From the anonymous author of the Epic of Gilgamesh in ancient Mesopotamia to William Faulkner writing about Mississippi 3,600 years later, many of Western culture's greatest figures have been writers. Their landmark themes, unique insights into human nature, dynamic characters, experimental storytelling techniques, and rich philosophical ideas helped create the vibrant storytelling methods we find reflected in today's authors. These 84 brilliant lectures survey more than 70 literary geniuses and masterpieces of Western literature, offering you the chance to experience a veritable encyclopedia of great writers who have played critical roles in Western history, influencing everything from religion to politics - to say nothing of the myriad literary genres and movements, which illustrate how writers reacted to their cultural environments and demonstrate the crucial relationship between a writer and his or her time. From Homer and Virgil to Cervantes and Milton to Dickens and Joyce, the featured texts and authors are so richly varied and cover so many different centuries, societies, literary movements, and genres, yet you'll discover a panorama of literary relationships between periods, authors, and the paths that brought us to where we are in literature today. Amid all the discussions from five highly esteemed professors, you'll return again and again to the idea of literature as a powerful force in our lives. You'll come away with a well-rounded and well-informed understanding of both these literary icons and the larger role that literature has played in our cultural history. The complete list of lecturers includes professors Elizabeth Vandiver, James A.W. Heffernan, Ronald B. Herzman, Susan Sage Heinzelman, and Thomas F.X. Noble.