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Myth in Human History | [The Great Courses]

Myth in Human History

Myths provide the keys to truly grasping the ways that principles, rituals, codes, and taboos are woven into the fabric of a particular society or civilization. It's through myths that we can answer these and other fundamental questions: How was the universe created, and why? What is the purpose of evil? Why is society organized the way it is? How did natural features like rivers, mountains, and oceans emerge?This entertaining and illuminating course plunges you into the world's greatest myths.
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Publisher's Summary

Myths provide the keys to truly grasping the ways that principles, rituals, codes, and taboos are woven into the fabric of a particular society or civilization.

It's through myths that we can answer these and other fundamental questions: How was the universe created, and why? What is the purpose of evil? Why is society organized the way it is? How did natural features like rivers, mountains, and oceans emerge?

This entertaining and illuminating course plunges you into the world's greatest myths. Taking you from ancient Greece and Japan to North America and Africa to New Zealand and Great Britain, these 36 lectures reveal mythology's profound importance in shaping nearly every aspect of culture. You'll also discover the hidden connections between them - a comparative approach that emphasizes the universality of myths across cultures.

Along with the stories themselves, you'll encounter fascinating characters, including Herakles, the ancient Greek hero whose life illustrates the idea that all heroic stories have a similar structure; Loki, the shape-shifting trickster who introduces the concept of time into the Norse realm of Asgard; and King Arthur, the Celtic lord and founder of the Knights of the Round Table.

Myths, according to Professor Voth, are "gifts from the ancestors to be cherished." His enchanting lectures are the perfect way for you to celebrate these cherished gifts, inviting you to develop your own interpretations of these age-old tales, as well as to ponder the role that myths - both ancient and everyday - play in your own life.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.


©2010 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2010 The Great Courses

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (179 )
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4.2 (156 )
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  •  
    Walter 01-29-14
    Walter 01-29-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Five stars, with some caveats"

    This course is an excellent introduction and overview of world mythology. It covers a lot of ground, and does it well. While I would recommend it to anyone, I need to add the following caveats:

    Because it covers so much ground, it moves as a very brisk speed, and in some cases I would have preferred to get more depth (for example, more detail on some of the hero myths, and more discussion of the psychological interpretation of myth, a la Rank, Jung and Campbell). Dr. Voth did a really good job of covering the material, but there's enough here for two or even three lecture series.

    Second, I found my interest waning slightly in during the latter part of the course. This may have been because (while he never says so) Prof. Voth seems to be suggesting a kind of monomyth for trickster myths (similar to the monomyth of the hero). While I thought the argument and evidence presented for the hero monomyth was compelling, it seemed that the trickster myths were much more diverse (hard to see an parallel between the Norse Loki and the African Anansi as presented here, for example).

    Still, the course material was very engaging, and I will definitely be broadening my study of mythology as a result.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angela 10-29-13
    Angela 10-29-13
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    "Good introduction to world mythology"

    This is an eclectically organized analysis of myths from around the world, focusing on patterns which come up in all myths, regardless of location. Voth speaks about creation myths, tricksters, heroes and heroines, destruction myths, and how we can look at all these patterns to see some basic truths about ourselves as humans.

    I learned a great deal from this series of lectures, though it left me feeling a bit frustrated. Voth, by focusing on the analytical side and on the patterns of myth, did not have time to tell the myths in their entirety. As such, I am ready to devour books upon books telling the actual stories that he merely touched upon.

    I definitely do recommend this course for anyone who knows little of world mythology and is curious to learn more, or wants some direction to go for their research.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen M Boston, MA 05-08-14
    Karen M Boston, MA 05-08-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent overview of myths!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I was initially looking for a place to start my research into Greek and Roman myth, and this series turned out to be the perfect place. It introduced me to so much more than I set out to discover. It not only touched on individual myths from across the globe, but it also explored the many types/categories of myths and the reasons for their existence. I feel that if I had focused on Greek and Roman mythology without first listening to this series, I would have missed out on so much foundational knowledge. Having a stronger understanding of mythology now will enhance my exploration of ancient cultures and their myths in the future.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I love that I walked away from this lecture series with a greater sense that myths from across the globe and throughout time are both unique/dynamic as well as universal and fundamentally connected. The details of myths may change, but the reason for their existence in human culture is not so different.


    What about Professor Grant L. Voth’s performance did you like?

    Professor Voth was very energetic and enthusiastic about the subject matter, and this was certainly contagious. I would have enjoyed this subject matter either way, but his delivery made it so much more enjoyable and kept my interest the entire time. He also gave great suggestions on further research, which I've already pursued. I was actually very sad when this series ended because the new series I've started is taught by a different professor. This series has been my commute companion for quite some time, and Professor Voth made the ride something I really looked forward to each day!!!


    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marc 06-18-15
    Marc 06-18-15
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    "At times rough (fast) ride, have a notebook ready!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    What I really liked about this course was the "open mind" the professor shows for variations on themes (even if I agree on the critic that he puts too much emphasis on monomyths, that one does not necessarily have to consider existent the first place).
    The course gave me many new ideas about where to look for "new ideas on old topics", made me research cultures that I haven't had that much contact with yet and, yes, makes me want to read/hear more.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I am looking forward to reading a lot more about Vietnam's myths. There seem to be a lot of really interesting twists on stories I am so used to.
    True, I am not sure if Mr. Voth actually READ all the material he summarizes. Since he does not give any sources (a fauxpas many of these lecturers make, maybe there's an addendum in the handouts, but I do not have access to those - Audible, do you read?), I must give him the credit of a doubt, but at least for some of the Northern myths (which I have studied myself for some time) he SEEMS to mix some things up or at least isn't 100% up to par with how some of those are (nowadays) believed to have been cooked down.
    Anyway, this is nit-picking again. I'd like to discuss some questions with the professor, which, unfortunately, is impossible. Another drawback on this way of widening one's perspective: If you DO have questions, you are basically left to your own devices.


    Have you listened to any of Professor Grant L. Voth’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Mr. Grant's performance is good for the content, I did speed up playback though, to get a tad more "live" into the narration. This is not a critic, though. As far as I remember I haven't listened to another of Mr. Voth's performance, so I cannot compare.


    Any additional comments?

    Forgive me for coming back to that monomyth topic - or to the "system" Mr. Voth "uses to analyze myths". While I do see the benefit of having ANY approach to "classifying" or "deconstructing" a story/myth, I feel like Mr. Voth fails in demonstrating what he (or we) get out of this. You can press ANYTHING into any arbitrary "system" if you just press hard enough, and sometimes it felt like Mr. Voth was doing just this: "Well, here we have our global theory of how a myth is constructed, let's see how we can make this narration fit this system". There just isn't any "aha!" to be gained from this, there isn't anything that you would understand BETTER by using such a "raster" to "analyze" a myth.
    Instead, placing a myth in its historic context (the time when it has probably been "boiled down" more or less into the form we know it in) makes a lot more sense. Frazer's "Golden Bough" is, in that respect, a better demonstration of how a theory can be "twisted" (I mean this in a friendly way) to fit the data ...

    Actually, it is this "using a system that gives us nothing" that made me consider rating this course only 3/5 stars, but since I have been there myself (having an idea that I liked so much that I just ignored all evidence standing against it) ... here you go. :-)

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emma 10-07-14
    Emma 10-07-14 Member Since 2015
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    "Eye-Opening"

    This was a wonderful course. I was worried at the beginning that it was too introductory -- I hold a degree in history, English, and theatre and the first two lectures were old hat for me. But as soon as Prof. Voth moved into discussing individual myths and influences, I was completely on board. Even the very familiar Adam and Eve myth was given new light. I highly recommend the course!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Esmaeil Khaksari Weston, MA United States 11-24-13
    Esmaeil Khaksari Weston, MA United States 11-24-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Great idea, good lecturer, missing materials"
    Any additional comments?

    This book refers to lecture notes etc., that should be available with the recording. They are not provided and it's hard to follow what Prof both is referring to. Majorly disappointed in audible here.

    10 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shelley 06-10-15
    Shelley 06-10-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Enjoyable and refreshing"
    If you could sum up Myth in Human History in three words, what would they be?

    Interesting, meaningful, connecting


    What about Professor Grant L. Voth’s performance did you like?

    Very easy to listen to and well-researched with supporting evidence. He paces his speaking and uses a calm but reassuring voice which made me feel I was in the front-row of a lecture being delivered just for me.


    Any additional comments?

    I really enjoyed this as it re-connected me with some stories I remember as a child. I felt that I gained a better understanding of the importance of myth in our lives. It was interesting to hear common connections between societies/ cultures/ religions and how people have created stories to understand their world and phenomena within it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S Willow Beach, ON, Canada 12-14-14
    S Willow Beach, ON, Canada 12-14-14 Member Since 2004
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    "Not what I expected"

    The author of this course is very knowledgeable, however, his presentation is extremely dry and irrelevant. I had hoped to learn how the history of myth in our cultures has exerted an influence on how we express ourselves today. What I got was a litany of events that felt boring and irrelevant. I can't finish listening to it!

    3 of 9 people found this review helpful
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  • Exidia
    Pulloxhill, United Kingdom
    9/28/14
    Overall
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    "Really easy way to learn!"
    What did you like best about this story?

    It's not a story, but a series of lectures about how humans have used myths to explain things they couldn't understand. You have to engage brain in order to appreciate it, but it is well worth the effort.


    What about Professor Grant L. Voth’s performance did you like?

    He has a lively style and is a good, listenable lecturer.


    Any additional comments?

    The only reason it didn't get full marks was that the man who introduces each lecture shouts in the most annoying way!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • mr
    west sussex, United Kingdom
    6/2/14
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    "Not great"

    A subject that is very interesting, made boring. The stories are great and should be left to speak for them selves, less repition, more variety.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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