What is a Core Text?
The texts we study include major works of philosophy, religion, history, and literature; seminal writings in the sciences and social sciences; works of art; and major political documents and speeches. They are works distinguished both by their depth of insight or creative originality and by their influence on subsequent thought or history. These texts are not the possession of any single nation, epoch, cultural tradition, or academic department. Each of them is, as Thucydides boldly but justly called his own work, “a possession for all time.” Each of them has proved to be, like Jefferson himself, profoundly influential, inspiring, subtle, multi-faceted, and challenging to decipher. Each has provoked opposing interpretations and conflicting assessments. Not in spite of but because of these challenges and controversies, these texts reward the closest study and generate especially fruitful discussion and reflection about the meaning of human life.
Those wishing to plan a course of independent reading based on great books might wish to consult the following lists: