Michael Drout is an incredibly enthusiastic speaker. It's a pleasure to listen to something I have a great interest in being communicated with so much vigour. I would love to be a student under him.
I love this set of lectures, it's a very insightful survey of the Fantasy genre past and present, but it does not go deep enough into the history and epics before Tolkein. It get tedious after lecture 12 in my opinion, still a must for people interested in the subject.
Professor Drout is very knowledgeable, and is able to convey this knowledge and his theories in a very clear way.
One thing I would have liked to see (hear?) is more discussion of other authors besides J.R.R. Tolkien. There are a couple sections where other authors are mentioned, but even then it's really only 8 or so compared to 7 lectures on Tolkien.
Professor Drout's breadth of knowledge for medieval literature is both obvious and rather impressive too. But whether that holds true for fantasy too is somewhat less certain here. His exhaustive focus on Tolkien monopolizes nearly all of this lecture series, and while Brooks, Le Guin and Donaldson are discussed, others are conspicuous by their nagging absence. Neither Michael Moorcock nor George Martin are mentioned at all, leaving the listener to wonder if they've been deliberately excluded, despite their enormous contributions, for defying the themes of epic fantasy that Tolkien himself found so endearing. This excessive concentration on Tolkien, and the gross omission of two giants, is a bit of a slap, given their influence.
A comparative look at the genre's evolution would have been something to truly enjoy here. He engages in this with the writers included, but with the exception of Donaldson, the rest never pushed the envelope into corners as yet unvisited. Relating to Moorcock and Martin's work would have accomplished this more effectively. How the Ring of Power, whose implications he addresses so well, relates to a weapon like Stormbringer, Elric's treacherous magic sword. How each affected the fates of characters, as well as their authors' respective worlds. How Aragorn compares perhaps, with a character such as Daenerys Targaryen, who like him, is an uncertain yet worthy heir to a dynasty in forced exile. These were the sorts of things I was hoping for. These were the things I really missed.
The portion on magical realism is nothing short of excellent, though why he feels the need to draw sharp distinctions - between it and fantasy in this day and age - is really somewhat puzzling. It speaks to a need to simply reject "dark fantasy" of the epic variety, which comes off very nearly as the kind of literary discrimination he criticizes, in realists like Henry James.
So these lectures are well thought out and presented. If you're mainly into J.R.R. Tolkien.
On his preferred subjects, Professor Drout had a lot of insight and knowledge to offer.
His enthusiasm spills over in his speaking. His occasional readings from the texts were a bit hammy for my tastes, but that's just me.
No mention of Mervyn Peake? And Robert Howard dismissed with a snide remark?
It's like a critical history of Rock music that goes on and on and on about Elvis and the Beatles, but never mentions the Velvet Underground or the Sex Pistols, and dismisses the Rolling Stones with a contemptuous wave of the hand. C'mon.
When I pick up a book, it is not to dissect, but rather to enjoy the story - so I come to this lecture not as a scholar of literature, just an avid reader of Fantasy. I ask that you please view my comments as such.
This audiobook is my second of Michael Drout's Modern Scholar lectures. Audible's description is spot on. Michael Drout does a great job delving into the foundation of Fantasy literature, which is heavy on Tolkien's contributions, as is quite understandable. Professor Drout offered me, the listener, quite a bit of insight into what defines the genre. He introduces the themes that permeate Fantasy literature, discusses how Fantasy grew into its own, and by critiquing the critics, argues that Fantasy should be taken as seriously as other types of literature. This argument was very well made. I tend to agree with him.
The only fault I could find is not a fault on the professor's part. I docked one star from the "story" due to personal expectation. I had hoped for a more in-depth analysis of specific books he talked about, not just the skimming over of plots. As I stated above, he really got into the Tolkien's contribution, spending several lectures on it - but the authors being obscured by "Tolkien's Long Shadow" were not touched on as much as I had wanted. Again, my expectations of the lecture are to blame.
As important as the content is the performance. The professor's enthusiasm for the work he covers is immense and contagious. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to his characterful rendition of excerpts from the books and poems he discussed. If only we could all speak Old English and Elvish as he does. I found it hard to stop listening once I started. Quite an enjoyable lecture, especially for a lover of Fantasy. I highly recommend it.
This lecture series from The Modern Scholar is an excellent introduction to the world of Fantasy literature. Professor Drout begins with an overview of what fantasy literature is and it’s origins in the middle ages and in the world of children’s literature in the 19th century. He then spends several lectures on J. R. R. Tolkien. He examines the four classic Tolkien works as well as some of the lesser known and lesser read works. He then runs through a number of other authors including CS Lewis, Ursula LeGuin, and many others. Professor Drout is well versed in the material and is quite passionate about it.
I highly recommend this to people who would like a good, general overview of fantasy literature.
The contents were interesting and the passion of the lecturer for his material is infectious. I definitely want to listen to his other stuff. What's also great is that you can go and score yourself on the contents of the lecture on The Modern Scholar's website.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
I think there are about 2000 books in the Modern Scholar Series. Michael DC Drout has about 10 books in the series and I have read / listened to about half of his and a dozen more by other authors. These are generally the series of lectures from a course on a particular subject constructed and delivered by the lecturer who is an eminent authority on the subject being considered. They usually total about 8 hours of listening time.
Michael D.C. Drout is the William and Elsie Prentice Professor of English at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, where he teaches courses in Old and Middle English, medieval literature, Chaucer, fantasy, and science fiction. ‘sounds like the perfect person to be giving lectures on fantasy literature and he is. Because of the nature of the productions, the author is the narrator and that does not always work. It is often said that authors should not read their own books. I have not found that to be the case in any of Professor Drout’s books. He’s not only known for his writing, he’s known for his lecturing and here, it could not be better.
I was surprised but not disappointed that this selection was either about Tolkien or other fantasy literature with respect to Tolkien. I was surprised because the author has a whole other offering just on Tolkien. He considers many of not most of the other major players in the genre who came both before and after JRRT within the construct of compare and contrast. Ever wonder why SiFi is often lumped in with fantasy? Drout explains it all in a deeper than cursory look at the other variations in the genre. Like every other offering by Drout, I could not recommend this selection more highly. His other stuff on English, any and all of it, is outstanding but this is the author’s specialty.
Professor Drout cares about his subject: he LOVES this subject, fantasy literature. He has plainly thought deeply about it and communicates to us many fascinating ideas as well as his own enthusiasm. He covers the history of fantasy and the various genres of fantasy and shows how they are different: the Arthurian legends are not at all the same kind of fantasy as the type derived from Tolkien, but just as influential. There is adult fantasy and children's fantasy, feminist fantasy, and religious fantasy: pro and con religion. There is magical realism, which Drout contends is very different and despite having much magic, is not called fantasy for good reasons.
The lectures are excited and exciting and great entertainment as well as great education. I plan to listen to more of this Modern Scholar series.