Author: The Skeptic, Great Books, The Great Courses
Posted on 2011-11-04, by LionFar.
|Title:The Skeptic s Guide to the Great Books [The Great Courses]
|Description:Hamlet. Moby-Dick. War and Peace. Ulysses. These are just four of what are considered the "Great Books"-works of literature that have been singled out as essential parts of a well-read individual's reading list. The only problem: The "Great Books" can be daunting, intimidating, and oftentimes nearly impossible to get through.
The truth of the matter is that there is so much more to literature than these giants of the Western canon. In fact, you can get the same pleasures, satisfactions, and insights from books that have yet to be considered "great." Books that are shorter, more accessible, and less dependent on classical references and difficult language. Books that, in the opinion of popular Great Courses Professor Grant L. Voth of Monterey Peninsula College, "allow you to connect with them without quite so many layers of resistance to work through."
When you take this skeptical approach to the "Great Books," you open yourself up to 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. Professor Voth's course, The Skeptic's Guide to the Great Books , is your opportunity to discover new literary adventures that make worthy substitutes to works from the Western literary canon. In these 12 highly rewarding lectures, you'll get 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.
[b]Discover Alternatives to the Great Books[/b]
The first half of The Skeptic's Guide to the Great Books focuses on what Professor Voth considers direct "alternatives" to more canonical works of literature. In each case, he convinces you that you won't be missing out on much by reading these books instead of their more famous cousins and proves that these selections can be just as substantive, challenging, and stimulating. He also points out that reading these "alternatives" can give you a good introduction to the canonical works-especially if your initial attempts to tackle them have proved frustrating.
Here are three examples of the books you'll explore in these lectures, along with the canonical counterparts they substitute for.
â€¢ Dead Souls as an alternative to War and Peace: Like Leo Tolstoy's mammoth novel, Nikolai Gogol's shorter work captures the heart and soul of 19th-century Russia in a lot fewer pages. Using digressions, lyrical passages, humorous episodes, and epic similes, Dead Souls offers as much enjoyment and insight as War and Peace but without the intimidating length.
â€¢ Angels in America as an alternative to the plays of Bertolt Brecht: While plays such as Mother Courage and The Good Woman of Setzuan are wonderful on stage, you can't get the same enjoyment from reading a Bertolt Brecht play as you can by reading Tony Kushner's kaleidoscopic commentary on the culture and politics of 1980s America. In addition, Kushner's work is funny-making us laugh in a way that Brecht's plays seldom do.
â€¢ The Master and Margarita as an alternative to Faust: While Goethe's Faust demands that a reader spend his or her entire life poring over its intricate references, Mikhail Bulgakov's novel (in which the Devil visits Soviet Russia) does not. And in addition to being a provocative and engaging story, it comes with more readily accessible ideas about religion and nationalism.
[b]Uncover the Power of Nontraditional Literary Genres[/b]
You'll also encounter books from genres that traditionally fall outside the purview of the Western canon. Just because these books are more popular with everyday readers doesn't mean they don't possess the same power to challenge, guide, and inspire us as their more "established" predecessors do. For example, you'll learn
â€¢ how John le Carre's The Spy Who Came In from the Cold transforms the spy novel into serious literature by asking thought-provoking questions about the relationship between the political ideas one professes and the methods used to defend them;
â€¢ how the graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons injects the comic-book format with a startling level of realism by casting its superhero characters in darker, more ordinarily human shades; and
â€¢ how Yaan Martel's Life of Pi proves that just because a novel is a best-selling success doesn't mean it can't offer readers an unforgettable lesson on the nature of an individual's spiritual journey through life and the enduring power of faith.
[b]Get a Personal Encounter with 12 Entertaining and Wise Books[/b]
Winner of the Allen Griffin Award for Excellence in Teaching, Professor Voth excels in these lectures 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.
"The world is full of good books," Professor Voth says. "And if you're careful in the way you read them ... there's no end to the pleasures of the ever-expanding world of literature." So discover these pleasures for yourself with The Skeptic's Guide to the Great Books and get a personal encounter with 12 works of literature that are short enough to not daunt you, entertaining enough to keep you turning the pages, and wise enough to teach you something about being human.
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