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Publisher's Summary

Myths provide the keys to truly grasping the ways that principles, rituals, codes, and taboos are woven into the fabric of a particular society or civilization.
It's through myths that we can answer these and other fundamental questions: How was the universe created, and why? What is the purpose of evil? Why is society organized the way it is? How did natural features like rivers, mountains, and oceans emerge?
This entertaining and illuminating course plunges you into the world's greatest myths. Taking you from ancient Greece and Japan to North America and Africa to New Zealand and Great Britain, these 36 lectures reveal mythology's profound importance in shaping nearly every aspect of culture. You'll also discover the hidden connections between them - a comparative approach that emphasizes the universality of myths across cultures.
Along with the stories themselves, you'll encounter fascinating characters, including Herakles, the ancient Greek hero whose life illustrates the idea that all heroic stories have a similar structure; Loki, the shape-shifting trickster who introduces the concept of time into the Norse realm of Asgard; and King Arthur, the Celtic lord and founder of the Knights of the Round Table.
Myths, according to Professor Voth, are "gifts from the ancestors to be cherished." His enchanting lectures are the perfect way for you to celebrate these cherished gifts, inviting you to develop your own interpretations of these age-old tales, as well as to ponder the role that myths - both ancient and everyday - play in your own life.
©2010 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2010 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Walter on 01-29-14

Five stars, with some caveats

This course is an excellent introduction and overview of world mythology. It covers a lot of ground, and does it well. While I would recommend it to anyone, I need to add the following caveats:

Because it covers so much ground, it moves as a very brisk speed, and in some cases I would have preferred to get more depth (for example, more detail on some of the hero myths, and more discussion of the psychological interpretation of myth, a la Rank, Jung and Campbell). Dr. Voth did a really good job of covering the material, but there's enough here for two or even three lecture series.

Second, I found my interest waning slightly in during the latter part of the course. This may have been because (while he never says so) Prof. Voth seems to be suggesting a kind of monomyth for trickster myths (similar to the monomyth of the hero). While I thought the argument and evidence presented for the hero monomyth was compelling, it seemed that the trickster myths were much more diverse (hard to see an parallel between the Norse Loki and the African Anansi as presented here, for example).

Still, the course material was very engaging, and I will definitely be broadening my study of mythology as a result.

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19 of 19 people found this review helpful


By Angela on 10-29-13

Good introduction to world mythology

This is an eclectically organized analysis of myths from around the world, focusing on patterns which come up in all myths, regardless of location. Voth speaks about creation myths, tricksters, heroes and heroines, destruction myths, and how we can look at all these patterns to see some basic truths about ourselves as humans.

I learned a great deal from this series of lectures, though it left me feeling a bit frustrated. Voth, by focusing on the analytical side and on the patterns of myth, did not have time to tell the myths in their entirety. As such, I am ready to devour books upon books telling the actual stories that he merely touched upon.

I definitely do recommend this course for anyone who knows little of world mythology and is curious to learn more, or wants some direction to go for their research.

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Exidia on 09-28-14

Really easy way to learn!

What did you like best about this story?

It's not a story, but a series of lectures about how humans have used myths to explain things they couldn't understand. You have to engage brain in order to appreciate it, but it is well worth the effort.

What about Professor Grant L. Voth’s performance did you like?

He has a lively style and is a good, listenable lecturer.

Any additional comments?

The only reason it didn't get full marks was that the man who introduces each lecture shouts in the most annoying way!!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful


By Diogenes on 06-25-17

A very knowledgeable and enthusiastic lecturer who might be able to structure this better.

The thematic structure makes this course unnecessarily complex and difficult to follow.

I would have preferred it if the course covered all of the themes upfront and in detail and then when through each set of myths or cultures as a collective. This would give the listener more time to become familiar with the characters and more cultural specific elements of each myth or set of myths. Of course while going through each "set" of myths by region or culture the lecturer could make reference to the themes (or analytical tools) referred to at the beginning.

Unfortunately of the 25 or so Great Courses that I have completely (several more than once) this is the most difficult to follow, not because of its content, but because of its structure.

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