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The sections on European, Asian, and Native American mys were awesome. I could tell that the scholars had really spent a significant amount of time to organize the lectures into a cohesive and comprehensible course. The section on African myths needs development - I liked what I learned of the stories, themselves, but the course was significantly lacking in organization and attempting to connect the themes into larger issues of relevance. my favorite section was on Native American myths. It was obvious that the scholar had spent a lifetime researching and teaching these stories. The way these were presented stands in marked contrast to the these-are-some-cool-things-I've learned-about approach of the African myths.
40 of 41 people found this review helpful
Multi-lecturer courses are always prone to fluctuations in quality… But 3 out of 4 ain't bad!
Kathryn McClymond covers the myths of ancient Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia. Her lectures are fantastic, offering a good balance of storytelling and interpretation. She tells the stories, then uses them to construct a coherent cosmology of each culture, so you get a sense of their view of the real world and of the cosmos. It's also nice to have a woman's perspective on this stuff; history is still so male dominated, and she calls due attention to the sexism inherent in a lot of the myths, and what it says about the relevant culture.
After her, Julius Bailey, who covers African myths, is a letdown. African myth is a huge subject, so his task is difficult. But he chooses to organize his myths by topic, NOT by culture, so it's impossible to get that sense of a coherent cosmology for any one culture. He's also not a good orator; he trips over the emphasis of every third sentence.
Andre LaFleur's lectures on Asian and Pacific myths picks things right up again though. He provides a good balance of story and interpretation, and he steers clear of the typical pitfalls of a white guy teaching "foreign" cultures -- avoiding essentialism, or romanticizing the role of Westerners in documenting the material, for instance.
Grant Voth's lectures on Native American myths are some of the best of the pack, even though -- according to his CV in the PDF -- he doesn't seem to have any formal experience with the topic. His task is like Bailey's, but he organizes his lectures by broad regions wherein there is a common mythic tradition (with variations), and so it's possible to get a sense of each culture -- or family of cultures, if you will -- and their cosmology.
All in all, I recommend it -- you're bound to learn a lot.
156 of 164 people found this review helpful
What did you like most about Great Mythologies of the World?
This audiobook is a great overview of world mythology. It contains lectures (of around 30-40 minutes long) on mythology from Greece, Rome, The Norse, The Bible, Egypt, Celtic Ireland, The Middle East, The Far East, Africa and The Americas.
Prior to this course I knew very little about mythology. I am keen to learn more about mythology and religion at the moment because I want to increase my mythological and religious literacy so that I am better placed to appreciate some of the great works of world literature. I have learnt much from this course. I particularly enjoyed learning about Western mythology because I mostly read Western Literature. I also enjoyed learning about the similarities and differences between one culture and another.
I have listened to 30ish different courses from The Great Courses now, and my favorite courses multiple times. I don't like to be a hater but the lecturer on African Mythology really seemed out of his depth (I honestly wondered if he was standing in for someone else). The other professors spoke confidently, as though they were talking to a group without any notes, yet still managing to be methodical and enthralling. Professor Bailey was obviously reading word for word from a script. He constantly got words mixed up and his regular mid-clause pauses were very off-putting.
Additionally, the structure of the African lectures was poor; whereas the other professors expanded of the myths by giving historical, political and cultural contexts and exploring the possible interpretations and the implications of the myths, Professor Bailey seemed to change the subject every 2 minutes, seemingly hellbent on getting through all of the African Myths ever created with far too little time for building the context, interpretation, and the impact the myth had on the various cultures of Africa. Consequently, after the third or forth lecture from him, I had to hop over to The Far East.
I still got about a days worth of good lectures, and overall I am happy with that. If you want to learn more about the various heroes, ancient gods and how the various ancient peoples of the world came up with explanations for the big questions then this is for you.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
There can’t be many books that try to cover so much. It was a great way of broadening my awareness and understanding. It has sparked a number of new interests.
Book is let down a little by having no central narrative so at times feels like a slightly disjointed set of short stories. It is also true that some professors are better orators than others.
fantastic learning! was great to hear about myths from across the world and be able to put together common topics and even similarly described creatures.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful