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Great Books




Admissions requirements



In this scientistic age of ours many people believe that science is our most trusted guiding-light in life. That is a misunderstanding, because science—as any scientist knows—is a very limited enterprise: it can tell you howto do something, but not what to do. In other words, science wholly consists of instrumental knowledge, that is concerned with means, not with ends. For instance, science has developed machines that bring us to the other end of the world within one day. But it has no answers to the question whether we should go there.
What should we do? What should I do? This is a question to which science cannot give an easy answer. But it is a very important question; one of the most important there is in life. The great philosophical and religious traditions of the world in essence constitute an attempt at answering precisely this question of ends. But so does the world’s great literature.

In this course we will read and discuss some of these works, works that have withstood the test of time and can be called great books.

In this academic year we will focus on the French Revolution, the crucial opening salvo of modernity and hence of modern ideas and ideals i.e. ends. Think, for instance, of the ideals of freedom, equality, brotherhood, and individuality, the highest ideals of modern man and modern politics. These were for the first time put into practice in the French Revolution. There is no way to study them better than when they were born, in a struggle of life and death against the old ideas of hierarchy, obedience, and community.

  1. Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the Revolution
  2. Stefan Zweig, Marie Antoinette
  3. Charles Dickens, A Tale of two Cities
  4. Hilary Mantel, A Place of greater Safety
  5. Victor Hugo, 93
  6. Stefan Zweig, Joseph Fouché
  7. Memoirs of Madame La Tour du Pin

Course objectives

At the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • describe, explain and historically place the French Revolution and its connections to our current age;

  • analyse and discuss texts, using highly developed reading and writing skills;

  • reflect on your position in life, relating the texts read in this course


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Socratic conversation about the books to be read. That is to say, classes consist of a dialogue about what the students have read. The tutor will guide the discussion, by asking questions, and if needed, suggesting possible answers. There are no lectures. It is crucial that the students read the texts beforehand and participate in the dialogue.


Seven weekly short papers of 400 words- 6% each: 42%
Participation 18%
Oral exam 40%


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

  • Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the Revolution, trans. Alan Kahan, University of Chicago Press, 1998

  • Stefan Zweig, Marie Antoinette, North Star 2016

  • Charles Dickens, A Tale of two Cities, Penguin

  • Hilary Mantel, A Place of greater Safety, Harper Collins 2007

  • Victor Hugo, 93, Jazzybee 2017

  • Stefan Zweig, Joseph Fouché, English: E-book or PDF

  • Memoirs of Madame La Tour du Pin, McCall Publishing Company 1971 or PDF (Of course, if you can read the French and German originals, you are welcome to do so)


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact