Classical Mythology : The Great Courses: Western Literature

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Elizabeth Vandiver
  • Series: The Great Courses: Western Literature
  • 12 hrs and 28 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

These 24 lectures are a vibrant introduction to the primary characters and most important stories of classical Greek and Roman mythology. Among those you'll investigate are the accounts of the creation of the world in Hesiod's Theogony and Ovid's Metamorphoses; the gods Zeus, Apollo, Demeter, Persephone, Hermes, Dionysos, and Aphrodite; the Greek heroes, Theseus and Heracles (Hercules in the Roman version); and the most famous of all classical myths, the Trojan War.
Professor Vandiver anchors her presentation in some basics. What is a myth? Which societies use myths? What are some of the problems inherent in studying classical mythology? She also discusses the most influential 19th- and 20th-century thinking about myth's nature and function, including the psychological theories of Freud and Jung and the metaphysical approach of Joseph Campbell. You'll also consider the relationship between mythology and culture (such as the implications of the myth of Demeter, Persephone, and Hades for the Greek view of life, death, and marriage), the origins of classical mythology (including the similarities between the Theogony and Mesopotamian creation myths), and the dangers of probing for distant origins (for example, there's little evidence that a prehistoric "mother goddess" lies at the heart of mythology).
Taking you from the surprising "truths" about the Minotaur to Ovid's impact on the works of William Shakespeare, these lectures make classical mythology fresh, absorbing, and often surprising.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


Fascinating lecture on classical mythology. Vandiver is entertaining and realistic in her approach and I would be delighted to listen to more of her lectures.

I'm not really sure what's up with the other reviewer, maybe it was different than what they were expecting. To prevent that, let me tell you:
-The first three lectures are a discussion of what constitutes a myth. She explains multiple theories and their implications.
-The next lectures are about the beginning of the universe and the birth of the gods/ primordial deities.
-Then come a few more Olympians (Demeter, Dionysus, Hermes, etc)
-And a few heroes (Heracles is the biggie)

This is not a systematic retelling of myth in the form of a story, it's a lecture intended to help listeners better interpret and understand classical mythology. It's very brief, as an in-depth interpretation of all myth would take several weeks of continuous lecture, but it's a good starting point.

As someone whose only experience with mythology was the Percy Jackson series, I found this interesting and well worth the time it took to listen. I recommend it.
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- Michelle "I like traveling, but I'm too poor, so I read instead."

Very Informative and Entertaining

Before I make any criticism, I want to say that for me, this was a "Couldn't put it down" audio book. To me this is an example of audio books at their best. I strongly recommended it. I found it entertaining, easy listening, informative and well presented.

The speaker's delivery was at just the right pace for me and with plenty of colour. I like to listen while doing other things such as exercising and cooking and driving. That means the delivery needs to be good to hold my attention and she hit the spot for me.

I knew a bit about classical mythology before I started, but I knew a lot more by the time I finished. Great perspective and overview.

My only criticism is that I would have liked the stories and characters she covered to have been presented as such, rather than descriptions and discussions of the stories. Obviously these are academic style lectures, but I think a few complete stories mixed in would have added to the work. I would love to hear an expanded version where these lectures serve as a companion to properly narrated stories themselves. That would be awesome.

One very important thing to add - she stimulated an appetite in me to learn more. I bought several other works in the same series after this. (Not all were as good as this). In retrospect, I think this is one of the most valuable things about it.

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- Matt

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses