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  • The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins

    Professor Anne Curzan, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD

    It’s a human impulse to play with language and to create new words and meanings—but also to worry about the decay of language. But by studying how and why language changes and the story behind the everyday words in our lexicon, we can learn a lot about ourselves—how our minds work and how our culture has changed over the centuries. In The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins, you’ll get a delightful, informative survey of English, from its Germanic origins to the rise of globalization and cyber-communications. Award-winning Professor Anne Curzan of the University of Michigan approaches the subject like an archaeologist, digging below the surface to uncover the story of words.

    View Lecture List (36)
    36 Lectures  |  The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins
    Lecture Titles (36)
    • 1
      Winning Words, Banished Words
      Where do words come from? How do they change over time? What counts as a word, anyway? Language is one of the things that reveal how our minds work, and by exploring the “secret life of words,” you’ll see the power of words—and what words can tell us about human history, technology, and culture. x
    • 2
      The Life of a Word, from Birth to Death
      Open the Oxford English Dictionary and you’ll find dead words such as “wittol” and distinctly contemporary words such as “ginormous” and “multislacking.” In addition to looking at the lifespan of words from birth to death, this lecture also considers “semantics”—the study of how words mean what they mean. x
    • 3
      The Human Hands behind Dictionaries
      Go behind the scenes of the world’s dictionaries and see the very human decisions that go into creating them. Lexicographers tend to take a descriptive approach to language and study how we use words, including slang. But as readers, we turn to the dictionary for a prescriptive guide on how we should use words. x
    • 4
      Treasure Houses, Theft, and Traps
      Look at the history of the English dictionary over the past 400 years, culminating with today’s online resources. You’ll meet the likes of Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster, discover the origins of American spellings, and hear the story of how the monumental OED was created. x
    • 5
      Yarn and Clues—New Word Meanings
      Did you know that “girl” used to mean “a child of either sex” or that “nice” used to mean “silly, foolish”? While some words are remarkably stable, many undergo semantic shifts. This lecture surveys the five major categories of semantic change: generalization, narrowing, amelioration, pejoration, and metaphorical extension. x
    • 6
      Smog, Mob, Bling—New Words
      Humans love to play with words, whether it’s to better express what we have to say or to show off a personal style. Study the ways in which new words are created, from combining, shortening, and functional shifts to blends, back formation, and reduplication. This rule-governed creativity gives us everything from slang to technology jargon. x
    • 7
      “Often” versus “Offen”—Pronunciation
      Turn from the origins of words to pronunciation and the system that underlies the variations in dialects. This lecture dives into such regionalisms as the Southern pen-pin merger and the Midwest vowel shift, as well as the socially constructed judgments people make about different dialects. x
    • 8
      Fighting over Zippers
      Who owns words? Is it our responsibility to protect brands such as Xerox and Google from legal misuse? Unpack the concerns about the proper use of trademarks and the process of “genericization,” whereby a word such as “zipper” moves from a proper noun to a generic term. x
    • 9
      Opening the Early English Word-Hoard
      Tour the history of English, beginning with its Germanic origins. The story of English is the story of borrowing words—first from Celtic and Old Norse and later from French and Latin. In this lecture you’ll see how Old English evolved as it came into contact with the Viking raiders and Roman traders. x
    • 10
      Safe and Sound—The French Invasion
      Continue your study of borrowed words by looking at the Norman invasion of 1066. For several hundred years, the Norman-French held sway over England and brought with them language in the realms of politics, government, law, economy, war, and religion, as well as a variety of idioms. x
    • 11
      Magnifical Dexterity—Latin and Learning
      Build your vocabulary with this lecture by surveying the influence of Latin on English during the Renaissance. English was gaining stature in part by borrowing specialized Latin words in the realms of science, music, education, and literature, but some purists argued that English didn’t need these “ink-horn” words. x
    • 12
      Chutzpah to Pajamas—World Borrowings
      English is truly a world language. Your study of borrowed words concludes with an A-to-Z look at world languages and their influence on contemporary English. You’ll be delighted to learn the origins of words such as “monkey business,” “flamingo,” “alligator,” and more. x
    • 13
      The Pop/Soda/Coke Divide
      No matter what you call it, the sugary carbonated beverage says something about where you live. The same is true for “y’all,” “you guys,” “yinz,” and “yous,” as well as for “subs,” “grinders,” “hoagies,” and “po’boys.” Explore America’s dialect maps and discover the country’s many regional varieties of speech, from the Deep South to Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. x
    • 14
      Maths, Wombats, and Les Bluejeans
      Step back and look at the many varieties of world Englishes. Whether English is the primary language (as in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia), an official second language (as in India, Singapore, and Zimbabwe), or a widely spoken foreign language (as in China, Japan, and Germany), English is now truly global. x
    • 15
      Foot and Pedestrian—Word Cousins
      Linguists have borrowed the language of biology to trace the history of words—ancestors, family trees, variation, and selection. This lecture reflects on the blurry distinction between a dialect and a new language, then shows how systemic sound changes explain the etymological relationship between seemingly different—but related—words such as “hearty” and “cordial.” x
    • 16
      Desultory Somersaults—Latin Roots
      Unlock the English vocabulary with Latin “word webs,” a series of derivations that come from the same root. Knowing your Latin bases can help you solve puzzles about the relationship between English words such as “insult” and “resilient,” and it helps linguists trace a word’s meaning as it changes over time. x
    • 17
      Analogous Prologues—Greek Roots
      Shift your attention to Greek, which also heavily influenced the English language of learning. Here you’ll uncover a Greek treasury of language—including the word web around the root of “lexicon” (“lexicography,” “lexus,” “lexeme”). Then you’ll turn to the influence of Greek mythology on English. x
    • 18
      The Tough Stuff of English Spelling
      English spelling is full of irregularities—borrowings, unpredictable stresses, letters doing double duty, and vowel shifts. In this first of two lectures on spelling, examine the history of the English alphabet and the role of the Norman French, English scribes, and the printing press in creating our modern standardized spelling. x
    • 19
      The b in Debt—Meddling in Spelling
      In addition to the happenstance of English spelling, history is filled with examples of conscious meddling that attempted to standardize the system. In this second lecture on spelling, see how this meddling gave us “island,” “doubt,” and distinctively American spellings. x
    • 20
      Of Mice, Men, and Y’All
      Now turn to questions of usage and uncover the secret life of nouns. The Latin borrowing means the plural of “focus” is “foci,” but what do you do with the non-Latin “octopus”? Or “hippopotamus”? After studying history’s role in English plurals, consider the generic pronoun problem. Is “they” an acceptable substitute for “he or she”? x
    • 21
      I’m Good … Or Am I Well?
      Adjectives and adverbs are often the source of prescriptive angst. This lecture starts with the distinction between them before charting the history of the sentence adverb “hopefully” and intensifiers such as “really” and “wicked.” These examples, as well as concerns about fun/funner/funnest, reveal how people feel about changes in language. x
    • 22
      How Snuck Sneaked In
      Examine the system of regular and irregular verbs and how they move from one category to another—with a little help from the Old English system of weak and strong verbs. Then turn to the world of auxiliary verbs, where “shall” is in decline and “gonna” is on the rise. x
    • 23
      Um, Well, Like, You Know
      These little words don’t carry meaning like a noun, but they do help us organize our speech and set conversational expectations. You’ll never have another conversation without thinking about the negotiation that happens when speakers use words like “well” and “now,” and you’ll have a new appreciation for the grammatical utility of “dude” and “like.” x
    • 24
      Wicked Cool—The Irreverence of Slang
      How is the tone of “bootylicious” different from “incentivize”? Youthful, undignified, playful, and irreverent, slang is hard to define but serves an important purpose in our communications. Unlike jargon, slang is decidedly informal, and it has the power to oppose established authority and establish rapport. x
    • 25
      Boy Toys and Bad Eggs—Slangy Wordplay
      Survey the playful methods of creating new slang: rhyme (“brain drain,” “fat cat”), reduplication (“hanky panky,” “chit chat”), alliteration, combining, shortening, and more. Then step back and think about the differences between slang, jargon, and nonstandard dialects. Is a word like “ain’t” slang or something else? x
    • 26
      Spinster, Bachelor, Guy, Dude
      Take on one of the most pervasive binaries in the English language: male and female. This first lecture on gendered lexicon introduces the culture of patriarchy and its effect on English, from the pejoration of words such as “wench” and “girl” to the status of gendered pairings such as “governor” and “governess.” x
    • 27
      Firefighters and Freshpersons
      Is it possible to consciously reform language? While most efforts fail, the use of non-sexist language in American English is an exception, thanks to recent sociopolitical movements. This lecture introduces the scope of sexist language, its system of empowerment and disempowerment, and successful interventions. x
    • 28
      A Slam Dunk—The Language of Sports
      Dive into the language of sports, which is so enmeshed in our everyday usage that we don’t even pay attention to it. Go inside the world of baseball, boxing, football, basketball, tennis, and surfing and see what idioms we’ve borrowed into our nonathletic speech, from being “saved by the bell” to “throwing a curveball.” x
    • 29
      Fooling Around—The Language of Love
      Approach the age-old question of the meaning of “love,” but this time like a lexicographer. This lecture unpacks the nuances of this powerful word, the language of intimacy, and the variety of often ambiguous and euphemistic terms for sex. It concludes with an examination of our culture’s pervasive use of sports to describe dating. x
    • 30
      Gung Ho—The Language of War
      Contemplate the jargon and euphemisms that reflect the intense relationships and horrifying realities of war. Linguistic play has led to slang words such as “snafu” and “fubar,” while euphemisms such as “daisy cutter” and “collateral damage” add a layer of abstraction to the violence and death of war. x
    • 31
      Filibustering—The Language of Politics
      Political language matters. The terms you use shape the frame of the debate, which, in turn, can sway voters. Take a glimpse behind the stage of debate and learn about the surprising history of terms such as “right,” “left,” “liberal,” “lobbyist,” and more, and see how language brands hot-button issues such as the “death tax.” x
    • 32
      LOL—The Language of the Internet
      OMG. BFF. ROTFL. Thx. Now that 4 billion people have access to cell phones, we are writing more than ever, and with the rise of electronically mediated communication, the language is experiencing a flurry of change and innovation. While EMC is informal, rules and etiquette still apply. x
    • 33
      #$@%!—Forbidden Words
      In the most decorous of ways, delve into the world of taboo language—the inappropriate lexicon that has the power to make us laugh or blush, to offend or hurt, and to establish solidarity. After learning about the utility and ubiquity of such language, you’ll have the opportunity to reflect on the changing standards of What makes a word taboo. x
    • 34
      Couldn’t (or Could) Care Less
      Which phrase is correct? And does it matter? Idioms often take on meaning beyond the sum of their individual words. Step back from the language we use in everyday speech and discover the origins—and sometimes the false histories—of many of our common idioms. Then consider the importance of “lexical bundles” to language more generally. x
    • 35
      Musquirt and Other Lexical Gaps
      Have you ever thought, “There should be a word for ____”? This lecture explores some of the gaps in the English lexicon, as well as ways to account for such gaps. You’ll be surprised by how limited English can be, and you’ll take delight in the playful world of “sniglets”—words made up because they ought to exist. x
    • 36
      Playing Fast and Loose with Words
      Conclude your course by considering the creativity of Shakespeare. The OED credits him with making up 1,700 new words, but how many of those did he actually create? And do any of us have the authority to make up new words? You’ll also see how you can apply the linguistic tools from this course to investigate the living, changing language all around you. x
  • Story of Human Language

    Professor John McWhorter, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD
    Dr. John McWhorter, one of America's leading linguists and a frequent commentator on network television and National Public Radio, takes you on a fascinating, 36-lecture tour of the development of human language—he unfolds the story of how a single tongue spoken 150,000 years ago may have evolved into the estimated 6,000 languages used worldwide today. Discover why, for the past century, linguistics has been one of the most exciting and productive fields in the social sciences.
    View Lecture List (36)
    36 Lectures  |  Story of Human Language
    Lecture Titles (36)
    • 1
      What Is Language?
      Professor John McWhorter introduces the course by exploring two questions: What distinguishes the language ability of humans from the signaling system of animals, and when did humans first acquire language? x
    • 2
      When Language Began
      We look at evidence that language is an innate ability of the human brain, an idea linked to Noam Chomsky. But many linguists and psychologists see language as one facet of cognition rather than as a separate ability. x
    • 3
      How Language Changes—Sound Change
      The first of five lectures on language change examines how sounds evolve, exemplified by the Great Vowel Shift in English and the complex tone system in Chinese. x
    • 4
      How Language Changes—Building New Material
      Language change is not just sound erosion and morphing, but the building of new words and constructions. This lecture shows how such developments lead to novel grammatical features. x
    • 5
      How Language Changes—Meaning and Order
      The meaning of a word changes over time. Silly first meant "blessed" and acquired its current sense through a series of gradual steps. Word order also changes: In Old English, the verb usually came at the end of a sentence. x
    • 6
      How Language Changes—Many Directions
      The first language has evolved into 6,000 because language change takes place in many directions. Latin split in this way into the Romance languages as changes proceeded differently in each area where the Romans brought Latin. x
    • 7
      How Language Changes—Modern English
      As recently as Shakespeare, English words had meanings different enough to interfere with our understanding of his language today. Even by the 1800s, Jane Austen's work is full of sentences that would now be considered errors. x
    • 8
      Language Families—Indo-European
      The first of four lectures on language families introduces Indo-European, which probably began in the southern steppes of Russia around 4000 B.C. and then spread westward to most of Europe and eastward to Iran and India. x
    • 9
      Language Families—Tracing Indo-European
      Linguists have reconstructed the proto-language of the Indo-Europeans by comparing the modern languages. Applying this process, we learn the Proto-Indo-European word for sister-in-law that was spoken 6,000 years ago. x
    • 10
      Language Families—Diversity of Structures
      Semitic languages assign basic meanings to three-consonant sequences and create words by altering the vowels around them. In Sino-Tibetan languages, a sentence tends to leave more to context than we often imagine possible. x
    • 11
      Language Families—Clues to the Past
      The distribution of language families shows how humans have spread through migration. We trace the Austronesian language family to its origins on Formosa. Similar work sheds light on the history of Africa and North America. x
    • 12
      The Case Against the World’s First Language
      A few linguists have claimed to reconstruct words from the world's first language, but this work is extremely controversial. Professor McWhorter presents the case against this theory, called the "Proto-World" hypothesis. x
    • 13
      The Case For the World’s First Language
      Despite the hostility of most linguists to the Proto-World hypothesis, there is increasing evidence that many of the world's language families do trace to "mega-ancestors," even if evidence for a Proto-World remains lacking. x
    • 14
      Dialects—Subspecies of Species
      The first of five lectures on dialects probes the nature of these "languages within languages." Dialects are variations on a common theme, rather than bastardizations of a "legitimate" standard variety. x
    • 15
      Dialects—Where Do You Draw the Line?
      Dialects of one language can be called languages simply because they are spoken in different countries, such as Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. The reverse is also true: The Chinese "dialects" are distinctly different languages. x
    • 16
      Dialects—Two Tongues in One Mouth
      Diglossia is the sociological division of labor in many societies between two languages, with a "high" one used in formal contexts and a "low" one used in casual ones—as in High German and Swiss German in Switzerland. x
    • 17
      Dialects—The Standard as Token of the Past
      When a dialect of a language is used widely in writing and literacy is high, the normal pace of change is artificially slowed, as people come to see "the language" as on the page and inviolable. This helps create diglossia. x
    • 18
      Dialects—Spoken Style, Written Style
      We often see the written style of language as how it really "is" or "should be." But in fact, writing allows uses of language that are impossible when a language is only a spoken one. x
    • 19
      Dialects—The Fallacy of Blackboard Grammar
      Understanding language change and how languages differ helps us see that what is often labeled "wrong" about people's speech is, in fact, a misanalysis. x
    • 20
      Language Mixture—Words
      The first language's 6,000 branches have not only diverged into dialects, but they have been constantly mixing with one another on all levels. The first of three lectures on language mixture looks at how this process applies to words. x
    • 21
      Language Mixture—Grammar
      Languages also mix their grammars. For example, Yiddish is a dialect of German, but it has many grammatical features from Slavic languages like Polish. There are no languages without some signs of grammar mixture. x
    • 22
      Language Mixture—Language Areas
      When unrelated or distantly related languages are spoken in the same area for long periods, they tend to become more grammatically similar because of widespread bilingualism. x
    • 23
      Language Develops Beyond the Call of Duty
      A great deal of a language's grammar is a kind of overgrowth, marking nuances that many or most languages do without. Even the gender marking of European languages is a frill, absent in thousands of other languages. x
    • 24
      Language Interrupted
      Generally, a language spoken by a small, isolated group will be much more complicated than English. Languages are "streamlined" in this way when history leads them to be learned more as second languages than as first ones. x
    • 25
      A New Perspective on the Story of English
      We trace English back to its earliest discernible roots in Proto-Indo-European and follow its fascinating development, including an ancient encounter with a language possibly related to Arabic and Hebrew. x
    • 26
      Does Culture Drive Language Change?
      The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis proposes that features of our grammars channel how we think. Professor McWhorter discusses the evidence for and against this controversial but widely held view. x
    • 27
      Language Starts Over—Pidgins
      This lecture is the first of five on how human ingenuity spins new languages out of old through the creation of pidgins and creoles. A pidgin is a stripped-down version of a language suitable for passing, utilitarian use. x
    • 28
      Language Starts Over—Creoles I
      Creoles emerge when pidgin speakers use the pidgin as an everyday language. Creoles are spoken throughout the world, wherever history has forced people to expand a pidgin into a full language. x
    • 29
      Language Starts Over—Creoles II
      As new languages, creoles don't have as many frills as older languages, but they do have complexities. Like real languages, creoles change over time, have dialects, and mix with other languages. x
    • 30
      Language Starts Over—Signs of the New
      Creoles are the only languages that lack or have very little of the grammatical traits that emerge over time. In this, creole grammars are the closest to what the grammar of the first language was probably like. x
    • 31
      Language Starts Over—The Creole Continuum
      Just as one dialect shades into another, "creoleness" is a continuum concept. Once we know this, we are in a position to put the finishing touches on our conception of how speech varieties are distributed across the globe. x
    • 32
      What Is Black English?
      Using insights developed in the course to this point, Professor McWhorter takes a fresh look at Black English, tracing its roots to regional English spoken in Britain and Ireland several centuries ago. x
    • 33
      Language Death—The Problem
      Just as there is an extinction crisis among many of the world's animals and plants, it is estimated that 5,500 of the world's languages will no longer be spoken in 2100. x
    • 34
      Language Death—Prognosis
      There are many movements to revive dying languages. We explore the reasons that success is so elusive. For one, people often see their unwritten native language as less "legitimate" than written ones used in popular media. x
    • 35
      Artificial Languages
      There have been many attempts to create languages for use by the whole world. The most successful is Esperanto. Sign languages for the deaf are also artificial languages, though ones fully equipped with grammar, nuance, and dialects. x
    • 36
      Finale—Master Class
      Professor McWhorter concludes with an etymological sampling of the English language, tracing the origin of every word in the sentence: While the snow fell, she arrived to ask about their fee. x
  • The Art of Storytelling: From Parents to Professionals

    Instructor Hannah B. Harvey, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD

    The gift of storytelling may be one of life's most powerful—and envied—skills. A well-crafted narrative can keep the people, values, and life lessons you hold dear alive and give you the power to influence others. Now, The Art of Storytelling: From Parents to Professionals reveals the tried-and-true methods experienced storytellers use to develop and tell entertaining and memorable stories. In 24 enthralling lectures, Professor Hannah B. Harvey demonstrates how to master the art form’s basic principles with the same dynamic energy that has made her an internationally recognized professional storyteller and award-winning educator. Even if you never plan to set foot on a stage, knowing what a professional storyteller does in the process of crafting and delivering a tale allows you to enhance the stories you tell everyday—to your children at bedtime, in your conversational anecdotes, and in your presentations at work.

    View Lecture List (24)
    24 Lectures  |  The Art of Storytelling: From Parents to Professionals
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      Telling a Good Story
      What qualifies as a story? Learn the significance of storytelling in various cultures; the ways this art is distinct from other forms of performance or literary thought; and how the craft of professional storytelling can help you improve your own storytelling abilities. Listen to tales from the professor’s life and get an introduction to the “storytelling triangle.” x
    • 2
      The Storytelling Triangle
      Telling a story is a three-way dynamic relationship between you, and the story, and the audience. In the first of three lectures that analyze this storytelling triangle, look at The Old Maid and other stories in depth to understand how the process of storytelling works. Then, consider why you’re drawn to certain stories. x
    • 3
      Connecting with Your Story
      What kinds of stories appeal to you most? Look at the variety of stories that are available for you to tell and some practical resources for finding them. Assess the intellectual, social, and cultural connections we develop with stories and identify how you can add depth and context to the stories you tell. x
    • 4
      Connecting with Your Audience
      Focus on this second aspect of the storytelling triangle—your relationship with your audience—by looking at the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual contexts of this relationship and how stories work to bring audiences together. End with an exercise that helps you identify stories that connect with a variety of audiences. x
    • 5
      Telling Family Stories
      Examine the hidden meanings of the family-story genre, including why we tell family stories, how stories organically emerge from families, and what remembering these stories entails. With these hidden meanings in mind, consider how you can tell your own family stories in a way that captures your audience’s attention. x
    • 6
      The Powerful Telling of Fairy Tales
      With classic stories, fairy tales, and myths, there’s a lot more than “they all lived happily ever after” going on beneath the surface. Use Little Red Riding Hood and other fairy tales to understand the psychology of storytelling and what fairy tales do for children in particular. Then, see why the themes of these tales can be just as appealing to adults. x
    • 7
      Myth and the Hero’s Journey
      Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are modern examples of a “hero’s journey.” Use ancient myths from East Africa and ancient Sumeria to break down this structure and investigate why the archetypal figures and pattern of separation, initiation, and return found in the hero’s journey resonate so deeply. Pause to consider how you can apply these ideas to craft stories that reach your audience on a meaningful level. x
    • 8
      Tensive Conflict and Meaning
      Dissect the layered process professional storytellers use when preparing to tell a tale, which involves an interconnected cycle of talking, writing, imaging, playing, and rehearsing. Explore the concept of “tensiveness,” the dynamic quality that reveals a story’s opposing forces; then step back from one of your stories to see the potential relationships between the larger parts of the narrative. x
    • 9
      Giving Yourself Permission to Tell
      Engage in “stretching” exercises to learn to let go of things that may hold you back from telling your story, and give yourself permission to play with the story, make mistakes, and really immerse yourself in the narrative. Listen to the story Mama’s Wings to identify its tensive pulls and unifying themes and images. x
    • 10
      Visualization and Memory
      Learn to visualize a story’s people, places, and events through interactive exercises that get you “seeing” the story in front of you. Explore techniques that help you remember a story without memorization, and methods for immersing yourself in the scene while shifting into “epic mode” to focus on your audience. x
    • 11
      Discovering Point of View
      There is no such thing as a purely objective narrator. Consider how the narrator’s perspective and point of view guide the audience through the story, and how even the most familiar stories can be reinvented by narrating from another character’s perspective. See why age, gender, heritage, economics, and temperament shape your vantage point. x
    • 12
      The Artful Manipulation of Time and Focus
      Explore how you as a narrator can artfully guide the audience’s experience of the story by looking at techniques for controlling events, manipulating time, and making the past tense feel present. Consider when to take your narrator out of the characters’ conversations to increase the pacing and energy. x
    • 13
      Narrator—Bridging Characters and Audience
      Begin thinking about the narrator’s relationship with characters and how control may be ceded to certain characters at points throughout a story. Learn how using focal points can distinguish between personalities, and establish the physical and emotional relationship you have with those characters through storyteller Motoko Dworkin’s performance of a Japanese folktale. x
    • 14
      Developing Complex Characters
      How old are your characters? Are they “head-centered,” “stomach-centered,” or something else? Experiment with gestures and body postures that add depth and dimension to your characters. Then, gain insight into how you can develop characters into memorable people your audience really enjoys seeing in action. x
    • 15
      Plot and Story Structures
      Does your story need to be told in chronological order? Use your storytelling journal to organize the pieces of your story into a structure that conveys the underlying meaning. Learn to separate plot from emotional arc and gain tools that are useful when you’re developing the frame, structure, and resolution of your story. x
    • 16
      Emotional Arc and Empathy
      From ghost stories to family stories, empathy is crucial in giving your audience an emotional entry point and permission to feel. As you turn from plot sequencing to the development of your story’s emotional arc, learn how to build a compelling beginning and emotional climax through an exercise that explores the motivating desire of your primary character from first- and third-person perspectives. x
    • 17
      Varying the Narrator’s Perspective
      Learn to build dynamic tension through your characters and achieve satisfying resolutions. Stories and exercises teach you how to treat third-person statements as if they’re first-person accounts and how to let secondary characters narrate for themselves or serve as “little narrators.” Understand ways to personify the negative force your protagonist is struggling with so it becomes a “little character.” x
    • 18
      Vocal Intonation
      Focus on using vocal intonation to evoke the “sensorium” of a story for your audience with a lesson on how the voice operates, featuring warm-up techniques. Perform mouth and tongue stretches and articulation exercises, then learn how pace, pauses, and sound effects can create character distinctions, contribute to the emotional arc, and draw in your audience. x
    • 19
      Preparing to Perform
      Synthesize everything you’ve learned so far by integrating the elements of storytelling in writing and performance exercises that help you look at your story from various angles. Create a story outline, tell a “side-coached” version of your tale, do an exaggerated run-through, and write a script. Finally, consider the meanings your story holds. x
    • 20
      Putting Performance Anxiety to Good Use
      Whether you consciously deal with performance anxiety as a barrier to communicating with others, or you want to become a more energized and engaging storyteller, this lecture is designed to teach you the physiology behind performance anxiety; the correlation between anxiety that debilitates and energy that enlivens; and practical tools for channeling nervous energy. x
    • 21
      Adapting to Different Audiences
      Consider the physical parameters of informal and formal storytelling scenarios; how stories emerge in these different settings; and what specific audiences—from children to employees—typically need from a story. Learn how to handle yourself as a storyteller in relaxed situations, boardroom settings, and the classroom environment. x
    • 22
      Invitation to the Audience—Mindset
      How do you get and keep your audience’s attention? In this lecture, you’ll learn about on-ramps and off-ramps—how to lead into your story and make it relevant, and how to conclude gracefully. Acquire specific tools for putting your audience in the proper mindset to listen, whether you’re engaged in conversation, giving a presentation, or telling a story to children. x
    • 23
      Keeping Your Audience’s Attention
      Once you’ve hooked your audience, how do you keep them from straying? Learn general rules to live by as a storyteller and ways to keep your audience engaged, including the use of audience participation, props, and repetition. Learn to adjust to what the audience needs in the moment and to cope with interruptions. x
    • 24
      Remember Your Stories—The Power of Orality
      Wrap up the course with some final considerations for keeping your audience interested, from the technical aspects of microphones and PowerPoint, to the more nuanced ways that you can read audiences and understand their needs on the spot. Finally, return to the nature of orality itself as a cultural force that shapes us all. x
  • Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques

    James Hynes,

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD
    Writing great fiction isn’t a gift reserved for a talented few—the craft of storytelling can be learned. Even if you don’t dream of penning the next Moby-Dick, you’ll enjoy exploring the elements of fiction. From evoking a scene to charting a plot, get a master class in storytelling. Author James Hynes is an able guide, showing you what works for him, pointing out pitfalls to avoid, and inspiring you on your journey.
    View Lecture List (24)
    24 Lectures  |  Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      Starting the Writing Process
      Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a writer like facing the blank page. Start your course in fiction writing with some strategies for beginnings. You'll examine several ways to ease into a story, including the "5W's" of journalism, outlines, and opening in medias res ("in the midst of things"). The good news, as you'll see, is that there are no hard and fast rules. x
    • 2
      Building Fictional Worlds through Evocation
      "Show, don't tell" is the mantra of many writing workshops. But what does this mean? Find out how to choose just the right detail to evoke a scene, develop a character, and advance your story. After arming yourself with several strategies for "showing," you'll consider when it's OK to "tell." x
    • 3
      How Characters Are Different from People
      Characters are illusions, and the illusion often hinges on how much access a writer gives us to a character's thoughts. Begin this unit on character with an examination of how writers choose which moments in a character's life to dramatize, and then consider how knowledge of a character's thoughts affects the story. x
    • 4
      Fictional Characters, Imagined and Observed
      Continue your study of character with a look at several approaches for building a character. Some writers draw from life, whereas others draw from the imagination. Some build characters "inside out," others from the "outside in." Some develop characters by psychology, others by circumstances. Professor Hynes shows you a range of options. x
    • 5
      Call Me Ishmael: Introducing a Character
      Now that you now have a wealth of strategies for developing character, how do you get your character into your story? In this lecture, you'll run through five different ways authors introduce characters. You'll also see two methods for building a story: the exploratory method and the "iceberg theory" of character creation. x
    • 6
      Characters: Round and Flat, Major and Minor
      Books come in all forms and sizes, and so do characters. Learn the hallmarks of different character types, like round vs. flat and major vs. minor. See what purpose each type of character serves, and discover the relationship between a character and his or her desires. x
    • 7
      The Mechanics of Writing Dialogue
      Shift your attention from building characters to figuring out what they should say. This lecture provides an overview of the nuts and bolts of dialogue, from the rules of punctuation to the way writers use dialogue tags to add clarity to a conversation. See how what a character says can create meaning and evoke mood. x
    • 8
      Integrating Dialogue into a Narrative
      Turn from the mechanics of dialogue to discover how it can be used to evoke character or advance the story. After surveying how dialect is a powerful tool, if used carefully, Professor Hynes shows you how writers smoothly weave exposition into dialogue, and he considers the significance of what is not said in an exchange. x
    • 9
      And Then: Turning a Story into a Plot
      Characters breathe life into your story, but without plot, even the most engaging character can fall flat. This lecture opens a six-lecture unit on plotting, a critical skill for any writer who wants to keep the reader turning pages. Professor Hynes begins the unit by breaking down story and plot into a few fundamental components. x
    • 10
      Plotting with the Freytag Pyramid
      Whether you're writing literary fiction or a potboiler, your story needs a structure. Freytag's Pyramid is the classic structure for moving a story from an initial situation through a series of conflicts to a resolution. Examine every stage of the pyramid with examples ranging from The Wizard of Oz to Middlemarch to Game of Thrones. x
    • 11
      Adding Complexity to Plots
      Now that you've learned the basic elements of storytelling, it's time to go beyond the fundamentals and explore several smaller-scale techniques that can make your plot more subtle and satisfying. Your study includes the elements of suspense, flash-forwards, flashbacks, and foreshadowing. x
    • 12
      Structuring a Narrative without a Plot
      Not all stories have a traditional plot that can be modeled along Freytag's Pyramid. Contemporary short fiction, for instance, is often relatively plotless. See what drives momentum in stories such as Chekhov's "The Kiss" and Joyce's "The Dead," and then turn to "plotless" novels such as Mrs. Dalloway. x
    • 13
      In the Beginning: How to Start a Plot
      Revisit beginnings. How do you get started with a story? In this lecture, Professor Hynes shifts from the techniques of plotting to offer several clear strategies for putting these techniques into action. He also provides invaluable advice about making choices on the page: and understanding the implications of those choices. x
    • 14
      Happily Ever After: How to End a Plot
      Starting a narrative may be daunting, but ending one can be just as tricky. After discussing some famous examples of bad endings, Professor Hynes gives you tips for creating believable, satisfying endings, whether this means finding an answer to the story's opening gambit, or tracing a narrative to its logical end. x
    • 15
      Seeing through Other Eyes: Point of View
      Starting a narrative may be daunting, but ending one can be just as tricky. After discussing some famous examples of bad endings, Professor Hynes gives you tips for creating believable, satisfying endings, whether this means finding an answer to the story's opening gambit, or tracing a narrative to its logical end. x
    • 16
      I, Me, Mine: First-Person Point of View
      First-person narration can be one of the most natural ways to tell a story: but there are several important guidelines to keep in mind. Professor Hynes helps you navigate the different types of first-person storytellers, including the double consciousness, the unreliable narrator, and the retrospective narrator. x
    • 17
      He, She, It: Third-Person Point of View
      While first-person narration is an effective way to tell a story, third-person narration offers a wonderful range and flexibility, and allows you to dive just as deeply into your characters' heads: if not more deeply: than the first-person perspective. Survey the spectrum of third-person voices, from the objective and external to the interior stream of consciousness. x
    • 18
      Evoking Setting and Place in Fiction
      Time and place are critical in most recent fiction, so today's writer must know how to evoke a setting. But, as with so many techniques in this course, setting exists along a continuum, from the richly detailed (as in Bleak House) to just a few sparse details (as in Pride and Prejudice). Find out when: and how much: to describe your story's setting. x
    • 19
      Pacing in Scenes and Narratives
      Every narrative has a tempo. Some stories are short, while others are long. Some move at breakneck speed, while others linger over every detail. Discover how to strike the right balance between length and time (the pacing), between length and detail (the density), and between scene and summary. x
    • 20
      Building Scenes
      A good scene serves two functions: it advances the larger narrative, and it's interesting in its own right. How do you build compelling scenes? How do you transition from one scene to the next? Learn the fine art of moving from point to point in your narrative so that your story remains smooth and compelling. x
    • 21
      Should I Write in Drafts?
      So far, this course has focused on the individual elements of good fiction. Now that you have a complete toolkit of writing techniques, how do you put it all together to create a whole story? Professor Hynes discusses the process of writing an entire draft, and offers some words of wisdom to help you maintain momentum. x
    • 22
      Revision without Tears
      Revision is a necessary step in most writing projects. Take a case-study approach to see what techniques authors use to revise their stories. To show you the ropes, Professor Hynes walks you through his own process. Although revision can be difficult, you'll come away from this lecture confident in your abilities to get your story where it needs to be. x
    • 23
      Approaches to Researching Fiction
      "Write what you know" is a common dictum, but what happens when you run up against the limits of your knowledge? What if you want to write a story about something other than your own life? What real-life details do you have an obligation to get right? Find out how fiction writers approach the unknown. x
    • 24
      Making a Life as a Fiction Writer
      You might have a mental image of the writer as a solitary genius toiling away in an ivory tower. But writers today must be adept at both the crafting of words and the business of publishing. To conclude this course, Professor Hynes surveys the publishing landscape today and gives advice for making the leap from hobbyist to professional. x
  • Fundamentals of Photography

    Joel Sartore,

    Available Formats: Video Download, DVD

    Taking great photographs requires you to "see" as a professional photographer does; to train your eyes using the same fundamental techniques and principles the experts use to create unforgettable images from the grandest (and simplest) of subjects. With Fundamentals of Photography, you'll learn everything you need to know about the art and craft of great photography straight from a professional photographer with more than 30 years of experience. Designed for people at all levels, these 24 lectures are an engaging guide to how photographs work and how to make them work better for you.

    View Lecture List (24)
    24 Lectures  |  Fundamentals of Photography
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      Making Great Pictures
      What makes a photograph iconic? What three things must every picture have to stand out from any old snapshot? These two questions form the core of Mr. Sartore’s introduction to the course. You’ll also discover that a great picture doesn’t rely on equipment—but on being able to see and think critically about your surroundings. x
    • 2
      Camera Equipment—What You Need
      To take a picture, you need to have good equipment. Here, get a no-nonsense guide to finding photography equipment—including cameras, tripods, and camera bags—that fits your needs. Also, take an in-depth look at a camera’s controls and settings for everything from aperture to shutter speed to ISO (your film’s sensitivity to light). x
    • 3
      Lenses and Focal Length
      According to Mr. Sartore, lenses are the most critical tools of photography. In this lecture, he takes you into the field and shows you different camera lenses in action. Among them: 70–200 mm (good for blurring out distracting backgrounds), rectilinear lenses (great for photographing things with minimal distortion), and wide-angle lenses (perfect for both landscapes and for shooting subjects in tight quarters). x
    • 4
      Shutter Speeds
      Your camera’s shutter speed controls how much light enters the lens in a shot. Learn how to become a master at working with this critical tool of photography. You’ll discover when to use fast or slow shutter speeds, study each speed’s unique effects, and uncover different techniques—such as panning and ghosting—that can add great artistic touches. x
    • 5
      Aperture and Depth of Field
      What do numbers such as f/1.4, f/2.8, or f/16 mean? Finally make sense of your camera’s aperture settings, which can help create eye-popping visual effects and solve specific compositional problems. Then examine some of Mr. Sartore’s acclaimed work to see the dramatic relationship between aperture and a photograph’s depth of field. x
    • 6
      Light I—Found or Ambient Light
      In this first lecture on one of the two building blocks of photography, learn how to tap into the power of ambient light, which isn’t created in a studio but is found around you. Look at how you should adjust your camera to make the most of found light, and learn the best kind of ambient light to shoot in and why. Explore front lighting, hatchet lighting, and even zebra lighting. x
    • 7
      Light II—Color and Intensity
      Continue exploring light and photography with a look at color—both the “color” of different types of light and colors as they appear in your photographs. Then, focus on the differences between hard light and soft light, and how to adjust your camera accordingly to maximize the potential of these key photographic elements. x
    • 8
      Light III—Introduced Light
      Mr. Sartore discusses a tricky type of light: man-made (or introduced) light. You’ll learn tips for manipulating different sources of light (including firelight, car taillights, reflectors, and spotlights). Also, you’ll start to see your camera’s flash setting as not a pesky button but a powerful tool for creating breathtaking effects in your photography. x
    • 9
      Composition I—Seeing Well
      How do you truly capture the beauty of the three-dimensional world around you? The answer lies within composition—photography’s second building block. In the first of three lectures on the subject, analyze a series of pictures to get a basic understanding of how framing works. x
    • 10
      Composition II—Background and Perspective
      Great composition also involves paying attention to background and perspective. Here, Mr. Sartore offers you numerous tips and strategies for finding the perfect background, examining the benefits and drawbacks of particular perspectives, and avoiding compositional mistakes that can ruin the power of even the most perfectly lit photograph. x
    • 11
      Composition III—Framing and Layering
      Frames. Leading lines. The eyes of your subject. Layers. Learn how paying attention to—and using—these and other compositional tools can isolate the true subject of your photo and add a strong sense of dimension. x
    • 12
      Let’s Go to Work—Landscapes
      Now start applying the information you’ve learned. Your first assignment: rural and urban landscapes. Some tips you’ll discover include surveying the ground ahead of the prime light you want to shoot in, using wide-angle lenses and a little height to suggest grandeur, and focusing on a subject you can get repeated chances at capturing. x
    • 13
      Let’s Go to Work—Wildlife
      Explore techniques for photographing wildlife, whether it’s birds in your backyard or lions on a safari. Learn how to set up a blind to conceal you from your subject, where to find the best places to photograph flora and fauna, common mistakes that wildlife photographers should avoid, and more. x
    • 14
      Let’s Go to Work—People and Relationships
      Using touching photographs of family and friends, Mr. Sartore demonstrates how to use your camera to best capture joy, sadness, anger, and other emotions—without interfering with your subject’s behavior. x
    • 15
      Let’s Go to Work—From Mundane to Extraordinary
      A key skill for any photographer is the ability to capture the special aspects of even the most mundane subjects. Focus on developing and strengthening this talent alongside Mr. Sartore, who teaches you how to make great frames in seemingly “boring” places from hotel rooms to hog farms. x
    • 16
      Let’s Go to Work—Special Occasions
      Special occasions come loaded with moments that beg to be captured with a camera. Taking the knowledge you’ve gained from previous lectures, investigate ways to anticipate and better prepare for candidly photographing the range of emotions, moods, and scenes that can be found at any wedding, party, or holiday event you attend. x
    • 17
      Let’s Go to Work—Family Vacations
      Transform the way you think about and take photographs during vacations. How can you avoid taking the same dull pictures like other tourists? What are some good ways to capture the story behind a famous landmark? Who can you ask for help about the best places for photo opportunities in your destination? x
    • 18
      Advanced Topics—Research and Preparation
      Despite what you may think, researching is an important part of any well-planned photo shoot. In the first of several lectures on advanced topics in photography, learn from Mr. Sartore’s own diverse shoots around the world about ways to research and prepare for photographing in more complicated situations. x
    • 19
      Advanced Topics—Macro Photography
      Examine how to capture the remarkable (and often overlooked) beauty in miniature subjects such as insects, flowers, eyes—even a pile of money. Learn the best equipment to use, lighting techniques to capture specific features of your miniature subjects, and common mistakes to avoid (such as not getting enough depth of field). x
    • 20
      Advanced Topics—Low Light
      Low light used to be the bane of Mr. Sartore’s profession. Now, it’s all he wants to photograph in. Learn how to take advantage of low-light situations by picking the right gear (including lenses that give you wide apertures) and techniques such as using objects to block bright spots in your frame. x
    • 21
      Advanced Topics—Problem Solving
      In order to be a better photographer, you need to be a visual problem solver. Mr. Sartore, using his own career experiences, takes you through varying levels of difficult situations—such as shooting in Antarctica, on a snowy road, or throughout a massive city—to illustrate the importance of mastering this skill. x
    • 22
      After the Snap—Workflow and Organization
      Regardless of whether you’re shooting with film or on a digital camera, you need an effective system to organize your pictures. Here, get practical tips on everything from storing film negatives and naming your digital pictures to touching up your shots and archiving all of your work. x
    • 23
      Editing—Choosing the Right Image
      Hone your editing skills by combing through groups of images to select the ones that stand out. It takes time and practice—but once you can narrow your photographs down to the best of the best, you can sharpen your critical eye and improve the way you shoot in the future. x
    • 24
      Telling a Story with Pictures—The Photo Essay
      Close out the course with a fascinating look at telling stories with your photographs. Using his photo essays on Alaska’s North Slope; people at Leech Lake, Minnesota; and dwindling biodiversity, Mr. Sartore leaves you with a greater appreciation of how photographers are not just observers but actual storytellers. x
  • The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking

    Chef Bill Briwa,

    Available Formats: Video Download, DVD

    It’s rare to find a truly gifted chef who can actually show you how to cook. Now, The Great Courses has joined forces with the prestigious Culinary Institute of America to give you just that. The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking is a course of 24 highly visual and instructional lessons in which you’ll build all the foundational culinary skills you need to turn out delicious and impressive meals. Filmed on location at the CIA’s Greystone campus in Napa Valley, California, and delivered by Chef Bill Briwa—one of the CIA’s experienced instructors and a chef with more than 35 years of professional experience—these lessons show you how to cook and evaluate dishes, from starters and main courses to desserts and vegetarian meals. They also offer a master chef’s insight into tips, tricks, and secrets that will elevate any dish you make from good to great.

    View Lecture List (24)
    24 Lectures  |  The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      Cooking—Ingredients, Technique, and Flavor
      Begin the course with a fascinating look at the science of taste and how it acts as the gateway to better understanding—and enjoying—the food you eat. Through engaging taste experiments involving melon, radicchio, and a few simple seasonings such as salt and lime juice, you’ll come to see just how intricate and subtle your taste buds are. x
    • 2
      Your Most Essential Tool—Knives
      What do you need to have the perfect kitchen—one that makes cooking more relaxing and enjoyable? Find out in this lesson as Chef Briwa reveals which knives you should always have on hand, how to find the right cutting board, how to chop and dice vegetables and herbs, and how to use your newfound skills to make delicious meals. x
    • 3
      More Essential Tools—From Pots to Shears
      Continue learning about how to create the perfect kitchen setup (mise en place). First, learn how to make sense of a range of different pots and pans. Then, find out the importance of hand tools such as whips, tongs, spatulas, box graters, and meat thermometers. Finally, see some of these tools at work as you go step-by-step through a recipe for vegetable ratatouille. x
    • 4
      Sauté—Dry-Heat Cooking with Fat
      Begin strengthening your cooking techniques with a close look at using the right pan, the right amount of fat, and the right temperature to make crispy and delicious sautéed foods. As you explore the ins and outs of sautéing, you learn how to make a delicious (and simple) dish: Chicken Marsala. x
    • 5
      Roasting—Dry-Heat Cooking without Fat
      Roasting can seem to be a frustrating task. But it doesn’t have to be when you know what you’re doing—and how to do it. Here, demystify this dry-heat cooking technique and learn how to make the perfect roast chicken and potatoes. You’ll also get tips on how to determine doneness, how to make gravy, and how to carve your bird. x
    • 6
      Frying—Dry-Heat Cooking with Fat
      In this lesson, find out everything you need to know to fry food like a pro. Which oils are best for pan frying and deep frying? What safety precautions should you take when frying in your kitchen? How can you tell when your food is done? Learn about this and more as Chef Briwa fries up a veal cutlet, fish and chips, and parsnips. x
    • 7
      From Poach to Steam—Moist-Heat Cooking
      Turn now to a popular method of moist heat cooking: poaching. You’ll see how deep poaching works to gently cook a piece of salmon (accompanied by a simple sauce). Then, you’ll compare that cooking method with shallow poaching a piece of monkfish and using the leftover liquid as the basis for an accompanying sauce. Finally, you’ll learn how to boil and steam vegetables such as green beans and broccoli. x
    • 8
      Braising and Stewing—Combination Cooking
      Try your hand at combination cooking, which combines two different techniques: braising (typically reserved for larger cuts of meat) and stewing (usually for smaller cuts of meat). Using the example of a delicious pot roast and a springtime lamb stew, you’ll uncover the secrets of these cooking techniques and vastly expand your kitchen skills. x
    • 9
      Grilling and Broiling—Dry-Heat Cooking without Fat
      Marinating and seasoning meats. Making sure your indoor or outdoor grill is at the right temperature. Getting perfect grill marks. Finding out when your meat or fish is done. Master these and other tricks of grilling and broiling with recipes for grilled steak, lamb chops, fish, vegetables, and even fruit. x
    • 10
      Stocks and Broths—The Foundation
      Stocks and broths are some of the most basic preparations you’ll find in kitchens. What’s more: They’re easy to make, easy to store, and extremely versatile. In this lesson, follow along as Chef Briwa makes several stocks and broths using different ingredients and methods of preparation to give them outstanding flavors. x
    • 11
      The Stir-Fry Dance—Dry-Heat Cooking with Fat
      Here, get an authoritative look at stir-frying. First, get a solid introduction to this cooking technique by making a Vietnamese dish of noodles and stir-fried vegetables. Then, test your skills with a more complex Chinese stir-fry that will also make you more comfortable with handling and cooking tofu. x
    • 12
      Herbs and Spices—Flavor on Demand
      Delve into the subtle complexities of herbs and spices. You’ll sample different salts and peppers (including Sel Gris, kosher salt, and white pepper); learn the difference between spices and herbs; find out how to blend them with oils, cheeses, and meats; and watch how to make an herb chutney, a roasted tomato and saffron vinaigrette, and a spice rub. x
    • 13
      Sauces—From Beurre Blanc to Béchamel
      Think fancy sauces are difficult? Think again. This lesson will make you more comfortable with a range of sauces from around the world. Learn how to make a milk-based white sauce, béchamel. Then, cook a more contemporary French butter sauce (beurre blanc) and a Spanish tomato-based sauce (romesco). Finally, take a closer look at a couple of sweet and spicy Asian sauces. x
    • 14
      Grains and Legumes—Cooking for Great Flavor
      What’s a quick-soak method for beans when you don’t have time to soak them overnight? What’s a simple trick for testing the tenderness of cooked beans? How long should you cook different types of rice? What should you pay attention to when making a risotto? Learn the answers to these and other questions about cooking the culinary staples of beans and grains. x
    • 15
      Salads from the Cold Kitchen
      Simplicity and freshness are two hallmarks of great cooking. Case in point, the subject of this lesson: salads. Chef Briwa shows you how to keep lettuce crisp; how to make a simple (and quick) salad dressing; how to build a salad with different ingredients such as nuts, cheese, herbs, and other vegetables; how to make a hand-held Asian salad roll; and much more. x
    • 16
      Eggs—From the Classic to the Contemporary
      Find out everything you ever wanted to know about cooking with eggs: hard-boiled eggs, deviled eggs, eggs Benedict (complete with hollandaise sauce), scrambled eggs, omelets, and more. By the end of this lesson, eggs—whether you’re having them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner—will finally be under your control. x
    • 17
      Soups from around the World
      A good bowl of soup can warm you in cold weather, cool you in hot weather, fill up an empty stomach, and offer ready nutrition for a weak appetite. Here, master several recipes for some fantastic soups from around the world, including a chicken soup from Thailand, gazpacho, French onion soup, and ribolitta, a “recooked” soup from Tuscany. x
    • 18
      From Fettuccine to Orecchiette—Fresh and Dry Pastas
      You could buy pasta. Or you could enjoy the rewards of making it yourself. Chef Briwa shows you just how easy this is. After learning a recipe for making your own fettuccine, see how to transform your pasta into a delectable dish: pasta carbonara, or pasta “in the style of the coal miner.” x
    • 19
      Meat—From Spatchcocked Chicken to Brined Pork Chops
      Improve your strategies for buying and cooking various kinds of meat. What are the merits of roasting a chicken flat? Why should you take time to brine your pork chops? Why is prime rib the most expensive cut of beef? How much fat and lean beef should go into a really good hamburger? x
    • 20
      Seafood—From Market to Plate
      In this lesson, learn some key tips and tricks for making sure you purchase only the freshest, highest-quality seafood. Then, improve your confidence with handling seafood by following recipes for ceviche, a roasted whole fish with fennel, and Prince Edward Island mussels in a creamy broth. x
    • 21
      Vegetables in Glorious Variety
      Vegetables, which change with any season and come in a fascinating rainbow of colors, are what really keep cuisine (and cooking) interesting. Here, learn strategies for cooking and creating meals out of all sorts of vegetables, including eggplant, cauliflower, green beans, beets, and carrots. x
    • 22
      A Few Great Desserts for Grown-Ups
      Take a more adult approach to dessert, one that doesn’t overdo the chocolate and frosting. You’ll learn how to make bachelor’s jam (a fruit jam blended with spirits) and use it for unforgettable variations on parfaits and summer puddings. Then, focus on the myriad ways to build a delicious cheese plate. x
    • 23
      Thirst—The New Frontier of Flavor
      Explore how wine shouldn’t just be something you drink with dinner but an integral part of a compelling dining experience. Chef Briwa demonstrates important points using a medley of wines and foods, reveals the six simple steps for wine and food pairing, and debunks several myths about this process. x
    • 24
      Crafting a Meal, Engaging the Senses
      Bring together everything you’ve learned about cooking from the previous lessons to create an entire meal—starter (Spanish tortilla), main course (gnocchi with tomato salad), dessert (pineapple turnovers)—from start to finish. You’re sure to discover that by engaging your senses and using fundamental techniques, cooking can be rewarding and fun. x
  • Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation

    Professor Mark W. Muesse, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD

    Learn how to better live in harmony with the realities of the world and to feel more deeply connected to the whole of life with Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. In these 24 lectures, award-winning Professor Mark W. Muesse gives you a clear and usable understanding of the essence of meditation and how to practice it. You'll learn the principles and techniques of sitting meditation; the related practice of walking meditation; the highly beneficial use of meditative awareness in activities such as eating and driving; and much more.

    View Lecture List (24)
    24 Lectures  |  Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      Mindlessness—The Default Setting
      Do you control your mind, or does your mind control you? Investigate how the mind operates and the condition of "mindlessness"—the pervasive swirl of thoughts and judgments that separate you from the world around you. Consider the possibility of cultivating the mind in ways conducive to deep well-being for yourself and others. x
    • 2
      Mindfulness—The Power of Awareness
      Explore the notion of "mindfulness"—nonjudgmental attention to experience—as it occurs in everyday life and as a deliberate practice. Note the many benefits of mindfulness practice, from the freedom to choose how you respond to life, to releasing detrimental emotions and patterns of thinking, to its effects on your physical health. x
    • 3
      Expectations—Relinquishing Preconceptions
      This lecture introduces the practice of meditation as a tool for developing mindfulness. Here, distinguish the true nature of mindfulness meditation from common preconceptions about it, revealing its capacity to instill a deeper connection to reality, as well as cultivating a wisdom based in empathy and compassion. x
    • 4
      Preparation—Taking Moral Inventory
      In approaching meditation, consider the interconnections of ethical behavior with the development of mindfulness and the shaping of personal character. Drawing from the Buddha's teachings, explore five precepts of behavior that are conducive to the greatest benefits of meditation practice, based in the fundamental principle of not harming others or yourself. x
    • 5
      Position—Where to Be for Meditation
      Now learn about the most beneficial physical conditions for your meditation. First, consider the time of day and the physical setting that will best serve your practice. Then, study the most effective sitting postures on the floor, cushions, or chair and the optimum alignment of the body for mindfulness meditation. x
    • 6
      Breathing—Finding a Focus for Attention
      Mindfulness meditation is based in the use of an anchor or focus of attention, allowing the mind to calm itself. Using your breathing as the focus, learn in detail about the fundamental elements of sitting meditation, focusing attention on the breath and returning to it when the mind strays, without judgment. x
    • 7
      Problems—Stepping-Stones to Mindfulness
      Here, explore difficulties often encountered in meditation and ways of working with them that are also useful in the larger context of living. Consider physical discomfort and the specific use of mindfulness itself in working through it. Look also at ways to strengthen concentration and to counter frustration and discouragement. x
    • 8
      Body—Attending to Our Physical Natures
      Building on your work with mindfulness practice, learn another technique that augments and supports meditation. The "body scan" directs focused attention to different areas of the body, promoting deeper sensory awareness, relaxation, and concentration. With Professor Muesse's guidance, experience a 20-minute body scan meditation, a fundamental practice of self-compassion. x
    • 9
      Mind—Working with Thoughts
      The mindfulness tradition has much to say on the nature of thoughts and their power to shape personality and character. Here, learn specific ways to identify detrimental thoughts and a variety of methods to work with them, demonstrating that you can influence the conditioned mind through conscious and deliberate response to your own thoughts. x
    • 10
      Walking—Mindfulness While Moving
      Walking meditation, another core element of the mindfulness tradition, allows you to practice mindfulness wherever and whenever you go. Learn walking meditation in detail, including beneficial conditions for practice, the method of mindful walking, where to focus your attention, and advanced variations on the practice. x
    • 11
      Consuming—Watching What You Eat
      When approached with mindfulness, eating offers heightened awareness and undiscovered depth of experience. This lecture takes you on a rich exploration of mindful eating, beginning with an eating "meditation," using all five senses. Then contemplate mindful eating in daily life and detailed suggestions for sharing a fully mindful meal with others. x
    • 12
      Driving—Staying Awake at the Wheel
      As a familiar and potentially hazardous activity, driving provides a perfect "laboratory" for practicing mindfulness. Assess your own approach to driving and bring the principles of meditation to bear on the road; in particular, giving focused attention to the present moment, to your sensory experience and emotions. x
    • 13
      Insight—Clearing the Mind
      Practicing mindfulness over time prepares the mind for "insight," which in this tradition means seeing clearly into the fundamental nature of reality. Begin an inquiry into what Buddhism calls the three "marks" of existence with the notion of impermanence—the eternal arising and passing away of all phenomena. x
    • 14
      Wisdom—Seeing the World as It Is
      Now investigate dukkha, the insatiable quality of human experience—seen in our endless pursuit of the symbols of well-being and achievement and avoidance of unwanted experience. Finally, contemplate not-self—penetrating the illusion of the "I"; as an entity separate from the rest of reality, which must be bolstered, protected, and satisfied. x
    • 15
      Compassion—Expressing Fundamental Kindness
      With relation to mindfulness practice, explore compassion—the desire to alleviate suffering—as an essential component of our nature as human beings. See how compassion allows us to look at suffering without aversion or attachment, and learn specific practices for developing empathy and deeply recognizing the inner experience of others. x
    • 16
      Imperfection—Embracing Our Flaws
      Finding compassion for ourselves is greatly challenging for many of us. Consider the complex of beliefs, attitudes, and conditioning that underlie this; in particular, the thorny phenomenon of perfectionism. Learn how to embrace and accept both imperfection and perfectionism itself as an opening to freedom and deeper humanity. x
    • 17
      Wishing—May All Beings Be Well and Happy
      The mindfulness tradition offers an additional practice that is highly effective in revealing and cultivating compassion. With Professor Muesse's guidance, experience metta meditation, a focused contemplation wishing well-being and peace for others. See how this practice works to relinquish alienation and hostility and to deepen solidarity with all humanity. x
    • 18
      Generosity—The Joy of Giving
      Here, study the mindfulness tradition's insights concerning attachment to "things," our culture's dominant emphasis on possessions, and the psychological roots of greed. Learn about the Buddhist tradition of dana (sharing with others) and specific practices that reveal the life-giving effects of generosity on the giver and receiver. x
    • 19
      Speech—Training the Tongue
      Mindfulness practice brings focus to the critical link between speech and behavior. Consider the ways in which both inner experience and outward action are influenced by our use of language. Reflecting on four Buddhist principles of skillful communication, explore mindful attention to speaking and the use of language in genuinely beneficial ways. x
    • 20
      Anger—Cooling the Fires of Irritation
      This lecture discusses the challenges of dealing with anger and ways to disarm it using the skills you've studied. Reflect on our cultural predisposition to either suppress anger or to express it thoughtlessly, and a third way offered by mindfulness, of nonjudgmental observation, acceptance, and the mental spaciousness to choose your response. x
    • 21
      Pain—Embracing Physical Discomfort
      The skills of mindfulness offer powerful means to work with physical discomfort of all kinds. Consider the crucial distinction between pain and suffering as it directly affects our perceptions. Then experience two meditations for alleviating physical suffering—first, focusing on observing the exact sensation itself, then, on your response to the sensation. x
    • 22
      Grief—Learning to Accept Loss
      In reflecting on the universality of loss, take a deeper look at the notion of impermanence and how refusal to embrace life's transience affects our experience of living. Learn how mindfulness approaches grief through centering focus in the present moment and fully experiencing what grief brings to us without fear or aversion. x
    • 23
      Finitude—Living in the Face of Death
      The mindfulness tradition considers reflecting on death to be both liberating and essential to living a full and satisfying life. Contemplate the ways in which our culture conditions us to avoid and deny death, and learn four meditations that deepen both the awareness of life's transience and our ability to live freely. x
    • 24
      Life—Putting It All in Perspective
      Finally, consider various possibilities for continuing your practice through the methods you've learned, further study, and retreats. Professor Muesse concludes with reflections on his own path and on the very real capacity of mindfulness practice to profoundly alter our perceptions of self, the world, and our place in it. x
  • Building a Better Vocabulary

    Professor Kevin Flanigan, Professor of Education

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD

    For anyone who has ever grasped for the perfect word, this course provides a research-based and enjoyable method for improving your vocabulary. Your professor understands the cognitive science behind language acquisition and is able to present each new word in a way that makes it immediately memorable. But more importantly, he teaches you these tips and strategies so you can apply them whenever you learn a new word.

    View Lecture List (36)
    36 Lectures  |  Building a Better Vocabulary
    Lecture Titles (36)
    • 1
      Five Principles for Learning Vocabulary
      Toss aside the rote memorization of childhood and explore the cognitive science behind the five core principles of effective vocabulary learning: definition, context, connections, morphology, and semantic chunking. Through interactive examples, see how you can improve your ability to remember the definition of a new word or a long list of familiar terms. x
    • 2
      The Spelling-Meaning Connection
      Unlock the English language's powerful morphological system with a concept known as the spelling-meaning connection, and see how our spelling system makes a lot more sense than you may have originally thought. Then, learn how to create a vocabulary notebook that effectively organizes all the words you will learn in this course for best recall. x
    • 3
      Words for Lying, Swindling, and Conniving
      Begin building your vocabulary in earnest with this lecture on wonderful words to describe liars and the lies they tell. Learn trenchant words to describe the cheats, swindlers, charlatans, scam artists, barracudas, sharks, and sharpies, and their hustles, flimflams, and double-dealings. Reveal the nuances of meaning between similar words like specious and spurious. x
    • 4
      Words That Express Annoyance and Disgust
      Turn now to annoying people and their irksome, vexing, irritating, nettlesome, and exasperating behavior. Tease apart the differences between words that use the Latin root quir/ques, and those that spring from the word queror. Then, study words that describe excess - from sickly sweet, sappy, and sentimental words to downright offensive and disgusting ones. x
    • 5
      Fighting Words and Peaceful Words
      English is replete with lively, hard-hitting words to describe conflict and harmony. Delve into the morphology and etymology of words relating to war and peace, including examining two high-utility Latin roots, bell and pac. Add some pugnacious words to your everyday lexicon, including melee, contumacious, and donnybrook. x
    • 6
      Going beyond Dictionary Meanings
      How can you ensure that new words don't slip from your memory? In this lecture, Professor Flanigan shares effective and fun strategies to reinforce your vocabulary knowledge, including a clever graphic organizer that anchors your new word to words you already know, and a game designed by a leading expert in reading and vocabulary. x
    • 7
      Wicked Words
      Use the Latin prefix mal to generate over a dozen rich vocabulary words, all of which concern things that are bad, evil, or done poorly. Then, learn a fun, albeit archaic, term of contempt, and get a firm understanding of the difference between invidious and insidious. x
    • 8
      Words for Beginnings and Endings
      Go beyond Latin to learn a word for inexperience that has its roots in Old English. Distinguish between people who are innocent and naive, new to a skill, or pretending to know more than they do. Then, turn to words for endings, and learn why we say immortal, and not inmortal. x
    • 9
      Words Expressing Fear, Love, and Hatred
      Agoraphobia. Xenophobia. Claustrophobia. Begin this lecture with words that describe fear. Then, using the Greek root phil/phile and the Latin root amor, build words relating to love. Finally, embrace your inner misanthrope with words about hatred, which spring from the Greek verb misein. x
    • 10
      Words for the Everyday and the Elite
      Will you be hobnobbing with the hoity-toity gentry or the hoi polloi? Gain even more words to enrich your vocabulary when it comes to describing things that are ho-hum and others that are high class. You'll even learn a useful synonym for trite remarks, hackneyed phrases, and platitudes. x
    • 11
      Words from Gods and Heroes
      Forge a link between the tales of Greek and Roman gods and heroes and the English vocabulary words they inspired. What is the difference between a herculean task and a Sisyphean one? What Gordian knots do you have in your life? This lecture full of ancient myths is a true delight! x
    • 12
      Humble Words and Prideful Words
      Transition into the next lecture with a story about Odysseus and his hubris. Then, explore other words about people who think too much or too little about themselves, including a fascinating word that has a positive connotation when it refers to a voice, but a negative connotation when it refers to speech or writing. x
    • 13
      High-Frequency Greek and Latin Roots
      Power up your morphological radar" and gain the ability to spot Latin and Greek word parts in unfamiliar words, aiding you in uncovering their definitions. Investigate words using the affixes eu-, dis-, in-, pre-, post-, and dys-; then, turn to words that build from the roots man, umbr, tract, and therm." x
    • 14
      Words Relating to Belief and Trust
      Turn now to precise and powerful words for facets of trust and belief. Study words that have their roots in the church, but have expanded their reach into other areas of life. Use your knowledge of Greek roots to show the difference in the belief of an apostle (stellein) and an apostate (stenai). x
    • 15
      Words for the Way We Talk
      Study the fascinating stories behind words that describe how we speak - from the laconic Spartans to the pithy Jedi master to the loquacious ventriloquist. At the end of the lecture, return to Greece for the story behind a word inspired by the Athenian orator Demosthenes and his opinions about King x
    • 16
      Words for Praise, Criticism, and Nonsense
      Continue your study with a useful word that describes the verbal equivalent of meandering. Then, turn to the Bible for a word derived from the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, who prophesied the imminent downfall of the Kingdom of Judah. Finally, discover a word for playful banter that English borrowed from French. x
    • 17
      Eponyms from Literature and History
      Step back in time and learn about words inspired by the great men, women, and places of literature and history. English is replete with a host of lively eponyms, such as bloomers, sideburns, and sandwich. In this utterly enjoyable lecture, the professor shares the people and stories behind eight excellent eponyms. x
    • 18
      Thinking, Teaching, and Learning Words
      Begin with a fun psycholinguistic experiment that shows how your brain processes new words. Explore the work of some major scholars of learning and language - Skinner, Watson, Chomsky - and get an exegesis of erudition. Delve into the process of language acquisition, including why a child might say, "I winned the game, Daddy!" x
    • 19
      Words for the Diligent and the Lazy
      From polished professionals to slothful slackers, this lecture covers a wide range of words to describe work ethic. Dig into the nuances that separate similar words like tenacious and pertinacious. Expand your knowledge of the Latin root fac (to make or do) to include alternate spellings and a useful suffix. x
    • 20
      Words That Break and Words That Join
      Using the Latin roots rupt and junct, create a list of words related to breaking and joining. Discover the fascinating subject of Janus words such as cleave, which means to split apart and to stick close together. Finally, explore a variety of words that describe groups or gatherings of people. x
    • 21
      Some High-Utility Greek and Latin Affixes
      Add some powerful Greek and Latin affixes to your vocabulary notebook. Explore intriguing etymologies for words like abdicate (which originally had nothing to do with royalty) and antediluvian (a word with ties to the Bible that got a new lease on life). Don't absquatulate now, there are more great words to come! x
    • 22
      Cranky Words and Cool Words
      What's the difference between someone who is irascible, one who is testy, and another who is dyspeptic? What about the difference between stoic and stolid? Professor Flanigan's stories from his childhood and from pop culture vividly illustrate the new words you'll learn here. x
    • 23
      Words for Courage and Cowardice
      You likely know that the word courage comes from the Latin cor/cord, meaning heart. Explore words for different kinds of courage, including false courage, cheeky courage, and reckless courage. Then study the flip side with words about cowardice. This fun lecture skips from Latin to Yiddish to Middle French to Old Italian! x
    • 24
      Reviewing Vocabulary through Literature
      Take stock of your accomplishments thus far with a review like no other! In this lecture, you will be able to test your knowledge by relating the words you have learned to some of the most colorful characters in literature, as written by Oscar Wilde, Moliere, James Joyce, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others. x
    • 25
      Words for Killing and Cutting
      Turn to dark words to discuss terrible deeds. The Latin word caedo, meaning, "to cut" or "to kill," is at the root of many of these words, such as genocide and homicide. Learn a unique word that refers to both the crime and its perpetrator, then focus on words that stem from the root seg/sect, meaning, "to cut." x
    • 26
      A Vocabulary Grab Bag
      Engage with some wonderful words that Professor Flanigan adores, but could not fit into the themes of the other lectures. This grab bag lecture is full of great vocabulary, including a useful phrase for describing a take it or leave it situation. x
    • 27
      Words for Words
      Open the Bible to the book of Judges and read the story that spawned the word shibboleth, which is a test word, phrase, or custom that differentiates one group of people from another. Then, tease apart the fascinating differences between dialect, vernacular, and jargon. x
    • 28
      Specialty Words for Language
      Over the years, linguists and language scholars have organized and categorized words in a number of different ways. In this lecture, explore many of these linguistic categories, including spoonerisms, phrases that give us a unique insight into how our minds plan out our speech. x
    • 29
      Nasty Words and Nice Words
      Follow the intriguing evolution of the word nice, which originally meant ignorant or unaware. Then, dive into words for things and people that are nasty or nice. You'll find words to wish good health, to describe your favorite uncle, and to warn others about hidden sources of harm and downright poisonous people. x
    • 30
      Words for the Really Big and the Very Small
      Is ginormous a real word? What's the difference between capacious and commodious? What are the two words Gulliver's Travels gave to English for big and small? Get answers to these questions and more in this lecture, where you'll also build words using the Latin roots magn and min. x
    • 31
      Spelling as a Vocabulary Tool
      Review the three layers of information in the English spelling system: alphabet, pattern, and meaning. Delve into several studies done by Professor Flanigan and other literacy researchers to see how children acquire the ability to read English and what insights we can apply to your own acquisition of new words. x
    • 32
      A Medley of New Words
      In this final grab bag lecture, learn a new word to describe partisan politics or views. Then, go beyond bang and shush and add some more sophisticated onomatopoeic words to your repertoire. Finally, a fun pop quiz helps you review some of the words you've learned in the last few lectures. x
    • 33
      Building Vocabulary through Games
      Start this lecture with some clever vocabulary games and activities that are not only fun to play, but will reinforce your word knowledge and ability to confidently use your new vocabulary words. Then, learn how you can leverage the power of context to improve your reading and writing vocabulary. x
    • 34
      Words English Borrowed and Never Returned
      English is notorious for being an omnivorous language. Substantially more than half of English vocabulary is from languages other than its Anglo-Saxon ancestor, Old English. Why do words get borrowed, and how do these words eventually settle in and become just as familiar as English ones? Find out here. x
    • 35
      More Foreign Loan Words
      Continue your study of foreign words that migrated to English. Encounter new and exciting words from French, German, and Spanish, and along the way, engage in a fun psycholinguistic experiment that shows how your brain processes language. By the end of this lecture, you'll have the mot juste for every situation. x
    • 36
      Forgotten Words and Neologisms
      In this final lecture of the course, travel back in time for some delicious words that Professor Flanigan believes deserve to be brought back to common usage. Then, explore neologisms, or new words that are coming into English every day, like meme, boson, and muggle. x
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