Read the entire “Don’t Go to Art School” series:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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In the initial post of my new “Don’t Go to Art School” series, I shared with you a great little blog post by an artist who exhorted his peers to skip an expensive art school degree, and to educate themselves, DIY-style.

schoolI promised to share with you a similar plan that would give you the equivalent in another curriculum area: the humanities. So, here we go: Part One of the “Nearly-Free English Degree.”

We’ll be structuring this particular program using the same format I followed for my own degree: You’ll need to collect a certain number of courses from different subject areas that roughly correspond to the major eras of literary history, and then you’ll round out your program with some electives. I’ll outline the core English courses in the posts that will follow this one, and then I’ll wrap it up with a list of electives you can choose from—in any year—to round out your program.


You need six credits. Each of the two courses below is a full credit and is compulsory. Pick four other credits from the list of electives.

Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

Course 1: Study Skills 101
In this course, you’ll develop college-level writing skills, and learn how to read and think critically. Work your way at your own pace through the following books:

 “On The Art of Reading” by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

• On the Art of Writing” by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

• Writing Better University Essays” by Wikibooks

• Recommended: “The Well-Educated Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer (purchase)

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Course 2: A Survey of English Literature
In this course, we’ll be introduced to the major authors and works of the literary canon, from its beginnings through the 19th century era. (We’ll cover modern literature separately, later.)

The reading list is based on the selections in The Norton Anthology, Sixth Edition, which I studied for my own degree. I’ve used the Harvard Classics collection at MobileRead to consolidate the shorter works, so you won’t have to download a million things. Links are provided for other titles.

Want background? Head to Wikipedia for a quick study guide before you tackle one of the major

Note: The volume numbers below all refer to the Harvard Classics collection at MobileRead.


• A History of English Literature” by Robert Huntington Fletcher

Module 1: Poetry
• Vol 40: English Poetry 1
• Vol 41: English Poetry 2
• Vol 43: English Poetry 3

Drama and Other Works:

• A Select Collection of Old English Plays” (for ‘Everyman’)

• Vol 36: “Utopia” by Thomas More

• Vol 19: “Dr. Faustus” by Christopher Marlowe

• Vol 46: “King Lear” by William Shakespeare

• Volpone, or The Fox” by Ben Jonson

• Vol 03: “Essays” by Francis Bacon

• Vol 47: “The Duchess of Malfi” by John Webster

• Vol 37: “Essays” by John Locke

 “Quotations from the Diary of Samuel Pepys

• Vol 15: “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan

• Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift

• A Vindication of the Rights of Women” by Mary Wollstonecraft

• Vol 25: “Essays” by Carlyle and Mill

• The Mill on the Floss” by George Eliot

• The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde

• Vol 11: “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin

• Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad

• The Voyage Out” by Virginia Woolf

• Ulysses” by James Joyce

• Prufrock & Other Observations” by T.S. Eliot

• The Garden Party & Other Stories” by Katherine Mansfield

• Shooting the Elephant” by George Orwell (Project Gutenberg Australia)

¶ Stay tuned  for “Year Two: Old English through Renaissance.”


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