Not simply a grand work of reference, The Great Books is a captivating journey through two-and-a-half millennia of the great Western tradition.
The Odyssey, Paradise Lost, The Canterbury Tales: great literature can be read by anyone, with a little help. The eminent British philosopher Anthony O’Hear leads the way with this exhilarating tour through 2,500 years of books as powerful, thrilling, erotic, politically astute, and awe-inspiring as any modern bestseller.
The Great Books is a fascinating narrative that encompasses history, myth, art, music, theater, and more. O’Hear sweeps us along from Homer’s Iliad to Goethe’s Faust, covering much ground in between. In Homer’s poems of epic struggle we discover not only the fascination and pleasure we can derive, but also why these works became the fountainhead of Western literature. From Greek tragedy we feel the power of the ancient myths, while from Plato’s Death of Socrates we see what may have killed off the tragic spirit. In Virgil’s Aeneid we ponder the close connections to—and puzzling contrasts with—Homer; in Dante’s terrifying and sublime Divine Comedy we encounter Virgil once again, this time as mentor and guide through Hell; and in Milton’s phantasmagoric Paradise Lost we find the Christian story given epic shape and power. And of course, in Shakespeare we experience the great dramatist’s particular and incomparable genius.
There is much more beyond—from Ovid and Augustine to Chaucer and Cervantes, Pascal and Racine. The Great Books is a spirited and enlightening guide to the great works of the Western tradition, shot through with a love of literature and the author’s deeply held belief in its power to enrich and enliven everyone’s world.