The Open Syllabus Project has collected over 1 million college syllabi, according to the New York Times. Analyzing that data, they have compiled a database of texts used in college classrooms and just how often they are used.
The architects of the project hope their data will shed new light on “teaching, publishing and intellectual history.” It will also allow all of us to better compare today’s college curricula to those of the past.
Below are the top 20 most taught works in college classrooms. Visit the Syllabus Explorer to see the full list.
1. The Elements of Style
Strunk, William, 1869-1946
3. The Communist Manifesto
Marx, Karl, 1818-1883
Campbell, Neil A., 1946
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851
Hobbes, Thomas, 1588-1679
8. The Prince
Machiavelli, Niccolò, 1469-1527
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
11. The Odyssey
Said, Edward W.
13. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations
Turabian, Kate L.
14. The Iliad
15. Heart of Darkness
Conrad, Joseph, 1857-1924
16. Canterbury Tales
Chaucer, Geoffrey, -1400
18. Letter from the Birmingham Jail
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
19. On Liberty
Mill, John Stuart, 1806-1873
20. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Kuhn, Thomas S.
What this list can’t tell us is how many students actually bothered to read the assigned works. And given the state of education in this country, I’m guessing quite a few bought the CliffNotes version.
Image: Skylar Lester/Pierce College News