This list is intended only as a general guide to significant works of literature and writings on composition, not a required reading list. Important selections or authors are highlighted in red. The selections are arranged by historical period and genre, not by the national origin of the authors. You will find English, American, and Continental works grouped together. Where the list says "selected poems" or "selected stories," use an anthology or ask a professor to help you choose some important ones. All could help you prepare for graduate school or teaching licensure.
How can this list help you? We suggest that you use the Reading Guide in the following ways:
When you are taking a literature course, check this list to see which of its selections are on your course syllabus. If a work on the list is not included, particularly if it is highlighted in bold, read it and talk with your professor about the work outside of class. For major areas that you do not cover in a class, use this list selectively to fill in the gaps. (A professor who teaches in the field would be happy to help you choose the most crucial readings.)
During the fall semester of your senior year, literature concentration majors will take the ETS test and English Education majors will take the Praxis test, both of which compare your knowledge of literature with national averages. Use this list to help prepare for those tests, as well as for the graduate school entrance exam, the GRE.
During the summers and after you graduate, use this list to guide your continued reading in our culture's best known literature.
Gilgamesh (epic, c. 2500 BC, Mesopotamia)
Plato, The Symposium
Ramayana (epic, c. 550 BC, India)
Sophocles, Oedipus Rex
“The Battle of Maldon”
“The Dream of the Rood”
Dante, The Divine Comedy
Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
"The General Prologue"
"The Wife of Bath's Tale"
"The Pardoner's Tale"
"The Nun's Priest's Tale"
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Malory, Morte Darthur
The Second Shepherds' Play
Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy
Machiavelli, The Prince
Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
Sidney, Astrophil and Stella
Spenser, Faerie Queene, Book I
Cervantes, Don Quixote
Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress
Congreve, The Way of the World
Dryden, All for Love
Middleton, The Changeling
Romeo and Juliet
The Merchant of Venice
Henry IV (Part I)
Tourneur, The Revenger's Tragedy
Webster, The Duchess of Malfi
Bradstreet, selections including:
"The Author to Her Book"
"To My Dear and Loving Husband"
"Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House"
Donne, "Holy Sonnets," selected poems
Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel and MacFlecknoe
Herbert, selected poems
Herrick, selected poems
Jonson, selected poems
Marvell, selected poems
Milton, Paradise Lost Books I-II, IV, IX, XII
Shakespeare, selected poems and sonnets
Pride and Prejudice
Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
Fielding, Tom Jones
Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield
Sterne, Tristram Shandy
Goldsmith, "The Deserted Village"
Gray, "Elegy: Written in a Country Churchyard"
Johnson, "The Vanity of Human Wishes"
Pope, "An Essay on Man,"
"An Essay on Criticism"
"The Rape of the Lock"
Wheatley, "On Being Brought from Africa to America"
"Thoughts on the Works of Providence"
"To His Excellency General Washington"
Gay, The Beggar's Opera
Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer
Sheridan, The Rivals
Boswell, Life of Johnson
DeCrevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer
Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"
Swift, Gulliver's Travels
Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women
Bronte, C. Jane Eyre
Bronte, E. Wuthering Heights
Chopin, The Awakening
Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans or The Pioneers
Davis, Life in the Iron Mills
Dickens, Bleak House
Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground
Crime and Punishment or The Brothers Karamazoz
The Mill on the Floss
Flaubert, Madame Bovary
Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles or Jude the Obscure
Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter and selected short stories
Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham
James, The Ambassadors or Portrait of a Lady
Melville, Billy Budd
Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
Thackeray, Vanity Fair
Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych
Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Wharton, House of Mirth or Age of Innocence
Hawthorne, selected stories
Irving, selected stories
Poe, selected stories
Guy de Maupassant, selected short stories, such as "The Necklace"
Arnold, "Dover Beach" and selected poems
Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience
Bryant, "Thanatopsis," "To a Waterfowl," "The Prairies"
Byron, Don Juan, and selected poems
Browning, R. "My Last Duchess"and selected poems
Browning, E. Barrett, selections from Aurora Leigh
Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and selected poems
Dickinson, selected poems,#49 "I never lost as much but twice"
#214 "I taste a liquor never brewed--
#249 "Wild Nights--Wild Nights!"
#322 "There came a day a summer's full,"
#405 "I heard a fly buzz--when I died--"
#449 "I died for Beauty--"
#640 "I cannot live with You--"
#714 "My Life Had Stood--A Loaded Gun"
#1732 "My life closed twice before its close--
Emerson, "The Snow Storm," and selected poems
Goethe, Faust, part I
Hopkins, selected poems
Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "The Eve of St. Agnes" and selected poems
Poe, "The Raven" and selected poems
Shelley, selected poems
Tennyson, In Memoriam and selected poems
Whitman, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," "Out of the Cradle Endlessly
"Passage to India," "Song of Myself,"
"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," and selected poems
Wordsworth, "The Prelude: Book I" and
"Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey"
"Michael,""Preface to Lyrical Ballads and selected poems"
Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard or The Sisters
Ibsen, Hedda Gabler, An Enemy of the People, or The Doll's House
Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
Apess, William, A Son of the Forest
Arnold, "The Functions of Criticism at the Present Time"
Carlyle, Sartor Resartus
Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Emerson, "Nature" and selected essays
Newman, The Idea of the University
Pater, "Introduction and Conclusion to Studies in the History of the
Thoreau, Walden, "Resistance to Civil Government"
Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God
Atwood, Margaret, The Handmaiden's Tale or Surfacing (Canada)
Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain
Borges, Jorge Luis, selected short stories, such as "The Garden of
Forking Parths" or "The Lottery in Babylon" (Argentina)
Camus, Albert, The Outsider (France)
Cather, My Antonia or Song of the Lark
Coetzee, J. M., Life and Times of Michael K or Age of Iron (South Africa)
Conard, Heart of Darkness
Erdrich, Louise, Love Machine
Ellison, Invisible Man
Faulkner, As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom, The Bear, The Sound and the Fury
Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Forster, A Passage to India
Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman
Gordimer, A World of Strangers
Greene, The Quiet American, The Power and the Glory, or The Heart
of the Matter
Hemingway, "The Nick Adams" stories, *The Sun Also Rises
Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man
Kafka, Metamorphosis or The Trial
Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Lawrence, The Rainbow or Sons and Lovers
Lessing, The Golden Notebook
Mann, Death in Venice
Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, or selected stories
Marshall, Praise-Song for the Widow
Morrison, Beloved, or Song of Solomon
Narayan, R. K. The Painter of Signs or Malgudi Days (short stories, India)
Orwell, 1984 and Animal Farm
Proust, Marcel, Swann's Way (France)
Sartre, Jean Paul, Nausea (France)
Woolf, V., To the Lighthouse
Wright, Native Son, The Outsider, or Black Boy
Baraka, The Dutchman and the Slave
Beckett, Waiting for Godot
Brecht, The Good Woman of Sezuan, Three-Penny Opera
Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
Miller, Death of a Salesman
O'Neill, Long Day's Journey into Night
Pinter, The Caretaker or The Dumb Waiter
Shaw, Mrs. Warren's Profession, Major Barbara, or Arms and the Man
Soyinka, Kongi's Harvest
Stoppard, Travesties or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
Williams, The Glass Menagerie or A Streetcar Named Desire
Wilson, Piano Lesson
Auden, selected poems
Bishop, selected poems
Brooks, selected poems
Dove, selected poems
Eliot, selected poems, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,"
"The Waste Land"
Frost, selected poems, "Mending Wall," "The Death of the Hired Man"
Home Burial, "Birches," "Out, Out--'," "Desert Places,"
"The Gift Outright"
Hardy, selected poems
Heaney, selected poems
Houseman, selected poems
Hughes, L., selected poems, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers, "I, Too" "Mother to
Hughes, T., selected poems
Larkin, selected poems
Lawrence, selected poems
Lowell, "Skunk Hour" and selected poems
Moore, "The Fish" and selected poems
Owen, "Dulce et Decorum Est"
Plath, selected poems
Pound, "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" and selected poems
Rich, "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers," "Diving into the Wreck," and selected poems
Roethke, selected poems
Sexton, "All My Pretty Ones" and selected poems
Smith, S., selected poems
Stevens, selected poems, "The Snow Man, "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock,"
"Sunday Morning," "Anecdote of the Jar," "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"
Thomas, "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night"
Yeats, "Easter, 1916," "Among Schoolchildren," "Sailing to Byzantium,"
"Byzantium," "Under Ben Fulben," and selected poems
Williams, selected poems, "Portrait of a Lady," "Spring and All,"
"To Elsie," "The Red Wheelbarrow," "This Is Just to Say"
Essays and Nonfiction
Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son
Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks
Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent"
King, "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain
Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"
Rich, On Lies, Secrets and Silence
Woolf, A Room of One's Own
Elbow, Peter, Writing with Power
Goldberg, Natalie, Writing Down the Bones
Murray, Donald, Shoptalk
Strunk and White, Elements of Style
Ueland, Brenda, If You Want to Write
Zinsser, William, On Writing Well
About the Field of Composition and Rhetoric:
Bizzel, "Cognition, Convention, and Certainty: What We Need To Know About Writing," PRE/TEXT 3 (Fall 1982)
Bereiter, Carl and Marlene Scardamalia, Psychology of Written Composition
Bullock, Richard, and John Trimbur, ed. The Politics of Writing Instruction: Postsecondary
Connors, Robert J., Lisa S. Ede, and Andrea Lunsford, eds. Essays on Classical Rhetoric and Modern Discourse
Corbett, Edward P. J., Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student
Covino, William A. The Art of Wondering: A Revisionist Return to the History of Rhetoric
Flower and Hayes, "A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing," College Composition and Communication 32(December 1981)
Hairston, "Diversity, Ideology and Teaching Writing," College Composition and Communication 43 (May 1992)
Hillocks, George Jr., Research on Written Communications
Lindemann, Erika L., A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers
Lindemann, Erika and Gary Tate, eds., An Introduction to Composition Studies
Macrorie, Ken, Telling Writing
Miller, Susan, Textual Carnivals: The Politics of Composition
North, Stephen, The Making of Knowledge in Composition: Portrait of an Emerging Field
Nystrand, Greed Wiemelt, "Where Did Composition Studies Come From? An Intellectual History," Written Communication 10 (July 1993).
Phelps, Louise Wetherbee, Composition as a Human Science: Contribution to the Self-Understanding of a Discipline
Rose, Mike, "The Language of Exclusion: Writing Instruction at the University," College English 47 (April 1985)
Rose, Mike, Lives on the Boundary: The Struggles and Achievements of America's Underprepared
About Teaching Writing
Berlin, James. "Contemporary Composition: The Major Pedagogical Theories." The Writing Teacher's Sourcebook
Donovan, Timothy R. and Ben W. McClelland, Eds., Eight Approaches to Teaching Composition
Emig, "Writing as a Mode of Learning," College Composition and Communication
Harris, Janet Muriel, Teaching One-on-One: The Writing Conference
Murray, Donald M., "Writing Process: How Writing Finds Its Own
Meaning," Eight Approaches to Teaching Composition
North, Stephen. "Revisiting the Idea of the Writing Center." The Writing Center Journal
Shaughnessey, Mina. Errors and Expectations