Great Minds of the Medieval World

Go beyond the typical philosophy course and explore the most fascinating minds of the Middle Ages, including great philosophers, prolific writers, and cultural movers.
Great Minds of the Medieval World is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 47.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Execllent. A thoroughly engaging set of lectures. Prof Armstrong is not only scholar with a deep mastery of her area of study, but she is also a skilled performer, making her presentations vivid and memorable.
Date published: 2021-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb distillation of lives and impacts. Lectures are well-organized and delivery is spot-on with no distracting hesitations or fumbling for words. While some have quibbled about lack of depth, given the brevity of the lectures, I found her choice of what material to include completely satisfactory. I was especially pleased that she included non-Christian thinkers because many courses on “Western” civilization often completely ignore these great men who profoundly influenced later European culture. I thoroughly enjoy her sense of humor and ability to distill concepts into relatable terms, i.e., seating St. Jerome at the far end of the table at a dinner party because he was a killjoy. This was my introduction to Ms. Armstrong, and I will certainly be subscribing to other courses. I listened to the audible version and found it completely satisfactory and highly recommend it for long drives or commutes, or while gardening, etc.
Date published: 2021-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A compelling Medieval Overview I listened once to the 24 lectures by Prof. Dorsey Armstrong and am now going through it a second time and taking notes. When I was casually listening, it seemed as if the information was rather sparse. Now that I am actually taking notes and typing them later, I am finding the information much more complete and thought provoking. Dr. Armstrong covers each of the great minds with a short biographical description of their background and society and then delves into their main contributions to the field of knowledge. She describes the influence these people had on one another to preserve classical works and to pursue doctrinal issues in Christianity. The ideas of each person are summarized as well as the effect these works had on the population in general. Her lecturing is done in a lively manner with humorous and illuminating anecdotes. This course is a wonderful way to become acquainted with the major themes circulating and evolving in theology through these times.
Date published: 2021-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Explore the Middle Ages Though Prominent People This course was a great jumping off point for learning about the Medieval world and the progression of knowledge into the age of the Renaissance. After completing this course I took a course on the Renaissance and the foundations learned in this course helped me immensely.
Date published: 2020-12-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Snapshot of Medieval History While an intriguing snapshot of several key figures throughout the Medieval world, the course's strongest strength - that it shows how interrelated the works of all of these figures are - is also its greatest weakness. It is unavoidable and completely understandable that half of the lectures are given over to key figures of the Christian tradition, but it is also somewhat tiresome and requires no little dedication to finish. In short, while I would not recommend this to a casual viewer, someone looking to get a complete overview of the Medieval world would do well to view this series upon completion of Dr. Armstrong's other courses on the subject.
Date published: 2020-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Great Lecture! I subscribed to TGC because of Dr. Armstrong's Black Death series. I am now working my way through all her lectures, I will watch anything she does! Great work!
Date published: 2020-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Teacher Professor Dorsey Armstrong is probably my favorite teacher among the many Great Courses I have. She brings history to life and truly helps me understand the times and people being talked about. The historical figures featured in this series are very interesting. I didn’t know some of the great minds introduced to me here but I’m glad I do now. I also know more about the ones I was familiar with. Thank you Dorsey and thank you Great Courses.
Date published: 2020-07-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I purchased this course as an introduction to the subject. I had little prior experience with medieval history. I agree with other reviewers that the course was a little superficial but served as a good introduction for further studies for me. Professor Armstrong presented the information clearly, was pleasant and obviously knowledgeable and enthusiastic. I would recommend the course only as an introduction to important medieval thinkers.
Date published: 2020-05-02
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Overview

The medieval era was a time of extraordinary advances in numerous fields of knowledge ranging from philosophy and theology to science, medicine, literature, and economics-as well as of revolutionary developments in education and the birth of the university. This fascinating epoch was not only a time of great innovation, it was the era in which the seeds of the modern West were sown. In the 24 lectures of Great Minds of the Medieval World, Professor Dorsey Armstrong of Purdue University guides you on a compelling journey into the lives of the vanguard thinkers of the Middle Ages. This course discusses the era's most outstanding innovators and visionaries whose great contributions included facilitating the achievements of others. In this remarkable gallery of great minds, you'll encounter the leading lights of a world-shaping era, exploring their unique contributions to knowledge and the growth of our civilization.

About

Dorsey Armstrong
Dorsey Armstrong

Every turning point in the medieval world discussed in these lectures shifted the flow of the river of history, bringing us ever closer to the modern world.

INSTITUTION

Purdue University

Dr. Dorsey Armstrong is Associate Professor of English and Medieval Literature at Purdue University, where she has taught since 2002. The holder of an A.B. in English and Creative Writing from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature from Duke University, she also taught at Centenary College of Louisiana and at California State University, Long Beach. Her research interests include medieval women writers, late-medieval print culture, and the Arthurian legend, on which she has published extensively, including the 2009 book Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur: A New Modern English Translation Based on the Winchester Manuscript and Gender and the Chivalric Community in Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur, published in 2003. In January 2009, she became editor-in-chief of the academic journal Arthuriana, which publishes the most cutting-edge research on the legend of King Arthur, from its medieval origins to its enactments in the present moment. Her current research project-Mapping Malory's Morte-is an exploration of the role played by geography in Malory's version of the story of King Arthur.

By This Professor

Great Minds of the Medieval World

Trailer

Augustine of Hippo

01: Augustine of Hippo

Begin the inquiry with Augustine, whose writings were a towering influence on the great medieval minds that followed. Trace Augustine's life, from his early experiences and restless spiritual inquiry to his conversion to Christianity and ministry. Study his core teachings on the nature of language, good and evil, and free will.

31 min
Ambrose, Jerome, and Gregory the Great

02: Ambrose, Jerome, and Gregory the Great

These three extraordinary figures, together with Augustine, are considered the fathers of the Christian church. Learn about Ambrose's contributions to aligning the ideals of the classical world with those of Christianity, Jerome's writings and his seminal Latin version of the Bible, and Gregory's influential "fourfold" model of reading scripture.

29 min
Boethius and the Consolation of Philosophy

03: Boethius and the Consolation of Philosophy

The remarkable Anicius Boethius combined a top-level political career with noteworthy contributions to education and philosophy. Assess his huge influence in defining the parameters of medieval education; his work to heal schisms in the early church; and his masterwork, the Consolation of Philosophy, written as he awaited execution on false charges.

29 min
Isidore of Seville and the Etymologies

04: Isidore of Seville and the Etymologies

Isidore of Seville left another extraordinary legacy to education. Trace the arc of his career, from his early immersion in the Greek and Roman classics to his advocacy of cathedral schools and his creation of the Etymologies, a massive encyclopedia of human knowledge and one of the most influential books of the Middle Ages.

30 min
The Venerable Bede

05: The Venerable Bede

The English monk Bede rose to become a revered and beloved teacher and a huge influence on future generations of scholars and educators. Following his seemingly miraculous survival of the plague, learn about his self-education and astonishing body of works, and study excerpts from his monumental Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

30 min
Alcuin, Charlemagne, and Alfred the Great

06: Alcuin, Charlemagne, and Alfred the Great

Now, investigate the remarkable partnership between the British scholar Alcuin of York and the Frankish emperor Charlemagne in creating a palace school and center of learning at Aachen. Grasp how both Charlemagne and Alfred the Great of England demonstrated a visionary commitment to learning by working to gather, preserve, and translate important texts.

30 min
Avicenna and the Golden Age of Islam

07: Avicenna and the Golden Age of Islam

The Islamic scholar Avicenna was one of history's great polymaths. Learn about his remarkable youthful accomplishments, his impact on medieval medicine through two core texts, and the astounding range of his writings. Explore three key elements of his thought: his views on "essence" and "existence," the problem of evil, and the mind/body dualism.

31 min
Alhacen and the Scientific Method

08: Alhacen and the Scientific Method

This lecture discusses another of the great minds of Islam's Golden Age. Investigate Alhacen's seminal theories of optics and vision, which laid the foundation for later optical science. Grasp his contribution to resolving classic scientific conundrums, and his role in developing scientific methodology, based in rigorous empirical testing of his own theories.

30 min
Averroes and Aristotelian Philosophy

09: Averroes and Aristotelian Philosophy

Averroes's extraordinary mind was shaped by the sophisticated society of medieval Muslim Spain. Follow his long scholarly service to the caliph of Marrakesh, which produced his hugely influential commentaries on Aristotle, reconciling Aristotle's philosophy with Islamic thought. Learn also about his illustrious legal career and contributions to medicine.

32 min
Maimonides and Jewish Law

10: Maimonides and Jewish Law

The writings of Maimonides, the Jewish scholar, philosopher, and jurist, remain a key component of Jewish culture and have influenced legal philosophy down to the modern day. Here, explore his cornerstone work on Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, his Guide for the Perplexed, which works to integrate Greek philosophy with Jewish theology, and his thought on the Via Negativa, or Negative Theology.

30 min
Rashi and Biblical Interpretation

11: Rashi and Biblical Interpretation

Discover the remarkable commentaries on the Torah and Talmud by the French Jewish rabbi Rashi-works considered definitive within the faith-in which he sought to thoroughly explicate the texts to readers. Using textual excerpts, learn how later scholar-writers known as "tosafists" worked to further elaborate and extend Rashi's commentaries.

29 min
Saladin and the Defeat of the Crusaders

12: Saladin and the Defeat of the Crusaders

Here, encounter one of history's most unusual political leaders: a brilliant military commander who worked for peace, and also demonstrated a deep interest in learning and faith. Track his ingenious strategy against the Crusaders at the battle of Hattin, and follow the aftermath of the conflict, events that reveal Saladin's visionary acts of humanity and broadmindedness.

30 min
Hildegard of Bingen

13: Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard, the medieval mystic and polymath, was recently recognized as both a saint and a Doctor of the Church. Follow her unique accomplishments as the only woman of her time to write officially sanctioned theological books and to preach openly. Investigate her remarkable visions and her achievements in music, medicine, and literature.

31 min
Bernard of Clairvaux

14: Bernard of Clairvaux

Like Pope Gregory the Great, Bernard of Clairvaux made a historic contribution through promoting and explicating important religious teachings. Learn about his seminal work in monastic reform, his great skill as an orator, his public role in resolving religious controversies of his time, and his influential writings on church doctrine.

30 min
Abelard and Heloise

15: Abelard and Heloise

This lecture highlights two of history's legendary intellects. Trace the career of Peter Abelard as a teacher and philosophical writer of vast impact, and the intellectual and religious life of his student, Héloïse, whose brilliance may have exceeded his own. Grasp how their tragic relationship ultimately served as a catalyst for their greatest intellectual achievements.

30 min
Peter Lombard and the Sentences

16: Peter Lombard and the Sentences

In the Sentences, Peter Lombard wrote the most important and commented-upon theological textbook of the Middle Ages. Study the book's key influences and Lombard's original thought on matters such as the Holy Spirit and the nature of Christ, and learn how the book offers a systematic framework for exploring important theological questions.

29 min
Thomas Aquinas

17: Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas's towering influence as a religious scholar extends from the Middle Ages to the present day. Investigate his magnum opus, the Summa Theologiae, focusing on his thought on Aristotelian philosophy and his famous arguments for God's existence. Learn also about his remarkable character and astounding powers of mind.

30 min
William of Ockham and John Duns Scotus

18: William of Ockham and John Duns Scotus

The work of two remarkable British scholars influenced both philosophical and political thought. Learn about Duns Scotus's provocative theories on the "univocity" of being and the notion of haecceity, or "thisness." Grasp how Ockham's thought anticipates modern ideas about knowledge, language, and the separation of church and state.

30 min
Geoffrey Chaucer and Dante Alighieri

19: Geoffrey Chaucer and Dante Alighieri

This lecture explores interesting parallels in the work and thought of two literary geniuses. Contemplate the range of Dante and Chaucer's writings, highlighting Dante's Divine Comedy and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and observe how the two authors employed a literary strategy that allowed them to speak about every level and aspect of society.

30 min
Francesco Petrarch

20: Francesco Petrarch

The Italian poet Petrarch stood at the crossroads of the medieval and early modern worlds. Learn about his life and key works, and his role in a growing cultural shift that placed new emphasis on the individual, a valuing of art and history, and an intersection of the secular and religious worlds.

31 min
Lorenzo de' Medici

21: Lorenzo de' Medici

Known as Il Magnifico, Lorenzo de' Medici was a statesman and civic leader of extraordinary farsightedness. Trace his remarkable diplomatic accomplishments as de facto political leader of Florence, as well as his activity as a patron of literature and art, founder of a school for sculpture, and promoter of continuing education.

31 min
Christine de Pisan

22: Christine de Pisan

The intellectually brilliant Christine de Pisan became Europe's first professional female writer. Learn about the extraordinary diversity of her work, her masterful love poetry, and her writings in response to the distorted representation of women in medieval literature, highlighting her allegorical text, The Book of the City of Ladies.

30 min
Sir Thomas Malory and Le Morte Darthur

23: Sir Thomas Malory and Le Morte Darthur

Malory's massive retelling of Arthurian legend reflects deeply on the social order of his times. Grasp how this remarkable text elaborates an ideal code of knightly conduct, and then "tests" it throughout the narrative, comprising a stark commentary on medieval political realities while offering an inspiring vision of what might yet be.

30 min
William Caxton and the Birth of Printing

24: William Caxton and the Birth of Printing

Conclude by assessing the remarkable contribution of England's first printer. Learn about the advent of movable type printing and Caxton's ingenious entrepreneurship in publishing, highlighting his role in shaping the tastes of the reading public, standardizing English, and making the works of the Middle Ages' great minds accessible.

32 min