Odysseus. Robinson Crusoe. Harry Potter. What do these memorable characters have in common? Why do we turn to certain stories again and again? And what impact have they made on world history? These 24 eye-opening lectures give fresh insight into some of the greatest heroes in world literature, from warriors such as Beowulf and Odysseus to unexpected heroes such as Uncle Tom and Sancho Panza.
Professor Shippey gives you an inside glimpse into the writer's process. Learn how authors "write into the gap" to flesh out-or, in some cases, reimagine altogether-old stories, making them new for new readerships with different values. By examining what makes these heroes such compelling characters, you'll see how they provide a window to better understand ourselves.
From the beginnings of world literature through today's bestsellers, look at what makes characters successful-and how they reflect our changing cultural mores. For instance, after the horrors of global war in the 20th century, the world was waiting for a hero like Frodo Baggins, J.R.R. Tolkien's meek hobbit hero, someone called to duty rather than born strong and fearless.
You'll also examine ways that great heroes have changed the course of history, defining nations and redefining our sense of self and our relationships. From the mythical journey of Aeneas to Jane Austen's country dances, you'll survey a wealth of memorable stories and consider why such heroes were necessary-and how they continue to influence our lives today.
©2014 The Great Courses (P)2014 The Teaching Company, LLC
I have done so several times! This is the Great Courses lecture I have most enjoyed listening to (and I have listened to quite a few). Professor Shippey's grasp of his subject is excellent: He presents characters when first found in literature, placing them in the framework of that time, then traces their reincarnations as societies and mores change over time. It's wonderful, sometimes surprising, to find a mythic figure, or even one from the middle ages, so alive and well, in 21st century literature! This course cites books and movies new within the past few years. Kudos to Professor Shippey: Not only has he thought long upon his subjects; he continues to consider them as they may appear to us today.
I thoroughly enjoyed Shippey's presentation. I was hesitant, based on the audio sample, to order this course (the sample does NOT do Shippey justice), but I am SO glad I did. Listening was actually quite pleasurable, as Shippey is talking to his audience, rather than merely reading through his material. He is engaging, never boring, to listen to. His fine sense of humor greatly added to my enjoyment of this course.
First, let me say that the professor is a very entertaining speaker, easy to listen to, with a pleasant voice. (He could easily be Gandalf or Dumbledore, I think.) Each segment is about 30 minutes long, so they never drag, and he spends some time recapping story lines and pivotal scenes for those who aren't familiar with the characters. How effectively that works for someone truly ignorant of them I can't say, as I knew all of them, and so will many listeners who have read the Westernized classics. This is basically a survey of Western Lit through it's memorable characters, with the lecturer examining why each one has so captured our imaginations and, in some cases, survived for centuries.
In the course of the lectures he often mentions other books that have taken off from these classics, so the listener has a good chance of finding some new ideas for their To-Be-Read pile. (He doesn't scorn to mention television, movies, or comics, either.) Another plus is that each character is given a separate chapter in the recording, so it's easy to jump around and pick out your favorites for a repeat listen.
I recommend this survey. If you're an avid classic reader you might not learn too much that is new, but you'll probably pick up a few interesting tidbits, and I suspect you'll enjoy revisiting so many fascinating characters, as I did.
One thing I would have liked before I purchased was a listing of the characters that are included, so here it is, in order:
Bilbo Baggins/ Odysseus/ Aeneas/ Guinevere/ The Wife of Bath/ Cressida/ Beowulf/ Thor/
Robin Hood/ Don Quixote/ Robinson Crusoe/ Elizabeth Bennet/ Natty Bumppo and Woodrow Call/ Uncle Tom/ Huckleberry Finn/ Sherlock Holmes/ Dracula/ Mowgli/ Celie (from The Color Purple)/ Winston Smith/ James Bond/ Fairy Tale Heroines/ Lisbeth Salandar/ Harry Potter
(Note - He pronounces Quixote as QUICKS-ut. You'll just have to put up with it if it annoys you.)
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
I've never listened to a "Great Courses" on Audible that I didn't find at the very least interesting. This particular set of lectures surprised me a lot! And I loved it!
I was expecting Ulysses and other heroes of classical literature. Not so much was I considering the inclusion of Sherlock Holmes, Frodo Baggins, James Bond and, for heaven's sake, Lizbet Salandar of "Dragon Tattoo" fame! Yet here they are, and Professor Shippey makes an enthusiastic and convincing case for including them all and more.
These heroes and heroines (and Shippey includes an impressive number of female examples) are skillfully contrasted and connected as well as put in the context of their classical origins, their own times, and right now. Each discussion revolves around the nature of the example: what makes him/her a hero? How is she/he like and unlike other heroes? Why has he/she stood the test of time and changing tastes and values?
Taking us from less-likely examples such as Elizabeth Bennett and Uncle Tom (don't scoff - listen to what he has to say! ) up to Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen, the content and presentation of this material is timely, fascinating, enlightening, and inspiring.
There's something for everyone here - it's time excellently spent!
Top! Such an interesting mix of characters and Professor Shippey is a wonderful professor. You couldn't ask for me in a lecture series.
Loved all of them but Frodo and Elizabeth Bennet are some of my favorites
I am having such a great time listening to this. I actually stopped JUST to write this review and say anyone who is interested in learning how to build a great unforgettable character needs to listen to this! And trust me on this, you will have a great time while you learn! He is all my favorite college professors rolled into one!
Your Brother in Christ
I once attended an evening lecture "On the Problem of Evil in Science Fiction". He was visiting my Alma mater at the time. It was a great and memorable lecture some 14 years ago. Seems like last night when I think about it. He's that engaging. He revisits some of those themes from time to time in this series of lectures, and it was a joy to hear his enthusiastic voice holding forth on a subject he so dearly loves.
He starts out with Tolkien and an unlikely hero, before taking up the Iliad and other tales from antiquity explaining the cultural surroundings and happenings that gave birth to the different heroes and heroines through the ages of western civilization. He shows how they relate to their times, how the times were changing or had changed as these stories were told. How the stories themselves changed the culture. He gives you insight into the stories that make you want to read old favorites again, and gets you to appreciate an old classic you haven't read enough to go find a copy at the library and read all over again.
Professor, classical guitarist, gym rat
Entertaining, enjoyable, delightful
Nothing quite like this.
More like chapter but Don Quixote.
Professor Shippey's Universe
I am in awe of this fascinating teacher!
This is the first course I listened to by Professor Shippey, he was easy to listen to, and the audio quality was good and consistent throughout.
I really liked the idea of this course, but found it spent a lot of time talking about the sexual relations of the characters. This is not what I was expecting from a historical course like this. I typically listen with kids in the room, and found myself skipping through about half of this course because the subject matter was inappropriate for a ten year old listener.
I really enjoyed the chapters that I did listen to, but I would not have chosen this course if I had known how much mature content it contained.
Since I do not know the printed version of the course I cannot say much about such a comparison. Yet, I would think that for a printed version there's not enough background information (that one could skip over if not interested) in the lectures, which seem to be tailored just right for listening experiences.
What I really enjoyed was the open approach to how heroes, legends and reception of them change over time. This could have even be stretched more, the definition of a hero being an "archetypal muscle muppet", that is repeated a lot, seems too limited to me. I cannot imagine people from 2000 years ago being that hollywood-cliche-addicted.
You clearly get the impression of a tutor loving his topic. Sure, Mr. Shippey's pronunciation of "Don Quixote" is more than disturbing (if I, being German, would pronounce American heroes like "Darth Vader" the way they are written, the result would be, as Americans might "hear" it, something like "that daddy").
But funny "English-is-the-center-of-the-world-all-other-languages-are-obsolete" escapades aside, the energy and warmth-from-the-heart these lectures transport makes you accept the few passages easily, where Mr. Shippey stretches the content a bit to fill the time :)
On a side note: I did have to speed up the playback, because his many pauses between words, more often than not interrupting the line of thoughts, made following Mr. Shippey a bit difficult at times.
If you love literature and want to get some new ideas about how to understand older (and even new) stories, Mr. Shippeys course is a wonderful overview over different types of texts, story telling, dependencies of characters on their historic background, expectations and fears of audience.
It does help to KNOW the texts, but I think that Mr. Shippey has chosen a good canon of literature work that most listeners should be familiar enough with to have their own ideas of what makes the "hero character" a "hero" - or, in some cases, NOT.
Yes, I would have loved some more historic background in some lectures. Yes, I would have loved some critical comments on the "quality" of certain texts (I am not going to name one here). There's a lot more to "understanding" what a literature hero is versus a "real world" hero, I think, but, after all, this is a spare-time hobby course, not some university study :-)
Audible obsessed lifelong learner.
Interesting series on fictional character heroes including Crusoe, Baggins, Uncle Tom and others. The most interesting one to me was Winston Smith who on first blush is hard to see as a heroic character but to fight the good fight and stand up in the face of certain defeat is certainly chivalrous.
"Society Shapes Heroes"
Yes! Shippey is engaging. He's lecturing is more like story telling really.
Other than the other listens from 'The Great Lectures', this lecture reminds me of the documentaries from the LoftR DVD set.
Yes, and I did - almost.
Shippey is engaging. I especially appreciated his points on how the heroes tell us what kind of society tells their stories.
"Great Lecturer and great survey of heroes."
Yes, it's great to get a reliable and extensive overview of such huge subject.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza turning out to be so significant.
1. Tom Shippey talks Tolkien, a combination made in Valinor.
Having seen him give two talks in person a film would be justified, tagline: "Best Lecturer you've ever seen!"
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