Great Books

The Great Books concentration at Oakton encourages students to examine and discuss some of the most significant literary, historical, philosophical, and political texts fundamental to both Western and non-Western traditions. Selecting Great Books sections of regular courses in English, History, Humanities, and Philosophy allows you to fulfill general education requirements while earning a special designation on your transcript. Great Books classes prepare students for future classes and the workplace by cultivating skills in reading closely, thinking critically, responding to different viewpoints, and presenting verbal and written ideas effectively.

Discover the program requirements and learn more from our course catalog:

Program Pathway

What Makes Great Books Courses Different

At least half of the readings in all Great Books courses are classic texts that are fundamental to our understanding of both Western and non-Western traditions. Each course includes a significant theme, such as “democracy,” “beauty,” “the good life,” “morality,” or “citizenship.” Smaller class sizes and the discussion-based seminar format of Great Books courses promote a close intellectual community aimed at examining some of the most important texts, influential thinkers, and enduring questions developed throughout history.

Students emerge as more engaged citizens, holding a deeper understanding of a variety of histories and cultures, adept at critical thinking, and primed for taking on the challenges of the future.

The designation of Great Books Scholar will appear on the transcripts of Oakton students who successfully complete three or more Great Books credit courses. This designation is an excellent way to help students stand out in scholarship, job, and transfer applications.

The designation of Great Books Scholar will appear on the transcripts of Oakton students who successfully complete three or more Great Books credit courses. This designation is an excellent way to help students stand out in scholarship, job, and transfer applications.

Engaging Academic Events and Opportunities for Students

Each spring budding scholars from Oakton and a number of local colleges are invited to present papers as part of a panel discussion on the year’s selected text at the Great Books Intercollegiate Student Symposium. Recent text selections have included Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, William Shakespeare’s Othello, and George Orwell’s 1984. Leading up to the symposium throughout the year, established scholars are brought in to deliver presentations as part of the Great Books Speaker Series to provide historical context, rigorous analysis, and a theoretical framework for the selected text.

Great Books students at Oakton have the opportunity to submit papers they have written for Great Books classes to be considered to participate in the Great Books Intercollegiate Student Symposium and also for publication in Wright College’s Symposium journal. Below are selected samples of Oakton students’ work appearing in the journal:

  • Allison Dell Otto, “‘Each in His Prison’: The Monstrous Impersonal in Three T. S. Eliot Poems”
  • Joanna Vaklin, “Exploration of Power in George Orwell’s 1984”

Great Books Student Testimonials

“As a premed engineering student, these courses were absolutely instrumental in facilitating a balanced curriculum for me, allowed me to explore interests outside of my direct degree, and helped me blossom as a student and critical thinker in unexpected ways. During the second semester, I presented a paper at the Great Books Symposium, and the opportunity that gave me to practice public presentation, debate and discussion, and critical analysis has definitely impacted my academic life positively. I shall forever consider what I learned from these books and especially from this wonderful program to be instrumental in helping me grow as a well-rounded creative: a skill that I can take with me into any field.”

—Dionna Bidny, B.S. Bioengineering, UIC (2020)
   Motion Analysis Research Assistant at Rush University Medical Center

“The Great Books program at Oakton was my first college experience of literature outside the classroom. I was enrolled in both Intro to Literature and Intro to Shakespeare, both which opened my eyes to texts and analyses that I had not yet been exposed to. In the spring of 2015, I participated in the 10th Great Books Symposium, and the focus of this discussion was Virginia Woolf's stream-of-consciousness novel, Mrs. Dalloway (which I read in Intro to Literature). I was given the opportunity to read my paper to (approximately) 100 students, alongside four peers who also wrote incredible papers on the novel. I fondly remember that my paper focused on the mental health of Septimus, one of the novel's most tragic characters. It was my first chance to display a love of literature for others who were perhaps not studying similar subjects; it was my chance to show them why I enjoyed the subject so much. I also fondly remember two of my professors helping me trim my original paper to an appropriate length; I tend to write lengthy papers, and I never received editing help in high school. The Great Books symposium was one of my best and proudest experiences at Oakton, and gave me the confidence to pursue a Senior Honors Thesis while I was attending the University of Chicago at Illinois (UIC).”

—Dan Jolls, B.A. in English, Magna Cum Laude, UIC 2018

“While a student at Oakton I was unsure of what to major in and what career path to take. I took classes that were requirements, of course, but I also took classes that embraced creativity and critical thinking. The Great Books program fit these criteria. I read delightful books and participated in class discussions that were engaging, insightful, and fun! I learned a lot from the Great Books program, about English literature and about myself. After transferring schools to complete my undergraduate degree, I proudly declared myself an English major, and I owe that decision to the Great Books program and its dedicated professors.”

—Vanessa Canibano, B.A. in English, Lake Forest College 2018

“I am a former Oakton student and I now run an adult Shakespeare reading and discussion group. The discussion technique I use in that group is based on the Shared Inquiry method that I learned in my Great Books classes at Oakton. This method allows participants to delve into classic literature in what may be a new and different manner for them. I know that as an Oakton Great Books student, I learned to enjoy the classics with greater appreciation and new eyes. I really enjoy continuing to share this experience with my group members now.”

—Amy (last name withheld, works in a customer service position related to animal care)

Registering for Great Books Classes

To see the complete list of Great Books courses offered in a given semester, simply select “Great Books” from the “Special Class Type” field in the class schedule listings.

Contact Michael Mauritzen at or 847.376.7292 if you need assistance or have questions about the Great Books program and its courses.

Apply Now



Oakton's English, History, Humanities, and Philosophy faculty is composed of distinguished professors and lecturers who you will encounter during courses that fall within the Great Books program.

Meet Your Instructors


The foundation supports a nationally recognized Great Books curriculum aimed at cultivating “literacy and critical thinking in order to form reflective, knowledgeable citizens equipped to participate constructively in a democratic society.”

The Great Books Foundation Website

No, there are not any specific to the Great Books program. Please visit the financial aid page to explore all available financial aid options.


Yes, they should. Oakton is part of the Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI), and our curriculums are designed to allow you to transfer seamlessly to other Illinois institutions. Still, it's best you work with your advisor to be sure you're taking the proper courses required by the four-year institution you intend to transfer to.

Classes are held on Des Plaines and Skokie campuses and online.

Yes, speak with your academic advisor for more information.


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