Free Literature ClassesFree literature classes let you connect with the foundation of our culture: written words handed down through the generations. A smart man once said you can tell a lot about a society from its laws, but you can also tell a lot about a society by the stories it tells and retells. Studying world literature not only gives you access to the best stories told throughout human history, but it’s like having a conversation with the great thinkers and great writers of the past. People and places and even dead cultures come alive when these stories are retold.

Since this is an English-language website, I want to focus somewhat on the study of English and American literature. But many of the free online college courses offered below include great classics from the Western canon of literature, including classical literature from Greece and Rome, writers from the Enlightenment, and of course, William Shakespeare. Since so many great universities offer literature course studies, I’ve also avoided listing classwork from MIT and Open University, though those fine schools also offer their share of free world literature courses.

Harvard Free Literature Classes

Harvard University may not offer as many free courses online as MIT, but you can find distance learning courses from Harvard. I’ve included “Homeric Odyssey and the Cultivation of Justice”, a lecture course which is offered through the Real Player media player.

Oxford University Free Classes

Oxford University also offers free courses online, this time through iTunes. Their “Faculty of Classics” series includes literature lectures such as “Roman Comedy: A Funny Thing”, “Adapting Greek Tragedy”, and “Reception of Classical Literature”. Other prized discussions include the Haynes Lecture, the Gaisford Lecture, and Oliver Taplin on the classics.

“Not Shakespeare” is another course from Oxford that I recommend you can download from iTunes. This free class covers all the excellent playwrights, poets, and prose authors (not named Shakespeare) from the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras Shakespeare lived through. The Renaissance came late to England, but when it did, it came with a fury. You could make the case the late-Elizabethan era saw the greatest gathering of writing talent in one place in the history of the world.

Open Yale Courses – Yale Free Lit Classes

Yale University offers free literature classes on iTunes, including courses on some of the giants of Western literature. You can take a course on Dante by Giuseppe Mazzotta or a course on Milton by John Rogers. You can also take “The Literature of Crisis” series by Martin Evans and Marsh McCall, which discusses Plato, Boetius, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Vergil, and Voltaire.

Free Online College Literature Classes

On the “Free Writing Classes” page, I focused on many of the great classes authors and poets can study at a couple of the great distance learning programs you’ll find online: the Open University and MIT OpenCourseWare program. So I wanted to focus on alternative distance learning programs from some of the greatest, most famous universities in the world on this page. Harvard, Yale, and Oxford all offer free distance learning courses on the Internet, too, so if you want to experience what it might be like to attend Harvard, Yale, or Oxford, take a look at some of their free online literature courses.