SEAS students are incredibly busy throughout the day learning to become the awesome people that build our cars, bridges, and buildings. But do they know the important stuff the college learns about?

Do they know Alexandros and Paris of Troy are the same person? Staff  Writer Victoria Borlando asks these future engineers to summarize the books required for the first-year CC core course, Literature and Humanities.

Literature and Humanities – a “classic” (pun) course mandatory for only one of the four schools under the umbrella that is Columbia University. Although only Columbia College is required to take this class during the first year – and for the whole year, nonetheless – it seems to take over almost every conversation in the dining halls.

Now naturally, I felt sad that only one-fourth of the university gets to experience the emotional rollercoaster that is reading classic Western literature that spans from Homer to Toni Morrison. What about these SEAS students? Are they too busy doing physics problem sets that they can’t curl up in Butler and read very vivid descriptions of Hektor stabbing Achaeans in the nipple during the Trojan War? Can they at least summarize some of these iconic works of writing for us CC students? I intend to find out.

The Iliad

“It’s by Homer. That’s it. And it’s a pain in the ass to read.”

“It’s about a war with Trojans and some shit, and like…fucking, right? Like a princess or some shit? Oh my God, it’s a fuck war!”

“It’s the prequel to The Odyssey, so it’s probably about Odysseus doing some shit. There’s the Trojans…Or maybe it’s about one of his buds that dies in The Odyssey…Menelaus is there!”

If Not, Winter

“What the fuck is a Sappho?”

“If Vine was a poem.”

“If it’s not winter, then is it summer?”

The Odyssey

“Is that the first one?” “No, that’s The Iliad.” “Oh…then it’s the one where they go out on boats and what not. Something like that? It’s just boats.”

“Isn’t that like…it’s about some hero. And that’s about it.”


“That sounds like a fancy name for something.”

“Zeus fucks somebody and Hera’s not happy, so she smites someone. The humans get pissed and summon Hades, and there’s a war called Antigone. It’s about good v. evil and shit, and someone smites someone else…I don’t know the plot, so I’m making up one.”

The Aeneid

“The what?” “The Aeneid.” “Oh! Like ‘A-nead to stop reading?”

“They’re on a boat, right? Who’s the main character? Enny or some shit? Anyway, Enny boy wants to discover an island with his pals, and then they get bored, tired, or both and stop on another island. Apollo’s there; he says, “What’s poppin’?” and gives the boys a quest. They defeat a monster and some shit. They win and then get drunk on wine. I don’t know the real plot.”


“I read Metamorphosis by Kafka! Does that count?” “No.”

“Metamorphism?” “No, that’s Kafka.” “Then who’s it by?!”

“You say that title and all I can think of is a butterfly.”


Of course, I left out some of the other books read in the first semester, and I haven’t even touched the ones read in the second. That would take too much out of everyone’s time. Furthermore, many of the responses given were just, “No clue, next book.” (SEAS students are really creative) However, after asking several SEAS students what they know of Lit Hum books, I think it’s safe to say: at least they can count. And to be fair, I have no idea what a financial engineer does. Like, at all. Oh, and I can’t count.

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