Great World Texts
About Great World Texts

About Great World Texts

Launched in 2005 by the Center for the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Great World Texts in Wisconsin connects scholars at UW-Madison with high school teachers and students across the state through the shared project of reading and discussing a classic piece of world literature. Drawing from world literature throughout the ages, the program’s selection of texts reflects a capacious understanding of the idea of the “literary classic.” In previous years, faculty, teachers and students have collaborated on texts associated with mid-twentieth-century Colombia, ancient Greece, and contemporary India. The program includes workshops in which participating teachers work with UW faculty members on interpreting and understanding each text, extensive supporting curriculum materials, and an Annual Student Conference in which students from all participating schools come together to share their work and hear from distinguished speakers. Now in its eleventh year, Great World Texts has reached hundreds of students and teachers in dozens of school districts throughout the state of Wisconsin.

2015-2016 Program

This year, teachers and students throughout the state of Wisconsin will read Wu Cheng'en's Journey to the West (trans. Arthur Waley), widely known throughout English-speaking countries as Monkey. A novel published anonymously in 1592, Cheng'en's work was written under, and rallies against, the limits of a literary world where writers' ideas and use of language were highly controlled by traditional Chinese forms. Writing in the vernacular language of his time which was considered "vulgar," Cheng'en breaks away from the Classical Chinese that limited readership to a specific upper-class audience, producing a story which "a fairly well-read commoner could have known." One of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, Journey to the West expresses a vast historical register loyal to the Chinese people's public consciousness and tradition, elements of which persist in modern life and transcend modern culture. Perhaps most importantly, the novel's strong humanistic impulse opens doors for interdisciplinary inquiry, giving students fuel to traverse and bridge the realms of mythology, religion, comedy, science, folklore and philosophy that coexist in a creative life.

The Great World Texts in Wisconsin Annual Student Conference takes place in Spring 2016. The conference program will be available as the conference nears.

Previous Programs

2014 – Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions (Switzerland: 1782)
2013 – Orhan Pamuk, Snow (Turkey: 2002)
2012 – Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things (India: 1997)
2011 – Sophocles, Antigone (Greece: ca. 441 BC)
2010 – The Arabian Nights (India, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria: ca. 14th century)
2009 – Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (Nigeria: 1959)
2008 – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (Russia: 1880)
2007 – Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (Colombia: 1967)
2006 – Dante Alighieri, Inferno (Italy: ca. 1314)
2005 – Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (Spain: 1605, 1615)


The Great World Texts program brings together a diversity of teachers and students from across the state of Wisconsin: Appleton, Ashwaubenon, Bangor, Brookfield, Campbellsport, Dodgeville, Edgerton, Friendship, Galesville, Hartford, Hazel Green, Janesville, Juneau, Kenosha, Kohler, Lodi, Madison, Mazomanie, Milwaukee, Monona, Monroe, New Berlin, New Glarus, Prairie du Sac, Rhinelander, Richland Center, Rio, Sheboygan, Sun Prairie, Watertown, Waunakee, Waupaca, West Allis, Whitewater, Wilmot. In addition, participating faculty and undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison collaborate with our high school educators and students each year, joining them at our Annual Student Conference.

Support for Great World Texts in Wisconsin

Great World Texts in Wisconsin is made possible by grants from the A.W. Mellon Foundation, the Anonymous Fund, the Evjue Foundation, the Wisconsin Humanities Council, and the UW-Madison College of Letters & Science. In addition, the UW-Madison Library supports the purchase of hundreds of copies of each text for use in classrooms, and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction lends valuable expertise to the organization of each year’s program.