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Suggested Readings for the GRE

About the Reading Lists 
The following lists were compiled by the faculty of the English Department to help students study for the Advanced Test of the Graduate Record Exam. These lists are more than that however; they are excellent texts that every English major should aspire to read, whether or not graduate school beckons. Ideally, all of us would be able to take a class in these subjects and study them with the guidance of a professor who has made the period or subject a specialty. The reality is that most of us will have studied many of these texts, recognize others by name or title, and need to read the rest.

If you are approaching a period or a subject about which you know little, it is best to first consult an anthology or a literary history for background, then read the texts. There is no substitute, especially for the Advanced Test in Literature, for knowing the standard anthologies well. Anthologies, which often offer only abridged portions of long texts, can never substitute for the original, but their introductions can give readers backgrounds that are a workable, if not perfect, survey of the period.

You may also think of these lists as summer reading; for those times when you are relatively free from other responsibilities and are looking for something great to read. This is a compilation of the best of the best literature has to offer and it would be a worthy goal to have read everything listed here by graduation. 

Critical Theory

  • Henry Abelove, et. al. eds.: The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader
  • Bill Ashcroft, et. al. eds.: The Post-Colonial Studies Reader
  • Catherine Belsey: Critical Practice
  • Tony Bennett: Formalism and Marxism
  • Stephen Greenblatt, Giles Gunn: Redrawing the Boundaries: The Transformation of English and American Literary Studies
  • Terence Hawkes: Structuralism and Semiotics
  • Angeline Mitchell: Within the Circle: An Anthology of African-American Literary Criticism From the Harlem Renaissance to the Present
  • Jane Tompkins, ed.: Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism
  • Lois Tyson: Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide
  • H. Aram Veeser: The New Historicism
  • Robyn Warhol, Diane Price Herndl: Feminism: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism
  • Elizabeth Wright: Psychoanalytic Criticism: Theory to Practice

Classical Literature

Classical Literature |TOP|
The following list does not pretend to cover--in any sense of the term--the field of classical literature or to offer any judgments of value whatsoever. It simply presents what, by a wide stretch of the imagination, could possibly be thought of as useful in preparing for the GRE in English, though I doubt its usefulness even for that. (For actual graduate study in English, different sets of classical authors and works would be appropriate to concentration in different periods of English literature.)

For this specific purpose, the translation consulted does not matter very much. In general, the translations of the Penguin Classics are safe (and sometimes much better than that); and in the case of Greek tragedy, the same can be said of the series edited by David Grene and Richmond Lattimore and published by the University of Chicago. Where I have found translations other than these especially useful or attractive, I have noted them below.

  • Homer, Iliad, Odyssey
  • Aeschylus, Oresteia  (AgamemnonLibation BearersEumenides), Prometheus Bound
  • Sophocles, Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Ajax Electra, Philoctetes, Women of Trachis
  • Euripides, Hippolytus, Medea, Trojan Women, Bacchae
  • Aristophanes, Lysistrata, Frogs, Persians, Suppliant Maidens
  • Plato, Apology, SymposiumTimaeus, Phaedo
  • Aristotle, Poetics, Metaphysics
  • Plautus, Menaechmi
  • Virgil, Eclogues, Aeneid, Georgics
  • Horace, Odes, Ars Poetica
  • Ovid, MetamorphosesAmores
  • Augustine, Confessions
  • Hesiod,TheogonyWorks and Days
  • Homeric Hymns (anonymous)
  • Lyric poets: Archilochos, Sappho, Anacreon, Simonides, Pindar
  • Historians: Herodotus, Thucydides
  • Lucretius, On The Nature of Things
  • Catullus
  • Seneca: Thyestes, Oedipus, Medea
  • Terence
  • Petronius: Satyricon
  • Juvenal 

Medieval Literature

British Medieval Literature

  • Beowulf
  • Doer's Lament
  • The Wanderer
  • The Seafarer
  • The Dream of the Rood,
  • The Battle of Malden
  • Chaucer: Canterbury TalesTroilus & Criseyde, Legend of Good Women, Parliament of Fowls,Complaint to His Purse, Gentilesse, To Adam His Scribe, Truth, To Rosemounde
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Everyman
  • Second Shepard's Play
  • Piers Plowman
  • Thomas Mallory: Morte d'Arthur

Continental Medieval Literature

  • Niebelungenlied
  • Song of Roland
  • Dante: Comedia
  • Marie de France: Lais
  • Beroul or Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan
  • Chretien de Troyes: Erec et Enide, Knight of the Cart, Yvain
  • Boccaccio: Decameron
  • Gottfried von Eschenbach: Parzival

British Literature

British Renaissance Literature

  • Everyman
  • Sir Thomas More: Utopia
  • Castiglione: The Courtier
  • Machiavelli: The Prince
  • Kyd: Spanish Tragedy
  • Marlowe: TamburlaineDoctor Faustus
  • Spenser: Faerie Queene
  • Sidney: Astrophil and Stella, ArcadiaDefense of Poesie
  • Shakespeare: Merchant of Venice, Henry IV, Henry V, Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Troilus & Cressida, All's Well That End's Well, Measure for MeasureOthello, Macbeth, King Lear, Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest. Sonnets.
  • John Donne: Poems
  • Milton: L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, Lycidas, Paradise Lost
  • Herrick: Hesperides

British Literature of the Restoration and Eighteenth Century

  • Samuel Butler: "Hudibras"
  • John Dryden: "Absalom and Achitophel," "MacFlecknoe,"
  • Alexander Pope: "The Dunciad," "Rape of the Lock," "An Essay on Criticism"
  • William Cowper: "The Task"
  • Drama:
  • William Congreve: Way Of The World
  • Oliver Goldsmith: She Stoops To Conquer, The Vicar of Wakefield
  • John Gay: The Beggar's Opera
  • Novels:
  • John Bunyan: The Pilgrim's Progress
  • Aphra Behn: Oroonoko, The Rover
  • Samuel Richardson: Pamela, Clarissa
  • Daniel Defoe: Moll Flanders, Journal of the Plague Year, Roxana
  • Henry Fielding: Tom Jones, Joseph Andrews, Shamela
  • Jonathan Swift: Gulliver's Travels, "A Modest Proposal"
  • Laurence Sterne: Tristam Shandy
  • Tobias Smollett: Humphrey Clinker
  • Frances (Fanny) Burney: Evelina
  • Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility
  • Anne Radcliff: Mysteries of Udolpho
  • Journalists, Diarists, Essayists:
  • Samuel Pepys: Diary
  • James Boswell: Life of Johnson
  • Samuel Johnson: The Rambler, Raselas, "Vanity of Human Wishes," Lives of the Poets
  • Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele: The Spectator, The Tatler
  • Mary Wollstonecraft: Vindication of the Rights of Women

British Romantic Literature 

  • William Blake: Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience
  • William Wordsworth: "Tinturn Abbey," "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," "Ode to Duty," the Lucy poems, the sonnets, "Michael," "The Prelude"
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "The Eolian Harp," "Kubla Khan," "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,"Biographia Literaria
  • George Gordon, Lord Byron: "Darkness," Don Juan, Manfred, Childe Harold
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley: "Ozymandias," "England in 1819," "Ode to the West Wind," "To a Skylark," "A Defense of Poetry," Prometheus Unbound
  • John Keats: sonnets, odes, letters
  • Essays and Journals:
  • Dorothy Wordsworth: The Grasmere Journals
  • Charles Lamb: letters, essays
  • William Hazlitt: essays
  • Leigh Hunt: essays
  • Thomas De Quincey: essays, Confessions of an English Opium Eater
  • Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: Journals

British Victorian Literature

  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Sonnets From The Portuguese, "Aurora Leigh"
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Poems, "The Lady of Shalott," "The Lotus-Eaters," "Ulysses," "Locksley Hall," "Break, Break, Break," "In Memoriam," The Idylls of the King
  • Robert Browning: "Porpyria's Lover," "My Last Duchess," "The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church," "Andrea del Sarto," "Fra Lippo Lippi," "A Grammarian's Funeral," "Rabbi Ben Ezra"
  • Matthew Arnold: "To Marguerite--Continues," "The Scholar Gypsy," "Dover Beach," "Thyrsis"
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti: "The Blessed Damozel," The House of Life
  • Christina Rossetti: "Globlin Market"
  • William Morris: "The Defense of Guenevere"
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins: "God's Grandeur," "The Windhover," "Pied Beauty," "Spring and Fall," "Carrion Comfort," "I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day"
  • Thomas Hardy: "Hap," "Neutral Tones," "The Darkling Thrush," "The Ruined Maid," "Channel Firing," "The Convergence of the Twain," "The Oxen," "Afterwards"
  • A.E. Houseman: "To an Athlete Dying Young," "When I Was One-and-Twenty"
  • Prose:
  • Thomas Carlyle: Characteristics, Sartor Resartus
  • John Stuart Mill: What is Poetry?, On Liberty, Autobiography
  • John Henry Newman: The Idea of a University, Apologia Pro Vita Sua
  • Charles Darwin: Origin of the Species
  • Matthew Arnold: "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time," "Preface to the Poems," Culture and Anarchy, "The Study of Poetry"
  • John Ruskin: Modern Painters, The Stones of Venice
  • William Pater: Studies in the History of the Renaissance
  • Sir Arthur Wing Pinero: The Second Mrs. Tanqueray
  • Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest
  • George Bernard Shaw: Mrs. Warren's Profession, Arms and the Man, Man and Superman, Major Barbara, Pygmalion, Saint Joan
  • Novels:
  • Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Hard Times, Great Expectations
  • Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre
  • Emily Bronte: Wuthering Heights
  • William Makepeace Thackeray: Vanity Fair
  • Anthony Trollope: The Warden, Barchester Towers
  • George Eliot [Mary Anne Evans]: Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch, Silas Marner
  • Thomas Hardy: Far From the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d'Ubervilles, Jude the Obscure
  • George Meredith: The Egoist
  • Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland 

American Literature

American Literature to 1800

  • John Smith: General History of Virginia
  • William Bradford: Of Plymouth Plantation
  • John Winthrop: "Of Christian Charity"
  • Mary Rowlandson: A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson
  • Samuel Sewall: The Diary of Samuel Sewall. "The Selling of Joseph" Cotton Mather: The Wonders of the Invisible WorldMagnalia Christi Americana.
  • William Byrd III: The Secret DiaryThe History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina.
  • Jonathan Edwards: "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," "Personal Narrative"
  • Elizabeth Ashbridge: Some Account of the Fore Part of the Life of Elizabeth Ashbridge. . . Written by Her Own Hand.
  • John Woolman: The Journal of John Woolman.
  • Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography
  • J. Hector St. John de Crevecouer: Letters From An American Farmer
  • Thomas Jefferson: "Declaration of Independence"
  • Thomas Paine: Common Sense
  • Olaudah Equiano: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equianao, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.
  • Samson Occom: A Short Narrative of My Life
  • Plays:
  • Royall Tyler: The Contrast
  • Hannah Webster Foster: The Coquette; or the History of Eliza Wharton
  • Susanna Haswell Rowson: Charlotte Temple
  • Charles Brockton Brown: Wieland
  • Ann Bradstreet; Michael Wigglesworth, "The Day of Doom"
  • Edward Taylor; Phillis Wheatley; Philip Freneau

Nineteenth-Century American Literature

  • Walt Whitman: "Song of Myself," "Calamus," "Sea-Drift," "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," "Passage to India," Drum-taps, "When Lilacs Last In The Door Yard Bloomed"
  • Emily Dickinson: Collected Poems
  • Novels, Sketches, Short Stories:
  • Washington Irving: The Sketch-Book of Geoffry Crayon, Gent.
  • James Fenimore Cooper: The Pioneers
  • Nathanial Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter, short stories
  • Herman Melville: Moby-Dick, "Benito Cereno"
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • Mark Twain: Huckleberry FinnPudd'nhead Wilson
  • William Dean Howells: The Rise of Silas Lapham, A Modern Instance
  • Stephen Crane: Maggie: Girl of the Streets
  • Theodore Drieser: Sister Carrie
  • Frank Norris: McTeague
  • Stephan Crane: The Red Badge of Courage
  • Jack London: The Call of the Wild
  • Essayists and Autobiographers:
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Nature," "The American Scholar," "Self-Reliance"
  • Henry David Thoreau: "Resistance to Civil Government," Walden
  • Edgar Allen Poe: "The Philosophy of Composition"
  • Margaret Fuller: Woman in the Nineteenth Century
  • Richard Henry Adams: Two Years Before The Mast
  • Frederick Douglass: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  • Harriet Jacobs: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
  • Abraham Lincoln: "Gettysburg Address"
  • Louisa May Alcott: Hospital Sketches
  • Booker T. Washington: Up From Slavery
  • Henry Adams: The Education of Henry Adams
  • Thorsten Veblen: The Theory of the Leisure Class

Twentieth-Century American Literature

  • Theodore Dreiser: Sister Carrie
  • Henry James: The American, Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors, short stories
  • Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, The House of Mirth
  • Willa Cather: My Antonia
  • Sinclair Lewis: Main Street
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby, short stories
  • Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises, short stories
  • William Faulkner: The Sound and The Fury, short stories
  • Zora Neale Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
  • Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man
  • Jack Kerouac: On the Road
  • Joseph Heller: Catch-22
  • Saul Bellow: Mr. Sammler's Planet
  • Tony Morrison: Beloved
  • Eugene O'Neill: Mourning Becomes Electra, Long Day's Journey into Night
  • Clifford Odets: Awake and Sing
  • Thorton Wilder: Our Town
  • Lillian Hellman: The Little Foxes
  • Arthur Miller: Death of a Salesman
  • Tenesee Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Lorraine Hansberry: A Raisin in the Sun
  • Edward Albee: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • Sam Shepard: True West
  • Marsha Norman: 'night Mother
  • David Mamet: Glengarry Glen Ross
  • August Wilson: The Piano Lesson
  • Tony Kushner: Angels in America

Short Stories: Sherwood Anderson, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, Bernard Malamud, John Cheever, Tillie Olsen, John Barth, Joyce Carol Oates, Donald Barthleme, Raymond Carver, Bobbie Ann Mason, Louise Erdrich
Poets: Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, H.D., William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Hart Crane, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, Charles Olson, Robert Lowell, Adrienne Rich

American Indian Literatures


  • Paula Gunn Allen: Spider Women's Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Women
  • John Bierhorst: The Red Swan: Myths and Tales of the American Indians
  • Joseph Bruchac: Songs From The Earth on Turtle's Back: Contemporary Native American Poetry
  • Geary Hobson: The Remembered Earth: An Anthology of Contemporary Native American Literature
  • Karl Kroeber: Traditional American Indian Literatures
  • David Moses and Terry Goldie: An Anthology of Canadian Native Literatures In English
  • Bernd Peyer: The Elders Wrote: An Anthology of Early Prose by North American Indians
  • Frederick Turner III: The Portable North American Indian Reader
  • A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff: American Indian Literatures (Bibliographic Review)
  • Henry Rowe Schoolcraft: Algic Researches
  • Brian Swann: Coming to Light: Contemporary Translations of the Native Literatures of North America

Autobiography and Fiction

  • William Apes: A Son of The Forest
  • Black Elk: Black Elk Speaks
  • Black Hawk: Black Hawk: An Autobiography
  • Sam Blowsnake: The Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian
  • Joseph Bruchac: Translator's Son
  • George Copway: The Life, History, and Travels of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh
  • Lame Deer: Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions
  • Vine Deloria: Custer Died For Your Sins
  • Michael Dorris: Yellow Raft On Blue Water
  • Charles Eastman: From The Deep Woods To Civilization
  • Louise Erdrich: Tracks, Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, The Bingo Palace
  • Emily Johnson: The Moccasin Maker
  • Nancy Oestreich Lurie: Mountain Wolf Woman
  • William Least Heat Moon: Blue Highways
  • D'Arcy McNickle: Wind From Enemy Sky
  • N. Scott Momaday: The House Made of Dawn
  • Leslie Marmon Silko: Ceremony, Storyteller
  • Gerald Vizenor: Earthdivers: Tribal Narratives of Mixed Descent; The People Named the Chippewa
  • James Welch: Fool's Crow
  • Zitkala-Sa: American Indian Stories
  • James Welch: Winter in the Blood, Fools Crow, The Indian Lawyer
  • Poetry:
  • Peter Blue Cloud: Elderberry Flute Song
  • Diane Glancy: Offering: Poetry and Prose
  • Joy Harjo: Secrets From the Center of the World
  • Linda Hogan: Seeing Through the Sun
  • Maurice Kenny: Between Two RiversCollected Poems
  • Duane Niatum: Ascending the Red Cedar Moon
  • Simon J. Ortiz: Going For Rain
  • Wendy Rose: Last Copper
  • Ray A. Young

Page last modified July 13, 2015