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Publisher's Summary

What exactly is the Western literary canon? Why does it contain certain works and not others? And what do particular works in the Western canon tell us about the development of literature and civilization? Explore these and other thought-provoking lectures with a thorough investigation of more than 30 key works of the Western canon and the critical roles they played - and continue to play - in the development of Western literature. Over the course of 36 lectures, you'll discover the exciting stories behind these classic works and their often surprising connections with one another.
You'll gain invaluable insights into the stories behind these masterpieces and some of the important elements involved in canon formation, including the influence of editors on the New Testament, the influence of culture on Homer's and Virgil's epics, and the influence of education on J.R.R. Tolkien.
You'll also examine the unique connections between each work and its predecessors, allowing you to participate in a riveting literary discussion and examine how history's greatest writers have "talked" with one another, from the way Virgil's Aeneid echoes the Homeric epics the Iliad and the Odyssey to the way John Milton's Paradise Lost is a catalog of the canonic works that precede it, from Plato's "The Apology of Socrates" to William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
A panoramic look at literature, this course is your opportunity to witness a rich literary dialogue and take an amazing journey through thousands of years of literary beauty, grace, and humanity.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2008 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2008 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Gallila on 05-02-15

Nice set of lectures

This course is well-named. It presents the works in context, especially in context with each other. I enjoyed it, especially the segments on Jane Austen and Tolkien. The professor is clear, engaging and focused.

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5 of 7 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Stephen P. Manning on 08-11-16

Great content marred by post-modern self-hatred

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I shouldn't be surprised by now, given how infected the Academy is with the radical chic posturings of post-modernism. Here is a man, of prodigious knowledge, charged with the transmission of our Western cultural memory. And yet he drops, without any hint of critique or self-awareness, the petrie dish of terms which serve to undermine it: "DWEMs, as in Dead White European Males," Greek "sexism", "Eurocentrism," "xenophobia," and "Orientalism." He is so submerged in this decadent mindset that he appears to find these viciously ideological and precisely anti-Western terms as obvious and unproblematic as sunshine. And apparently most of his audience fails even to notice. Well, I did. And I'll pass.

Would you recommend The Western Literary Canon in Context to your friends? Why or why not?

No. See above. It's a shame, because the man knows his stuff. But his PoMo toss offs poisoned it.

What about Professor John M. Bowers’s performance did you like?

His performance was fine, if you edit out the ideology.

Did The Western Literary Canon in Context inspire you to do anything?

Yes, never rent anything from The Great Courses again. Too many of these academics take positions which, when carried through, lead to the de-legitimizing of the very civilization which makes their careers and paychecks possible.

Any additional comments?

How many Chinese or Indian or Islamic academics do you think would engage in this kind of self-invalidating virtue signalling? The West is in deep trouble.

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9 of 22 people found this review helpful

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