Friday, May 19, 2017

History of World Literature by Professor Grant L. Voth

In 2010, when I was studying at the University of Melbourne, I was trading audio lectures with a classmate, and he gave me the History of World Literature by Professor Grant L. Voth.

I listened to this series while I was cleaning up my room, and while I was going on my evening walks, and I found it fascinating listening.

I just discovered that it's on Youtube.  For the moment.  (It's copyrighted material, from the Great Courses series, so it probably won't be up there forever.  But you can listen to it now.)

Professor Voth is amazing.  Half these books I would never have had any interest in before, but he makes the art of storytelling sound so fascinating.

Listening to his lectures, I wanted to read all these books.

...It's somewhat embarrassing, therefore, to reflect how little progress I've made with this reading list since I discovered these lectures in 2010.

Being a nerd in high school, and a literature minor in college, of course, I had read several of these classics before: The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Beowulf, Candide, Notes from the Underground, Metamorphosis, and Things Fall Apart.  (Plus some of Shakespeare, some of Canterbury Tales, and some of the Greek Tragedies.)
But none of those count, because I had read them way back before I heard these lectures.

Since listening to these lectures, the only new book I've read from these lectures is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Which, by the way, Professor Voth's lecture on is excellent.  Professor Voth really does a good job of explaining all the jumbled themes in Huckleberry Finn, and why the book is written like it is.

Wuthering Heights is a grey area.  I was never interested in the Bronte sister books before, but Professor Voth made this book sound so interesting, that I saved an audio book copy on my ipod.

And then my ipod erased it.
I had listened to about 90% of it, but being a stickler for completeness, I never reviewed it on this blog, and don't count it as having been read yet.  Someday I'll sit down and read the whole thing.

I'm also currently trying to talk my book club into reading The Cairo Trilogy.  Which I had never heard of before listening to these lectures, but which Professor Voth makes sound really interesting.


Whisky Prajer said...

Mm -- I will beg to differ from this professor who might well be from my tribe. Haroun isn't worth the read, IMO, though it is the least arcane of Rushdie's ouevre. Some of his essays appeal, but on the whole his fiction is written for someone else. Non-Western eyes, perhaps -- or maybe just Rushdie himself.

Joel Swagman said...

unfortunately, like most of the lectures in this series, I still haven't read the book. So i can't actually comment on it.
I did read and enjoy "Midnight's Children", however. Did you ever read that one? if so, what did you think?

Whisky Prajer said...

I haven't, but will admit that's the one remaining title I could still be persuaded to pick up and give a go. Satanic Verses is a big ho-hum -- which only adds to the tragedy surrounding its publication.

Joel Swagman said...

My memories of it are foggy. I read it back in college literature class, which is now almost 20 years past. But I remember being really interested in it. It helped that the professor helped us through all the symbolism in it.
Even the professor didn't like all of it, though. There was one chapter he had us skip (the one in the jungle) because he said it was just bad Freud, and that he wished an editor had made Rushdie cut it out.

Still... give it a cautious recommendation