These 12 lectures by Professors Cook and Herzman will give you a rounded, fully informed introduction to the luminous Francis of Assisi and will tell the intellectually and spiritually rewarding story of how his influence has glowed across the centuries.
Just who was Assisi? Despite his continuing influence and the fairly ample writings about him that date from his own time, Francis remains somewhat elusive in history. It is not easy to meet the man who, at about the age of 25, renounced his family and inheritance to serve his God in poverty, simplicity, and obedience. Yet these lectures, with their mastery of history, theology, art, and literature, expertly unlock two sources that are the most revealing and plentiful-written narratives of Francis's life and the images created for Franciscan churches.
In charting the life, times, and legacy of Francis, Professors Cook and Herzman include a great deal about the world around Francis as well as on the artwork, the ministries, and the religious communities that he inspired. But through it all shines their deeply human sense of the man himself and what he stood for-things which, they argue, are needed as much today as ever they were when Francis trod the byways of Italy to show what it means to live life to the full in faith, hope, and love.
By the time you finish the last lecture, you'll find yourself in agreement that, whatever your background or beliefs, Francis of Assisi remains as fascinating and inspiring a man today as he was more than 800 years ago.
Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.
©2000 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2000 The Great Courses
catholic majoring in classics and religious studies, student of Greek, Latin, Hebrew, world religions, psychology, philosophy.
I have been curious about the Great Courses for a few years now, but they have always been too expensive! Now that they are in the Audible store, however, I was willing to try one. This course, co-taught by two medievalists, was amazing. I did a directed reading last quarter on the life and hagiographies of St. Francis, but I still learned so much from Cook and Herzman.
One strong point of this course was the contextualization of Francis. They show what the moral and social issues of Francis’ day were and how Francis responded to them. In a developing market economy where money was being used more, Francis stressed absolute poverty. In an age where universities were beginning in Europe and theology went out of the prayerful world of cloisters and into the rational world of the classroom, Francis was an uneducated preacher with a simple message, a man who taught by dramatic gesture and stressed deed over act. He may look like a foolishly happy simpleton, but Francis was a man who saw the problems of his age and made himself the antidote.
Cook and Herzman’s discussion of the “Canticle of Creatures” was amazing. They show how he draws on the Psalms, on Genesis’ creation stories, and even on classical natural philosophy. They argue that this poem is not just an example of Christian nature mysticism, but the first piece of Italian literature.
Last, I thought they did a great job showing how Francis’ message was disseminated in the Church and in his orders. Their re-enactment of the dialogue between Francis and Innocent II approving the order really showed how radical his path was. They also guide the reader through the complicated thicket of post-Francis controversy between the spirituals and the progressives, between those who wanted the letter of Francis’ example and those who desired its spirit. Both sides exist to this day. They also spend a lecture on St. Clare, emphasizing that she was not just a passive vehicle for Francis’ teaching but a great mystic and teacher in her own right.
That said, I wish Cook and Herzman had discussed the hagiographic tradition. Though they discussed Thomas of Celano and Bonaventure, they didn’t talk about less official writings like the Legend of Perugia, or later ones like the Little Flowers. Though they talked about the Canticle, the two Rules, and the Testament, they didn’t talk about the various exhortations and letters he wrote. Giving a roadmap to the different types of literature and hagiography in the Franciscan canon would have been a good way to get people into Regis Armstrong’s scholarly edition of the early documents by and about Francis.
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