Back to school special: A liberal arts education in 500 words!

Dollarphotoclub_60972804If you are a liberal-arts student resuming classes today after the winter break, fret not! For below is everything you need to know about the History of Western Literature—and I’ve got you covered for your Philosophy 101 class. Don’t forget me later, when you’ve landed an awesome job because of your sweet, sweet education.

History of Western Literature

The Iliad:  After a beautiful woman gets kidnapped hundreds of guys run around stabbing each other with spears.

The Odyssey: A hairy guy who yells a lot floats around in a boat.

Oedipus the King: When a guy discovers that he’s accidentally slept with his mom a lot he responds as most guys would, by gauging out his eyes with a spoon.

The Apology of Socrates: Socrates apologizes, but you can tell he doesn’t really mean it.

Ovid’s Metamorphoses: More people than you can shake a stick at get mysteriously transformed into … well, sticks.

Dante’s The Divine Comedy: A guy in a funny hat visits Hell and makes a nuisance of himself by asking a lot of questions.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet: A guy skulks around in a castle trying to make a decision about anything.

Don Quixote: A crazy old Spanish guy with a hilarious sidekick gets lost in Holland.

Paradise Lost: When banished to hell, Satan takes his revenge by continuing to be way more interesting than God.

Goethe’s Faust: Satan helps a dedicated bookworm finally get a date.

War and Peace: Napoleon invades Russia and interrupts everybody’s life.

The Death of Ivan Illyich: Ivan doesn’t pull through.

Anna Karenina: An chronically indecisive woman gets hit by a train.

The Brothers Karamazov: Four brothers with a crappy father get along about as well as you’d expect.

David Copperfield: An English orphan boy just cannot catch a break.

Pride and Prejudice: After some confusion, a hot couple decides to go for it.

Kafka’s The Metamorphosis: A guy turns into a cockroach the size of a courch. His family has trouble adjusting.

Western Philosophy 101

Socrates: Turns smugly asking endlessly annoyingly questions into the basis for Western civilization.

Plato: Believed knowledge was more about remembering than learning, and that abstract ideas beat reality every time. Inspiring college stoners since 400 B.C. and counting.

Aristotle: Believed that all of nature was subject to rational analysis. Legacy includes systematic logic, scholasticism, zoos, and global warming.

St. Thomas Aquinas: Wrote Summa Theologiae, which proved that through the strict application of logic, a rational man could confuse himself into a religious revelry. Summa proved invaluable to surgeons of the Middle Ages, whose primary operating tools were sharp sticks and their teeth. Two sentences from SummaTheologiae, carefully whispered into a patient’s ear by an aquinaesthesiologist, would instantly numb the patient from the neck down. For brain surgery, a third sentence was read. For public executions, a fourth.

Rene Descartes: Proved true his famous axiom “I think; therefore I am” by one day falling asleep and instantly disappearing.

George Berkeley: Posited that reality divorced from human perception was logically unsupportable. Was proven wrong when killed by a tree that fell in the forest.

Immanual Kant: Famous for writing The Critique of Pure Reason. It was his freakish good luck that his publisher happened to be a drunk: the book was supposed to be titled The Reason of Pure Critique. Written as a humorous guide to Berlin’s museums, it was immediately hailed as breakthrough work on metaphysical speculation. No idiot, Kant kept quiet. Died smiling.

Nietzsche: Taught that history is the plaything of individual geniuses, the highest virtue is power, and that “God is dead.” First philosopher ever, apparently, to take steroids.

William James: The Mr. Goodwrench of philosophy. American. Felt that philosophy was too far removed from reality to serve any verifiably useful purpose. As a result, started his own school of philosophy, Pragmatism, which quickly grew into a franchise operation, “Uncle Willie’s 1-Stop Philosophy Shop,” where drive-through customers could receive instant adjustments to their philosophical positions. Later sunk savings into “Positions to Go!” which promised philosophical constructs delivered to one’s home in thirty minutes or less. Died penniless.

Sartre: Important, but why should we care?


I’m the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question (which, unlike the above, is not a work of humor):

unfair-cover-xsmallPaperback. Kindle. NookBook. Signed and inscribed by me according to your direction.

About John Shore
  • Theresa Chedoen

    Where oh where were you last year, when i had these classes and was so confused?

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

    I remember taking intro english lit in college oh so long ago, and getting an F for my take away on the short story The Egg, because I didn’t theme the teacher insisted was there. I was 18. What in the heck did I understand about literary theme?

  • Dandhman

    Wow I read for my own edification, but I’ve apparently only scratched the surface. I feel vastly inadequate now. Thank you John Shore! (LOL)

  • http://adelasteria.blogspot.com/ K. Elizabeth Danahy

    that’s the best summary of “Faust” I’ve read.

  • Jill

    I’m still confused. 😉

  • Jessica G

    I like posts like this one. I’m glad you give yourself chances to giggle and let us in on it:)

  • Andy

    This looks like fun!

    A Tale of Two Cities: Nice guys finish last, unless you get brownie points for altruism.

    Animal Farm: The evils of political tyranny are more palatable coming from talking animals.

    Atlas Shrugged: Boredom can’t kill you, no matter how much you wish it would. Also, there’s something ironic about a woman claiming to be so grounded in reality espousing such an impractical, idealistic philosophy.

  • http://mikemoorehome.com/ mike moore

    “coming from animals” HAR!

  • Andy

    Let’s do a few more!

    Beowulf: A meddling mother is upset that her son is misunderstood and nobody will play with him.

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: A creepy man invites some kids into the palatial, stationary equivalent of an old van.

    The Crucible: McCarthyism had a historical precedent. So much for humanity learning from its mistakes.

  • http://mikemoorehome.com/ mike moore

    can I play too? You missed American lit.

    The Great Gatsby Poor boy becomes rich boy to get the debauched rich girl away from debauched rich husband. Drunkenness ensues. Plan fails.

    The Sun Also Rises Group of debauched ex-pats travel to Pamplona to watch and cheer men dressed in silly outfits kill innocent bulls. Drunkenness ensues. PETA – in the form of post WWI instant karma – leaves them deservedly and unbearably unhappy.

    On the Road Group of mostly-broke and unemployed debauched friends bum around country enjoying divinely debauched activities involving bi-sexuality and drugs. Drunkenness ensues. Like most college road-trips, girls get pregnant, and everyone eventually drifts apart.

    Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut Debauched, unhappily married, Connecticut housewife hangs out with college girlfriend during ice storm. Drunkenness ensues. Housewife proceeds to murder two of her 11yo child’s imaginary friends, and then housewife asks to be reassured that she is still “a nice girl.” (FYI – she’s not.)

  • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

    SO FUNNY!!!!

  • http://mikemoorehome.com/ mike moore

    Thank you, sir. Having attended Westmont, I believe in the Gloria Upson approach to higher learning: to be said with blank and dumbfounded stare “Chosen my major? … ah, well, just a general sort of liberal arts things, you know, English lit and like that.”

  • Guy Norred

    A very top drawer approach. Now get me a daiquiri, but don’t let Daddums make it.

  • http://mikemoorehome.com/ mike moore

    Guy, I can tell you’re my kind of guy: exclusive and restricted, honey.

  • Andy

    Hey Mike, these are pretty good. Can you do some books involving debauchery?

  • http://mikemoorehome.com/ mike moore

    Personally, I prefer The Cat in the Hat. The Cat embodies debauchery, living purely for pleasure, in its finest form … The Cat even recruits young children into his life of debauchery! Then Geisel, in a stunning existential twist, has The Cat – by following his own true self and proving he is a being entirely responsible for the creation that is The Cat – happily create order from chaos. And what could possibly be more debauched than a happy existentialist? Genius.

    (I really don’t want to work today, can you tell?)