Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved the Professor I really enjoyed his analysis of the various characters. His range of characters went from Beowulf to Harry Potter. He is an entertain lecturer but he has some odd pronunciation quirks but that was fine.
Date published: 2019-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An unexpected delight This course was a complete surprise to me, and turned out to be both fascinating and academically outstanding in every way. Thomas Shippey (a British professor emeritus and widely-recognized Tolkien scholar) is one of our 3 or 4 favorite presenters in the 90-plus Teaching Company courses my wife and I have done. He’s fantastic. He took 24 main characters from literature—from Odysseus to Elizabeth Bennet to Dracula to Lisbeth Salander—and considered each in terms of his primary criteria for a hero/heroine, with each illustrating a different type and different attributes making them important and emblematic. Along the way he covered contextual history (for both the authors and the books), changing social mores, and relevance to today, considering different media and means of communication. A truly special experience which we were sorry to see come to a close.
Date published: 2018-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just what I'd expect from a top-level class I was a bit hesitant about this course, fearing that it would be mostly a recap of the various stories. But while the lecturer did give enough of the stories that someone unfamiliar with a particular hero could follow easily, it is much more a discussion of his particular way of thinking about and analyzing the hero trope in Western Literature, and very fascinating.
Date published: 2018-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Charming, Informative, Fun, Uneven, Tails off Professor Shippey is without a doubt the most charming lecturer I have heard in the 60 or so Great Courses I have purchased. There is no other professor I would rather sit down to a dinner conversation with. He is erudite yet with a sly and slightly wicked sense of humor. For example, when discussing heroes as ‘big, strong, and fearless’ he points out that Beowulf is certainly big and strong, but we learn very little of his emotions and feelings , then adds, ‘Did I mention that this is an English poem?’ I won’t give away his best lines, but suffice it to say that Scotland, where the Professor attended boarding school, is the subject of several delicious one liners. He does have, at least to American ears, an odd accent which is at first a tad annoying. Apparently it is some sort of Oxford-Scottish hybrid where for example he says ‘yuhhhs’ for ‘years’. And he says ‘yuhhhs’ or ‘for yuhhhs and yuhhhs’ a LOT. But as the lectures move on this actually becomes much more pleasant and his rumbling accented baritone adds to the enjoyment.. Professor Shippey is clearly most in his element in the Medieval world. Far and away the best lectures are on Guinivere (and Lancelot) , the Wife of Bath from Chaucer, and Troilus and Cressida. (Yes, I know Shakespeare is not medieval, but his discussion of Cressida is based not on the Shakespeare play but on two earlier poems.) These lectures are both very illuminating and even more amusing. The lectures related to the issues of slavery, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Huckleberry Finn, are also outstanding, with the former particularly powerful in pointing out why the book was so powerful and influential. By the 20th Century, however, things start to go downhill. The professor keeps saying that Winston Smith (the protagonist of 1984) is indeed a hero, though we never are told why. There is also a strange lecture on ‘Fairy-Tale Heroines’ that doesn’t seem to go anywhere in particular. Most of the 20th C. lectures devolve into a problem not uncommon in Teaching Company literature courses- a bit too much synopsis and not enough analysis. That having been said, I strongly recommend this series. It is a terrific ‘listen’, and will leave the listener with many new insights both of unfamiliar works and the more well trodden paths. This is one fo the very few courses, (Great Trials of History being another) where I re-listened to several of the lectures as soon as I had finished the course, simply for enjoyment .
Date published: 2018-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear, complete, thoughtful, interesting.... This did what my own education didn't - helped give characters context and meaning within humanity's cultures as a whole. I'm now much more interested in reading "great books" than I was before. I looked for other courses by Prof. Shippey and am sad I found none.
Date published: 2018-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great!--would loved to see more from Prof. Shippey Informative; lively, inspiring; well organized and presented; I wish I had time to write a full review of this course (perhaps I will return and post one if/when the occasion arises). It would be wonderful to see a full-length (36 lecture) course from Prof. Shippey on Tolkien and his works!
Date published: 2018-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great title I'm on Lesson 5. Thus far, Dr. S illuminates theaters of literature I am ill-suited to explore given my lack of familiarity w/ the nuances of Middle English. The wordsmiths of the Chaucerian age - and others - were both subtle and able, ie, "....as false as the fox to the lamb', " and "...the language in her eyes." Much anticipation of course yet to come Side note: Re: Prof. S's description of his experience in a Scottish boarding school, I suspect there's many a tale in that memory, not all of which were happy; all of which were formative, I suspect. Very happy for this purchase! :}
Date published: 2018-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from lively presentatioon We enjoy watching a couple of lectures in an evening.... and we're learning background information we never knew.
Date published: 2018-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved the interesting way the heroes were discusse I loved this course. Professor Shippey was wonderful at conveying the interesting aspects of well known and lesser known stories. The breakdown of each was easy to follow and I really enjoyed how he kept bringing the previous lectures back around.
Date published: 2018-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Variety of Heros The course was both enertaining and quite informative.
Date published: 2018-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful presenter My wife and I were both charmed by Professor Shippey. He not only knows his subject, but he speaks in a very natural, conversational tone that made us feel as if he were an old friend. Between the two of us we had read many of the titles covered in this course but Professor Shippey revealed many aspects of these books and their heroes that had never occurred to us. This is one of best courses we have taken and we can't recommend it too highly. I hope The Teaching Company can prevail on Dr. Shippey to teach another course.
Date published: 2018-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoroughly Enjoyable This is another course I might not have taken had I not signed up for the Great Courses Plus. I was hooked after the first lecture. Professor Shippey is a fine presenter who has crafted a series of lectures that unfold in excellent order and completeness. I not only enjoyed revisiting and learning more about some of my favorites (notably Frodo Baggins and Sherlock Holmes) but also got fine introductions to many others. Professor Shippey provides all the background needed on the works and heroes discussed. He also goes considerably beyond that in comparing and contrasting, discussing various versions and later spin-offs, responses, etc. It is odd to find Homer’s Odysseus and Virgil’s Aeneas considered along with James Bond (of the novels, not the movies), ‘1984’s Winston Smith, and even Elizabeth Bennet of “Pride and Prejudice’, but Professor Shippey deftly shows how they work together within what he refers to as the “House of Legend”, to which is regularly added new rooms. Perhaps the most interesting aspects of this course are the continuing role of fairy tales; the impact of changing cultural values on the development and appreciation of the heroic; and how, in recent times, heroes morph from being distant god-like figures to individuals a lot like us. The final lectures on the influence of feminism are particularly interesting. I have to dissent, however, on the course title. Though Professor Shippey’s selection of characters is a good one, it claims too much in heralding them as “the most influential characters in literature.” I am sure there a lot of other candidates that could push aside Dracula, Mowgli, and James Bond from Professor Shippey’s roster. But I quibble and will settle for the course as it is, in good humor and appreciation for the hours of viewing pleasure. While I found the video version to my liking, as the lectures have many illustrations, this course would work very well in audio only. This 2014 TC course has a fine 183-page Course Guidebook with lecture summaries and an extensive annotated bibliography.
Date published: 2018-06-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Course One would initially think, as I did, that this course is designed as an elementary analysis of a series of literary characters. Nothing could be further from the core of this wonderful course. The prof is amazingly well versed in this literature, and his ability to ferret out subtle lessons of each, and tie them in to an overall thematic lesson is simply well worth the effort of working one’s way through each lecture. Whether your new to this literature, or simply reviewing your high school or college reading list, this course is an excellent reflection of the Teachcing Companies striving for excellence in their programs.
Date published: 2017-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging and informative The characters selected combined the expected with those from more recent fiction along with with fascinating comparisons among them. The presenter's style was very engaging and authoritative.
Date published: 2017-11-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from High Points and Low Points Whenever you title something "The Most..." you are opening up the debate for too much interpretation. However, if you are going to actually attempt to have this debate then you have to start somewhere. This series is somewhere between a good first start but needs a follow up. What I appreciated was the mix of ancient and modern hero and heroines since the literary world has provided us with volumes of good sources. But what I also liked about the series worked against it since I felt the lecturer tried a little "too hard" to find obscure references and elevated them to places they...or their larger work....just don't belong. The presentation was also high and low. At times the information was flowed easily and clearly and at other times it bogged down to the point where the actual character got lost in the weeds....or mud. In short its a good series but not great. It's too uneven to get it to the next level and it does leave you wanting more but not from this professor, on this topic.
Date published: 2017-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Reintroduce Yourself to Great Literature I have purchased quite a few courses from the Teaching Company. This was my first foray into the world of literary criticism. Professor Shippey traces the development of the hero from the ancient world (Odysseus and Aeneas) to the modern day world (Harry Potter, Lisbeth Salander). Professor Shippey's style is compelling and entertaining. The material of the course is well worth the effort of listening, even if you have not read all the books. (I read about half of the books that are featured in the course). One excellent feature of the course is that Professor Shippey does not have an ounce of political correctness in him. He does not waste time on that. Another excellent feature is that he covers numerous female heroes as well as all the male heroes. This gives the course a good degree of balance that might otherwise be lacking. For me, I gained new insight into Frodo Baggins (hero of the Lord of the Rings) and Odysseus (the trickster hero). There are also memorable portraits of Don Quixote, Huck Finn, Sherlock Holme, Winston Groom and James Bond. Even if you have not read the books, you can gain insight by listening to the lectures. In sum, this is an outstanding course which covers all sorts of literary heroes and shows how the concept of the hero has changed since the classical period to the modern day.
Date published: 2017-10-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from interesting viewing I bought several cds to watch during the hottest part of summer days. This was very entertaining
Date published: 2017-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More than I expected I expected that this course would give me some insights into characters from familiar novels - and it did that. I expected also that I'd learn something about books that I haven't yet read - and it did that, too. But the part that I didn't expect is that the course gave me insights into issues that are important in the modern world - issues like being a hero when no one is looking or fighting a battle against not only the obvious enemies about also against the powers that control your society. After thinking about these issues, I had a much better appreciation of why these are great novels - not just entertaining books to read.
Date published: 2017-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Many highlights and surprises I really enjoyed this course. The second half was astoundingly good. Highlights for me were Lisbeth Salander, Celie, Dracula, and I appreciated the James Bond lecture.
Date published: 2017-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting perspective into familiar characters. The instructor provides a wide-ranging exploration of familiar heroes and heroines as old as the ancient Greeks and as new as Harry Potter. It's an interesting way to look at some of Western Civilization's most important stories. The instructor is a bit of a pedant, but I think that is to be expected in a subject like this one. His analyses seemed sound to me. It's pretty cerebral stuff, and not everybody will be interested in it, but I enjoyed listening to the course.
Date published: 2017-06-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Heroes & Legends: The Most Infuential characters I brought the DVD set. I wish the disc has closed caption. I had trouble understanding the instructor British accent. It took away from the lecture.
Date published: 2017-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Fun! I bought this course on sale with limited expectations. What a great surprise! From Prof. Shippey's Sean Connery-like voice to his free-wheeling sense of humor and odd pronunciations, I found myself enjoying each lecture and eagerly awaiting the next one. The subtitle of this course is bold - the most influential characters of literature. While I am not sure that all of his chosen heroes and legends live up to that billing, Prof. Shippey makes a persuasive case for each, and, in any event, each of his subjects are very interesting characters, expertly discussed here. I listened to the audio version of the course, which was entirely adequate. High marks for this one!
Date published: 2017-05-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Insight and Very Entertaining Thomas Shippey covers a wide variety of heroes from Odysseus to Winston Smith and Harry Potter. He does a great job of showing how each hero fits into his or her particular society, and he shows how the various heroes compare to one another. His approach is somewhat different than that of an English professor because Shippey's background is in linguistics.
Date published: 2016-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Entertainment Oscar Winner What a wonderful entertaining 1st class course. Relive some of the worlds most exciting adventures; brilliantly narrated by Prof. Shippey. These lectures expanded my knowledge and understanding of literatures epic heroes. Listening has also given me plenty of new ideas for stories to use in my hobby of Creative Writing. I listen to them on my daily walk and their content has added to my enjoyment. My most pleasurable course to date. Thank you.
Date published: 2016-12-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it I was sad when this course ended. I really enjoyed the professor, his insights and humor. You can quibble with the inclusion of a few characters as heroes (looking at you, Guinevere) but he makes a thoughtful argument for each of his selections.
Date published: 2016-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Character I have seen Professor Shippey on documentaries before and he is a very well known literature teacher. I may not always agree personally with his interpretation, but he has a very good knowledge of history as well as literature in this genre, and he defends his conclusions very well. After I finish with this course it will be used for my two teen daughters who are homeschooled by my ex-wife.
Date published: 2016-10-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course Professor Thomas A. Shippey does a superb job in this course. I truly liked his style, wisdom, and the way each lecture was done. The characters which are described come alive in the lectures, and I really enjoyed getting to know old friends better, and meeting some new literary friends from books I have yet to read. I recommend this course.
Date published: 2016-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Fun for a Book Lover If you are a book lover, you will really enjoy this course. The professor dedicates lessons to twenty-four of the greatest characters in history, ranging from ancient characters like Odysseus up to modern characters like Harry Potter with many points in between. In each lecture, the professor gives the character's background, discusses the author's motivations, frames the character in his or her historic time period, and discusses how the character has had a lasting influence (or is likely to have a lasting influence in the case of more modern characters). I particularly enjoyed how he pointed out the evolution of what we deem as heroic in our society, such as the distinct difference between a demi-god character like Aeneas versus Winston Smith, the modern "every man" in the Orwellian nightmare, 1984. The professor's teaching style is clear, and he makes cogent and enlightened points. I will say, though, that it helps to have read the books. I have read most of the books, and I got much more out of the lectures for those than the ones that I have not read. Also, the professor occasionally drops a spoiler, so you should take that into account if you are planning to read a particular book.
Date published: 2016-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Characters come off the page and into life I enjoyed Dr. Shippey's approach. He describes his characters in terms such a "trickster" and "straight arrow" with such candor. As such the characters take on human qualities helping us understand them and the leterature in greater and brighter detail.
Date published: 2016-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Eclectic Bunch of Heroes The professor has looked widely at literature to select his heroes, and among those selected are such predictable ones as Odysseus and Aeneas and such unpredictable ones as Elizabeth Bennett, Uncle Tom, Dracula, James Bond, and Harry Potter. By the time you are finished, if you read all the books he covers, you will have read a terrific range of books and looked on many fictional characters in a new way. Grand fun!
Date published: 2016-07-26
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Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature
Course Trailer
Frodo Baggins-A Reluctant Hero
1: Frodo Baggins-A Reluctant Hero

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 hero-you'll see how changing cultural values connect to heroism.

34 min
Odysseus-The Trickster Hero
2: Odysseus-The Trickster Hero

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, follow him on some of his many adventures.

31 min
Aeneas-The Straight Arrow
3: Aeneas-The Straight Arrow

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 self. It also shows how old legends provide the inspiration for new tales.

32 min
Guinevere-A Heroine with Many Faces
4: Guinevere-A Heroine with Many Faces

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 that still captures our imagination today.

31 min
The Wife of Bath-An Independent Woman
5: The Wife of Bath-An Independent Woman

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 time she lives in, and the surprising complexity of her character.

30 min
Cressida-A Love Betrayed
6: Cressida-A Love Betrayed

Cressida is an archetypal femme fatale, embroiled in a love triangle between her true love, Troilus, and the bad boy, Diomedes. Through the lens of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and the Scottish poet Robert Henryson, discover what makes Cressida tick-why does she send Troilus a "Dear John" letter? What doesn't she understand about love?

31 min
Beowulf-A Hero with Hidden Depths
7: Beowulf-A Hero with Hidden Depths

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 about life and death, the limits of self-reliance, and the path to achieving wisdom.

32 min
Thor-A Very Human God
8: Thor-A Very Human God

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 give you a new window into a character you thought you knew.

31 min
Robin Hood-The Outlaw Hero
9: Robin Hood-The Outlaw Hero

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 the politics, religion, and society of Robin Hood's origins to understand his character and lasting appeal.

29 min
Don Quixote-The First of the Wannabes
10: Don Quixote-The First of the Wannabes

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 innovative and how it has influenced writers in the centuries since its publication.

31 min
Robinson Crusoe-A Lone Survivor
11: Robinson Crusoe-A Lone Survivor

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, that has helped him stand the test of time?

30 min
Elizabeth Bennet-A Proper Pride
12: Elizabeth Bennet-A Proper Pride

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 money and social class play in this classic tale of love and romance.

31 min
Natty Bumppo and Woodrow Call-Frontier Heroes
13: Natty Bumppo and Woodrow Call-Frontier Heroes

Shift your attention to two very American heroes: Natty Bumppo from James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans and Woodrow Call from Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove series. These frontier heroes bring to life the conflict between Anglo- and Native American cultures-and capture a reality often glossed over by the romance of the Wild West.

32 min
Uncle Tom-The Hero as Martyr
14: Uncle Tom-The Hero as Martyr

The name "Uncle Tom" has complex associations today, but Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel had a truly powerful impact when it was published in 1852. Explore the historical circumstances of slavery that inspired Stowe's novel, and then consider the fortitude that makes this meek, long-suffering character a hero.

32 min
Huckleberry Finn-Free Spirit of America
15: Huckleberry Finn-Free Spirit of America

Join Huck Finn on his American odyssey down the Mississippi River. Although the story at first seems to be the fun adventure of a free-spirited hero, you'll explore the moral complexities of 19th-century America as Huck struggles with the tension between his conscience and the social circumstances in which he grew up.

30 min
Sherlock Holmes-The First Great Detective
16: Sherlock Holmes-The First Great Detective

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 of Sherlock's most exciting cases.

31 min
Dracula-The Allure of the Monster
17: Dracula-The Allure of the Monster

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 his seductive brides. Then ponder Dracula's lasting effect on world literature.

33 min
Mowgli-The Wolf Child
18: Mowgli-The Wolf Child

A boy in the woods, raised by wolves and living by the law of the jungle: This story is familiar to us, thanks to Rudyard Kipling's classic stories and the later Disney film. Revisit the original stories to see what they tell us about humanity, morality, imperialism, and political responsibility.

30 min
Celie-A Woman Who Wins Through
19: Celie-A Woman Who Wins Through

We've seen that heroes don't always have to be gods or queens or the social elite. Dirt poor in Georgia in the 1930s, Celie-the heroine from Alice Walker's The Color Purple-is at the bottom of the social totem pole, yet she exhibits remarkable heroism in the way she overcomes the forces pressing against her.

31 min
Winston Smith-The Hero We Never Want to Be
20: Winston Smith-The Hero We Never Want to Be

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 Ingsoc and find out what makes Winston worthy of being called a hero.

32 min
James Bond-A Dangerous Protector
21: James Bond-A Dangerous Protector

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, gadgets, and glamour and discover the secret to the James Bond franchise.

30 min
Fairy-Tale Heroines-New-Style Princesses
22: Fairy-Tale Heroines-New-Style Princesses

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 tales and in modern revisions from authors such as Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood.

33 min
Lisbeth Salander-Avenging Female Fury
23: Lisbeth Salander-Avenging Female Fury

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 lecture, her character also has echoes of ancient myths, from the Greek Furies to the Scandinavian Valkyries.

32 min
Harry Potter-Whistle-Blower Hero
24: Harry Potter-Whistle-Blower Hero

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 us about our world today and the need for love, faith, and inner heroism?

34 min
Thomas A. Shippey

There's nothing to beat a new idea, a new angle, a new response-except a new idea that people have been waiting for without knowing it; a new idea that responds to an existing new situation.

ALMA MATER

University of Cambridge

INSTITUTION

St. Louis University

About Thomas A. Shippey

Dr. Thomas A. Shippey is Professor Emeritus at Saint Louis University, where he held the Walter J. Ong, S.J., Chair of Humanities. He holds a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge.\r\nProfessor Shippey has published more than 100 articles, mostly in the fields of Old and Middle English language and literature, and he has a long-standing interest in modern fantasy and science fiction. He is a regular reviewer for The Wall Street Journal on both medieval and modern topics, and he also writes for The Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books, among other journals. His books include The Road to Middle-earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created a New Mythology; Beowulf: The Critical Heritage (with Andreas Haarder); J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century; and his edited collection The Shadow-Walkers: Jacob Grimm’s Mythology of the Monstrous.\r\nHe has given invited lectures and keynote speeches at conferences in at least 25 states and more than 10 European countries. He appeared on an often-replayed television program, The Story of English, hosted by Robert McCrum and Robert MacNeil, and he was an adviser on pronunciation for Peter Jackson’s three Lord of the Rings movies.

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