Should fantasy be considered serious literature, or is it merely escapism? In this course, the roots of fantasy and the works that have defined the genre are examined. Incisive analysis and a deft assessment of what makes these works so very special provides a deeper insight into beloved works and a better understanding of why fantasy is such a pervasive force in modern culture.
©2006 Michael D.C. Drout; (P)2006 Recorded Books
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
I enjoyed Professor Michael D. C. Drout???s 14-lecture class on modern fantasy, which mainly focus on J. R. R. Tolkien, which is fine, because Tolkien is a major figure in modern fantasy. Professor Drout has a pleasing enthusiasm and a comprehensible clarity as he lectures.
After discussing the fantasy genre (a hybridization combining oral epics with novelistic techniques and concerns), Drout limns the origins of modern fantasy (Victorian works like the Alice books, The Waterbabies, and The Princess and the Goblin), and then dives into Tolkien, depicting relevant facts about his life and philological study before assessing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as well as difficult work like The Silmarillion and important scholarly essays on Beowulf and fantasy. Drout next covers two followers of Tolkien, Brooks the imitator and Donaldson the reactor, as well as two ???worthy inheritors??? who create fantasy as aesthetically and thematically consistent and compelling as that of Tolkien: Ursula K. Le Guin and Robert Holdstock. He then discusses children???s fantasy (Narnia, The Dark is Rising, Prydain, and a bit of Rowling and Pullman) and then the Arthurian genre (T. H. White, Mary Stewart, and Marion Zimmer Bradley). He concludes with a chapter on magical realism (Borges and Garcia-Marquez), arguing that, unlike most modern fantasy, it denies rather than provides healthy escape and is oriented around tragedy rather than Tolkieniean eucatastrophe.
I like the many insights that Drout provides as he lectures, like about Le Guin???s solution to death in The Other Wind or about class in The Hobbit or about the way in which Peter Jackson???s movies make Tolkien???s world smaller. Sure, I wish he???d have covered more authors (like L. Frank Baum, Lord Dunsany, E. R. Eddison, Robert E. Howard, Mervyn Peake, or Michael Swanwick) and to have gone into more detail in non-Tolkien chapters, but that only shows how much I enjoyed his ???class??? and wished it could have been twice as long.
I've been going through some family health crisis stuff lately and I find that's Drout's lectures are so fascinating they are the one thing that can completely take my mind off my problems. I started with his lecture on Anglo Saxon stuff and was delighted to find this one when I finished. I downloaded and saved it for a day I expected to get some bad news. Sure enough... it was bad but like magic this lecture kept my mind occupied for hours on end and left me in a good mood. I didn't realize there would be so much on The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings my two favorite books of all time. I've no interest whatever in poetry and writing but I'm thinking about getting those lectures too. The guy is just so enthusiastic about the material. What a treasure!
Prof Drout is both extremely knowledgeable and an excellent lecturer. His enthusiasm for the subject is contagious; it's also very good to hear an audio course where the professor is truly lecturing rather than reading notes or a teleprompter.
Half the course (7 of 14 lectures) is dedicated to Tolkien, but perhaps that's fitting given the way he dominates the literature of the fantastic. However, the other authors who are discussed (Brooks, Donaldson, LeGuin, Holdstock, Lewis) are given good coverage as well. And the discussion of broader topics (what is fantasy, origins of fantastic literature, children’s fantasy, Arthurian fantasy, magical realism) are very interesting and insightful as well.
This series of lectures was very interesting, and I think any fan of the fantasy genre would appreciate learning more about its history and origins. Professor Drout spends a great deal of time on Tolkien, and while he may be correct in his idea that Tolkien is the 'father' of the field and all writers following are either imitating or reacting against his influence, I would have liked to have seen a wider exploration of authors and styles.
This series of lectures is absolutely amazing! The Professor absolutely LOVES his subject and makes listening to the series a pure joy. I'm a big Fantasy geek, but this series has given me new insight into the genre as well as sparked my interest in books I might not have otherwise read. (Harry Potter) Over half the lectures focus on Tolkien, for good reason. The father of modern fantasy is explored and I learned more about Tolkien and Lord of the Rings in just a week of listening to these lectures than I have in years. He doesn't over analyze Tolkien like some people tend to do, but definitely treats him with the respect he deserves. It's also fun to hear him read some of the poems in Elvish etc... He touches on the Earthsea books and a number of other fantasy books as well. I would like to have heard his take on some books and authors he left out, (The Last Unicorn, the Sword of Truth) however I was more than pleased with this course and will listen to it over and over again. 5 stars for anyone interested in Fantasy!
Guy with Weird Interests
I have listen to almost all of the Drout Modern Scholar lectures. They are all very informative and I have learned much from them. This book talked about several fantasy books and give lots of analysis of the books. There is a big focus on Tolkien, but it is a merited one. I was very happy with the book.
I cannot oversell the powers of Drout to be able to convey academic information in a very relative way. Drout has cost me money and time because he has been so effective in teaching the importance of the works that he discusses that I have gone out and purchased them. His informative and enthusiastic lectures makes me want to be a student again. This is not the geek speak that I was concerned that it would be. Great analysis of the genre and the works discussed.
I enjoyed the scholarly view of some of my favorite works by Prof. Drout. I had not listened to a scholar book of this nature before and did not know what to expect but he delivered quite nicely. He takes us from early mythology up through Tolkien and into the modern age of fantasy writers and stories. I only wish it had been a little longer and with a bit more detail in spots.
That being said I do plan on reading Drout's Science Fiction companion to this book, From Here to Infinity: An Exploration of Science Fiction Literature.
Prof Drout was a bit hard to listen to in the beginning but once I caught on to his cadence it made things a bit easier to follow. Listen to the example, some people might be put off just a bit by this.
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
What could be better than a serious study of fantasy literature by The Modern Scholar series? As an English major in college, I was continually rebelling against the critics who dismissed all fantasy, science fiction, and mystery writing as "lesser". Good writing is good writing in any genre!
I enjoyed this a lot.
Prof Drout's enthusiasm shines through his lectures.
I got several new ideas of books to read that I've never considered before. And a better understanding of Tolkien and his work.
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