Thomas Shippey Ph.D.

Thomas Shippey Ph.D. >

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Frodo Baggins--A Reluctant Hero
Episode 1 of Heroes and Legends
What makes certain characters successful? Begin your study with a look at Frodo Baggins, the hobbit-hero from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In considering what makes him a hero--and how he runs counter to our notions of the traditional…
Elizabeth Bennet--A Proper Pride
Episode 12 of Heroes and Legends
Meet the charming heroine from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The story of her complicated relationship with Mr. Darcy is a realistic Cinderella story and has lent itself to numerous adaptations, including Bridget Jones's Diary. Consider the integral role that…
Harry Potter--Whistle-Blower Hero
Episode 24 of Heroes and Legends
Finish your course with one of the most unexpected hits of our time--and a smash hit at that. What can the surprising success of Harry Potter teach us about successful heroes? And what do his battles against Lord Voldemort tell…
Dracula--The Allure of the Monster
Episode 17 of Heroes and Legends
The 19th century produced a radically different kind of hero: the spooky and fantastical Dracula. After observing the structural complexity of this novel, you'll examine the hidden fears and repressed sensuality that led Bram Stoker to create this vampire and…
Odysseus--The Trickster Hero
Episode 2 of Heroes and Legends
Go back to the beginning of world literature to explore what made Homer's traveling hero such a powerful figure. Odysseus's story set the model for countless road narratives, but his character, which is surprisingly sly and resourceful, is unique. Here,…
Sherlock Holmes--The First Great Detective
Episode 16 of Heroes and Legends
We are familiar with Sherlock Holmes's methodology--using clues, facts, evidence, and reason to solve the case. Here, go inside the world of the 19th century and see what circumstances paved the way for such a hero. Then, turn to some…
Don Quixote--The First of the Wannabes
Episode 10 of Heroes and Legends
Turn next to Don Quixote, a wannabe knight-errant whose infamous exploits mark a pivotal moment in the history of literature. Explore his fantastic adventures and meet Sancho Panza, who is perhaps literature's first antihero. See why this novel is so…
Fairy-Tale Heroines--New-Style Princesses
Episode 22 of Heroes and Legends
Cinderella. Snow White. Rapunzel. These fairy-tale heroines are imbued in our cultural consciousness. What lessons are they meant to teach? And do these lessons align with our current cultural values? Study the composite fairy-tale heroine, both in the classic fairy…
Aeneas--The Straight Arrow
Episode 3 of Heroes and Legends
Turn now to the Roman straight arrow. Aeneas's story takes him from the Trojan War to the courtship of Queen Dido and on to the founding of Rome. In writing this epic, Virgil helped shape the Roman Empire's sense of…
Beowulf--A Hero with Hidden Depths
Episode 7 of Heroes and Legends
Beowulf is not an easy poem to understand, but Beowulf is not an easy character to understand. Here, analyze how this classic male hero--a big, strong, monster killer--may have a hidden vulnerability. Then, look at what insights Beowulf's story offers…
La Sagrada Família
Part of the Series: The World's Greatest Churches
This spellbinding creation by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi interprets the Gothic cathedral through Gaudi's visionary, modernist style. Study the striking sculpted decoration of the exterior portals, the dreamlike interior with its columns fashioned as stylized trees, and the powerful Christian…
The Wife of Bath--An Independent Woman
Episode 5 of Heroes and Legends
Chaucer worked harder on the Wife of Bath than on any other character in The Canterbury Tales, leaving us not one but four separate perspectives on one of literature's most memorable female characters. Discover what Chaucer reveals about her, the…
Robinson Crusoe--A Lone Survivor
Episode 11 of Heroes and Legends
Robinson Crusoe might be the most flawed hero in the course--a colonizer and a slave-owning capitalist. Why, then, is he such an enduring character? Is it the desert-island story? Or is there something inherent in Crusoe's character, beyond the flaws,…
The Earliest Churches
Part of the Series: The World's Greatest Churches
Begin by considering what defines a church, encompassing both its religious uses and its functions as a place of assembly. Learn how the first churches came into being, based architecturally on the secular pagan "basilica." Study some of the best…
St. Peter's Basilica
Part of the Series: The World's Greatest Churches
Experience the splendor of the world's largest church and the seat of the papacy, among the most iconic creations of the Christian world. Trace the history of the complex as you take in the resplendent dome by Michelangelo and the…
The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
Part of the Series: The World's Greatest Churches
Contemplate the remarkable history of this hybrid religious structure, a medieval cathedral built entirely within a majestic former mosque. Explore the striking Islamic archways and scalloped dome, leading to the Renaissance/Gothic cathedral with its imposing vaulting, sumptuous decoration, and monumental…
Guinevere--A Heroine with Many Faces
Episode 4 of Heroes and Legends
Trace Guinevere's adulterous affair with Lancelot and consider what effects it had on cultural values and Western history. As a powerful woman in the heart of King Arthur's court, Guinevere is an intriguing heroine--passionate, strong-willed, and complex in a way…
Thor--A Very Human God
Episode 8 of Heroes and Legends
Thor may seem like another classic male hero--the god of thunder in Norse mythology and a superhero today--yet the Icelandic poems and stories from the 13th century undercut the image of Thor as a straightforward hero. These amusing tales will…
Winston Smith--The Hero We Never Want to Be
Episode 20 of Heroes and Legends
Winston Smith, the central figure in George Orwell's nightmare scenario, 1984, is fearful, undernourished, and oppressed by the state--not exactly the image we conjure up when we think of the word "hero." Dive into the dystopia of Big Brother and…
Lisbeth Salander--Avenging Female Fury
Episode 23 of Heroes and Legends
Lisbeth Salander, the heroine from the popular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, seems to be an original character well suited to our times--hip, ingenious, computer savvy. But as you'll discover in this episode, her character also has echoes of…