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Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature

Broaden your understanding of the concept of the hero in this course that examines these characters in the greater context of world history and culture.
Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 91.
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Rated 1 out of 5 by from Heroes and legends I still have not been able to access this on line. I have written to you but no one replied. So what is happening?
Date published: 2022-11-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from not what i had hoped the Prof is an excellent presenter, but the material & depth of same just wasn't better than ok. Some of his choices - such as lecture #1 (Frodo) (& arguably selected only because the author was the Prof's "neighbor"), #19 (Celie) - were rather poor choices. & why no Paul Bunyan, or (even though perhaps not of literature) Joan D'Arc? Sometimes i got the impression he just liked to hear himself talk.
Date published: 2022-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heroes and Legends I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the lectures of Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Character of Literature by Thomas A. Shippey. PhD. His presentations and knowledge of each character were illuminating and attention-holding. I am not familiar with all the characters discussed, but found myself using his lectures as a launching pad to find out more. Dr. Shippey is very well-spoken and displays great enthusiasm. I would highly recommend this course. I wish that Dr. Shippey would present other courses. I wish Dr Shippey could do an entire course concerning J.J.R Tolkien's works---especially The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion. A+A+A+A In The Lord of the Ring, I feel Frodo and Sam were both heroes. Frodo was the "appointed" hero. Sam, on the other hand, was the true hero who voluntarily offered himself to the quest. Sam went far and above what was expected of him. If it hadn't have been for Sam, Frodo could not have completed his mission. .
Date published: 2022-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun and thought provoking Shippey's course has a good mix of classic heroes such as Odysseus and modern ones such as James Bond or Harry Potter, explaining the timeless and the universal in human storytelling. Not only does he identify what makes each character a hero or heroine in very different times and settings, he uses insight and a sense of humor to reflect on our world: changing gender roles, for example, or how modern heroes are often battling the overpowering state of the 20th and 21st Centuries. The course focuses on Western stories, and Shippey's British background and American job help give him a transatlantic view. He has a number of female heroes and discusses feminist viewpoints, for example in modern rewrites of fairy tales. There is no need to have read the works being discussed. Enjoyable.
Date published: 2022-10-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A New Way of Thinking about Heroes and Literature This was an interesting and insightful look at literature I had studied previously as a literature major. It provided fresh perspectives on heroic figures
Date published: 2022-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course- well conceived and executed This is a very well thought out course, which has educational value both for history and literature classes. The instructor is superb, highly intelligent, very knowledgeable, and discusses each of these heroes/legends in the appropriate literary, cultural and historical context. Great Courses has some superb professors, but Dr Shippey stands out even in this group.
Date published: 2022-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Entertaining and educational We have been really enjoying this course. The mythological and historical figures chosen to illustrate the hero concept are interesting and diverse. The classification of Hero types is straightforward and intuitively satisfying. The review of literature and myths associated with each Hero type is helpful and stimulating. The presenter is to the point and has an enjoyabe dry wit.
Date published: 2022-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Entertaining and Enlightening Full disclosure: I'm a great fan of Thomas Shippey; I've read many of his books and enjoyed his numerous lectures and interviews online; I've a degree in literature and am very familiar with most of the heroes and legends under discussion in this series of lectures. Tom is brilliant and funny and I thoroughly enjoyed this Great Course!
Date published: 2022-03-09
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Overview

Heroes hold a special place in our imagination. Names such as Odysseus, Beowulf, and Queen Guinevere summon up mythic legends, while Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, and Huckleberry Finn are some of the most recognizable figures in all of world literature. What do these memorable characters have in common? And what impact have they made on world history? Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature is an opportunity to study some of the most memorable and important characters ever created. Taught by Professor Thomas A. Shippey of Saint Louis University-one of the most well-known scholars of J.R.R. Tolkien-these 24 lectures give fresh insight into what makes a hero and what makes a character successful.

About

Thomas A. Shippey

There's nothing to beat a new idea, a new angle, a new response-except a new idea that people have been waiting for without knowing it; a new idea that responds to an existing new situation.

INSTITUTION

St. Louis University
Dr. Thomas A. Shippey is Professor Emeritus at Saint Louis University, where he held the Walter J. Ong, S.J., Chair of Humanities. He holds a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge.\r\nProfessor Shippey has published more than 100 articles, mostly in the fields of Old and Middle English language and literature, and he has a long-standing interest in modern fantasy and science fiction. He is a regular reviewer for The Wall Street Journal on both medieval and modern topics, and he also writes for The Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books, among other journals. His books include The Road to Middle-earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created a New Mythology; Beowulf: The Critical Heritage (with Andreas Haarder); J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century; and his edited collection The Shadow-Walkers: Jacob Grimm’s Mythology of the Monstrous.\r\nHe has given invited lectures and keynote speeches at conferences in at least 25 states and more than 10 European countries. He appeared on an often-replayed television program, The Story of English, hosted by Robert McCrum and Robert MacNeil, and he was an adviser on pronunciation for Peter Jackson’s three Lord of the Rings movies.

By This Professor

Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature
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Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature

Trailer

Frodo Baggins-A Reluctant Hero

01: Frodo Baggins-A Reluctant Hero

What makes certain characters successful? Begin your study with a look at Frodo Baggins, the hobbit-hero from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In considering what makes him a hero-and how he runs counter to our notions of the traditional hero-you'll see how changing cultural values connect to heroism.

34 min
Odysseus-The Trickster Hero

02: Odysseus-The Trickster Hero

Go back to the beginning of world literature to explore what made Homer's traveling hero such a powerful figure. Odysseus's story set the model for countless road narratives, but his character, which is surprisingly sly and resourceful, is unique. Here, follow him on some of his many adventures.

31 min
Aeneas-The Straight Arrow

03: Aeneas-The Straight Arrow

Turn now to the Roman straight arrow. Aeneas's story takes him from the Trojan War to the courtship of Queen Dido and on to the founding of Rome. In writing this epic, Virgil helped shape the Roman Empire's sense of self. It also shows how old legends provide the inspiration for new tales.

32 min
Guinevere-A Heroine with Many Faces

04: Guinevere-A Heroine with Many Faces

Trace Guinevere's adulterous affair with Lancelot and consider what effects it had on cultural values and Western history. As a powerful woman in the heart of King Arthur's court, Guinevere is an intriguing heroine-passionate, strong-willed, and complex in a way that still captures our imagination today.

31 min
The Wife of Bath-An Independent Woman

05: The Wife of Bath-An Independent Woman

Chaucer worked harder on the Wife of Bath than on any other character in The Canterbury Tales, leaving us not one but four separate perspectives on one of literature's most memorable female characters. Discover what Chaucer reveals about her, the time she lives in, and the surprising complexity of her character.

30 min
Cressida-A Love Betrayed

06: Cressida-A Love Betrayed

Cressida is an archetypal femme fatale, embroiled in a love triangle between her true love, Troilus, and the bad boy, Diomedes. Through the lens of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and the Scottish poet Robert Henryson, discover what makes Cressida tick-why does she send Troilus a "Dear John" letter? What doesn't she understand about love?

31 min
Beowulf-A Hero with Hidden Depths

07: Beowulf-A Hero with Hidden Depths

Beowulf is not an easy poem to understand, but Beowulf is not an easy character to understand. Here, analyze how this classic male hero-a big, strong, monster killer-may have a hidden vulnerability. Then, look at what insights Beowulf's story offers about life and death, the limits of self-reliance, and the path to achieving wisdom.

32 min
Thor-A Very Human God

08: Thor-A Very Human God

Thor may seem like another classic male hero-the god of thunder in Norse mythology and a superhero today-yet the Icelandic poems and stories from the 13th century undercut the image of Thor as a straightforward hero. These amusing tales will give you a new window into a character you thought you knew.

31 min
Robin Hood-The Outlaw Hero

09: Robin Hood-The Outlaw Hero

Who was Robin Hood? He's an anomaly in this course because his story cannot be traced to a single work or figure. Perhaps because of these gaps in the story, he seems to be a bundle of contradictions. Delve into the politics, religion, and society of Robin Hood's origins to understand his character and lasting appeal.

29 min
Don Quixote-The First of the Wannabes

10: Don Quixote-The First of the Wannabes

Turn next to Don Quixote, a wannabe knight-errant whose infamous exploits mark a pivotal moment in the history of literature. Explore his fantastic adventures and meet Sancho Panza, who is perhaps literature's first antihero. See why this novel is so innovative and how it has influenced writers in the centuries since its publication.

31 min
Robinson Crusoe-A Lone Survivor

11: Robinson Crusoe-A Lone Survivor

Robinson Crusoe might be the most flawed hero in the course-a colonizer and a slave-owning capitalist. Why, then, is he such an enduring character? Is it the desert-island story? Or is there something inherent in Crusoe's character, beyond the flaws, that has helped him stand the test of time?

30 min
Elizabeth Bennet-A Proper Pride

12: Elizabeth Bennet-A Proper Pride

Meet the charming heroine from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The story of her complicated relationship with Mr. Darcy is a realistic Cinderella story and has lent itself to numerous adaptations, including Bridget Jones's Diary. Consider the integral role that money and social class play in this classic tale of love and romance.

31 min
Natty Bumppo and Woodrow Call-Frontier Heroes

13: Natty Bumppo and Woodrow Call-Frontier Heroes

Shift your attention to two very American heroes: Natty Bumppo from James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans and Woodrow Call from Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove series. These frontier heroes bring to life the conflict between Anglo- and Native American cultures-and capture a reality often glossed over by the romance of the Wild West.

32 min
Uncle Tom-The Hero as Martyr

14: Uncle Tom-The Hero as Martyr

The name "Uncle Tom" has complex associations today, but Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel had a truly powerful impact when it was published in 1852. Explore the historical circumstances of slavery that inspired Stowe's novel, and then consider the fortitude that makes this meek, long-suffering character a hero.

32 min
Huckleberry Finn-Free Spirit of America

15: Huckleberry Finn-Free Spirit of America

Join Huck Finn on his American odyssey down the Mississippi River. Although the story at first seems to be the fun adventure of a free-spirited hero, you'll explore the moral complexities of 19th-century America as Huck struggles with the tension between his conscience and the social circumstances in which he grew up.

30 min
Sherlock Holmes-The First Great Detective

16: Sherlock Holmes-The First Great Detective

We are familiar with Sherlock Holmes's methodology-using clues, facts, evidence, and reason to solve the case. Here, go inside the world of the 19th century and see what circumstances paved the way for such a hero. Then, turn to some of Sherlock's most exciting cases.

31 min
Dracula-The Allure of the Monster

17: Dracula-The Allure of the Monster

The 19th century produced a radically different kind of hero: the spooky and fantastical Dracula. After observing the structural complexity of this novel, you'll examine the hidden fears and repressed sensuality that led Bram Stoker to create this vampire and his seductive brides. Then ponder Dracula's lasting effect on world literature.

33 min
Mowgli-The Wolf Child

18: Mowgli-The Wolf Child

A boy in the woods, raised by wolves and living by the law of the jungle: This story is familiar to us, thanks to Rudyard Kipling's classic stories and the later Disney film. Revisit the original stories to see what they tell us about humanity, morality, imperialism, and political responsibility.

30 min
Celie-A Woman Who Wins Through

19: Celie-A Woman Who Wins Through

We've seen that heroes don't always have to be gods or queens or the social elite. Dirt poor in Georgia in the 1930s, Celie-the heroine from Alice Walker's The Color Purple-is at the bottom of the social totem pole, yet she exhibits remarkable heroism in the way she overcomes the forces pressing against her.

31 min
Winston Smith-The Hero We Never Want to Be

20: Winston Smith-The Hero We Never Want to Be

Winston Smith, the central figure in George Orwell's nightmare scenario, 1984, is fearful, undernourished, and oppressed by the state-not exactly the image we conjure up when we think of the word "hero." Dive into the dystopia of Big Brother and Ingsoc and find out what makes Winston worthy of being called a hero.

32 min
James Bond-A Dangerous Protector

21: James Bond-A Dangerous Protector

Thanks to novels, movies, and an array of charismatic actors, nearly everyone in the developed world knows about James Bond and how he drinks his martini-"shaken, not stirred." But who is Bond? What makes him tick? Look beyond the girls, gadgets, and glamour and discover the secret to the James Bond franchise.

30 min
Fairy-Tale Heroines-New-Style Princesses

22: Fairy-Tale Heroines-New-Style Princesses

Cinderella. Snow White. Rapunzel. These fairy-tale heroines are imbued in our cultural consciousness. What lessons are they meant to teach? And do these lessons align with our current cultural values? Study the composite fairy-tale heroine, both in the classic fairy tales and in modern revisions from authors such as Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood.

33 min
Lisbeth Salander-Avenging Female Fury

23: Lisbeth Salander-Avenging Female Fury

Lisbeth Salander, the heroine from the popular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, seems to be an original character well suited to our times-hip, ingenious, computer savvy. But as you'll discover in this lecture, her character also has echoes of ancient myths, from the Greek Furies to the Scandinavian Valkyries.

32 min
Harry Potter-Whistle-Blower Hero

24: Harry Potter-Whistle-Blower Hero

Finish your course with one of the most unexpected hits of our time-and a smash hit at that. What can the surprising success of Harry Potter teach us about successful heroes? And what do his battles against Lord Voldemort tell us about our world today and the need for love, faith, and inner heroism?

34 min