Lectures in a Box

Been doing some alternative media lately and I thought I’d share my source with you. I’ve listened to 2 of the 52 titles at my library in the “Modern Scholar” series of lectures on CD.  These are The Literature of C.S. Lewis and Jerusalem:  the Contested City.

The C.S. Lewis literature survey course is made up of 14 lectures of 35 minutes each on 7 CDs.  The lecturer is Professor Timothy B. Shutt of Kenyon College, Ohio.  He is a colleague, as a medieval literature scholar, and an obvious fan as I am.  Even though Shutt did not meet Lewis in life he certainly knows a great deal about him and his work.  This is a survey of most of the best known and beloved of Lewis’ body of written work.  I found the lecture were not too analytical as to leave the books bloody on the lecture room floor but rather an excellent study of the main books with many anecdotes to bring new information to light.  I learned a great deal about Lewis and enjoyed these lectures very much.  I have read nearly all the books covered on the list (some, like the Chronicles of Narnia, several times) and I was very pleased with the content.  I did not find the accompanying guide book all that useful except for the time-chart showing Narnian books but I do not think a literature really needs much of a guide anyway.  I would give this an 8 on a scale from 1 to 10.

The Jerusalem historical lectures were, as with the Lewis course, made up of 14 lectures of 35 minutes each on 7 CDs.  The lecturer is Frank E. Peters a professor of History, Religion and Middle Eastern Studies at New York University.  Peters certainly shows us his breadth of knowledge in both history and religion in this history of Jerusalem.  He starts by discussing what the requirements for a holy city are and how Jerusalem certainly seems to fit the bill.  Jerusalem has seen such division and shifts in rule throughout its long history it is a wonder it exists today.  I learned a great deal about Jewish, Christian and Islamic history and have a much better understanding and appreciation for the conflict within Jerusalem as well as in the larger Middle East.  The history of the Western or ‘Wailing’ Wall was particularly interesting.  I was surprised to learn that it is not part of Solomon’s template as I thought, nor is it even a wall.  The Jewish temple had been built several times before the western wall which is really the foundation for the leveling off of the Temple ‘Mount’ by King Herod the Great (the first Herod in the New Testament as a matter of fact).  Herod then built a temple larger than Solomon’s on this foundation which was at one time the largest temple in the region or perhaps even the world and considered a wonder before the Romans completely destroyed it.  It was also interesting to learn how much Christian influence (from the days of Constantine onward) was exacted on the city even outside of the well known century of the Crusaders.  The Muslims also are very much involved in Jerusalem.  Their Dome of the Rock ‘shrine’ on Herod’s temple mount is a testament to their interest in the spot where Muhammad came on his famous ‘Night Journey’.

I found it particularly interesting how the various religions mixed in Jerusalem, sometimes with disastrous consequences but often surprisingly peacefully.  The tolerance accorded to those of other faiths by whoever was in charge of the city was amazing to me.  Take, for example, the fact that the Israelis sis not force the Muslims out of their Dome of the Rock or al-Aqsa Mosque after the 6 day war.  After all, this was originally their temple mount, the former site of their Holy of Holies.  Perhaps it is something about the city that does this… perhaps one day I will go and see for myself.

Both these lectures were a delight and are highly recommended.  I have first hand knowledge that they both go very well with sorting through boxes in the living room or doing dishes.


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