One consequence of the decay of American education is that most adults have never been taught how to enjoy the great works of world literature. Many literature teachers no longer teach the classics, and those that do analyze them either superficially or from an irrational philosophic perspective. Consequently, the typical American turns only to movies or popular fiction to satisfy his need for art.
In this course, Ms. VanDamme discusses some of her favorite works of classic short fiction ("Boule de Suif," by Guy de Maupassant; "Spring Torrents," by Ivan Turgenev; "The Birthmark," by Nathaniel Hawthorne) and contrasts them with popular fiction ("The Gift of Cochise," by Louis L'Amour) in an effort to demonstrate the deep personal value to be gained from great literature. Her approach to analyzing these stories is the one defined by Leonard Peikoff in his course "Eight Great Plays": she discusses the plot (or central event), characterization, theme, underlying philosophy and style of each author. In doing so, she hopes to demonstrate the powerful events, penetrating insights and memorable characters that can be discovered in those stories that ought to have been taught to us in school.
This course was recorded at the 2006 Objectivist Summer Conference in Boston, MA.
(MP3 download; 4 hrs., 30 min., with Q & A, 194.28 MB)