Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the most-assigned piece of literature at elite universities, Thu-Huong Ha writes for Quartz.
To find the most commonly assigned texts, Ha consulted the Open Syllabus Project, which features a ranking of texts assigned most often in college and university courses, based on one million curricula. Ha looked at curricula labeled “English,” “Languages and Literature,” and “Classics” at the top 30 U.S. colleges, as ranked by the U.S. News and World Report in 2018.
Frankenstein has appeared on 102 syllabi, according to Ha’s analysis. The text was also one of the most popular summer reading assignments in 2017, according to the National Association of Scholars and Penguin Random House.
Here are the 15 most-assigned pieces of fiction at top universities.
1. Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
2. Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
3. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
4. Oedipus, by Sophocles
5. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
6. Paradise Lost, by John Milton
7. The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James
8. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
9. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Ann Jacobs
10. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
11. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
12. The Odyssey, by Homer
13. Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
14. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
15. Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Unsurprisingly, the list of commonly assigned texts is “overwhelmingly white and male,” writes Ha.
In recent years, the diversity (or lack thereof) of college curricula has become one focal point for student activists hoping to create more inclusive campuses. Several colleges have taken steps to diversify their course materials. Colorado State University, for example, is overhauling first- and second-year engineering texts to include more case studies that highlight diversity and inclusion (Ha, Quartz, 6/4).