Studying Literature without a degree...


Well-Known Member
Aug 2, 2009
I studied literature during my o and a level and enjoy it.
Regret not taking literature during my university days.
Anyway, time flies and it had been 20 plus years since I last touched literature.
Will like to self-study literature, currently reading notes from sparknotes and coursehero.
What other websites do you recommend, where I can self-study literature.
Just finished reading Dracula.
The Eldritch Dark website . It deals with Clark Ashton Smith and his stories and poetry on like. His prose alone is worth the price of admission, so is his poetry He's a was very interesting writer .:)
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Jasmine, your plan to study literature on your own is an excellent one!

You might be surprised by how little is the time given to classic literature in universities today. There is a lot of emphasis on current literature rather than classics, and on "literary theory" rather than the masterpieces.

What are the masterpieces?

Here is a list of masterpieces of British and American literature. You might want to save it.

complist.pdf (

I recommend that you sample these great authors and major works, and explore the ones that interest you most.

You can probably find all of those poems, plays, and novels online at Project Gutenberg and

If you want books, I strongly recommend that you buy old literature anthologies. The most recent ones will cost more and will also contain a lot of literary theory (with strong political overtones). The old editions will cost less and have better content.

If I were setting out, then, I would likely buy the two old Norton Anthologies of American Literature and the two old Norton Anthologies of English Literature -- editions from the 1970s or 1980s. You can probably find these for sale very cheap, and they will give you thousands of pages of classic works.

If you want to study poetry, and to get a good grasp of scansion, etc., I recommend:

Poems: Wadsworth Handbook and Anthology, Second Edition, 1965, by Main and Seng. This is not a hard book, but if you study it you will end up knowing more than a lot of people with Ph.D.s in English do these days.

If you want to study medieval and Renaissance literature, I recommend C. S. Lewis's book The Discarded Image as a good introduction.

If you want to go way back and read some Classical literature (Greek and Roman), you will find many works listed here:

(9) Greek & Latin Literary Narratives | Science Fiction & Fantasy forums (

Also, I attach the syllabi for two courses in ancient literature. One was an introduction to Plato. The other was an introduction to the literature of Late Antiquity.


  • 392 syllabus classics of late antiquity 2015.docx
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  • 392 2014 proposal plato third revision 14 July 2014.docx
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Jasmine, my previous message focused on literary works from English-speaking lands plus some Classics in translation.

Here is some information about further great literary works.

World Literature Courses 1973-1974 (English 107, 108, 109)
Instructor: Dr. Brian Bond, Southern Oregon College

What follows is a list of books required for the freshman-level three-term World Literature sequence, drawn from syllabi dated Spring 1973, Winter 1974, and Spring 1974. The class met for 50 minutes, three times a week, as I recall.

World Lit was not a course in literature of the non-Western world only, but it was pretty much my first introduction to that area. I haven’t attempted to list occasional short works that were dittoed off and distributed to students.

The sequence followed a chronological order, at least approximately.

English 107 (roughly, the ancient era):

Gilgamesh (Penguin Classics)

Odyssey (trans. by Cook; Norton)

Quest for Sita (a retelling by Maurice Collis of the central section of the Ramayana)

Lao Tzu, The Way of Life (i.e. Tao Te Ching; Mentor paperback)

Sophocles, The Theban Plays (Penguin Classics)

Virgil, Aeneid (tr. Humphries; Scribner edition; we read the first six books)

English 108 (roughly, the medieval era):

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (tr. by Brian Stone; Penguin Classic)

Laxdaela Saga (Penguin Classic)

In Praise of Krishna (songs from the Bengali)

Dante, Inferno (Musa translation)

Wu Ch’Eng-En, Monkey (Waley translation)

English 109 (roughly, the modern era):

Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

Ionesco, Rhinoceros

Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Lessing, Martha Quest

Laye, The Radiance of the King

Borges, The Aleph and Other Stories

he great omission from the list is books of the Bible. The literature student should soon become well acquainted with the books of Genesis, Exodus (skipping some details of ceremonial law in the latter if necessary), Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and the Elijah and Elisha material in 2 Kings, Job, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon, a selection of Psalms, some at least of Proverbs, and major passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah; in the New Testament, the student should, at a minimum, know well all four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Revelation. I recommend use of the New King James Version, which has three advantages: (1) it is readable, (2) it echoes the 1611 King James or Authorized Version, the translation most familiar to English-speakers, including innumerable authors who allude to it, and (3) it uses the Textus Receptus (received text) of the Bible.