Great Ideas, Great Books

Course NameLocationDurationDateTime
Great Ideas, Great BooksSouth London, BoroughOngoing monthly study04 Dec 2018Tuesdays 6:00-8:30PM

Please Note: The Tuesday evening Great Ideas study that meets in Borough is now full. We are starting a second study, to be announced shortly. Please email facilitator Mark Cwik for details. (05.09.2018)


Great Ideas, Great Books is a new ongoing, monthly Salon study in South London that will work our way through core texts and core ideas in the western intellectual tradition. Through authors such as Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Dante, Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Milton, Marx, Austen and Eliot, we will wrestle with the basic and enduring questions of what it means to be human: What is right and wrong? How do we come to know things? What do we owe to our families, our society, ourselves? What is happiness? What is a good life? What is a good society? We will talk about justice, morality, beauty, love, honor, death, government, society, goodness, community.

To encourage careful reading, and to fit our discussions into busy lives, we will keep each month’s selection to a manageable length. For longer works, we will either read the book over two or more months, or we will read substantial selections that present an author’s most important ideas.

Salon sessions will meet once a month, from 6:00pm to 8:30pm, generally on the first or second Tuesday. If you would like to join in but prefer another day or location, please email facilitator Mark Cwik for other options.

During our discussions, we will examine the reading from many angles, puzzling over difficult passages, exploring the intricacies of a plot line, the layers of meaning in a poetic phrase, the subtleties of an argument or the implications of a thesis. We will explore the ideas an author has set out, and consider them seriously.  We will also step back from the details to see whether what an author has to say makes sense and is relevant to us or not.

You don’t need any specialized knowledge or background in classic literature to join Great Ideas, Great Books. It is our expectation that most participants will be reading many of the authors for the first time. All you really need is a willingness to read carefully, listen thoughtfully and entertain new and sometimes-challenging ideas.

We will start our first year this September with readings from the ancient Greek world. As the program progresses, we will move to later works including those from the Roman world, from the Judeo-Christian scriptural tradition, the middle ages and enlightenment, up to modern thought. We are approaching this as a long-term project, with the flexibility to direct our focus to differing topics and time periods according to the interests of the group. To establish a firm foundation, we will begin with the Greeks:

25 September 2018—Homer, The Iliad, Books 1 – 12

09 October 2018—Homer, The Iliad, Books 13 – 24

06 November 2018—Herodotus, The Persian Wars, selection

04 December 2018—Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, selection

08 January 2019—Plato, Meno

05 February 2019—Plato, Apology, Crito, Phaedo

05 March 2019—Sophocles, Oedipus Rex and Antigone

09 April 2019—Aristotle, Poetics

May 2019—Plato, Republic

June 2019—Plato, Republic

July 2019—Aristotle, Politics, selection


Registration for Great Ideas, Great Books is in six-month subscriptions. The £25 per month registration includes introductory notes that set the context for each reading, and questions to help focus your reading and prompt your thinking about key aspects of the text.


ABOUT THE FACILITATOR: Mark Cwik has been organizing and leading great books discussion groups for adults for over twenty years in Chicago, Toronto and London.  He was trained as a discussion facilitator while at the Great Books Foundation in Chicago and has been a passionate advocate for great books education since attending St. John’s College, Santa Fe and the University of Chicago Basic Program in Liberal Education.

“I’ve been coming to Mark’s discussion groups for about 15 years . . . Mark is amazing in his ability to keep the group functioning smoothly. He asks questions that get to the heart of the piece and he keeps the group focused on those questions. You don’t feel that he’s trying to steer us to any conclusion; he’s in it with us to figure out what the author is saying. He makes everyone feel welcome and their opinions are respectfully heard. He’s always prepared and totally dedicated to advancing our understanding of the great books.” — Chicago group participants.



  • Facilitated by Mark Cwik
  • Tuesday evenings 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
  • Ongoing monthly study starting 25 September 2018
  • Meetings in South London, near Borough tube station
  • September/October recommended edition: Homer’s The Iliad, translated by Robert Fagles, introduction by Bernard Knox; Penguin Classics; ISBN-13: 978-0140275360
  • £25 per month, registration in six-month subscriptions

TO REGISTER for the study, please use the secure Paypal payment button below to pay £150. Opening notes will be sent shortly after registration.

If you have any questions about this study, please contact us.