Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind: Literature's Most Fantastic Works

Course No. 2997
Professor Eric S. Rabkin, Ph.D.
University of Michigan
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Course No. 2997
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Course Overview

Many of literature's greatest works, from ancient myths to the works of Nobel laureates, rely on fantasy. Even when there has been a dominant preference for realism, generation after generation of readers have been drawn to stories of the fantastic not only for what they help us learn about ourselves as individuals and about our collective selves but also for what they show about our social values.

What can fairy tales and science fiction stories reveal about the psyches of individuals and nations? How does the literature of the fantastic reflect historical periods and preoccupations?

Join Professor Eric S. Rabkin, one of the world's foremost authorities on the literature of the fantastic and science fiction, as he takes you on a journey to explore Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind, Literature's Most Fantastic Works. You'll study strange tales of talking frogs and cannibal witches through Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to Arthur C. Clarke's astonishing 2001: A Space Odyssey and beyond. Focusing on the early 19th century to contemporary times, Professor Rabkin casts a wide net for fantastic works and delves deeply into some of the most astounding. You'll learn about the works and times of Edgar Allan Poe, Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carroll, Franz Kafka, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and more.

Once Upon a Time: The Lessons of Fairy Tales

In the early 19th century, two German brothers, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, sought to demonstrate the deep significance of German culture. In the process they collected oral tales, which they believed were handed down from prehistory. These fairy tales, including "Hansel and Gretel," "Rapunzel," and "Snow White," are certainly tales of the fantastic, but they also have profound lessons to teach. What they teach us, however, is not always classic morality. One tale ("Rumpelstiltskin") shows that it is better to be beautiful than honest; another ("The Little Tailor") demonstrates that you can lie your way up the social ladder from peasant to king. Others, such as "Cinderella," offer consolations, ways of symbolically moving through difficult transitions in life.

Fantastic Works of Literature

The imaginative minds of the 19th century did not leave the fantastic to ancient folk tales. E. T. A. Hoffmann, for example, an energetic and creative German Romantic who died in 1822, created his own wildly fantastic tales. Both Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet and the Offenbach opera Tales of Hoffmann are based on Hoffmann's tales. Hoffmann's stories even probe the psychology of fantasy itself and anticipate by a century Freud's theories of the power of the unconscious.

In the mid-19th century, writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe in the United States and Lewis Carroll in England explored their own notions of the fantastic and its powers on the reader. Hawthorne wrote fanciful stories about scientists who lose their way, often as a result of torturous love. The masterful Poe mixed fantastic situations and the torments of the human heart. Lewis Carroll's two Alice books are fantastic masterpieces, challenging our notions of language and reality.

Social Criticism and the Imaginative Mind

By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, imaginative minds were creating astonishing and bizarre worlds, weaving into the fabric of their narratives a significant strand of social criticism. H. G. Wells criticized Victorian sexual repression in The Invisible Man and imperialism in The Island of Dr. Moreau. Franz Kafka created fantastic tales, many of which were critical of society's institutions. Virginia Woolf wrote a novel Orlando critical of gender stereotyping in which a man lives from the 16th to the 20th century and emerges as a woman and mother.

View the Breadth of Modern Fantasy

Nor has fantasy literature slackened since the early 20th century. The famous French "New Novel" writer Alain Robbe-Grillet uses the fantastic to free readers from what he perceives as the unconscious constraint imposed by society and language. J. R. R. Tolkien created whole fantasy worlds with their own geographies and languages. Children's literature – Prof. Rabkin devotes a lecture to it – has been especially fertile with fantasy. And Magical Realism has blossomed with important works such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate.

The Most Important Fantastic Genre Today

Professor Rabkin next delves into science fiction, the genre that claims plausibility against a background of science, while weaving in high adventure and intellectual excitement. In this half of the course, Dr. Rabkin shows why science fiction should be regarded as the most important fantastic genre today.

Professor Rabkin posits Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as the first true science fiction novel. You'll hear the story about the origins of that novel—a challenge to write the best ghost story – and you'll examine how Frankenstein explores themes of the struggle between the individual and society as well as the destabilizing possibilities of new knowledge. Europe remained the center of science fiction with such writers as Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, but that was about to change.

The Golden Age of Science Fiction

Early in the 20th century, a popular blend of exciting tales and scientific speculation developed in the democratic milieu of pulp fiction magazines: Even Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, wrote of rousing adventures on Mars. Soon, however, pulp fiction gave way to longer treatments. The writers Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein, along with Isaac Asimov and Britain's Arthur C. Clarke, emerged as important voices after World War II and brought science fiction tales into the mainstream of serious literature. You'll discover how each of these important writers explored the wondrous and disturbing implications of science and technology, their stories raising profound questions about humanity, life, and the future.

What Does the Future Hold?

In Professor Rabkin's final lectures you'll learn about important and enduring links between science fiction and religion, and also between science fiction and utopian novels such as 1984 and Brave New World. You'll explore the works of outstanding science fiction writers today, including Ursula Le Guin, who writes of fabulous new worlds in her literature for children and in science fiction. You'll learn how William Gibson's Neuromancer introduced the words "matrix" and "cyberspace" into our language. You'll learn about Philip K. Dick, who wrote the novel that inspired the movie Blade Runner.

Recapture the Joy of Childhood and Learn about the Literature of the Fantastic

From talking frogs to human robots, from Mad Hatters to mad scientists, Professor Rabkin's course offers an illuminating journey through the world's most fantastic and imaginative literature. Discover the magic, wonder, and profound significance of that literature.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    The Brothers Grimm & Fairy Tale Psychology
    Professor Rabkin describes the course structure. In the first half, he will discuss fantastic literature from the earliest fairy tales to modern writers. In the second half, he will discuss the most significant genre of fantastic literature today: science fiction. He introduces the tales of the Brothers Grimm and explores the psychological truths in some of these stories. x
  • 2
    Propp, Structure, and Cultural Identity
    In 1928 Russian scholar Vladimir Propp discovered the structural universality of oral folk tales and devised several theories about them, including the notions that characters remain stable within a tale and that sequences of key events are the same across cultures. x
  • 3
    Hoffmann and the Theory of the Fantastic
    Professor Rabkin discusses E.T.A. Hoffmann, a romantic polymath and a spinner of true fantasy tales. Here Professor Rabkin defines the concepts of Romantic, Fantastic, and Fantasy. He also points out that long before Freud, Hoffmann posited a subconscious more powerful than the conscious. For Hoffmann, the achievement of art depends on both embracing and disciplining the fantastic. x
  • 4
    Poe—Genres and Degrees of the Fantastic
    Edgar Allan Poe used fantasy and created overpowering emotional effects for his readers by tapping into some of humanity's deepest fantasies and fears: for example, fear of death, fear of loneliness, and fear of one's self. Poe used art to accommodate his own fears, which, as Professor Rabkin points out, reflects what fairy tales have traditionally done. x
  • 5
    Lewis Carroll: Puzzles, Language, & Audience
    Lewis Carroll's Alice books make up a composite fantasy that captivates adults by inspiring us to rethink the roles of language, convention, and art in our lives. Here the fantastic is the world of Alice's own imagination. What are the limits of language and logic for understanding our world? x
  • 6
    H. G. Wells: We Are All Talking Animals
    Wells was once considered the pre-eminent novelist in English. In works like The Invisible Man, Wells shows how science offers a fantasy revenge against repression, both psychosexual and social. He argues for stories about issues that affect all people, not, as Henry James preferred, mere individuals. Wells analyzed the modern world but on a foundation of fairy tales. x
  • 7
    Franz Kafka—Dashed Fantasies
    Franz Kafka, an alienated man, recreated his life through parables of the fantastic. He drew his characters from the world of everyday experience and put them into settings that are familiar but situations that are fantastic. Professor Rabkin analyzes several stories, showing how Kafka criticizes social institutions as holding the potential for assistance but never giving any. x
  • 8
    Woolf—Fantastic Feminism & Periods of Art
    Virginia Woolf, who felt repressed in society because of her female sex, found consolation in the imaginative mind. Thus, in her fantastic novel, Orlando, the protagonist begins as a male in the Elizabethan era and ends up a mother in the 1920s. Professor Rabkin examines Woolf's works, also touching on important writings of Emily Dickinson and Laurence Sterne. x
  • 9
    Robbe-Grillet, Experimental Fiction & Myth
    Alain Robbe-Grillet's "New Novel" The Erasers challenges our notion of reality. It is a retelling of the Oedipus myth, suggesting ways to confront and erase that myth. Professor Rabkin links Robbe-Grillet's experimental novel with discussions of style by Roland Barthes and the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. x
  • 10
    Tolkien & Mass Production of the Fantastic
    Professor Rabkin pays tribute to the Arthurian legends of England and recounts how J. R. R. Tolkien built on these fantasy materials to create his monumental trilogy Lord of the Rings. Professor Rabkin also discusses Tolkien's stories "Farmer Giles of Ham" and "Leaf by Niggle," showing how these tales too reflect Tolkien's deepest notions of politics and religion. x
  • 11
    Children’s Literature and the Fantastic
    In this lecture, Professor Rabkin examines children's literature, pointing out that the loose constraints on it invite the fantastic. Attention is paid to the works of Beatrix Potter, Margaret Wise Brown, Dr. Seuss, and Norton Juster. Dr. Rabkin notes that children's literature has contributed to fantasy and imagination that enrich adult literature, for example, George Orwell's Animal Farm. x
  • 12
    Postmodernism and the Fantastic
    Postmodernism, the current literary age, tends to view Nature as a matter of perspective, and shares important traits with fantasy literature. Indeed, works of Magical Realism, like those of Gabriel Garc'a Márquez, explore this view with other experimental fantastic literature. x
  • 13
    Defining Science Fiction
    Professor Rabkin concentrates on science fiction, defining it as a fantastic genre that claims its plausibility against a background of science. x
  • 14
    Mary Shelley—Grandmother of Science Fiction
    The 1818 novel, Frankenstein, is the first fully achieved science fiction novel. It grew out of a form of Romanticism called Gothicism that Shelley re-formed in a crucial new way. The novel is not about science but about what goes wrong with it when controlled by an egoist. x
  • 15
    Hawthorne, Poe, and the Eden Complex
    Significant Hawthorne stories reflect the important Eden Complex, a concept discovered by Professor Rabkin, one element of which is a character striving to be godlike or to twist nature for his own ends. Poe too used Eden Complex constructs, with female roles played by symbols such as a whirlpool, a pit, or a bed. x
  • 16
    Jules Verne and the Robinsonade
    Jules Verne combined love of science with satire. Most of his works are "Rob­in­sonades—"fantasies of intellectual conquest that, like the character Robinson Crusoe, sought to recreate alien circumstances in a European image. x
  • 17
    Wells—Industrialization of the Fantastic
    H.G. Wells used science fiction as parables for political and philosophical criticism. In The Time Machine, Wells looks at the inhumanity of the British class system, and in War of the Worlds at British imperialism; he rebukes them both. x
  • 18
    The History of Utopia
    Utopian literature is fantastic and can assume three forms: a utopia can be pleasant, ambiguous, or horrible. Lately, most have been horrible—as in the novels We, 1984, and Brave New World—and they challenge readers to change society. x
  • 19
    Science Fiction and Religion
    Both science fiction and religion, although based on different notions of authority, try to better human life. Thus, science fiction sometimes uses religious speculation to explore spiritual concerns. x
  • 20
    Pulp Fiction, Bradbury, & the American Myth
    Edgar Rice Burroughs, who wrote about planets and unexplored continents, was a successful practitioner of pulp fiction. Ray Bradbury's groundbreaking The Martian Chronicles helped make the transformation from pulp fiction to subtler, more thoughtful science fiction. x
  • 21
    Robert A. Heinlein—He Mapped the Future
    Robert A. Heinlein's social imagination, his "hard science fiction"; extrapolation, and superior craftsmanship, represents the best of a generation of American science fiction. His stories embody a strongly libertarian critique of modern American life. x
  • 22
    Asimov and Clarke—Cousins in Utopia
    Both Isaac Asimov (The Foundation series and I, Robot) and Arthur C. Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey) were trained scientists as well as prolific authors. Both thought that humanity was perfectible and could achieve a good utopia—but first had to wake up to its shortcomings. x
  • 23
    Ursula K. Le Guin: Transhuman Anthropologist
    Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the most challenging writers of science fiction today. Her stories include genderless people, thus challenging gender stereotypes, and she also weaves Taoist philosophy into her novels. Le Guin's stories offer multiple changes of viewpoint to change attitudes toward language, human relations, and morality. x
  • 24
    Cyberpunk, Postmodernism, and Beyond
    Professor Rabkin's final lecture examines the latest trends in science fiction. He discusses William Gibson (Neuromancer); Philip K. Dick, whose fiction inspired the movie Blade Runner; New Wave; and Cyberpunk, an outgrowth of cybernetics and punk music. He ends by suggesting that we now live in a science fiction world. x

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Your professor

Eric S. Rabkin

About Your Professor

Eric S. Rabkin, Ph.D.
University of Michigan
Dr. Eric S. Rabkin is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He earned his bachelor's degree at Cornell University and his Ph.D. at The University of Iowa. Professor Rabkin received the Golden Apple Award, given annually by students for the outstanding teacher at the University of Michigan. Other awards include the University Teaching Award, the LS&A...
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Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind: Literature's Most Fantastic Works is rated 3.4 out of 5 by 68.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The imaginative mind shrivels in quest for tenure Impressive erudition, useful information, many definitions and categories, exceedingly PC, painful to listen to the struggle for conformity, little passion and even less sparkles for such a great subject
Date published: 2010-11-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from OK, not for everyone I was excited buying this course, as I have always enjoyed science fiction. I learned some things, and increased my (to be read) list. Most of the negative reviews concern Dr Rabkin. No question he is "wooden" at times. His interpretations are dominated by Freudian and biblical themes. He takes these to extremes. On the other hand he certainly knows, and cares about the material. Maybe the best part of the course is his discussion of the development of American SF from the (Pulp phase to post modernism) If you are seriously interested in this material, and prepared for it to be dry at times: you will enjoy this course. If not the above: go elsewhere.
Date published: 2010-08-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Presentation, Bizarre Interpretations The professor clearly knows his subject. There is much to be learned here to the extent that he states the facts. However, when he gets to his (unusual, to say the least) interpretations, the course loses much of its appeal. I do not want to hear that Gretel is trying to supplant her step-mother, which some admittedly quick research failed to turn up as a generally accepted interpretation ... I can only assume this is the professor's pet theory. He often makes reference to Freud. Much of the more bizarre aspects of Freudianism have been rejected by subsequent psychiatrists. I can only believe that they are as out of place and WRONG in literary criticism as they were in psychoanalysis. His analysis of Heinlein, an author about whose work I know a little, is downright absurd. The lecture on Woolf was mind-numbingly academic obscurantism. All in all, this detracted a great deal from what could have been a great set of lectures. The professor and TTC should remember that the target audience is general listeners, not Prof Rabkin's fellow academics. (Note to listeners who may be familiar with the "Science Fiction" course: The final third of this course is essentially an updated edition of that earlier 8-lecture course.)
Date published: 2010-07-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Rekindled my love of the fantastic While overall I recommend this course, it is in fact slightly spotty in quality, soaring to empyrean heights at points, only to plummet into abyssian depths later. The reason for this is that the professor tries to include subject matter that does not properly fall within the boundaries of science fiction/fantasy, such as Virginia Woolf, Kafka, and various children's stories. When he gets off topic, he gets off key as well. I wish he had instead exanded his discussion of classical fantasy, saying more about the early British fantastists, such as Lord Dunsany and ER Eddison. But for the most part, the course is absorbing, well done, and well spoken. The best sections of the course deal with classical fantasy, such as Tolkien, William Morris, HG Wells or modern science fiction. And does Dr. Rabkin ever know his subject matter! I thought there were few who could parallel my knowledge of these topics. In particular, his discussion of the economics of early SF is very interesting. The early section on folk tales is another highlight. The delivery is superb, witty and enjoyable. Plus, there is innovative intro music, suited to the topic, rather than the usual teaching company baroque piece. Overall, recommended.
Date published: 2010-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I'd give it six stars if I could This is by far my favorite course so far. Professor Rabkin splits the course into two sections, one dealing with fantasy, the other with science fiction. I was unsure as the actual value of this course when I ordered it; I liked some of the authors and wanted to know more about them, and thought that maybe I'd get some more reading ideas. The lectures are extremely well put together and cohesive, despite seeming to jump from topic to disparate topic. Each lecture builds on the previous, painting a wonderful picture of the history of story telling through imagination. There are myriad discoveries in the course, both on authors I've read and those I'd never heard anything about save their names. The context and background of the works is presented in a manner that enlightens but in no way detracts from one's enjoyment of reading them. I thoroughly enjoyed this course and give it my highest recommendation.
Date published: 2009-10-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Entertaining and Satisfying In this compelling set of lectures, Professor Rabkin offers an entertaining survey of various "fantastic" works of literature, spanning from traditional children's fairy tales, through the history of serious adult fantasy literature, to sophisticated modern science fiction. I enjoyed this course, and I recommend it to anyone interested or curious about the genre. My one quibble is that Professor Rabkin tends to put undue emphasis on various psychological and symbolic interpretations of many his stories. He does not explain whether these psychological interpretations are from academic consensus, or whether they are merely his own personal interpretations. I tend to be skeptical. Consider the story of Hansel and Gretel for example. The Professor suggests (and I paraphrase) that Gretel pushed the witch into the hot oven because the witch was a symbol of Gretel's stepmother, who she (Gretel) wanted to replace in the affectionate eyes of her father. I suggest that Gretel killed the witch simply because the witch was planning to kill and eat Gretel's brother. Am I too literal here? Perhaps, but sometimes a cigar is only a cigar.
Date published: 2009-09-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Brilliant but spotty I purchased the audio version. As said elsewhere, this is not a light course -- I'd say it was closer to post-graduate. I felt that Professor Rabkin was best when dissecting H. G. Wells and Kafka. His lecture on Virginia Woolf felt like something I would hear in a dry course on gender issues. Orwell's 'Animal Farm' did not receive a thorough analysis; I sensed the professor might be uncomfortable with the Orwell's ultimate message. I will be listening to the course again. It is as wild and imaginative as the material it covers. As Dr. Rabkin says, our current real world _is_ a world of science fiction come true, and these writers of imaginative literature have given us valuable maps.
Date published: 2009-06-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A Disappointment It’s hard to believe that one could take a subject that so lends itself to speculation and imagination as much as “Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind” and turn that subject into a series of dry academic lectures. Yet Professor Rabkin accomplished it. I hasten to qualify my criticism with my admiration for Professor Rabkin’s presentation style and obvious scholarship. My time was certainly not wasted. But I was expecting and hoping for so much more from this series. I have been pondering my disappointment for several weeks and have come to the belief that Professor Rabkin is a bit defensive of his subject. He tries so hard to make the case that Imaginative Works have a rightful place among the significant works of the world’s literature. Why else would he devote a full lecture to Franz Kafka and totally ignore J. M. Barrie? (I ask the reader to form their own judgment about which is the more significant image in English literature: Peter Pan who wouldn’t grow up; or Gregor Samsa who did grow into a bug?). Why else would he devote a full lecture to Virginia Woolf and yet another to Robb-Grillet and totally ignore A. A. Milne and only devote a few sparse sentences to C.S. Lewis? I am reminded of the “serious critics” who study only Shakespeare’s tragedies because his comedies are so “blasé”. Yet Shakespeare wrote both genres. It is my opinion that imaginative (dare I say entertaining?) works do not need justification or legitimization to serious scholars. Such works have been fully accepted by the world. Professor Rabkin made that point as he discussed the various cultures and languages that have made imaginative literature a substantial part of their basic ethos.
Date published: 2009-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic course! In a good way, of course. This course was a true literature course at a college level. For me, it not only introduced texts that I never would have considered reading, it showed the value of these works beyond their (valid) entertainment-level benefits. My intellect and my imagination was truly challenged and expanded, and the professor's approach often left me thinking for a long time after each lecture ended. I'll definitely be revisiting these lectures again.
Date published: 2009-06-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Stretches the imagination the wrong way While I'm not completely sure what I expected from this course, what I did not expect was Dr. Rabkin's protracted and often abstruse dissections, turning entertaining stories into dreary case studies. Some of the Part 2 lectures were better, but in the final two, he lapsed back into academic obscurantism.
Date published: 2009-03-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hard to review I have to be a little personal in my explanation. I find it hard to completely swallow courses which rely so much on interpretation. I find myself wondering just how the lecturer knows so much about what the author meant. Oh yes, I know that authors leave behind (sometimes) enough information to help, but I also know how much some professors rely on their own ability to infer. But the unforgettable experience of taking a contempoary literature course in college weighs heavily. One student wrote to the author and asked, "is this what you really meant?" The author wrote back to tell how full of it the professor was. That's why I approach courses like this with caution and cynicism. Having explained my life's story, the course was very interesting, and does provide much fodder for thought, making me want to re-read or read those works mentioned that I haven't yet gotten to. Imaginative fiction is my favorite sort. From that standpoint the course was much enjoyable. I still have my doubts about some things I heard. However, I'm glad I took the chance and listened though. Even though I'm cynical, I do not wish to be closed minded. If one enjoys this sort of fiction, it is an interesting set of lectures and very thought provoking.
Date published: 2009-02-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good: Stronger in the Early Days AUDIO CD: Prof. Rabkin delivers a good course on Imaginative literature (read Sci-Fi/Fantasy) especially in the early days, 19th and early 20th century. He sticks mostly to the mainstream of 20th century sci-fi and fantasy. However, so much is happening in this kind of genre fiction that now transcends the mainstream writers that I think someone will need to do a different course to manage such wonderful writers as Lois McMaster Bujold and Jim Butcher, among others. Do a google search of the Hugo award winners and you get a glimpse that there is now much new territory to explore, which this course lacks, perhaps understandably. Still Prof. Rabkin does a good job within the scope he targets. Although I don't feel compelled to listen to the course a second time, I don't regret the first journey. I definitely recommend it for anyone wanting to understanding the sources and early development of the genres.
Date published: 2009-02-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting but a bit much As a lifelong fan of both Fantasy and Science Fiction, I was looking forward to this lecture set. In the end, it was enjoyable but I feel he misses a bit by going too deep into psychology and philosophy within writers. I loved hearing about 19th century writers I've missed out on and hearing how some writers we've never thought of as Fantasy/SciFi writers can be viewed as such but would have enjoyed more time spent on 20th century writers - one lecture covering all of Pulp SciFi (and mainly focusing on Bradbury) is skimping a bit, in my opinion. Enjoyable for those wanting to know more about the history of the subjects and a number of authors, older and more recent.
Date published: 2009-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from PSYCHING OUT SCI-FI AND FANTASY! Just an amazing course. As an eclectic reader, I include excellent sci-fi in my book collection as well as other gendres. This course took me back to the origins of sci-fi and fantasy in great literature. It was a treat for me from start to finish. This professor knows his subject and weaves fascinating asides into his lectures. As a result of taking this course, I have reread some of the texts it reviewed and added titles I never read to my wish list. Don't underestimate superb sci-fi--if man can think it, it will be!!!!
Date published: 2009-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sci Fi and Much More i found this to be a wonderfully interesting little course. This course is an expanded version of a science fiction course that Rabkin had done earlier. He has added some more traditional works of imaginative literature. I thought the lectures on the history and structure of fairy tales was well done and new to me. I found his style to be analytical but not dry and certainly not overly a science fiction booster.
Date published: 2009-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this course. Dr. Rabkin does an excellent job of reviewing and dissecting the fairy tales and sci-fi stories presented within the course. The qualifications for fantasy/sci-fi literature are clearly presented and referenced throughout the course. The history, themes and authors of the stories are discussed during the lectures, along with other material if it is relevant. Dr. Rabkin is clearly well versed in his subject and is very good at presenting the material. He is very thorough and easy to follow. That being said, I have to admit that one or two of the lectures seemed to fall a bit flat for me. I just didn't find them as interesting as the others. I think it was probably due to the fact that I don't care for the stories being discussed, rather than the quality of the lecture, but I don't feel it would be fair to write a review without mentioning that. This is a very minor gripe though. I would recommend this course to anyone with an interest in these literary genres.
Date published: 2009-01-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Curates Wooden Egg I really do despair at this course. Both Richard R and Sharon S seem to me to be on the money here. Professor Rabkin is clearly very well read and had some very fascinating insights into the various authors that he presents but as SharonS notes some of these insghts are marred by being too intellectually esoteric. Regretably one also can't get away from RichardR's criticism of Rabkin's woodenness. I don't know whether this is a problem listening to him on tape but before the camera he can be quite painful to watch. Also I felt the course lacked any obvious unifying themes apart from the most banal.
Date published: 2009-01-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Professor too rigid. Some lectures too intellectually esoteric....some lectures brilliant.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I tore through this course in very short order. The Material and presentation were compelling.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The professor just discussed folklore as if he were Freud. I would have enjoyed it more if he spoke about how the different cultures had the same of similar stories.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly an outstanding learning experience. Established the continum of the gnere in a cogent, all inclusive way.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You need more courses like this. Mystics, Mysticism next?
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best literature course i've ever seen
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It was 12 enchanted hours or 12 hours of enchantment.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This will force you to the scifi/fantasy section of your book sources - and probably to that movie rental section too.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This was an excellent course. I recommend it to anyone interested in fantasy or science fiction.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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