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Publisher's Summary

This course offers an overview of the English language that is literary, historical, cultural, political, and scientific in its scope and designed to give you greater insight into the written and spoken word.The lectures provide a thorough understanding of the history of the English language - from its origins as a dialect of the Germanic-speaking peoples through the literary and cultural documents of its 1,500-year span to the state of American speech today.
Professor Lerer defines concepts by illustrating them with copious examples. He often speaks in the dialect appropriate to each lecture - be it Old English, Chaucer’s Middle English, or the colloquial style of Mark Twain’s most unforgettable characters.

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

©1998 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1998 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 02-26-15


Professor Lerer may rub you the wrong way a little when you first hear his voice; he did me.

I had that reaction, I think, because he enunciates each word with such excruciating clarity and exactness that it becomes at times distracting from the actual content of the lecture.

It was only a little further into the course, however, that this very trouble, that is the shifting of focus between the meaning of the sentences/sections/thoughts and the individual words (free from direct context, highlighted by the intentionality with which he executes them) became a source of joy and reflection that added tremendously to the experience. I'm sure this was one of his goals in constructing these polished lectures.

His apparently deep knowledge of the pronunciation of old and middle English, including the various dialects, makes listening to his readings of Chaucer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf, Cadmon and even Shakespeare (reconstructed to sound as it would have if you were hearing it circa 1600) really thrilling.

I'm going to find his other courses after reviewing this one. Highly recommended!

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Ken on 09-24-13

Fascinating and informative

I listened to the first version of this course on cassette tapes way back in the day and found it truly fascinating. The second version contains much of the original material, and it was fun to be reminded of the things I had forgotten. It is a testament to the original course that I also remembered quite a lot! The new material at the end brings the history of English up to date by covering the ways in which new technologies are transforming the language. Professor Lerer presents the lectures at a perfect pace, uses great examples to illustrate abstract concepts, and clearly loves this material. His enthusiasm is infectious. Highly recommended as a way to learn not only the history of English but also some widely applicable principles of philology and linguistics.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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