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…
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…
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…
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,…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
Great Churches of Russia
Part of the Series: The World's Greatest Churches
Discover the extraordinary beauties of the churches of the Russian Orthodox tradition. Learn about the religious culture that inspired these structures, with their characteristic gilded domes and striking decoration of sculpture, frescoes, and tile work. Visit outstanding cathedrals in Vladimir,…
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…
James Bond--A Dangerous Protector
Episode 21 of Heroes and Legends
Thanks to novels, movies, and an array of charismatic actors, nearly everyone in the developed world knows about James Bond and how he drinks his martini--"shaken, not stirred." But who is Bond? What makes him tick? Look beyond the girls,…
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…
Robin Hood--The Outlaw Hero
Episode 9 of Heroes and Legends
Who was Robin Hood? He's an anomaly in this course because his story cannot be traced to a single work or figure. Perhaps because of these gaps in the story, he seems to be a bundle of contradictions. Delve into…
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…
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…
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…
The Stave Churches of Norway
Part of the Series: The World's Greatest Churches
Journey to the picturesque landscapes of rural Norway, which are home to a unique tradition of wooden churches dating from the 12th century. Study the complex, multi-tiered construction of the churches, featuring intricate carving, painted sculpture, and a strikingly beautiful…
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…