Online Literature Courses That Immerse You In The World Of Books

access_timeOctober 12, 2018

Literature is one of the most beautiful things man has created in his short time on earth. The ability to weave a story, encapsulate people, and express feelings, emotions and hardship through a narrative is often what sets us apart from other creatures on earth. Literature is one of the building blocks humans have used to inform and entertain themselves for centuries and centuries. From Homer’s Odyssey, to 50 Shades of Grey, literature has entranced people and led them to new discoveries about the world around them, and themselves as well.

With all this being said, it’s definitely true that literature classes can be a scary place. It’s a place where people debate and argue the main concepts and plot points of confusing and complex stories. On top of this, many people don’t have time to partake in a class, day in and day out. So what if there was a way to access English literature courses without this rigmarole? Well, there is! Online literature courses are a fantastic way of pushing yourself to discover the world of books and writing, from wherever is comfortable for you! From courses on the great novels such as Jane Eyre and Moby Dick, to creative writing courses online designed to sharpen your imagination, there is truly something for everyone!

How do we know? Well we’ve compiled a list of them right here! With the help of a few platforms that do a great job of showcasing online courses, we’ve listed the best ones right here. Ready? Here we go!


With over 1000 people ‘graduating’ from Springboard to then take jobs at Boeing, Reddit and IBM, it’s no wonder why they are one of the most popular online learning services around. Established in the 2000’s, Springboard has provided anyone and everyone with about as many resources and educational experiences as any physical University would.

Introduction to the Theory of Literature

Via The University of Yale (Flexible duration)

This is a survey of the main trends in twentieth-century literary theory. Lectures will provide background for the readings and explicate them where appropriate, while attempting to develop a coherent overall context that incorporates philosophical and social perspectives on the recurrent questions: what is literature, how is it produced, how can it be understood, and what is its purpose?

The Ancient Greek Hero

Via Harvard University (Self paced)

What is it to be human, and how can ancient concepts of the heroic and anti-heroic inform our understanding of the human condition? That question is at the core of The Ancient Greek Hero, which introduces (or reintroduces) students to the great texts of classical Greek culture by focusing on concepts of the Hero in an engaging, highly comparative way.

Victorian Literature and Culture

Via The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (25 sessions long)

The course covers British literature and culture during Queen Victoria’s long reign, 1837-1901. This was the brilliant age of Charles Dickens, the Brontës, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot, Robert Browning, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Alfred, Lord Tennyson – and many others. It was also the age of urbanization, steam power, class conflict, Darwin, religious crisis, imperial expansion, information explosion, bureaucratization – and much more.

The Divine Comedy: Dante’s Journey through the Inferno

Via Georgetown University (8 weeks long)

Students will question for themselves the meaning of human freedom, responsibility and identity by reading and responding to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. The Comedy, which is richly steeped in the medieval culture of the 14th century, still speaks vividly to modern readers struggling with the question, “who am I?” Dante, as a Florentine, a poet, a lover, and religious believer, struggled with the same question in each facet of his life before coming to a moment of vision that wholly transformed him as a person.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Text, Culture and Performance

Via The University of Birmingham (6 weeks long)

Hamlet is the most famous play ever written and the masterpiece of the most important writer in English, William Shakespeare. Its themes of mortality, madness and political succession have given it an enduring fascination – Hamlet has been translated into every major language and adapted for every new medium since it was written.

This free online course will introduce you to some of the many ways in which Hamlet can be enjoyed and understood. Over six weeks, you’ll look at how Hamlet has responded to successive times and successive performances.

Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World

Via The University of Michigan (3 weeks long)

Fantasy is a key term both in psychology and in the art and artifice of humanity. The things we make, including our stories, reflect, serve, and often shape our needs and desires. We see this everywhere from fairy tale to kiddie lit to myth; from “Cinderella” to Alice in Wonderland to Superman; from building a fort as a child to building ideal, planned cities as whole societies. Fantasy in ways both entertaining and practical serves our persistent needs and desires and illuminates the human mind. Fantasy expresses itself in many ways, from the comfort we feel in the godlike powers of a fairy godmother to the seductive unease we feel confronting Dracula. From a practical viewpoint, of all the fictional forms that fantasy takes, science fiction, from Frankenstein to Avatar, is the most important in our modern world because it is the only kind that explicitly recognizes the profound ways in which science and technology, those key products of the human mind, shape not only our world but our very hopes and fears. This course will explore Fantasy in general and Science Fiction in specific both as art and as insights into ourselves and our world.

Popular Culture and Narrative

Via The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Self paced)

In this course, we will investigate popular culture and narrative by focusing on the relationship between literary texts and comics. Several questions shape the syllabus and provide a framework for approaching the course materials: How do familiar aspects of comics trace their origins to literary texts and broader cultural concerns? How have classic comics gone on to influence literary fiction? In what ways do contemporary graphic narratives bring a new kind of seriousness of purpose to comics, blurring what’s left of the boundaries between the highbrow and the lowbrow? Readings and materials for the course range from the nineteenth century to the present, and include novels, short stories, essays, older and newer comics, and some older and newer films. Expectations include diligent reading, active participation, occasional discussion leading, and two papers.

Sexual and Gender Identities

Via The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Self paced)

This course offers an introduction to the history of gender, sex, and sexuality in the modern United States, from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first. It begins with an overview of historical approaches to the field, emphasizing the changing nature of sexual and gender identities over time. The remainder of the course flows chronologically, tracing the expanding and contracting nature of attempts to control, construct, and contain sexual and gender identities, as well as the efforts of those who worked to resist, reject, and reform institutionalized heterosexuality and mainstream configurations of gendered power.

Poetry in America: The Poetry of Early New England

Via Harvard University (4 weeks long)

This course, the first installment of the multi-part Poetry in America series, covers American poetry in cultural context through the year 1700. The course begins with Puritan poets–some orthodox, some rebel spirits–who wrote and lived in early New England. Focusing on Anne Bradstreet, Edward Taylor, and Michael Wigglesworth, among others, we explore the interplay between mortal and immortal, Europe and wilderness, solitude and sociality in English North America.

Contemporary Literature: Literature, Development and Human Rights

Via The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Flexible duration)

Central to our era is the gradual movement of all the world’s regions toward a uniform standard of economic and political development. In this class we will read a variety of recent narratives that partake of, dissent from, or contribute to this story, ranging from novels and poems to World Bank and IMF statements and National Geographic reports. We will seek to understand the many motives and voices – sometimes congruent, sometimes clashing – that are currently engaged in producing accounts of people in the developing world: their hardships, laughter, and courage, and how they help themselves and are helped by outsiders who may or may not have philanthropic motives. Readings will include literature by J. G. Ballard, Jamaica Kincaid, Rohinton Mistry, and John le Carré, as well as policy documents, newspaper and magazine articles, and the Web sites of a variety of trade and development commissions and organizations.

Literary Studies: The Legacy of England

Via The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Flexible duration)

The English sense of humour. This course examines English literature across genre and historical periods. It is designed for students who want to study English literature or writing in some depth, or to know more about English literary culture and history. Students will also learn about the relationships between literary themes, forms, and conventions and the times in which they were produced. Materials include: Medieval tales, riddles, and character sketches; Renaissance lyrics and a play, 18th-century satires in words and images, 19th century irony, modern stories and film.

Renaissance Literature

Via The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Flexible duration)

The Renaissance has justly become both famous and notorious as an age of discovery, and its voyages took place in many realms. This semester, we will read several history making narratives of early modern travel: first-hand accounts of discovery, captivity, conquest, or cultural encounter. As Europeans came to acquire experience of unfamiliar places, literary texts of the period began to assimilate this experience by describing imagined voyages across real or fantastic landscapes. Finally, voyages of exploration served Renaissance writers as a metaphor: for intellectual inquiry, for spiritual development, or for the pursuit of love. Among the literary genres sampled this semester will be sonnets, plays, prose narratives, utopias, and chivalric romance. Authors and travellers will include Francis Petrarch, Amerigo Vespucci, Thomas More, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Hernán Cortés, John Donne, Francis Drake, Mary Rowlandson, Francis Bacon.

Open Culture

Since 2006, Open Culture has been aiding eager students with a database of courses. There’s something here for everyone, as Open Culture lay them out with videos and course info attached. Just find the subject you are looking to improve upon and locate a course that’s right for you. It’s easy to see why some know it as the best free cultural and educational media base on the web.

Cervante’s Don Quixote

Via The University of Yale (3-4 weeks long)

The course facilitates a close reading of Don Quixote in the artistic and historical context of renaissance and baroque Spain. Students are also expected to read four of Cervantes’ Exemplary Stories, Cervantes’ Don Quixote: A Casebook, and J.H. Elliott’s Imperial Spain. Cervantes’ work will be discussed in relation to paintings by Velázquez. The question of why Don Quixote is read today will be addressed throughout the course. Students are expected to know the book, the background readings and the materials covered in the lectures and class discussions.

Darwin and Design

Via The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Flexible duration)

Humans are social animals; social demands, both cooperative and competitive, structure our development, our brain and our mind. This course covers social development, social behaviour, social cognition and social neuroscience, in both human and non-human social animals. Topics include altruism, empathy, communication, theory of mind, aggression, power, groups, mating, and morality. Methods include evolutionary biology, neuroscience, cognitive science, social psychology and anthropology.

Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner

Via Yale University (Flexible duration)

This course examines major works by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner, exploring their interconnections on three analytic scales: the macro history of the United States and the world; the formal and stylistic innovations of modernism; and the small details of sensory input and psychic life.

Introduction to Theory of Literature

Via The University of Yale (Flexible duration)

This is a survey of the main trends in twentieth-century literary theory. Lectures will provide background for the readings and explicate them where appropriate, while attempting to develop a coherent overall context that incorporates philosophical and social perspectives on the recurrent questions: what is literature, how is it produced, how can it be understood, and what is its purpose?

Milton, Power, and the Power of Milton

Via The University of Yale (Flexible duration)

An introduction to John Milton: man, poet, and legend. Milton’s place at the center of the English literary canon is asserted, articulated, and examined through a discussion of Milton’s long, complicated association with literary power. The conception of Miltonic power and its calculated use in political literature is analyzed in the feminist writings of Lady Mary Chudleigh, Mary Astell, and Virginia Woolf. Later the god-like qualities often ascribed to Miltonic authority are considered alongside Satan’s excursus on the constructed nature of divine might in Paradise Lost, and the notorious character’s method of analysis is shown to be a useful mode of encountering the author himself.

Watership Down

Via Mythgard Academy (11 weeks long)

A prophecy, foretelling the destruction of their village, causes a group of friends to a journey through the wild to seek a new home. They encounter many threats before finding a place of plenty and apparent safety on the uplands of Watership Down. But a chance encounter with a patrol from a nearby village reveals that our heroes live next to a frightening militarist dictatorship bent on their enslavement or destruction. They must risk everything they have, delve deep into their reserves of strength, courage, friendship and cleverness, to fight for their lives, freedom and prosperity. Our heroes are not humans but rabbits, and they have their own rich culture, mythology and language.

Approaching Shakespeare

Via University of Oxford (Flexible duration)

Each lecture in this series focuses on a single play by Shakespeare, and employs a range of different approaches to try to understand a central critical question about it. Rather than providing overarching readings or interpretations, the series aims to show the variety of different ways we might understand Shakespeare, the kinds of evidence that might be used to strengthen our critical analysis, and, above all, the enjoyable and unavoidable fact that Shakespeare’s plays tend to generate our questions rather than answer them.

Holocaust in Film and Literature

Via UCLA (Flexible duration)

The Holocaust was one of the most horrific atrocities in modern history. The effects of it were so powerful it even penetrated the world of Film and Literature. Holocaust in Film and Literature is a course that provides insight into the History of Holocaust and its present memory through examination of challenges and problems encountered in trying to imagine its horror through media of literature and film.

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