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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 56.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting topic This course is pitched to high school students. This is not a criticism, it's just a statement so that people know. It is very interesting but short of details and more difficult concepts. It also spends a lot of time repeating information and keeping an uninterrupted context which is didactically correct but for an informed adult it's repetitive.
Date published: 2022-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really well done. This course is filled with fun facts and more facts. I am not done but so far it has met all my expectations. It is a time period that I was not familiar with and that is a shame. There were so many brilliant people that I had no idea existed. Bravo to the instructor.
Date published: 2022-04-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Lots of topics This course devoted 30 minutes to 24 different topics. Trying to provide a thumbnail sketch of each person during the lecture . The professor is quite knowledgeable about this era, but each lecture seemed to be a bit light on the subject matter. One wishes that the lectures could have been expanded to cover more ground .
Date published: 2022-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best Lecturer I have had Dorsey Armstrong is the best teacher I have ever had anywhere. She had a way of teaching that approaches the course in a more relaxed way leaving the heady approach behind. She shows her great understanding of the topic at hand. I have learned a lot from these lectures about the great minds of the medieval period something that all my past education experience had not covered.
Date published: 2022-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great introduction to this topic. I downloaded the audio version a couple of months ago and I continue to replay some of the most interesting sessions. It deals with the great mediaeval thinkers in the Middle Ages in Europe, the Levant and North Africa, including some of the leading figures in the Islamic enlightenment. It did not just deal with thinkers with ideas and new philosophical approaches but also with statesmen like Charlemagne and King Alfred who created the environment for study and the exchange of ideas.
Date published: 2022-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lucid, ardent, erudite, and fluent Lucid, ardent, erudite, fluent : for all these qualities we need to listen to Professor Armstrong because she illuminates areas of ignorance which are dangerous in a fraught world polarised by false impressions and caricatures. For my part I am deeply indebted to her for illuminating a world that was only known to me as shards. I cannot recommend this course too strongly to all who succumb to the temptation of hostility on the basis of the only partially understood and thus usually colossally distorted. This course should be compulsory to any one who aspires to public office. Benedict Cowell Benedetto
Date published: 2021-10-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Repetitive and shallow This course might have value if it were an introductory lecture series at a college. But it fails to recognize that any lecture can be replayed any time one wants in the Great Courses. Instead of spending a third of each lecture reprising the last lecture and previewing the next one, it would have been much more useful had the lecturer delved more deeply into the actual works of the people being presented in the given lecture.
Date published: 2021-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Professor I have taken all the Great Courses taught by Dorsey Armstrong and every one has been a delight. She is extremely knowledgable and engaging and has a great sense of humour. The topic of this course is well chosen and presented.
Date published: 2021-07-12
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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

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

INSTITUTION

Purdue University

Dorsey Armstrong is a Professor of English and Medieval Literature at Purdue University, where she is also the head of the Department of English. She received her PhD in Medieval Literature from Duke University. She is the executive editor of the academic journal Arthuriana, which publishes cutting-edge research on the legend of King Arthur, from its medieval origins to its modern enactments. She is a recipient of the Charles B. Murphy Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, Purdue’s top undergraduate teaching honor. Her other Great Courses include The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague and The Medieval World.

By This Professor

King Arthur: History and Legend
854
The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague
854
Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything
854
Years That Changed History: 1215
854
Great Minds of the Medieval World
854
The Black Death: New Lessons from Recent Research
854
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