Death: A Free Philosophy Course from Yale Helps You Grapple with the Inescapable

It pays to think intelligently about the inevitable. And this course taught by Yale professor Shelly Kagan does just that, taking a rich, philosophical look at death. Here's how the course description reads:

There is one thing I can be sure of: I am going to die. But what am I to make of that fact? This course will examine a number of issues that arise once we begin to reflect on our mortality. The possibility that death may not actually be the end is considered. Are we, in some sense, immortal? Would immortality be desirable? Also a clearer notion of what it is to die is examined. What does it mean to say that a person has died? What kind of fact is that? And, finally, different attitudes to death are evaluated. Is death an evil? How? Why? Is suicide morally permissible? Is it rational? How should the knowledge that I am going to die affect the way I live my life?

Major texts used in this course include Plato's PhaedoTolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych, and John Perry's A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality.

You can watch the 26 lectures above. Or find them on YouTube and iTunes in video and audio formats. For more information on this course, including the syllabus, please visit this Yale site.

This course has been added to our list of Free Online Philosophy courses, a subset of our meta collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

Watch Coda, a Prize-Winning, Thought-Provoking Animation About a Lost Soul’s Encounter with Death

Rik Mayall Voices the Animation “Don’t Fear Death” Just Months Before His Untimely Passing

John Cleese’s Eulogy for Graham Chapman: ‘Good Riddance, the Free-Loading Bastard, I Hope He Fries’

Watch Animated Introductions to 25 Philosophers by The School of Life: From Plato to Kant and Foucault

How to Listen to Music: A Free Course from Yale University

Taught by Yale professor Craig Wright, this course, Listening to Music, operates on the assumption that listening to music is "not simply a passive activity one can use to relax, but rather, an active and rewarding process." When we understand the basic elements of Western music (e.g., rhythm, melody, and form), we can appreciate music in entirely new ways. That includes everything from classical music, rock and techno, to Gregorian chant and the blues.

You can watch the 23 lectures above, on YouTube, or Yale's website, where you'll also find a syllabus and information on each class session. The main text used in the course is Listening to Music, written by the professor himself.

Listening to Music will be added to the Music section of our ever-growing collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

It's also worth noting that Prof. Wright has created an interactive MOOC called Introduction to Classical Music. You might want to check it out.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

Evelyn Glennie (a Musician Who Happens to Be Deaf) Shows How We Can Listen to Music with Our Entire Bodies

Download 400,000 Free Classical Musical Scores & 46,000 Free Classical Recordings from the International Music Score Library Project

Playing an Instrument Is a Great Workout For Your Brain: New Animation Explains Why

1200 Years of Women Composers: A Free 78-Hour Music Playlist That Takes You From Medieval Times to Now

Yale Presents a Free Online Course on Literary Theory, Covering Structuralism, Deconstruction & More

It’s been a hallmark of the culture wars in the last few decades for politicians and opinionators to rail against academia. Professors of humanities have in particular come under scrutiny, charged with academic frivolity (sometimes at taxpayer expense), willful obscurantism, and all sorts of ideological crimes and diabolical methods of indoctrination. As an undergrad and graduate student in the humanities during much of the nineties and oughts, I’ve witnessed a few waves of such attacks and found the caricatures drawn by talk radio hosts and cabinet appointees both alarming and amusing. I’ve also learned that mistrust of academia is much older than the many virulent strains of anti-intellectualism in the U.S.

As Yale Professor of British Romantic Poetry Paul Fry points out in an interview with 3:AM Magazine, “satire about any and all professionals with a special vocabulary has been a staple of fiction and popular ridicule since the 18th century… and critic-theorists perhaps more recently have been the easy targets of upper-middle-brow anti-intellectuals continuously since [Henry] Fielding and [Tobias] Smollett.” Though the barbs of these British novelists are more entertaining than anything you’ll hear from current talking heads, the phenomenon remains the same: “Special vocabulary intimidate and are instantly considered obfuscation,” says Fry. “Reactions against them are shamelessly naïve, with no consideration of whether the recondite vocabularies may be serving some necessary and constructive purpose.”




Maybe you’re scratching your chin, shaking or nodding your head, or glazing over. But if you’ve come this far, read on. Fry, after all, acknowledges that jargon-laden scholarly vocabularies can become “self-parody in the hands of fools,” and thus have provided justifiable fodder for cutting wit since even Jonathan Swift's day. But Fry picks this history up in the 20th century in his Yale course ENGL 300 (Introduction to Theory of Literature), an accessible series of lectures on the history and practice of literary theory, in which he proceeds in a critical spirit to cover everything from Russian Formalism and New Criticism; to Semiotics, Structuralism and Deconstruction; to the Frankfurt School, Post-Colonial Criticism and Queer Theory. Thanks to Open Yale Courses, you can watch the 26 lectures above. Or you can find them on YouTube, iTunes, or Yale's own web site (where you can also grab a syllabus for the course). These lectures were all recorded in the Spring of 2009. The main text used in the course is David Richter's The Critical Tradition.

Expanding with the rapid growth and democratizing of universities after World War II, literary and critical theories are often closely tied to the contentious politics of the Cold War. Their decline corresponds to these forces as well. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent snowballing of privatization and anti-government sentiment, many sources of funding for the humanities have succumbed, often under very public assaults on their character and utility. Fry’s presentation shows how literary theory has never been a blunt political instrument at any time. Rather it provides ways of doing ethics and philosophies of language, religion, art, history, myth, race, sexuality, etc. Or, put more plainly, the language of literary theory gives us different sets of tools for talking about being human.

Fry tells Yale Daily News that “literature expresses more eloquently and subtly emotions and feelings that we all try to express one way or another.” But why apply theory? Why not simply read novels, stories, and poems and interpret them by our own critical lights? One reason is that we cannot see our own biases and inherited cultural assumptions. One ostensibly theory-free method of an earlier generation of scholars and poets who rejected literary theory often suffers from this problem. The New Critics flourished mainly during the 40s, a fraught time in history when the country's resources were redirected toward war and economic expansion. For Fry, this “last generation of male WASP hegemony in the academy" reflected “the blindness of the whole middle class," and the idea "that life as they knew it… was life as everyone knew it, or should if they didn’t.”

Fry admits that theory can seem superfluous and needlessly opaque, "a purely speculative undertaking” without much of an object in view.  Yet applied to literature, it provides exciting means of intellectual discovery. Fry himself doesn’t shy away from satirically taking the piss, as a modern-day Swift might say. He begins not with Coleridge or Keats (though he gets there eventually), but with a story for toddlers called “Tony the Tow Truck." He does this not to mock, but to show us that "reading anything is a complex and potentially unlimited activity"---and as “a facetious reminder,” he tells 3:AM, that “theory is taking itself seriously in the wrong way if it exhausts its reason for being….”

Introduction to Theory of Literature will be added to our list of Free Online Literature Courses, a subset of our meta collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Related Content:

A Quick Introduction to Literary Theory: Watch Animated Videos from the Open University

How to Spot a Communist Using Literary Criticism: A 1955 Manual from the U.S. Military

Hear Roland Barthes Present His 40-Hour Course, La Préparation du roman, in French (1978-80)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The American Novel Since 1945: A Free Yale Course on Novels by Nabokov, Kerouac, Morrison, Pynchon & More

Taught by professor Amy Hungerford, The American Novel Since 1945 offers an introduction to the fertile literary period that followed World War II. The course description reads:

In "The American Novel Since 1945" students will study a wide range of works from 1945 to the present. The course traces the formal and thematic developments of the novel in this period, focusing on the relationship between writers and readers, the conditions of publishing, innovations in the novel's form, fiction's engagement with history, and the changing place of literature in American culture. The reading list includes works by Richard Wright, Flannery O'Connor, Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac, J. D. Salinger, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Maxine Hong Kingston, Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth and Edward P. Jones. The course concludes with a contemporary novel chosen by the students in the class.

You can watch the 26 lectures from the course above, or find them on YouTube and iTunes (video - audio). To get more information about the course, including the syllabus, visit this Yale website.

The main texts used in this course include:

The American Novel Since 1945 will be added to our collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities. There you can find a specialized list of Free Online Literature Courses.

Related Content:

Vladimir Nabokov Names the Greatest (and Most Overrated) Novels of the 20th Century

Flannery O’Connor Reads ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ in Rare 1959 Audio

Cormac McCarthy’s Three Punctuation Rules, and How They All Go Back to James Joyce

Roman Architecture: A Free Online Course from Yale University

 1200px-colosseum_in_rome_italy_-_april_2007

Image by Diliff via Wikimedia Commons

Taught by Yale professor Diana E. E. Kleiner, this course offers "an introduction to the great buildings and engineering marvels of Rome and its empire, with an emphasis on urban planning and individual monuments and their decoration, including mural painting."

The course description continues: "While architectural developments in Rome, Pompeii, and Central Italy are highlighted, the course also provides a survey of sites and structures in what are now North Italy, Sicily, France, Spain, Germany, Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, and North Africa. The lectures are illustrated with over 1,500 images, many from Professor Kleiner's personal collection."

You can watch the 24 lectures from the course above, or find them on YouTube and iTunes. To get more information on the course, including the syllabus, please visit Yale's website.

Texts used in this course include:

Roman Architecture will be added to our collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities. Find more courses focused on the Ancient world here.

Related Content:

Rome Reborn: Take a Virtual Tour of Ancient Rome, Circa 320 C.E.

The History of Rome in 179 Podcasts

The Rise & Fall of the Romans: Every Year Shown in a Timelapse Map Animation (753 BC -1479 AD)

Watch the Destruction of Pompeii by Mount Vesuvius, Re-Created with Computer Animation (79 AD)

Free Courses in Ancient History, Literature & Philosophy

What Life Was Like for Teenagers in Ancient Rome: Get a Glimpse from a TED-ED Animation

Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner: A Free Yale Course

This course taught by Yale professor Wai Chee Dimock examines major works by three iconic American authors--Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner. Along the way, Dimock explores these authors' "interconnections on three analytic scales: the macro history of the United States and the world; the formal and stylistic innovations of modernism; and the small details of sensory input and psychic life." You can access the 24 lectures in Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner on YouTube, or on iTunes in video and audio. Texts discussed in the course include:

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying.

Faulkner, William. Light in August.

Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A New Collection.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender is the Night.

Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time.

Hemingway, Ernest. To Have and Have Not.

Find more information about this course, including the syllabus, over at this Yale site.

Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner has been added to our list of Free Online Literature courses, a subset of our meta collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Introduction to Ancient Greek History: A Free Online Course from Yale

Taught by Yale professor Donald Kagan, this introductory course in Greek history traces "the development of Greek civilization as manifested in political, intellectual, and creative achievements from the Bronze Age to the end of the classical period." In it, students "read original sources in translation as well as the works of modern scholars." You can watch the 24 video lectures above, or find them on YouTube. The lectures also appear on iTunes in audio and video. More information about the course, including the syllabus, can be found on this Yale website.

Introduction to Ancient Greek History will be added to our collection of Free Online History courses, a subset of our collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

More in this category... »
Quantcast