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.
This is among my top ten, surprising in its observations.
Why take the time to have someone point out what is all around you, always? It's that kind of book, an "actually that makes sense" experience. Power of a Positive No is the nearest equivilant.
The lecture format works particularly well for the ideas he's sharing, preserving a kind of conversational tone with a very conversational lecturer. He presents some fascinating background to modern fantasy and its links to oral tradition and the Victorian age; I had heard these ideas, but never heard them fleshed out quite as well as he does.
One the strengths of this lecture is that he is a fan of fantasy literature, and he can talk about a series being heavily derivative of Tolkein and still say that he's read the series four times and enjoys it still. He also recognizes the magnitude and importance of Tolkein, appreciates his own enjoyment in Tolkein's work, but also reminds us that Tolkein didn't invent the genre, and there are others who have done some things better. Drout balances respect, recognition, criticism, and enjoyment really well.
Listeners should be aware of some spoilers, as Prof. Drout goes through the plots of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarilion in some detail; all books in Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea series; Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara series; Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series; Robert Holdstock's Mythago Woods series; Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series; CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia; and TS White's the Once and Future King. He also goes through some Victorian tales in some detail, but these are things that most readers will be familiar with, like Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland/Through the Lookinglass, or they're things that are pretty obscure, like the Princess and the Goblin or Waterbabies.
That being said, his goal is not to remove our enjoyment as readers approaching a story for the first time. He doesn't tell the stories so that, if you read them yourself there will be no suspense, he just talks about how some of the themes that he's talking about, death and language and morality etc, are presented in these books. He really makes the point that fantasy works need to be considered as a whole when he talks about Harry Potter. The series had not been concluded when he gave this lecture, and so he says that it's not fair to consider the series until we know how it ends.
Drama teacher and Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan
Once upon a time, I was a young writer in a college Creative Writing class. After submitting one of my short stories, the professor informed me (and the entire class) that GENRE fiction was a useless waste of time, and we, as writers, should pursure more nobel pursuits like true literature. I have spent years recovering from that slight on my writing and have found myself struggling to write anything since.
Dr. Drout takes the notion that academics have about fantasy and challenges it. He is a well known and published scholar of several aspects of literature and composition. I was elated to find that a SCHOLAR thought the same about fantasy literature that I did. Drout takes the idea of stories and breaks down the elements of fantasy. He focuses mostly on Tolkien (of course), but he branches out as well. His best lectures are on Tolkien and his works.
Drout also focuses on the effects that Tolkien had on fantasy literature -- specifically LeGuin and Stephen R. Donaldson. Then he moves on to children's literature. I would think that Modern Scholar might want to ask Drout to do a lecture series on HARRY POTTER.
Throughout the lecture (as with the Science Fiction recording from MODERN SCHOLAR) I made myself a list of books to tackle. Some I've loved, others (THOMAS COVENANT) I hated, but Drout has turned me on to several new writers that I have either missed or didn't know.
Fantastic - clear, enthralling, and detailed. Professor Drout is a great speaker. I could not put these lectures down. They made a six hour flight enjoyable! I only wish there were more lectures!
This is a great lecture series on fantasy literature. Prof. Drout covers specific authors and books, as well as literary theory and analysis. He approaches it seriously, without irony, in his usual engaging and accessible style.
This is the first of Prof. Drout's exquistite series that I listened to, and I became hooked. I teach high school English, and I have been able to use many of his suggestions in my classes.
this book has some interesting points. so yes I would recommend it.
if you to lazy to teach a class on this subject have your students watch this move.