10 May

Masterpieces of World Literature [1989], edited by Frank N Magill, was both a revival and culmination of Magill's earlier Masterplots series, which seemed to have set the template for student-oriented plot summaries and brief analyses of literary works published in pamphlet form, a market later dominated by Cliff's Notes. Masterplots itself continues on in the form of large reference books, the third edition published in 1996, the fourth in 2010. In the 1990's came the dual multi-volume works, Magill's Survey of World Literature and Magill's Survey of American Literature (in other words, the United States is set apart from the World—quelle surprise!). These two series don't qualify for the "great books" project documented on this site. Not only do they present a larger, and thus less discerning, selection of books than found in Masterpieces, but they're organized by author, not literary work, with each author having two to four works analyzed; that is, they're more like a directory of authors, more of a reference work than a refined selection. Two other works that I recently came across while at the library, and I'm definitely excluding, are Asa Don Hutchinson's The World's Best Books, Homer to Hemingway: 3000 Books of 3000 Years, 1050 B C to 1950 A D, Selected on the Basis of a Consensus of Expert Opinion [1953]; and What to Read [1929] by Thomas H English and Willard B Pope. The long list of works discussed in these two books, again, look, and read, more like directories, quite distinct from a canon or reading plan.

Four of the works by "unknown" in this list ('Hercules and the Twelve Labors', 'Jason and the Golden Fleece', 'Orpheus and Eurydice', 'Reynard the Fox', and 'Robin Hood's Adventures) are not literary works per se. Rather, Magill and his collaborators describe the story, or fable, more broadly, not emphasizing a specific work. Versions of the stories, or works in which they stories play some role, are mentioned, such as Ovid's Metamorphoses and Euripides' Alcestis for Hercules and the Twelve Labors. For Jason and the Golden Fleece, it is noted that Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica gave the myth its first "formal expanded treatment." "The first known compilation of prose and poetry of the Robin Hood legend came in 1490 with the publication of the Lytel Geste of Robin Hood, by Wynkyn de Worde, a noted British printer." And, "the longest and most familiar version of [Orpheus and Eurydice] is found in Ovid's Metamorphoses (c. A D 8), and Ovid may well have been inspired by Vergil's less florid account, carefully placed at the dramatic end of his Georgics (c. 37-29 B C)." Furthermore, "this myth became the subject of the first secular drama in vernacular, Orfeo (1480; Orpheus), composed in the era of the Medicis by Angelo Poliziano (Politian). In 1600, the first Italian opera, Euridice, was composed. Christoph Gluck's Orfeo ed Eurydice (1762) is considered the first "modern" opera for its balance of music and tragic drama." None of these works are included in the list here; to include them would misrepresent the nature of the original work, much like I'm not including additional works in the Seymour-Smith list.

Absalom, Absalom! - William Faulkner
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain  

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain  

Aeneid - Vergil  

The Age of Reason - Thomas Paine

The Alchemist - Ben Jonson 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll  

All's Well That Ends Well - William Shakespeare 

The Ambassadors - Henry James

Andersen's Fairy Tales - Hans Christian Andersen 

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

Antigone - Sophocles 

Antony and Cleopatra - William Shakespeare

The Arabian Nights' Entertainment - Unknown

Areopagitica - John Milton  

Ars Poetica - Horace 

As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner

As You Like It - William Shakespeare

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - Benjamin Franklin  

The Autobiography of William Butler Yeat

Babbitt - Sinclair Lewis

The Bacchae - Euripides 

Barchester Towers - Anthony Trollope  

Benito Cereno - Herman Melville

Beowulf - Unknown

Beyond Good and Evil - Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Billy Budd, Foretopman - Herman Melville  

Biographia Literaria - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Birds - Aristophanes

The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevski 

Buddenbrooks - Thomas Mann 

Candide - Voltaire 

The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer 

Cantos - Ezra Pound

The Captain's Daughter - Alexander Pushkin 

The Castle - Franz Kafka 

The Cid - Pierre Corneille

Collected Poems, 1934-1952 - Dylan Thomas 

The Comedy of Errors - William Shakespeare 

Confessions - Saint Augustine 

Confessions - Jean Jacques Rousseau 

The Count of Monte-Cristo - Alexandre Dumas, père 

Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevski 

Critique of Pure Reason - Immanuel Kant 

Cyrano de Bergerac - Edmond Ronstand 

Daphnis and Chloë - Longus 

David Copperfield - Charles Dickens 

Dead Souls - Nikolai Gogol 

Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather 

Death in Venice - Thomas Mann 

The Decameron - Giovanni Boccaccio

Democracy in America - Alexis de Tocqueville  

The Dialogues of Plato - Plato 

The Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri 

Doctor Faustus - Christopher Marlowe 

A Doll's House - Henrik Ibsen 

Don Juan - George Gordon, Lord Byron 

Don Quixote de la Mancha - Miguel de Cervantes 

Dracula - Bram Stoker

Dramatic Monologues and Lyrics of Browning - Robert Browning 

Dream of the Red Chamber - Ts'ao Hsüeh-ch'in 

Duino Elegies - Rainer Maria Rilke 

East of Eden - John Steinbeck 

The Education of Henry Adams - Henry Adams 

Electra - Euripides 

Emma - Jane Austen 

An Enemy of the People - Henrik Ibsen 

An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding - David Hume 

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Unknown 

Essais - Michel Eyquem de Montaigne 

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding - John Locke

Essay on Man - Alexander Pope 

The Essays of Emerson - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Essays of Thoreau - Henry David Thoreau 

Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton 

Ethics - Benedictus de Spinoza 

Eugene Onegin - Alexander Pushkin 

Eugénie Grandet - Honore de Balzac

The Eve of St. Agnes - John Keats 

Everyman - Unknown 

A Fable- William Faulkner 

The Faerie Queen - Edmund Spenser

The Fall of the House of Usher - Edgar Allan Poe 

A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway 

The Father - August Strindberg 

Fathers and Sons - Ivan Turgenev 

Faust - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

Flowers of Evil - Charles Baudelaire 

For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway 

Four Quartets - T S Eliot 

Frankenstein - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley 

Gargantua and Pantagruel - François Rabelais

Germinal - Émile Zola

The Golden Bowl- Henry James 

The Good Earth - Pearl S Buck 

The Grapes of Wrath- F Scott Fitzgerald 

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens 

The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald 

Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift 

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark - William Shakespeare 

Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad 

Hedda Gabler - Henrik Ibsen 

Henry the Fourth, Part One - William Shakespeare 

Henry the Fourth, Part Two - William Shakespeare 

Henry the Fifth - William Shakespeare 

Hercules and His Twelve Labors - Unknown

The History - Herodotus 

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Edward Gibbon

History of the Peloponnesian War - Thucydides 

The House of Seven Gables - Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo 

Hunger - Knut Hamsun 

Iliad - Homer 

The Importance of Being Earnest - Oscar Wilde

In Memoriam - Alfred, Lord Tennyson 

The Interpretation of Dreams - Sigmund Freud 

Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott 

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë

Jason and the Golden Fleece - Unknown 

Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

Julius Caesar - William Shakespeare 

Das Kapital - Karl Marx

Kidnapped - Robert Louis Stevenson 

Kim - Rudyard Kipling 

King Lear - William Shakespeare 

The Last of the Mohicans - James Fenimore Cooper

Lazarillo de Tormes - Unknown 

Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving 

Leviathan - Thomas Hobbes

Life Is a Dream  - Pedro Calderón de la Barca 

The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. - James Boswell

Life on the Mississippi - Mark Twain 

Ligeia - Edgar Allan Poe

The Lyric Poetry of Lord Byron - George Gordon, Lord Byron

The Lyric Poetry of John Milton - John Milton 

Lysistrata - Aristophanes

Macbeth - William Shakespeare 

Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

The Magic Mountain - Thomas Mann 

Mahabharata - Unknown

Main Street - Sinclair Lewis 

Measure for Measure - William Shakespeare 

Medea - Euripides 

Meditations - Marcus Aurelius Antonius 

The Merchant of Venice - William Shakespeare 

Metamorphoses - Ovid 

Middlemarch - George Eliot 

A Midsummer's Night Dream - William Shakespeare 

The Misanthrope - Molière 

Les Misérables] - Victor Hugo 

Miss Julie - August Strindberg 

Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf 

Moby Dick - Herman Melville 

Le Morte d'Arthur - Sir Thomas Malory 

Mourning Becomes Electra - Eugene O'Neill 

Much Ado About Nothing - William Shakespeare 

My Ántonia - Willa Cather 

Nausea - Jean-Paul Sartre 

New Atlantis - Sir Francis Bacon 

The Nieblungenlied - Unknown

Nicholas Nickleby - Charles Dickens 

Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell

Nostromo - Joseph Conrad  

'Ode to Aphrodite' - Sappho 

Odyssey - Homer 

Oedipus at Colonus - Sophocles 

Oedipus Tyrannus - Sophocles 

The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway 

The Old Wives' Tale - Arnold Bennett 

On Liberty - John Stuart Mill 

On the Nature of Things - Lucretius 

On the Origin of Species - Charles Darwin

Orations - Cicero 

Oresteia - Aeschylus 

Orlando Furioso - Ludovico Ariosto 

Orpheus and Eurydice - Unknown

Othello - William Shakespeare 

The Overcoat - Nikolai Gogol 

Paradise Lost - John Milton 

Parzival - Wolfram von Eschenbach 

A Passage to India - E M Forster 

Penguin Island - Anatole France 

Pensées - Blaise Pascal 

Pere Goriot - Honore de Balzac 

Phaedra - Jean Racine 

The Pickwick Papers - Charles Dickens 

The Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan 

The Pioneers - James Fenimore Cooper 

The Plague - Albert Camus

Poem of the Cid - Unknown 

Poetics - Aristotle

The Poetry of Basho - Matsuo Bashō

The Poetry of Blake - William Blake

The Poetry of Dickinson - Emily Dickinson

The Poetry of Donne - John Donne

The Poetry of Frost - Robert Frost

The Poetry of Yeats - William Butler Yeats 

The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James 

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce 

The Possessed - Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevski 

Pragmatism - William James 

The Prelude - William Wordsworth 

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen 

The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli 

Prometheus Bound - Aeschylus 

Prometheus Unbound - Percy Bysshe Shelley 

Ramayana - Valmiki 

The Rape of the Lock - Alexander Pope

The Red and the Black - Stendhal 

The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane 

Remembrance of Things Past - Marcel Proust 

Republic - Plato 

The Return of the Native - Thomas Hardy 

Reynard the Fox - Unknown 

Richard II - William Shakespeare 

Richard III - William Shakespeare

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

'Rip Van Winkle' - Washington Irving

Robin Hood's Adventures - Unknown 

Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe 

Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare 

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne 

Scepticism and Animal Faith - George Santayana 

She Stoops to Conquer - Oliver Goldsmith 

The Sickness Unto Death - Søren Kierkegaard 

Silas Marner - George Eliot 

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Unknown 

Song of Roland - Unknown 

Sonnets From the Portuguese - Elizabeth Barrett Browning 

Sons and Lovers - D H Lawrence 

The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner

Spoon River Anthology - Edgar Lee Masters 

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson

Summa Theologica - Thomas Acquinas 

The Tale of Genji - Lady Murasaki Shikibu 

The Taming of the Shrew - William Shakespeare 

Tartuffe - Moliere

The Tempest - William Shakespeare 

Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy 

Three Sisters - Anton Chekhov 

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There - Lewis Carroll 

Thus Spake Zarathustra - Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche 

Thyestes - Seneca 

The Time Machine - H G Wells 

To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf 

Tom Jones - Henry Fielding 

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson 

The Trial - Franz Kafka 

Tristan and Isolde - Gottfried von Strassburg

Tristram Shandy - Laurence Sterne

The Trojan Woman - Euripides 

The Turn of the Screw - Henry James 

Twelfth Night - William Shakespeare 

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne 
Two Essays on Analytical Psychology - Carl G Jung 

The Two Gentleman of Verona - William Shakespeare 

Ulysses - James Joyce

Utopia - Sir Thomas More 

Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray 

Volpone [1606] - Ben Jonson 

Waiting for Godot - Samuel Beckett

Walden - Henry David Thoreau 

War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

The Waste Land - T S Eliot 

The Waves - Virginia Woolf

The Wealth of Nations - Adam Smith 

The Winter's Tale - William Shakespeare 

Works and Days - Hesiod 

Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë