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Elizabeth Vandiver – Classical Mythology

Title:Classical Mythology
Lecturer: Elizabeth Vandiver
The Teaching Company
Duration: 24 x 30 minutes
Media: Audio only

As kids, my brother and I listened a lot to radio theatre versions of stories from classical mythology, mostly Greek, and since then I’ve been at least moderately interested in the subject. This fairly short (24 x 30 minutes) lecture series from The Teaching Company brings back lots of memories, but also illuminates the subject matter in a far more scholarly fashion than I’ve previously encountered. This is a university-level course, not merely stories about gods and heroes.

Elizabeth Vandiver, the lecturer, presents the subject in a structured way and there is little to complain about except perhaps for her somewhat annoying accent. She spends the first couple of lectures going through some basic but complicated questions about the definition of myth and various theories of why myth seems to be a common denominator for all human societies. She then goes on to retell a number of famous myths and discuss what the represent and what they can tell us about ancient Greece.

I think this course ought to have been longer, because there are quite a number of interesting discussions that Vandiver could have delved deeper into. Of course, there are also many myths that are completely left out because of the limited time, and even though that problem wouldn’t have gone away even with twice as many hours, I still think more would have meant that the series became better.

On the whole, this is a decent introduction to classical mythology as a scholarly subject. Not only will it introduce the student to the concepts of studying myth, but it will also provide ample examples from Greek and Roman mythology, sometimes in a way different from what we’re used to. Thus, this series is great if you, like me, just want to learn a little bit more about the subject without going in too deep.