Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature

Course No. 2192
Professor Thomas A. Shippey, Ph.D.
St. Louis University
Share This Course
4.4 out of 5
71 Reviews
78% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 2192
Streaming Included Free

Course 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. Robinson Crusoe and Elizabeth Bennet are as real to us today as they were when Daniel Defoe and Jane Austen first created them. Meanwhile, Frodo Baggins, Harry Potter, and Lisbeth Salander are heroes for our age and the legends of the future.

What do these memorable characters have in common? Why do we turn to certain stories again and again? And what impact have they made on world history? The answers to these questions tell us more than you might think. Great heroes have lasting power because they offer templates for behavior by showing us models of courage and fortitude. Whether by reinforcing traditional values or challenging values in flux, heroes reflect the mores of society. Some, such as Uncle Tom from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist novel, have changed the course of history, while others have inspired countless leaders, writers, and artists.

Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature is an incredible 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 eye-opening lectures give fresh insight into familiar characters and a generous survey of characters we may be less familiar with. We think we know Robin Hood, for instance, but where does his story originate? What made the medieval outlaw popular, and how has he been rewritten for modern times?

Delve into original sources and explore the notable impact of these characters on world history. Get an inside glimpse into the writer’s process and see how authors “write into the gap” to flesh out—or, in some cases, reimagine altogether—old stories, making them new for new readerships with changing cultural values. In Professor Shippey’s words, you’ll “trace the buried power lines of great and successful fiction.”

What does it mean to be a hero?

The word “hero” might bring to mind a strong, fearless warrior who swoops in to save the day. You’ll investigate several of these “traditional heroes,” and by examining what makes them such compelling characters, you’ll see how they provide a window to better understand ourselves.

  • Beowulf, the oversized monster slayer, is a model for the modern-day superhero, yet as he ages—and weakens—the epic poem treats us to a poignant look at vulnerability and the process of attaining wisdom.
  • Sherlock Holmes has a narrow-minded, self-centered, addictive personality, but he also gives us a new sense of human potential. He gives us the chance to outguess him—to see more clearly, to gather more information, to deduce faster.
  • James Bond allows us a certain kind of wish fulfillment: Men want to be him, and women want to date him. But beneath the charisma is a wounded and complex character.

Beyond these traditional heroes—strong, smart, glamorous—this course introduces you to other models of heroism. Characters who are meek, frail, or poor might run counter to our expectations for what makes a hero, but they play an important role in our imaginative world. For instance, you will

  • study Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, whose sexual autobiography perhaps makes her the first complex woman in literary history;
  • see how Sancho Panza’s role as an “antihero” deepens the story of Don Quixote;
  • consider the heroic qualities in Celie, the impoverished and abused protagonist of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple; and
  • reflect on what Harry Potter has to teach us about heroism.

What do heroes tell us about our culture?

Heroes and Legends gives you the chance to study a diverse spread of characters from the beginnings of world literature through today’s bestsellers. In addition to exploring the core of what makes a character successful, the breadth of this course provides a window on our shifting cultural values—and the way historical circumstances pave the way for certain heroes.

Perhaps the best example is Frodo Baggins, the meek hobbit hero of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series. In his opening lecture, Professor Shippey explains how, after the horrors of global war, the world was waiting for a down-to-earth hero, someone called to duty rather than born strong and fearless.

Throughout the course, you will analyze stories through the lens of culture and find out how our changing culture and values affect our sense of what makes a good hero, and how our heroes reflect the mores of our society.

  • Trace the way different cultural eras have viewed Guinevere’s affair with Lancelot, from medieval admiration through Victorian prudery to modern sympathy.
  • Look at the relationship between love and romance on one hand and money and social class on the other in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
  • Reflect on Robinson Crusoe and the geography of undiscovered lands.
  • Revisit the American frontier and see what heroes such as Natty Bumppo (from Last of the Mohicans) and Woodrow Call (from Lonesome Dove) tell us about the myth of the Wild West and Manifest Destiny.

Just as history shapes heroes, so, too, do heroes shape history. From creating narratives that define a nation to redefining our sense of self and our relationships, great heroes have changed the course of history. Professor Shippey surveys a wealth of memorable stories, helping us understand why such heroes were necessary and how they continue to influence us today.

  • The mythical journey of Aeneas created a cultural history for ancient Rome and helped define its new imperial image.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe furthered the abolitionist cause with her saint-like Uncle Tom.
  • Winston Smith, the unlikely hero of George Orwell’s 1984, reinforced the need for vigilance against state control.
  • Writers such as Angela Carter who rewrote fairy tales in the 1970s constructed a new morality better suited for modern times.
  • Storytelling at Its Finest

    One of the most enjoyable aspects of the course is that it covers the high and the low. Rather than employing the traditional academic approach to “theme” and “symbolism” and dense critical language, Professor Shippey is interested in story, with its entertainment value and memorable characters.

    As such, he covers some canonical favorites—Homer, Virgil, Chaucer—but he also gives considerable attention to characters often ignored in academia, such as the “New Romancers” of the late 19th century and the fantasy writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. The result is an enjoyable approach to the great stories across the ages.

    At the heart of the course is Professor Shippey himself, a charming, top-notch storyteller who is as engrossed in (and moved by) these stories as we are. But as a true authority on his subject, he offers a unique viewpoint and fresh insights to every lecture, making this course a memorable—and moving—experience.

    Hide Full Description
24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    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. x
  • 2
    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. x
  • 3
    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. x
  • 4
    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. x
  • 5
    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. x
  • 6
    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? x
  • 7
    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. x
  • 8
    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. x
  • 9
    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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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? x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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? x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 24 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 192-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 192-page course synopsis
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

Thomas A. Shippey

About Your Professor

Thomas A. Shippey, Ph.D.
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. Professor 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...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor


Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 69.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear, complete, thoughtful, interesting.... This did what my own education didn't - helped give characters context and meaning within humanity's cultures as a whole. I'm now much more interested in reading "great books" than I was before. I looked for other courses by Prof. Shippey and am sad I found none.
Date published: 2018-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great!--would loved to see more from Prof. Shippey Informative; lively, inspiring; well organized and presented; I wish I had time to write a full review of this course (perhaps I will return and post one if/when the occasion arises). It would be wonderful to see a full-length (36 lecture) course from Prof. Shippey on Tolkien and his works!
Date published: 2018-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great title I'm on Lesson 5. Thus far, Dr. S illuminates theaters of literature I am ill-suited to explore given my lack of familiarity w/ the nuances of Middle English. The wordsmiths of the Chaucerian age - and others - were both subtle and able, ie, "....as false as the fox to the lamb', " and "...the language in her eyes." Much anticipation of course yet to come Side note: Re: Prof. S's description of his experience in a Scottish boarding school, I suspect there's many a tale in that memory, not all of which were happy; all of which were formative, I suspect. Very happy for this purchase! :}
Date published: 2018-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from lively presentatioon We enjoy watching a couple of lectures in an evening.... and we're learning background information we never knew.
Date published: 2018-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved the interesting way the heroes were discusse I loved this course. Professor Shippey was wonderful at conveying the interesting aspects of well known and lesser known stories. The breakdown of each was easy to follow and I really enjoyed how he kept bringing the previous lectures back around.
Date published: 2018-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Variety of Heros The course was both enertaining and quite informative.
Date published: 2018-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful presenter My wife and I were both charmed by Professor Shippey. He not only knows his subject, but he speaks in a very natural, conversational tone that made us feel as if he were an old friend. Between the two of us we had read many of the titles covered in this course but Professor Shippey revealed many aspects of these books and their heroes that had never occurred to us. This is one of best courses we have taken and we can't recommend it too highly. I hope The Teaching Company can prevail on Dr. Shippey to teach another course.
Date published: 2018-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoroughly Enjoyable This is another course I might not have taken had I not signed up for the Great Courses Plus. I was hooked after the first lecture. Professor Shippey is a fine presenter who has crafted a series of lectures that unfold in excellent order and completeness. I not only enjoyed revisiting and learning more about some of my favorites (notably Frodo Baggins and Sherlock Holmes) but also got fine introductions to many others. Professor Shippey provides all the background needed on the works and heroes discussed. He also goes considerably beyond that in comparing and contrasting, discussing various versions and later spin-offs, responses, etc. It is odd to find Homer’s Odysseus and Virgil’s Aeneas considered along with James Bond (of the novels, not the movies), ‘1984’s Winston Smith, and even Elizabeth Bennet of “Pride and Prejudice’, but Professor Shippey deftly shows how they work together within what he refers to as the “House of Legend”, to which is regularly added new rooms. Perhaps the most interesting aspects of this course are the continuing role of fairy tales; the impact of changing cultural values on the development and appreciation of the heroic; and how, in recent times, heroes morph from being distant god-like figures to individuals a lot like us. The final lectures on the influence of feminism are particularly interesting. I have to dissent, however, on the course title. Though Professor Shippey’s selection of characters is a good one, it claims too much in heralding them as “the most influential characters in literature.” I am sure there a lot of other candidates that could push aside Dracula, Mowgli, and James Bond from Professor Shippey’s roster. But I quibble and will settle for the course as it is, in good humor and appreciation for the hours of viewing pleasure. While I found the video version to my liking, as the lectures have many illustrations, this course would work very well in audio only. This 2014 TC course has a fine 183-page Course Guidebook with lecture summaries and an extensive annotated bibliography.
Date published: 2018-06-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Course One would initially think, as I did, that this course is designed as an elementary analysis of a series of literary characters. Nothing could be further from the core of this wonderful course. The prof is amazingly well versed in this literature, and his ability to ferret out subtle lessons of each, and tie them in to an overall thematic lesson is simply well worth the effort of working one’s way through each lecture. Whether your new to this literature, or simply reviewing your high school or college reading list, this course is an excellent reflection of the Teachcing Companies striving for excellence in their programs.
Date published: 2017-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging and informative The characters selected combined the expected with those from more recent fiction along with with fascinating comparisons among them. The presenter's style was very engaging and authoritative.
Date published: 2017-11-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from High Points and Low Points Whenever you title something "The Most..." you are opening up the debate for too much interpretation. However, if you are going to actually attempt to have this debate then you have to start somewhere. This series is somewhere between a good first start but needs a follow up. What I appreciated was the mix of ancient and modern hero and heroines since the literary world has provided us with volumes of good sources. But what I also liked about the series worked against it since I felt the lecturer tried a little "too hard" to find obscure references and elevated them to places they...or their larger work....just don't belong. The presentation was also high and low. At times the information was flowed easily and clearly and at other times it bogged down to the point where the actual character got lost in the weeds....or mud. In short its a good series but not great. It's too uneven to get it to the next level and it does leave you wanting more but not from this professor, on this topic.
Date published: 2017-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Reintroduce Yourself to Great Literature I have purchased quite a few courses from the Teaching Company. This was my first foray into the world of literary criticism. Professor Shippey traces the development of the hero from the ancient world (Odysseus and Aeneas) to the modern day world (Harry Potter, Lisbeth Salander). Professor Shippey's style is compelling and entertaining. The material of the course is well worth the effort of listening, even if you have not read all the books. (I read about half of the books that are featured in the course). One excellent feature of the course is that Professor Shippey does not have an ounce of political correctness in him. He does not waste time on that. Another excellent feature is that he covers numerous female heroes as well as all the male heroes. This gives the course a good degree of balance that might otherwise be lacking. For me, I gained new insight into Frodo Baggins (hero of the Lord of the Rings) and Odysseus (the trickster hero). There are also memorable portraits of Don Quixote, Huck Finn, Sherlock Holme, Winston Groom and James Bond. Even if you have not read the books, you can gain insight by listening to the lectures. In sum, this is an outstanding course which covers all sorts of literary heroes and shows how the concept of the hero has changed since the classical period to the modern day.
Date published: 2017-10-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from interesting viewing I bought several cds to watch during the hottest part of summer days. This was very entertaining
Date published: 2017-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More than I expected I expected that this course would give me some insights into characters from familiar novels - and it did that. I expected also that I'd learn something about books that I haven't yet read - and it did that, too. But the part that I didn't expect is that the course gave me insights into issues that are important in the modern world - issues like being a hero when no one is looking or fighting a battle against not only the obvious enemies about also against the powers that control your society. After thinking about these issues, I had a much better appreciation of why these are great novels - not just entertaining books to read.
Date published: 2017-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Many highlights and surprises I really enjoyed this course. The second half was astoundingly good. Highlights for me were Lisbeth Salander, Celie, Dracula, and I appreciated the James Bond lecture.
Date published: 2017-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting perspective into familiar characters. The instructor provides a wide-ranging exploration of familiar heroes and heroines as old as the ancient Greeks and as new as Harry Potter. It's an interesting way to look at some of Western Civilization's most important stories. The instructor is a bit of a pedant, but I think that is to be expected in a subject like this one. His analyses seemed sound to me. It's pretty cerebral stuff, and not everybody will be interested in it, but I enjoyed listening to the course.
Date published: 2017-06-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Heroes & Legends: The Most Infuential characters I brought the DVD set. I wish the disc has closed caption. I had trouble understanding the instructor British accent. It took away from the lecture.
Date published: 2017-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Fun! I bought this course on sale with limited expectations. What a great surprise! From Prof. Shippey's Sean Connery-like voice to his free-wheeling sense of humor and odd pronunciations, I found myself enjoying each lecture and eagerly awaiting the next one. The subtitle of this course is bold - the most influential characters of literature. While I am not sure that all of his chosen heroes and legends live up to that billing, Prof. Shippey makes a persuasive case for each, and, in any event, each of his subjects are very interesting characters, expertly discussed here. I listened to the audio version of the course, which was entirely adequate. High marks for this one!
Date published: 2017-05-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Insight and Very Entertaining Thomas Shippey covers a wide variety of heroes from Odysseus to Winston Smith and Harry Potter. He does a great job of showing how each hero fits into his or her particular society, and he shows how the various heroes compare to one another. His approach is somewhat different than that of an English professor because Shippey's background is in linguistics.
Date published: 2016-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Entertainment Oscar Winner What a wonderful entertaining 1st class course. Relive some of the worlds most exciting adventures; brilliantly narrated by Prof. Shippey. These lectures expanded my knowledge and understanding of literatures epic heroes. Listening has also given me plenty of new ideas for stories to use in my hobby of Creative Writing. I listen to them on my daily walk and their content has added to my enjoyment. My most pleasurable course to date. Thank you.
Date published: 2016-12-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it I was sad when this course ended. I really enjoyed the professor, his insights and humor. You can quibble with the inclusion of a few characters as heroes (looking at you, Guinevere) but he makes a thoughtful argument for each of his selections.
Date published: 2016-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Character I have seen Professor Shippey on documentaries before and he is a very well known literature teacher. I may not always agree personally with his interpretation, but he has a very good knowledge of history as well as literature in this genre, and he defends his conclusions very well. After I finish with this course it will be used for my two teen daughters who are homeschooled by my ex-wife.
Date published: 2016-10-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course Professor Thomas A. Shippey does a superb job in this course. I truly liked his style, wisdom, and the way each lecture was done. The characters which are described come alive in the lectures, and I really enjoyed getting to know old friends better, and meeting some new literary friends from books I have yet to read. I recommend this course.
Date published: 2016-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Fun for a Book Lover If you are a book lover, you will really enjoy this course. The professor dedicates lessons to twenty-four of the greatest characters in history, ranging from ancient characters like Odysseus up to modern characters like Harry Potter with many points in between. In each lecture, the professor gives the character's background, discusses the author's motivations, frames the character in his or her historic time period, and discusses how the character has had a lasting influence (or is likely to have a lasting influence in the case of more modern characters). I particularly enjoyed how he pointed out the evolution of what we deem as heroic in our society, such as the distinct difference between a demi-god character like Aeneas versus Winston Smith, the modern "every man" in the Orwellian nightmare, 1984. The professor's teaching style is clear, and he makes cogent and enlightened points. I will say, though, that it helps to have read the books. I have read most of the books, and I got much more out of the lectures for those than the ones that I have not read. Also, the professor occasionally drops a spoiler, so you should take that into account if you are planning to read a particular book.
Date published: 2016-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Characters come off the page and into life I enjoyed Dr. Shippey's approach. He describes his characters in terms such a "trickster" and "straight arrow" with such candor. As such the characters take on human qualities helping us understand them and the leterature in greater and brighter detail.
Date published: 2016-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Eclectic Bunch of Heroes The professor has looked widely at literature to select his heroes, and among those selected are such predictable ones as Odysseus and Aeneas and such unpredictable ones as Elizabeth Bennett, Uncle Tom, Dracula, James Bond, and Harry Potter. By the time you are finished, if you read all the books he covers, you will have read a terrific range of books and looked on many fictional characters in a new way. Grand fun!
Date published: 2016-07-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Heroes and Legends The course is good but would really benefit by being able to increase playing speeds. Sometimes the prof is just tooooo slow and that gets annoying.
Date published: 2016-07-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great presentation and content. Not what I wanted This course, while interesting, was a lot about presenting fictional "heroes." While entertaining at some level, I found the definition of "hero" misleading and even farcical. I wanted more
Date published: 2016-06-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Heroes And Legends Very well thought- out combinations of characters. The professor knows his stuff. He inter-relates the characters in combinations and contradictions. Makes one want to read (or re-read) the stories again. But... as with most of the Great Courses I have seen, the Professors NEED MORE TIME. Some of them have even said during the lectures that there is so "Much more to cover". The professor on this videos held his arms out at his waist and rarely dropped them; not even at the end of that particular lecture. Very distracting. Look forward to Volume 2 so the Professor can go into more detail that he is hoping to do.
Date published: 2016-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favorite course! This was great! I truly enjoyed this course, as did my husband. I look forward to listening to it again. Professor Shippey included enough story to bring each figure to life, while at the same time accumulating evidence from the source material to support his thesis for each. There was a nice mix (from the Western canon) of old and new. I enjoyed the professor's delivery, erudition, and wit. This is the way I wish my university western lit courses had been, a combination of learning and pleasure. I applaud Great Courses for preserving and distributing these lectures. Please ask Professor Shippey to do many more courses. I would love to hear more.
Date published: 2016-03-07
  • y_2020, m_11, d_29, h_16
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.12
  • cp_2, bvpage2n
  • co_hasreviews, tv_3, tr_66
  • loc_en_US, sid_2192, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 8.66ms

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought

Buy together as a Set
Save Up To $10.00
Choose a Set Format