Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity [TTC Video]
23 July 2015, 02:27
Course No 2241 | WMV, WMV9, 2000 kbps, 640x360 | English, WMA, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 10.17GB
Can you imagine the world—or your life—without writing? From emails to street signs and newspapers to novels, the written word is so ever-present that we rarely stop to consider how it came to be.
Yet at just over 5,000 years old, writing is actually a relatively recent invention. It has become so central to the way we communicate and live, however, that it often seems as if writing has always existed.
Through writing, we gain knowledge about past cultures and languages we couldn’t possibly obtain any other way. Writing creates a continuous historical record—something an oral history could never achieve. And writing systems are integral to many cultural identities and serve as both a tool and a product of many important societal structures, from religion to politics.
The fundamental role and impact of writing in our civilization simply cannot be overstated. But the question remains: Who invented writing, and why?
Like any event from our prehistoric past, the story of writing’s origins is burdened by myths, mysteries, and misinformation. For the past two centuries, however, dedicated scholars have used rigorous methods to uncover a tale of intrigue, fascinating connections, and elegant solutions to the complex problem of turning language into text.
In the 24 visually intensive lectures of Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity, you’ll trace the remarkable saga of the invention and evolution of “visible speech,” from its earliest origins to its future in the digital age. Professor Marc Zender—Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Tulane University and an accomplished epigrapher—whisks you around the globe on a thrilling journey to explore how an array of sophisticated writing systems developed, then were adopted and adapted by surrounding cultures.
This course answers many of the most common questions about the world’s writing systems and the civilizations that created them, plus a number of questions you may never have thought to ask.
- Do all writing systems descend from a single prototype, or was writing invented independently?
- What one feature do the world’s writing systems have in common?
- Which kinds of signs and symbols qualify as writing, and which do not?
- How is the digital age changing the way we write?
- Along the way, you’ll visit the great early civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, Japan, and the Americas, and you’ll see how deciphering ancient scripts is a little like cracking secret codes—only far more difficult.
Witness the Triumphs of Decipherment
Through the process of decipherment, civilizations including Egypt, Mesopotamia, Crete, and Mexico have, as Professor Zender says, “all given up their secrets.” Lost histories, literatures, and religions can now be studied in translation, and the disciplines of ancient history, archaeology, and comparative literature have benefited enormously as a result.
You’ll be spellbound as you hear accounts of the breathtaking moments when the decipherment of ancient scripts broke centuries of silence. And you’ll marvel at fascinating objects once shrouded in mystery, including
- the iconic Rosetta stone, often credited with being the key to our understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphics;
- an Egyptian sphinx inscribed with the oldest-known form of our own alphabet;
- a doorway at Persepolis inscribed in cuneiform;
- a Maya vase featuring an ancient comic strip; and
- wooden, rune-inscribed runakéfli sticks featuring carved messages that reflect the social sphere of 12th-century Scandinavia, including one that reads, "I'd like to get to the pub more often."
- Crucial to your understanding of how epigraphers decipher scripts—and why they’re sometimes unsuccessful—are five preconditions known as the “pillars of decipherment,” which you’ll study in detail and return to throughout the course.
A Window into the Past
Among the fascinating takeaways from studying lost scripts is a newfound sense of shared humanity with ancient peoples. The cuneiform scripts of ancient Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Persia, in particular, are eerily modern and reveal glimpses of the origins of practices and beliefs that continue to the present.
You’ll also see how writing was used for political purposes by our earliest civilizations, as in the practice known as damnatio memoriae, whereby ousted leaders were quite literally erased from history, either through the recarving of inscriptions or by omission from official records. Ironically, it is Tutankhamen’s own erasure that may have helped obscure his tomb from raiders.
Despite the obvious connection between language and writing, this course draws a clear distinction, explaining how single languages can be written using various writing systems. English, you’ll learn, was once written with runes. In antiquity, Greek was represented by at least three different scripts.
In exploring how writing systems rise and fall, you’ll encounter many scripts that are associated with languages that have surviving descendents, including those of the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians, which have relatives in Hebrew and Arabic. Others scripts you’ll study—such as those of the Elamites, Hurrians, and Sumerians—record languages that have died out or evolved to the point of being unrecognizable.
Myths Dispelled, Revelations Told
In Writing and Civilization, you’ll encounter a wealth of eye-opening information that sets the record straight on this enigmatic subject. Here are just a few of the misconceptions that you’ll encounter and investigate in greater detail.
- A civilization cannot exist without writing: While writing and civilization share a strong relationship, they are not inextricably entwined.
- Writing was invented to serve the administrative needs of early cities: Although writing did serve this purpose, it likely first emerged out of a need to record proper nouns.
- The Rosetta stone is a one-of-a-kind artifact: This first and most famous example of a bilingual—or “triscript,” as it contains Greek writing, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and demotic script—is not the only Egyptian bilingual in existence, nor was it unique for its era.
- You may also be surprised to learn that the Aztecs possessed writing, and that unearthed Aegean writings in Linear B spoke only of mundane accounting matters rather than Theseus and the Minotaur and Icarus, as early scholars predicted.
Hear Messages of the Ancients Revealed
Writing and Civilization offers lifelong learners the chance to not only discover the history of ancient writing systems, but also the rare opportunity to actually hear those scripts read aloud and to learn the meaning of their messages hidden in plain sight.
As an expert on Mesoamerican languages and writing systems and an international lecturer on decipherment, Professor Zender has conducted linguistic, epigraphic, and archaeological fieldwork in much of the Maya area, including Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. His expertise, along with firsthand accounts of his experiences and discoveries, adds an invaluable perspective that truly brings this riveting material to life.
You will also be captivated by the extraordinary visuals accompanying each dynamic lecture, including photographs of ancient sites and artifacts, explanatory animations, and numerous illustrations artfully drawn by the professor—many exclusively for this course.
From papyrus to personal computer, the story of writing is 5,000 years in the making, and it’s still evolving. Investigate the fascinating relationships between language and writing, and the cultures that gave birth to them, in Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity.
- What Is Writing?
- The Origins and Development of Writing
- Where Did Our Alphabet Come From?
- The Fuþark—A Germanic Alphabet
- Chinese—A Logosyllabic Script
- Japanese—The World’s Most Complex Script
- What Is Decipherment?
- The Five Pillars of Decipherment
- Epigraphic Illustration
- The History of Language
- Proper Nouns and Cultural Context
- Bilinguals, Biscripts, and Other Constraints
- Egyptian—The First Great Decipherment
- What Do Egyptian Hieroglyphs Say?
- Old Persian—Cuneiform Deciphered
- What Does Cuneiform Say?
- Mycenaean Linear B—An Aegean Syllabary
- Mayan Glyphs—A New World Logosyllabary
- What Do the Mayan Glyphs Say?
- Aztec Hieroglyphs—A Recent Decipherment
- Etruscan and Meroïtic—Undeciphered Scripts
- Han'gul, Tengwar, and Other Featural Scripts
- Medium and Message
- The Future of Writing
Meaning of Life [TTC Video]
20 July 2015, 15:11
Course No 4320 | AVI, XviD, 904 kbps, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 36x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 7.81GB
What is the meaning of life? It's a question every thoughtful person has pondered at one time or another. Indeed, it may be the biggest question of all. Most of us have asked ourselves this question at some time, or posed it to somebody we respect. It is at once a profound and abstract question, and a deeply personal one. We want to understand the world in which we live, but we also want to understand how to make our own lives as meaningful as possible; to know not only why we're living, but that we're doing it with intention, purpose, and ethical commitment.
But how, exactly, do we find that meaning, and develop that commitment? How can we grasp why we are here? Or how we should proceed? And to whom, exactly, are we supposed to listen as we shape the path we will walk?
The Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World's Great Intellectual Traditions is an invigorating way to begin or to continue your pursuit of these questions, with no previous background in philosophical or religious thought required. Its 36 lectures offer a rigorous and wide-ranging exploration of what various spiritual, religious, and philosophical traditions from both the East and the West have contributed to this profound line of questioning.
Guided by Professor Jay L. Garfield of Smith College—as well as of the University of Massachusetts, Melbourne University in Australia, and the Central University of Tibetan Studies in India—you'll gain insights from a broad array of sources, including these:
- Ancient Indian texts, including the Bhagavad-Gita
- Foundational Chinese texts such as the Daodejing and the Chuang Tzu
- Classical Western texts such as Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics and Marcus Aurelius's Meditations
- Modern philosophers such as David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Leo Tolstoy
- The unique perspectives offered by Native Americans; in this case, the Lakota Sioux medicine man and writer, John Lame Deer
- More recent and contemporary philosophers, such as Mohandas Gandhi and the Dalai Lama
Enjoy a Journey Rich in Knowledge and Perspective
The ability to ponder your own relationship with the universe and with others is perhaps one of the greatest benefits of being human. Even if you do not find a final answer to the question this course poses, each answer you consider cannot help but add depth and nuance to your own contemplation of how to live.
In considering the range of approaches to this question developed over the course of human intellectual history, you'll increase your own storehouse of wisdom, enabling you to shape a life that is as meaningful and satisfying as possible, heightening your appreciation of every moment.
The Meaning of Life is a course rich in wisdom, including the realization that although a single answer to the question may forever elude you, that elusiveness is no great tragedy. More important is the search itself, and the insights you'll gain as you realize that just as different traditions provide a vast diversity of answers, so, too, do they consistently return to recurring themes:
- One's relationship to a larger context
- The boundaries created by temporality and impermanence
- The pursuit of a larger purpose, or even the goal of perfection
- The value of spontaneity, even though the ideal of that characteristic differs from one tradition to another
- The importance of freedom, whether from social norms and standards; religious, social, or political authority; external constraints; consumerism; or even philosophical ideas themselves
- The commitment to live authentically
- Find Common Ground with History's Most Profound Thinkers
For anyone who has spent time grappling with these ideas themselves, it is a comfort to see that even some of history's most profound thinkers have wrestled with these problems, engaging in a conversation thousands of years in length and rich in insight.
For example, while many of them agree on the importance of authenticity, their agreement marks not the end of the conversation, but its beginning.
- Should that authenticity, as Kant and Mill believed, be epistemic, found in the hard work of serious reasoning over political, moral, and scientific issues so that we can propagate the answers we discover?
- Should it be what we might call an aesthetic authenticity—a life lived truly in harmony with a beautifully visualized fundamental reality? Such a view attracted figures as varied as Nietzsche, the Zen writer Dogen, and Laozi, the possibly mythical figure credited with authorship of the Daodejing.
- Or should it be instead a natural authenticity, so that you live your life as Lame Deer advocated, striving for harmony with the natural world in the face of a modern civilization whose every construct seems designed to make that impossible?
One of The Meaning of Life's great virtues is the ease with which Professor Garfield organizes and makes cohesive the vast range of perspectives. At every stage of the course, the relationship of each writer or tradition to all of the others is clear and logical, no matter how intricate or demanding a line of argument might be.
Dr. Garfield—teaching his material with extraordinary passion and thoroughness—shows great skill in unpacking the substance of each source, presenting it clearly and positioning it in its proper place within a philosophical conversation that has been going on for millennia.
And when an idea might otherwise present vexing complexities, he unveils an additional—and superbly useful—teaching skill. For Professor Garfield has the gift of analogy, enabling him to relate even the most ancient or subtle texts to your own life in ways that show their relevance to how you live today.
With The Meaning of Life, Professor Garfield has put together an intellectually gripping course that is every bit the equal of the monumental subject it sets out to explore.
- The Meaning of the Meaning of Life
- The Bhagavad-Gita — Choice and Daily Life
- The Bhagavad-Gita — Discipline and Duty
- The Bhagavad-Gita — Union and Purpose
- Aristotle on Life — The Big Picture
- Aristotle — The Highest Good
- Aristotle — The Happy Life
- Job's Predicament — Life Is So Unfair
- Job's Challenge — Who Are We?
- Stoicism — Rationality and Acceptance
- Human Finitude — The Epicurean Synthesis
- Confucius — Order in the Cosmos and in Life
- Daodejing — The Dao of Life and Spontaneity
- Daodejing — The Best Life Is a Simple Life
- Daodejing — Subtlety and Paradox
- Zhuangzi on Daoism — Impermanence and Harmony
- The Teachings of the Buddha
- Santideva — Mahayana Buddhism
- Santideva — Transforming the Mind
- Zen — The Moon in a Dewdrop and Impermanence
- Zen — Being-Time and Primordial Awakening
- Taking Stock of the Classical World
- Hume's Skepticism and the Place of God
- Hume's Careless and Compassionate Vision
- Kant — Immaturity and the Challenge to Know
- Mill's Call to Individuality and to Liberty
- Tolstoy — Is Everyday Life the Real Thing?
- Nietzsche — Twilight of the Idols
- Nietzsche — Achieving Authenticity
- Gandhi — Satyagraha and Holding Fast to Truth
- Gandhi — The Call to a Supernormal Life
- Lame Deer — Life Enfolded in Symbols
- Lame Deer — Our Place in a Symbolic World
- HH Dalai Lama XIV — A Modern Buddhist View
- HH Dalai Lama XIV — Discernment and Happiness
- 36. So, What Is the Meaning of Life?
America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era [TTC Video]
20 July 2015, 14:57
Course No 8535 | .M4V, AVC, 2000 kbps, 640x360 | English, AAC, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 10.86 GB
America stands at a dramatic crossroads:
- Massive banks and corporations wield disturbing power.
- The huge income gap between the 1% and the other 99% grows visibly wider.
- Astounding new technologies are changing American lives.
- Conflicts over U.S. military interventionism, the environment, and immigration dominate public debate.
Sound familiar? You might be surprised to know that these headlines were ripped, not from today’s newspaper, but from newspapers over 100 years ago. These and other issues that characterize the early 21st century were also the hallmarks of the transformative periods known as the Gilded Age (1865-1900) and the Progressive Era (1900-1920).
Welcome to one of the most colorful, tumultuous, raucous, and profoundly pivotal epochs in American history. Stretching from the end of the Civil War in 1865 to roughly 1920, this extraordinary time was not only an era of vast and sweeping change—it saw the birth of the United States as we and the world at large now know it.
Before the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, America was a developing nation, with a largely agrarian economy; sharp divisions between North, South, and West; and virtually no role in global affairs. Yet by 1900, within an astonishing 35 years, the U.S. had emerged as the world’s greatest industrial power.
During the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, the U.S. went from “leading by example” and maintaining an isolationist foreign policy to become a major participant in international events, showing itself as a nascent superpower in the Spanish-American War and World War I.
Numerous other events came together during these same periods to create the U.S. that we know now. In a time rife with staggering excess, social unrest, and strident calls for reform, these remarkable events characterized the Gilded Age and Progressive Era:
- Industrialization directly gave rise to a huge American middle class.
- New and voluminous waves of immigration added new material to the “melting pot” of U.S. society.
- A mainly agrarian population became an urban one, witnessing the rise of huge cities.
- The phenomenon of big business led to the formation of labor unions and the adoption of consumer protections.
- Electricity, cars, and other technologies forever changed the landscape of American life.
To delve into the catalytic events of these times is to see, with crystal clarity, how the U.S. went from what we now might consider Third World status in the mid-19th century to become the major power it is today. Knowledge of these pivotal eras also provides insightful perspectives on conflicts that dominate our contemporary headlines—from fears surrounding immigration and income inequality to concern for the fate of the environment—and how they were meaningfully addressed in past times.
Now, in the 24 lectures of America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Professor Edward T. O’Donnell of the College of the Holy Cross leads you in a sprawling, multifaceted journey through this uproarious epoch. In taking the measure of six dramatically innovative decades, you’ll investigate the economic, political, and social upheavals that marked these years, as well as the details of daily life and the critical cultural thinking of the times. In the process, you’ll meet robber barons, industrialists, socialites, crusading reformers, inventors, conservationists, women’s suffragists, civil rights activists, and passionate progressives, who together forged a new United States. These engrossing lectures provide a stunning and illuminating portrait of a nation-changing era.
A Republic Transforms
In Professor O’Donnell’s description, “The Gilded Age’s amazing innovation and wealth created the conditions—and mobilized the masses—for the Progressive Era’s social reforms.” Across the span of the lectures, you’ll witness this historical progression through subject matter such as:
- The Industrial Age and the Rise of Big Business: Follow America’s epic industrial ascent in the 19th century, the emergence of vast corporations and trusts, the making of industrial magnates such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, and the transformation of the nation into a consumer society.
- Revolutionary Technologies and Social Culture: Grasp how steel, electrical power, mass transportation, and recorded sound radically changed American life. Learn about the conspicuous excesses of the new super rich, the lifestyles of the exploding middle class, and the phenomena of American music, spectator sports, and stage entertainment.
- The Dark Side of Progress: Take account of the devastating social problems that followed advances in industry and technology: extreme income inequality and poverty, graft and political corruption, severe exploitation of industrial workers, rampant labor violence, and the ills of urban crime, squalor, and disease.
- The Crusade for Rights: Observe how the clash of progress and poverty spurred far-reaching efforts to secure legal rights for the disenfranchised. Study historic activism for workers’ rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, and the rights of consumers, and uncover the early and often overlooked struggle for African–Americans’ civil rights.
- The New American Woman: Track significant changes in the lives of American women, such as major increases in women in the workforce, new public roles for women, the dynamic presence of women in reform initiatives, and the remarkable story of the women’s suffrage movement.
The Many Faces of Reform: Study the astonishing spectrum of reform movements that defined the Progressive Era, encompassing:
- the dramatic unfolding of labor organizing, labor/capital conflict, and reform;
- urban reforms, from regulation of deplorable tenements to sanitation and social work;
- historic political reforms, from the ballot initiative to the civil service system;
- the “busting” of powerful trusts and banking conglomerates; and
- the conservation of wilderness and the world’s first national parks.
A Fascinating Window on Momentous Times
In his teaching, Professor O’Donnell demonstrates an extraordinarily comprehensive and penetrating knowledge of the eras in question, together with a flair for bringing the human realities of the times alive through powerful storytelling. Among numerous impactful episodes, you’ll witness the monumental moment in 1880 when electric arc lighting first lit American streets, causing men to fall on their knees before what seemed to be “lightning brought down from the heavens.” You’ll relive the events of the heartrending Bread and Roses strike of 1912, the wealth-flaunting gaudiness of Mrs. Vanderbilt’s ball of 1883 (which cost six million dollars in today’s currency), and the storm of suffragist picketers who besieged the White House in 1917.
And you’ll encounter great personalities, whose vision and dynamism symbolized and transformed the temper of their times. In addition to luminaries such as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, you’ll meet the likes of saloon-busting reformer Carrie Nation, African-American rights activist Ida B. Wells, muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens, suffragist leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton, environmentalist John Muir, and Theodore Roosevelt, whose accomplishments in conservation and economic regulation made him one of the greatest reformers of the times.
In America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, you’ll contemplate profound shifts in American society that marked what is arguably the most significant period of change in our history. These compelling lectures vividly reveal the thinking, the struggles, the conquests, and the triumphs that made the United States the global force it is today.
- 1865: "Bind Up the Nation's Wounds"
- The Reconstruction Revolution
- Buffalo Bill Cody and the Myth of the West
- Smokestack Nation: The Industrial Titans
- Andrew Carnegie: The Self-Made Ideal
- Big Business: Democracy for Sale?
- The New Immigrants: A New America
- Big Cities: The Underbelly Revealed
- Popular Culture: Jazz, Modern Art, Movies
- New Technology: Cars, Electricity, Records
- The 1892 Homestead Strike
- Morals and Manners: Middle-Class Society
- Mrs. Vanderbilt's Gala Ball
- Populist Revolt: The Grangers and Coxey
- Rough Riders and the Imperial Dream
- No More Corsets: The New Woman
- Trust-Busting in the Progressive Era
- The 1911 Triangle Fire and Reform
- Theodore Roosevelt, Conservationist
- Urban Reform: How the Other Half Lives
- The 17th Amendment: Democracy Restored
- Early Civil Rights: Washington or Du Bois?
- Over There: A World Safe for Democracy
- Upheaval and the End of an Era