Why do "Great Books" continue to speak to us hundreds and even thousands of years after they were written? Can they deepen our self-knowledge and wisdom? Are our lives changed in any meaningful way by the experience of reading them?
Tackle these questions and more in these 36 engaging lectures. Beginning with his definition of a Great Book as one that possesses a great theme of enduring importance, noble language that "elevates the soul and ennobles the mind," and a universality that enables it to "speak across the ages," Professor Fears examines a body of work that offers extraordinary wisdom to those willing to receive it.
You'll study dozens of works, from the Aeneid and the book of Job to Othello and 1984 - works that range in time from the 3rd millennium B.C. to the 20th century, and in locale from Mesopotamia and China to Europe and America. Professor Fears approaches each of these works from an entirely different direction, considering philosophical and moral perspectives that superbly complement a purely literary understanding.Grasping these philosophical and moral perspectives is crucial to the education of every thoughtful person. These works that have shaped the minds of great individuals, who, in turn, have shaped events of historic magnitude. You'll study the underlying ideas of each great work to see how these ideas can be put to use in a moral and ethical life."History is our sense of the past," Professor Fears says. "And these Great Books are our links to the great ideas of the past. They educate us to live our lives in a free and responsible way."
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A course that will open you to new ideas.
- Kristi Richardson
Fascinating, Entertaining, Impactful: Best Course
Having listened to 15 Great Courses over the last couple months, I took this course with a little trepidation, largely based on the mediocre Teach Company reviews. Yet something strange happened right from the first lecture: each book was fascinating, his lecture style became more contagious, and most importantly, I began to see the crucial importance of his underlying messages. The first statement of the course title is pretty clear cut and these books have accomplished the claim of making history because they're still around (much to the dismay of many students) hundreds...thousands of years after being written. I can make no universal claims for the second part of the title but I can speak for myself--this part was true as well. Similar to the way I felt after reading the last (to date) of George RR Martin's Song of Fire and Ice series, I grieved to be done with this course. What could top this, I wondered? Thankfully, J Rufus has several titles to choose from, so all is not lost. I loved this course and am wiser for it.
I thought J Rufus was at his best--and most endearing--when summarizing a story by providing the voices of its pivotal characters. His drawl and enthusiasm was comical, fun and surprisingly effective in demystifying and contemporizing often ancient characters...so the Gilgamesh lecture was particularly enjoyable.
J Rufus takes 30+ books and weaves the strands of their shared virtues, overarching themes, and contemporary relevance into critically important message for today's society. That would be a tough feat to duplicate by reading any one, two or dozen of these books on my own. By experiencing J Rufus's course as a whole, I came to understand that so much of what is portrayed in this course seems to be missing--though is seemingly not missed--from our 21st century.
- George R. Murray