Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind: Literature's Most Fantastic Works, by Eric S. Rabkin (Great Courses)


A decent enough lecture series, and quite comprehensive.  Rabkin covers the significant contributions to science fiction and fantasy (including fairy tales and the like) from the Grimm brothers (and earlier) to modern day, including recurring themes and stories.  Which is why this series is 24 lectures long instead of the usual 12.

I didn't necessarily buy all of his symbolism and interpretations--I realize sex is a dominant theme in literature, but I don't know that literature is about sex quite as often as Rabkin thinks it is.  Then, too, he sees allusions that I'm not entirely sure the authors intended.  Of course, there are themes and ideas in the cultural memory, and I have no trouble believing that authors can unintentionally reflect or allude to other works or archetypes.  But making the argument that such allusions were intentional requires a stronger correlation or additional behind-the-scenes insight.

Still, Rabkin knows his stuff and is not unpleasant to listen to, even if he's not the most scintillating lecturer I've ever heard.  And lectures like this are a great source of recommended reading lists, which I always appreciate.

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