Understanding Literature and Life: Drama, Poetry and Narrative [TTC Video]

Understanding Literature and Life: Drama, Poetry and Narrative [TTC Video]
Understanding Literature and Life: Drama, Poetry and Narrative [TTC Video] by Arnold Weinstein
Course No 210 | AVI, XviD, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 64x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 12.02GB

All too often, people fail to give the great books the attention they deserve. They might feel locked out of these masterpieces because they believe themselves unequipped to savor their richness. Or they might feel that great literature has only some antiquarian or museum value. As an introduction to the major texts of Western culture from antiquity to the present, this course empowers you to enter into these great works of the past.

A Gratifying and Enlightening Experience

Taught by an extraordinary scholar and educator, this course is a gratifying experience that can widen your views on self and society in enduring ways.

Dr. Arnold Weinstein of Brown University has been honored as Brown's Best Teacher in the Humanities and has studied and taught at major universities all over the world.

His remarkable ability to make a writer's voice come alive makes this one of our most exciting literature courses. And he has made a point of creating a wide-ranging, enriching experience.

The course has been designed to exhibit not only the themes and techniques of great literature but also to expose both the power and limitations of several different analytic tools in assisting our understanding of these monuments of the human spirit, including:

  • Feminism
  • Marxism
  • Freudianism
  • Deconstruction
  • Close reading.

A Pandora's Box of "Potent Stuff"

"Literature—that of the past and that of the present—is potent stuff," says Professor Weinstein, serving not only as transcription of history but also as a literary Pandora's box, capable of shedding light on those transactions which remain in the dark for many of us: love, death, fear, desire.

"We are talking about more than artful language; we are talking about the life of the past and the life of the world."

These lectures with Professor Weinstein examine great works in the three forms of literary expression: drama, poetry, and narrative.

Understanding Drama

The lectures on drama begin with the pre-eminent text of Western culture, Sophocles's Oedipus the King, continue through Shakespeare and Molière, and then go on to the realist and naturalist work of the 19th century, closing with Beckett's Waiting for Godot.

Theater itself is a profoundly social art form. It possessed a religious character for the Greeks and its staging of values and crises are still resonant today.

The sequence of plays discussed thus illuminate for us the changing notions of "representative man," from Sophocles's king to Beckett's clowns.

You learn that theatrical literature makes visible the conflicts and wars of culture in ways other forms cannot manage, because theater is founded on the agon, the struggle between disparate subjectivities and voices.

Notions of self, human relationship, and meaningful action are debated, forged, actualized, and undone before our very eyes. This enables a holistic and environmental picture of life that we do not have in our daily affairs.

Understanding Poetry

Poetry is at once the most artful and most elemental form of literature.

Its conventions of rhyme, meter, metaphor, and the like distinguish poetry unmistakably from the prose we use all the time. It enables it to go to the heart of human existence with a purity and power akin to surgery.

It is truly a privileged form of expression, a mode of discovery that bids to challenge and change the way we customarily do business.

The means by which it gains its remarkable power include its:

  • "Thickened" language
  • Economy of verse
  • Startling vistas of metaphor and simile
  • Play of rhythm
  • Sheer concentration of vision.

Portraits of Private Psyche and Public Setting

From Shakespeare's sonnets through the great poets of our own times, Dr. Weinstein demonstrates what a bristling human document the poem can be and how it offers a unique portrait of private psyche and public setting.

More than any other art form, poetry captures the dance of the human mind. It displays for us the way meanings are made and makes us understand just how precious a resource language itself is in our lives.

Understanding Narrative

Narrative is doubtless the most familiar form of literary expression, since everyone reads, or used to read, novels.

The perspective of this section is long-range, with the lectures beginning with a medieval Arthurian romance and closing with Alice Walker's The Color Purple.

The varied list of works includes:

  • The picaresque classic, The Swindler
  • The 18th-century saga of a self-made woman, Moll Flanders
  • Classic coming-of-age stories by Dickens and Brontë
  • Metaphysical probes by Melville and Kafka
  • Faulkner's The Bear, which asks painful questions about race and progress.

The lectures reveal some astonishing common ground, including the emphasis on rites-of-passage; the fit or misfit between self and society; the creation of an identity; and the weight and presence of the past.

You learn that narrative is especially constituted to convey the curve of time in human life; the central business of the novel is to tell the life story, enabling a possession of that life that is hardly imaginable any other way.

Encounter Works of Undisputed Value

Though notions of "completeness" and coverage make little sense in a course such as this, the texts chosen are of undisputed literary and historical value and place particular emphasis on the English and American traditions.

Dr. Weinstein's approach to each of these works is multifaceted, including:

  • Acquaintance with the historical moment
  • Introduction to the verbal and formal features of the work
  • Close study of both the artist's craft and the larger meanings of the text
  • Final consideration of the "life" of the text
  • Its analogues in other cultures
  • Its continued vitality in other times.

This course is meant to widen your view by using single texts as touchstones for other texts and other moments.

A Dialogue of Books Across the Centuries

Reading great literature makes it possible to grasp something of the march and struggles of history and to apprehend the contours of a second history—a history composed of books that signal to one another and that are revisited and replayed throughout the centuries.

"Civilization and its discontents" is Freud's term for the external and internal warfare and policing that characterize the work of culture.

These lectures show that works of art give us vital testimony about the actual cost of civilization—about the tensions between anarchy and order and between experience and language.

"It should be no surprise," notes Dr. Weinstein, "that literature is a privileged locus for these conflicts, conflicts that we would scarcely understand at all if it were not for the record provided by art.

"The study of literature, then, must be both microscopic and macroscopic, attuned to the nuances and craft of artistic packaging no less than the larger philosophical and socio-political forces that attend human life."

Understanding Literature and Life: Drama, Poetry and Narrative [TTC Video]

Power over People: Classical and Modern Political Theory [TTC Video]

Power over People: Classical and Modern Political Theory [TTC Video]
Power over People: Classical and Modern Political Theory [TTC Video] by Dennis Dalton
Course No 443 | AVI, DivX5, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 16x45 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 2.76GB

Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Marx, Gandhi—these exceptional thinkers sculpted, piece by piece, Western political thought from its inception in 5th-century (B.C.) Athens.In so doing, they grappled with such imposing questions as

  • What is the correct relationship of the individual to society?
  • What is the connection between individual freedom and social and political authority?

Are human beings fundamentally equal or unequal?

In 16 in-depth lectures, Professor Dennis Dalton puts the key theories of power formulated by several of history's greatest minds within your reach.

Dr. Dalton traces two distinct schools of political theory, idealism and realism, from their roots in ancient India and Greece through history and, ultimately, to their impact on the 20th century—via the lives and ideas of two charismatic, yet utterly disparate, leaders: Adolph Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi.

Explore the Fundamental Questions of Western Political Theory

Professor Dalton (Ph.D., Political Theory, University of London) was dubbed by Newsday "the guru of Barnard"; his courses are so popular that the Columbia Student Guide warns, "To get a seat in his class, you must arrive half an hour early (we're not joking.)"

The issues Professor Dalton addresses in these lectures—and in Western political theory generally—fall into three sets of fundamental questions.

His lectures show how these competing theories of political power address these three sets of questions. And the lectures show how those answers determine when it is legitimate for one person to have power over another.

The first set of fundamental questions involves the essential characteristics of human nature and the good society.

Is human nature essentially spirit or matter? Is it directed by reason or dominated by passion? Is it fixed or malleable? Is it innately sinful, aggressive, and violent, or is it fundamentally benign, cooperative, and nonviolent?

Will the good society be characterized by perfect harmony or by continued conflict? If conflict is inevitable in the good society, must it be controlled through the leader's discretionary use of coercive power, or can it be contained constructively within political institutions?

Are social unity and harmony achievable or even desirable? Do the progress and vigor of society depend, by contrast, upon some form of struggle?

The second set of fundamental questions involves the relationship between the individual and society.

What is the right relationship of the individual to society? What is the relationship of individual freedom to social and political authority?

What constitutes legitimate political authority? Does it come ultimately from God, the state, or the individual? Are human beings fundamentally equal or unequal?

The final set of fundamental questions involves theories of change.

Are there inexorable laws of history that produce change? What role is played by discretionary leadership or moral values in effecting change? Is an unchanging, enduring, universal system of ethical values possible? Must such a system be grounded in a theory of absolute truth?

If an enduring, universal system of values is possible, what precisely are those values, and what is their relevance for political and social action? Should transformative leadership be based on the hard facts of political reality and human weakness or on the knowledge of absolute truth? Is the most fundamental change ideological, economic, or psychological in nature?

Should agents of change pursue reform through gradual, evolutionary means, or should they pursue the total transformation of society and human nature through revolution? Should radical change be pursued through violence or nonviolence? Should it rely mainly on spontaneity or on authoritarian organization?

Are There Definitive Answers? Addressing Those Fundamental Questions

Those questions orient our study of a wide range of theories of power and its use. Professor Dalton contrasts Plato's idealism with Aristotle's realism, Marx's optimism with Freud's pessimism, and Hitler's exclusionism and exaltation of violence with Gandhi's inclusionism and insistence on nonviolence.

"For centuries such questions have eluded final solution, and we should not expect to answer them definitively here," says Professor Dalton. "The questions should prompt us, however, to think more deeply about ourselves, the standards that guide our behavior, and our obligations, if any, to society."

As Professor Dalton addresses these fundamental questions, you'll learn, for example, how Hindu idealism prefigured Socratic and Platonic thought in emphasis upon self-mastery and its focus on teaching by example.

You'll understand exactly how Plato's Republic set the parameters for subsequent Western political theory.

You'll examine how Machiavelli's brutally realistic theories about politics marked the transition between the classical and modern political traditions.

You'll study the Romantic idealism—the social and political utopias, if you will—of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Karl Marx.

Professor Dalton also shares several unique perspectives to better explain the realism vs. idealism debate.

You will, for instance, examine the writings of the Greek playwright Sophocles, whose long-celebrated work Antigone offers a literary context for Plato's philosophy, where the state is an agent of virtue.

You'll also explore psychiatrist Sigmund Freud's pessimistic vision of man, which contrasted sharply with those of Rousseau and Marx.

And, you learn how author Henry David Thoreau, in his timeless work, Civil Disobedience, echoed the Hindu tradition and emphatically rejected a fundamental contention of Plato and Aristotle that the state has any moral authority.

Finally, Professor Dalton takes you on an intellectual expedition that juxtaposes and explores Hitler's violent politics of exclusion with Gandhi's equally powerful, but strictly non-violent, politics of inclusion.

Through this course you will be able to:

  • Identify the fundamental questions and concerns that shape classical and modern political theory.
  • Explain the essential differences between the "idealist" and "realist" traditions in political theory.
  • Describe the influence of one's understanding of human nature upon one's vision of the good society.
  • Compare and contrast the views of theorists regarding the purpose of the state, the relationship between politics and ethics, and the qualifications for exercising political power.
  • Discuss views of leading political theorists regarding the meaning of freedom, the sources of legitimate political authority, the legitimacy of individual resistance against constituted authority, and the obligations of individuals to the state or society.
  • Distinguish among the differing attitudes toward the use of violence that are held by the theorists examined in this course.
Power over People: Classical and Modern Political Theory [TTC Video]

Understanding Linguistics: The Science of Language [TTC Video]

Understanding Linguistics: The Science of Language [TTC Video]
Understanding Linguistics: The Science of Language [TTC Video] by John McWhorter
Course No 2270 | AVI, XviD, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 36x30 mins | 6.85GB

We all use language every day of our lives. Language, regardless of the particular dialect spoken, is the tool we use to express our wants, our needs, and our feelings.

Recently, many experts who study language have become convinced by an idea about this remarkable human trait that was, only a few decades ago, utterly revolutionary. These experts believe that the capacity for spoken language and the rules for its structure are not cultural but universal—a set of rules shared by humans in every culture and that even may be hardwired into our brains. Moreover, these rules apply regardless of which of the world's 6,000 languages are being spoken.

But what are these rules? How do they work? And how can knowing them enhance your experience of the world?

The 36 lectures of Understanding Linguistics: The Science of Language—taught by acclaimed linguist, author, and Professor John McWhorter from Columbia University—are your opportunity to take a revealing journey through the fascinating terrain of linguistics. You focus on the scientific aspects of human language that were left out of any classes you may have taken in English or a foreign language, and you emerge from your journey with a newfound appreciation of the mysterious machinery built into all of us—an appreciation likely to surface time and again in your everyday life.

Gain Insights into How We Speak

"When we talk about language, we talk about the way people talk," says Professor McWhorter. Just as linguistics opens windows into our past, it can also reveal more about the world we live in today.

It was once possible, perhaps even likely, to go through daily life without encountering someone who spoke a different language. But in today's increasingly diverse world, where you can encounter different languages in different settings and where you might even speak multiple languages yourself, understanding how languages operate is increasingly important and can be extraordinarily rewarding.

In Understanding Linguistics, you explore the vast field of scientific linguistics and discover why this burgeoning field is becoming increasingly important in your everyday life:

  • Glean the real meanings hidden in everyday conversations.
  • Understand the process by which young children learn to speak.
  • Comprehend that changes in language (including new words, constructions, or usages) are a normal and inevitable part of the language's evolution.
  • Grasp the complex interaction of language, brain structure, and the physiology of the human mouth.
  • See how the science of language can reveal nuances of human history beyond the reach of any other discipline.

From Building Blocks to Social Tools

Professor McWhorter explains and illustrates the critical elements and purposes of language, from its most basic building blocks to its uses as a nuanced social tool:

  • The basic sounds from which human language is built and why the English alphabet, with only 26 letters, is inadequate to deal with the 44 sounds of our own language—a dilemma solved by the International Phonetic Alphabet
  • How these sounds are combined into words and words into sentences, and how rules of structure hardwired into everyone's brain work to ensure that those sentences have meaning within whatever language is being spoken
  • How children learn to acquire their first language spontaneously but why learning a second language can be so difficult
  • Why language, from the level of basic sounds to the customs of usage, inevitably changes over time
  • How writing systems, which exist for only about 200 of the world's approximately 6,000 languages, evolved

Meet Pioneering Linguists

Understanding Linguistics also introduces you to many of the individuals who have most influenced our scientific understanding of language. The business of linguists isn't policing language, correcting your grammar, or acting as a translator; instead, linguists devote themselves to the scientific study of human language. These are some of the many pioneers of the field whom you meet in this course:

  • Jacob Grimm: Best known to the general public for the often-dark folk tales he collected with his brother, Grimm demonstrated the systematic and predictable way the sounds of a language evolve, offering linguists a way to trace current languages back to their roots.
  • Noam Chomsky: Also a political commentator and activist, Chomsky founded the influential school of syntactic analysis—the study of how words are ordered into sentences—and developed the now widely accepted hypothesis of a hardwired human capacity for language.
  • Edward Sapir: Sapir first put forth the seed of what was ultimately to become one of linguistics' most enduring theories: that languages, to some extent, reflect the thought patterns and cultural outlooks of their speakers.
  • Benjamin Whorf: Building on the ideas of Sapir, Whorf developed what became known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: the idea that people's languages actually channel the way in which they perceive the world.
  • Ferdinand de Saussure: Straddling the 19th and 20th centuries, de Saussure laid the foundation for modern linguistics analysis with his idea that language could be analyzed as it exists in the moment and not just from a historical perspective.
  • William Labov: One of the first linguists to examine how race, class, and gender influence language, Labov, in his signature study The Social Stratification of English in New York City, inaugurated the now-vigorous subfield of sociolinguistics.

An Entertaining, Captivating Instructor

Professor McWhorter, a prolific writer and frequent media commentator, makes the process of understanding linguistics intensely rewarding.

Supplementing his own considerable teaching skills with recorded materials and exclusively developed graphics designed to make even complex ideas immediately graspable, he takes you inside your own mind and into cultures and social situations around the world to explain the surprisingly orderly and hierarchical levels of human language.

In exploring the ideas and people that make this course both intellectually rigorous and readily accessible, Professor McWhorter is tirelessly entertaining and as captivated by his subject as he wants you to be. His use of humor, personal anecdotes, and unexpected forays into contemporary culture make Understanding Linguistics a course you'll savor long after you've finished the final lecture.

Undoubtedly, you'll find its insights surfacing whenever you experience the language around you.

Understanding Linguistics: The Science of Language [TTC Video]

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