Myth in Human History

Course No. 2332
Professor Grant L. Voth, Ph.D.
Monterey Peninsula College
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Course No. 2332
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Course Overview

A warrior embarks on a voyage to retrieve a mysterious fleece. A man lassoes the sun to lengthen the day. A giant boar raises the earth from the sea with its enormous tusks... These are just a few of the thousands of myths from around the world. They are tales of powerful gods, fearless heroes, frightening monsters, ingenious tricks, and epic battles.

But more important: These stories are the keys to truly grasping the ways that principles, rituals, codes, and taboos are woven into the fabric of a particular society or civilization. It's through myths that we can answer these and other fundamental questions:

  • How was the universe created, and why?
  • What is the purpose of evil?
  • Why is society organized the way it is?
  • How did natural features like rivers, mountains, and oceans emerge?

Grasping the deep-seeded truths behind myths is an illuminating and rewarding journey that reveals provocative new insights into the ways that beliefs are passed on from generation to generation.

And it's a journey you can experience and own with Myth in Human History. This entertaining and illuminating course, delivered by engaging storyteller and award-winning Professor Grant L. Voth of Monterey Peninsula College, plunges you into the world's greatest myths. Taking you from ancient Greece and Japan to North America and Africa to New Zealand and Great Britain, these 36 lectures survey some of the world's most enduring myths and the cultures behind them. By the close of the final lecture, you'll find yourself looking at and understanding world mythology in startling new ways.

Explore Hundreds of Captivating Stories ...

Surveying the greatest myths may seem like an impossible task. So to make learning about world mythology all the more accessible, Myth in Human History is structured into five units.

  • Myths about creation and destruction
  • Myths about gods and goddesses
  • Myths about heroes
  • Myths about tricksters
  • Myths about sacred places

By approaching myths in this way, you'll be better able to understand mythology's profound importance in shaping nearly every aspect of culture. You'll also discover the hidden connections between them-a comparative approach that emphasizes the universality of myths across cultures.

... and Meet a Wealth of Fascinating Characters

Along with the stories themselves, you'll encounter fascinating characters, including

  • Herakles, the ancient Greek hero whose life illustrates the idea that all heroic stories have a similar structure;
  • Loki, the shape-shifting trickster who introduces the concept of time into the Norse realm of Asgard; and
  • King Arthur, the Celtic lord and founder of the Knights of the Round Table.

An Engaging Tour, a Master Storyteller

A veteran Great Courses instructor, Professor Voth draws you into each myth, and, in doing so, celebrates the same enchanting oral tradition that helped to spread so many of them. With almost every myth in the course, he first tells it as a story to be listened to and savored. Then he explains how different readings and interpretations shed meaning on the myth's role in larger culture. And finally, he invites you to develop your own interpretations of these age-old tales, as well as to ponder the role that myths-both ancient and everyday-play in your own life.

Myths, according to Professor Voth, are "gifts from the ancestors to be cherished." Myth in Human History is the perfect way for you to celebrate these cherished gifts, to learn more about them than you ever thought possible, and to discover how mythology has the power to shape human history.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Myth and Meaning
    Begin your journey into the fascinating world of myths. What exactly are myths? How have they shaped cultures? What hidden truths lie inside ancient myths like that of Herakles or contemporary ones like the alligators that "supposedly" lurk in New York City sewers? Find out in this lecture. x
  • 2
    The Continuing Importance of Myth
    Preview the types of myths you'll explore in the coming lectures, including creation myths, heroic myths, trickster myths, and myths about sacred spaces. Then, conclude the lecture with a look at how contemporary literature like the Harry Potter novels is indebted to myths as old as the human race. x
  • 3
    Creation Myths
    Start learning about great creation myths by examining their major "genres," including creation from nothing; creation by mud from a primal sea; and creation through the breaking of a cosmic egg. Then, see these creation myths in action with two from Egypt that date back to around 2300 B.C.E. x
  • 4
    Mesopotamian Creation—Enuma Elish
    Neighbors to the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians possessed their own fascinating myths. The most prominent of these: the Enuma Elish, in which the cosmos was organized from the body of the murdered goddess Tiamat. Here, investigate several interpretations of this story and how they've helped us better understand its cultural importance. x
  • 5
    Hebrew Creation Myths
    Turn now to the most familiar creation myth of all: the first three chapters of the book of Genesis. Whether you view these events as myths or sacred stories, place them into the larger context of ancient Hebrew culture by drawing comparisons with other creation myths from around the world. x
  • 6
    Emergence and World-Parent Creation Myths
    Broaden your grasp of creation myths by studying two more variations. The first is a Navajo example of an emergence myth, in which creatures journey to Earth through underground worlds. The second is a Maori version of the world-parent myth, where a parental unity breaks apart into separate individuals. x
  • 7
    Cosmic Egg and Ex Nihilo Creation Myths
    The world emerges from a cracked egg. Or it comes from a vast nothingness. These are the respective backbones of cosmic egg and ex nihilo creation myths, both of which you learn more about in this lecture on the Chinese myth of P'an Ku and the Mayan Popol Vuh. x
  • 8
    Earth-Diver and Dismembered God Creation Myths
    Finish your tour of creation myths with a closer look at two distinct approaches: a Huron tale in which the world is born out of mud dug from the depths of a primeval sea, and a Norse tale in which the torn body of the frost giant Ymir creates the cosmos. x
  • 9
    Mesopotamian and Hebrew Flood Myths
    Water is the womb of life—but it can also be the grave to which life returns. In flood myths, a catastrophic deluge punishes humanity and, in the process, recreates it. Unpack the meaning behind two popular flood myths: the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh and Noah's story from Genesis. x
  • 10
    Other Flood Myths
    All flood stories are nuanced in ways that reflect the values and fears of their particular civilizations. In this lecture, Professor Voth compares and contrasts six lesser-known flood myths from five unique world cultures: classical Greece and Rome, India, China, and Mesoamerica. x
  • 11
    Myths of Cosmic Destruction
    Apocalyptic myths, at their core, are creation myths in reverse. Discover more about these harrowing—and surprisingly hopeful—stories by focusing on the Indian myth of the last days of the cosmos, and the Norse tale of Ragnarok: an epic battle involving gods, fallen heroes, giants, and monsters. x
  • 12
    Greek and Norse Pantheons
    If it weren't for gods and goddesses, there would be no such thing as myths. So what defines a god or goddess? What do the lives and purposes of all-powerful deities like Zeus, Demeter, Apollo, Odin, and Thor reveal about the Greek and Germanic peoples who worshiped them? x
  • 13
    The Great Goddess Remembered?
    Learn about three myths that support the controversial hypothesis that ancient cultures once valued goddesses over gods. The "great goddesses" you meet: Au Co from Vietnam, the White Buffalo Woman from the Brulé Sioux of North America, and Massassi from the Wahungwe of Zimbabwe. x
  • 14
    The Goddess—Inanna and Dumuzi
    During the Agricultural Revolution, the role of the "great goddess" dramatically changed. Uncover a powerful example of this change in the Sumerian myth of the fertility goddess Inanna and her consort, the shepherd Dumuzi. Then, approach this tale from a psychological standpoint to learn what it says about individuality. x
  • 15
    The Goddess—Isis and Osiris
    Professor Voth draws you into the world of the goddess Isis and her companion, Osiris. In this Egyptian myth, Isis gives over some of her power to her male consort, who then becomes responsible for ensuring new cycles of growth. What does this mean for the evolving idea of the "great goddess"? x
  • 16
    The Eclipse of the Goddess
    Witness how the sky gods of invading civilizations threatened the power of Near Eastern goddesses, forever changing mythology and religion. Your focus here is on myths that illustrate this tension, including those of the Dahomey of Africa, the ancient Greeks, the Japanese, and other diverse cultures. x
  • 17
    Shamans and Vegetation Gods
    Shamans, which date back to the Paleolithic era, are some of the earliest examples of male gods. Chart their evolution from animal masters with magical powers (like the Cherokee's Great Bear) to actual vegetation or fertility gods during the Agricultural Revolution (such as the Syrian god Baal). x
  • 18
    Sky Gods and Earth Goddesses
    The end of the Agricultural Revolution saw a permanent separation between gods and goddesses. Learn how cultures as unique as the Bartose of Zimbabwe and the Sioux of North America crafted intriguing myths that transformed male deities into remote sky gods and female deities into earthbound monsters and temptresses. x
  • 19
    Creator Gods
    What does a god look like when he becomes the sole creator of the entire universe? How have cultures from Tahiti, India, West Africa, and other places bridged the gap between a god who is "out there" and one who lives deep within us? Find out the fascinating answers here. x
  • 20
    Gods and Goddesses of India
    Review your deeper knowledge of gods and goddesses by surveying the Hindu pantheon as it evolved over thousands of years. Along the way, examine myths about India's deities, from the adventures of the warrior god, Indra, to the cosmic dances of Shiva to the many manifestations of Vishnu. x
  • 21
    Hero Myths
    Heroes—whether gods like Prometheus, humans like King Arthur, or hybrids like Buddha—have given us the most exciting stories in human civilization. Here, delve into the controversial idea of the monomyth (a myth shared by all cultures) and see it illustrated in the story of the Greek hero Herakles. x
  • 22
    Mythic Heroes—Gilgamesh
    Travel back to ancient Mesopotamia and meet the warrior-king Gilgamesh. As you follow his exploits—including his friendship with the half-animal Enkidu, his battle with the Bull of Heaven, and his confrontation with the goddess Ishtar—see whether this hero's story is a true monomyth. x
  • 23
    Mythic Heroes—King Arthur
    Using the same monomyth lens, delve into the Celtic legend of King Arthur, made familiar by Thomas Malory's Morte D'arthur. Also, find new insights into popular figures like Lancelot, Merlin, and Guinevere, and famous events from the era of Camelot, including the search for the Holy Grail. x
  • 24
    Mythic Heroes—Jason and the Argonauts
    Explore a heroic myth from ancient Greece: Jason and his shipmates as they search for the Golden Fleece. Not only is this myth—and the subsequent tale of Jason's wife, Medea—a good illustration of the monomyth, it also touches on critical themes about the "great goddess" from earlier lectures. x
  • 25
    The Monomyths of Rank and Campbell
    Peer inside the psychology behind the heroic monomyth from the perspective of its two most famous theorists: Otto Rank and Joseph Campbell. For Rank, myths are rooted in the expression of childhood goals; for Campbell, however, they're based on attempts to forge connections with our unconscious. x
  • 26
    Mythic Heroes—Mwindo
    Use Rank and Campbell's ideas to better understand the African epic of Mwindo, which is still a living myth for the Nyangi of eastern Zaire. You'll learn more about heroic myths and also about the value of using the monomyth structure to make sense of them. x
  • 27
    Female Heroes—Demeter and Hester Prynne
    Although separated by thousands of years, Demeter (the Greek goddess of grain) and Hester Prynne (the American heroine of The Scarlet Letter) have much in common. Find out how their respective stories illustrate the characteristics of female heroes and the gender biases built into many myths. x
  • 28
    Female Heroes—Psyche and Beauty
    Detour into the world of fairy tales, where you can also find a host of female heroes. The tales of "Psyche and Cupid" and "Beauty and the Beast" not only illuminate cultural ideas of love and marriage, they also provide opportunities to compare and contrast myths with fairy tales. x
  • 29
    The Trickster in Mythology
    Trickster myths are some of the most widespread in the world. In the first of five lectures on these lowly characters who outwit others (and themselves), discover how scholars approach the trickster, and take an extended look at a cycle of trickster myths from the Winnebago of Wisconsin. x
  • 30
    Tricksters from around the World
    Broaden your knowledge of tricksters by studying four mythological taboo breakers: Hermes, who worms his way into the Greek pantheon; Enki, who plays a key role in the Sumerian flood myth; Loki, who causes mischief among the Norse gods; and Ma-ui, who introduces fire to the cultures of Oceania. x
  • 31
    Native American Tricksters
    In most Native American myths, tricksters appear as animals or have animal names. Where does this connection come from? What is the trickster's relationship to shamans? Discover the answers in the stories of Spider from the Sioux, Raven from the Pacific Northwest, and Coyote from the Navajo and Caddo. x
  • 32
    African Tricksters
    Professor Voth introduces you to tricksters from African cultures, including Ajapa the Tortoise and Ananse the Spider. These mythological figures—who serve as intermediaries between humans and sky gods—have provided agriculture, established gender roles, and more—but often just to show others how powerful they are. x
  • 33
    Mythic Tricksters—Eshu and Legba
    Conclude your look at tricksters with a series of myths about two who consistently appear in some sort of human form: Eshu (from the Yoruba) and Legba (from the Fon of Benin). Then, learn why world cultures should ultimately be grateful for their tricksters' antics and transgressions. x
  • 34
    The Places of Myth—Rocks and Lakes
    The place where a myth occurs is as important as the myth itself. Turn to Jacob's Bethel, Australia's Ayers Rock, and the Tibetan "Castle Lake"—rocks and bodies of water where the sacred once broke into the everyday world. x
  • 35
    The Places of Myth—Mountains
    Continue your tour of mythical places, stopping at Sinai on the Arabian Peninsula, the San Francisco Peaks above Arizona, Kailas in Tibet, and T'ai Shan in east China. These four locales are perfect examples of how mountains play meaningful roles in mythologies from around the world. x
  • 36
    The Places of Myth—Sacred Trees
    Professor Voth addresses the importance of Native American, Chinese, Indian, and Vietnamese mythological trees—all of which serve to connect Earth with both the heavens and the underworld. Then, he ends the course by detailing the role that myths play in everyday life. x

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Your professor

Grant L. Voth

About Your Professor

Grant L. Voth, Ph.D.
Monterey Peninsula College
Dr. Grant L. Voth is Professor Emeritus at Monterey Peninsula College in California. He earned his M.A. in English Education from St. Thomas College in St. Paul, MN, and his Ph.D. in English from Purdue University. Throughout his distinguished career, Professor Voth has earned a host of teaching awards and accolades, including the Allen Griffin Award for Excellence in Teaching, and he was named Teacher of the Year by the...
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Reviews

Myth in Human History is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 46.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! This is one of the best courses I have taken, and I have taken over 45 of them. The professor is very knowledgeable and made each lecture very interesting.
Date published: 2018-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Profound material Very interesting and wide-ranging presentation. The lecturer connects the material very cogently to contemporary life and story-telling. The lecturer has a more profound understanding of mythology than the teachers I had in high school or college. Also, the psychological significance of mythology is explained. This is a very analytical course, which is what suits my tastes most. Very enlightening!
Date published: 2017-09-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not my first course on myths from the tc, but certainly the best.
Date published: 2017-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating course This is a fascinating course. I love learning about the mythology from all over the world.
Date published: 2017-02-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Adequate, But Ultimately Disappointing Let me begin with the positives. Professor Voth knows and recounts the major myths with fluidity and proficiency. Further, he brings to bear in the course secondary sources that are important to the study. Finally, he has organized the course intelligently and comprehensively. What's missing significantly is enough clear and profound original thinking on the professor's part that would give the learner rich possibilities of deeper meaning in the myths. For customers of The Great Courses, think Weinstein, Heffernan, Kinney, Greenberg, and Spiegelman to understand what I'm seeking. Here, one comes to the end of lengthy accounts of the myths, hungry to get to the deeper core of their meaning. Yet, too often, one is disappointed. I kept notes on problems with virtually each lecture but will illustrate with three. For example, as to the area I've studied most deeply in the past, the few minutes of discussion of the Hebrew creation myth are shallow, too devoted to matters of the characters' nakedness and ultimate death, and too little to the key ethical, spiritual matters central to this myth's enduring strength. I've always been interested in Nathaniel Hawthorne's character, Hester Prynne, but I've never seen her as a female hero who merits inclusion in a course on myths. Voth's discussing her as one was, for me at least, unconvincing. Finally, his treatment of the trickster reveals an unfortunate pattern evident elsewhere in the course - a repetition of points already made. Here it's the idea that cultures prize a trickster because the character brings something, often "garbage," from outside into a stable culture, often in a way that brings it greater vitality. This is a good point, to be sure, but it's made way too often. There are simply too many places here that call for more wisdom. Professor Voth does an adequate job, but for a higher rating, I believe keener insights, greater wisdom, and more profound thinking are needed.
Date published: 2017-01-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Too many different myths no analysis of why myths Dry presentations, covers many different cultures, not enuf how myths relate to reality.No discussion of what lessons can be learned from myths. Too much pseudo psychiatry Freud, Jung, etc Presentation are dry, not exciting, no spark. Ignores that many billions of people believe in many myths - must have some value? Dose not consider this, & the strength of belief & use of myths.
Date published: 2016-12-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very well done and insightful This is a very worthwhile course. It contains really good analysis of how myths tell us a lot about the culture, principles, and views held by civilizations, what is most important to them at a particular time, and how that evolves over time (such as people’s conception of “god”). Tales of tricksters were some of the highlights of the course. These tales were not only humorous but also were good topics for psychological analysis (they allowed for people to either question or poke fun of their society’s social norms/rules without ostracism). A great number of myths were covered in the course even though I hoped for a little more time spent on classic fairy tales and the purposes or lessons behind them. Specific "likes" of mine: • Myths from a wide variety of places were discussed: North American Native American, Sumeria/Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, Australia, Britain, Africa, China, Japan, etc. (NOTE: myths of ancient Greece were limited due to Professor Vandiver's "Classical Mythology" course) o Discussion around how ancient myths tell us a lot about the culture, principles, and views held by civilizations and what is most important to them at a particular time o Classification of creation myths into genres: - Earth Diver myths in which creation comes from mud retrieved from water - Cosmic egg - Earth being created from the body of a dismembered god - Ex Nihilo myths in which creation comes out of nothing from a god (i.e. Old Testament) - Emergence myths in which creatures discover the earth from underground worlds - World parent myths in which a parental unit breaks apart into separate individuals - Rebirth of earth via flood stories o How people conceive/view “god” has changed over time as peoples and civilizations have changed both internally and externally; Peoples’ conception of “god” has morphed from a pre-eminence of a mother goddess to sky gods (when conquering people invaded the lands) to a family of gods (when civilizations sprung up) to a single male god who created everything (monotheism) and then the need to bridge the gap between a god that had become too transcendent and humanity (Jesus, Buddhism, mysticism, etc.) o Exploration of the common themes of what makes a hero and how all hero myths have similar storyline elements leading some to conclude that all myths may be a part of one general myth/archetype that may either be a reflection of how humans have apprehended the divine or psychological analysis of the unconsciousness o Tales of the Trickster- a clever troublemaker who stands on the boundaries of humans and the gods and outside the social conventions and values of a society but brings something positive to that society such as introducing fire or the sun to people even if he does so as more of a side effect of his selfish purposes vs altruistic ones • The professor’s laugh when discussing humorous myths was contagious and created an endearing quality to his style Relatively minor "dislikes" from me: • At one point I found myself tuning out when one world creation myth after another was being discussed and they sounded like they were all rolling into one another without distinction • The lectures on sacred places weren’t intriguing to me (would’ve liked more trickster myths!) • Would’ve liked more discussion of fairy tales and the purposes and lessons behind them (only two or three were mentioned as part of another topic) If you have any interest whatsoever in ancient myths and what they say about a civilization, I highly recommend this course. I am not sure anyone else could've handled the topic better.
Date published: 2016-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Stuff! I've always been curious about mythology, and this course does a great job of covering myths from all over the world. Professor Voth groups them into categories (such as creator myths, tricksters, goddesses, sky gods, etc.) and then contrasts/compares them. I had always wondered why & how the early goddesses were replaced by male "sky gods" and Professor Voth explains this very well. He obviously enjoys his subject and his enthusiasm is contagious. An enjoyable course.
Date published: 2016-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Good Course Very interesting course. Professor Voth is a great storyteller.
Date published: 2016-01-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Philospical look at Myth Audio download version.... These enjoyable lectures are clearly and pleasantly presented by Dr Voth. The set is both well-organized and evenly paced, with an aspect of myth presented (e.g. sacred places in myth) followed by short stories or descriptions of myths from a variety of cultures through time. I suspect many people who purchased this set were expecting more stories, and less philosophical explanation and discussion. However, I found the lectures to be an introduction to comparative mythology philosophy in which the bases of myths for different historic times and cultures are examined...I was struck with the similarities of myths and stories, yet the intended meanings/morals are sometimes quite different. All myths through time seem to be mans' attempt to explain the world about him...the more understanding of the natural order, the less need there is for gods and the supernatural...but what if that sly trickster Coyote is behind the myth of climate change....? Recommended, particularly when on sale and you have a coupon.
Date published: 2015-06-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Comparative Mythology This course covers myths from all over the world and from prehistoric times through the last few hundred years. I felt that the most important feature of the course was how it was organized. By grouping the myths by type and discussing myths of each type from different parts of the world, Voth is able to show how amazingly similar the myths are. It really is astounding how many similarities there are in the myths of peoples from widely separated parts of the planet. And yet, there are differences which are discussed as well. Voth spends a significant amount of time discussing the meanings of the myths. While I found some of the interpretations interesting, I do have trouble with modern scholars attaching meanings to such things. How do we know what ancient peoples were thinking when these myths were first told? Scholars can't always agree on the "meaning" of works of modern literature! How can we expect them to figure out the myths? And don't get me started on some of the psychological interpretations... Yes, I believe there are lessons to be learned from the myths, but I'm not sure how much more interpretation there is. I mean, some of these are great stories - couldn't they just be that? Good stories with no ulterior motives? That question wasn't addressed at all. (Could some archeologist thousands of years in the future find a copy of Animal House and ascribe to it mythical meanings of 20th-century civilization?) This also applies to the discussion of the monomyth. Is there a monomyth because the earliest myths spread with the earliest people? Or is there a monomyth because people naturally tend to tell the same kinds of stories? Or is there, in fact, no monomyth? While it's not clear what the answers to these questions are, it was interesting to hear the ideas behind the theory of the monomyth. I felt Voth did an excellent job of presenting and comparing the myths. He also did an excellent job explaining the different categories of myths. I listened to the audio version in my car and very much enjoyed, and learned from, this course. I never felt that I'd missed out by not having access to the video. I recommend this course if only to listen to all the great myths Voth shares.
Date published: 2015-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from approrpiate and inviting title This professor's breadth of knowledge of mythology AND literature is astonishing. He is one of my two or three favorites!
Date published: 2014-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Five stars - with some caveats This course is an excellent introduction and overview of world mythology. It covers a lot of ground, and does it well. While I would recommend it to anyone, I need to add the following caveats: Because it covers so much ground, it moves as a very brisk speed, and in some cases I would have preferred to get more depth (for example, more detail on some of the hero myths, and more discussion of the psychological interpretation of myth, a la Rank, Jung and Campbell). Second, I found my interest waning slightly in during the latter part of the course. This may have been because (while he never says so) Prof. Voth seems to be suggesting a kind of monomyth for trickster myths (similar to the monomyth of the hero). While I thought the argument and evidence presented for the hero monomyth was compelling, it seemed that the trickster myths were much more diverse (hard to see an parallel between the Norse Loki and the African Anansi as presented here, for example). Still, the course material was very engaging, and I will definitely be broadening my study of mythology as a result.
Date published: 2014-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really enjoying it I'm about halfway through this course, and I'm really enjoying it. Dr, Voth is a good speaker and his presentation is a pleasure to listen to. The content is fascinating. I appreciated the way he introduced myths from Christianity, heading off any objections to the idea that the Bible contains myths instead of literal truth by saying that (not quoting here) if that is offensive or not what the listener is looking for, there are other courses that address the topic. I think he handled that very sensitively. He has a wide range of myths from around the world, and he organizes them well.
Date published: 2013-10-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Professor mails it in I am writing my first review for the teaching company and I am sorry it is a negative review. I have a great interest in various cultures and their myths and was excited about getting this course. I have purchased about 30 teaching courses over the past decade, most in the humanities and history, and, for the most part, enjoyed them all. However, this course lacks the academic discipline and objectivity I have come to expect from the Teaching Company professors and their courses. Instead, Professor Voth stakes out one or two positions which reflect his own personal worldview and then darts around the world and through time to find stories or myths or parts of stories or myths to support his positions without presenting any countervailing or opposing viewpoints. A simple task given the scope of material that can be categorized as "myth". If you have an interest in this subject matter, I recommend Professor Vandiver's excellent course on Classical Mythology.
Date published: 2013-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Introduction. I appreciate this course on many levels. I am an academic myself, with a doctorate in History of Religions, and I found the course to be an enjoyable review/survey of the field. Professor Voth does an exemplary job of tackling an ambitious project. He surveys both a variety of myths and a variety of theoretical approaches to myth. If the goal of the course was to inspire students to go away from the course with the intention of exploring the study of myth on their own, then my impression is that the professor was entirely successful.
Date published: 2013-08-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Inaccurate Content I stopped listening to this course after three episodes, because the mistakes in the Christian creation story are so glaring that I really had to question his mastery of the subject. Namely, he says that the Christian creation story is categorized as a "pre-existing matter" story, and that Adam was androgynous - i.e. not male or female - until the creation of Eve. Both of these go very strongly against both the plain reading of the text and long-standing Christian tradition. I won't bore people by citing chapter and verse, but the text of Genesis 1 and 2 makes it very clear that God created the universe out of nothing, and I don't know of any Christian church that holds a different viewpoint. Arguments about evolution, 7-day creation etc. don't count, since these deal with how God went about creating the universe, not whether God created anything at all. In a similar vein, Adam is referred to from his creation onwards as "the man" - there is nothing in the text to suggest that he was not a fully functional male from the time of his creation onward, nor do I know of any church that says differently. In short, I don't know where the professor got these theories from, but they clearly weren't from the Bible or any mainstream Christian church's teachings. Such blatant and egregious mistakes in a religion so widely held and so easily studied makes me seriously question whether he knows what he's talking about with these other religions that we have far less data about.
Date published: 2013-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I Loved It! This is my favorite purchase. I have to qualify this by saying that you really have to be into myths. I disagree with other purchasers who said that they would have liked more trickster stories and less sacred rocks and lakes, mountains, and trees. The course covered everything thoroughly. There was enough of every topic. And to not have the topic of sacred places would lessen the value of the course. I had topics that I liked less than others, but sacred places wasn't one of them. Also, his coverage of the Goddess Hypothesis had to be included, because frankly, the facts made sense, and Professor Voth is a teacher of Literature not Anthropology. All in all, I can say that I learned a lot, and Professor Voth's enthusiasm made the information easier to learn.
Date published: 2013-06-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wished I had enjoyed it more I really wanted to like this course more than I did. Professor Voth clearly loves, and has a deep knowledge for, the topic. A great deal of new and interesting information. But, somehow this course left me wanting more - or something different. At times the presentation seemed dry or repetitive. It was very good - but, not great.
Date published: 2013-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life changing Professor Voth pulled together the world of myth, filled with its symbolism and archetypes and actually clarified, for me, the importance of the stories that have become "family" myth. WE are born into a conversation of "what is..." and once I realized that it was changeable, a whole new world opened up. Thank you Porfessor Voth!
Date published: 2013-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course! Go Back to it Often There is an incredible amount of information in this course and I finished it feeling satisfied. Discussions about the myths were relevant, informational, and well presented. Professor Voth is a lively story teller and is obviously passionate about the subject. This is definitely one of my favorite, if not THE favorite of the Great Courses.
Date published: 2012-11-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good, not great Dr. Voth is extremely intelligent, and .has a very relaxed lecture style. This course is very heavy on myth theory. Probably more than most people will want. Course is for those will strong interest in this area, not for those who want a casual review of the subject. I quite preferred Dr Voth's course on world literature!
Date published: 2012-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Enjoyable Survey on Myths Granted, this course cannot cover all of the myths. Certainly a course that even sets out to cover all of the myths is unlikely to succeed. However, Prof. Voth's ability to tell a story still made this an educational and enlightening course. Prof. Voth did a nice job of selecting his stories. He did an excellent job of describing the stories and providing some sort of framework for studying myths. I enjoyed his recommended readings and course outline. My favorite part of the course was the segment on tricksters -- especially coyote. I agree with the other reviewers that it is very difficult to create a coherent theme when the course is trying to address all myths. I would hope that there would be some sort of follow up to this course that would be a little more specific -- such as TTC's course on classical mythology or, perhaps, a course on trickster myths. I would still recommend this course to students interested in learning more about myths.
Date published: 2012-05-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Why the haste? "Myth in Human History" is among the very few courses from The Great Courses library that I would not recommend. In my opinion, the course is, unlike many other similar ones from the Teaching Company, poorly structured and that greatly hinders proper understanding and appreciation of the material. I will try to sketch out the pros and cons: In terms of content, any attempt to cover the myths of so many cultures from around the world is doomed from the outset since there is simply too much material to cover. This course is no exception. This could mean restricting the material based on theme, geographical region, narrative, etc. The extensive breadth also keeps the lecturer from exploring the significance of the myth (in various aspects like philosophical, religious, psychological, structural etc.) any more than it does. To be fair, Prof. Voth warns at the start that the focus of the course is myths themselves, but not even thematic and literary aspects are discussed sufficiently to the point that, except for a few notable examples, many stories are skimmed through. As a result, you hear the irritating "this is fascinating stuff but unfortunately we don't have time to go through it" too many times. Also, as other reviewers have noted earlier, Voth himself is heavily biased when it comes to The Great Goddess Hypothesis, despite his claims. He devotes four lectures to discussing why it "might" be true, and how it "might" explain various oddities about many myths, without allotting ample time to the criticisms that go so far as to call the hypothesis "consolatory nonsense" (check out Very Short Introduction to Classical Mythology by Helen Morales. Also, In her course on Classical Mythology, Dr. Vandiver does an impeccable job of criticizing the evidence for the great goddess, and I suggest you check that out too if you have not). I do not have anything against the great goddess hypothesis and I find it amazingly creative, even if it turns out to be discredited and forgotten, but I like to hear both sides of the debate. Unfortunately, even after discussing the hypothesis, Dr. Voth treats it as a given, occasionally attenuating the overbearing use of the theory by reminding the listener that he is just using it "as an explanatory tool", but to no avail. He even cites a long sensationalistic passage on the experience of motherhood. This is symptomatic of a much larger problem that pervades the whole content: the analytical rigor is missing. This could have been compensated by the literary gain, but, like I said, the hasty pace precludes even that. But apart from the hasty pace, the distribution of the total time of 18 hours between different topics is not really judicious either. For instance, I would imagine that the audience could live with one lecture on sacred trees, mountains, etc. (instead of 3) in order for Dr. Voth to find time to discuss topics such as the mythological elements present in today's world religions, or even modern secular culture in more detail (like that bit about "alligators in the sewers"). About presentation, I like Dr. Voth's calm soothing voice. He is by no means monotone or boring. He is lucid and unpretentious. In sum, the available courses in The Great Courses failed to cover modern theories of myth which are quite complex, interesting, and relevant in their own right, or an in-depth coverage of any of the myths of any culture, except classical. "Myth in Human History" does not fill in either gap.
Date published: 2012-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Introduction to World Myths While I am not sure I agreed always with Professor Voth, I certainly can say that he was an excellent lecturer. I have no problem with whatever "feminist" perspective was implied because for many years classes were taught with little or no input on the role of women in subjects such as this, with the exception of mentioning the important goddesses. In all cases Professor Voth tried, and to a large degree succeeded in my opinion, in giving a balanced presentation . Whether you agree with his interpretation or not, you do get a broad introduction to world mythology. I recommend the course.
Date published: 2011-12-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting, but flawed I mostly enjoyed the course. Not as interesting as a mythology course I took in college, but it was a good overall survey. I disagree with his major premise that pre-agricultural societies all started with earth goddesses and developed the concepts of sky gods after the agricultural revolution. This doesn't match archaelogical evidence suggesting that general ancestor worship was more common in early civilizations than specific deity worship. It also doesn't mesh with aboriginal australian culture, which never developed agriculture, and did not worship an earth goddess. His premise seems to stem from a modern feminist mindset rather than from actual anthropological evidence. It gives an interesting framework for his stories, but it makes this a somewhat dishonest survey.
Date published: 2011-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Best! I found Professor Voths course on human myths comprehensive and engaging. From ancient to modern, popular to obscure, he enthusiastically shared a lively and rich (encyclopedic!) knowledge of our human stories. I especially liked the way he tied the various cultural motifs and the layers of meaning and function of myths together. In other words, he presented the full range of what human story-telling conveys, it's unifying and distinctive aspects, from the sublime to the silly. For the first time I really got the sense that myths are the full range of human thought - the original stories that express in subtle, intuitive ways what we now divide into the various disciplines of religion, philosophy, science, arts and history. (The only fault I find was his not always taking this approach far enough, as when his discussion of the universal flood myths did not tie them directly to modern geological/archaeological knowledge of the massive floods that occurred at the end of the last ice age - about 12,000 years ago). I found his comparative approach helpful to show both the overall patterns of human development and recurring psychological themes expressed in myth making, and thought his treatment of the Goddesses, Gods and Heros very good. But my very favorite lectures were the five on Tricksters. This course will both entertain and educate you to the broad (and often bawdy) range of human experience. This is a great introduction to the enduring place myths have in human history/development.
Date published: 2011-10-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Good Introduction Well prepared and well presented. He tries to look at Myths From All Over The World, so of necessity has to be fairly superficial in his analysis, since he has to describe the myths in some detail. I had no problem with the way he organised the information. I'm pleased that he throws our current creation stories in the same pot as all the others. The course is a good introduction for someone who has little previous knowledge of the subject.
Date published: 2011-04-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Huge Disappointment I've completed tens of Teaching Company courses and was looking forward to this one. I gave up less than halfway through -- the lectures were little more than a dry retelling of the facts of the myths, followed by the professor's listing of 15 other myths, that are similar. No analysis; utterly unengaging.
Date published: 2011-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Top-Notch! (Review based on audio download version.) Professor Voth’s voice is strong, clear and smooth, and his grammar is excellent. The course contains very few academic clichés. The introductory music is excellent. Voth seems to start off slowly, and takes the first two lectures to set up and explain what he is going to do. I’m not saying that Voth should have hit the ground running. The material in Lectures 1 & 2 is useful if not critical for a full understanding of myths. One of my all-time favorite treatments of the subject was the PBS series, ‘The Power of Myth,’ with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers. I couldn’t help but measure Voth against Campbell and Moyers. ‘The Power of Myth’ was a more lively, compelling series. It’s probably not fair to compare, because ‘Power’ was made for TV (and I personally think Campbell was a genius). However, I came away with the feeling Voth might have been a bit too analytical. I love myth stories, and was eager for the professor to retell them. Voth’s analyses are so thorough that it reminded me of watching a program of how special effects are created for a fantasy movie. I often just wanted to get into the stories themselves and not focus so much on ‘how’ to interpret them. In Lecture 27, I found his explanations of why women are missing as heroes in myth as somewhat weak, if not merely obligatory and reminiscent of politically correct gender studies. Lectures 29-32, on the Tricksters, were fabulous, and the course really started moving. I had visions of Bernie Madoff and the financial ‘experts’ who caused our current recession. Voth describes the Tricksters in myth as serving as bad examples. But Tricksters also can disturb social stasis, and actually allow openings for creativity. I was surprised Voth didn’t discuss Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The last three lectures, on the Places of Myth, were nicely done. I was pleasantly surprised when Voth discussed the San Francisco Peaks as important Sacred Mountains. I see these mountains every day, as I live in northern Arizona. In sum, this is a finely analytical course on myth. I wish there had been more emphasis on retelling the stories, but we can always get the stories themselves elsewhere. Voth’s analyses are clear and superb. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2011-03-15
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