Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Philo Hutcheson - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Phill Gagne

Third Advisor

Dr. Susan Talburt

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Wayne Urban


This dissertation examines a curricular approach at an institution that claims to maintain a liberal arts focus – that of the canon of Great Books as implemented as a formal curriculum at St. John’s College. My research question is: what enabled the Great Books program at St. John’s College to survive for over seventy years? The significance of this question can be seen by noticing that St. John’s College is the only college in the United States to have exclusively adopted reading the Great Books as its four-year curriculum. Other institutions that have experimented with a Great Books program prior to and since its introduction at St. John’s College have continued their existing programs as well, but many have limited their Great Books efforts to an honors course or general core requirement, if their Great Books effort survives at all. My dissertation is historical starting with the influencing factors leading to this curriculum’s introduction at St. John’s College in 1937. I then outline the implementation and document the changes to the list of Great Books comprising the program as it was updated over the subsequent seventy years as documented in St. John’s College’s academic catalogs from 1937 through 2008. I show that the list of Great Books required to be read by every student over the years has contained a consistent core while making slight adjustments.


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