Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature : The Great Courses: Western Literature

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor David J. Schenker
  • Series: The Great Courses: Western Literature
  • 18 hrs and 24 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

The ancient Greeks left the world that came after them - particularly our own and our ways of seeing it - an incalculable legacy. Mention politics, philosophy, law, medicine, history, even the visual arts, and we barely scratch the surface of what we owe this extraordinary culture. How can we best learn about these people who have given us so much, who have deepened and enriched our understanding of ourselves, and whose world remains far closer than we might imagine?
The 36 lectures of this sparkling series from a frequently honored teacher is an outstanding place to begin, as Professor Schenker opens up to us the epics of Homer; the dramatic genius of the playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes; and the poems of Archilochus, Sappho, and many others. He includes some of the world's greatest works of history and philosophy, and he gives rhetoric and oratory their proper due, as well.
Beginning with Homer and the two great epics credited to him, the Iliad and the Odyssey - including a provocative discussion of whether Homer even existed - Professor Schenker offers a wide-ranging overview of the subject that is both instructive and entertaining. His lectures are rich in anecdote, so that the works are set against a vivid backdrop of their times, as exemplified by his description of the debut of Aeschylus's the Eumenides, first staged in Athens in 458 B.C.E.
You'll learn that the presentation was said to have elicited full-blown terror in its audience. When the Furies - the hideous, avenging spirits roused from sleep by the ghost of the murdered Clytemnestra - appeared in the audience, men are said to have shrieked and fainted, with pregnant women miscarrying on the spot.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great Overview of Greek Literature!

Would you listen to Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature again? Why?

I might listen to this lecture again selectively, but I probably would buy a hard copy book (with more actual quotations from the Masterpieces) next time.


What was one of the most memorable moments of Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature?

How (and where) the "Argonautica" fits in the timeline of Greek Literature (it is Hellenistic, not Classic, greek).


What does Professor David J. Schenker bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I very much appreciated the Professor's selection of quotations and his occasional quotes from the original Greek. This helped me appreciate his depth of understanding of the topic and also why the original is never really reachable in translation (as is true of Chinese and Japanese). He also has great passion for the topic and this makes what is normally taught as boring old stories come alive.


Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. It is better taken in 2-3 lecture sequences at a time.


Any additional comments?

Really appreciated the chronological presentation (now I have a framework) and how Professor relates later Masterpieces to earlier traditions.

NOTE: This book can be listened to at 1.25x without loss of content but may be appreciated better at 1.0x.

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- Christopher

Excellent course

If you could sum up Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature in three words, what would they be?

He gets it


What did you like best about this story?

Few academics fully understand the context of the works at the time they were produced and performed. Professor Schenker understands and articulates the performance aspects of the work. Homer was sung, not just recited. It was a form of entertainment and was focused on the ancestry of the audience. This is highly overlooked.


What does Professor David J. Schenker bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Well constructed and well preformed lectures hold the interest of the listener just as the works discussed were designed to hold the interest of the audiences of the time.


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- Bernie Cullen

Book Details

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