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Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature | [The Great Courses]

Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    SC in SC 05-18-14
    SC in SC 05-18-14
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    "Outstanding! Myth, Legend & History Come Alive"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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.


    What about Professor Thomas A. Shippey’s performance did you like?

    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.


    27 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Virginia Raleigh, NC, United States 03-24-14
    Virginia Raleigh, NC, United States 03-24-14
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    "Seriously PERFECT"
    Where does Heroes and Legends rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Top! Such an interesting mix of characters and Professor Shippey is a wonderful professor. You couldn't ask for me in a lecture series.


    Have you listened to any of Professor Thomas A. Shippey’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Stunning


    Who was the most memorable character of Heroes and Legends and why?

    Loved all of them but Frodo and Elizabeth Bennet are some of my favorites


    24 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amy Centennial, CO, USA 05-15-14
    Amy Centennial, CO, USA 05-15-14
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    "So much fun and so interesting"

    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!

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teri-K 10-11-14
    Teri-K 10-11-14
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    "Entertaining Look at Western Literary Characters"

    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.)

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K 06-07-14
    K 06-07-14
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    "Interesting at first."
    What did you love best about Heroes and Legends?

    Loved this book with some of its insightful discussions of the greater political work vs. individual struggles.


    Any additional comments?

    The author was awful in his descriptions of American westerns. What happened to "Shane", "The Virginian","The Searchers", Luis Lamour, Matt Braun and Zane Grey? He totally missed the mark on this.

    13 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Saud 07-31-14
    Saud 07-31-14

    Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.

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    "I wanted to like it, but..."

    This course should have been called "The Most Influential Characters in Western History" because I don't see any of the influential characters in Middle Eastern, Asian or African civilisations. And there's plenty to choose from. All characters and stories discussed take place in America, Europe or a fantasy equivalent of them.

    Such a lost opportunity to really explore the world.

    30 of 55 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sam Motes Tampa 10-18-14
    Sam Motes Tampa 10-18-14 Listener Since 2009

    Audible obsessed lifelong learner.

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    "Heros from all ages and back grounds"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Dr. Millburn, New Jersey, United States 10-18-14
    Dr. Millburn, New Jersey, United States 10-18-14 Member Since 2003

    Professor, classical guitarist, gym rat

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    "Best course that I've taken (I've taken a lot)"
    If you could sum up Heroes and Legends in three words, what would they be?

    Entertaining, enjoyable, delightful


    What other book might you compare Heroes and Legends to and why?

    Nothing quite like this.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    More like chapter but Don Quixote.


    If you could rename Heroes and Legends, what would you call it?

    Professor Shippey's Universe


    Any additional comments?

    I am in awe of this fascinating teacher!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Somebunny 10-18-14
    Somebunny 10-18-14 Member Since 2014
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    "The best!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes! The lectures are extremely informative and doesn't puresuppose very much background information at all, and the lecturer is an absolute delight.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    They were all extremely fascinating to hear about, but I have to admit that I really enjoyed the lecturer himself =)


    Any additional comments?

    I wish there were another course with Shippey!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pat Houston, TX, United States 10-17-14
    Pat Houston, TX, United States 10-17-14 Member Since 2005

    Evening and Weekend Manager Lone Star College-Greenspoint Center Houston, TX 77060

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    "A Hero is often defined his time"

    Heroes and Legends: The most influential characters of literature by Thomas A. Shippey is made up of 24 lectures in which he analyzes heroes and heroines from classical and popular literature. His basic hypothesis throughout the lectures was that what was happening at the time authors created their characters had the most to do with what defined them as heroes or heroines. The truth of this position was best argued in the lectures on Odysseus, Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1984, James Bond, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo , and Harry Potter. His discussions of these characters gave me new insight into previously enjoyed reads and listens.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 13 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Storfod
    7/8/14
    Overall
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    Story
    "Society Shapes Heroes"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Heroes and Legends to be better than the print version?

    Yes! Shippey is engaging. He's lecturing is more like story telling really.


    What other book might you compare Heroes and Legends to, and why?

    Other than the other listens from 'The Great Lectures', this lecture reminds me of the documentaries from the LoftR DVD set.


    Have you listened to any of Professor Thomas A. Shippey’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    Sadly no.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, and I did - almost.


    Any additional comments?

    Shippey is engaging. I especially appreciated his points on how the heroes tell us what kind of society tells their stories.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Alan
    WEST SUSSEX, United Kingdom
    6/5/14
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    "Great Lecturer and great survey of heroes."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, it's great to get a reliable and extensive overview of such huge subject.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Heroes and Legends?

    Don Quixote and Sancho Panza turning out to be so significant.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    1. Tom Shippey talks Tolkien, a combination made in Valinor.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Having seen him give two talks in person a film would be justified, tagline: "Best Lecturer you've ever seen!"


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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