Great Books i


This marks the first year of afour-year sequence in which the great works of Western Culture are intently examined.  The purpose for such an endeavor rests on the assumption that history has a flow to it, that God is captain of the Story of the World, and that a solid grasp of this flow—or Great Conversation—is a vital part of what it means for a young man or woman to gain an education.   Investigating the great works is, in large part, what is meant by the phrase “classical education” today.  By studying some of the most pivotal literature produced by the important thinkers and writers of Western Civilization, students will become acquainted with some of the crucial, early chapters in the Great Conversation.  Since this class is a tutorial, the student is the one pursuing the education and performing the majority of the mental labor.   The readings will be challenging but class discussions will be designed to aid in understanding essential segments of the texts.  There will also be an emphasis in learning to write essays according the models used by the Greeks and Romans.   

Click on this link to go to the required text page for this class.


Shorter writing assignments will be assigned almost every week in order to allow the student to interact with the readings.  Many of these will be read aloud by the student to the class.  Essays will be assigned subsequent to the completion of several of the books.  Using the format employed by classical writers, these essays will provide the opportunity for the student to think and write critically about important issues raised by the readings.

Set up information can be found here.


The cost for this tutorial is $310 per semester.  Registration is reserved for families of Alexandria Tutorials until March 15th, at which time registration is open to all families.  Class is limited to 15 participants.   To register, please follow this link.

Checks are made payable to Matthew Turnbull and a non-refundable deposit of $50 to reserve your seat is required in order to confirm your registration, the remainder is due the first week of class. This deposit is part of first semester tuition. Second semester tuition is due the first week of that semester. Tuition is not refundable after the first month of the semester.This is a year-long class; please register only if you are able to take both semesters. A withdrawal fee will be assessed for students who withdraw part way through the year. 

Please send payment to: Matthew Turnbull/ Alexandria Tutorials/ 248 Benton St./ Leavenworth, WA 98826


This class is currently planned for Monday mornings from 8:00 a.mto 9:30 a.m., Pacific time.   This course will begin in early September.   We will break for a week during Thanksgiving, and we will break for Christmas after class in mid-December.   Class will resume in early January, and end on the last week of May, with a break for a week in late March or early April.  This schedule allows for approximately 34 class periods.   This is a year-long class. 

Generally, the tutor is able to meet each week, although there may be exceptions due to illness, or family emergencies.  If you know you are going to miss a class, please e-mail your tutor to give him warning.  Classes are recorded so that if a student misses a session, he or she may watch the recording to keep current with the discussion.   Since this is a tutorial I will not issue final grades but will provide comments and feedback on your work. 


Since this class is a tutorial, the student is the scholar pursuing the education and seeking to learn. In this way, there is a wide difference between a traditional “class” and a tutorial such as this one.  In the traditional classroom, the teacher is often responsible not only for providing the learning environment and the instruction, but also for imparting much of the motivation to learn through the dread of things like grades and tests.  While these can be helpful ingredients to learning and instruction, they are not a part (or at least a big part) of a tutorial.  In a tutorial, whether or not the studentlearns is completely his or her decision.  This is one of the primary assumptions behind a tutorial: the student is the scholar; the tutor is the guide.   That means that what a student learns from the Greeks or the Romans or the Medievals is directly dependent on the student’s approach, persistence and commitment to gain an education.  In a culture such as ours, where people are clamoring for their needs to be met, I challenge you, as a student, to decide, with God’s help, to make your mind grow.  It will require work and labor and perseverance.  But, as is the case with any noble endeavor, all of the sweat and suffering along the way only deepens one's satisfaction in the end.    


Greek Literature is the one of the very primary sources from which the river of Western Culture flows.  To study the classics produced by the Greeks is to see first-hand the laying of the stones upon which so much of our thinking and understanding rests. However, as Greece was pagan, so was the worldview of its writers.  That means that we will encounter, at certain points, "mature themes" in some of the writings.  For example, in "Oedipus Rex" by Sophocles, Oedipus, through a strange twist of fate ends up marrying his mother.

 Why should young men and women study literature that contains such elements?  First, a perusal of the Old Testament will yield many examples of immorality.  Yet we study the Old Testament precisely because God states in Romans 15:4 that "whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."  Thus, we have examples presented to us in the Old Testament; some are to be imitated, and some are there to illustrate the deleterious consequences of disobedience.  We read of righteous and wicked men alike, and by reading and studying the life of Ahab as contrasted with Josiah, we gain instruction and ultimately learn to hope in God and live accordingly. 

 Second, a play like "Oedipus Rex"—just like Shakespeare's "Hamlet"—though it contains some mature content is such an example of Art in writing that it warrants study.  The point of the play is not the immorality itself, but the timeless ideas and central conflicts that form some of the big questions that human beings have pondered and wrestled with for centuries.  Moreover, the form of Sophocles' play, itself, is the paragon of tragedy.  Aristotle considered it to be the perfect model of tragic plot. 

 Third, as with all of the books we will read for this class, "Oedipus Rex" is a classic. That is, countless writers and thinkers over the past two millennia refer to the ideas in that play, and assume that those they speak to are familiar with it.  In other words, that play is part of the body of writings considered essential to a liberal (in the classical sense) education.  As we do with other pieces of literature that contain similar material, our class discussions and student writing assignments will be conducted with a view to gaining instruction and, of course, we will relentlessly seek to consider that which is "true and honorable and just."

 If the soul is immortal, it demands our care not only for that part of time which we call life, but for all time; and indeed it would seem now that it will be extremely dangerous to neglect it. –Socrates, “The Phaedo”  

Please purchase these texts prior to our discussion of them in class. The tutor will announce the order of the books as the year progresses. These versions have been chosen for economy as well as quality. It is recommended that the student purchase these particular versions of the texts in order to better facilitate ease of class discussion. Because some of these books are expensive, used copies (of the precise version we are using) are completely acceptable. Please click on the text title to go to the ordering page.

This Reading List is finalized for the 2016-2017 school year.   


The Epic of Gilgamesh--Summer Reading!

The Odyssey

Works and Days/ Theogony--Hesiod

Rise and Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives

Three Theban Plays


The Republic of Plato

Basic Works of Aristotle

The Persian Expedition--Xenophon