A Great Books discussion is meant to flow like a conversation, with participants addressing and questioning each other directly. When necessary, the leader draws the group back to the text for evidence to support interpretations. This helps keep people focused on the text and free from going off on tangents or inapplicable generalizations. You’ll be surprised at the deep, thoughtful, civil, rich, interesting, illuminating, entertaining discussions that ensue!
Our readings cover fiction and non-fiction from (primarily) western literature over all time periods. What all readings have in common is (1) relevance to a particular great idea, (2) contemporary significance, and (3) re-readability. Many groups read from the Great Books Series published by the Great Books Foundation in Chicago . These collections contain complete short works or excerpts from larger works, typically 15-50 pages. Some groups select works of their own choosing, or discuss longer readings over several meetings.
Our cornerstone philosophy is that individuals can arrive at significant insights into a work by building upon each other’s ideas in group discussion. The Shared Inquiry method helps us achieve this by keeping us focused on the text, by exploring together the author’s words for meanings and implications, and by bringing out the many ways readers interpret and react to ideas and issues in a given book. Shared Inquiry is collaborative and question-driven. Group leaders are facilitators, not lecturers: they start the discussion by asking an interpretive question about the text, thereby leading the group into interaction among participants.
We are a nonprofit 501c(3) educational organization of over 30 groups in Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia – and growing. We are not affiliated with any religious or political group. Our members are from all walks of life.
Please explore our site and join us for a group discussion, Shared Inquiry and a Movie or our Northwest Great Books Institute event on June 20-22.