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.

2016-2017 Program: William Shakespeare's The Tempest in Wisconsin

Call for Participation: click here to apply to participate in the 2016-2017 Great World Texts in Wisconsin program. The deadline for applications is June 6.

In the 2016-2017 Great World Texts in Wisconsin program, teachers and students throughout the state will read William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Participants will thus join worldwide celebrations of Shakespeare’s 400-year legacy, which at UW-Madison will include an exhibit of Shakespeare’s original First Folio, arguably the most treasured book to date. The Tempest is the last play Shakespeare wrote and one of its most enigmatic and inspiring, anticipating contemporary debates around colonialism, imperialism, racism, indigeneity, gender, and disability. First performed in 1611, The Tempest takes place in a remote island where exiled sorcerer Prospero seeks redemption for himself and his daughter Miranda by orchestrating several encounters between human and supernatural, native and foreign, noble and treacherous characters. The play offers a reflection on literary creation itself, with Prospero figured as an “author” within the play. It also features some of Shakespeare’s most unforgettable and complex characters: the spirit Ariel, the Algerian witch Sycorax, and her deformed and enslaved son Caliban—an anagram of “cannibal”. As they read the play and explore its hundreds of adaptations (including sci-fi movies, prison dramas, and classic opera, and a forthcoming adaptation by Margaret Atwood), students and educators will engage with a historical background of transatlantic travel, conquest, and slavery throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.

Featuring a keynote address by Booker Prize-winning novelist Margaret Atwood, the Great World Texts in Wisconsin Annual Student Conference will take place on Monday, April 3, 2017. The conference program will be available as the conference nears.

Previous Programs

2015 – Wu Cheng'en, Journey to the West (China: 1592)
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.