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Publisher's Summary

From the anonymous author of the Epic of Gilgamesh in ancient Mesopotamia to William Faulkner writing about Mississippi 3,600 years later, many of Western culture's greatest figures have been writers. Their landmark themes, unique insights into human nature, dynamic characters, experimental storytelling techniques, and rich philosophical ideas helped create the vibrant storytelling methods we find reflected in today's authors.

These 84 brilliant lectures survey more than 70 literary geniuses and masterpieces of Western literature, offering you the chance to experience a veritable encyclopedia of great writers who have played critical roles in Western history, influencing everything from religion to politics - to say nothing of the myriad literary genres and movements, which illustrate how writers reacted to their cultural environments and demonstrate the crucial relationship between a writer and his or her time.

From Homer and Virgil to Cervantes and Milton to Dickens and Joyce, the featured texts and authors are so richly varied and cover so many different centuries, societies, literary movements, and genres, yet you'll discover a panorama of literary relationships between periods, authors, and the paths that brought us to where we are in literature today.

Amid all the discussions from five highly esteemed professors, you'll return again and again to the idea of literature as a powerful force in our lives. You'll come away with a well-rounded and well-informed understanding of both these literary icons and the larger role that literature has played in our cultural history.

The complete list of lecturers includes professors Elizabeth Vandiver, James A.W. Heffernan, Ronald B. Herzman, Susan Sage Heinzelman, and Thomas F.X. Noble.

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

©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses

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Epic Audio

There were more lectures in this long set of lectures (48) on the classic age than any other, twenty something rather than the ten for the other periods. I wasn't convinced that was necessary, obscure Greek and Roman poets get their own lecture while medieval and Renaissance literature are just scanned. There is exposure to French and Spanish authors that we rarely get in English Lit. Doing these works chronologically, you can see how one period builds on another, except for the classics. I can see the attention paid to the greats but I simply didn't enjoy the first part as much as the last.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Bryan
  • DEXTER, MO, United States
  • 09-11-13

Great Authors Without the Term Papers

This really is like sitting in on great professors' lectures, but without having all the term papers and finals that go with the classes. I was skeptical, at first, but these really do come across as well thought out lectures by knowledgeable professors. They also bring their unique methods and personalities to each part. I have sat in on enough lectures to be impressed by these. They do require your attention to get the most out of them. One side benefit is the introduction of authors that you may have heard of, but had never gotten around to. These have also encouraged me to look many of these authors' works up and at least skim them.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Very uneven

Would you consider the audio edition of Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition, 2nd Edition to be better than the print version?

I never read the print version

Who was your favorite character and why?

The person I came away with the most changed impression of was Milton

Did Professor Elizabeth Vandiver and Professor James A. W. Heffernan do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

The weak link here was Susan Sage Heinzelman, it was like she was just reading her notes. Lectures have the capacity to impart emotion, something you would never know from her delivery.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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A literary cocktail party

I truly enjoyed this 42 hour, 84 lesson marathon. I enjoyed it so much that I finished it under three weeks. I stayed up late and got up early to learn about a few more authors.

It was fun catching up with old friends from my English Lit college days - Homer, Dostoyevsky, Dante, Wordsworth, Austen - the list goes on. Like a cocktail party, however, our visits were brief.

Nonetheless, I gained insight into many of my old favorites. For the first time, Achilles didn't seem like a sulky boy refusing to play because someone was mean to him. I learned more about Jane Austen's family and romantic life than I knew (or, possibly, I'd forgotten it). The insights into the Divine Comedy were fascinating.

There was not a single lecture when I didn't learn something, and there were probably a dozen authors I knew virtually nothing about. I apparently know virtually nothing about French literature, and look forward to checking out Voltaire, Rabelais and Proust.

There are also some Romans I'd like to check out. (I was a little sorry that the gossip columnist for the ancients, Suetonius, did not merit a lecture, but he did get a couple of shout-outs.)

The reason I didn't give this collection five stars was because listening for so long to speakers who are not actors reading from scripts made their verbal tics very obvious. One of the men (I forget which) would often ask a question, then answer with "It seems to me..." An occasional "I think" would have made a nice change. While this is unexceptionable, say, three times in half an hour (it seemed more like five to ten times per half hour) hearing it over and over on a dozen or so lectures made me want to start drinking every time I heard it.

And it wasn't only one speaker. I think only the final lecturer seemed tic free, but he seemed somewhat smarmy. I imagined him enjoying being surrounded by sweet young co-eds after each lecture. (It's quite likely that I've totally invented the smarminess, but that was my aural impression.)

Although the tics were annoying, the wealth of information about a wide variety of notable writers aroused my desire to return to some of the classic authors, and to listen to more literature courses.

Finally, the applause at the beginning and end of each lecture confused me. I don't recall applauding for anything in my college days. Was this not meant to be a regular college class? Perhaps it was supposed to be a lecture that people paid to attend? I only know that I was always surprised and skeptical that there was a room full of students applauding at the end of each lecture.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Benoibe
  • New Orleans, LA, United States
  • 09-23-13

Unbelievable! Superior course by stellar profs!!

There is so much amazing content here. Moreover, these professors have all worked on the course together to lay out a really well-rounded overview that is just stunning.

One of the best learning experiences. Brings together my own humanities studies from college and allows me to better understand the significance of the works throughout history. For anyone with a basic knowledge of classics and western literature, this is an exceptional resource!

The professors are astonishingly good. Just beyond any description I can write. The course is simply a gift for anyone interested in culture, history or literature.

25 of 28 people found this review helpful

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Very good, but in need of better coordination

Where does Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition, 2nd Edition rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

In the top 15.

Any additional comments?

A lot of effort went into this production. A couple of constructive criticisms... The omission of Cicero is unacceptable, especially when room was made for some authors of lesser overall importance. In addition, the professors approach the topics in different ways making the audiobook seem disjointed at times.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Excellent!!

Great overview of thousands of years of the best literature of each age. Interesting. Funny. Thought provoking.

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ambitious scope, admirable execution

I found the first and the last speakers the most engaging. But everyone had a great deal to teach.

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  • Meg Pajak
  • 05-21-16

excellent lectures

these lectures cover major authors from antiquity up to 20th century and help to appreciate the most prolific works of western literature. they are interesting and inspiring and, unlike some of the Great Courses delivered in a very engaging way.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful