Hardy Life at Its Worst

One of my favourite interests is literature. I managed to get hold of this course called “TTC – Classics of British Literature“. I have several courses of literature and this course is one of my favourites. The course is taught by Professor John Sutherland and as usual each lecture is 30 minutes long. The course contains around 48 lectures, so you will be spoilt for British culture and perhaps become a literature master.


Professor John Sutherland

I decided to look at lecture number “38 Hardy Life at Its Worst”. This lecture is on Thomas Hardy a great Victorian novelist and poet. He started out writing fiction, then moved on to more serious themes. He could not stand to ignore life’s harsh treatment of those who aspire to be something else.

Thomas Hardy, died in 1928, was considered a Great man of the novel.

But What kind of monument was Thomas Hardy? What did he leave behind?


Thomas Hardy

The lecture discuss the tug of war on Where Thomas would be buried. Eventually his heart went elsewhere, I think Wessex and his brain cremated at Woking.

Well lets look at why is this lecture about life at its worst?

The lecture gives us a brief overview of Thomas Hardy’s birth place Wessex. The region of Wessex was going through some great change and many was for the worst. Thomas Hardy never seemed to forget the difficulties of his childhood and this caused some divisions within himself.

What were those The divisions?

As stated before From 1860’s to 1890s he wrote fiction and novels. The later years, he wrote poetry.
Hardy wrote against morality and portrayed life at its toughest. One book was even banned by a bishop, I wonder what book that was?

One of Thomas Hardy’s book “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” described one of the women being raped. It was also known that readers criticised the book “Return of the native” as too grim. Thomas Hardy tailored the book to suit the audience needs.

Many of Thomas’s books including “Far from the madden crowd“, was criticised because people wanted more happier endings.

Eventually Thomas Hardy decided to write more on reality and moved away from fiction, during his later years.

The Lecture moves on to his life and looks at the relation of his life to his novels?
Hardy was born in the county of Dorset. He was born into political reform, Robert Peel the then Prime Minster began to reform of the corn laws. There was no more protectionism for British corn laws. Imports were now not so heavily taxed any more.

Such changes in rural farm life became an inspiration to Hardy’s book “The Mayor of Casterbridge“. It was heavily influenced by the decline of the farming industry around that time. The lecture moves on to study why Thomas Hardy was interested in science, especially Charles Darwin.

Thomas Hardy had no children in which due to later years upset him greatly. Thomas also had failed relationships. To make life more difficult for Thomas his best friend killed himself. Why is Thomas so pessimistic?

“Humans have an intelligent relation with nature, but there was always some struggle.”

The lecture moves on to one example of the hard life and how it is portrayed in another of Hardy’s book. The Theme of “Far From The Madden Crowd“, one of the characters Fanny dies destitute and unknown. However her death is not to be in vain as she resembles the Patron saint of loss causes.

Professor John Sutherland talks about how Thomas is interested in church architecture, but also mentions Thomas did not align himself to religion, but loved the design.

In 1898 Thomas moves off from fiction and wrote a poem for “the love of the church and its structure”, but still distanced himself from religious belief.

The lecture then talks a bit about another of Thomas Hardies book “Under the Greenwood Tree“.

Professor John then starts to read a Poem -> The Impercipient

THis lecture exams the friction between religion and Thomases belief

THAT from this bright believing band
An outcast I should be,
That faiths by which my comrades stand
Seem fantasies to me,
And mirage-mists their Shining Land,
Is a drear destiny.

Even though what is shown is just a small part of the poem, the lecture explains that the poem shows how difficult it is for Hardy to believe in faith due to what he has seen around him.

In 1862 Hardy now goes to London to try his fortune. He first Went to London as a architect and then moved on to writing. Hardys novels begins to show his pessimism. One of Hardy’s books “Jude the Obscure” exemplifies his use of tragedy.

The Discussion of book is about Jude and it starts in Wessex green which has become run down. Wessex shows the misery of peoples lives. Jude is an orphan and throughout the book we are shown the sad hard life of Incest, suicide and alcoholism.

Jude eventually becomes inspired by education and hope to be a great teacher one day. The lecture shows that Hardy sees things differently and warns us of the difficulties to come. Jude starts out well, he studies hard and dreams of university.

However Professor John states there are Obstacles to Jude’s dreams and fantasies.

One of the obstacles is the British class system
The other is that Sexual relationships causes Jude major problems

Prof John describes a passage of the book of Jude’s aspiration. His dreams and fantasies. Here the lecture describes how a maid puts end to Jude’s fantasies by trapping him into some marriage, but he still does not give up. Eventually Jude moves close to Oxford, but ends up in another relationship with someone outside his class, but Jude ends up drinking heavily and this causes them to part.

Jude eventually gives up his dream of education, and soon there is a tragic climax in the novel. One of Jude’s lovers Sue is pregnant, but she cannot find lodgings. Jude can take no more of life’s upsets.

The lecture read out Part of novel.

All of Jude’s three children murdered and his other child commits suicide. Jude’s lover Sue then has a miscarriage. All this is too much for Jude to bear. Jude dies due to alcoholism.

Another part of the Novel is read out describing Jude’s dead body.

The lecture shows the Irony of Jude’s funeral as it is done when there is a parade of Oxford students celebrating their last exam results. The lecture finishes up on Why do we like tragedy? How does Hardy create beauty out of suffering?

“We have to look at life as it really is, if we want to live life.”

If you enjoyed looking up on this lecture, you will be sure to enjoy the course. You will learn much from it.


Big Brother is still Watching you

Here is a lecture I have been listening time and time again.  It’s from the audio company, which is called “The Teaching Company” and the course is called “Books that Can Change Your Life” taught by J. Rufus Fears.
Well what can I say about this particular lecture? I have watched the film starring John Hurt.  I read part of the book, listened to the play narrated by David Niven and now I get a detailed analysis of the famous book “1984”. The book was written by George Orwell and in a nutshell the book was aimed at communist Russia just after the Second World War.
1984 book cover
This lecture is number 19 out of 32 lectures, I could not help skip some of the other lectures.  They are all important books and I am sure listen to them in time, but 1984 is so controversial, so terrifying and almost predicts what could happen in the future.  Well about the style of the lecture. It is always fun listening to Rufus, he never seems to talk in a one tone voice, it is almost as if he is beckoning you further with his style. Drawing you into the story of the book and what the book is about.  Rufus sometimes breaks into voice acting of the characters and does voice of Winston Smith (The main character of the book) superbly.
You really get the feel of the terror and mystery of Big Brother, which is the dictatorship style of government Winston Smith is living under.  You see the thing is Winston Smith does not like Big Brother, I mean when he does not life Big Brother, he literary HATES Big Brother and from there we get an epic story.
I will not go into the full details of the story 1984, you can either listen to this particular lecture or get hold of the book. I also recommend that you watch the film starring John Hurt (watch trailer), which actually did come out in 1984.
Why did George Orwell write this book? Why did he perceive communism as evil and how does this book even relate to problems of communism? Come to think of it, how does this book change your life?
george orwell
George Orwell
So many questions and hopefully the lecture will answer them for you. I can also try and answer a few questions myself about this book.  George Orwell was unfortunate enough to take part in the Spanish civil war of the 1930’s and although he came to participate of his own willing, he had to ally himself with those who wanted to push for communist ideals in Spain while fighting against those with fascist ideologies.
Well, George saw what the Russians under Stalin were like and he did not like this one bit.  Over the years throughout the Second World War, he could not keep what he saw bottled up and wrote the book 1984.  He foresaw what life would be like under Stalin once the war would draw to a close.
Why was this book banned?
Well Russia took the main brunt of the war against the Nazis. The British government felt that at the time such criticisms of Russia and communism was going too far and could damage relations. Yet in time Winston Church (does the name “Winston” ring a bell?) spoke out in his famous speech of “The Iron Curtain” closing down over Eastern Europe.
How can this book change your life?
To be honest, any book can change your life.  Yet this book is unrelenting on how a government can turn on its citizens.  We can almost imagine ourselves living under this style of government and come to think of it. parts of Big Brother can be implemented in the governments of today, think of surveillance eroding into your privacy.
The big question is, would you take a stand like Winston smith? Would you try to make a change? Or would you keep your head down. Perhaps would you bow to the government and do as they tell you to, even if you know deep down it is wrong, but be so fearful of your life that you cannot afford to displease big brother.
Take some time to listen to this lovely lecture and maybe it will inspire you to think carefully about the times we are living in, but remember……
Big Brother is WATCHING YOU!!

Communication Matters II – Gender – Women and Men Talking

Today I decided to pick out a lecture related to communication, but this lecture series on communication has a twist, it seems more psychological. I listened to lecture number 9 out of the course “Communication Matters II: That’s Not What I Meant!” by Professor Deborah Tannen.


Professor Deborah Tannen

Here she concentrates on describing the differences between how men and women communicate, which can often led to clashes.

Prof Deborah raises several examples on how she on What kinds of differences between the ways that men and women use language in their daily lives..

First she looks at how boys and girls communicate when they are with their best friends or when they are playing together. I found this part of the lecture very interesting.

She discusses how girls play when they are with their best friend. She notices that girls tend to choose smaller groups and tend to like to play inside or in close knit quarters. Girls often relate to their best friend by telling them secrets. Girls are very verbal and not other physical, they will sit with their best friend/friends and talk for a long while. Girls also tend to celebrate equality. They like to copy each other’s style.

With boys, this is almost reversed. When boys are with their best friend, they do things together rather than tell each other their secrets. They like to play in larger groups, status and hierarchy is celebrated so boys tend to boost about their abilities even if it seems ridiculous. Deborah also mentions boys celebrate differences e.g. what a particular boy is good at.

What Prof Deborah was interested in is how girls use repetition when it comes to communication and fitting in with friends. If one of the girls mentions that her friend has a bracelet, the other girl in that group would mention that her friend or relative has a bracelet in order to fit in.

I found this section of the course quite interesting.

The second part of this lecture moves on to how men and women often clash when it comes to communication. We hear women tend to engage in problem talk. This means women like to talk about their problems, as with men who tend to want to shut out or disengage from discussing something, especially if they are busy doing something else.


We are given several other examples of how women feel shut out of a conversation when communicating with their male partner. We are shown a good example of when a woman asks her partner how he would feel about having a drink. Obviously the partner replies “No”, but for some reason the woman feels angry and annoyed about this answer.


The clue is perhaps she wants to strike up a conversation about the drink, because women feel that it is easier to relate to someone if they engage in talk or problem talk, while men get the idea that when a woman wants to talk about something, she is looking for a solution. Still, it seems most of the time, this is not always the case.

I found this lecture easy to digest and not too much jargon or lingo. The way deborah speaks about communication issues began to make me panic, because I often see failings in myself when I am talking to the opposite sex. I can often see why my girlfriend gets angry with me, but I do often feel I struggle to respond to her talk and about opening up my feelings.

Check this course out when you get the time, maybe you might get to learn a lot about yourself.