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Tommy D'Angelo

North Providence, RI United States
  • 81
  • reviews
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  • 85
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  • Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age

  • By: Jeremy McInerney, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Jeremy McInerney
  • Length: 12 hrs and 13 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 143
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 132
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 133

This series of 24 lectures examines a crucial period in the history of the ancient world, the age ushered in by the extraordinary conquests of Alexander the Great. In all the annals of the ancient world, few stories are more gripping than those from this era. In the opening lectures, you'll explore the enigma of Alexander, son of a brilliant father, yet always at odds with the man whom he succeeded. Just as important to these lectures are the in-depth discussions of the bounties of Hellenistic culture, which contributed landmark ideas in everything from philosophy, art and architecture, and religion.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Good Overview of Alexander and Hellenistic Empires

  • By Mike on 03-22-14

Good Background on the Hellenistic Kingdoms

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-05-18

This was a better course than I anticipated. I had taken Professor McInerney's "Ancient Greek Civilization" course and was left unimpressed so I shied away from this one for way too long. The allure of learning more about the Hellenistic kingdoms was too strong so I caved in and purchased this course and I'm glad I did. Most of his lectures were much more engaging than his other course. He did a good job of covering all aspects of this age.

Admittedly the lectures on social life (poetry, sculpture, religion, etc.) didn't get me jazzed up but that isn't a fault of the professor: I've always been more interested in political histories. And he delivers in that arena: lectures 5-10 and 22-24 are tops. The last three lectures focused on the Hellenistic kingdoms' interactions with Rome and were riveting.

The first four lectures focus on Alexander the Great and the Professor does a good job of getting us thinking: what if Alexander hadn't run out of time and died young? In fact he has a good knack of concluding lectures on a contemplative note (lecture 7 ends on the invention of the discipline of literature criticism in Ptolemaic Egypt and got me thinking: do we have the definitive versions of Shakespeare because the interest in such an activity started in this period?).

My only real negative feedback is the lack of info on the Macedonian empire post Alexander. Its battles with Rome are covered at the course's conclusion but not much else on it for about 200 years.

If you're interested more in Alexander I'd recommend Professor Harl's "Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire" course since it delves much deeper into his years but Professor McInerney's course is your choice if you're interest lies with the Hellenistic kingdoms that followed Alexander. Well done.

  • Consciousness and Its Implications

  • By: Daniel N. Robinson, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Daniel N. Robinson
  • Length: 6 hrs and 7 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 162
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 142
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 142

Consciousness, a unique and perplexing mental state, has been the subject of debate for philosophers and scientists for millennia. And while it is widely agreed within contemporary philosophy that consciousness is a problem whose solutions are likely to determine the fate of any number of other problems, there is no settled position on the ultimate nature of consciousness. This series of 12 penetrating and thought-provoking lectures by an acclaimed teacher and scholar approaches its subject directly and unflinchingly.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The Best

  • By Alexander C. Eustice on 02-14-15

Great Topic, Poor Course

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-26-18

Philosophy of Mind is an intriguing topic: where does the mind and consciousness come from? Does something physical like the brain produce it or is it created some other way externally? Other courses from The Great Courses have tackled the topic and the debate got me hooked so much so that I finally ignored the poor reviews for Professor Robinson's "Consciousness and its Implications" as well as my poor experience with another of his courses ("American Ideals") and went ahead and purchased it.

Big mistake.

I love how philosophers remind us that the simplest of explanations should be used to demystify a "problem" vs. introducing complicated theories that may involve more than one external variable yet Professor Robinson takes great pains to ensure that every sentence he uses is in the most esoteric, complex terms using the largest words imaginable when simple explanations would've done just fine.

I'd like to think of myself as an educated learned individual but I honestly didn't understand anything he stated in the first nine lectures. I even tried ending all multi-tasking (pull that car over) and really concentrated on his every word but I still just couldn't make sense of almost all of his sentences. Maybe his friends from Oxford speak that way but to me it could've been in another language for all I knew.

Lecture 10 was the first one I could actually follow along and thought it was an interesting debate but at the end I was still left wondering exactly what his take/position was....I was beyond frustrated at that point wondering why he can't just speak in simple terms.

Unless if you have a PHD in this stuff please save your money. I would suggest these courses on Philosophy of Mind and Consciousness: "Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines" and "Exploring Metaphysics".

  • Great World Religions: Buddhism

  • By: Malcolm David Eckel, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Malcolm David Eckel
  • Length: 6 hrs and 13 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 97
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 85
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 83

Discover why Buddhism is such an astonishingly lively and adaptable religion with this series. In just 12 accessible lectures, you'll learn how Buddhism transformed the civilizations of India and much of Asia, and has now become a vital part of Western culture.Buddhism's core philosophy, as you'll learn, is that nothing is permanent-all is change. With this in mind, you'll plunge into an introductory look at this faith. You'll unpack the Buddhist idea that all of life is "suffering" and that there is no permanent self.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A Very Good Introduction; but not a Course.

  • By Lotus54 on 07-15-13

Did Not Capture My Attention

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-08-18

I had originally purchased and listened to the professor's other course ("Buddhism") but I just could not get into it. I felt like there was too much "talking" (and a little bit of fluff) and not alot of teaching or explanation of the differences of the various types of Buddhism.

So I purchased this course thinking with half the time allotted the professor would likely cut out alot of the stories and focus only on the key discussion points of Buddhism. Unfortunately, alot of what was said in the other course was repeated here (including his personal anecdotes) and it had a similar effect on me: I found myself drifting away unable to stay focused on the lectures. If I wasn't driving I could easily fall asleep because my attention was never grabbed and held hostage. Alot of times it felt like a grandfather telling random stories with some history sprinkled in but not alot of explanation.

Don't get me wrong: his presentation style isn't all bad and his style may very well work for you and you may learn alot. He comes across as a very affable person who is knowledgeable and dedicated to this field of study. I just wish there were deeper discussions of how the various types of Buddhism differed from one another. I don't feel like that was conveyed very well. Lectures 3 and 4 took me the closest to an understanding of the core of this great tradition and placed me in deep reflective thought. But it didn't last from there.

If you're interested in the basics of Buddhism, for my money I would suggest courses like "Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know" and "Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition".

  • Introduction to Judaism

  • By: Shai Cherry, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Shai Cherry
  • Length: 12 hrs and 4 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 261
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 234
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 230

As a religion, culture, and civilization, Judaism has evolved in surprising ways during its long and remarkable history. In this series of 24 lectures, Professor Cherry explores this rich religious heritage from biblical times to today. From the first lecture on the Torah to the last on the Jews as the Chosen People, this course is packed with truly fascinating information.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Superb!!!

  • By Edward Zeiser on 06-12-15

Remarkable Course on Judaism

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-03-18

While I'm very familiar with Biblical Judaism, I purchased this course because I was interested in learning more about early Rabbinic Judaism and the various sects of Judaism in the world today (I thought the "Beginnings of Judaism" course had some good info on the formation of Rabbinic Judaism but of course it centers on a very specific period of time and did not take the evolution of the religion into modernity).

Mission accomplished. Professor Shai Cherry delivered exactly what I was interested in: overviews of all of the aspects of Judaism and did not get bogged down in details or complex theological discussions.

He marvelously covers all aspects of Judaism: from history to religious law/ritual to tenants of the faith to holidays to prophecy to the differences in the various sects of Judaism today. And all in a very easy way to understand. He is a great presenter.

He made the Talmud more accessible and comprehensible by providing many examples of law debate and interpretations from the Mishnah and Gomorrah.

Highlights for me included Lectures 8 (Afterlife) and 20 (Zionism). Riveting discussions!

The only real negative that comes to mind is that there didn't seem to be alot said about the common rituals in the life of a Jewish man or woman. For example, I don’t recall any mention of Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

But that hardly swayed me away from an excellent rating. If you are on the fence like I was on whether to buy this course (worrying if my interest level would hold up for 24 lectures), then I would highly recommend you going for it. When I can't stop listening from one lecture to the next then I know I've purchased a quality product. I don't know if a course on an introduction to Judaism could've been done any better.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Great World Religions: Hinduism

  • By: Mark W. Muesse, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Mark W. Muesse
  • Length: 6 hrs and 5 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 327
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 292
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 285

In this 12-lecture series, you'll encounter a religion that is perhaps the most diverse of all; one that worships more gods and goddesses than any other, and one that rejects the notion that there is only one path to the divine. These lectures provide a window into the roots of, perhaps, all religions. You'll explore the course of Hinduism's 5,000-year journey.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • An important introduction into Hinduism

  • By Jacobus on 05-09-14

A Well Done Introductory Course

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-25-18

For an introductory course this was well done and fits some really good content in 12 short lectures. While I'm sure it is difficult to adequately cover all of the aspects of Hinduism in such a short period of time, I left the course certainly feeling like the essence of this great religion was presented in an easy to digest manner.

This course covers all of the foundations and aspects of Hinduism from the ancient societies that formed the religion to its sacred books, to its main beliefs, to its pantheon of gods and goddesses, to the stages of life for a Hindu man and woman, to Hinduism’s interactions with other religions and peoples.

My personal highlight was Lecture 12. The professor brings the history of Hinduism up through our times focusing on its interaction with Islam and imperial Britain. Thrilling stuff!

The reason I couldn't give this five stars is it just didn't keep me at the edge of my seat the entire time and that is mainly attributed to the professor's teaching style.

He had a certain air to him that made him seem too academic, almost robotic with little change of tone/emphasis and not much personality. I know this shouldn't matter in the long run when evaluating courses since judging one by personality vs. whether they taught effectively sounds shallow but The Great Courses has always been good at featuring professors who help you feel like the time spent was satisfying not just because you learned something but also because you were entertained and enthralled while doing so.

Another downer was the discussion on the Bhagavad-gita (Lecture 10). Having listened to a number of other Professor's takes on this great book, I found this one to be lacking. Sure the professor narrated the events of the book and covered the important sayings but he didn’t seem to weave them into anything resembling a summary of its main theological meaning or insights as well as Professor Berkson did in "Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know" or Professor Hardy in "Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition".

Still, this doesn't change my overall positive impression of the course. There is no better compliment to pay an instructor than: I walked away learning things I hadn't known going in. This course achieved that objective: Professor Muesse enriched my understanding of Hinduism. Good work!

  • The History of Christian Theology

  • By: Phillip Cary, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Phillip Cary
  • Length: 18 hrs and 57 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 454
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 410
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 399

In this 36-lecture course, you'll find an engaging way to explore profound religious questions and the many responses believers, scholars, and theologians have developed over more than 2,000 years. Through this series, Professor Cary reveals the enduring power of the Christian tradition-as both an intellectual discipline and a spiritual path.These lectures begin at the very dawn of Christianity, as you examine some of the earliest examples of scripture recorded by the first communities of the faithful.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Been Waiting for This

  • By Slinksterchic on 09-25-13

Excellent First Half; Second Half Lacking

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-17-18

I feel like this course trailed off as it progressed (although the last lecture did regain some of my interest). The first half, concentrating on Christian theology in the ancient world and medieval times, was stellar. The topics were engaging, the lectures captivating, and Professor Cary was at his best. At worse it was four star material but closer to 5.

While the second half opened up strong (lecture 20 on the differences between Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism was one of the three highlights of the course; The other two being lectures 9 (Philosophy and religion) and 10 (doctrine of the Trinity)) it began to fade. Lectures spent too much time on different views of how a Christian is saved and the nature of God’s grace and the professor didn’t articulate the differences well enough in some cases. I know this was a theology course vs. worship but I would’ve preferred if he spent more time explaining other differences between the various protestant denominations (i.e. how does a Baptist worship session differ from a Methodist one vs. a Catholic, etc.). I would give the second half three stars. Three and a half stars would be my ideal rating for this course but Audible doesn't let us rate in half stars :-(


Areas of the evolution and history of Christian theology covered in this course:
- Theology taught in the New Testament books themselves (Paul and the gospels)

- Creation of orthodoxy (and its triumph over differing early Christian schools of thought such as Gnosticism)

- Incorporation of elements of western philosophy

- Doctrines of the early church fathers in the first few centuries AD

- Medieval Christian thought

- Eastern Orthodox views/great Schism

- Reformation: Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anabaptists, Anglicans, and Puritans

- Protestantism in modernity: Baptists, Quakers, Pietists, Methodists, Revivalists, Pentecostalism, Deists, Liberal Protestants, Neo-Orthodoxy, Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism

- Catholicism in modernity including Jesuits, Dominicans, and Quietists


Some other minuses:
1- I was a little surprised that the formation of the Christian scriptural canon wasn’t described in more details (what books were deemed scripture and when)

2- There are times in which I wish the professor would’ve explained something in different terms to help me “get it” vs. just repeating a point numerous times (for example I wasn’t exactly following some of his descriptions of some of the differences between Lutheranism and the Reformed movement and though he would dwell on explaining a specific description, he would repeat the point in the same way for the most part without saying it differently to aid comprehension)

My ultimate assessment of this course mirrors another one of his courses: "Philosophy and Religion in the West": outstanding start making it hard to stop listening but by the second half I was left more times than not asking, "just what did he mean there?" But I still leave with a positive impression for both courses and would still recommend them. Professor Cary is a great presenter!

  • A Brief History of the World

  • By: Peter N. Stearns, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Peter N. Stearns
  • Length: 19 hrs and 2 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 212
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 187
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 186

The construction of the great pyramids of Egypt, the development of democracy in ancient Greece, the glories of ancient Rome-these stories are familiar to students of history. But what about the rest of the world? How do the histories of China and Japan, or Russia, India, and the remote territories of Sub-Saharan Africa and South America fit in with commonly known accounts of Western traditions?Learn the rest of the story with these 36 riveting lectures that survey the expanse of human development and civilization across the globe.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Global

  • By Tad Davis on 12-05-13

A Different Type of History Course

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-24-18

I had alot of reservations about this course after seeing one of the lowest average review ratings for any of the Great Courses. But a course encompassing all of world history was something that intrigued me enough to give it a shot (even if going in I knew it wouldn't be able to go into much detail).

I am glad I didn't let the negative reviews stop me. I can certainly see the shortcomings that would prompt one to provide a poor review but on the whole I did not think this was a bad course at all and certainly not deserving of a 3.3 average rating.

I thought it offered an innovative approach to studying world history. Instead of discussing one civilization in one full lecture followed by the next civilization in the next lecture (typical of other history courses in general and Great Courses in particular) this course's approach truly involved a synchronistic comparison of multiple civilizations or religions that were contemporaries of one another....all in the same lecture. I thought this was one of the main (only) negatives of one of my all-time favorite courses: "History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective". It was excellent in covering any given specific empire but often did not provide perspective of what else was going on in the world at that time (contemporary empires would be discussed in the next lecture but the full picture of world affairs at a specific time was lost).

This approach allows one to truly get a history of social interactions, connectedness, conflicts, and trade/economies in humanity's time on earth.

He focuses discussion on political, economic, cultural, and social trends in these defined world history periods:
o Classical period (1000 BC to 500 AD)
o Post Classical period (500-1450)
o Early Modern period (1450-1750)
o The Long Century (1750-1914)
o The Contemporary Period (1914-present)

Highlights for me included lecture 9 on the collapse of the classical empires and lecture 14 on Japan, Russia, Southeast Asia, and Western Europe imitating more developed societies in the post classical period.

While I give the approach and identification of general themes an A, unfortunately, the delivery leaves alot to be desired and I think this is where the poor reviews come in.

While Professor Stearns certainly brings some interesting discussions to the table, the fact of the matter is his teaching style is simply not very engaging or full of much personality which means when there are lectures that do not involve a topic that is interesting to me, it is hard for him to keep me engaged or draw me in. I hate judging a professor by whether he/she makes things interesting or not but the reality is this stuff matters in assessing my feelings on a course. Learning is the mission here but so is a desire to be entertained in a way so as to make an 18 hour journey worth my time. He just doesn't bring things to life.

Professor Stearns goes out of his way to talk up non-western civilizations and talk down western civilizations especially in the early going. While I understand a World History approach is not supposed to be slanted towards western civilization specifically, he goes overboard resulting in the pendulum swinging way too far the other way.

He especially seems to consider ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and western Europe as inferior in just about every way to China or India to the point it seems to pain him to say anything good about them or when he does he qualifies it such as calling it “dumb luck” or never failing to remind us that the west "stole" certain innovations from China and used them for their own purposes---yet there is no acknowledging their adaptiveness. In trying to provide a balanced view he does the opposite and one is left wondering when a balanced view of the west will be provided.

How many times does he have to remind us this is not a western civilization course? We get it. We're adults. Tell us once. We don't need the qualification/warning multiple times. I think we can appreciate a lecture or discussion without him needing to remind us time and time again that there are other parts of the world than just the west.

He obviously uses the word “obviously” so many obvious times, even when the point he is making is not necessarily obvious, that I am obviously annoyed!

There are better history courses out there: "Big History" excels in discussing world history pre-agriculture and "History of the Ancient World" will provide much more details of civilizations/bring things to life but for what this course sets out to do (identify greater historical trends across time periods by comparing contemporary civilizations) I have to admit it does indeed succeed and is a very solid, good course.

  • The African Experience: From 'Lucy' to Mandela

  • By: Kenneth P. Vickery, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Kenneth P. Vickery
  • Length: 18 hrs and 18 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 342
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 311
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 306

The story of Africa is the oldest and most event-filled chronicle of human activity on the planet. And in these 36 lectures, you'll explore this great historical drama, tracing the story of the sub-Saharan region of the continent from the earliest evidence of human habitation to the latest challenges facing African nations in the 21st century. By learning with these lectures, you'll finally be able to bust myths and correct potential misunderstandings about Africa.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Africa Found!

  • By Logical Paradox on 03-12-14

Travesty This is the Only TGC Course on African Hi

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-14-18

While I'm glad TGC offers a course on African history, it falls extremely short of any kinds of expectations. It is sad that this is the only course offered on African history. What bothers me is that we keep getting course after course on ancient Rome or Greece crammed down our throats but TGC only offers one course on Africa. Not only was it produced 12 years ago but the topper is it has a 3.9 review rating! Shouldn't that be a signal that there is a serious gap in TGC's catalog on this wonderful region? Executives, I suspect there is an audience out there that would jump at a new course on African history. Take a gamble and go for it!

Okay here are my specific gripes:

1- The professor could’ve fit more information in the limited space he had but there were long pauses in the delivery of his sentences, and tangents that while sometimes interesting, seemed out of place for an introductory course on Africa that had a lot of ground (literally) to cover with not a lot of time; He even acknowledged this course format would be a new experience for him so I wonder if this just wasn't him at this best; He had a particular annoying habit of grasping at straws for the last word or two to complete a sepcific sentence/point and you can tell it was a main point he wanted to emphasis but he would end the sentence with some common generic word that would add nothing to what the earlier words of his sentence conveyed; The struggle for that last word made me think it would really drive the point home but instead it was superfluous...so why waste time kicking out 5 "uhh"'s searching for it?!! (sorry for the vent)

2- Not enough on pre-European colonization civilizations (the main topic of interest of mine since I know little or nothing of ancient African peoples); While I acknowledge written historical documents from these civilizations may be sparse compared with other areas of the globe, I am stunned there was next to nothing on the rich mythology from this region at least

3- A lot of topics are spoken about in general, ideological terms vs. specifics that relate to specific African nations or historical events; For example he spent multiple lectures discussing and defining European colonialism and African nationalism in abstract terms yet he spent little time discussing the specific European colonies themselves or what actually happened (which country colonized which area, their names, the sequence of these colonial expeditions, an overview of what the map looked like during this time, etc.); And while he did spend some time on how some countries became independent (Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Namibia) most of the time he did not (for example he would only give the year specific colonies became independent nations but no details of how it came about)

4- Not enough history: he would spend way too much time defining banal things like what the word “watershed” means or how European colonialism required not only the willingness to do it but the ability to do so (he explains how grocery shopping is the same: you have to want to do something and the capability to do it---I couldn't believe a professor actually spent previous minutes discussing this point and example) to the point that I think he realizes he is running out of time in the lecture and would quickly relate the historical events he meant to cover like they were secondary; Yet that is what we want! We want to know about African history and events and not how to define "watershed"!!

For me the only real highlight was lecture 29 (explanations for why leaders of the newly independent nations turned more and more authoritative in order to hold onto power). It was one of the few times I found myself full engaged. I can't give this less than three stars because there is some historical content present that is lacking in other courses so I won't be deleting this one from my library (primarily because there is no other African history course!).


In case you are interested, the following peoples/kingdoms were covered:
- The first humans
- Hunters and Gatherers
- The first agricultural people
- Ancient Egypt
- Cush (in Nubia which is modern-day Sudan)
- Ethiopia
- West African kingdoms (Ghana, Mali, and Songhai)
- Swahili of East Africa
- South African empires (Great Zimbabwe, Dutch colony, Zulu, British colony, and Lesotho)
- European colonies and their independence movements to nations (although they were discussed in general terms and not a lot of time spent on specific ones; Exceptions include Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Namibia)
- Congo
- Modern day South Africa
- Modern day Ghana and Zambia
- Rwanda (the 1990's genocide)

I wish I had an alternative course to recommend (as I usually do when I provide anything less than a 4 star rating) but there just doesn't seem to be any. I hope TGC rectifies this situation sooner than later.

  • Victorian Britain

  • By: Patrick N. Allitt, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Patrick N. Allitt
  • Length: 18 hrs and 36 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 435
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 397
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 394

This series of 36 fascinating lectures is a chronological journey into the story of Victorian Britain, from the unexpected ascension to the throne of teenaged Princess Victoria in 1837 to her death in 1901 as the Boer War neared its end.Presented with all of Victoria's strengths and foibles left intact by an award-winning teacher and author, the lectures invite you to reflect on both the positive and negative aspects of her reign.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Very good introductory course

  • By Dulce on 10-08-13

Death by Quotation

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-23-18

This is my third course by Professor Allitt. "History of the United States" did not draw me in but I thought "The Rise and Fall of the British Empire" was wonderfully done. So I suppose this course was going to be the tiebreaker/rubber match in some respects. Unfortunately, it did not deliver according to my expectations.

I think the best way I can sum up my assessment is a comment from another reviewer: this course felt like one long collection of antcedotes. It seemed to be lacking in "teaching" and narrating political history. Instead it was like the professor just wanted to share a number of stories he had collected concerning first hand accounts of very specific individuals vs. providing general information on a topic or event. His summary comments of what these quotes were supposed to illustrate seemed forced or squeezed in at the last minute like they were secondary to what one specific person thought about something and had written.

While I think some of the recitations certainly helped paint the picture of what life was like, the sheer number of them and the time dedicated to the quotations left me wondering if I had purchased a course on "Short Story Accounts of Victorian Britions". It felt like a majority of the lecture times were spent reading someone's quotes and the endless flow caused me to forget what topic was being discussed or what point the professor was trying to illustrate with the quote. I would've preferred more analysis/conclusions/teaching.

Another shortcoming was the way the professor opened and closed lectures. He would start off each lecture by providing a preview of a major historical event or time period that he was going to discuss in more detail later in the lecture. But he wouldn’t frame it as such which resulted in me thinking that was the one and only time he’d describe something and I was left wondering why he didn’t provide more meat to the event and why he was moving to the next item so fast. If he would’ve explained it was a preview and he would get into further detail later in the lecture then some of the relation of the events wouldn’t feel so disjointed. This approach wouldn’t leave any real drama relating to the result of the event to hold your attention (such as which side would win a major battle) so it was like you had all the answers in a minute and all that was left was repeating it by providing details

The professor often concluded his lectures in a somewhat abrupt manner: there wasn’t much summation of the key points of the lecture or a preview of what the next lecture had in store so there were times when the professor would make a point and suddenly there’d be applause to mark the end of the lecture without any warning that it was winding down! I understand 30 minutes is short and less time on summation means more can be squeezed in but how long does it take for one to mention "in summary..." or "in conclusion..."? 30 seconds? Small price to pay to avoid those abrupt endings/annoying applause at weird times.

There were highlights: lectures 1-5, 12, 15-19, 29, 31, and 35. Specifically I thought his analysis on British attitudes towards the American Civil War was excellently done and well worth my time.

My goal going in was to get a sense of the political history of this period, what everyday society was like, how the nation was transforming, and what factors actually constitute "Victorian Britain" (i.e. what makes it different from other periods). While I think most of those goals were met (a little less on the last one), the way we got here was not what I'd expected at all. But every professor has their own style and this one may resonate with you. For my money though if you are looking for information on this time period I would recommend Professor Allitt's other course: "The Rise and Fall of the British Empire" and "Foundations of Western Civilization II - A History of the Modern Western World" by Professor Robert Bucholz.

  • The Irish Identity: Independence, History, and Literature

  • By: Marc C. Conner, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Marc C. Conner
  • Length: 18 hrs and 41 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 236
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 214
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 216

Many political and cultural events sent shock waves through the Irish world in the 19th and early 20th centuries as Ireland gradually shook off the shackles of British rule. Alongside a long and painful political process arose one of the greatest flourishings of literature in modern times - a spirited discourse among those who sought to shape their nation's future, finding the significance of their bloody present intimately entwined with their legendary past.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Need to recommend a prerequisite

  • By ELG on 11-13-16

A Masterpiece from Professor Connor

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-15-18

I can't say enough god things about this course. I have been known to be a notoriously tough reviewer but I honestly struggled mightily to identify any kinds of flaws in this masterfully produced course. Perhaps the only minus is the lack of Irish history narrative from 1940's to the present (especially the resolution of the struggles between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland) even if in summation for completeness sake (the political narrative seemed to end in the 1930’s). But this was not the focus of the Irish Identity/Renaissance of the late 1800's and early 1900's.

I've taken one other course with Professor Connor: "How to Read and Understand Shakespeare". And while I thought that was an excellently produced work, this course was just as brilliant and has elevated the professor in my pantheon of favorite instructors which includes Professors Elizabeth Vandiver, Gary Gallagher, and Jennifer Paxton.

I will admit I am much more interested in history than literature and I had some reservations purchasing this course because I knew it would be difficult for anyone to hold my attention through lectures on literature. But I bought it thinking at least I will retain 10 or so lectures on history and just "get through" the literature lectures as a necessary evil. While he knocked the ball out of the park on providing excellent narration of historical events surrounding Ireland from its first inhabitants in the Stone Age to independence in the 1930’s, I was amazed that his lectures on literature also kept me enraptured. He really knows how to capture the human condition.

This course focuses on the Irish Renaissance (the formation of the Irish identity in the late 19th and early 20th century). Its main theme is how Irish literature is inexorably tied up with politics and the search for independence from their English overloads. The historical narrative included (but was not limited to):
o The first inhabitants
o The Celtic people
o Christian missionaries/monasteries
o The Vikings
o England's dominion of the island/union
o The great famine
o The home rule debate
o The Dublin Lockout
o World War I
o The Easter Rising of 1916
o The War of Independence
o The Civil War

Another theme the professor does a good job of positing is the connection between the poets and the land of Ireland itself as if the history and culture is embedded in the soil itself.

For those of you interested in the breakdown: lectures 1-6, 18-19, 23-24, and 35 have a good mix of historical narrative and literature/poetry. The remaining lectures were strictly literature discussions.

Professor Connor has a great voice for lecturing. He has great command when presenting and communicates in a clear and easy to understand style but provides enough detail and color to draw you in to the narrative. He describes the atmosphere of certain events in such a way that makes you feel like you were there yourself. He superbly painted a picture of the land of Ireland and what the Irish identity truly entails.

Even the music that accompanied the intro and endings of the lectures was pleasant and soothing and seemed to fit the general theme of the course: optimism around the preservation of the Irish identity with a hint of sorrow reflecting the struggles and often heartbreaking history of the Irish under British rule. Does anyone know if there is a longer version for purchase anywhere??

It goes without saying that I would highly recommend this course to anyone with even a flicker of interest in history or literature. In fact even if you don't I would suggest it just so you could listen to how a great professor presents and teaches. Textbook stuff.

Please, please, please sign up Professor Connor for another course (hopefully on Shakespeare). And then a second. And third. And...