This course offers an overview of the English language that is literary, historical, cultural, political, and scientific in its scope and designed to give you greater insight into the written and spoken word.The lectures provide a thorough understanding of the history of the English language - from its origins as a dialect of the Germanic-speaking peoples through the literary and cultural documents of its 1,500-year span to the state of American speech today.
Professor Lerer defines concepts by illustrating them with copious examples. He often speaks in the dialect appropriate to each lecture - be it Old English, Chaucer’s Middle English, or the colloquial style of Mark Twain’s most unforgettable characters.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©1998 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1998 The Great Courses
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5 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 26-02-15


Professor Lerer may rub you the wrong way a little when you first hear his voice; he did me.

I had that reaction, I think, because he enunciates each word with such excruciating clarity and exactness that it becomes at times distracting from the actual content of the lecture.

It was only a little further into the course, however, that this very trouble, that is the shifting of focus between the meaning of the sentences/sections/thoughts and the individual words (free from direct context, highlighted by the intentionality with which he executes them) became a source of joy and reflection that added tremendously to the experience. I'm sure this was one of his goals in constructing these polished lectures.

His apparently deep knowledge of the pronunciation of old and middle English, including the various dialects, makes listening to his readings of Chaucer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf, Cadmon and even Shakespeare (reconstructed to sound as it would have if you were hearing it circa 1600) really thrilling.

I'm going to find his other courses after reviewing this one. Highly recommended!

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By John on 02-11-14

Good, But Could Be Better

This course is very interesting, although it could be better. The first two parts of the book are excellent with a wealth of historical information about the historical development of the English language going, well, back to the beginning. Really fascinating, and I felt like I learned a lot.

When the book gets to the later stages, however, it slips a bit. The professor lapses into more than a little political correctness, which is probably not surprising given his background. If you can take it or leave it, the discussion is still interesting.

The professor is not a bad lecturer, but he has one incredibly irritating habit: He says "if you like" all the time. It becomes glaringly obvious, especially given the length of the recording. Maybe the professor can fix this in the third edition.

Another irritation--although certainly not the professor's fault--is the trumpet music announcing each new chapter along with the fake applause (which also closes each chapter). Straight out of 1950s sound effects. Just plain awful and prevalent in the "Great Courses." But, fortunately, a small part of the recording.

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16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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