Great Books Summer Seminar Series

Thank you for your interest in the Great Books Summer Seminar Series. All seminars are currently full. We are no longer accepting applications.


Online For High School Students Aged 15-18

Many students like you are sheltering at home, unable to access the academic experience you wanted this semester. St. John’s College is changing that for students aged 15-18 who seek intellectual challenge during even the most difficult times, which is why we’re launching a new online Great Books Summer Seminar Series.

Because we are dedicated to providing access to thoughtful students who seek academic challenge, St. John’s is offering an extremely limited number of places at no cost to those who are admitted into the seminar series. Our Summer Seminars are real St. John’s College seminars led by our full-time faculty. Here, you can expect small seminars where you engage in vigorous discussions with other students who love great books, new ideas, and deep conversation—just like you.

The deadline to apply is June 1.

Each seminar series lasts one week, and students may register for up to two weeks. We will be offering the following seminars:

  1. June 8-12: Plato, Phaedo
  2. June 15-19: Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (excerpts)
  3. June 22-26: Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels
  4. June 29-July 3: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers (selections); The Declaration of Independence; The United States Constitution
  5. July 6-10: Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
  6. July 13-17: William Shakespeare, Macbeth
  7. July 20-24: W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
  8. July 27-31: American Poetry: Selections from Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman
The Summer Seminar Series application is now closed.


What is the platform?

Seminars will meet over Zoom, which is a free platform but must be downloaded to a device in advance.

When will seminars meet?

Seminars will meet for 75 minutes at the same time each day (Monday–Friday). On the application, you will select preferred times (morning, afternoon, or evening EDT), but we cannot guarantee a specific time.

How will I get the books?

We recommend ordering your books well in advance from an online vendor.  See our list of our recommended editions.

How many sessions can I join?

We will do our best to meet all interest for admitted students, but we cannot guarantee more than two sessions.

How reflective are the seminars of the St. John’s experience?

St. John’s is a closely-knit community that values great books, small classes, and vigorous discussion. All classes are led by full-time faculty. The college is at its best when face-to-face in our classrooms, dining halls, libraries, and dorm rooms, but world events make that impossible at the moment. The silver lining: our curriculum and pedagogy adapt very well to an online format. Unlike online education that relies on pre-recorded classes and lectures, St. John’s classes that are held online at this moment of necessity are vibrant, with all students fully engaged in the conversation, and coming to life with warmth and connection.