University of Oxford


Published on by Post Discipline Admin


Business schools in the United States increasingly offer literature-based courses, in which students are guided to discuss the moral dilemmas, virtues and flaws of fictional characters, with the principal aim of developing their moral character. The earliest and most well-known of these courses is ‘The Moral Leader’, founded in the 1980s by psychologist and journalist Robert Coles at Harvard University. While a number of similar courses have since emerged across the US, the practice of using literature to model professional skills or behaviours has yet to be formalized in the field of business. Our understanding of this unusual pedagogy remains mostly confined to Harvard Business School, and, specifically, to the writings of former and current faculty such as Robert Coles, Joseph L. Badaracco, and Sandra J. Sucher, who have taught ‘The Moral Leader’. 

This collection identifies historic and active graduate business courses that draw on novels, plays, short stories, memoirs, and/or poetry to teach aspects of business. By collating information about these courses, their hosting institutions, and their instructors, this collection aims to clarify how and why literary pedagogies have been adopted in the discipline of business. The collection samples all institutions featured in U.S. News & World Report’s ranked list of the best providers of graduate studies in business in 2021.

This data collection forms part of a larger project titled Post-Discipline: Literature, Professionalism, and the Crisis of the Humanities, led by Dr Merve Emre with the assistance of Dr Hayley G. Toth. You can find more information about the project at

Email to help us improve the data collection.

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