The Western Canon: From Homer to Milton (Free Course)

Taught by William Flesch at Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty, this course offers a sur­vey of some of the great­est and most influ­en­tial works on West­ern lit­er­a­ture, phi­los­o­phy and cul­ture, from Homer through Mil­ton.  Part of the through line is that every writer cov­ered in the course wrote in a con­text inher­it­ed from the ear­li­er ones, so we look at affil­i­a­tions between them all. The course used the Lat­ti­more trans­la­tions of the Ili­ad and the Odyssey, and the Hol­lan­der trans­la­tions of Dante.  For the oth­er works, any trans­la­tion or edi­tion is fine.

1. Intro­duc­to­ry lec­ture on the leg­endary and the real Homer as treat­ed by Dante and Mil­ton: Audio

2. Home­r­ic sim­i­le in The Ili­ad: Audio

3. Ili­ad, main­ly Book 6: Audio

4. Ili­ad: Hek­tor fright­ens Astyanax; Achilleus plays the lyre: Audio

5. Ili­ad: Achilleus, Patrok­los, Hek­tor, Pri­am, and the laws of hos­pi­tal­i­ty: Audio

6. The Odyssey: Funer­al games and gift-giv­ing  (a bit trun­cat­ed due to glitch): Audio

7. Odyssey: Gifr-giv­ing and hos­pi­tal­i­ty: Audio

8. Odyssey: The Use of oral for­mu­lae: Audio

9. Odyssey: Why Odysseus is “no man”: Audio

10. Odyssey: Con­clu­sion, includ­ing reunion and two great­est sim­i­les in the poem: Audio

11. Pla­to, Socrates, Zeno, Forms: Audio

12. Pla­to: The Cave and the argu­ment against poet­ry: Audio

13. Aristo­phanes’s Clouds: his Socrates vs. Pla­to’s: Audio

14. Ovid: and his influ­ence on Mil­ton: Audio

15. Ovid and Vir­gil and their rela­tion to Homer: Audio

16. Vir­gil’s sub­lim­i­ty: Audio

17. Vir­gil’s Home­r­ic reca­pit­u­la­tions. Doc­tor John­son’s stric­tures: Audio

18. Dante: Intro­duc­tion. Terza Rima. Dan­te’s Vir­gil. Topog­ra­phy of Hell: Audio

19. Dante: Infer­no. Love, jus­tice, desire: Audio

20. Dante: Infer­no and Pur­ga­to­rio: topo­graph­ic order­ing of sins in both, from least bad to worst: Audio

21. Dante: Pur­ga­to­rio.  Con­tra­pas­so and allo­path­ic pun­ish­ment in Pur­ga­to­ry vs. home­o­path­ic pun­ish­ment in hell: Audio

22.  Dante: Pur­ga­to­rio and Par­adiso: Love and grav­i­ty; the idea of theod­i­cy: Audio

23: Dante: Par­adiso, the Uni­verse, and every­thing: Audio

24. Mil­ton: Par­adiso and Par­adise Lost: Audio

25. Mil­ton: Par­adise Lost and its antecedents in our read­ing: Audio

26. Mil­ton: Free­dom of con­science and guilt in Par­adise Lost: Audio

27. Mil­ton: Par­adise Lost and con­clu­sion of the course: par­al­lels between all worlds; angel­ic sex; love and Adam’s self-sac­ri­fice for Eve and hers for him: Audio

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.