Myth in Human History

Discover the truths hidden within the world's most enduring myths in the entertaining and illuminating Myth in Human History. Delivered by engaging storyteller and award-winning Professor Grant L. Voth.
Myth in Human History is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 53.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from *Lots*of Myths; Analysis of Variable Worth If you love mythology, you may well love this course. Professor Voth relates lots and lots (and lots) of myths from a wide variety of cultures. Many of these are fascinating, and this is by far the bulk of the course. Thankfully, relatively little time is spent on analysis. Occasional wise insights peak through, but I found this area to be disappointing more often than not. There is much Freudian and other psychoanalytic silliness, and the idea of a single underlying pattern for world mythology - the "monomyth" theory - is absurd both on its face and once examined in detail. Our professor knows an astonishing amount about myths, and shares many perspectives, historical tidbits, and recommended readings with us. The lecture titles accurately represent their content, but I often found the presentation to be rambling and monotonous. It was frequently difficult to maintain my attention. I am glad to have taken the course (yes, I did finish it), but I wish it had been shorter and more focused. Do read through the course description and the very variable reviews before you decide.
Date published: 2021-04-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting but boring The material was basically what I had expected. However, after a few myths were presented it just felt like the same lecture over and over. The times, cultures, and myths were different but not the general presentation. Professor Voth seemed very knowledgeable, but continually reverted to the same themes and explanations. I was able to extract additional knowledge and worked hard for additional understanding. Will try another approach the next time I delve into this or a related topic.
Date published: 2021-04-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from too much & not enough lots of detail on many obscure myths, but some surprising omissions. Unless you're a fan of creation & truly ancient myths, you will find much of this course (as i did) boring. I would consider myself a beginner in this area, but to have nothing on the Tower of Babel, Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed - & i'm sure others that simply don't come to mind at this time - is a serious shortcoming, especially since there's no secret the majority of the audience is US. And, to throw in - allegedly because in some way/interpretation she's a hero (though this course is about myths, not heroes) - Hester Pryn (Scarlett Letter) was totally inappropriate.
Date published: 2021-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very infomative and cohesive. I have much of Great Courses material and several on myth. This was the most engaging and informative of them all.
Date published: 2020-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I'm on Round 2 This is an excellent course for anyone interested in mythology as a whole, or in commonalities between mythical traditions. Professor Grant is an engaging speaker, and I wish I'd gotten the video version instead of audio only because I suspect I missed some cool visuals. I am listening to it a second time and picking up new details and new traditions to study, so much like a book good enough to read over and over, this course is one of the few I'll likely revisit more than once.
Date published: 2019-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A rare treat! This course is delicious, well-organized, wide-ranging, and draws from mythology the world over. Prof. Voth's obvious love and enthusiasm for his subject just scooped me in. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2019-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fine overview Fine overview of subject matter. Good course. Good presentation
Date published: 2019-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Course! I enjoyed Myth in Human History very much! I viewed several lessons each day starting when the day I received them and continued until I finished them. The instructor was down to earth and spoke with intelligence and wit. I thought I knew, but I learned a lot more, and some of the scenarios he posed made me thing and associate them with current events. All in all, a fun course!
Date published: 2019-02-12
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Overview

Discover the truths hidden within the world's most enduring myths in the entertaining and illuminating Myth in Human History. Delivered by engaging storyteller and award-winning Professor Grant L. Voth, these 36 lectures are a comprehensive survey of great myths and the diverse cultures behind them. Taking you from the islands of ancient Greece and Japan to the plains of North America and Africa to the shores of New Zealand and Great Britain, this course will have you looking at&;amp;-and understanding&;amp;-mythology in startling new ways.

About

Dr. Grant L. Voth
Dr. Grant L. Voth

No idea of any single culture will ever capture the entire human sense of god, or creation, or the hero; and to get a more complete human picture, we have to look at the myths of many cultures.

INSTITUTION

Monterey Peninsula College
Dr. Grant L. Voth, is Professor Emeritus at Monterey Peninsula College. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Greek, he received his Master of Arts degree in English Education from St. Thomas College and his doctorate in English from Purdue University. Professor Voth was the Monterey Peninsula Students' Association Teacher of the Year and the recipient of the first Allen Griffin Award for Excellence in Teaching in Monterey County. Professor Voth is the author of more than 30 articles and books on subjects ranging from Shakespeare to Edward Gibbon to modern American fiction, including the official study guides for 26 of the plays in the BBC Television Shakespeare project. He created a series of mediated courses in literature and interdisciplinary studies, one of which won a Special Merit Award from the Western Educational Society for Telecommunication. Professor Voth's other Great Courses include A Day's Read, The History of World Literature, Myth in Human History, and The Skeptic's Guide to the Great Books.

By This Professor

Myth and Meaning

01: Myth and Meaning

Begin your journey into the fascinating world of myths. What exactly are myths? How have they shaped cultures? What hidden truths lie inside ancient myths like that of Herakles or contemporary ones like the alligators that "supposedly" lurk in New York City sewers? Find out in this lecture.

min
The Continuing Importance of Myth

02: The Continuing Importance of Myth

Preview the types of myths you'll explore in the coming lectures, including creation myths, heroic myths, trickster myths, and myths about sacred spaces. Then, conclude the lecture with a look at how contemporary literature like the Harry Potter novels is indebted to myths as old as the human race.

31 min
Creation Myths

03: Creation Myths

Start learning about great creation myths by examining their major "genres," including creation from nothing; creation by mud from a primal sea; and creation through the breaking of a cosmic egg. Then, see these creation myths in action with two from Egypt that date back to around 2300 B.C.E.

30 min
Mesopotamian Creation - Enuma Elish

04: Mesopotamian Creation - Enuma Elish

Neighbors to the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians possessed their own fascinating myths. The most prominent of these: the Enuma Elish, in which the cosmos was organized from the body of the murdered goddess Tiamat. Here, investigate several interpretations of this story and how they've helped us better understand its cultural importance.

31 min
Hebrew Creation Myths

05: Hebrew Creation Myths

Turn now to the most familiar creation myth of all: the first three chapters of the book of Genesis. Whether you view these events as myths or sacred stories, place them into the larger context of ancient Hebrew culture by drawing comparisons with other creation myths from around the world.

31 min
Emergence and World - Parent Creation Myths

06: Emergence and World - Parent Creation Myths

Broaden your grasp of creation myths by studying two more variations. The first is a Navajo example of an emergence myth, in which creatures journey to Earth through underground worlds. The second is a Maori version of the world-parent myth, where a parental unity breaks apart into separate individuals.

30 min
Cosmic Egg and Ex Nihilo Creation Myths

07: Cosmic Egg and Ex Nihilo Creation Myths

The world emerges from a cracked egg. Or it comes from a vast nothingness. These are the respective backbones of cosmic egg and ex nihilo creation myths, both of which you learn more about in this lecture on the Chinese myth of P'an Ku and the Mayan Popol Vuh.

30 min
Earth-Diver and Dismembered God Creation Myths

08: Earth-Diver and Dismembered God Creation Myths

Finish your tour of creation myths with a closer look at two distinct approaches: a Huron tale in which the world is born out of mud dug from the depths of a primeval sea, and a Norse tale in which the torn body of the frost giant Ymir creates the cosmos.

30 min
Mesopotamian and Hebrew Flood Myths

09: Mesopotamian and Hebrew Flood Myths

Water is the womb of life—but it can also be the grave to which life returns. In flood myths, a catastrophic deluge punishes humanity and, in the process, recreates it. Unpack the meaning behind two popular flood myths: the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh and Noah's story from Genesis.

30 min
Other Flood Myths

10: Other Flood Myths

All flood stories are nuanced in ways that reflect the values and fears of their particular civilizations. In this lecture, Professor Voth compares and contrasts six lesser-known flood myths from five unique world cultures: classical Greece and Rome, India, China, and Mesoamerica.

31 min
Myths of Cosmic Destruction

11: Myths of Cosmic Destruction

Apocalyptic myths, at their core, are creation myths in reverse. Discover more about these harrowing—and surprisingly hopeful—stories by focusing on the Indian myth of the last days of the cosmos, and the Norse tale of Ragnarok: an epic battle involving gods, fallen heroes, giants, and monsters.

30 min
Greek and Norse Pantheons

12: Greek and Norse Pantheons

If it weren't for gods and goddesses, there would be no such thing as myths. So what defines a god or goddess? What do the lives and purposes of all-powerful deities like Zeus, Demeter, Apollo, Odin, and Thor reveal about the Greek and Germanic peoples who worshiped them?

32 min
The Great Goddess Remembered?

13: The Great Goddess Remembered?

Learn about three myths that support the controversial hypothesis that ancient cultures once valued goddesses over gods. The "great goddesses" you meet: Au Co from Vietnam, the White Buffalo Woman from the Brulé Sioux of North America, and Massassi from the Wahungwe of Zimbabwe.

31 min
The Goddess - Inanna and Dumuzi

14: The Goddess - Inanna and Dumuzi

During the Agricultural Revolution, the role of the "great goddess" dramatically changed. Uncover a powerful example of this change in the Sumerian myth of the fertility goddess Inanna and her consort, the shepherd Dumuzi. Then, approach this tale from a psychological standpoint to learn what it says about individuality.

31 min
The Goddess - Isis and Osiris

15: The Goddess - Isis and Osiris

Professor Voth draws you into the world of the goddess Isis and her companion, Osiris. In this Egyptian myth, Isis gives over some of her power to her male consort, who then becomes responsible for ensuring new cycles of growth. What does this mean for the evolving idea of the "great goddess"?

31 min
The Eclipse of the Goddess

16: The Eclipse of the Goddess

Witness how the sky gods of invading civilizations threatened the power of Near Eastern goddesses, forever changing mythology and religion. Your focus here is on myths that illustrate this tension, including those of the Dahomey of Africa, the ancient Greeks, the Japanese, and other diverse cultures.

31 min
Shamans and Vegetation Gods

17: Shamans and Vegetation Gods

Shamans, which date back to the Paleolithic era, are some of the earliest examples of male gods. Chart their evolution from animal masters with magical powers (like the Cherokee's Great Bear) to actual vegetation or fertility gods during the Agricultural Revolution (such as the Syrian god Baal).

29 min
Sky Gods and Earth Goddesses

18: Sky Gods and Earth Goddesses

The end of the Agricultural Revolution saw a permanent separation between gods and goddesses. Learn how cultures as unique as the Bartose of Zimbabwe and the Sioux of North America crafted intriguing myths that transformed male deities into remote sky gods and female deities into earthbound monsters and temptresses.

30 min
Creator Gods

19: Creator Gods

What does a god look like when he becomes the sole creator of the entire universe? How have cultures from Tahiti, India, West Africa, and other places bridged the gap between a god who is "out there" and one who lives deep within us? Find out the fascinating answers here.

30 min
Gods and Goddesses of India

20: Gods and Goddesses of India

Review your deeper knowledge of gods and goddesses by surveying the Hindu pantheon as it evolved over thousands of years. Along the way, examine myths about India's deities, from the adventures of the warrior god, Indra, to the cosmic dances of Shiva to the many manifestations of Vishnu.

30 min
Hero Myths

21: Hero Myths

Heroes—whether gods like Prometheus, humans like King Arthur, or hybrids like Buddha—have given us the most exciting stories in human civilization. Here, delve into the controversial idea of the monomyth (a myth shared by all cultures) and see it illustrated in the story of the Greek hero Herakles.

29 min
Mythic Heroes - Gilgamesh

22: Mythic Heroes - Gilgamesh

Travel back to ancient Mesopotamia and meet the warrior-king Gilgamesh. As you follow his exploits—including his friendship with the half-animal Enkidu, his battle with the Bull of Heaven, and his confrontation with the goddess Ishtar—see whether this hero's story is a true monomyth.

31 min
Mythic Heroes - King Arthur

23: Mythic Heroes - King Arthur

Using the same monomyth lens, delve into the Celtic legend of King Arthur, made familiar by Thomas Malory's Morte D'arthur. Also, find new insights into popular figures like Lancelot, Merlin, and Guinevere, and famous events from the era of Camelot, including the search for the Holy Grail.

31 min
Mythic Heroes - Jason and the Argonauts

24: Mythic Heroes - Jason and the Argonauts

Explore a heroic myth from ancient Greece: Jason and his shipmates as they search for the Golden Fleece. Not only is this myth—and the subsequent tale of Jason's wife, Medea—a good illustration of the monomyth, it also touches on critical themes about the "great goddess" from earlier lectures.

31 min
The Monomyths of Rank and Campbell

25: The Monomyths of Rank and Campbell

Peer inside the psychology behind the heroic monomyth from the perspective of its two most famous theorists: Otto Rank and Joseph Campbell. For Rank, myths are rooted in the expression of childhood goals; for Campbell, however, they're based on attempts to forge connections with our unconscious.

31 min
Mythic Heroes - Mwindo

26: Mythic Heroes - Mwindo

Use Rank and Campbell's ideas to better understand the African epic of Mwindo, which is still a living myth for the Nyangi of eastern Zaire. You'll learn more about heroic myths and also about the value of using the monomyth structure to make sense of them.

31 min
Female Heroes - Demeter and Hester Prynne

27: Female Heroes - Demeter and Hester Prynne

Although separated by thousands of years, Demeter (the Greek goddess of grain) and Hester Prynne (the American heroine of The Scarlet Letter) have much in common. Find out how their respective stories illustrate the characteristics of female heroes and the gender biases built into many myths.

31 min
Female Heroes - Psyche and Beauty

28: Female Heroes - Psyche and Beauty

Detour into the world of fairy tales, where you can also find a host of female heroes. The tales of "Psyche and Cupid" and "Beauty and the Beast" not only illuminate cultural ideas of love and marriage, they also provide opportunities to compare and contrast myths with fairy tales.

29 min
The Trickster in Mythology

29: The Trickster in Mythology

Trickster myths are some of the most widespread in the world. In the first of five lectures on these lowly characters who outwit others (and themselves), discover how scholars approach the trickster, and take an extended look at a cycle of trickster myths from the Winnebago of Wisconsin.

30 min
Tricksters from around the World

30: Tricksters from around the World

Broaden your knowledge of tricksters by studying four mythological taboo breakers: Hermes, who worms his way into the Greek pantheon; Enki, who plays a key role in the Sumerian flood myth; Loki, who causes mischief among the Norse gods; and Ma-ui, who introduces fire to the cultures of Oceania.

29 min
Native American Tricksters

31: Native American Tricksters

In most Native American myths, tricksters appear as animals or have animal names. Where does this connection come from? What is the trickster's relationship to shamans? Discover the answers in the stories of Spider from the Sioux, Raven from the Pacific Northwest, and Coyote from the Navajo and Caddo.

31 min
African Tricksters

32: African Tricksters

Professor Voth introduces you to tricksters from African cultures, including Ajapa the Tortoise and Ananse the Spider. These mythological figures—who serve as intermediaries between humans and sky gods—have provided agriculture, established gender roles, and more—but often just to show others how powerful they are.

30 min
Mythic Tricksters - Eshu and Legba

33: Mythic Tricksters - Eshu and Legba

Conclude your look at tricksters with a series of myths about two who consistently appear in some sort of human form: Eshu (from the Yoruba) and Legba (from the Fon of Benin). Then, learn why world cultures should ultimately be grateful for their tricksters' antics and transgressions.

31 min
The Places of Myth - Rocks and Lakes

34: The Places of Myth - Rocks and Lakes

The place where a myth occurs is as important as the myth itself. Turn to Jacob's Bethel, Australia's Ayers Rock, and the Tibetan "Castle Lake"—rocks and bodies of water where the sacred once broke into the everyday world.

31 min
The Places of Myth - Mountains

35: The Places of Myth - Mountains

Continue your tour of mythical places, stopping at Sinai on the Arabian Peninsula, the San Francisco Peaks above Arizona, Kailas in Tibet, and T'ai Shan in east China. These four locales are perfect examples of how mountains play meaningful roles in mythologies from around the world.

31 min
The Places of Myth - Sacred Trees

36: The Places of Myth - Sacred Trees

Professor Voth addresses the importance of Native American, Chinese, Indian, and Vietnamese mythological trees—all of which serve to connect Earth with both the heavens and the underworld. Then, he ends the course by detailing the role that myths play in everyday life.

33 min