Five Stanford Courses Available as Free Podcasts on iTunes

Over the past six months, Stanford has released several podcasts of full-fledged courses on iTunes. This past week, the university released yet another -- The Geography of World Cultures. You can now download five courses in total, all for free.Below, you'll find links to each course, plus descriptions of what ground each course covers. Please note that some of these courses can be downloaded in full right now, while others are being released in weekly installments. If you subscribe, you'll receive all new installments when they come out.

For more podcasts from leading universities, please visit our University Podcast Collection.

1. The Historical Jesus

Who was the historical Jesus of Nazareth? What did he actually say and do, as contrasted with what early Christians (e.g., Paul and the Gospel writers) believed that he said and did? What did the man Jesus actually think of himself and of his mission, as contrasted with the messianic and even divine claims that the New Testament makes about him? In short, what are the differences -- and continuities -- between the Jesus who lived and died in history and the Christ who lives on in believers' faith?

Over the last four decades historical scholarship on Jesus and his times -- whether conducted by Jews, Christians, or non-believers -- has arrived at a strong consensus about what this undeniably historical figure (born ca. 4 BCE, died ca. 30 CE) said and did, and how e presented himself and his message to his Jewish audience. Often that historical evidence about Jesus does not easily dovetail with the traditional doctrines of Christianity. How then might one adjudicate those conflicting claims?

This is a course about history, not about faith or theology. It will examine the best available literary and historical evidence about Jesus and his times and will discuss methodologies for interpreting that evidence, in order to help participants make their own judgments and draw their own conclusions.

Thomas Sheehan, Professor of Religious Studies and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy

Thomas Sheehan joined Stanford's Religious Studies faculty in 1999 after teaching philosophy for 30 years in the United States and Italy. His interests embrace classical Greek and medieval philosophy, 20th-century German philosophy and its relation to religious questions, and Central American liberation movements. His many books and publications include: Becoming Heidegger (2006); Edmund Husserl: Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Encounter with Heidegger (1997); Karl Rahner: The Philosophical Foundations (1987); The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity (1986); and Heidegger, the Man and the Thinker (1981).

2. Modern Theoretical Physics: Quantum Entanglement (Video)

The old Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics associated with Niels Bohr is giving way to a more profound interpretation based on the idea of quantum entanglement. Entanglement not only replaces the obsolete notion of the collapse of the wave function but is also the basis for Bell’s famous theorem, the new paradigm of quantum computing, and finally the widely discussed “Many Worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics by Everett.

This course stands on its own, but also serves as a continuation of a year-long course looking at the basics of quantum mechanics, entanglement, Bell’s theorems, elements of quantum computing, quantum teleportation, and similar material.

Leonard Susskind, Felix Bloch Professor in Physics

Leonard Susskind received a PhD from Cornell University and has been a professor at Stanford since 1979. He has won both the Pregel Award from the New York Academy of Science and the J.J. Sakurai Prize in theoretical particle physics. His current research interests include the structure of hadrons, instantons, quark confinement, and quantum cosmology. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

3. Virgil's Aeneid: Anatomy of a Classic

The central text in the canon of Latin literature is Virgil’s Aeneid, an epic poem in twelve books composed more than two thousand years ago under the Roman emperor Augustus. The poem was an instant hit. It became a school text immediately and has remained central to studies of Roman culture to the present day. How can a poem created in such a remote literary and social environment speak so eloquently to subsequent ages? In this course we will discover what kind of poem this is and what kind of hero Aeneas is. Our studies will focus chiefly on the poem itself and on wider aspects of Roman culture. It will be essential to commit to reading the poem ahead of time, at a rate of about 100 pages per week. We will use the energetic translation by Robert Fitzgerald.

Susanna Braund, Professor of Classics

Susanna Braund arrived at Stanford from Yale in 2004. Prior to that, she taught in the UK for twenty years, at the universities of Exeter, Bristol, and London. She is the author, editor, and translator of numerous books and papers on Latin literature, especially Roman satire and epic poetry, including an introductory volume entitled Latin Literature (Routledge, 2002). Her passion for making connections between antiquity and the modern world is reflected in her regular radio broadcasts for KZSU called "Myth Made Modern."

4. Geography of World Cultures

Despite the supposedly homogenizing effects of globalization, people continue to be joined together and divided asunder by the languages they speak, the religions they follow, and the ethnic identities to which they belong. Such cultural features all have specific geographies, tied to particular places. But while cultural-geographical terms such as “the Arabic world” and “the Islamic world” are used ubiquitously, many people remain uncertain where such “worlds” are and how they differ from each other.

The purpose of this map-intensive course is to explore the locational dynamics of the world’s languages, religions, and ethnic groupings. We will examine every world region, seeking to understand how places vary from each other with regard to the cultural attributes of their inhabitants. The course will explore the historical forces that have generated cultural diversity, and will carefully examine the processes of contemporary transformation.

Martin Lewis, Lecturer in History, Interim Director, Program in International Relations

Martin Lewis received a PhD from UC Berkeley in geography. He is the author or co-author of four books, including The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography (with Karen Wigen) and Diversity Amid Globalization: World Regions, Environment, Development (with Lester Rowntree, Marie Price, and William Wyckoff).

5. The Literature of Crisis

Most human lives contain major turning points: crises that transform an individual’s future development. On a much larger scale, cultures undergo crises too: political, intellectual, and religious changes that alter forever the course of human history. This course will focus on both kinds of crisis.

We will consider the personal upheavals brought about by the political, social, religious, and erotic ties of our authors and their characters. These crises were pivotal moments which dramatically altered the trajectory of their lives. Moreover, each of our texts reflects not only a personal crisis but also the turbulence of its cultural environment; and each develops a unique strategy for coping with it.

In addition to offering a unique introduction to these great texts, this course aims to provide a conceptual and historical framework enabling you to address crises in your own life and in the modern world with a greater degree of understanding and, perhaps, a clearer sense of how to survive them.

Marsh McCall, Professor of Classics

Marsh McCall has taught at Stanford for 30 years and was the founding Dean of Stanford Continuing Studies. He received the Dinkelspiel Award for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Education and the annual Phi Beta Kappa Undergraduate Teaching Award.

Martin Evans, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor in English

Born in Cardiff, Great Britain, in 1935, Professor Evans emigrated to the United States in 1963 after earning his B.A., M.A., and D.Phil. degrees at Oxford University. His first post in this country was as an Assistant Professor of English in the Stanford English Department, and he has been on the faculty here ever since. From 1977-81, he served as Associate Dean of Humanities and Sciences, from 1981-86 as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the English Department, and from 1988-91 as Chairman of the English Department.

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  • Frank Black says:

    Thanks for your generosity in sharing these lectures. If they are all as entertainingly informative as Professor Rakove’s “Colonial and Revolutionary America,” you can’t help but envious of those fortunate enough to receive a Stanford education.

  • James says:

    Hello there DHC, I am also interested in this. (See my latest article.) This article is enjoyable to read; you have definitely provided me with some food for thought.

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