Life Lessons from the Great Myths

Course No. 3870
Professor J. Rufus Fears, Ph.D.
University of Oklahoma
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Course Overview

Hector and Achilles clash on the battlefields of Troy. Arthur discovers a magical sword and becomes a powerful British king. Jesse James pulls off daring crimes across the American frontier. Myths and stories such as these have captivated billions of people throughout human history. But these and other moments are more than just mere entertainment; they also serve a more important purpose.

Great myths and grand tales teach people about the hopes and values of their cultures, and they impart invaluable life lessons that can teach, guide, and inspire. The ways in which the human imagination can transform historical events, people, and themes into powerful myths that endure through the ages is nothing short of awe-inspiring. And to examine the core of the world's greatest myths and tales—and the larger-than-life characters who figure in them—is to confront some of history's most basic human truths. It's also an engaging opportunity to better understand them, learn from them, and possibly even apply them to your own everyday life.

Change the way you think about some of the greatest stories ever told with Life Lessons from the Great Myths by award-winning Professor J. Rufus Fears of the University of Oklahoma. A powerful work of storytelling prowess and historical insight, these 36 captivating lectures explore events and individuals that so gripped civilizations, they transcended to the level of myth and played an important role in shaping culture, politics, religion, and more. Taking you from the battlefields of Alexander the Great and the ships of Viking explorers to the conquests of Napoleon Bonaparte and the rough-and-tumble drama of the American West, this is the kind of engaging, personally rewarding Great Course that only Professor Fears can deliver.

Walk the Universal Path to Wisdom

Mythology, according to Professor Fears, is an essential part of the universal path to wisdom. We study myths and the heroes who populate them for the same reason we study any subject in the humanities: to gain wisdom. Using his decades of teaching experience and his highly popular perspective on history, Professor Fears shows you how to find, hidden within these breath-catching stories, the core sets of principles for the lives of people from around the world and across time.

To make the epic scope of world mythology more approachable, Life Lessons from the Great Myths focuses on what Professor Fears considers the most important and popular myths from key eras and cultures from more than 3,000 years of history.

  • Myths from ancient Greece and Rome: You'll travel back to the veritable cradle of Western civilization and investigate how views on warfare, heroism, family, justice, and other human values were shaped by myths and tales about the Trojan War, the adventures of Jason and Theseus, the tragedy of the House of Atreus, the founding of Rome, the rule of Julius Caesar, and more.
  • Myths from the Near East and the Middle East: Focusing on the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh and the books of Genesis and Exodus, you'll discover how ancient stories and events—including Gilgamesh's quest for immortality, the calling of Moses, and the bestowal of the Ten Commandments—can serve as the backbone for politics, culture, and spirituality.
  • Myths from early and modern Europe: Europe is also rife with its own mythologies and tales that built the foundations of the modern West and that still impart lessons on leadership. Among those you look at are chivalric Arthurian legends, Viking travels to North America, the Battle of Kosovo, and the near-mythic life of Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • Myths from the United States: America, you'll learn, was a fertile field for transforming history into myth and shaping the nation's unique approach to freedom and self-reliance. Here, you'll find out what you can learn from the lives and deeds of George Washington, Davy Crockett, Jesse James, General Armstrong Custer, and other bold American figures.

Throughout the course, you approach each myth from a perspective that considers both its (possible) historical roots and its hidden kernels of wisdom. Not only will you get a stronger sense of how myths work together to create a broad moral framework for civilizations, you'll see how in some cases—such as Julius Caesar's life serving as a direct inspiration for Napoleon Bonaparte's military career—earlier mythic and historical exploits inform and influence subsequent generations.

Uncover Enduring Sources of Wisdom

Every myth and story you explore in Life Lessons from the Great Myths—whether a completely unfounded story, such as the sinking of Atlantis, or one that can be verified by the historical record, such as the battle of the Alamo—have long since transcended into legend. And each tale conveys higher truths too profound to be described in ordinary, factual language.

Decoding them, Professor Fears reveals how they serve as vibrant and enduring sources of wisdom.

  • Oedipus, Agamemnon, and Orestes: The tragic lives of these ancient Greek figures offered Athenians pointed lessons on subjects such as decision making, leadership, and family values.
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh: The rich tapestry of supernatural events in this riveting epic provided support for Mesopotamian politics, including the need for a divinely appointed kingship.
  • Beowulf: The furious battles between this bold hero and a bevy of monsters played an important role in cementing Germanic ideas of courage, heroism, glory, and honor.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte: Promoted by the military leader himself, the myth of this French emperor shows what it takes to achieve military and political success—but also to overreach and lose it all.
  • The battle of the Alamo: The dramatic last stand of Davy Crockett and other Americans at this Texas fort emphasizes the idea that liberty is worth any price, no matter what the odds of victory.

Relive the World's Great Myths

Professor Fears has won more than 25 awards for teaching excellence throughout his illustrious career as an instructor, lecturer, and historian. And with Life Lessons from the Great Myths, you'll see for yourself (if you aren't already a fan of this masterful orator) just why he has received such acclaim—from both his students and our own community of lifelong learners.

Professor Fears does more than just deliver insightful lectures. He tells vibrant stories with passion and drama, so much so that you'll find yourself not just learning about these myths and stories, but actually reliving them. You'll

  • watch the brothers Romulus and Remus fight over where to build the city of Rome and, in the process, give birth to an iconic ancient empire;
  • walk with Moses and the Israelites as they escape from Egyptian bondage and establish religious traditions that continue to this day;
  • charge with Jesse James as he commits his daring crimes and transcends into a veritable folk hero of the American frontier;
  • follow alongside American troops as they raise the U.S. flag over Iwo Jima for a photograph that would inspire the nation;
  • and much more.

The search for wisdom is, according to Professor Fears, the paramount purpose in life. And there is much wisdom to be gleaned from the world's great myths. By the final powerful and stirring lecture of this course, you're sure to find yourself wiser than you were before you started.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Heroes, History, and Myth
    Embark on Professor Fears's latest course with this introductory lecture. First, untangle the relationship between human history and mythology. Then, see this relationship at work through two examples from American history: the life of George Washington and the raising of the American flag over Iwo Jima during World War II. x
  • 2
    The Myth of Troy
    Travel back to c. 1250 B.C. and revisit the chaos of the Trojan War. Learn how this 10-year conflict began as a result of the classical Greek idea of hubris (abusing the limits of personal power) and how its story conveys powerful political truths about the tragedy of preemptive warfare. x
  • 3
    Homer and Mythology
    Continue your look at the Trojan War, this time focusing on the great book that tells its tale: the Iliad. As Professor Fears recounts breathtaking moments from this epic poem—including the stirring final battle between Hector and Achilles—he illuminates the profound truths about humanity contained between Homer's lines. x
  • 4
    In Search of Historical Troy
    How was it proved that the Trojan War was not mere myth but an actual historical event? Find out in this insightful lecture, which tells the story of how archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann uncovered a wealth of evidence that proved, once and for all, the historicity of this momentous event. x
  • 5
    Life Lessons from the Trojan War
    Conclude your look at the Trojan War by investigating the conflict's historical roots in a pre-emptive war for control over natural resources in the Black Sea. Then, close the lecture by looking at why the Greek empire declined, as well as lessons that you can learn from Homer's Odyssey. x
  • 6
    Jason and the Golden Fleece
    Turn now to another universal Greek myth: the adventures of Jason and his Argonauts as they voyage to find the mysterious Golden Fleece. In retelling this thrilling myth, Professor Fears uncovers some of its universal mythological themes, its perspective on human values, and its kernel of historical truth. x
  • 7
    Theseus and the Minotaur
    Fundamental to the national identity of Athens was the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur. Follow along as Theseus battles this mythical monster and liberates his city-state from the tyranny of King Minos. Then, witness how archaeological excavations at the Palace of Knossos have revealed startling truths about these mythological adventures. x
  • 8
    Myth and Athenian Drama
    Discover how mythic stories from Greek tragedies helped convey the most important values to ancient Athens. After a brief look at everyday life under the Athenian democracy and Aristotle's ideas of the purposes of tragedy, focus on Sophocles' powerful plays about King Oedipus. x
  • 9
    Fate and Free Will in Mythology
    What was the intellectual and political climate responsible for the rise of Athenian tragedy? How were these tragic plays meant to work on the audiences watching them? And what ideas of justice and family are embedded in the myths of Tantalus, Agamemnon, Orestes, and other members of the bloody House of Atreus? x
  • 10
    Atlantis—Fact or Fiction?
    Can myths still impart powerful human truths when they're not rooted in historical fact? Find out here in this lecture on the lost continent of Atlantis, as described by the philosopher Plato. Learn why we should still consider this myth to be so important, and how it survived across the ages. x
  • 11
    The Epic of Gilgamesh
    Investigate one of the earliest and most memorable myths from the ancient Middle East: the epic story of Gilgamesh. With his characteristic storytelling prowess, Professor Fears lets you follow along as the Sumerian king battles monsters, journeys to the end of the Earth, and seeks answers to life's most important questions. x
  • 12
    Gilgamesh and History
    Now that you're familiar with Gilgamesh, unpack the historical kernel inside the myth. Peek behind the rich mythological tapestry of creatures and events and discover central facts about the birth of civilization in the Middle East, including the construction of great walled cities and a political structure rooted in authoritarian rule. x
  • 13
    The Book of Genesis
    While few people today take the mythic stories of the Iliad and The Epic of Gilgamesh seriously, it's a different story with the subject of this lecture: the book of Genesis from the Old Testament. Delve into the Judeo-Christian interpretation of how the world began and witness the dawn of the nation of Israel. x
  • 14
    Exodus—The Foundation of the Jewish People
    The Exodus is a seminal event in Jewish history. Follow the story's events—from the calling of Moses and the ten plagues of Egypt to the parting of the Red Sea and the bestowal of the Ten Commandments—and explore in detail some of their higher historical and moral truths. x
  • 15
    The Historical Power of Biblical Stories
    How do Genesis and Exodus define Jewish culture? How were ancient Egyptian views of monotheism passed on to the Hebrews through the rebellious pharaoh Akhenaten? Why could we consider that Moses himself may have been Egyptian? Learn the answers to these and other provocative historical questions about these great books. x
  • 16
    Aeneas—Rome's National Hero
    Learn how the Aeneid—Vergil's epic poem about the warrior Aeneas's arrival in Italy—uses mythology to celebrate the ancient Roman national identity. In particular, examine two fascinating episodes from this myth: the tormented love affair between Aeneas and Dido, and Aeneas's descent into the underworld to find his destiny. x
  • 17
    Romulus—The Founder of Rome
    Another myth central to the ancient Romans was the establishment of their city by Romulus around 753 B.C. Professor Fears details the dramatic events of Romulus's life and the dawn of the Roman Republic. While some historians dismiss Romulus's story as pure fabrication, see why Professor Fears believes otherwise. x
  • 18
    Lays of Ancient Rome
    Romans during the time of Julius Caesar often looked back to stories about the foundation of the republic—tales filled with the virtues of patriotism. Investigate one of the most popular of these stories: that of the noble Lucius Junius Brutus's revolution against the tyrannical rule of King Tarquin. x
  • 19
    Alexander the Great in History
    Follow in the footsteps of the warrior Alexander the Great as he rises to power and conquers almost the entire ancient world. Specifically, you'll explore Alexander's foresight and military prowess and see how these characteristics helped create the "myth" of Alexander the Great that endures to this day. x
  • 20
    Alexander the Great in Romance
    Taming the wild horse Bucephalus. Seducing the queen of the Amazons. Traveling to the ends of the earth in search of immortality. These are just three of the many stories you investigate—all of which form the "Alexander romance" that reflected the political and cultural attitudes of the Roman Empire. x
  • 21
    Beowulf—Historical Roots and Heroic Values
    Transition now to the Germanic tribes that conquered the western Roman Empire. First, gain some historical background on the dawn of the Germanic age and its emphasis on courage and heroism. Then, see these powerful values in action as you listen to the captivating—and sometimes frightening—epic myth of the warrior Beowulf. x
  • 22
    King Arthur—Fact or Fiction?
    Explore the cycles of myth that revolved around King Arthur, whose legend became a defining force in shaping English national consciousness and the highest truths of medieval Christendom. Among these are Arthur's surprising removal of Excalibur from its stone and his creation of the chivalric Knights of the Round Table. x
  • 23
    In Search of the Holy Grail
    Continue your analysis of the myth stories surrounding King Arthur. Here, Professor Fears draws you into the complicated romance between Arthur's queen, Guenevere, and his trusted knight Sir Lancelot; the violent treachery of Arthur's son, Mordred; and the final moments of Arthur's life and his inevitable passing into legend. x
  • 24
    Vikings in America?
    Did the Vikings discover North America? For a long time this was largely regarded as fancy, but in 1960, archaeological evidence established beyond a doubt that Vikings had settled there. Investigate how this discovery was made—and the role played by the journeys of Eric the Red and Leif Erikson. x
  • 25
    Vergil the Magician
    During the Middle Ages, the Roman poet Vergil became the center of a widely spread myth that portrayed him as a magician. How did this happen? What were some of the many stories surrounding this mysterious magician? And how did they affect the ancient poet's reputation in subsequent centuries? x
  • 26
    The Battle of Kosovo
    Fought on June 28, 1389, the battle of Kosovo between the Kingdom of Serbia and the Turkish Empire is still living history in the Balkans. Go inside the history and mythic legacy of this clash to learn how its higher truths about patriotism still inspire the Serbs and their modern nation. x
  • 27
    Julius Caesar in History
    Julius Caesar's life and deeds were a veritable blueprint for some of Europe's powerful rulers, generals, and even popes. Strengthen your understanding of Caesar's historical legacy with a closer look at his rise to power, his military genius, his dramatic assassination, and his influence on subsequent generations of politicians. x
  • 28
    Napoleon and the Mantle of Caesar
    Julius Caesar's greatest student: Napoleon Bonaparte, who in the early 1800s sought to unify Europe into a single, all-powerful empire. Gain new insights into this European figure's rise and fall from power. Then, witness the creation of the "Napoleonic myth" and its own lasting impact on history. x
  • 29
    Arminius and German Mythology
    What made the war chief Arminius, who defeated the Romans in A.D. 9, the quintessential historical and mythic hero of 19th-century Germany? What did the Roman historian Tacitus see in this remarkable individual? How did Arminius's story endure down through the centuries and shape German national consciousness? Find out here. x
  • 30
    Teuton versus Roman
    Continue exploring the mythological legacy of Arminius and the ways it helped support the reformation of German self-image in medieval and early modern Germany. Then, travel back centuries and learn how the fall of the Roman Empire laid the groundwork for the development of Germany and other European nation-states. x
  • 31
    Davy Crockett and the Myth of the Frontier
    In the course's final section, turn your eyes to America—a nation that, while relatively young, comes with its own unique figures and events that have achieved near-mythical status. Meet some of the most fascinating characters from the American frontier, including President Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett. x
  • 32
    The Alamo
    Like other great battles in history, the last stand at the Alamo has long been celebrated in poetry, song, and prose as a battle of mythical greatness and glory. Find yourself standing alongside American heroes such as Davy Crockett and William Travis as they defend Texas with bravery and patriotism. x
  • 33
    Jesse James and the Myth of the Outlaw
    Outlaws are universal figures in mythology, and outlaws have played a prominent role in U.S. history. What accounts for this cultural fascination? Learn the answer by closely investigating the life and law-breaking career of Jesse James, the most prominent outlaw in the American West, and his tragic death at the hand of a friend. x
  • 34
    General Custer—Hero or Villain?
    General Armstrong Custer and his last stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn make up one of the most controversial figures and moments in the mythology of the Wild West. Was he American history's arch-villain? Or is there more to Custer—and his myth—than meets the eye? x
  • 35
    Reagan, Hollywood, and American Ideals
    Ronald Reagan, according to Professor Fears, translated the values from his highly popular Hollywood films into one of the most successful presidencies in American history. Here, survey the highlights from this momentous president's life and uncover the roots of his undeniably important, near-mythic eight years in the Oval Office. x
  • 36
    Mythology as a Path to Wisdom
    Learn why the study of great myths (and the historical kernels contained within them) is an essential aspect of the humanities—and an important marker on the pathway to true wisdom. Also, Professor Fears reveals the ultimate lesson to be learned from everything you've investigated in the past 35 lectures. x

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Your professor

J. Rufus Fears

About Your Professor

J. Rufus Fears, Ph.D.
University of Oklahoma
Dr. J. Rufus Fears was David Ross Boyd Professor of Classics at the University of Oklahoma, where he held the G. T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty. He also served as David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Before joining the faculty at the University of Oklahoma, Professor Fears was Professor of History and...
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Reviews

Life Lessons from the Great Myths is rated 3.5 out of 5 by 60.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hopelessly Hooked on Fears For me, Professor Fears is to TTC what Meryl Streep is to movies. I pay no attention to the critics, I just enjoy all of Fears's lectures and all of Streep's movies. Fears is bold, enthusiastic, dramatic, and a masterful speaker. In the 'Great Myths,' he kept me fully engaged, enthralled, entertained and eager. He's shocking, charming, brilliant, profound and one of TTC's finest educators. However, if you're seeking politically correct, non-judgmental 'modern' professors, Dr. Fears will do his best to make you flee shrieking for the exits (while I remain comfortably seated and waiting for this fine Professor's next exquisite lecture).
Date published: 2012-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exllecent Course Professor Fears is great... I learned so much. Highly recommend this course and Professor Fears.
Date published: 2012-05-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not going to finish I have thoroughly enjoyed virtually all the GC I have listened to, but this one is an outlier. Two-thirds is about as far I can stomach of this one. My criticisms are echoed below by many others: the awkward, indeed vapid invented dialogue in semi-hip slang; the unsubstantiated dismissal of opposing points of view; the contrived Christiantist (as opposed to Christian) interpretations; unneeded political cant; strangely shallow and repetitive last-minute "life-lessons. He also makes errors of fact. The idea of Napolean's soldiers using the Sphinx for target practice, for example was debunked by Bob Brier in the much superior History of Ancient Egypt. His characterization of the Founding Fathers is a poorly supported attempt to make them all devout fundamentalist Christians when most he mentioned were clearly deists. His surprising mispronunciations - New-FOUND-land, for example betray a tenuous grasp of the material he is reading. Far better is Elizabeth Vandiver's superb course. I can recommend it without reservation. This offering is not Great Courses quality.
Date published: 2012-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Myths and Fears Rufus Fears is the best professor in history that the teaching company has ever employed. His history is accurate, sourced, taken from extensive research and his own personal reading, and he then weaves a tale with unmatched storytelling intellect. I have enjoyed each of his courses. You will not go wrong in choosing this or any other of the selections he had developed for our enjoyment. I hope to meet this fella someday and shake his hand. He has taught be life lessons.
Date published: 2012-04-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worst of my 10 courses Mr. Fears merely paraphrases the myth he is discussing. I was particularly interested in his take on the myth of Genesis and Exodus. All he did is paraphrase the bible, quoting from it often and extensively. There was no analysis, no insight - nothing that wasn't obvious from common perception of those two books of the bible. Heck, I don't think that he understands that they are myths. Often he would editorialize:"the scholars may not believe..., but what about.....? He comes off as having swallowed the lemonade with respect to the bible. It is no myth to him. He treats it as reality. I'm getting my money back. That is the GREAT thing about these Great Courses.
Date published: 2012-03-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The Myth of Tantalus I ordered "Life Lessons from the Great Myths" with great hopes, but like Tantalus any real intellectual nourishment from this course always seemed to slip out of reach. Prof. Fears basic thesis is that Great Myths generally have several common characteristics- they teach about "higher truths" that a society values, they are told in "noble language", and they often have at least a kernel of historical truth. Prof. Fears course, however, fails on all of those counts. In terms of teaching about the "higher truths" of the myths he discusses, Prof. Fears spends the vast bulk of his lectures recounting the stories and very little time analyzing the meaning of these stories. And when he does discuss the "life lessons" from myths, his perspective is unquestioningly skewed to his obvious political, social and religious beliefs, but also terribly shallow and trite. Further, he fails to raise any counter-examples to his own thesis, for example discussing myths that fail to meet his criteria, i.e , discussing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as an example of a powerful myth that show the worst of society in an utterly false and ugly text. In terms of "noble language", Prof. Fears is a terrible story teller. He rambles and converts epic poetry into a vapid dialogue between the characters Further, in the rare circumstances when he quotes from the myths themselves, he does so jumbling the text with his colloquialisms (grand fatherly ones at least) so that both are incoherent and spoiled. In discussing the kernel of truth behind myths, again Prof. Fears gets caught up in his thesis and is dismissive of counter arguments, if he even happens to raise them. This does little to foster a critical examination of myths, which is really the true means of gaining any life lessons from them.
Date published: 2012-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magficicent Journey of Discovery Superb story-teller, consummate historian, philosopher, and above all a great speaker; this in a nutshell is a description of Dr Fears. Over the past few years I have watched most of his courses and i must acknowledge that i enjoyed this course the most. Blending facts, fiction, history and myth he presents a sweeping journey of discovery and human faliures and triumphs. As he most strikingly points out, "Myths are the means to which all societies, in all times, have conveyed their highest truths". Separating fact from fiction is a trial for us all and Dr Fears does a magnificant job in making the sense of history easier to understand and appreciate. I belive, as I think Professor Fears does, that unless we are able to understand the meaning of history, we are forever destined to live in the factual trap of information overload. It is true that Dr Fears tends to have strong personal opinions and is not afraid to express them in his courses, but to only recite chronological events, without understanding the underlying currents of human thought, is a waste of time and best left to a computer program. History is emotion and blood and sacrifice highlighted by human beliefs and decisions and Dr Fears brings these aspects to life in this course. I enjoyed the course immensely and strongly recommend it for those who want to escape from the bounds of "political correctness" and gain new insights into the story of man's assent into "civilization".
Date published: 2012-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Course I've Taken I have now taken at least a dozen courses from the Teaching Company, and this course is far and away the best one. Professor Fears is an excellent storyteller, and he does a great job of analyzing the myths and providing historical and current perspective. I was riveted from the first course, and couldn't wait to finish all of the CD's. I can understand why some listeners might not agree with the interpretations put forth, but anyone with the ability to think critically can agree or disagree, but still enjoy the content. Well done, Professor!
Date published: 2012-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vintage Fears Do not be dissuaded. This is vintage Fears repleate with rebel yells, gallic war cries, and even a peppy rendition of GarryOwen as only Professor Fears can do. In the final lecture, Professor Fears shares with us his own journey of learning in creating the course including his assembly of the facts ("information") into a substantial "knowledge" base of western myths. It is for the student of the course to recognize the universal truths conveyed by the myths, and apply the lessons of the myths in his or her daily life. This, as Professor Fears teaches, is the mark of wisdom. Without a doubt, Professor Fears is among the greatest storytellers of the 20th and 21st centuries, in the finest oral traditions of antiquity.
Date published: 2011-12-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Weak course Having purchased 30 to 40 courses over the years and having been generally pleased with the vast majority, I felt "Life Lessons from the Great Myths" was the weakest course I have heard. I am afraid Prof. Fears has failed to take the lessons from the myths of a "liberal" education. I believe we are all entitled to our political opinions, but Prof. Fears is so heavy handed with his, he seemed to have lost perspective.
Date published: 2011-12-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Repetitive, but still interesting I have enjoyed all of Prof. Fears prior Teaching Company courses and found this course repeats much content from the previous courses. Yet, this course is still interesting and worthwhile. Prof. Fears remains a great story teller.
Date published: 2011-12-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A most unique and thought provoking course I've studied mythology and history for years and have finally found a course the merges them both in a highly entertaining and deeply moving manner. I found myself riveted to my seat as Professor Fears spun his tales. Why study mythology? What study history? Professor Fears tells us that first we are given facts, then we become knowledgeable, and finally we gain wisdom. Too many of us are stuck with useless facts or unimportant knowledge. But wisdom is for the ages...
Date published: 2011-12-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worst Course Ever Simply put, while listening to this course I questioned whethere the Teaching Company has downsized and sacked the quality control team. The course is entitled Life Lessons from the Great Myths, however, there is little of any analysis of which "life lessons" the myth was intending to communicate. Moreover, these cd's seemed to be nothing more that Professor Fears' desire to prove to himself that he likes to tell stories. It is clear that he thoroughly enjoys hearing himself speak. While I like a good story as much as the next 3rd grader, there was little if any learning/teaching going on in these lectures. Moreover, and I admit this is a criticism that is personal to me, Professor Fears seems intent to pronouce each name and place according to what comes across to the listener as the haughty professor admonishing his class that the accepted pronunciation of a name or place is incorrect and that he alone has the secret knowledge to pronouce such things correctly all while looking down upon us who use an accepted pronunciation. That being said, I challenge Professor Fears to show me the dictionary that spells the word idea with an "r". Having to listen repeatedly to him pronounce it as "idears" just interrupts the storytelling he so thoroughly enjoys.
Date published: 2011-12-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I wasted my money This is the worst course I have heard in this or any other series of lectures (and I have a lot of them). It is not teaching, but preaching. Fears drones on in an affected wise-old-story-teller voice and twists things to allow him to preach his own sententious, moralistic religious and political biases. I could not listen far into the three on Judaism, because I could see where they were going and did not want to go there. Then later, I had to skip over a long diatribe about how all young Americans are unpatriotic. When I got to Caesar, I was appalled at his misinformation -- Caesar's going to the Senate to be made king of Rome (?!?), the political parties of Rome looking just like ours, the situation then in the Middle East being identical to the situation now (naming Iraq and Iran in today's context), and on and on. Seeing another political diatribe on current events coming up, I turned off the MP3 player after eleven minutes and formatted the memory card. I am a retired university professor with over forty years of university-level teaching and I would flunk any student who gave a talk like this. My vain hope is that the Teaching Company will remove this one from my library and give me some credit.
Date published: 2011-11-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing! I have greatly enjoyed most of professor Fears' previous courses. However, "Life lessons from the Great Myths" felt disjonted and awkward at times. It is a poorly crafted and rushed course. The thesis is murky, and the course is overall a mere repetition of previous courses. As a master summarizer, professor Fears would've been better off covering in detail another set of classical books that he hasn't tackled before. "Life lessons from the Great Myths" will give the listener the impression that professor Fears and the Teaching Compnay have ran out of ideas for new courses.
Date published: 2011-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Classic Fears It is a shame some people seem to relish picking holes in a very nice series of lectures. Apparently they seek perfection and mathematical rigor in dealing with subject matter unsuited to this approach. Of course it's not perfect. Let's get real-- let's all look in the mirror! Over the years I have done north of 200 of these TC courses. A very few are poor -- this is NOT one of them. Overall, it's classic Fears-- full of little asides, sub plots and vignettes. I thoroughly enjoyed the lectures - don't let the naysayers talk you out of a course both edifying and entertaining.
Date published: 2011-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr Fears excellent as always There's nothing wrong with this course - Dr Fears is one of the best lecturers and deepest historical thinkers in all of the courses the Teaching Company offers. Taken as a whole, the spectrum of his thinking presented throughout his courses presents both a powerful philosophical foundation for understanding the world and an example of how to think carefully about nearly everything. To be critical of such a reasoned approach to a pro religious and pro mythological perspective just shows one's own myopia. This is an excellent course in all respects.
Date published: 2011-10-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Better title: Eat, pray and love God This course is extremely biased, it is mostly about proselytization and pushing religion and ideology, and very little about life lessons and myths. The life lessons are shallow, ridiculous or simply omitted. The great lesson from the American Revolution is that one should be "very religious" (as Washington is erroneously called, based on invented stories). In praising monotheism over Greek polytheism, he says that "Zeus and Artemis didn't provide a lamb" to prevent Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter, unlike the God of the Bible. He is stunningly unaware of the fact that in Euripides, Artemis replaced Iphigenia with a deer at the last moment. We later hear that Christians (i.e., Catholics and all non-Calvinists/evangelicals) violated the Commandment against creating graven images from the very beginning, with no mention of the fact that they interpret it as prohibiting idol worship. The later history masquerading as myth is equally biased. For example, the men at the Alamo supposedly fought for freedom, even though they had at least one slave (owned by one of the men Fears valorizes as a hero for freedom!) right there at the Alamo, whom Santa Anna had tried to free by abolishing slavery in Mexico! But even the word slavery is not mentioned, despite the fact that John Quincy Adams called the Texas Revolution "a war for the re-establishment of slavery where it had been abolished". It's not about his religious beliefs. Professor Philip Cary describes himself as an orthodox protestant, but he won't let his beliefs get in the way of objectivity. For example, in Great Minds, he informs us of the fact that early Judaism was henotheistic (believing in many gods, but worshiping only one). On the other hand, professor Fears claims that today's Jews worship in the same manner as Abraham did 3800 years ago - and cites this as evidence that they are correct. The fact that such an argument is made is outrageous to begin with, but it's made worse by the fact that its underlying assumption is incorrect. TTC would do well to remember what its founder Tom Rollins said: "Teaching shouldn’t be an opportunity for a professor to get off his chest burning issues that no one would listen to except students. People want to know what the field has discovered; they aren’t interested in your personal views." Professor Fears is a great storyteller, and he's ideally suited to retell myths. Unfortunately, the bias ruined what could have been a great course.
Date published: 2011-10-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Only my second return Having watched or listened to almost 100 courses from the Teaching Company, I decided to give Professor Fears a try. I should have realized that any course entitled "Life Lessons . . ." would involve the risk of the particular instructor's political/social agenda. But I had listened to most of Professor Allitt's courses and, though he never tries to hide his conservatism, he is also generous and fair-minded. Not so with Professor Fears. In his very first lecture, he mentions George Washington's Farewell Address and points out, rather grandly I'm afraid, that freedom is inseparable from morality, and that morality is inseparable from religion. Who knew? In his lecture on the Book of Genesis, he says that "maybe even atheists" can have a sense of morality. So if you're a Christian fundamentalist, this course is for you. If you're not, beware! A second problem: Many others have commented on his great storytelling ability. I think they're correct, but only if the intended audience is an average middle-school student. He plays fast and loose with facts, his pronunciations are abysmal (while nevertheless admonishing us to pronounce "hubris" as "hybris"), and his "life lessons" are pretty much of the "hooray for us" variety. The man would be a pitch-perfect politician in today's climate.
Date published: 2011-10-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from plain May be "plain" is not the correct word for describing this course, however I sometimes ask myself: why would TTC still be willing to produce cources with prof. Fears? Of course, as a teacher he has his own approach, but I feel that with every new course the apporoach is becoming less and less academic, based on facts, and more and more emotional, based on the man's own ideas. Unless this is among your first TTC courses or you want to just enjoy some engaging story-telling, I would not recommend it. Great respect to prof. Fears, but in my opinion the course presenter has not achieved the goal of extracting objective moral lessons from great literature, but he has indeed told us a great deal of his own vision and his own interpretation.
Date published: 2011-10-25
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