Some literary madness: St. John’s Admissions’ “Great Books Bonanza”

I love a good tournament. I’ve seen so many awesome faux-march madness brackets popping up around best Disney/Pixar movies to best pop songs of the 1990’s, so naturally, myself and couple of colleagues came up with the idea of doing a March Madness bracket applied to our very own Program.

And so, reader, here is the breakdown of the very first St. John’s Admissions Office’s “Great Books Bonanza” tournament.

Week 1:

Winners for this week were

1st year

Homer           Thucydides        Harvey

Aristotle        Euclid                 Plutarch

Plato              Herodotus

2nd Year

Pascal            Descartes           Apollonius

Dante            Copernicus        Machiavelli

Augustine     Shakespeare

3rd Year

Moliere    Huygens       Swift

Newton        Hume        Spinoza


4th Year

Goethe        Kierkegaard    Tocqueville

O’ Connor       Tolstoy         Nietzsche

Freud             Darwin

Even from the start, there was a lot of enthusiasm. While some matches were pretty much no contest (Aristotle v. Sophocles, Dante v. Plotinus), there were others that I could tell were very close matches (Virgil v. Copernicus, Descartes v. Hume, and the amazingly even-matched Pascal v. Spinoza!).

Overall, though, I was happy to see such heavy hitters progress to the next round, and couldn’t wait to see what would happen in the following days.

Round 2


Homer Aristotle Euclid

Plato Machiavelli Descartes

Dante Shakespeare Moliere

Swift Newton Galileo

Kierkegaard O’Connor Tolstoy Darwin

One thing was clear in this round – Shakespeare is superior to Augustine. Augustine was outvoted 12-0.

Other highlights include: Darwin survives against all odds against Freud, Plato crushed Herodotus, and O’Connor beat out Tocqueville in an upset nothing short of terrifying.

Round 3


Homer Euclid Machiavelli Shakespeare

Swift Newton O’Connor Darwin

Shakespeare was still the heaviest hitter in this round. Swift provided a…swift victory against Moliere, and Newton and Galileo were stuck in *almost* equilibrium, with Newton winning by just one vote!

Round 4






Here it is! The final four! And conveniently, one author from each class year representing the semi-final round. Shakespeare provided a clear victory over Machiavelli (the pen really is mightier than the sword). Homer had the upper hand against Euclid, Newton brought down Swift, and Darwin just couldn’t evolve quickly enough to survive O’Connor.

Round 5


Shakespeare vs. O’ Connor

Literature seems to have won out! What I loved about this is that we have two totally different literary powerhouses coming from two very different periods in history. Before I reveal the winner, I’ll include some of the stronger reactions that I received throughout the week :


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This just goes to show how much our staff really cares about these authors!

At noon the day of the final round, the competition was neck and neck:

shakespeare mid day

However, as the day came to a close, the winner was revealed.


It was a super close match, and I was really pulling for O’Connor (she was the clear underdog, and also one of my personal favorites). But Shakespeare ended up taking the tournament!

We hope you enjoyed this intense scholarly debate as much as we did; suffice it to say that the first annual Great Books Bonanza was a rousing success. I will leave you with a celebratory battlecry from the bard’s own Henry VI:

Sound trumpets! let our bloody colours wave!
And either victory, or else a grave.

Act II, scene 2, line 173.









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