Myth in Human History : The Great Courses: Western Literature

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Grant L. Voth
  • Series: The Great Courses: Western Literature
  • 18 hrs and 27 mins
  • Lecture

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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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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- Walter

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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- Angela

Book Details

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