Iliad of Homer

Course No. 301
Professor Elizabeth Vandiver, Ph.D.
Whitman College
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Course No. 301
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Course Overview

When John Keats first read Chapman's translation of the epics of "deep-brow'd Homer," he was so overwhelmed, so overcome with the joy of discovery, that he compared his experience to finding "a new planet." When you join Professor Elizabeth Vandiver for these lectures on the Iliad, you come to understand what enthralled Keats and has gripped so many readers of Homer.

Dr. Vandiver is a recipient of the American Philological Association's Excellence in Teaching Award—the most prestigious teaching award available to American classicists—and several other major honors for teaching excellence.

Her compelling look at this epic masterpiece—whether it is the work of many or indeed the "vision" of a blind poet who nevertheless saw more deeply into the human heart than almost anyone before or since—demonstrates why she is held in such immense regard.

Share Homer's Compelling Meditation on the Human Condition

Professor Vandiver makes it vividly clear why, after almost 3,000 years, the Iliad remains not only among the greatest adventure stories ever told, but also one of the most compelling meditations on the human condition ever written.

Indeed, it is probably true to say that only the Bible rivals Homer for sheer depth and scope of cultural and literary influence.

How is this so?

At first glance, the Iliad tells of a long-dead epoch that seems utterly alien to us. Indeed, the Bronze Age Aegean was a distant memory even to the original audience for this great work.

Yet the grandeur and immediacy of the Homeric world seem to defy time and space.

  • He depicts a legendary era in brilliant, unforgettable hues.
  • He peoples it with towering heroes who thirst for honor, fight shattering wars, and deal face-to-face with gods.
  • He acts out, in words memorized and passed on verbally long before they were ever set to paper, mankind's awesome passions for glory, love, and vengeance.

An Inquiry into Timeless Human Issues

Or perhaps age seems only to burnish the luster of the Iliad precisely because of its very strangeness and distance, which throw so sharply into focus the timeless human issues it raises.

These issues are evoked by the power of a single dramatic question: Why does Achilles rage?

Around these questions Homer weaves a narrative that makes us ask many questions:

  • What are the limits of our freedom?
  • Who or what shapes our actions and our ends?
  • Is there a common humanity that we share, or is life only "a constant seeking of power after power"?
  • What holds people together and keeps them going in extreme situations such as war?
  • Why do we love our own so strongly?
  • Where is the line between justice and revenge?
  • And above all, what does it mean to be alive?

Meticulous and Insightful

Professor Vandiver builds her analysis skillfully around meticulous, insightful examinations of the most important episodes in the Iliad.

  • She explains the cultural assumptions that lie behind Homer's lines, and you join her in weighing the basic critical and interpretive issues.
  • She probes the relationship of this great epic to the tradition of orally transmitted poetry and surveys the archaeological evidence for an actual conflict.
  • She repeatedly visits the Iliad's overriding theme of what it means to be human and what the Iliad has to say about the human condition.

She explains with passion and clarity why Homer remains our contemporary.

Moreover, with her skillful organization and way of looking at the events and intents of this great masterpiece, she gives you a key to heightened enjoyment and comprehension in all of your encounters with literature.

A Clearly Organized and Comprehensive Examination

Lecture 1 sets the stage for our reading of the Iliad by providing an introduction to the plan of the course and summarizing the mythological background assumed by both the Iliad and the Odyssey (also available as a course taught by Dr. Vandiver).

Lecture 2 addresses the question of the 400- to 500-year gap between the events described in the Iliad (and, subsequently, the Odyssey) and the time when they were first written down.

It describes the Iliad's relationship to traditional orally transmitted poetry, and considers the implications of that oral tradition for the question of who "Homer" was.

Lectures 3-12 address the plot, characters, and interpretations of the Iliad itself. Each focuses on a particular scene, character, or theme as we read through the Iliad.

Lecture 3 introduces the cultural concepts of kleos (glory) and timê (honor) and explains their significance for understanding the wrath of Achilles.

Lecture 4 moves inside the walls of Troy to discuss Homer's presentation of the Trojans as sympathetic characters, rather than stereotypical enemies.

Lecture 5 looks in detail at Book IX of the Iliad, where three of Achilles's comrades try to persuade him to return to battle, and discusses how the concepts of kleos and timê factor into his refusal to do so.

Lecture 6 is devoted to a fuller discussion of the concept of kleos, which demonstrates that it is one of the key elements in the Iliad 's examination of the human condition.

Lecture 7 turns to an examination of the gods in Homer, discussing what types of beings they are and what their presence in the narrative adds to the Iliad.

Lectures 8 and 9 give a detailed reading of the most important events of the day of Hektor's glory and Patroklos's death—the Iliad 's longest day, which lasts from Book XI through Book XVIII—with Lecture 8 focusing on Hektor and Lecture 9 on Patroklos.

Lecture 10 covers Achilles's return to battle, discussing the implications of his actions, his divinely made armor, and his refusal to bury the dead Patroklos.

Lecture 11 examines Hektor and Achilles together, highlighting the contrasting elements in their characters and the inevitability of their final encounter in battle.

Lecture 12 concludes the course with a discussion of the resolution of the Iliad, which is brought about by Achilles's encounter with his dead enemy, Hektor's aged father, King Priam.

The encounter of these two enemies offers one final opportunity to take from this great work a true understanding of the nature of mortality, the Iliad's constant underlying theme.

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12 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Introduction to Homeric Epic
    What is an epic? How should we go about reading such a work? What is the "back story" of the Trojan War with which Homer's listeners were familiar? x
  • 2
    The Homeric Question
    Here is one of the great literary debates of all time. For centuries, experts have been asking: How were the Homeric epics created? Is there really an individual genius named Homer behind these awesome works, or are we dealing with conglomerations of shorter poems from the hands of many bards? How, why, and by whom were these stories first written down? What role did they play in ancient Greek society? x
  • 3
    Glory, Honor, and the Wrath of Achilles
    What wider themes does the bard open up as he sings the wrath of Achilles? What is the cultural background against which we must understand Achilles's anger and its implications? What do timê (honor) and kleos (everlasting fame or glory) mean to Homeric heroes? x
  • 4
    Within the Walls of Troy
    Homer's portrayal of the Trojans is sympathetic and subtle. Trapped in an unsought war of annihilation, they fight not just for honor and fame, but for all they hold dear, and even their very lives. Here are some of the most deeply moving scenes in all of Homer. x
  • 5
    The Embassy to Achilles
    After Achilles's quarrel with Agamemnon and subsequent withdrawal from combat, the absence of their greatest captain becomes an ever-graver problem for the Greeks. This lecture examines the embassy and offer of vast gifts that Agamemnon sends to Achilles, and the latter's refusal in a remarkable speech that reveals much about his character even as it calls into question the entire ethos of his society. x
  • 6
    The Paradox of Glory
    Kleos is the only kind of immortality available to a Homeric hero. Every major warrior in The Iliad strives for it, often in a scene of conspicuous combat prowess called an aristeia. But as the character of Achilles reveals, a kind of paradox lies at the heart of the quest for kleos. x
  • 7
    The Role of the Gods
    The Olympians are actively present at every turn in the Homeric narratives. What sorts of divinities are they? How does their ageless, deathless nature serve as a device through which the bard can dramatize the human condition and its stakes? Finally, what is fate, and what does it mean for gods and humans alike? x
  • 8
    The Longest Day
    This lecture continues our comparison of gods and mortals by examining the dual narratives, divine and human, of Iliad XI-XV, the books which lead up to and feature Hektor's great display of martial prowess. x
  • 9
    The Death of Patroklos
    In this lecture we focus on Books XVI-XVII. The lecture begins by discussing Patroklos's character and his role as Achilles's substitute in battle. We then examine Patroklos's aristeia and death, the turning point of The Iliad. x
  • 10
    Achilles Returns to Battle
    We examine Achilles's reaction to Patroklos's death, his re-entry into the battle, his divinely forged armor, and his fixation on vengeance. Why does Homer use language and imagery that suggest Achilles is a god and that he is a dead man? x
  • 11
    Achilles and Hektor
    In this lecture, we examine the characters of Achilles and Hektor. The lecture addresses both the bard's characterization of the two champions and their interactions. What do their differences tell us? What do we learn from the scene in which Achilles kills Hektor? How is their conflict crucial for the final resolution of The Iliad? x
  • 12
    Enemies' Tears—Achilles and Priam
    This lecture focuses on the meeting of Achilles and Priam, and the closing of The Iliad. Priam seeks the return of his son's body, which Achilles has been trying to defile, but what does his visit do for Achilles? We look closely at the meeting between these two enemies and consider the impact of their encounter for an understanding of The Iliad's great underlying theme. x

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Your professor

Elizabeth Vandiver

About Your Professor

Elizabeth Vandiver, Ph.D.
Whitman College
Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver is Professor of Classics and Clement Biddle Penrose Professor of Latin at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She was formerly Director of the Honors Humanities program at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she also taught in the Department of Classics. She completed her undergraduate work at Shimer College and went on to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. from The University of Texas at...
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Reviews

Iliad of Homer is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 136.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enthraling I LOVED THIS COURSE. DR. VANDIVER'S 1999 Scholarly PRESENTATION IS AN EPIC POEM ITSELF (I am viewing it over a decade after its creation#. Fully engaging! I highly recommend it! To date, I have viewed 7 of my Great Courses #I have quite a library....much more to learn), and this is THE BEST ONE YET! I was a complete Iliad neophyte until viewing her lecture. However, I am certain that additional insights can be gleaned for others who have read it. Well done Dr. Vandiver, well done!
Date published: 2014-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So they buried Hektor.... Audio download Dr Vandiver delivers a well prepared, concise survey and summary of this epic story/poem that is as alive today as it was nearly 3000 years ago. Troy, and it's story, seems to have a special attraction to western culture, and maybe it is because of this classic that it does. I won't give a synopsis...there are far too many as it is...but will advise the potential purchaser of these lectures that you won't be disappointed (it has it all, seduction, slaughter and sorrow). I've just finished Liz's Iliad lectures (for the second time), and will be re-listening to the Odessey shortly. These are bargain lectures, very often on sale...and they are some of the best.
Date published: 2014-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well done! Professor Vandiver, as always, does a smashing good job with presenting the material. It's thorough, interesting, scholarly but not tediously so, and doesn't neglect the basics for those who have not been exposed to the material before or who (like me) have not read Homer since middle school. I have only one minor issue with the course. After spending a lecture reviewing the debate over authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the professor says that for the sake of simplicity she will refer to the author as "Homer" throughout the lectures. She then proceeds through the Iliad and Odyssey lectures to NOT do this. I think most listeners get the point during the original lecture that authorship of these epics is open to some questions. And if that failed to sink in during the 30 minutes devoted to discussing the topic (which was very interesting!), then the next twenty references to "Homer" that are hedged to reiterate doubt about authorship would make the point. The hundred or so after that are just overkill. Aside from this somewhat irritating hyperfocus, the course was highly informative and entertaining, and I would not hesitate to purchase another course done by Dr Vandiver.
Date published: 2014-10-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting but some content contradictory This is an excellent and interesting rendering of the Illiad. However, I found Professor Vandiver’s interpretation of the Greek character somewhat contradictory: in chapter 2, she stresses the importance of Time’ and Kleos (Honor and Glory) in determining a warrior’s status in Greek society. Conversely In chapter 11, she emphasizes Hektor’s humanity and decency (in contrast to Achilles callous disregard of anything resembling a moral standard) and depicts Hektor as an ideal Greek citizen. I completely agree that, by modern standards, Hektor stands head and shoulder above Achilles. But if Time’ and Kleos were of such great importance in that culture, I fail to see how one can conclude that Hektor would be held in greater esteem by their contemporaries than Achilles.
Date published: 2014-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best course I've taken to date I can't say enough wonderful things about Professor Vandiver and this course. Others have pretty much said what I wanted to, so I'll keep this brief. I ordered this course to gain a better understanding of the importance of the Iliad and how I can bring it into the classroom. I was so impressed that I had talked to one of the English teachers at my school and we are going to do a joint research paper with our kids on the Trojan War and the Iliad. Professor Vandiver has inspired me to go further into the world of Homer and mythology. I had since purchased "The Odyssey", "Classical Mythology", and "The Anenid" and about to start Classical Mythology tonight. An excellent course, an excellent professor, and a source of inspiration. Money well spent!
Date published: 2014-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly Excellent Prof. Vandiver delivers yet another series of lectures up to her usual exceptional standard. As always she presents her case logically, clearly and engagingly. When listened to in conjunction with pre-reading of the relevant books, the transfer of knowledge is exceptional. An excellent course, as are all of this most gifted teacher.
Date published: 2014-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from As Usual with Professor Vandiver- Excellent! DVD Format. Having viewed this course with the insightful Dr. Vandiver, I can now understand how the Iliad has endured for 3000 years. Dr. Vandiver brings out the genius of Homer in her thorough analysis of the poem, one of the World's first literary wonders. Though written in archaic times, you'll find that human nature has changed little. As with the main characters in the Iliad: Menelaus, Achilles, Hector and Patroklos, mankind is still driven by pride, ego, lust and fears, and a host of other torments (comforting or not). The Iliad, (Shakespeare might have said), is a hard act to follow. Dr. Vandiver, a classic scholar, is an accomplished lecturer. This course, my third by this brilliant lady, met my every expectation.
Date published: 2014-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Never A Doubt By the title, I mean that Professor Vandiver demonstrates here (as elsewhere) that she is among the most dependable of your Great Courses faculty. What is sometimes most difficult for a lecturer is to be compelling with a subject that so many are familiar with (or so they may think). Professor Vandiver, as she has done with her previous courses, demonstrates not only the deep background needed but the commitment to making her audience engaged. Her material is well crafted and her delivery is genuine, no-nonsense, and nuanced. I enjoy how well she communicates. Her Iliad allows us to know the principals, to appreciate the bright line between gods and mortals, and to keep both the story and her own message coherent. I only hope that the Great Courses concludes that her contributions are not yet exhausted.
Date published: 2014-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear, concise intro to Virgil Somehow, in all my decades of reading, I have never gotten around to the Homeric epics. I thought I would let Prof. Vandiver whet my appetite for the Iliad, as she did awhile back for me with the Aeneid of Virgil. This course was just what I was looking for: a solid introduction to the history and contents of this epic poem. It will familiarize you with the plot, the cast of characters, and let you view the story from the human and Olympian perspectives. Even if I never read the entire epic, I now feel much more conversant about Homer and his heroes.
Date published: 2014-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Profound discussion of the human condition LECTURER: This is the second course I have taken given by Professor Vandiver - the first being "Herodotus, the father of history". Her presentation in this course too, as almost all reviewers agree, is fascinating and almost flawless. CONTENT: The course deals almost exclusively in analyzing Homer's "Iliad". In addition to the story's plain narrative, the epic deals with the most profound issues of the human condition such as our mortality, fame and fortune, grief, mercy and total cruelty in battle. It follows Achilles (the Greek's best warrior) through the last year of the battle with the troys. In the first stage he phases into total, passive wrath and detachment from battle because of Agamemnon's betrayal of his honor. Next he goes into a revenge drenched rampage when his alter ego is killed in battle by Hector (the Troy's best warrior), but in truth, he is enraged because he realizes his own mortality and vulnerability. He loses all traces of humanity by foregoing all basic human needs such as food, drink and sleep. The detachment from humanity stops when Prium, elderly father of Hector (his enemy), approaches him, begs for his mercy and asks him to stop defiling his son's body whom he has killed in battle, and to return it to him for burial. SCOPE: The Iliad, along with Homer's Odyssey form in many ways the basis of ancient Greek culture, and serves as the backdrop for many of the TGC titles in this era, such as "Ancient Greek Civilization", "Greek and Persian Wars", "Herodotus Father of History"," "Age of Pericles", "Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire", and "Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic age" to name only a few. Having heard these courses, and now having "Iliad by Homer", I believe that I could have taken much more value out of the former courses had I heard the Iliad first. Having now been exposed to the content of the Iliad, it is easy to see how such a huge and deeply emotional epic could serve as the backdrop the ancient Greek culture, and indirectly after merging to the Roman empire, to all of modern Western culture.
Date published: 2014-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from best lecture yet dynamic, knowledgeable, captivating professor. After listening to this and the Odyssey, I ordered another batch of her lectures. All the TeachCo lectures are great, but this lady is the best so far!
Date published: 2013-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Part 1 of THE great epic (This is the same review as for part 2 - "The Odyssey of Homer". I was originally more familiar and interested in the Odyssey, but am glad I bought the set, and got the complete story. As such they deserve to be reviewed as a whole.) This is an excellently informative and wonderfully entertaining synopsis from a truly expert commentator. Professor Vandiver is both very knowledgable and articulate in conveying both the essence and details of these epics (the Iliad and the Odyssey) - practically racing through in 12 lectures each a story she claims to have read countless times herself, and what could easily have been drawn out to be 10 times as long. The result is a concise yet thorough retelling (occasionally being a bit wordy and repetitive in her desire to be thorough), revealing it as a timeless masterpiece of world literature (regardless of its true origins and authorship). Providing authoritative understanding of the language and cultural background as well as the general mythic significance (a universal human meaning we can so easily recognize and appreciate more than 3000 years later), Prof. Vandiver does an excellent job making this an engaging and relevant story. Basically the Iliad is a tale of war, and the concern of warriors for time' (honor) and kleos (glory), while the Odyssey is a story of subsequent homecoming and the central role of xenia (guest-host relationship) and fidelity in holding a civil society together. And in this rather grand way it is the story of each of us (via Achilles the greatest warrior faced with a choice of fates - unending glory or obscure peaceful longevity, and "Odysseus", as he who causes and receives pain, being as good a synonym for an individuating ego as literature has ever offered up). As a plus the final lecture of the Odyssey course on the actual historical/archeological evidence for Troy is a nice post script. Overall, a highly recommended set of courses.
Date published: 2013-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just About Perfect! AUDIO This is the place to start if you are going to read the Iliad. Professor Vandiver is one of the Teaching Company’s best lecturers: this course and its companion, the Odyssey, are exemplary guides to Homer. Not only does it contain very useful explanations of each of the books in the Iliad, but it also has exceptionally good introductory lectures on the Homeric Epic and a history of scholarship on authorship and the texts that have come down to us (though note that this introductory material is not included in Professor Vandiver’s lectures on the Odyssey). I have enjoyed reading the Iliad in various translations over many years, from an old Penguin paperback of E.V. Rieu’s 1940s prose translation to the award-winning 1990 Robert Fagles verse translation. It was this version that I had on hand when I purchased the Teaching Company course, only to find that Professor Vandiver dislikes the Fagles translation, finding it “…marred by excessive use of colloquial language (e.g., phrases such as ‘cramping my style’). Similarly, Fagles’ meter does not capture the feeling of the Homeric hexameter.” Professor Vandiver recommends the Richard Lattimore translation, which is a line by line translation and preserves Homer’s formulas of wording, which “…goes a long way toward preserving the ‘feel’ of Homer in English.” I stuck with the Fagles translation, however, and it all worked out well, though I do appreciate Professor Vandiver’s position. In fact, I recently purchased the Lattimore translation for another reading of the Iliad. For someone encountering Homer for the first time, reading Lattimore’s translation would prove difficult, most notably because of what Professor Vandiver cites as one of its strengths, being “…somewhat archaic and difficult sounding…truer to the original than a more idiomatic rendering would be…”. (All quotes from course guidebook, page 55.) Here are examples from Lattimore and Fagles, translating the first lines from the Iliad, to provide a comparison in deciding whether Lattimore or Fagles (or another) might better suit the reader. Lattimore: Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus And its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians, hurled in their multitudes to the House of Hades strong souls of heroes, but gave their bodies to be delicate feasting of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished since that time when first there stood in division of conflict Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus. Fagles: Rage – Goddess sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses, hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls, great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion feast for the dogs and birds, and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end. Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed, Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.
Date published: 2013-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More complex than I ever imagined This was one of those eye opening courses where you thought you knew something about the Iliad but in fact what you knew was only the most superficial reading of the text. Elizabeth Vandiver did a fabulous job of explaining the meaning of the text within the context of Greek culture at the time. She also dissected the plot and the action so that you came away understanding the literary complexity and richness of the Iliad. No wonder it has survived for 3 millennia! Tonight we start watching the Odyssey. I can't wait!
Date published: 2013-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Delivers more than you expect When I purchased this course I had not yet read the Iliad. It was something that I wanted to read, or wanted to want to read, but I just hadn't made time for it. I purchased this course because I knew I could use some help understanding the material. The professor is enthusiastic and has clear command of the material. Not only does she draw out major themes and explain the plot but she gives historical and literary background as well as connecting this poem to the present day and modern writers. She presents various theories and viewpoints fairly and remains objective. I can't recommend this course highly enough. Check out her other courses including the Odyssey and Classical Mythology. I'm currently listening to Greek Tragedy.
Date published: 2013-06-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Buy the CD not the DVD Dr. Vandiver is an excellent lecturer. Although I read the Iliad when I was young, I understand so much more after hearing these lectures. I recommend buying the CD, since there are so few visuals. This presentation is a window into another world, so very different than one we will ever know (fortunately!).
Date published: 2013-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't wait for the next lecture... I looked forward to her discussions as I read through the Iliad. Very insightful, rich, thoughts. She is a pleasure to listen to, never talks down, but shares her passion and appreciation for this work and brings to life again what you have just finished reading. The end of lecture questions in the lecture notes are fantastic. One of my favorite lecturer's at GC's (or any course I've taken, for that matter). Highly recommended...go ahead, read an amazing work of art with the guidance of a fantastic expert. (Note: If you enjoy her guidance through Iliad, she continues with another series of lectures on Odyssey, which is just as rewarding.)
Date published: 2013-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic course This course and The Odyssey are two of my favorite courses by the Teaching Company. Professor Vandiver is a fantastic lecturer. One of the reasons I enjoyed this course so much is the fact that all 12 lectures were about one book. This review is doubling as a plea to The Teaching Company to offer more detailed courses on literature like this one. They offer many survey courses, and I almost always like them, but often the professor in the survey courses opens a lecture with something to the effect of "I can't possibly do justice to...in a 30 minute lecture" A twelve lecture course on Hamlet or Moby Dick or The Great Gatsby or Don Quixote or frankly any great book would probably result in the listener remembering more than the survey courses. Maybe my preference is not widespread enough to make business sense, but I enjoyed these lectures, and the details in them (like Argos wagging his tail before he dies upon Odysseus' return), so much that I thought I'd share my purchase preferences.
Date published: 2013-01-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Glad I listened but very frustrating This is a worthwhile course to have listened to. I have the sense that I now understand the poem. But I am left with a significant sense of frustration. As Texan999 mentions below, Prof Vandiver belabors many points that could have been made in just a couple of sentences. Some are scholarly debates over abstruse points. Some are important ideas but overdone. Some examples of things belabored *That Achilles had two potential fates from which he could choose. And that no one else did. *The poem would have been delivered orally over 3 days. But, did the first day end at Book 8 or Book 9? We'll never know. *Whether the *9th* year of the war was the right time for Helen to be pointing out to the King of Troy all of the Greeks on the battlefield. Shouldn't she have done this during the 1st year? Is this evidence that the Iliad was not the work of a single genius? (Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.) I would have expected this course to have a rating of 4.0 stars. If you're expecting to be as enchanted by this course as you have been by other 4.8-rated courses by Kloss, Greenberg, Cook, McWhorter, I fear you'll be disappointed.
Date published: 2012-10-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Repetitive I'm not having good luck lately with highly-rated TGC lecturers. I found Prof. Vandiver maddeningly repetitive. A sample from Lecture 5: "First of all, it is extraordinary for a mortal to be told his fate at all. As I talked about before, the idea is that we all have a fate, we all have an appointed time of death, a day when we are going to die. But most of us do not know it. Most of us cannot know it. [Mentions Oedipus as exception to rule] But most of us are never told what our fate will be. It's something that can only be seen in retrospect. After someone is killed in battle, you can assume that they were fated to be killed in battle on that day, but you don't know it ahead of time. So it is very unusual for a human being to be told what his fate is to begin with. Secondly, it is all but unparalleled for a human to have two separate, alternative fates. For Achilles to be able to say, 'My mother has told me I carry two kinds of destiny with me' is so unusual as to be almost unique, if not absolutely unique. That Achilles is able to say, 'I can choose one, or I can choose the other' -- that is not how fate normally works." These aren't difficult or even fresh concepts; why beat them to death? I was hoping for insight or context, but what I got was a belaboring of plot points. There are easier ways to get a plot summary. Now I'm sorry I've got Prof. Vandiver's "Odyssey" and "Herodotus" lined up in my queue.
Date published: 2012-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Finally Understand the Themes of Homer's Iliad I had read Homer on my own before, but I wanted a guide to lead me deeper into the text. I couldn't have found a better one than Professor Vandiver. Her lectures are well-organized, delivered in a pleasant, warm style, with excellent diction. She clearly knows her subject matter and how to present its themes and key points in a succinct, easily comprehensible way. Unlike a few other TTC lecturers, she doesn't assume we know all the terminology and background of the concepts she discusses. She takes a moment to explain them and then applies them to the Iliad. I never felt left behind or befuddled. I was worried at the beginning when she said that there would be no way she could begin to cover everything she would like in 12 short lectures. I feared I would miss out on key information. I need not have worried, however, because she did pack as much as she could into the lectures, and for my first true study of the work, I'm very pleased with the amount of new knowledge with which I came away. Her syllabus is structured in a manner that if you would like to view a lecture a day, it is possible to read the requisite chapters (books) each day in preparation for the lecture. You'll have read and understood the Iliad in less than two short weeks. Just as other reviewers have said, I do wish the course had been 24 lectures, as Prof. Vandiver seems to have plenty of interesting material that could fill it. I've just begun her Odyssey course, and if TTC were to offer an advanced Homer class by her, I'd order that too. One final note: I watched the video version of the class. However, there were very few graphics, photos or anything beyond watching Prof. Vandiver deliver the lecture as she lightly paced back and forth to her podium. (If I'm not mistaken, I believe she always wore the same jacket as well, so there were no moments of fashion diversion either.) That was fine, but those considering the audio version shouldn't worry that they will miss visuals that are critical to the understanding of the work.
Date published: 2012-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Top-Notch Audio CD. Every course by Elizabeth Vandiver is top-notch. She is well organized, fun to listen to, and always illuminating. I used to think that the Iliad was about the Trojan War. However, Dr. Vandiver shows that it is about the real human condition, particularly dealing with rage and insult. I saw more of myself in the petulance of Achilles than I wanted to admit. Dr. Vandiver takes this relic, often forced down the throats of freshmen, and makes it come alive.
Date published: 2012-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not Just Another Epic Poem The last time I read the Illiad was in high school, maybe even middle school, and at the time it was nothing more than a long poem filled with awesome descriptions of war, violence, fighting and warrior's glory. It's still all of that but apparently quite a bit more according to Professor Vandiver. Now that I'm a bit older I can appreciate 'the bard's' take on Greek society as a whole and how the story was important in a pre-literate society. This is a course designed for anyone who 'wants to know more' and the story behind the story... a director's cut (or professor's interpretation if you will) of the Illiad. I found it to be one of those 'fun' courses that was easy to follow along with and didn't require too much mental work to get into. It certainly helps to read the guidebook to keep track of all of the characters if you're not familiar with the story and I would recommend going straight into her Odyssey lecture after listening to the Illiad lecture if you have both. Her presentation is consistent in pace and volume and I had no trouble listening to it while commuting unlike some other lectures.
Date published: 2012-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A classic explained by a classics scholar ! An intensely powerful, impressive presentation from Dr Vandiver. This lady truly is a Classics scholar and expert, so highly-qualified, and obviously so deeply enamoured of her subject material (see also "Classical Mythology"). There's a lot to be absorbed in this course; for me the guidebook was a very welcome aid and I referred to it frequently. The course is recommended to anyone who wishes to learn about Homer's Iliad as well as for those already well-versed in the Trojan War. One small suggestion: if you are not familiar with the characters, I would advise you read the guidebook first, at least to be sure you know who is who in the plot, so to speak.
Date published: 2012-07-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Trip Into the Trojan War! The Iliad can be a “darn hard slog” (a phrase used by Professor Spurgin in his Teaching Company course “Art of Reading” to discuss works of Faulkner and Woolf). There are many unusual names and places in addition to a culture unfamiliar to most 21st century readers. The names and places you must negotiate on your own through use of a fairly thorough glossary and section of biographical notes in the course guidebook. But Professor Vandiver really shines as she takes you through the culture of this great Homeric epic. Gaining an understanding of the value system of the ancients Greeks and Trojans provides a superb framework for exploring the Iliad and understanding the actions of Achilles and others throughout this final year of the Trojan War. This 12-lecture course was initially part of a longer course on both the Iliad and the Odyssey which was cleaved into two separate courses. As a result, the course occasionally seems disjointed. Every once in a while Professor Vandiver will refer to “Lecture 13” or “aspects of the Odyssey discussed later in the course.” This is a minor inconvenience and an artifact of the division of a 24-lecture course into two separate 12-lecture courses. I strongly recommend both courses, thus missing none of the important insights provided. Professor Vandiver has such a deep knowledge and appreciation of these classics that she could easily have provided a great 36 or 48 lecture course on the Iliad alone. Read these classics while listening to the lectures to acquire a very new and deeper appreciation of these great works!
Date published: 2012-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Recommended I listened to this course as I started to read the Iliad. Prof Vandiver provides an excellent explanation of the cultural background of Homeric times and the literary techniques underlying the Iliad. It greatly enhanced my appreciation of the epic. I highly recommend this course to anybody intending to read the Iliad. No, scratch that, what I mean to say is buy this course and listen to it attentively. Then go read the Iliad. You won't regret it. I likewise recommend the Odyssey and Prof Vandiver's course on it.
Date published: 2012-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Never read in college- Reading with audio perfect I bought this as part of a set last November. I listened to the Iliad in the car commuting to work. It was so interesting, by the third day, I would leave my house a few minutes early so I could sit in the parking lot to finish a section daily. Excellent.
Date published: 2012-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent introduction As a new reader of the Iliad, I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by it. Prof. VanDiver did an excellent job of high-lighting the important parts of the narrative as well as showing how the story fits into its historical context. She is a very organized instructor who clearly understands her topic. I especially liked when she read in Greek. I used this course to supplement the single lecture that she gave on the Iliad in the Teaching Company course, The Western Literary Tradition -- which, so far, has also been excellent.
Date published: 2012-04-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid Series This was a very adequate introduction to The Iliad; the lectures were well-organized and clear. The last two or three lectures are thought-provoking. I refrained from giving five stars because the majority of the lectures are fairly basic and perfunctory; they allow the student to understand the material and gain insight into its structure and background, but don't provide a lot of fodder for further rumination and consideration. I would certainly recommend this to anyone who hasn't already taken a collegiate course on the subject.
Date published: 2012-04-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Homer explained and appreciated If you want a great review of Homer, look no further. Well, actually, get the course on the Odyssey as well. I also recommend Prof. Vandiver's Aeneid - Homer came first but Virgil, 1000 years later, learned all Homer's tricks and added many more.
Date published: 2012-02-04
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