Museum Masterpieces: The National Gallery, London [TTC Video]

Museum Masterpieces: The National Gallery, London [TTC Video]
Museum Masterpieces: The National Gallery, London [TTC Video] by Catherine B Scallen
Course No 7544 | AVI, XviD, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 4.26GB

Of all the world's great art museums, the National Gallery, London is the only place where you can truly grasp the breathtaking scope of European painting between 1200 and 1900. Established in 1824, the National Gallery was commissioned as the people's museum—a cultural institution meant to reflect the artistic legacy both of Great Britain and of the European continent. Inside its halls are more than 2,500 European paintings by some of Western civilization's greatest masters, including Titian, Rubens, and Rembrandt.

Today, the National Gallery is one of the top five tourist attractions in the United Kingdom. Each year, more than 5 million people explore the gallery's impressive collections, including its renowned and respected holdings in Italian Renaissance art and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painting. To browse through the hallways and wings of the National Gallery is to witness the powerful evolution both of European painting and the European history that it represents.

Now you can take a virtual tour of this world-class collection through Museum Masterpieces: The National Gallery, London. In 24 fascinating lectures, Professor Catherine B. Scallen, a noted art scholar at Case Western Reserve University, offers a memorable introduction to this remarkable artistic institution and its rich collection of masterworks.

But this is more than just a gallery tour. This course also offers a breathtaking and comprehensive overview of the history of European painting. The National Gallery holds one of the finest collections of European painting from the late medieval period to the beginning of the 20th century. Raphael and Titian, Rembrandt and Rubens, Poussin and Claude, Velazquez and Goya, Gainsborough and Turner—these are just a few of the great masters whose works are represented in the National Gallery's outstanding collection.

Britain's National Treasure

Your tour begins with an introduction that highlights the gallery's unique history, cultural mission, and aesthetic focus. Unlike many national art collections, which developed according to the whims of the ruling monarch, the National Gallery was established and planned with a clear strategy: to amass a sumptuous collection of art that celebrates the zenith of achievement in European painting.

In the first lecture, you gain an appreciation for the careful forethought and commitment to public art that has informed the development of this exceptional collection and has preserved it as a national treasure for the British people.

You hear, for example, the story of how, during World War II, the entire collection was transported to Wales to ensure its safety. Between 1939 and 1946, a single painting from the collection was returned to London for display each month as a patriotic reminder of the nation's great cultural heritage.

Professor Scallen uses the special access she was given to the gallery to guide you through the physical layout of this grand institution, including an exclusive peek into its many supporting departments, such as these:

  • The Framing Department, where experts choose antique frames to accent these masterpieces
  • The Scientific Department, where scientists study pigments and other media used by the masters
  • The Conservation Department, where the collection's paintings undergo routine cleaning and repair

700 Years of European Masterpieces

Because of its history and mission, the National Gallery is able to offer something truly unique: a collection of paintings that represents the "best of the best" of European art. To walk its galleries is to sample nearly seven centuries of famed masterworks and lesser-known but equally beautiful treasures.

Here are just a few of the works Professor Scallen has selected for your consideration:

  • Leonardo da Vinci's full-scale preparatory drawing of Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist, the only such preparatory drawing by Leonardo to survive
  • Hans Holbein's The Ambassadors, a masterpiece that juxtaposes a vision of Renaissance achievement with a distorted image of a skull—a reminder of the fleeting nature of worldly accomplishments
  • Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder's Flowers in a Vase, in which the artist brings together flowers that bloom in different seasons in an idealized vision of floral splendor
  • A remarkable comparison of self-portraits of Rembrandt in youth and old age—an exploration of the trajectory of the master's growth as an artist and as a human being
  • Van Gogh's A Wheatfield, with Cypresses, painted during his stay in a mental institution, in which he used the flow of paint and pattern to capture the sense of nature as well as his own response to it

View These Masterworks from All Angles

As you encounter each of these great paintings, you gain an appreciation not only for this collection but also for the art of painting itself through fascinating facts and anecdotes:

  • A description of standard techniques such as undermodelling—the underlying layer of paint used by medieval artists to provide a unifying tone and define shadows
  • An analysis of a wide variety of painting styles, such as Leonardo's use of sfumato ("smoky" blended edges); Titian's use of his fingers to blend paint; and Velázquez's heavily textured use of impasto (small raised areas of paint)
  • An explanation of the painters' materials, such as the difference between oil and tempera paints, and the lavish use of ultramarine, an expensive pigment made with lapis lazuli
  • The use of cutting-edge technology by modern art historians to shed light on the artistic process, as seen in Raphael's Madonna and Child with the Infant Baptist (studied with infrared reflectography) and Titian's Noli Me Tangere (analyzed using x-radiography)

Professor Scallen also tells stories of the artists' lives and times to broaden your understanding of the place of art in history. For example, you learn how the dreaded Black Death suppressed artistic development during the Middle Ages; how the iconoclasm of Calvinism helped create a new market for painting; and how Degas' declining eyesight may have contributed to his signature style.

The Finest of European Painting—in One Museum

Whether you're planning a trip to London or simply want to enjoy the best of European painting, Museum Masterpieces: The National Gallery, London offers a breathtaking introduction to this institution and its many treasures.

And, as you find, Professor Scallen is the perfect guide. Listening to her explicate these great works is like having a very smart friend, who also happens to be an expert in art, take you on a stroll through the gallery. Deeply learned, passionate about her subject, she has a rare gift for communicating the power of these great works, even if this is your first foray into the world of European painting. And if you already know and love these masterworks, Professor Scallen will surprise you with unexpected insights and keen observations that will help you see them with new eyes.

Join Professor Scallen and see why the National Gallery, London is not only the pride of Great Britain, it's a treasure trove to be savored by anyone who appreciates fine art.

Museum Masterpieces: The National Gallery, London [TTC Video]

The Story of Human Language [TTC Video]

The Story of Human Language [TTC Video]
The Story of Human Language [TTC Video] by John McWhorter
Course No 1600 | AVI, AVC, 448x320 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 36x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 5.29GB

I never met a person who is not interested in language, wrote the bestselling author and psychologist Steven Pinker. There are good reasons that language fascinates us so. It not only defines humans as a species, placing us head and shoulders above even the most proficient animal communicators, but it also beguiles us with its endless mysteries. For example:

  • How did different languages come to be?
  • Why isn't there just a single language?
  • How does a language change, and when it does, is that change indicative of decay or growth?
  • How does a language become extinct?

Dr. John McWhorter, one of America's leading linguists and a frequent commentator on network television and National Public Radio, addresses these and other questions as he takes you on an in-depth, 36-lecture tour of the development of human language, showing how a single tongue spoken 150,000 years ago has evolved into the estimated 6,000 languages used around the world today.

An accomplished scholar, Professor McWhorter is also a skilled popularizer, whose book The Power of Babel was called "startling, provocative, and remarkably entertaining," by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The London Times called him "a born teacher." And Steven Pinker, best known as the author of The Language Instinct, offered this praise for the book: "McWhorter's arguments are sharply reasoned, refreshingly honest, and thoroughly original."

Discover How Linguists Think

For the past century linguistics has been one of the most exciting and productive fields in the social sciences. In the process of telling the story of language, Professor McWhorter introduces you to some of the current controversies in the discipline:

  • Noam Chomsky has famously argued that the ability to use language is innately specified in the human brain. What is the evidence for and against this hypothesis?
  • The popular media have widely reported that words from the world's first language have been reconstructed. Professor McWhorter looks at the reasoning behind this work and the objections to it.
  • One of the most enticing ideas of 20th-century linguistics is that language determines the way we perceive the world. But is this really true?
  • The Ebonics debate of the mid-1990s focused attention on Black English. What is the nature of this dialect? Where did it come from?

Professor McWhorter also briefs you on the recent connection made between an obscure language of Nepal and the language family of Papua New Guinea, which may represent the oldest documentable historical relationship between words, extending back as far as 75,000 years.

In discovering how linguists think, you will begin to see language in an entirely new way. You will learn that everything about a language is eternally and inherently changeable, from its word order and grammar to the very sound and meaning of basic words.

That's why Professor McWhorter describes language as "like one of those lava lamps from the 1970s. It's not marching toward an ideal, and it's not slowly going to the dogs. It's always just variations of the same thing—endless morphings."

A Wealth of Examples from a Teacher Passionate about Language

In an interview with the New York Times, Professor McWhorter said: "Languages have been a passion since I was a small child. I used to teach them to myself as a hobby. I speak three and a bit of Japanese, and can read seven."

In this course, he includes these languages and many more as examples. Anyone who has ever studied a language will surely find it discussed—along with Albanian, Armenian, Turkish, Sanskrit, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, Korean, Tagalog, Maori, Fijian, Samoan, Gullah, Hopi, Mohawk, Navajo, Yupik Eskimo, Quechua, and Welsh, as well as Latin, Greek, German, Russian, French, Spanish, Swedish, and many others.

It's remarkable how much light one language sheds on another. For example, the ancestor language of English is Proto-Germanic, and the ancestor of that is Proto-Indo-European. A curious transformation took place in the consonants of Proto-Germanic, in which Proto-Indo-European p became f; d became t; and so on with other consonant pairs. So Latin pater is English father, and Latin decem is English ten. This rule is called Grimm's Law after its discoverer—the same Jacob Grimm who collected folk tales.

Such patterns make relationships among different languages clear and make learning these languages much easier.

What You Will Learn

Language basics. In Lecture 1, you start by comparing human language to animal communication and ask, how valid are claims that animals such as chimpanzees have rudimentary language skills? Then you look at intriguing evidence that links a specific gene to the ability to use language. The first appearance of this gene in humans has been calculated and gives a surprisingly early date for the birth of language.

Chomsky's revolution. In Lecture 2, Professor McWhorter notes that linguists are often mistakenly thought to be translators or experts on word histories. But their work takes them far deeper into language. For example, Noam Chomsky and his coworkers have been searching for the grammatical properties common to all languages—an effort that has revolutionized linguistics, though not without controversy.

Change is the norm. In Lectures 3–7, you learn the specific mechanisms responsible for language change, from phenomena such as the tone system in Chinese to the gradual shift in the meanings of words over time. You will find that even the parts of Shakespeare you believe you understand may not mean what you think.

Beginnings. In Lectures 8–13, you explore language families, starting with Indo-European, comprising languages from India to Ireland including English. Other language families discussed are Semitic, Sino-Tibetan, Austronesian, Bantu, and Native American. You also look at the heated debate over the first language.

Dialects. In Lectures 14–19, you cover dialects. Often one dialect is chosen as the standard, and when it is used in writing, it changes more slowly than the dialects that are just spoken. One consequence is that people who speak written languages are often taught that the constructions they produce spontaneously are errors.

Mixing it up. In Lectures 20–22, you study the phenomenon of language mixture. 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: vocabulary, grammar, syntax, and usage. As a result, English comprises a vocabulary of largely borrowed terms.

How English got that way. In Lectures 23–25, you learn how processes of change lead some languages to develop more grammatical machinery than they need, while others become streamlined, shedding such complexities. English is an interesting example of the latter tendency.

Prisoner of grammar? In Lecture 26, you examine the famous Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which proposes that features of our grammars channel how we think.

New languages from old. In Lectures 27–32, Professor McWhorter focuses on pidgins and creoles. When people learn a language quickly without being explicitly taught, they develop a pidgin version of it. Then if they need to use this pidgin on an everyday basis it becomes a real language, a creole. Some people argue that Black English is a creole, and Professor McWhorter devotes a lecture to this issue.

Extinction. In Lectures 33 and 34, you come full circle. Having explored the processes that give birth to new languages, you now learn how languages become extinct and what can be done to preserve them.

Conclusion. In Lectures 35 and 36, you explore artificial languages, including Esperanto and sign languages for the deaf, and conclude by examining a single English sentence etymologically. In the process, you learn how word histories reflect the phenomena of language change and mixture worldwide.

The Armory of the Mind

Professor McWhorter covers a wealth of material, enlivened with wit and personal observations:

  • Concerning Shakespeare's language, he points out that the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz sings Juliet's line "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" in a cadence that suggests "where" as the meaning of wherefore. But in Elizabethan usage, wherefore means "why."
  • Discussing the concept of language as a continuum, he recalls getting into an elevator with two Guyanese linguists. The Guyanese were speaking English in the lobby, but as they ascended they started introducing more and more of their native creole, so by the time they exited, their conversation was incomprehensible to Dr. McWhorter.
  • On the subject of sound change, he observes that the written syllable aw is pronounced ah by an increasing number of Americans, a phenomenon he first noticed in California. "Sushi is ‘raw' fish," he says. "But more and more people are saying, ‘rah' fish."
  • A devotee of the classic British comedy series Are You Being Served?, he enthusiastically recommends it for its generous sampling of nonstandard British accents.

Language is indeed a powerful tool—"the armory of the human mind" in the words of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. With this course, you will be richly rewarded in investigating what linguists have learned about the origin and evolution of the marvelous gift of speech.

The Story of Human Language [TTC Video]

Jewish Intellectual History: 16th to 20th Century [TTC Video]

Jewish Intellectual History: 16th to 20th Century [TTC Video]
Jewish Intellectual History: 16th to 20th Century [TTC Video] by David B Ruderman
Course No 4647 | AVI, AVC, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 4.29GB

God. Torah. Israel. These three concepts—incorporated in personal belief, the meaning of Jewish ritual acts, and the purpose of continued Jewish existence—have been the focus of Jewish thought throughout history.

But the last four centuries have presented Jewish thinkers with difficult challenges:

  • In a world having a history of untold suffering—especially, it seemed, for Jews—was the existence of an all-powerful and comforting God still tenable?
  • What were the purpose and meaning of Jewish practices and customs, given the increasing number of Jews who placed greater value on their own autonomy?
  • Could Jews still justify the notion of a "chosen people" in a society where Jewish integration and full participation with the rest of humanity had become the norm?

These lectures present the varying ways in which a small group of thinkers has attempted to answer these challenges.

These men and, in recent years, women, have reflected deeply on the relevance of Jewish texts and traditions to modern Jews.

Different Routes to a Common Goal

Though their approaches and solutions differed, most shared a common goal: provide a continuing sense of faith, meaning, and identity for their fellow Jews.

Through these lectures, you will observe the time-honored intellectual tradition through which Judaism analyzes, rethinks, and reformulates itself.

This process of preserving its essential character while still trying to accommodate itself to the modern world has kept Judaism a vital and vibrant, rather than static, religion.

This course may serve to introduce you to a new and rich body of thinkers and thinking, for until recently, Jewish intellectual history, though an integral part of Western intellectual history, has been less heralded.

But one of the contributions of the young field of Jewish Studies has been to bring the thinkers featured in this series to a wider audience.

Spinoza's Devastating Challenge

The central figure in the course is well known: the prominent philosopher Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza (1632–1677).

Spinoza's impact was so significant, Professor Ruderman notes, that much of the course might be viewed as a series of responses to his thinking.

Spinoza received a traditional rabbinical education, but he broke with Judaism after his father died. He was raised in Amsterdam, a city in which both Jews and Christians lived in an increasingly tolerant and secular atmosphere.

In his Theological–Political Treatise, published anonymously in 1670, Spinoza became the first Jew to break with the medieval Jewish tradition espoused by Moses Maimonides (1132–1204).

Breaking with Four Centuries of Tradition

Spinoza disputed Maimonides's belief that reason and faith could be reconciled. Because biblical texts were believed to have been inspired by God, he asserted, they were supernatural. They could be interpreted through faith or reason, but not both.

If one chose reason, then the Bible was not divinely inspired but a document created by Man.

This argument was devastating to the question of Jewish identity.

Essentially, it negated God, Torah, and Israel, denying any rationale for Jews to think of themselves as the chosen people, observe ceremonial laws, or accept the authority of the rabbis.

Spinoza's critique laid bare the contradiction between Jewish communal values and secular liberal ones. He was the first to pose a fundamental question that remains relevant to this day: Is it possible to be a true liberal and a traditional Jew?

Three Responses: Insiders, Outsiders, and Rejectionists

This course considers modern Jewish thought largely in terms of two issues:

  • The response to Spinoza and his attack on the very viability of Judaism
  • The shift in the standard by which Jews defined themselves and their faith. In the Middle Ages, this defining factor had been God. In the modern age, it became the non-Jewish world.

With the weakening of the Jewish community, the need to provide a rationale for being Jewish in a non-Jewish world became pressing and more problematic.

Given these two issues, Professor Ruderman presents the various thinkers according to three approaches:

  • Insiders want to remain Jews but believe that Judaism has to be tailored to better fit the culture at large. The problem is how to accomplish this and still preserve the belief that Judaism is unique.
  • Outsiders believe there is no longer a place for Judaism, that Judaism should essentially be overcome to create something in which all humans can share. The philosophies of Spinoza, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud might be included in this category.
  • Rejectionists believe Jews should maintain their traditional beliefs and customs and refuse to blend in with the larger Western culture. This approach became very apparent in the wake of the Holocaust.

Reconciling Problems for a Modern World

Most thinkers represented in these lectures are insiders who struggled to create a better fit between Judaism and the contemporary world.

Each had to deal with problems related to cherished notions of God, Torah, and Israel, including:

  • Jewish law: This has been a central issue in modern Jewish thought. In his book Jerusalem (1783), Moses Mendelssohn drew a distinction between moral and ritual commandments, but insisted both were obligatory for Jews. Subsequent thinkers emphasized the moral over the ritual, claiming the former was eternal, while the latter could change.
  • Comparisons with Christianity:Living in a predominantly Christian society led many thinkers to reflect on the relative merits of both religions. Some constructed rationales arguing for the superiority of Judaism over Christianity. Immanuel Wolf implied a belief in inferiority by asserting that "Judaism must raise itself to the level of a science."
  • Particularity: It remained important to demonstrate that the Jews retained their status as a chosen people. Thinkers developed such philosophies as "the mission of Israel" and "Catholic Israel," and highlighted the moral and rational virtues of Judaism in an effort to preserve its unique place in the world.

This lecture series places historical theories and religious practices in a fresh light. You will encounter thinkers who embodied lifestyles and philosophies difficult to categorize but often original and thought provoking.

A Wait before Considering the Holocaust

The final lectures examine the impact of the Holocaust, as well as newer contributions being made by women thinkers.

Jewish thinkers, in fact, did not write extensively about the Holocaust until 1960.

"The shock was so great that the most appropriate response for a while was silence," Professor Ruderman notes.

Women Jewish intellectuals in the last 40 years have challenged the patriarchal nature of Judaism by arguing for full participation of women in ritual services and creation of gender-sensitive prayer books:

  • Judith Plaskow has raised awareness of ways women have been overlooked in Jewish history and in the scriptures themselves.
  • Rachel Adler argues that Judaism's commitment to justice obligates it to address gender inequity.

Professor Ruderman completes the lectures with an evaluation of current Jewish thought and the argument that has been raised that it may no longer be relevant.

In his estimation, however, Jewish thinking is not something that only intellectuals do. It is a widespread and necessary part of Jewish life—an effort to find meaning and hope in an uncertain world.

Jewish Intellectual History: 16th to 20th Century [TTC Video]

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