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Publisher's Summary

Daunted by the "great big books" of the Western canon? Looking for the same pleasures, satisfactions, and insights from books that are shorter, more accessible, and less dependent on classical references and difficult language than tomes such as Moby-Dick and Ulysses?

The truth is that there are so many works that are just as engaging, just as enjoyable, and - most important - just as insightful about great human themes and ideas as anything you'd encounter on a college-level reading list. These 12 highly rewarding lectures offer you an introduction to 12 works that redefine what great literature is and how it can reveal startling truths about life-all without being such a chore to read. Here you'll discover alternatives to the traditional "great books" - Dead Souls as an alternative to War and Peace, and The Master and Margarita as an alternative to Faust. You'll also encounter books from genres that traditionally fall outside the purview of the Western canon. For example, you'll learn how John le Carré's The Spy Who Came In from the Cold transforms the spy novel into serious literature, and how Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons injects the comic-book format with a startling level of realism.

Professor Voth excels at both unpacking the significance of a literary work and instilling excitement for it, be it a novella, a collection of short stories, or a play. If you're new to these works, he will have you running to your nearest bookstore or library to discover what you've been missing. And if you've already encountered some of these books, you'll be eager to revisit them and explore what you may have missed on your first reading.

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

©2011 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2011 The Great Courses

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  • libbromus
  • San Jose, CA United States
  • 06-18-17

Thoroughly enjoyable!

Professor Voth really loves literature of all descriptions. He's no snob for the classics. I have added several of the books mentioned (I should say analyzed in depth) here to my reading list; books I would never have normally sought out. For the books he included that I've already read, his critical insights have deepened my understanding of the works. I'm so grateful to have listened to this course!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Like "this not that" for serious readers

Want to be a serious reader, but don't have the time or energy to deal with all of the classics? This course gives a passionate and entertaining overview of alternatives to some of the hard-to-digest classics, and some great advice on getting more out of any reading.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

A very good course

The presentation of an alternate set of books to the canon is a worthwhile task. I enjoyed listening to the choices that Professor Voth presented. Some of the works presented were unfamiliar to me; I had heard of them, but had not read them, which triggered my curiosity and will try to read. For example, I have been meaning to read Joan Didion and this course provided the impetus for me to do so. The same with Gogol, and graphic novels. I will also revisit P. D. James and Le Carré.

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  • The McBeans
  • 04-05-16

Maintains the high standard of these courses

These are hugely enjoyable lectures that offer a different perspective of the canon and canon formation.