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Classics of British Literature

Narrated by: John Sutherland
Length: 24 hrs and 17 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

For more than 1,500 years, the literature of Great Britain has taught, nurtured, thrilled, outraged, and humbled readers both inside and outside its borders.

Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Swift, Conrad, Wilde - the roster of powerful British writers is remarkable. More important, Britain's writers have long challenged readers with new ways of understanding an ever-changing world.

This series of 48 fascinating lectures by an award-winning professor provides you with a rare opportunity to step beyond the surface of Britain's grand literary masterpieces and experience the times and conditions they came from and the diverse issues with which their writers grappled.

The unique insights Professor Sutherland shares about how and why these works succeed as both literature and documents of Britain's social and political history can forever alter the way you experience a novel, poem, or play.

More than just a survey, these lectures reveal how Britain's cultural landscape acted upon its literature and how, in turn, literature affected the cultural landscape. Professor Sutherland takes a historical approach to the wealth of works explored in these lectures, grounding them in specific contexts and often connecting them with one another.

All the great writers that come to mind when you think of British literature are here, along with unique looks at their most popular and powerful works. You also enjoy the company of less-familiar voices and contemporary authors who continue to take literature into new territories.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2008 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2008 The Great Courses

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  • Overall
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Amazing

The lectures are extremely informative and interesting. Professor Sutherland’s approach in delivering these lectures makes for great listening.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Chelle
  • 2017-01-17

Listing Contents of this Interesting Course

Any additional comments?

Prof. Sutherland has not included Tolkien or Lewis in his lectures - perhaps because TGC's want us to purchase the stand alone courses on these great writers, or maybe Tolkien & Leiws didn't met the criteria TGC's lecturer had set for what he perceived 'Classic' meant :-/ (?)

48 lectures in this course:
1. Anglo-Saxon Roots—Pessimism and Comradeship
2. Chaucer—Social Diversity
3. Chaucer—A Man of Unusual Cultivation
4. Spenser—The Faerie Queene
5. Early Drama—Low Comedy and Religion
6. Marlowe—Controversy and Danger
7. Shakespeare the Man—The Road to the Globe
8. Shakespeare—The Mature Years
9. Shakespeare's Rivals—Jonson and Webster
10. The King James Bible—English Most Elegant
11. The Metaphysicals—Conceptual Daring
12. Paradise Lost—A New Language for Poetry
13. Turmoil Makes for Good Literature
14. The Augustans—Order, Decorum, and Wit
15. Swift—Anger and Satire
16. Johnson—Bringing Order to the Language
17. Defoe—Crusoe and the Rise of Capitalism
18. Behn—Emancipation in the Restoration
19. The Golden Age of Fiction
20. Gibbon—Window into 18th-Century England
21. Equiano—The Inhumanity of Slavery
22. Women Poets—The Minor Voice
23. Wollstonecraft—"First of a New Genus"
24. Blake—Mythic Universes and Poetry
25. Scott and Burns—The Voices of Scotland
26. Lyrical Ballads—Collaborative Creation
27. Mad, Bad Byron
28. Keats—Literary Gold
29. Frankenstein—A Gothic Masterpiece
30. Miss Austen and Mrs. Radcliffe
31. Pride and Prejudice—Moral Fiction
32. Dickens—Writer with a Mission
33. The 1840s—Growth of the Realistic Novel
34. Wuthering Heights—Emily's Masterwork
35. Jane Eyre and the Other Brontë
36. Voices of Victorian Poetry
37. Eliot—Fiction and Moral Reflection
38. Hardy—Life at Its Worst
39. The British Bestseller—An Overview
40. Heart of Darkness—Heart of the Empire?
41. Wilde—Celebrity Author
42. Shaw and Pygmalion
43. Joyce and Yeats—Giants of Irish Literature
44. Great War, Great Poetry
45. Bloomsbury and the Bloomsberries
46. 20th-Century English Poetry—Two Traditions
47. British Fiction from James to Rushdie
48. New Theatre, New Literary Worlds

67 of 67 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • 2014-01-14

The Best of British

This audiobook was an enjoyable summary of British Literature from its inception with Beowulf in the dark ages up to the 21st century. As a general rule it was very entertaining, giving the background stories of the authors and describing how their lives and historical circumstances produced their writing. It was fascinating to hear the about the lives of Austen, the Brontes, Dickens and Hardy.

I found myself zoning out a few times when poetry was the topic. I don’t think this is the fault of the lecturer, poetry just doesn’t really do it for me, although I found the lives of Keats and Byron to be interesting and First World War poetry has always seemed more poignant to me than poetry about love or beauty. As for Milton and Paradise Lost, I still don’t get it even now, even after it has been explained to me.

My overall verdict is that this is an interesting audiobook and, at 25 hours duration, well worth the price of the credit.

41 of 41 people found this review helpful

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  • Craig
  • 2016-08-10

So much depth!!

What did you love best about Classics of British Literature?

He built real history into each lecture. Prof. Sutherland really understands the time and culture of each author's world, and explains something of how each author's perspective fed their given work. The functional part of the lectures were well researched and quality, but nothing one couldn't find with an hour or so on the Internet (per lecture) - where this shined, and shined impressively is the depth and story built in, helping the reader understand the works they're learning about in a way that just reading a simple article never could. This is truly the intent of college level lecture.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Classics of British Literature?

I understood the basics of the creation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. What I didn't know was the structure of the party around them, and Mary's history.

Which character – as performed by Professor John Sutherland – was your favorite?

n/a

Any additional comments?

If you are a fan of the Great Courses series, this is a very worthy addition. The quality tails at the end, and I was disappointed at the lack of coverage of "children's" literature authors, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, and J.K. Rowling (among several others) have all made very real contributions to the literary history of Britain, and at the very least should have warranted a lecture devoted to them.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • sask170
  • 2015-06-18

Excellent course

I really enjoyed Dr. Sutherland's lectures. They were lively, informative, and humorous. I recommend this course to anyone interested in British literature.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Bernie C.
  • 2016-06-05

great survey of brit lit, no chesterton though!

I only give 4 for performance because sometimes he is very quiet and trails off or mumbles making it hard to understand

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Sarah
  • 2017-02-05

Helped supplement college course

These lectures were almost lined perfectly with the curriculum of my college Brit lit course. The poems and prose he goes over are some of the most famous works and therefore very helpful for students. I suggest listening to these lectures for review before tests!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • PACMAC
  • 2017-01-24

Classics of British Literature

Fascinating and delivered with enthusiasm.
Chapter headings w hen selecting a particular course to repeat would be helpful.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anne
  • 2016-03-08

Highly reccomend

The content of this series was rich, and enhanced by the wit and passion of Prof. Sutherland. The result is an enriching and extremely enjoyable experience.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Alexandra
  • 2015-05-04

Nice

I really enjoyed this survey-like course into English literature and will definitely listen to more from Great Courses.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • D.A. PSCH
  • 2019-03-03

Lots of words, few insights communicated

I listened to the first dozen lectures or so looking for gems of insights into these literary works, most of which I have had only have a cursory familiarity. However, the words were many and the gem-insights were comparatively few.