In 1952, Encyclopedia Britannica published a fifty-four-volume set titled Great Books of the WesternWorld. The Great Books were intended by Dr. Mortimer Adler and Dr. Robert Hutchins to establish a standard curriculum for American schools, but the public response to the first edition was tepid. Sales of the volume set rendered the multimillion-dollar project a financial failure. Nevertheless, a second edition was published in 1990 with few alterations. Many critics deplored it for failing to reflect the changing cultural landscape of the twentieth century.

Hutchins and Adler conceived the project as a means of delimiting and promoting a distinctly Western literary canon. There were 443 works representing seventy-six authors in the first edition, and selection criteria were based on the work's relevance to 102 ...

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