Abraham Lincoln: In His Own Words

Course No. 877
Professor David Zarefsky, Ph.D.
Northwestern University
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Course No. 877
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Course Overview

A century and a half after his death, the cadence, argument, and power of Abraham Lincoln's speeches still stir the heart of any American who encounters them.

The speeches of Abraham Lincoln are a precious inheritance for all Americans, and for all the world. As he led the nation through its gravest crisis, Lincoln emerged as a master of eloquence without equal.

The Art of Rhetoric, and Lincoln's Rise from Student to Master

This series of 24 lectures examines the rhetoric of Abraham Lincoln—the public messages in which Lincoln evolved his views on slavery and the Union and by which he sought to persuade others. Rhetoric is the study of the available means of persuasion in a given case.

By tracing significant moments in Lincoln's career from the standpoint of public persuasion, you explore how Lincoln navigated the constraints posed by his audiences and situations and how he took advantage of creative opportunities.

You also see how heavily Lincoln's public career developed through public speeches and writings. And the course shows us the importance of thinking rhetorically, reasoning with specific audiences and situations in mind.

You witness American history in the making as you follow Lincoln's career as an orator from the Young Men's Lyceum Speech of 1838 to the majestic biblical cadences of the Second Inaugural. You'll even learn about the last speech Lincoln gave—a discussion on his plans for Reconstruction delivered at the White House three days before his death.

Rhetoric and Lincoln have been Professor David Zarefsky's scholarly passions for decades. He is the Owen L. Coon Professor of Argumentation and Debate, and Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University, where he has taught for more than 30 years.

Northwestern University's Associated Student Government has voted Professor Zarefsky, a gifted speaker in his own right, to the Honor Roll for Teaching 12 times.

Lincoln's Rhetorical Greatness: A Fact and a Second Look

Lincoln's rhetorical greatness is well known, observes Professor Zarefsky, but, like everything else about our 16th president, we see it through a retrospective lens that is unavoidably distorted by our knowledge of his assassination. In other words, precisely because Abraham Lincoln is a national hero and martyr, we have lost sight of some of his depth and complexity. In a similar way, some of his greatest words—the Gettysburg Address especially—have become so familiar to us that we have almost lost the power truly to hear them.

Many people, for instance, labor under the false notion that Lincoln was always a skilled public communicator. Or that he and Stephen A. Douglas met in their famous debates while they were running against each other for the presidency. Or that Lincoln was predicting the Civil War when he famously said that "a house divided against itself cannot stand."

The Road to the Gettysburg Address

In fact, Lincoln had to learn the art of democratic persuasion amid the intense political and moral debates that gripped America during the middle third of the 19th century, especially the controversy over slavery and its expansion that culminated in the Civil War.

He did not start out at the level of the Gettysburg Address but walked a long road to reach that surpassing height. Thanks to Professor Zarefsky's profound learning and superb gifts as a lecturer, you can use these lectures to follow Lincoln step by step on that road.

You will see how Lincoln:

  • Reflected on the issues of his day and the nature of the American promise
  • Shaped and was shaped by public opinion
  • Responded to changing events and circumstances
  • Behaved in the cut and thrust of debate with formidable opponents such as Stephen A. Douglas: Four lectures are devoted to these debates.

In short, you will gain a comprehensive, inside view of Lincoln's statesmanship, leading you to an understanding of how he could call America to "a new birth of freedom" even while the nation was enduring the terrible ordeal of civil war.

A Compelling Human Story

Behind all the evidence and analysis that Professor Zarefsky so ably marshals, there stands a compelling human story. Abraham Lincoln: In His Own Words shows you how a frontier lawyer who had less than a year of formal schooling and described his own origins as "the short and simple annals of the poor" could give us the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, and the Second Inaugural.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Lincoln and Rhetoric
    In this lecture, we will review Lincoln's basic biography and introduce a rhetorical perspective to the study of his career. A rhetorical perspective focuses especially on Lincoln's use of public persuasion to create a sense of community with his audience and to influence his listeners to achieve his goals. Lincoln's speaking career began as a young man in Springfield and continued until his death. We will review the major phases and highlights of that career. x
  • 2
    The Lyceum Speech, 1838
    Lincoln's first major public address was about the dangers of lawlessness to the survival of American political institutions. Although delivered in the aftermath of the murder of abolitionist editor Elijah Lovejoy in Alton, the speech does not mention the attack but refers instead to other examples of lawless behavior. In this speech Lincoln previews much of his later political philosophy and raises questions about the relationship between the current generation and the Founding Fathers. x
  • 3
    The Temperance Speech, 1842
    Another early Lincoln speech was delivered to the Washington Temperance Society of Springfield in 1842. Although praising the aims of the temperance movement, Lincoln promotes moderate rather than radical approaches to this important social reform. The speech can also be read as revealing Lincoln's theories of politics and of rhetoric, foreshadowing how he will oppose slavery without calling for its outright abolition. x
  • 4
    Lincoln as a Young Whig
    From an early age, Lincoln identified himself with the Whig Party. He served a single term in Congress from 1847 to 1849 and is known chiefly for his opposition to the Mexican War, then a popular cause. He claimed to be guided in all his actions by the example of Whig leader Henry Clay. In this lecture we will examine his speaking in opposition to the Mexican War and his eulogy of Henry Clay. x
  • 5
    Lincoln Returns to Politics
    After his one term in Congress, Lincoln retired from politics and returned to Springfield to practice law. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 brought him back into politics. This law, by repealing the Missouri Compromise (1820), opened territory that previously was free to the possible spread of slavery. This lecture will review the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act controversy, and why this issue rekindled Lincoln's interest in politics. x
  • 6
    The Peoria Speech, 1854
    During the fall of 1854, while the major political parties were in flux, Lincoln campaigned for candidates opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. His major speech was delivered in substantially identical form in Springfield and Peoria. In this speech, Lincoln explained how he found the Kansas-Nebraska Act to be a historical aberration and a dangerous departure. We will examine the speech and the effects of the midterm elections of 1854. x
  • 7
    Lincoln's Rhetoric and Politics, 1854-1857
    In this lecture, we will examine the evolution of Lincoln's thought during the time between the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision. We will find Lincoln building on the logic of the Peoria speech. The Dred Scott decision, however, seemed to threaten the political positions of both Lincoln and Douglas. x
  • 8
    The Springfield Speech, 1857
    By holding that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in the territories, the Dred Scott decision undercut the Republican platform. But it also invalidated the Democratic Party's devotion to popular sovereignty, in which the people who populated a territory decided whether it would be slave or free. Both Douglas and Lincoln found it necessary to restate and defend their political principles in the wake of the Dred Scott decision. This lecture will explore the speeches in which they did so. x
  • 9
    The "House Divided" Speech, 1858
    In 1858, the Illinois State Republican Convention took the unusual step of nominating Lincoln to fill the senate seat then occupied by Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln accepted the nomination with a speech known by its key phrase, "a house divided against itself cannot stand." Although often understood today as a forecast of civil war, the speech was intended to convey a quite different message—that Republicans should not succumb to the temptation of supporting Douglas because he was encouraging a plan to make slavery legal nationally. x
  • 10
    The Chicago Speech, July 1858
    When Congress adjourned, Douglas returned to Illinois to begin his campaign. He delivered a blistering attack on the "house divided" doctrine. Lincoln answered Douglas the next night. He claimed his speech had been misconstrued, but he delivered a ringing statement in support of racial equality. This statement would create problems for Lincoln among more moderate voters, and he would retreat from it later in the campaign. x
  • 11
    The Springfield Speech, July 1858
    From Chicago, Lincoln and Douglas both traveled to Springfield. Lincoln was in the audience while Douglas spoke, then rose and offered to speak later to explain his views. Again Lincoln denied the radical nature of the "house divided" position, and he pointed out that Douglas had not answered his allegation that the incumbent was part of a plot to spread slavery all over the nation. x
  • 12
    The Debate about the Debates
    Having trouble attracting his own crowds, Lincoln followed Douglas as a kind of "truth squad." When the partisan press began to ridicule him for doing so, Lincoln used a different strategy. After Douglas's schedule of campaign appearances had been published, Lincoln challenged him to a series of about 50 debates. Intense negotiations between the principals on the details of the debates followed. This lecture will review the "debate about the debates" and suggest that it has a contemporary character. x
  • 13
    The Lincoln-Douglas Debates I
    Douglas opened the first debate on a strong note, charging that Lincoln's "house divided" doctrine would mandate national uniformity and alleging that he was part of a plot to abolitionize both major parties. He posed several questions to try to tie Lincoln to a radical Republican platform. Lincoln answered defensively and had difficulty establishing his own position.This lecture will review the course of the argument in the first two debates. x
  • 14
    The Lincoln-Douglas Debates II
    Douglas had expected to do well in the third debate, held in heavily Democratic southern Illinois. But Lincoln arrested his momentum and posed a fifth question that forced Douglas to state whether he would support territorial legislation to protect slavery. The fourth (Charleston) debate is unlike any of the others; it is devoted to an argument that Douglas plotted to deny Kansas the chance to vote on slavery while claiming to champion popular sovereignty. This lecture will analyze arguments in the third and fourth debates. x
  • 15
    The Lincoln-Douglas Debates III
    Lincoln found his stride in the last three debates. He derived the nationalization of slavery from a formal logical structure rather than from an alleged conspiracy, and he finally introduced the basic moral argument that slavery was wrong. Lincoln's positions advanced from the beginning of the debates to the end, while Douglas repeated arguments he had put forward in earlier debates. This lecture will examine the fifth and sixth debates between Lincoln and Douglas. x
  • 16
    The Aftermath of the Debates
    The final debate was anticlimactic for Douglas, but it enabled Lincoln to sharpen his moral argument. Following the debates, the last few weeks of the campaign were marked by a key last-minute endorsement for Douglas and by charges of vote fraud. Douglas was re-elected to the Senate, although it is likely that candidates pledged to Lincoln had the larger popular vote. Certainly Lincoln was not harmed by the results of the election. x
  • 17
    Lincoln's 1859 Speeches
    After his defeat in 1858, Lincoln returned to his law practice but remained active on the speaking circuit. He developed a lecture on discoveries and inventions. Both Lincoln and Douglas also campaigned for candidates in the Ohio elections of 1859. Lincoln's Ohio speeches can be seen as extensions of the Lincoln-Douglas debates: the same arguments appear in a more fully developed form. This lecture will examine both "Discoveries and Inventions" and Lincoln's Columbus speech. x
  • 18
    The Cooper Union Speech, 1860
    At the close of a New England tour, Lincoln spoke at Cooper Union in New York City—in effect meeting presidential frontrunner William H. Seward on Seward's home ground. He offered evidence that a majority of the Founders believed that Congress had the power to outlaw slavery in the territories and concluded that Congress should exercise that power. A portion of the speech ostensibly is directed to the South although it is likely that the true audience is the North. This lecture will analyze the Cooper Union speech. x
  • 19
    The Campaign of 1860
    Lincoln gave no speeches during the presidential campaign, believing that his views were on the record and that his opponents would distort his positions. This lecture will explore the nature and consequences of Lincoln's "eloquent silence." It also will examine his brief farewell speech to his Springfield neighbors and speeches he made en route to Washington for the presidential inauguration. x
  • 20
    The First Inaugural Address
    Lincoln's First Inaugural is one of his most famous speeches. The new President suggests the impossibility of dividing the Union and appeals to the loyalty and good will of the South. He defines his policy as purely defensive and suggests that, if war breaks out, the South will be the aggressor. Although the speech seeks reconciliation, southerners regarded it as a siren song. This lecture will explore Lincoln's rhetorical moves in the First Inaugural Address. x
  • 21
    Justifying the War
    The Civil War broke out while Congress was not in session, so Lincoln could make decisions unimpeded by legislation—but he needed congressional approval of funds to support the war. He called Congress into special session on July 4, 1861. His message to Congress makes clear his war aims, which are much more limited and defensive than they soon will become. This lecture is devoted to Lincoln's rhetorical choices in his special message to Congress. x
  • 22
    Moving Toward Emancipation
    Having rejected emancipation as a goal of the war, Lincoln now moved toward defending it as a military necessity. In a meeting with a delegation of African Americans, Lincoln urged them to support his policy of colonization—returning free blacks to Africa. In his 1862 Annual Message, Lincoln again indicated his support for colonization. Meanwhile, the President was preparing to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. This lecture will examine these documents of 1862. x
  • 23
    Lincoln at Gettysburg
    The Gettysburg Address is justifiably regarded as masterful and eloquent. Departing from tradition, it did not depict the battle itself, as had the major address of the day by Edward Everett, but abstracted from the particulars to the larger meaning of the war. By removing the war from its immediate context, Lincoln could articulate principles that would endure long after the guns were stilled, thereby denying his own claim that the world would "little note nor long remember" what he said. This lecture will examine Lincoln's most well-known speech. x
  • 24
    Lincoln's Last Speeches
    As he had done at Gettysburg, Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address focuses on the larger meaning of the war. Lincoln here interprets the carnage and destruction by reference to Biblical precept and divine purpose. This is a speech of reconciliation, but it does not assign responsibility. This final lecture will examine Lincoln's Second Inaugural as his most mature assessment of the war. It also will comment on his final public address, a response to a serenade two days after Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox. x

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Your professor

David Zarefsky

About Your Professor

David Zarefsky, Ph.D.
Northwestern University
Dr. David Zarefsky is the Owen L. Coon Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University, where he has taught for over 30 years. He earned his B.S., master's degree, and Ph.D. from Northwestern University. From 1988 through 2000, he served as the Dean of the School of Speech. A nationally recognized authority on rhetoric and forensics, he is a past president of the National Communication Association (NCA) and...
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Abraham Lincoln: In His Own Words is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 67.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent historical analysis! I'm going through the lectures on a daily basis, and I look forward to each lecture!
Date published: 2017-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent History Review The lecturer gave just the right amount of background information to understand the context of Lincoln's words and his rhetorical methods. A really excellent program. Well organized and well delivered.
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating rhetorical analysis and perspective I have heard several courses in TGC that are centered around Lincoln. The first was “The life of Abraham Lincoln” given by Professor Guelzo which is essentially Lincoln’s biography. That course did go into some pretty fine detail regarding Lincoln’s political life and some of his speeches, but the approach was primarily biographical. The second course in which Lincoln’s political persona played a large role is Professor Gallagher’s wonderful course “American civil war”, naturally focusing on his role during the war and leading up to it. The current course has a different angle. It analyzes quite technically Lincoln’s rhetorical addresses both in some of his political campaigns, and as a national leader of a nation engaged in civil war. Professor Zarefsky was absolutely masterful in providing a thorough, technical and engaging analysis of Abraham Lincoln’s (often brilliant) rhetorical strategies in achieving his political and leadership goals, yet we also get to see him as a man making an effort to win support for his policies and views, many times from the underdog position. The large section devoted to his campaigns against Douglas were particularly fascinating and enlightening. This is quite a deep drill-down, technical course focused on a rather narrow topic. The professor is very knowledgeable and provides a fascinating rhetorical analysis of his speeches – a technique I have not encountered in any academic course I have taken so far. He makes no effort to be entertaining or funny – it is all about the course content. For me that is just fine but others I suspect may find this a bit stiff or boring.
Date published: 2017-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Solid Course on Rhetoric and Lincoln Dr. Zarefsky uses well the 24 lectures given by TTC to provide an unusual portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Professor Zarefsky eschews the usual biographical detail, instead choosing to use Lincoln’s speeches to illustrate not only Lincoln the rhetorician, but also Lincoln the man. Time and again, Professor Zarefsky uses points made in the speeches to show how Lincoln thought and also how his thoughts changed over time (and at times according to his audience). As early as the fourth lecture we are treated to just such a process, as Lincoln’s speeches opposing the Mexican-American War (and its architect, James Polk) are used to show how Lincoln felt and thought about issues far beyond Springfield Illinois. Although as a resident of Mexico, I knew that Lincoln had opposed the war, I was unaware that he used one of Polk’s justifications for the war as a counter to both Polk and the war, by repeatedly calling on Polk to show the spot where American blood had been (as Polk claimed) on American soil—the so-called “spot” resolutions. On the other hand, Lincoln’s famous “House Divided” speech contained rhetoric that Douglas was able to use against him (and is also usually misunderstood by most modern Americans). Of course Dr. Zarefsky treats us to well-known speeches like the Gettysburg address and his Second Inaugural address, but for me the real wealth in this course lies in his analysis of many of the early speeches, along with his pointing out how Lincoln’s views changed over time. And how Lincoln repeatedly took and promoted a moderate view on many things, not necessarily the radical as some have claimed. The chapters on the war and emancipation are examples of this. Dr. Zarefsky, is a skilled presenter, never leaving one with an unclear thought about the points he makes. I initially thought that 24 lectures was going to be too many for such a narrow topic, but the time is used well and wisely.
Date published: 2017-06-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good, Detailed Discussion of Lincoln's Speeches I took this professor's class on Debate, and loved his teaching style. Although I am not a fan of history, I took this class because the professor is so skillful in the area of debate! I gained from the class more than I expected to learn about Abraham Lincoln's political savvy! The course follows Abraham Lincoln's life chronologically, discussing every major speech he gave in his career! I learned a great deal about Lincoln's wording every speech carefully, so as to be politic in his unique political environment. I learned the truth regarding fallacies I believed about Lincoln. For example, he was not the Great Emancipator of slaves people think he was--at least, not by his choice! The course content covered some areas very thoroughly, more than I enjoyed. Some issues like the Missouri Compromise and its details were totally confusing to me, as I listened to the audio class. Still, overall I gained what I wanted to know: how Abraham Lincoln's speeches conveyed his personal and political views, over the course of his lifetime! I recommend the course for people interested in Abraham Lincoln, politics, debate, speeches, and the history of the period (the mid-1800's).
Date published: 2017-04-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Deep and informative look into Lincoln's thoughts I enjoyed this and hope that Prof. Zarefsky does more for the TC. I found it very interesting to get into this level of detail in the evolution of Abraham Lincoln and a thinker, politician, and communicator by the deep dive into numerous speeches. The course goes well beyond the speeches that most people have heard of, and starts early in Lincoln's career (the contrast in verbiage is fascinating -- Lincoln clearly grew with practice, as people can do). The course includes helpful review of the key topics of the day that drove Lincoln's thinking, including the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Mexican - American War, the Wilmot Proviso, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas - Nebraska Act, and the run-up to the Civil War. Zarefsky is a good lecturer with real command of the material and clear affection for his subject.
Date published: 2016-12-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Yes and No This is a great topic for a course organized by a knowledgeable teacher whose oral recitation of the speeches was moving because of his enthusiastic delivery. Without retracting the above praise, I do have one criticism. Although the teacher rightly begins with Aristotle definition of rhetoric (the faculty of finding the available means of persuasion in the given circumstances), several times he pays insufficient heed to Lincoln” s “given circumstances.” For instance, the teacher objects to a passage from the September 18, 1858 Charleston speech, where Lincoln denies favoring “the social and political equality of the white and black races.” In fact, that passage needs very careful parsing, for Lincoln qualifies his remarks even in the given circumstances. The passage does not bear the racist criticisms the teacher makes. Harry Jaffa great book should be consulted on this matter. But more important than the opinions Jaffa and I offer is that of Frederick Douglass 1867 “Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln.” This runaway slave who educated himself to become a civil rights leader took what he called “a comprehensive view of Abraham Lincoln” which led him to “make reasonable allowance for the circumstances of his position.” Douglass’ speech should be read as carefully as those of Lincoln. But enough of criticism. I found this a refreshing course in the present moment of “political correctness” and terrible Presidential debates. May I suggest for a future Great Course that you commission someone to analyze Winston Churchill’s speeches, especially those of the 1930s and 40s? You have one course on his life, but I am particularly interested in rhetorical analysis of Churchill’s speeches.
Date published: 2016-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lincoln Excellent course lot of detail and background would recommend.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Abraham Lincoln: In His Own Words I purchased this for myself a while back and truly enjoyed it.....the presentatiion was very good, contents were excellent.......I discovered many things about Lincoln and the way he addressed many topics of the day, which definitely appled to the problems either he or someone else would face if elected president at that time......this 2nd purchase was a gift for a family member who belongs to a Civil War Group in Pa.,===== I know he will throughly enjoy listening and pass along to his son who is part of the Civil War Group.......
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from President Lincoln on Leadership Professor Zarefsky provides the perspective to many of the memorable speeches of President Lincoln. As my favorite U.S. President, the course provided me the background, interpretive meaning and latitudes of speeches utilized to address and lead the American people through challenging times. Particularly, the speeches of the Douglas debates were eye-opening in that Professor Zarefsky peeled back the mere written words and delicately painted the constitutional understanding of Lincoln during the formative years of our young republic. Excellent course! I highly recommend this course for anyone desiring an in-depth study on the purposes, thoughts and actions of President Lincoln.
Date published: 2015-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I bought 5 copies 2 copies sent to UK, 2 to US. An excellent approach to Lincoln, a serious but not boring presentation.
Date published: 2015-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Insight into Lincoln Listening to this course provided me with a host of new insights into Lincoln. As other reviewers have mentioned, this isn't a biography of Lincoln. Nor is it a rhetoric course. This course simply takes a number of Lincoln's works and explains their contexts, what they say about what Lincoln was thinking or doing at the time, and what affect they had on Lincoln and the country. My father had a very extensive library the majority of which I now possess. Amongst the books is a 9-volume set of the collected works of Abraham Lincoln. I was therefore able to read, in full, the various works addressed in this series. I highly recommend getting your hands on these works - I'm sure most are online or in libraries - as it was illuminating to read the entire pieces rather than just hearing the excerpts read by Zarefsky. Another reviewer notes that this series demythologizes Lincoln. I agree. But, I also feel it provides new insights which show what a truly great man he was. For a good biography of Lincoln, see the Guelzo course via the link below. I took a star away from the presentation because Zarefsky's isn't the best speaker. However, what he says makes listening more than worthwhile.
Date published: 2015-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Truly World Class Lecture Series Abraham Lincoln In His Own Words" is an extraordinary lecture series. I have been attending college level classes, lecture series, and academic rhetorical events for the better part of half a century. I have attended close to 400 college level courses. Professor Zarefsky's "Lincoln in His Own Words" is in the top five, maybe the top three of the 400. His command of U.S. history during the Lincoln years is comprehensive and encyclopedic. He registers the political years of Lincoln in fine detail and with a ring of solid historical truth. The presentation is pure history, unencumbered by any hint of professorial hidden agenda or academic affectation that sometimes detracts from otherwise good courses. However, it is the professor's rare world class rhetorical talent that places this course in class by itself. If you who enjoy American history and appreciate rhetorical mastery, this is one of the Great Courses you will not want to miss.
Date published: 2015-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course I give this course very high marks. Professor Zarefsky is articulate and well-spoken, and his selections from Lincoln's many speeches are well-chosen. I have read dozens of books about Lincoln, and I still found the course very interesting and illuminating. I think the course works well for those who know a little or a lot about Lincoln, but i think some knowledge of Lincoln's biography will help you get the most out of the course. The course is only offered in audio format, which works very well. This is a great course for a long drive in a car. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2014-12-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from This course presents a clear picture of much of Lincoln's thinking. The professer has a clear, concise, and well organized presentation manner. I have been through the course once and now I will use it as a compliment to my ongoing study of Lincoln. It is proving to be a valuable asset.
Date published: 2014-11-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Surprisingly bland Having listened with great profit to the first and second editions of Zarefsky’s course on argumentation (a five-star product if ever there were one), I found myself unhappy with this course on Lincoln. Zarefsky suffers from an astoundingly thoroughgoing colorlessness as a speaker. Nonetheless, the content and organization of his argumentation course more than compensated for this. That is not the case in this course. I might have misread the course description, but I thought this was supposed to be a course on rhetoric that mined Lincoln’s speeches for examples of rhetorical devices. Instead, the course amounts to 24 VERY dry book reports on Lincoln’s evolution as a politician. The Modern Scholar, a competitor of TTC/TGC, produces a much better course along those lines called “A Way with Words (Part 1).” The lecturer in that course, Michael D.C. Drout, could give Zarefsky a schooling in how to be scholarly AND entertaining. Zarefsky is a brilliant scholar. Perforce, one will profit from listening to each of these 24 lectures (one will simply have to negotiate with Zarefsky’s mind-numbing grayness). On the plus side, Zarefsky spends a considerable amount of time in the first lecture demythologizing Lincoln, something sorely needed. Many treatments of Lincoln amount to little more than hagiography.
Date published: 2014-10-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lincoln from a Different Perspective Professor David Zarefsky presents an excellent course of 24 lectures tracing the development and thought of Abraham Lincoln through the speeches he delivered over the course of his career. This course is an excellent adjunct to any of several Lincoln biographies or to Professor Guelzo’s mainly biographical 12-lecture Teaching Company course - “Mr. Lincoln – The Life of Abraham Lincoln.” In each lecture Professor Zarefsky deals with one or more of Lincoln’s speeches and in a roughly chronological fashion throughout the course he neatly ties together the themes and evolution of Lincoln's thought. Do you think of Abraham Lincoln as a “politician”? Do you think Lincoln used what might be considered “deceptive" tactics in his rhetoric? Do you perceive Lincoln as a lifetime “abolitionist”, single-minded in his desire to free the slaves so that they might enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other American? If so, this course will likely be of great interest to you as it deals with these misconceptions (among others). The lectures allow the listener to see Lincoln as a man attempting to solve great problems, not as an idol to be worshiped from afar. The speeches demonstrate that Lincoln’s ideas developed over a long period of time and had to consider the prevailing thought of the people of the era in which he lived. After a close visit with these speeches of Lincoln I now understand Mr. Lincoln much better than ever before.
Date published: 2014-07-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lincoln Speaks This course guides the student through Lincoln's various speeches as his speaking style gets more crisp, his position on the issue of slavery evolves, and his political acumen is honed. This course is on Lincoln's rhetoric and political skills; it is not, nor is it intended to be, a biographical or complete historical work. Yet, the student gains insight into Lincoln's philosophy and his political thinking directly from his own spoken words. Some surprise learning include: 1)The "House Divided" speech did not forecast the Civil War, 2)The Springfield Farewell Speech did include a reference to the potential for Lincoln's own assassination, and 3)At his first inauguration Lincoln did hint that he would be willing to accept a constitutional amendment allowing slavery to stay in the existing slave states (if it was not extended to any of he territories). It is especially interesting to see Lincoln's views on slavery evolve. Hint: He was not an abolitionist (at least not to well within the Civil War). Prof. Zarefsky is a solid speaker. He does speak with inflection and emphasis with excellent use of the "pause" to make a point. The course guide is very good. Lecture summaries are in outline form. A Glossary, Biographical Notes, a Timeline of Events, and a Bibliography are included. I mostly listened to this course while driving over a protracted time period. Despite this, I had no trouble maintaining continuity as the modularity of the lectures facilitated being able to stop and start frequently. I definitely recommend this course to any student interested in gaining a bit more depth about Lincoln's philosophy and thinking.
Date published: 2014-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favorite kind of course! Dr. Zarefsky's lectures covered new material for me, looked at things I knew with a different perspective, challenged me, and best of all piqued my interest to learn more. (While listening to these CDs, I read Holzer's "Lincoln at Cooper Union" and Boritt's "Gettysburg Bible", and listened to Sam Waterston's performance of the Cooper Union speech on YouTube.) Tough to ask for more, but the freakishly great value pricing means all of that bang comes for very few bucks!
Date published: 2013-11-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good But Not Great I share a birthday with A. Lincoln so I have always been interesting in him. I really had two issues with this course. 1) Monotone, two people with whom I shared the course also complained about it. 2) Inconsistent observations. On some topics the professor will state 'Lincoln said this in order to accomplish _____, but he really didn't believe it'. And other times he would say 'Lincoln believed this because he said it." No further evidence for either point. Annoying.
Date published: 2013-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 1 of my top three courses I give as gifts David Zarefsky puts together the important speeches throughout Lincoln's career. He sets the stage for what the zetigeist of the era was. People would come hear Lincoln & Douglas debate the issues. I had never heard of "popular sovereignty" prior to this couse. He with gentle grace walks us through the important lectures set amidst what was happening in polictics through out the u.s. Prof. Zarefsky has a very generous teaching style. Many of us covered these topics in school, and many of us don't remember them being covered, which he gently does for us. This is a man whose style is so appreciated, I wish he could teach me about other things in life. Zarefsky is a gem. It is because of this course that I realized that history is accessible to me, and that now I am richly rewarded.
Date published: 2013-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Course As a professor of rhetoric myself, I can't praise this course highly enough. It not only traces Lincoln's intellectual development through a study of his words, it also provides a nice introduction to the study of rhetoric itself. I would like to see Prof. Zarefsky expand this course to address even more of Lincoln's work and would also like to see Prof. Zarefsky perform similar reviews of other great rhetors. This course is also a nice companion piece to Professor Zarefsky's other wonderful course on Argumentation.
Date published: 2013-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a real gem This course was sort of off the beaten path for me - I gravitate towards philosophy and "big picture" history - but the phenomenal customer reviews led me to give this course a try. The reviews are right. This is a highly educational and enjoyable course, and is a good investment for anyone interested in American history. Understanding the evolution of Lincoln's thoughts, particularly on slavery, is of course interesting and a key to understanding his pivotal role up to his death, but for me there were many other nuggets that stood out. The length of speeches in the mid-1800s, the tiny amount of historically-relevant content in these, the biased "transcription" of these - this was all new to me. All of this information comes through Prof. Zarefsky's captivating and enthusiastic presentation. I highly recommend.
Date published: 2013-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Door to another world By focusing on Lincoln’s own public words, Prof Zarefsky brings us into the world of the US in the mid-19th century. And a strange world it is. Lincoln, who comes across as a middle-of-the road politician and a man of honesty and integrity who thinks deeply before speaking or acting, would be considered a racist today. At the time he was elected president, he supported the Fugitive Slave Act, was willing to support a constitutional amendment that would irrevocably protect slavery in perpetuity, and did not believe blacks and whites could or should co-exist (he believed any freed slaves should be exported to an overseas colony). Apparently, he would not have been electable if he held otherwise. Yet, on moral grounds he was deeply opposed to slavery and the spread of slavery. This made him an anti-slavery extremist in some circles. The southern states that seceded (an action Lincoln never acknowledged as such because he believed the constitution did not allow it) after Lincoln was elected did so more in fear of what he might do rather than because of anything he had done or planned to do. This makes the Civil War – which Lincoln was careful to craft as a defensive war – seem all the more horrific. Prof Zarefsky makes the man and his strange and momentous times come alive. He leads us through the development of Lincoln’s thought – both the deep, erudite, insightful logic of a brilliant lawyer and politician as well as the tangled inconsistencies, all in the context of a time far different from our own. This is a course suited both for people already knowledgeable about Lincoln (several other reviewers) and those who know little (e.g., myself).
Date published: 2013-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Letting Lincoln Speak for Himself I have read books about Lincoln, and listened to the Great Course about his life. But this excellent course by Prof. Zarefsky allows the 16th president to speak for himself, through analysis of speeches he made throughout his political career. Each speech is placed in context, both in terms of Lincoln’s life, and the political life of the USA. We see the development of Lincoln’s thought, even those ideas which might today be thought of as shocking or “non-PC.” Especially valuable is the extended section on the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which I heard about in school but never completely understood. I listened to these lectures during the 2012 presidential campaign, and they provided a fascinating historical commentary on our current political system. Anyone interested in Lincoln, the Civil War, or 19th-century history in general will learn a great deal from this course.
Date published: 2012-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great analysis of Lincoln's words This course was one of the best I've purchased from the Teaching Company. The content was very well organized and the professor's meticulous presentation of the material made me look forward to each new lecture. In addition, the professor's lecture style and pleasant voice added to my enjoyment of the course. I've read many books about Lincoln and his life, but the focus of this course, the words of Lincoln, enlightened me in so many ways about Lincoln the man and Lincoln the politician. The analysis of Lincoln's words was placed in the context of life in mid-19th century America to provide insightful meaning to his speeches. A very enjoyable and illuminating course.
Date published: 2012-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Presentation! One of the best courses prepared and presented by The Teaching Company. If you are interested in American history (especially Civil War period history), political history and political theory, the life of Abraham Lincoln, or the development of the political structure of the United States, you will want this course! Prof. Zarefsy does a superb job in weaving historical facts and background information with Lincoln's own speeches and writings. I learned a lot from this course and found Prof. Zarefsky one of the most interesting lecturers TLC has employed. A fascinating, lively, and deeply detailed study of political rhetoric and American history. One of the best courses I have purchased to date.
Date published: 2012-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative, engaging and enlightening By following Lincoln's public career and its speeches and writings from start to finish, and placing his comments in the context of the setting in which they were written or uttered, we are able to see the metamorphosis of the mind of this great man, and finally understand some of the heretofore misunderstood dichotomous positions Mr Lincoln expressed throughout his career. This course exposes the varied and oft times conflicting ideas Lincoln is quoted with in the light and context of the tense and rapidly changing political times in which he was immersed, not to mention the effects of the Civil War on cementing his terminal beliefs on slavery and the union. An altogether informative, thorough and enjoyable series of lectures. Strong recommendation without reservation.
Date published: 2011-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enhanced Perspective of Lincoln By setting the context and analyzing the speeches of Abraham Lincoln, Professor Zarefsky provides a rich narration of the growth of Abraham Lincoln during his adult life as a speech writer, politician, and human. I gained an enhanced perspective of Lincoln as a gifted man struggling with issues of his day and becoming a leader of his nation through his oratory.
Date published: 2011-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb!!! Professor Zarefsky, in his own words, did a superb job of placing Lincoln's speeches in their historical context as well as tracing the development of Lincoln's thoughts. Many of Lincoln's speeches we had to memorize in school, but in this course I encountered many of his speeches that I did not know about. And not one of them put me to sleep or made me want to fast forward. I also learned some things about Lincoln that I had no idea about. I won't list them here as that would spoil the effect of some of the insights. Bravo, Professor Zarefsky.
Date published: 2011-05-01
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