bouvard and Pecuchet

Fernando Pessoa The Book of Disquiet

Plato Meno, Ion, and Euthyphro

Rainer Maria Rilke Duino Elegies, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, New Poems and Letters on Cézanne

Friedrich Schiller Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man

William Shakespeare Comedies and Romances, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night, Antony and Cleopatra, Cymbeline, Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest, Hamlet; Henry IV, Part 1; As You Like It, Richard II; Parts I & II; Henry V, Sonnets, Tragedy and Comedy: King Lear and A Winter’s Tale, Richard II, Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V, Measure for Measure and The Taming of the Shrew, Othello, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale

Laurence Sterne The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

Sophocles Trachinian Women and Philoctetes, Ajax and Antigone

Stendhal The Red and The Black, Essay on Love

Tolstoy Anna Karenina, War and Peace

Virgil The Aeneid

Walt Whitman “Oh Captain! My Captain!”

Virginia Woolf To the Lighthouse and Jacob’s Room, A Room of One’s Own, Orlando

The Absalom Story: Bible – Samuel 1 and 2, Kings 1 and 2; Faulkner – Absalom, Absalom

Ancient Greek Drama: Tragedy, Comedy, Satyr play … Philosophy?

Elements of Writing East and West

Erasmus, Luther, and Rabelais

Four American Poets: Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman

Herbert, Donne, Hopkins: God and Poetry

Homeric Hymn to Demeter Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus

Metaphysical Poets: Donne, Herbert, Marvell, and others

Meter and Form in English Poetry


Poetry of John Donne and Emily Dickinson

Poetry of Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Richard Wilbur

Poetry of Wordsworth and Keats

Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, Swann’s Way

The Short Stories of Chekhov

Structuralism: Saussure, Course in General Linguistics; Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology

Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads, The Prelude

Jorge Luis Borges

Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote

George Eliot Middlemarch

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust Translation

James Joyce

Herman Melville Moby-Dick

Marcel Proust

Ayn Rand

William Shakespeare Julius Caesar

Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetics

Chinese Classics

Creative Writing

Eastern Classics

Eastern Literature and Philosophy

German Poetry


Great Works by Women Writers

Hispanic Literature

Italian Poetry Translation

Italian Translation

Latin Poetry


Philosophy of Language



Queer Theory


The information presented is for illustration purposes only and may not reflect the current reading list and preceptorial and study group offerings. Works listed are studied at one or both campuses, although not always in their entirety.

Senior Essay

Decoding the Language of Laughter – An Analysis of Comedy through Cervantes’ Don Quixote

Senior Essay

We Are In The Soup Together - Albert Camus’ House of Mirrors

Senior Essay

Taking on the Dimension of Immortality – In Pursuit of a Lasting Beauty in Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal

Senior Essay

Elizabeth Laughs: Unexpected Union in Pride and Prejudice

Senior Essay

Myopia and Justice in Aeschylus’ Oresteia

Senior Essay

What is a Karamazov soul? Exploration of the Karamazovian nature through suffering and redemption in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov

Senior Essay

On Letting Others Down: Embodiment and Responsibility across Inferno 1, Purgatorio 17/18, and Paradiso 33

Senior Essay

Self Revelation in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God

Senior Essay

Locked Out of the Ivory Tower: An Exploration of Interruption in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own

Senior Essay

Criticize the Critic: How Molière Satirizes Self-Superiority in The Misanthrope

Senior Essay

A Barrel Full of Ingredients: Understanding the Episodic Life of Huckleberry Finn

Senior Essay

The Man of Stone: How to Live According to Tolstoy

Senior Essay

The Hollow Silence of Modernity: In Search of Transcendence in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain

Senior Essay

Why is Gulliver So Restless?

Senior Essay

Sacrifice and Love in Othello and Much Ado About Nothing

Senior Essay

Boundless the Deep – Why Evil is Possible, and Permitted, in Perfect Beings – John Milton’s Paradise Lost

Senior Essay

Fade-In – The Cinematography of Marcel Proust in Swann’s Way

Senior Essay

Cheating Fancy: The Role of Imagination in Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale

Senior Essay

The Legacy of the Barricade – Finding Light in the Darkness in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables

Senior Essay

Through the Eyes of Others: Shame and its Predicates in Homer’s Iliad

Senior Essay

The Search for Love Amidst Mortality in William Wordsworth’s “Ode (‘There was a time’)”

Senior Essay

Too Good a Man: The Terror and Timidity of Starbuck in Melville’s Moby Dick

Senior Essay

A Stew of Truths and Mirages: Cycles of Time, Solitude, and Learning in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude

Great Works by Women Writers

Student Group

Students meet regularly to discuss great books written by women. Some of the past works read were Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Teresa of Avila’s “The Ecstasy of St. Theresa” and Virginia Woolf’s Essays.

Senior Essay

Tightrope Walking the Dual Abyss: Vulgarity and Lyricism, Sex and Romance, as Expressed by Woman in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary

Senior Essay

The American Veil: An Exploration of American Identity and Double-consciousness in James Baldwin’s essays and W.E.B. Dubois’s The Souls of Black Folk

Pear Press


The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

Senior Essay

Suffering and Gotama the Buddha: A Case Study of Enlightenment and the Elements of Its Attainment from the Bodhirajakumara Sutta

Renmin University of China, Department of Language & Literature


The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

Hemingway Letters Project at Pennsylvania State University


The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

The Grout

Student Group

The Grout is a student-run publication showcasing literary pieces, visual art and musical compositions. 

New York University Press, Sales and Marketing Department


The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

Senior Essay

Understanding Through Perception: An Exploration of How Literature Shapes Readers’ Perception of Truth in Both Fiction and Reality in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

Princeton University Press


The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

David R. Godine, Inc.


The Hodson and Ariel Internship Programs support Johnnies who want to pursue internships that would otherwise be unpaid.

Senior Essay

The Apocalypse of the Hollow Man—An investigation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Senior Essay

The Struggle Doesn’t Have to be Real: The Role of the Body in the Writings of Chuang Tzu

Storytellers Guild

Student Group

Senior Essay

To Change the Lights: Modern Sainthood in George Eliot’s Middlemarch