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For more than 1,500 years, the literature of Great Britain has taught, nurtured, thrilled, outraged, and humbled readers both inside and outside its borders. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Swift, Conrad, Wilde - the roster of powerful British writers is remarkable. More important, Britain's writers have long challenged readers with new ways of understanding an ever- For more than 1,500 years, the literature of Great Britain has taught, nurtured, thrilled, outraged, and humbled readers both inside and outside its borders. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Swift, Conrad, Wilde - the roster of powerful British writers is remarkable. More important, Britain's writers have long challenged readers with new ways of understanding an ever-changing world. This series of 48 fascinating lectures by an award-winning professor provides you with a rare opportunity to step beyond the surface of Britain's grand literary masterpieces and experience the times and conditions they came from and the diverse issues with which their writers grappled. The unique insights Professor Sutherland shares about how and why these works succeed as both literature and documents of Britain's social and political history can forever alter the way you experience a novel, poem, or play. More than just a survey, these lectures reveal how Britain's cultural landscape acted upon its literature and how, in turn, literature affected the cultural landscape. Professor Sutherland takes a historical approach to the wealth of works explored in these lectures, grounding them in specific contexts and often connecting them with one another. All the great writers that come to mind when you think of British literature are here, along with unique looks at their most popular and powerful works. You also enjoy the company of less-familiar voices and contemporary authors who continue to take literature into new territories.


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For more than 1,500 years, the literature of Great Britain has taught, nurtured, thrilled, outraged, and humbled readers both inside and outside its borders. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Swift, Conrad, Wilde - the roster of powerful British writers is remarkable. More important, Britain's writers have long challenged readers with new ways of understanding an ever- For more than 1,500 years, the literature of Great Britain has taught, nurtured, thrilled, outraged, and humbled readers both inside and outside its borders. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Swift, Conrad, Wilde - the roster of powerful British writers is remarkable. More important, Britain's writers have long challenged readers with new ways of understanding an ever-changing world. This series of 48 fascinating lectures by an award-winning professor provides you with a rare opportunity to step beyond the surface of Britain's grand literary masterpieces and experience the times and conditions they came from and the diverse issues with which their writers grappled. The unique insights Professor Sutherland shares about how and why these works succeed as both literature and documents of Britain's social and political history can forever alter the way you experience a novel, poem, or play. More than just a survey, these lectures reveal how Britain's cultural landscape acted upon its literature and how, in turn, literature affected the cultural landscape. Professor Sutherland takes a historical approach to the wealth of works explored in these lectures, grounding them in specific contexts and often connecting them with one another. All the great writers that come to mind when you think of British literature are here, along with unique looks at their most popular and powerful works. You also enjoy the company of less-familiar voices and contemporary authors who continue to take literature into new territories.

57 review for Classics of British Literature

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hope

    Political correctness has made the study of classic literature a scary proposition. Now that all white male authors are taboo, what exactly are we supposed to read? Knowing the propensity of modern scholasticism to disparage traditional classics, I went into this series with some trepidation, but, happily, my fears were relieved. Professor John Sutherland covers 600 years of British literature in witty, bite-sized chunks and he isn't afraid to give each author his due. It's true that he occasiona Political correctness has made the study of classic literature a scary proposition. Now that all white male authors are taboo, what exactly are we supposed to read? Knowing the propensity of modern scholasticism to disparage traditional classics, I went into this series with some trepidation, but, happily, my fears were relieved. Professor John Sutherland covers 600 years of British literature in witty, bite-sized chunks and he isn't afraid to give each author his due. It's true that he occasionally gives a nod to political correctness, but for the most part I found him to be even-handed. He doesn't ignore the Bible's impact on literature. Nor does he try to portray Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë as ardent feminists. He describes sexual tawdriness in books (and in the lives of their authors) without a hint of crudeness, which is no easy feat. These 48 lectures give a lovely overview of many wonderful classics.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    Part 1: One of the more intriguing issues in dealing with this particular course is the way that the author refers to his course as a look at classics in English literature but the course itself is advertised as being about British literature.  To be sure, there is a great deal of overlap between the two areas, but they are not identical.  The classics discussed here are profound and certainly worthy of serious reading [1], but they are English classics first and foremost and not necessarily Brit Part 1: One of the more intriguing issues in dealing with this particular course is the way that the author refers to his course as a look at classics in English literature but the course itself is advertised as being about British literature.  To be sure, there is a great deal of overlap between the two areas, but they are not identical.  The classics discussed here are profound and certainly worthy of serious reading [1], but they are English classics first and foremost and not necessarily British classics.  It would have been honest, for example, for the course to be given a title that reflected the focus on English literature, or for the professor who taught the course to have spent some time including worthwhile literature from outside of England, in Welsh, Scots English or Gaelic, Irish, Cornish, or Manx, or for the instructor to have discussed the Norman French writing of the late Middle Ages as being part of British literature, or for the inclusion of colonial literature in this discussion.  Unfortunately this did not happen, and so the person who listens to this course will have to settle for English literature that pretends it is the best in British literature as a whole. In terms of its contents, the professor covers the first twelve of the total of 48 lectures on the subject contained in this particularly expansive Great Courses collection.  Each lecture, as is customary, is thirty minutes long.  The course begins with the pessimism and themes of comradeship that one finds in early Anglo-Saxon poetry and the style of poetry that this literature bequeathed to later writers in English.  After that the instructor spends two lectures looking at Chaucer's writing as evidence both of social mobility as well as the author's own immense cultural sophistication.  After this the professor spends a lecture talking about Spencer's Faerie Queen and the importance of various modes of sophisticated writing like allegory, irony, and symbolism.  From this the discussion moves to a look at early English drama and the importance of guilds and the tension between drama and morality that has always characterized the English-speaking world.  This focus on drama is continued in a lecture on Marlowe that emphasizes his personal and literary daring, two lectures on Shakespeare that discuss his early writings and mature dramas, and a lecture on Shakespeare's later rivals like Jonson and Webster and the darkness and wit that they and others brought to Jacobean theater.  After this the instructor spends a lecture talking about the beauty of Tyndale's prose and how it strongly influenced the King James Bible and also the complexities of the metaphysical poets like John Donne. In looking at this part of the course, I must admit that my own feelings are pretty deeply mixed.  On the positive side, the instructor and I have a similar taste in what makes literature great, having a love both for familiar choices like Chaucer and Shakespeare but also more obscure poets and playwrights as well as William Tyndale.  Clearly, then, there are a lot of similarities in what we enjoy and appreciate about the spoken and written and performed language.  That said, the professor seems to share a common contemporary unseemly interest in matters of prurient sexuality, speculating on Marlowe and Shakespeare and others concerning their own interest in sex, and spending a great deal of time reveling in John Donne's early love poetry being written about someone who was not Mrs. Donne.  This sort of salacious gossiping about texts may encourage people to read for the wrong reasons, but it certainly does not sit easily with the moral importance of literature, something that the professor admits is important and also controversial but an area where he markedly fails here.  Likewise, the instructor's moral biases make his discussion of political matters slanted as well, especially when one considers his intense hostility towards Puritan morality. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2012... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017... Part 2: I must admit that I found this particular part of the course to be somewhat disappointing.  To be sure, not all eras of British literature, nor all tastes on the part of instructors, are to everyone's liking, but I must admit that I am more susceptible than most people are to a concern about politics and its role on literature.  And sadly, this part of the course is heavily involved with questions of politics on a large scale, relating to questions of religion, race, and gender and their relationship with literature.  Given the general criticism I have for this relationship between politics and literature [1], it is totally unsurprising, I suppose, that this part of the course would be far less enjoyable than the previous one was, where I at least had a great deal of fondness for the people that the professor viewed as important writers even if I found much wanting about the author's approach.  Here I did not even have the consolation of enjoying most of the people that the author was talking about, nor considering them genuinely major voices in British literature. This part of the course begins with a discussion by the author that turmoil makes for good literature, by which the author means the time of the English Civil Wars and their aftermath.  While it may be true that turmoil makes for good literature, it also makes for the sort of salacious drama that the author appears to appreciate even more, regardless of whether he appreciates Puritan writers or their rakish Restoration rivals.  After this the author looks at Augustan poets like John Donne (but strangely not Cowper), reveling in the sexuality as well as the wit of their poetic works.  After that the professor looks at Swift's anger and insanity, the wit of his works, and the Irish question.  Then a look at Samuel Johnson's dictionary and other writings provides a chance for the author to praise order as well as the entrepreneurial spirit of authors making it without depending on aristocratic patrons.  The writing of Daniel Defoe provides the professor to pontificate on the perspective of imperialism as well as the development of the novel and the way that many early novelists were journalists.  A lecture on Behn allows the author to look at the question of women in writing, as do a few "minor" female poets including Elizabeth I of England (!).  A discussion of the "golden" age of fiction allows the professor to look at the approach different people had to the novel concerning realism and morality.  Other lectures look at Wollstonecraft (more feminism), Blake (romantic poetry with a high view of the Devil as a force for creation and advancement), Equiano (a chance for the instructor to lecture about the evils of slavery), and Gibbon (a look at the rhetorical power of Gibbon's atheistical writings). Again, this is a course that is likely to disappoint those who value literature but are sensitive to the worldview of the people who create it.  Much of the literature discussed here has not aged well except when it comes to serving as grist for the mill of those who would engage in the celebration of various purported subaltern groups.  It is pretty clear in looking at this section of the course that it is not the greatness of literature, of which at least some of it can be seen, but rather the political importance of literature that is of most importance to the instructor.  This is, lamentably, a problem with a great deal of instruction in writings.  Of course, what is vital and important literature depends a great deal on where one stands.  Given my own perspective, a lot of these works just seem like special pleading being given praise simply for being passionate appeals for justice for some sort of group that felt that they were not getting a fair shake, not something worth appreciating for the quality of its writing.  As someone who does not tend to value literature for who says it but rather for what it says, this age is definitely one whose value fails to meet a genuinely literary standard of excellence, whatever may be appreciated about its diversity. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... Part 3: By this point in a course, the third part of four, one ought to have some idea of what one is getting, and this is certainly the case here.  The author shows his fondness for British literature of a kind that can be widely appreciated by students and which in some cases I am immensely fond of personally [1].  And as is often the case with this course, the selections and, perhaps even more importantly, the justifications for those choices are a mixed bag.  Some of these are inspired choices and some seem to have been made simply in order to celebrate drama.  And as someone who doesn't like to think of the importance of personal drama in the choice of great literature, as fond as I may be of drama in my own life and in my own reading, I find myself at odds with this instructor on a frequent basis.  A huge part of that is our difference in approach--I happen to be a moralist, and that is the last thing this author wants to be or wants to celebrate.  The result is that even when we like the same writers and the same works, we judge them by different standards. In terms of its contents, this course is twelve lectures over six hours of instruction.  The instructor begins with a look at Sir Walter Scott, who was first famed for his Scottish balladry but is now known mainly for his contributions to historical fiction.  The instructor then turns to Wordsworth and Coleridge and their successful (if somewhat brief) collaboration as the author of lyrical ballads.  A lecture on Lord Byron follows, where the author seems to revel in Byron's immorality, and then the instructor talks about poetry again with a look at the beauty of Keats' poetry and the sadness of his short and troubled life.  A look at Frankenstein allows the author to praise the philosophy of Goodwin and Wollstonecraft, after which the instructor spends a lecture contrasting Jane Austen with Mrs. Radcliffe as novelist and then another lecture talking about Pride & Prejudice, not that I mind so much time being devoted to Jane Austen's novels.  After a lecture on Dickens, the author looks at the rise of realistic fiction in the writing of Thackeray and others.  Two lectures on the Brontë sisters follow where first Wuthering Heights and then Jane Eyre are celebrated before the instructor finishes this part of the lecture by looking at a trio of Victorian poets like Alfred Lord Tennyson and Gerald Manly Hopkins whose writings bridge the period between the Victorian era and the modern era. Again, if you like Victorian novels and 19th century poetry you will find much to appreciate here.  For someone like me, this part is a mixed bag, as it contains a celebration of books I myself feel little connection to apart from my interest in the poetry of the early 19th century and the writings of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.  Those whose tastes are more into lengthy and sometimes tedious early to mid Victorian literature will find much more of pleasure than I am, as well as those who like gothic fiction, which I must admit I am not fond of.  At times it feels as if the author is more interested in seeing the drama of a life and how it makes for "great" literature than he is interested in that great literature itself, and he appears particularly interested in the turns of fate that make some writing greater among future generations and make some well-regarded literature entirely obscure to those of later ages.  Admittedly, these turns of fate are interesting to me, but for the most part I feel that unless an author lived a worthy life, that I would much rather know as little as possible about their personal lives, as that tends to mainly reduce my interest in what they did. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013... Part 4: One gets the clearest sense of an author's bias and agendas when one looks at "classic" literature from the period most closely to the contemporary.  At least when one looks at the distant past there is some idea of what literature has stood the test of time.  What is tried and true has already been tried and found true, and whatever one's interpretation of those classics and one's view of those classics, one at least is bound to study them to keep up with generations of references and allusions and popularity.  It is when one is looking at recent works that have not yet had the time to prove themselves that one's bias shows itself most obviously, and this book is no exception to that rule.  Although I am at least somewhat familiar with many of the works discussed here [1], at least by reputation.  That is not to say that I liked the author's choices or thought he captured what made literature great.  There is no Chesterton here, no C.S. Lewis, no Tolkein.  Instead we have Noel Coward, Tom Stoppard, Salmon Rushdie, a bunch of snobs from the Bloomsbury Group, and so on.  This is not an impressive end to a course on British literature, sadly. The course begins with a look at one of the most overrated Victorian writers, George Eliot, whose novel Middlemarch the author cannot celebrate enough.  After that the author looks at Thomas Hardy as a novelist, viewing his loss of faith due to a belief in a poor scientific theory sympathetically.  Later Hardy is viewed as a "traditionalist" poet, which expresses at least some of the trouble the professor faces in defending his view of classic literature.  A look at the British bestseller allows the author the chance to celebrate midbrow writers like H.G. Wells for his science fiction and the novels of Arthur Conan Doyle, which are considered classics nowadays by many readers.  A look at Conrad's Heart Of Darkness (which the professor, strangely, returns to in a later lecture) gives him the chance to bloviate about imperialism, something he does often in this section, irritatingly.  At this point the instructor spends a couple of lectures on plays, looking first Oscar Wilde as a celebrity whose literature was only part of his lasting appeal and then at Shaw and the greatness of Pygmalion.  After this there is a look at the poetry of Yeats and the writing of Joyce, which gives the author more opportunity to talk about the Irish question.  A lecture on the "great" poetry of the Great War gives the instructor a chance to talk about the sexuality of Britain's overrated poets of that era, after which he drones on about the writings of the Bloomsbury circle, including the overrated economics of John Maynard Keynes, where there is more discussion about leftist politics and sexuality.  After this point the instructor races to the finish with a look at two schools of poetry represented by Hardy and T.S. Eliot going to people like Ezra Pound and Auden, and Seamus Heaney, a brief look at the 20th century literary novel, most of which are largely unknown to me, and then a closing look at the overrated theater of the absurd as well as the plays of T.S. Eliot and Noel Coward. This is a course, sadly, that staggers to the finish rather than finishes with glory.  Part of the reason is that you will not appreciate the author's choices for classic literature in the 20th century if you do not share a great deal of the political and moral worldview of the instructor, and that for me is a big red flag.  Often in this part of the course in particular it appears as if the author wants to place some people in the literary canon without them necessarily deserving to be there because their politics are leftist and anti-imperialist and because they are hostile to even middle-class sensibilities, much less biblical morality.  All of this does not make for great literature.  Literature, even when not being judged on moral grounds, is not great merely because it is antagonistic to settled standards of behavior, but because it manages to rise above the muck of the time period and say something of lasting value to the world.  Unfortunately, most of the literature shared here has little lasting to say, and certainly little that is edifying or worthwhile to look back on with anything other than anger or disgust. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    When I think of lectures, I picture sitting in a large room with spiral notebook and pen in hand and that question uppermost on the minds of students: “Will this be on the test?” So, although I actually enjoyed lectures in college, I wasn’t inclined use my precious audiobook time to listen to them. I tend to do better listening to stories while I do something else with my hands. If I am reading for instruction, I need to have pencils and sticky tabs to mark important places, and I need to be able When I think of lectures, I picture sitting in a large room with spiral notebook and pen in hand and that question uppermost on the minds of students: “Will this be on the test?” So, although I actually enjoyed lectures in college, I wasn’t inclined use my precious audiobook time to listen to them. I tend to do better listening to stories while I do something else with my hands. If I am reading for instruction, I need to have pencils and sticky tabs to mark important places, and I need to be able to flip back a few pages to get a better grasp on a concept. But when a friend reviewed the Great Courses lectures on Classics of British Literature, I decided to get the series (which only cost one Audible credit). I was not exposed to many classics in my education, so I have made a deliberate point to read them as an adult. While I have enjoyed working through many of the obvious classics, I figured this series would bring more to my attention as well as enhancing my enjoyment of the ones I already knew. John Sutherland is the lecturer, revealing a wide range of knowledge not only about British classics and authors, but the prevailing influences and philosophies of the times. There are 48 lectures in the series, each lasting from 30-45 minutes. They begin with Beowulf and Chaucer, traveling over the years to Salman Rushdie, covering plays, poetry, and novels. Some lectures cover a person (some, like Shakespeare and Jane Austen, merit two lectures); some cover an segment of time (“The 1840s—Growth of the Realistic Novel”); some cover a group (“The Metaphysicals—Conceptual Daring,” “The Augustans—Order, Decorum, and Wit”). Some of the lectures cover one particular work (“The King James Bible,” “Frankenstein—A Gothic Masterpiece”). Others explore a particular genre (“Lyrical Ballads—Collaborative Creation,” “Voices of Victorian Poetry”). Sutherland covers varying philosophies with the qualifier that we don’t have to agree with them, but understanding them helps us better understand the works in a particular time frame. He discusses some bawdy material with a fair amount of discretion, but I do wonder at the selection of those choices to share: however, I guess some of those are a part of the progression of literary history. Likewise, the tawdry content of some authors lives are shared for explanation, not titillation. When covering several hundred years of literature, one can’t go into everything in depth. However, I was sad that Robert Burns, one of my favorites, received only 10-15 minutes, and his only work quoted was “Auld Lang Syne.” Oddly missing are C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien and their works (although mention is made that Tolkien was a Beowulf scholar). However, Sutherland did cover an immense swath of ground in this series. Time and again he brought out what was going on in history, how that influenced literature, and how literature in turn influenced life. This series might be better titled the History and Development of British Literature. Thankfully a PDF copy of Sutherland’s notes is available for further perusal. It would be impossible to share even a fraction of the information gained from these lectures here, but here are a few points of interest and quotes that stood out to me. *The first literature was oral and communal rather than written and solitary. (I wonder what people who don’t think listening to audiobooks is “real” reading would say about that. 🙂 ) *“Great literature is timeless. That is one of the main connotations of the word classic.” (Introduction) *Churches were “the nation’s chroniclers” until the 11th century. *“Literature is a time machine. It can take us back and connect us with people who are no longer here. It is, in the best sense, a conversation with the dead. In fact, this is the reason we read and study literature and the reason that it lives for us. This living quality of literature—the fact that it is still animated over centuries—makes it worth our time and effort and makes a historical approach to literature valuable” (from Lecture 1: “Anglo-Saxon Roots: Pessimism and Comradeship”) *“Literature has many functions in society. That’s one of the things that makes it so interesting to read and to study and to reread. Literature, good and bad, can instruct; it can entertain; it can educate. In some circumstances, literature can even corrupt us. Given literature’s dramatic power to influence readers, it perhaps isn’t surprising that exactly which works of literature are corrupting has been much disputed throughout the centuries.” (Lecture 4: “Spenser: The Faerie Queen”) *“If literature can corrupt, it can also civilize or at least contribute to the civilizing process by articulating the elements that hold a society together. Literature defines the core values on which a civilization is founded.” (Lecture 4: “Spenser: The Faerie Queen”) *Literature expresses or embodies the noblest aspirations, the finest articulations, of idealism which a culture or society has.” *I was astonished that Robinson Crusoe was seen not as a classic prodigal son story, but “an allegory of English colonialism in the 18th and 19th centuries” and an example of capitalism. (Lecture 17: “Defoe–Crusoe and the Rise of Capitalism) *Sutherland demonstrates a broad understanding of Christianity expressed in literature, but I felt he missed the boat on the last sentence here (unless the philosophy is of the people he is quoting, in which case the misunderstanding is theirs): “It’s interesting to note that many thinkers, such as Marx, Max Weber, and R. H. Tawney, have argued that the rise of capitalism is intimately connected with Protestantism and Puritanism. Just as capitalism stresses the individual acquisition of wealth, so do Protestantism and Puritanism stress the individual’s private, personal relationship with, and responsibilities to, God. The individual has credit with his maker and must earn his salvation.” (Lecture 17: “Defoe–Crusoe and the Rise of Capitalism) Neither Puritanism nor Protestantism teach that we have any credit with God or that we can earn our salvation. *I wondered at the statement “The novel would not exist in the form that we have it if it were not for women readers, because the novel is a domestic form” (Lecture 18: “Behn–Emancipation in the Restoration”). Weren’t other types of books read in homes before novels were invented? Or perhaps women generally weren’t as interested in reading until the novel came along? *In William Blake’s “The Lamb” and “The Tyger,” Sutherland brings out the innocence of the lamb and its symbolism. He says, “The answer Blake hints at is that without the destructive tiger—without crucifixion, to allegorize it in Christian terms—the innocence of the lamb would be nothing. It would be literally bloodless. And it is the blood of the lamb, not the innocence of the lamb, that the Christian William Blake believes will save us” (Lecture 24: Blake–Mythic Universes and Poetry). But Christians believe that the Lamb’s – Jesus’ – innocence is vital as well. If He were just any other human, He could not have saved us. And part of salvation is not just forgiveness, but that His righteousness goes on our account: He fulfilled all of God’s law in our place. *Sutherland considers Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen the “greater than great,” the “giants” of English literature. *In discussing 20th century poetry, Sutherland pointed out that no one could support himself by writing poetry as a main profession any more. One reason, he felt, was that the energy and creativity that in an earlier era would have gone to lyric poetry now went to popular music. *“The story of [British] literature is a constant series of beginnings or breaks—sometimes violent breaks—with tradition, or revolutions and new starts. … Literature advances … by rejection, contradiction, and radical innovation.” (Lecture 48: New Theatre, New Literary Worlds) I definitely learned a lot! Overall, I really enjoyed the series and may explore other Great Courses now.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    A really great overview of the history of British Literature. If you want a deeper look into specific authors or books, this may not be the right one for you. If you could care less about Brit lit, it also isn't for you. If you love Brit Lit and want a taste of all the different parts of Brit lit, a little about the stories and the authors, from Beowulf to more modern theatre, then this is for you. I loved it. Its a series of lectures in the Great Courses series and its feels just like you are a A really great overview of the history of British Literature. If you want a deeper look into specific authors or books, this may not be the right one for you. If you could care less about Brit lit, it also isn't for you. If you love Brit Lit and want a taste of all the different parts of Brit lit, a little about the stories and the authors, from Beowulf to more modern theatre, then this is for you. I loved it. Its a series of lectures in the Great Courses series and its feels just like you are at an actual lecture. Sutherland is really just talking and spewing information. No major edits or pauses, just him talking for a half hour straight about a topic. He stutters, he laughs at himself, he tries out accents. I loved it. All the sections about drama and theatre were like flash backs to my theatre history days in college and it was fun to realize that I hadn't forgotten everything! I also loved the middle lectures about my favorite novelists. Austen, Dickens, Bronte, Elliot, etc. I would have preferred more lectures of this sort and less about the poetry and poets of British literature, but I still enjoyed it!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    I gave this four stars because there was a LOT of material here and it was generally handled in a competent and interesting manner, but the professor made several errors that really made me cringe. Maybe it was because he was outside of his field of specialization or because it was getting on in the course - the ones I caught, at least, were all in the last quarter - but he got quite a few things wrong about the Brontë sisters (claiming that Emily had worked as a private governess when she was t I gave this four stars because there was a LOT of material here and it was generally handled in a competent and interesting manner, but the professor made several errors that really made me cringe. Maybe it was because he was outside of his field of specialization or because it was getting on in the course - the ones I caught, at least, were all in the last quarter - but he got quite a few things wrong about the Brontë sisters (claiming that Emily had worked as a private governess when she was the only sister who never did - she taught in a school - and that Anne was sent to the Cowan Bridge school along with the other girls are just a couple). One of the big ones, to me, at least, was his attributing the same witticism (about America and Britain being separated by a common language) to both Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw in subsequent lectures. I'm not sure which one said it, but Wilde said much funnier things and I'm sure Shaw did as well.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael P.

    A thoroughly enjoyable series of lectures that is utterly superficial.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kurt Douglass

    One of my English professors once said that a literature survey course is like riding a motorcycle through an art museum. That analogy is very apropos for this lecture series, because Sutherland often speeds through historical periods and literary movements, and you only get a glimpse of the writers and their works. On the ride, he points out the expected literary greats - Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, Austin, the Brontes, and Dickens (to name a few); but he also highlights lesser known w One of my English professors once said that a literature survey course is like riding a motorcycle through an art museum. That analogy is very apropos for this lecture series, because Sutherland often speeds through historical periods and literary movements, and you only get a glimpse of the writers and their works. On the ride, he points out the expected literary greats - Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, Austin, the Brontes, and Dickens (to name a few); but he also highlights lesser known writers, some of whom I've never heard of before (like Behn and Equiano). I really liked that he devoted several lectures to Shakespeare's contemporaries and rivals (Marlowe, Jonson, and Webster) because they are usually so ignored that it seems the Bard was the only playwright in England at the time. One of the most thought-provoking lectures was on the King James Bible, where he posits that William Tyndale was the real creative genius behind the work and so should be recognized as one of the greatest and most influential British writers. I have never heard this theory before, and if Sutherland is right, then I agree that Tyndale deserves top ranking. Naturally there were a few bumps along the way, in the form of historical or textual inaccuracies, or his bias towards or against certain authors. But he is as engaging as he is informative, and I think he fulfills one of the main purposes of a survey course, which is to inspire the students to learn more. Or, to go back to my analogy, to get off the motorcycle and really study the works of art in the museum.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    excellent summaries of so many excellent writers ... i did get a bit weary toward the end based on his (possibly unconscious) elitism -- england over america ... well at least he was more respectful with the scotish and irish literature/writers that he covered. by and large the presenter is balanced, fair, and certainly informative with just a few moments in his presentations where a certain anglo-bias would slip through. perhaps the british propensity toward competitiveness is subtly working, u excellent summaries of so many excellent writers ... i did get a bit weary toward the end based on his (possibly unconscious) elitism -- england over america ... well at least he was more respectful with the scotish and irish literature/writers that he covered. by and large the presenter is balanced, fair, and certainly informative with just a few moments in his presentations where a certain anglo-bias would slip through. perhaps the british propensity toward competitiveness is subtly working, unawares, within his point of view. just a guess on my part. nonetheless, the series is well worth the time especially if you have a deep of love of literature, which i do.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    It seems an impossible task to cover all of British literature in a meaningful way in less than 24 hours of lecture content. Considering that many British authors merit hundreds of lecture hours on their own, the hill is a steep climb to make this survey valuable. I really enjoyed listening to Dr. Sutherland. His introduction to this literary world (a re-introduction for most portions, but some names and works were new to me) helped to remind me of my passion for these works, and has inspired me It seems an impossible task to cover all of British literature in a meaningful way in less than 24 hours of lecture content. Considering that many British authors merit hundreds of lecture hours on their own, the hill is a steep climb to make this survey valuable. I really enjoyed listening to Dr. Sutherland. His introduction to this literary world (a re-introduction for most portions, but some names and works were new to me) helped to remind me of my passion for these works, and has inspired me to re-read several titles. While not perfect, still a very valuable lecture series.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    I can't express how much I loved this Great Courses series of lectures. John Sutherland was absolute perfection. He covered everything from Beowulf and Chaucer through Shakespeare and Austen and Dickens, with dozens of lesser-known authors in between. I listened to this while making a 14-hour drive to my grandpa's funeral alone, and this book kept me awake the entire time. And that's saying something! Well worth the time. It gave me a much deeper appreciation of British Literature and directed m I can't express how much I loved this Great Courses series of lectures. John Sutherland was absolute perfection. He covered everything from Beowulf and Chaucer through Shakespeare and Austen and Dickens, with dozens of lesser-known authors in between. I listened to this while making a 14-hour drive to my grandpa's funeral alone, and this book kept me awake the entire time. And that's saying something! Well worth the time. It gave me a much deeper appreciation of British Literature and directed me to several works I wouldn't have touched otherwise.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Wraith Tate

    I only have one small nitpick. In the lecture on the Canterbury Tales, the professor refers to Zephyrus as the "god of wind." In fact, he is more correctly described as the god of the West Wind. The Keeper of the Winds (also sometimes referred to as the god of winds) is actually called Aeolus. Just sayin'. I only have one small nitpick. In the lecture on the Canterbury Tales, the professor refers to Zephyrus as the "god of wind." In fact, he is more correctly described as the god of the West Wind. The Keeper of the Winds (also sometimes referred to as the god of winds) is actually called Aeolus. Just sayin'.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Sutherland is one of the best audible narrator's in existence. The series brings to life the classics of British literature and educates one on how the social conditions of that time influenced these masterpieces' creation. Sutherland is one of the best audible narrator's in existence. The series brings to life the classics of British literature and educates one on how the social conditions of that time influenced these masterpieces' creation.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mary Pat

    Excellent high-level overview of 1500 years of English (and a little Irish and Scottish) literature. I learned about some authors I was unfamiliar with, and also about some works that I've put on my to-read list. I think it really helps one see how British literature has developed. Excellent high-level overview of 1500 years of English (and a little Irish and Scottish) literature. I learned about some authors I was unfamiliar with, and also about some works that I've put on my to-read list. I think it really helps one see how British literature has developed.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mati

    Definitely one you must have. It was very comprehensive and filled with useful information about the highlights of the British literature.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Faisal Bashir

    Amazing presentation. Tongue and cheek at times but mostly an informed presentation of British literary accomplishments. I love the enthusiasm of the lecturer in this series.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    DNF Very good introductory class, but I was looking for something a little more in depth.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Scott Lee

    Sutherland does a wonderful job of presenting the a version of the English canon. As he repeatedly points out, there is nowhere near enough time to cover everything worth covering, but he does touch on all the expected giants--Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Milton, Woolf, Eliot, Forster--and not a few that I, had I been asked, would have expected a set with this title to leave out and was pleasantly surprised to see included--Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells among others. Sutherland is Sutherland does a wonderful job of presenting the a version of the English canon. As he repeatedly points out, there is nowhere near enough time to cover everything worth covering, but he does touch on all the expected giants--Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Milton, Woolf, Eliot, Forster--and not a few that I, had I been asked, would have expected a set with this title to leave out and was pleasantly surprised to see included--Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells among others. Sutherland is clearly knowledgeable and clearly loves his subject. He also goes out of his way in an attempt to reverse the nature of a canon by making it inclusive rather than exclusive. He doesn't succeed--it wouldn't be a canon if it wasn't mostly about excluding the "right" things--but the attempt was appreciated. I only had a few quibbles with the good Dr.'s choices before reaching the twentieth century--leaving out Percy Shelley nearly entirely and then including several general lectures that only vaguely touch on whole groups that are simultaneously undercut as being relatively minor even while being presented--but it was the coverage of the twentieth century that made me draw back and give a fourth star rather than five. Any series of lectures on 20th Century English literature that totally ignores Dr. Tolkien, and so thoroughly ignores much of the writing the diaspora that are generally claimed by English literature can't possibly get five stars from me. Further, Yeats get's only a partial lecture? Really? (Joyce gets the other half. I don't like him as much, but I think there could be some solid quarrels with that as well.) Further the lecture leaves out much of anything contemporary, coming closest by discussing the relatively recently deceased Seamus Heaney in a shared lecture on all of twentieth century poetry at once. All in all this lecture series, even with its faults, is an excellent attempt at exactly what it set out to do: provide relatively brief, but informative and intellectually stimulating lectures on one version of the primary writers of the English literary tradition. I definitely recommend it if you like that kind of thing, even with its flaws. Besides what fun would a discussion of any canon be without some excuses to quarrel over who's selected?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    The scope of this course: This course could as properly be titled A History of British Literature, in that it is sequential and essentially historical”—historical, that is, in two senses. It follows the trajectory of literary achievement from earliest to latest times in a progressive line, and its basic presupposition is that literature cannot be (and should not be) examined outside the historical circumstances in which it came into being. Of course, great literature is timeless. That is one of t The scope of this course: This course could as properly be titled A History of British Literature, in that it is sequential and essentially historical”—historical, that is, in two senses. It follows the trajectory of literary achievement from earliest to latest times in a progressive line, and its basic presupposition is that literature cannot be (and should not be) examined outside the historical circumstances in which it came into being. Of course, great literature is timeless. That is one of the main connotations of the word classic. Shakespeare, for example, is “for all ages.” But it is vital, while appreciating that universal, transcendent, and classic quality of literature, to appreciate, as fully as one can, the conditions that gave birth to these works of literature, to reinsert them, that is, back into history. This is one of the principal aims of this “historical” course.

  19. 4 out of 5

    victoria_tonks

    A great overview of British classics - very interesting and informative, and easily accessible even for people like me, who love reading but have never really studied literature. Also, Professor Sutherland is gentle and very respectful, both towards the authors and classics he talks about, and towards his audience. His narration is different from that of actors, but still very good and engaging. He must be an excellent lecturer. Highly recommended.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lina

    Don't misunderstand me, it's a good enough book, if you want something on the topic, this one is probably as good as it gets. But oh my god, it was boring! I suspect I can't like books about books, and it's me, not the book that makes it so. However, the point of contention for me was that it placed Winter palace (Russia, revolution) in Moscow. Winter palace is in St. Petersburg and it was there since it was built. Don't misunderstand me, it's a good enough book, if you want something on the topic, this one is probably as good as it gets. But oh my god, it was boring! I suspect I can't like books about books, and it's me, not the book that makes it so. However, the point of contention for me was that it placed Winter palace (Russia, revolution) in Moscow. Winter palace is in St. Petersburg and it was there since it was built.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    I listened to the audio version of this book and I must say that I was very disappointed. The title of this series of lectures is Classics of British Literature however Sutherland seems to think that Britain is only England. He does not explain why his choice of works make them classics. His stumbling narration is very distracting. Very disappointing.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hank Pharis

    Sutherland is an outstanding lecturer. This course made me realize how much less I know about British literature than American literature which was good because I need to read more British literature.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Notes on my blog: http://grieftoreadingjourney.blogspot... Notes on my blog: http://grieftoreadingjourney.blogspot...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

    48 pretty darned awesome lectures covering British literature from Beowulf to Tom Stoppard... very comprehensive and the professor is very entertaining and likeable.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leona

  26. 4 out of 5

    Frank Hoffmann

  27. 4 out of 5

    C.L. Peache

  28. 5 out of 5

    Skip Slone

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mona Noory

  30. 4 out of 5

    -... .-. . .- - .... .

  31. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Morgan

  32. 5 out of 5

    Daria

  33. 4 out of 5

    Zachary

  34. 4 out of 5

    Irena

  35. 5 out of 5

    Rok

  36. 4 out of 5

    Zahid

  37. 5 out of 5

    Amy Gideon

  38. 4 out of 5

    D

  39. 4 out of 5

    Ishauna Cox

  40. 4 out of 5

    Demolitiondestroyer

  41. 4 out of 5

    Yinzadi

  42. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

  43. 5 out of 5

    Chris French

  44. 4 out of 5

    Luiz Fernando

  45. 5 out of 5

    Tgclibrarian

  46. 5 out of 5

    Darren

  47. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

  48. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

  49. 4 out of 5

    Steven

  50. 4 out of 5

    Christian

  51. 5 out of 5

    Tim Goebel

  52. 4 out of 5

    Paul Ewing

  53. 5 out of 5

    Kai Tinley

  54. 5 out of 5

    Wejdaan1

  55. 5 out of 5

    Slytheringirl

  56. 5 out of 5

    Patricic Chalepah

  57. 4 out of 5

    Larry

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