I feel like I’ve been talking about this lecture series in my catch-up posts forever! I finally listened to the final lecture last night and I’m excited to bring you my conclusion.
Myth in Human History
taught by Grant L. Voth for The Great Courses
❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎
Myths provide 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?
This entertaining and illuminating course 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 reveal 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.
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.
Myths, according to Professor Voth, are “gifts from the ancestors to be cherished.” His enchanting lectures are the perfect way for you to celebrate these cherished gifts, inviting 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.
I really, really enjoyed this lecture series. This is the second one I’ve tried – the first was “The Origin of Evil” and while the subject was incredibly interesting, I just has trouble listening to the lecturer. This was such a different experience, and I’m really glad I gave The Great Courses another try.
Voth is detailed, passionate, and organized. He goes through the lectures in a series of segments by topic: creation, apocalypse, death, gods, goddesses, and tricksters as well as a few others. In each segment, he uses examples from mythologies all over the world and will often reference back to the same stories.
You can tell sometimes Voth is holding back some of the excitement and detail he has in a subject. He consistently chooses myths that vary the globe, which I appreciate, and explains them in enough detail that the listener gets a sense of the myth without having to read it in full. He pays the same careful attention to the theories he discusses.
Mythology fascinates me. They’re the stories we base our beliefs, our culture, our daily lives. Mythology is the story of us, and although we may find some other cultures a little mystifying, it’s important to know everyone’s stories.
There is so much source material for these lectures, it’s overwhelming. For the first few chapters, there are about 120 books and essays that are cited and recommended for additional reading. None of this reading is essential to successfully learning from this lecture series, but the quantity of options is incredible.
I know, I know, I’m a nerd. I really enjoyed this lecture series and would absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in mythology. Personally, I intend to revisit it because I feel I barely touched the wealth of available knowledge.
As a side note, I cannot recommend enough getting this through Audible (not The Great Courses directly) if it is something that interests you. The price is considerable better through Audible, especially if you’re a subscriber.
As aforementioned, I purchased this lecture series on Audible. My review is not solicited and all opinions are my own.