Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
This is another winner in the Modern Scholar series. Although one might wish for a more modulated voice (especially in the early lectures), Professor Potkay obviously knows her stuff. If you are like me, you know about the Grail in bits and pieces from the Arthurian legends, from movies and books. This course provides a fascinating context for those "pop culture" Grail references.
It's most interesting to find that legends of the Grail don't surface until the Middle Ages and that they are more European than Middle Eastern . We learn here a great deal more about people like Joseph of Aramathea, who supposedly brings the Grail to England; about the more obscure figures of The Fisher King and Prester John; and about Percevel, Lancelot, and Galahad and the Knightly quests for the Grail. There's discussion of the mysteries about the exact nature of the Grail, where it might be, and why anyone should look for it.
Potkay carries the story into the modern day with discussions of the popularity of books such as "The Mists of Avalon", "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," and even "The DaVinci Code." There's even a lecture on movies ranging from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" to "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". However familiar (or not) the listener is with the history and legends of the Grail, there is a lot of really terrific information here.
Initially, I was disappointed that Kimberley Reynolds lacks the dynamic and conversational style that is so desirable in an Audible course.
But, wait. The information packed into this set of lectures is so interesting and so valuable that I soon forgave, and actually came to like, the rather stiff delivery. This is a serious presentation of the history not only of children's literature but of the changing concept of childhood itself.
Most of us choose books for our children based on what we have enjoyed ourselves, what we think will interest the kids and advance their reading skills, and on the pure entertainment value of the material. This course will likely not change that, but having a more scholarly foundation about the psychological and developmental benefits of reading for young people at different stages will offer a great advantage for parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians and others who help children choose appropriate books.
The literature covered includes analysis of books for all ages of childhood, from infancy to young adult. When the subjects got a bit too esoteric for me (mostly in the YA lectures), I found the PDF study guide to be very helpful in deciding which lectures would interest me most. Although the analyses sometimes offer more detail than many of us ultimately want, I believe there is much general and particular information here that will be of interest and value to all parents and literature lovers.
Another benefit is the timely nature of the course. Harry Potter is discussed, as are "The Hunger Games" series. Professor Reynolds touches on new technologies like digital and interactive books and the endless merchandise tie-ins which are peddled to children on the media. There's a bit near the end about the effects of tough economic times on youngsters. This is up-to-date stuff!
There's a lot of information in this set of lectures. It offers an exhaustive list of writers and their works throughout the history of the mystery genre. However, there's not much of critical analysis or insight about authors or books. If you want and expect, as I did, a defense of the mystery as more than a second-rate step-child in the field of Literature, you won't find it.
If, however, you appreciate a long listing of suggestions for reading mystery and detective fiction, this is a valuable tool. But you'll have to put up with a lot of very long . . . . . pauses! As other reviewers have noted, M. Lee Alexander presents this as though her audience were very slowly writing down every word and every sentence. It can be annoying (and you'll occasionally check your device to see if it's still working!).
Unarguably, Alexander knows her stuff, and it's wonderful to be reminded of some of the great old names in mystery fiction, like Mary Roberts Rhinehart, Patricia Wentworth, Josephine Tey (and lots of male authors, too). This course will send me back to some old favorites and has introduced me to some new and old series to try.