Classic Novels of English Literature: A Cultural and Historical Exploration

Course Description

In this class, we'll explore well-known English novels. We'll learn about their history, impact, and main points, like the story, characters, and themes. By talking about these books in small groups, you'll enjoy and understand them better. The novels studied in this course are inspired by The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise (2016) which is based on the trivium method of education, a classical approach which emphasises critical thinking and analytical skills. Our aim is to help new readers love English literature and improve their reading and speaking skills.

Spring Semester Classes



What is Literature?

This class explains what literature is. Students learn about different kinds of stories and discuss about what makes novels special. We look at why novels are different from other stories. Next, we learn how history and culture change stories. We see how the world around us affects what we read. Lastly, we find out why novels are important. We learn how novels can change people and the world.


Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes

In this class, we will look at Don Quixote. We will learn about its time period in Spain and how it changed storytelling. This book is important because it mixes reality and imagination in new ways, influencing many stories that came after it.


The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan

This class is about The Pilgrim's Progress. We will study how the book uses a story to talk about religious ideas in England during the 1600s. It is special because it shows a spiritual journey in a creative way and has influenced many people.


[ON-DEMAND CLASS] Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift

In Gulliver's Travels, we will explore how the book makes fun of society and politics through fantasy stories. It's an important book because it uses strange and imaginative journeys to talk about real-world problems and ideas.


Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice will be our focus in this class. We will discuss how it shows the life and challenges of women and families in England around the late 18th and 19th century. This book is famous for its characters and how it talks about love and society.


Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens

This class will cover Oliver Twist. We will learn about the poor and the struggles of people in England during the 19th century. The book is known for its realistic portrayal of difficult lives and its criticism of social problems.


Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

In this class, we will study Jane Eyre. We will see how it tells the story of a woman's life and challenges in England during the mid-19th century. This book is important for its strong female character and its discussion of personal freedom and society.


[ON-DEMAND CLASS] The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

We will explore The Scarlet Letter in this class. It talks about sin, punishment, and forgiveness in a strict religious society in old America. The book is well-known for its deep messages and its look at how society treats people who break the rules.


Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

In this class about Moby-Dick, we will learn about the adventures of a sea voyage and the hunt for a giant whale. The book is famous for its exciting story and its deeper meanings about nature, humans, and life.


Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom's Cabin will be our subject in this class. We will discuss how it shows the harsh reality of slavery in America and its effects on society. This book is important for its role in fighting against slavery and for showing the importance of freedom and justice.


Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

In this class, we will look at Madame Bovary. We will see how it talks about a woman's life and her dreams in France during the 19th century. The book is known for its realistic style and its discussion of personal desires and society's expectations.


[ON-DEMAND CLASS] Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Crime and Punishment will be our focus in this class. We will explore its story about guilt, punishment, and seeking forgiveness. This book is special for its deep look into the mind and heart of its main character and its big questions about right and wrong.


Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

In this class, we will study Anna Karenina. It tells the story of love, life, and society in Russia during the 19th century. The book is famous for its complex characters and its exploration of personal happiness and social rules.


The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy

We will explore The Return of the Native in this class. It talks about life in the countryside of England and the choices people make. The book is known for its beautiful descriptions of nature and its deep look at love, fate, and personal freedom.


[ON-DEMAND CLASS] The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James

This class will cover The Portrait of a Lady. We will discuss the life of a young woman and her experiences in Europe and America during the 19th century. The book is important for its discussion of personal choices, love, and the expectations of society.

Autumn Semester Classes

The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

In this class, we're studying The Red Badge of Courage. It's a book about the American Civil War and how it changed stories and ideas about heroes. This book helps us understand war thoughts in the late 1800s.


Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

Our class on Heart of Darkness explores how this book talks about Europe's impact in Africa and new ways of writing around 1900. It shows changing views on race and taking over countries.

The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton

We're reading The House of Mirth, a story about New York's rich people long ago. It discusses the expected roles of women and men and moving up in society around 1900.


[ON-DEMAND CLASS] The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

In The Great Gatsby, we look at a famous story from the 1920s. It talks about the American Dream, differences between rich and poor, and making choices in that era.

Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

Our study of Mrs. Dalloway involves a book about life after World War I. It shows thoughts on women's roles, mental health, and life's meaning in a modern way of writing.

The Trial, Franz Kafka

In The Trial we learn about a man in a strange legal situation. It's a book that shows early 1900s thoughts about law, freedom, and individuality.

We will also play The Franz Kafka Videogame to help us to understand Kafkaesque. 

Native Son, Richard Wright

Native Son is our book about the 1930s in America. It deals with race, class, and fighting for rights, showing what it was like to be black in America then.


[ON-DEMAND CLASS] Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

We're reading Invisible Man, a story about a black man's life in mid-1900s America. It discusses race, identity, and dreams in America after World War II.

1984, George Orwell

1984 is a famous book we're studying about a world controlled by the government. We talk about personal freedom, being yourself, and reality in this mid-1900s story.

Seize the Day, Saul Bellow

In Seize the Day, we follow a man's journey to find himself after World War II. It's about finding your path, success, and life's meaning in postwar America.

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez

Our class on One Hundred Years of Solitude explores a magical story from Latin America. It covers history, identity, and origins, reflecting Latin America around the mid-1900s.

[ON-DEMAND CLASS] Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison

Song of Solomon is about a black man's journey in mid-1900s America. We see how it covers race, self-discovery, and history.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino

In If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, we discuss a modern story about the nature of stories. It's about how reading changes stories and late 20th century ideas about writing.

On a Winter’s Night Four Travelers video game. 

White Noise, Don DeLillo

White Noise talks about life in the late 20th century with technology and consumerism. We discuss family, identity, and finding meaning in a rapidly changing world.

[ON-DEMAND CLASS] Possession, A.S. Byatt

Our class on Possession looks at a story about love, language, and studying the past. It discusses women's roles, love, and academia in the late 20th century.

YouTube playlist for course ↗️