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Publisher's Summary

Any lover of Shakespeare or the Romantic poets can concede that poetry is pleasurable. But is it good for you? Can it teach you anything? These are questions that have beguiled and engaged eminent critics for millennia, and now you can develop your own answers and options with these 24 lectures.

The source of poetry's wellspring; the relationship between poetry and human progress; the possible truths (and lies) involved in the literary arts; the role of the author; these lectures tap into an enormous range of material to explore these and other provocative issues. You'll follow the strands of this "conversation" between philosophy and the literary arts down the millennia, profiting from in-depth analyses of works by Plato, Aristotle, Horace, Sir Philip Sidney, Dryden, Pope, Wordsworth, Shelley, Coleridge, Matthew Arnold, T.S. Eliot, Northrop Frye, Foucault, Derrida, and more.

Throughout these lectures, you'll meet the poet in many guises. These include: the divine poet (a supernatural creator who transcends the laws of nature), the alchemical poet (the inspired individual who fuses humanity's divided nature into one), the common poet (the poet who roots himself or herself in the real world and speaks for the common individual), the playful poet (who champions sensitivity of feeling, contradictory truths, and uncertainties), and the prisoner poet (who's a product of, and a slave to, his or her own subconscious suppositions).

By concentrating on critical reflections about poetry - the oldest of the literary arts - you'll come away with lessons on how to understand literature, and all of the arts, more generally. More importantly, you'll be prepared to join in these critical conversations yourself.

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

©1999 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1999 The Great Courses

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Passionate Profesdor

Unless you were an English Literature major, you probably never considered poetry or fictional prose in this way. Perhaps you've heard of critical theory but weren't sure what it was. Maybe you've encountered it in the context of philosophy, political science, or linguistics, but these contexts are spin-offs of the original, which is poetical literature.
Does poetry matter to society? Can a poetical work be sublime and timeless, or is it always a mere transient expression of a social niche? To what extent do poems reflect the author's original thinking rather than the social influences on the author? Do critics of poetical literature add value for readers?
The professor knows these are unfamiliar questions to anyone who did not major in literature, and he is excited to convey them to.a lay audience. His voice is always clear, animated, and easy to listen to.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Learned a ton

I really learned significant amount listening to these lectures. Can't wait to listen through them again.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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As a philosopher

I can say that this is one of the best/most accurate portrayals of not only the arts but of objective truths. Bravo

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Very good until it it gets to the 20th Century

Professor Markos is a passionate teacher on the history of poetry. I was a little disappointed that he was only covering poetry when I started the course, but quickly got engrossed in his lectures because he has organized the course very well and so some of the more difficult concepts of that emerge in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries were very well explained.

However, when Prof. Markos gets to the 20th century, it becomes very clear just how disenchanted he is with even modernity, not to mention post-modernity. His derision is obvious and unhelpful. Primarily because, for instance, people like Derrida are some of the hardest philosophers to understand when it comes to literature. I could have used less derision and more information.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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From Plato to Arnold, Then We Get Defensive

What aspect of Professor Louis Markos’s performance would you have changed?

The early lectures are decent, if scattered, and I enjoyed Professor Markos' spirited defense of New Criticism...but as the course goes on his disdain for modern and post-modern thought becomes too much to bear. The last third of the course is a mangled attack on modern critical thought, sprinkled with sometimes-embarrassing Christian apologia. Markos makes only a passing attempt to explain 20th century literary theory, and spends an inordinate amount of time leveling criticisms that are (at best) incomplete and (at worst) insulting. His arguments are worthy of scholarly consideration (as one would expect from a scholar of his stature) but they're ill-suited to a popular survey of the history of literary theory. <br/><br/>I suppose I was spoiled by Lawrence Cahoone's contributions to The Great Courses, in which he explicitly tries to make the best case for each philosophical tradition that he covers. Markos makes no such pretense to pedagogical fairness: he charts a clearly polemical course which sometimes drifts into ugly terrain. His brief treatment of contemporary feminist theory is fraught, to say the least, and he gives no perspective on the impact of modern and post-modern ideas on the aesthetics of their age. He clearly illustrates the influence of then-contemporary theory on Classical dramatists, Romantic poets, etc., but makes no mention of the ways in which modernist and post-modernist thought inform, say, the works of Virginia Woolf or Thomas Pynchon.<br/><br/>Hopefully, The Great Courses will one day give the English department its due. For those looking for a quick "literary theory boot camp" I recommend Jonathan Culler's Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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More Phil than Lit - Christian Op re Evolution

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The class was not what i expected, however, the information was actually better. I enjoyed the philosophical approach even though I was expecting more specific references to literature and authors. I listen again to many of the lectures in the future. My issue with the class: Professor Markos makes evident that he has strong Christian beliefs, that is not a problem. The problem arises in the 21st lecture when he states that evolution and creationism are both myths - neither can be proved. This is an opinion that is stated as a fact. To state that evolution may occur within a species but there is no proof of any general evolution should be followed with a disclaimer that it is his opinion based on his religion. Otherwise, a very informative class.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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too advanced for my understanding at this point

the course is too advanced for me at this point, I'm lacking the knowledge or the time to sit down and study it properly

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Be warned

The title and description of this great course is misleading. There is very little at all regarding the role of the author. Also, much of the material was completely ruined for me by the professor's pre-occupation with his own Christian worldview. The lectures are less about the "essence of literature and the role of the author" than they are about his own (inaccurate) views of many philosophers and a lot of bizarre Christian apologetics. I wouldn't recommend this course to someone looking for a general history of literary theory.

16 of 24 people found this review helpful

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Not someone I would want to learn from

If you're expecting critical theory, you'll get that. However, you'll get quite a bit of misogyny, evangelical Bible promotion, and in the end, I thought at one point that the lecturer was going to start praying. He maintains that evolution is a myth. Really? Embarrassing that such ignorance is given such a large megaphone. I will be returning this one for sure.

8 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Great Start but did disservice to 20th century

Any additional comments?

This course started out very strong, and the professor's performance was outstanding. My major criticism, and it is important, is that he was not very generous to the modern and postmodern critics. He clearly doesn't like them, and he spent at least as much time arguing against them as explaining how their arguments work, and his arguments against them were, frequently, against very reductive versions of their arguments. We get that you don't like arguing with deconstructionists, but there is a lot more to Derrida and company than simple sophistry or being unwilling to give concrete truths. And the idea that gender is performative is important, widely accepted, and rather than simply mocking it, it is worth explaining and clarifying. <br/><br/>The professor is also, unsurprisingly, perhaps over-committed to biblical scholarship, and so more time was spent giving examples from theology than I personally was particularly interested, though of course that is not a criticism; other listeners might find that much more helpful than I did.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful