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Columbia University Course in Literature 1928


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Columbia University Course in Literature 1928
November 3, 2014

In his introduction to the Columbia University Course in Literature, Nicholas Murray Butler (April 2, 1862 – December 7, 1947 American philosopher, diplomat, and educator, president of Columbia University, Nobel Peace Prize 1931) writes, “It is not easy, even if possible, to say anything new about literature. Criticism, exposition, and analysis have long since been exhausted themselves and that which has stood their test has thereby become classic.” We read literature to find out about the conditions of life’s experience and to think about the ramifications.

In 1928, this course in eighteen volumes, attempted to capture the great literary works, examining the fundamental conditions of life, thought, religious and economic experience which have shaped the literary expression of the ages. Over the next few months, perhaps two years, we propose to examine volumes thirteen (The Romantic Revival in England) and fourteen (The Great Victorians), with a focus on lesser known figures in British literature. Since the Columbia Course is very expensive, and hard to come by, we will also use other books including, but not limited to:

Masterpieces of Christian Literature in summary Form, and Masterpieces of World Literature in Digest Form, both by Frank N. Magill, Harper and Row

George Herbert and Henry Vaughan, The Oxford Authors, edited by Louis L. Martz, Oxford University Press

The Oxford Anthology of English Literature: The Literature of Renaissance England, by John Hollander and Frank Kermode, Oxford University Press, with a particular focus on John Donne.

The Oxford Book of English Verse, Arthur Quiller-Couch, Oxford University Press

The Idea is for each participant to select one author or one literary piece each month, developing the idea, and sharing with the other participants, collecting to be published at the end of the program on the web site or blog. We do not have to all be reading the same authors or use the same books. If you are interested in reading along, please email

In the British Tradition, the awards include, Licentiate in Literature (L.Litt); Master of Christian Literature (M.Litt)

The love of learning,
the desire for God, 
commitment to beauty.

Program development: John Keliher, Diana Whitecross, Peter Riola