Heroes and Legends

HeroesandLegendsHeroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature
Professor Thomas A. Shippey, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
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This is one of the most downright enjoyable of the many Great Courses that I have listened to.

Professor Shippey covers a wide range of heroes and heroines. He starts in the twentieth century with Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings and he end the course in the twenty-first century with Harry Potter. But in between he covers a wide range of heroes, near-heroes, and perhaps-heroes. (And please read “hero” here as a gender-neutral noun.) He discusses Odysseus, Aeneas, Beowulf, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Winston Smith from 1984, and James Bond. He talks about Guinevere, the Wife of Bath, Cressida, Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, Celie from The Color Purple, and Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series (The Girl With/Who…).

Shippey’s Scottish brogue, his Oxford don style of delivery, wit, and use of modern language to describe dialogue in stories like Beowulf or the Aeneid make this series a delight to listen to. His knowledge of today’s popular culture is comprehensive and impressive.

Shippey does describe many plots in detail, but this didn’t bother me. It was good to review the plots for those works I have read. For those I haven’t, I’m not likely to get to them given my massive to-be-read list, so the plot summary was welcome.

It was a delight listening to this lecture series.



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