Medieval Heroines in History and Legend

Course No. 2937
Professor Bonnie Wheeler, Ph.D.
Southern Methodist University
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Course No. 2937
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Course Overview

This course presents the lives, based on the latest scholarly interpretations, of four medieval women who still shimmer in the modern imagination: Heloise, the abbess and mistress of Abelard; the prophet Hildegard of Bingen; the legendary Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine; and the woman-warrior and saint, Joan of Arc.

In Medieval Heroines in History and Legend, Professor Bonnie Wheeler discusses these four remarkable women in the light of the present "golden age" of medieval scholarship. Almost daily, researchers are recovering lost information that corrects our picture of what had been a misunderstood era. As a result, we know more than ever about the roles women played in medieval life.

What did it mean to be a heroine in the medieval world? As the four subjects of this course make clear, it meant shaping and changing that world. In the monasteries and churches where people prayed, the universities where they wrote and thought, and even on the political map of Europe itself, these women made differences perceived not only in our time, but in theirs.

Women of Intellect, Words, and Passion

These lectures are an extraordinary opportunity to study great women of the past in their "own words." Professor Wheeler bases her discussions on recently discovered or recovered written records they left behind, from Hildegard's prodigious scholarship to the personal letters of Heloise and detailed transcripts of Joan of Arc's trial.

With these documents as a basis, you will see Heloise (1101—1163) as a forerunner of Europe's new day. Her letters passionately overflow with the new knowledge of her day. With her star-crossed love, Abelard, she invented a new mode of philosophic thought.

Only now are scholars recovering the long, important second half of the story of Heloise as a woman of power after Abelard's death. Her letters show her to be well versed on such topics as Cicero, classical philosophy, Latin poetry, and rhetoric.

She saw the institution of marriage in her day as little more than a commercial transaction, and its duties burdensome, noisy, costly, and dirty. Her letters reveal her desire to be Abelard's "meretrix" (prostitute) rather than his "imperatrix" (empress). In her discussions on Heloise, Professor Wheeler also covers the long debate as to whether Abelard and Heloise's letters to one another—the first, first-person record of a love affair in human history—are genuine or not.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098—1179), like Heloise a 12th-century abbess, is revealed as the last flowering of antique learning. She lived a dramatic life as a mystic, voluminous writer, and preacher. She was a personal advisor to Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and her political involvement and passion as an advocate for clerical and imperial reform give her special interest in our day.

Only in the last generation have scholars rediscovered this amazing medieval intellect. Based on her letters, at least four popes and 10 archbishops corresponded with her, not to mention some 100 other individuals notable to history.

Among her many writings, her Book of Simple Medicine was an impressive mini-encyclopedia on what we today would call the natural sciences.

But Hildegard is also known as the "holy hypochondriac," subject to disabling migraines. Were her visions delusions, a result of brainstorms caused by chemical imbalances?

Women of Action and Legend

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124—1204), Queen of France and then England, mother of at least 10 children, scandalized her contemporaries and has fascinated us ever since. She accompanied her husband, Louis VII, on the second Crusade, and her exploits are a reminder that women were crusaders—not merely camp followers—in numbers that rivaled those of men.

You will learn—based on as-yet-unpublished research by Professor Andrew Lewis—that Eleanor was probably born in 1124, not 1122 as normally thought. As a physically hearty woman of courage, she provides a way for historians to explore the diverse roles that women played in enabling or resisting the Crusades. This is exciting work that will allow us to understand medieval women outside the context of home and family as agents of sometimes-radical change.

Eleanor's life is so amazing that it is easy to see why she has become the staple of legends. Among those you will consider are whether she passionately adored, then fought endlessly with, her second husband, Henry II of England (all too true); whether she poisoned Henry's mistress, Rosamund (no proof); and whether she held "courts of love" to encourage and engage in amatory liaisons (again, unproven).

Joan of Arc (1412—1431) was the illiterate French peasant girl whom Mark Twain described as the "youngest person of either sex to lead her nation's army before the age of 19." Known as "La Pucelle" (the "maid" or "virgin"), she lacked any kind of military training, yet her military instincts seemed impeccable. Although she carried a sword in battle, she never used it to kill a man, and seems never to have become used to the sight of dead or dying men.

Was this young woman who heard heavenly "voices" an incomprehensible quirk, or did she change the course of European and world history? Ironically, this debate is complicated by the detailed transcripts of her trials, which make her one of the best-documented figures of pre-modern times.

Trial records and her letters reveal her as someone who spoke with compelling simplicity, quick wit, and piercing honesty." This girl spoke terribly well," said Albert d'Ourches. "I would really like to have had so fine a daughter."

Professor Wheeler dismisses as myth the notions that Joan was actually of noble birth, or that she never fully developed physically as a woman. These lectures reveal Joan as perhaps most memorable for what she was not: a queen, a mother, a beauty, or an intellectual. Instead, she was a woman of action, and the kind of person who is often an enigma to modern intellectuals: someone of profound religious faith.

Appreciating how these four heroines have been understood and misunderstood will help you understand how history passes judgment on both women and the Middle Ages. The contemporary research upon which this course is based can move us beyond how women "ought" to have been to better knowledge, however precarious, about how women were.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Four Remarkable Medieval Women
    The four women featured all subscribed to hierarchical worldviews. No feminists, they swam within the intellectual currents of their time. Their heroism derives from worldly accomplishment and from their intensely realized lives. They were ordinary neither in their vices nor their virtues. x
  • 2
    The Revolutionary Twelfth Century
    In the 12th century, an energized Europe conquered hunger, repopulated its cities, founded universities, and coalesced into a confident Christian civilization. Christianity expressed itself inwardly through monasticism and outwardly through crusade. The insular male monastic culture may have been responsible for rising misogyny. x
  • 3
    Prodigious Heloise
    Heloise came of age in a culturally liminal period, before the University of Paris was founded as an institution closed to women. In the protected haven of the Argentuil monastery, she was steeped in classical philosophical traditions, learning to love Cicero, Latin rhetoric and the teachings of St. Jerome. What plans did her uncle Fulbert have for her that went unrealized? x
  • 4
    Abelard's Story of Abelard and Heloise
    From the ashes of his marriage to Heloise, Abelard produced his Historia Calamitatum, a penitential but arrogant memoir of the affair whose accuracy we might question. Are the "Personal Letters" exchanged between Abelard and Heloise an authentic corrective? The self-abasing and submissive Heloise that emerges from these pages appears to some to be a projected male fantasy. x
  • 5
    Heloise as Lover—Her Sublime Submission
    Heloise submitted to marriage but resisted it due to her view of "intentionality"—that sin and virtue reside in intention, not mere ceremonial action. Ironically, this later caused her to cling to every vestige of a marriage she refused to see as ended. Marriage, for her, was as much a meshing of minds and spirits as a physical union. x
  • 6
    Heloise, Adept Abbess and Mother
    Heloise never accepted the justice of Abelard's castration, but together they moved on, collaboratively engaging spiritual, historical and administrative issues. After his death she initiated her own reforms, founded priories, and made peace with Abelard's former enemies. The great Bernard of Clairvaux was just one of many admirers of her sanctity, learning, and pastoral responsibility. x
  • 7
    Heloise of the Imagination
    The heroic love of Heloise has been memorialized by painters, poets, and filmmakers alike, though Heloise's intellectual gifts have not been so well recognized. What, in the end, should we make of a woman who possessed such prodigious talents yet sacrificed them to the devoted service of one man? x
  • 8
    Hildegard of Bingen, Sibyl of the Rhine
    From the monastery at Disibodenberg, Hildegard worked within the monastic world to amplify its cultural influence vis-a-vis the rising power of cathedral schools. By the age of 50, her fame had spread to Paris, and she sought to found her own independent monastic community. x
  • 9
    Hildegard, Holy Hypochondriac
    An advisor to popes and emperors and a preacher to the masses, Hildegard earned her authority through prophecies resembling unmediated visions from God. Disclaiming authorship, she could present herself as a humble "weak woman" while demanding "virility" from a clergy she chastised as effeminate. Today some argue that her visions were actually hallucinations brought on by migraines. x
  • 10
    Hildegard's Visionary Trilogy, Science and Letters
    Hildegard's Book of Life's Merits, a guide to proper living, includes moralizing visions of the spirit world reminiscent of Dante's Inferno as well as novel visions of Christ as a unicorn. Her scientific works are suffused with the idea of viriditas, or "greenness," a vital force connected to virility, freshness, and virginity. x
  • 11
    Wholly Hildegard
    Hildegard's character was not unblemished, as we see in her undignified grief over the reassignment of a favorite personal secretary and her somewhat arrogant defense of her monastery's occasionally flamboyant habits. She was fully human in her faults and in her excellences, such as her joyous mastery of monastic music. x
  • 12
    Eleanor's Lineage
    Eleanor's grandfather, the notorious William IX, defined the 12th-century landscape. Lecherous, outrageous and cosmopolitan, he was an indifferent crusader but was also the first troubadour, composing songs that formed the basis for the medieval language of courtly love. His son, William X, had his appetites tamed by piety and ensured that Eleanor would inherit the Aquitaine. x
  • 13
    Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, Queen of France
    As Queen to Louis VII, Eleanor remained active in the administration of her domains, but soon encountered trouble. A sordid war with the ruling family of Champagne led to the scandalous torching of a nearby peasant village, which morally compromised Louis. The failure to produce a male heir put further strains on the royal marriage. x
  • 14
    Eleanor and the Politics of Estrangement
    Perhaps out of guilt over the war in Champagne, Eleanor joined Louis in the Second Crusade, and was transformed. The celibacy enforced upon them further estranged the couple, and her active participation in the crusade may have further emboldened her. Returning from Jerusalem, she was determined to be free. x
  • 15
    Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, Queen of England
    As wife to Henry II, Eleanor bore eight children yet would not be sidetracked from pursuing power and influence. Henry's fatal error, exiling Eleanor with their son Richard to the Aquitaine, led to the successful rebellion of his sons and Eleanor's renewed ascent. x
  • 16
    Eleanor the Dowager Queen
    As Queen Mother, Eleanor's energetic diplomacy secured the loyalty of her son Richard's allies. After Richard's death, she used military campaigns to bring peace to her realm and crafted a marriage alliance that aligned the ruling families of England and France, although her son John would eventually undermine that peace. x
  • 17
    Legendary Eleanor
    Unembellished, Eleanor's story is one of sex, violence, suspense, manipulation, ambition, and teeth-grinding tenacity. It is no surprise that legends, myths, and scores of differing depictions would accumulate around such a figure. This lecture attempts to explain the myths and separate fact from fiction. x
  • 18
    Joan of Arc and Her Times
    The 100 Years War between the Plantagenet and Valois dynasties for control of France along with the Great Schism provide the backdrop for Joan of Arc's story. An examination of her early years shows how improbable her rise to greatness was. x
  • 19
    Joan Discovers Her Mission and Her Dauphin
    Joan's progress was punctuated by miracles, beginning with the voices which inspired her. She next persuaded Robert de Baudricourt to recommend her to the Dauphin, then identified the future King as he hid disguised among his courtiers. What secret did she reveal to him to instill faith in her mission? x
  • 20
    Joan the Warrior, Holy Berserker
    The nature of Joan's military genius is multifaceted. She was an able tactician, skilled at horsemanship, and had a keen understanding of artillery. But it was her raw courage, religious certainty, and charismatic leadership of men that made possible the full frontal assault on the English position and victory at Orleans. x
  • 21
    Joan's Success and Captivity
    Joan enjoyed a string of victories after Orleans, culminating in Charles VII's coronation at Reims. A flagging of military confidence and support led to the failure of her attack on the English stronghold at Paris. Treachery may have ultimately delivered her into the hands of the Burgundians. x
  • 22
    Joan's Trial, Death, and Retrial
    Joan evinced great composure and even wit during her prosecution by almost one hundred university-trained inquisitors. After a brief crisis of confidence, she retracted her brief recanting of her mission and was condemned to burn. A quarter century later, a victorious Charles VII arranged her vindication at a second trial. x
  • 23
    Joan of the Imagination
    Shakespeare damned her. Mark Twain adored her. She appears in more works of art than does any other historical figure. Joan lives on in the public imagination as a torchbearer for human rights, the plight of political prisoners, right-wing nationalism, and a bevy of other, often contradictory causes. If anything she is even more important to our time than she was to hers. x
  • 24
    Four Pioneers
    Today, these women are problematic to us in our consideration. We do not share their medieval worldview. We should, however, appreciate that our heroines were women of action, shaped by their world but pushing against it to redefine what the life of a woman could entail. x

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Your professor

Bonnie Wheeler

About Your Professor

Bonnie Wheeler, Ph.D.
Southern Methodist University
Dr. Bonnie Wheeler is Associate Professor of English and Director of Medieval Studies at Southern Methodist University. She completed her undergraduate work at Stonehill College and earned her Ph.D. from Brown University. Prior to taking her position at SMU, Professor Wheeler taught at Columbia University. Professor Wheeler has received Southern Methodist University's Outstanding Teacher Award six times and is also a...
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Medieval Heroines in History and Legend is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 44.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable set of lectures Overall, the lectures were fine but I thought too much time was spent on Heloise. It just so happens I had just finished 1066 The Year That Changed Everything. As a lecturer, I prefer Jennifer Paxton and wish Emma of Normandy had been included.
Date published: 2015-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this course I bought this course thinking I'd love the lectures on Heloise, Hildegard, and Eleanor (which I did) but not so much those on Joan of Arc. I had read avidly the letters of Abelard and Heloise, but had little context in which to place them; this course filled in that context. I had read a fascinating biography of Eleanor, but learned much more about her from Prof. Wheeler. I've heard some music of Hildegard, but knew next to nothing about her life; now she has a personality and character as well. However, I'm not a Catholic, and I thought the life of Joan would be completely incomprehensible to me. Was I ever wrong! Now I think of her as a very intense but real human individual. Prof. Wheeler did an amazing job of illuminating all four lives and the times in which they lived. This wonderful course whets the appetite for more courses on the lives and works of women, but at this time this is the ONLY ONE of its kind offered by the Great Courses. Women's lives and work can be every bit as interesting, important, and creative as those of men. Come on, Great Courses, open your door to the other half of the human race.
Date published: 2015-05-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Course! The professor's enthusiasm made the material come alive! Her knowledge is extensive and she presents both facts and lore - both important to our understanding of these heroines. Excellent!
Date published: 2015-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A View of the Middle Ages from Inside This is a fascinating look at the rich tapestry of medieval European life and thought through the lives of four remarkable women. As Professor Wheeler points out, they are not, and because of their very remarkableness cannot be, entirely representative of their time and place. Nevertheless, as they influence are influenced by the world around them, that world is revealed to us. Professor Wheeler's presentation is clear and engaging. She examines in depth the medieval context in which her subjects live. She also compares and - especially - contrasts the thought patterns of the middle ages with ours. The final lecture is not to be missed; it is an excellent summation of the material covered in this course.
Date published: 2014-05-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Too personal for me [audio version] This is not the kind of dispassionate, even-handed history I’ve come to expect from other GC medieval history profs such as Daileader, Paxton and Harl, who all seem to strive to bring the times and people to life without inserting themselves in the picture. After listening to this course, I feel quite well-acquainted with Prof Wheeler, but not with the four women she discusses. I’m fine with whatever personal religious, political, or social views a professor may have – as long as they are kept personal. Prof Wheeler’s hard-core 21st century feminist perspective and her personal speculations so color her stories that I never felt much sense of reality about any of the four women. Her strident, sermonizing lecture style didn’t help. Prof Wheeler also spends too much time on topics with little or no historical basis, such as Heloise’s birth date and early life and the myths that have arisen about each of these women. And maybe I’m picking nits now, but I thought she has an odd obsession with Peter Abelard’s (Heloise’s lover) castration. I lost track of how many times she referred to it in her lecture on Heloise, but it’s easy to count in the course guidebook (21 occurrences of some form of the word “castrate”!)
Date published: 2013-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Medieval Heroines I loved this course but do not want a digital course. Cannot understand why it was discontinued. I have it on audio tape but would love a CD since my tape is now passe.
Date published: 2013-01-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from 12 hours of girl power Herstory was too much for me. Gave me one of Hildegard's migraines. I need this class like a fish needs a bicycle.
Date published: 2012-08-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Challenging and worth it Dr Wheeler, something of a star in Womens' Studies, has a very passionate and energetic delivery which, at first, put me off. After coming back to the opening lecture, prepared for her own 'heroic' attitude toward her subject(s), I was carried along and have rarely been so involved in a lecture series, going back again and again to replay (MP3) segments and work them to the full. It is astonishing how much new light Prof. Wheeler throws on these supposedly well-known women. Of the four heroines, Heloise, Hildegaard, Eleanor and Jeanne Darc, the only lecture section I found impossible to get through was that on Hildegaard, who turns out to be remarkably less than her music and mystical legacy have suggested. Though at times Prof. Wheeler's enthusiasm can be overwhelming, it is also a real bridge over the dry chasm of standard pedagogy. I am running the introductory lecture again, now that she has given me an overwhelming depth of new knowledge which will inform my historical and political thinking from here forward..
Date published: 2012-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My First Course; A Great Choice! This was the first course I bought and I made a very wise decision. I have the VCR version; I don't understand why it's not on DVD. The four different choices of women effectively shows how medieval women cannot be stereotyped; notable females of this period come from many different walks of life, from the political to the warrior to the mystic to the scholar/lover. Of course these lectures cannot cover everything about all these women, but after hearing these lectures the student should have a good, basic understanding of each woman. This hopefully entices the student to want to learn more--and to pursue that want. I loved the professor's lively style; her passion and enthusiasm is such a pleasant change from the droll lecturer; her style was particularly effective with Joan of Arc, who was, herself, full of guts! I've studied Joan of Arc for many years, but I still learned more interesting things about her. I wish Prof. Wheeler did more courses; I would definitely buy them. But as I've noted above: put them on DVD!
Date published: 2012-01-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from At least the Heloise lectures were interesting. I wanted to like this lecture series, I really did. Indeed, the first several lectures on Abelard and Heloise were fascinating, and I ended up reading their letters, studying more about Abelard’s philosophy, and appreciating Heloise as a strong woman who made one crucial mistake that led her to betray her values and sabotage her chances at happiness: she should have followed her beliefs and not married Abelard. After these fascinating initial lectures, the series takes a rapid descent into utter drudgery. We hear about the mystic Hildegard, only confirming that mystics only know the limits of the knowledge of their day. In none of her revelations do we hear anything novel, and instead are told a mishmash of nonsense. Men are conceived, for example, when the couple is happy, and women when the couple is angry. From here we move to Eleanor of Aquitaine. I swear, if I never hear Dr. Wheeler say her name again I will be a happy man. She spends six lectures telling me what a great woman this was without ever showing why she’s great. Indeed, by the end of these lectures, I found myself wishing she had simply chosen instead to talk about the complicated relationships and inheritance laws among the royalty of that period. At least then, it would have been an accurate description of what she actually talked about and far more interesting that Eleanor. Last, we come to Joan of Arc. I swear, if I never hear Dr. Wheeler say the word “virgin”, I will also be a happy man. When she doesn’t spend fifteen minutes droning on and on about Joan’s prediction of a sword hidden in a chapel, she emphasizes again and again, and in case we didn’t get it, again that Joan was a virgin. In the end, this course could easily have been half the length and twice the interest. Or, instead of focusing on four particular women, focused on women in general and used these stories as highlights. Two of the women were famous partially because they claimed to hear voices, one famous because she inherited the Aquitaine, and only one—Heloise—interesting more in her own right, and even then more interesting in her relationship with Abelard. This could have been a fascinating series. Instead, I could hardly wait to be finished.
Date published: 2012-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 3 out of 4 were good I am very happy with this course. I really liked how 3 of the women were presented. Bonnie did a very good job making Heloise, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Joan of Arc lives interesting. I now know what each is famous for and quite a bit about the world they lived in. Hildegard I did not find very interesting and is why this gets 4 stars instead of 5. A person can listen to this with no preknowledge on the subject and have no trouble. After listening to this I do want to learn more about the crusades as that was a big event in this time frame that does not get talked about as much as it may have deserved. As an audio course I had no trouble listening to the teacher's voice for long periods of time. A note this course spends a lot of time talking about the role of women in society. I found it thought provoking, others may have trouble with that aspect of this course.
Date published: 2011-12-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not my favorite I was disappointed in this course. The lecturer's speaking style was strident to my ear. The historical information this course is built upon seems sparse, though that's probably not a fault in the researcher as much as an inherent trait of the subject matter and time period. I wish there had been more factual details available to each heroine's story and less time spent on subjective interpretation.
Date published: 2011-10-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Did not like it Audio download. I hate to disagree with most reviewers, but I did not like this course. I already knew the 4 heroines from other courses from the Teaching Company and I was hoping for a more thorough review with more details and background. Professor Wheeler is an unabashed feminist. She portrays everything from the feminist’s point of view. I don’t have a problem with that, but in this case I found that her presentation has diminished the course. She has a loud, even shrill presentation. She almost shouts at the listener. She expects you to know a lot of historical facts, which is not mentioned in the description of the course. Fortunately, I listened to many Teaching Company history courses, so I knew what she was referring to, but without this background you may find yourself wondering about what she said. I only listened to the first 3 lectures and decided to give up. I did not like the voice, the presentation, or the delivery. I would not recommend this course.
Date published: 2011-10-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Much, Much Too Long! Professor Wheeler is knowledgeable and clearly fascinated by the topics she presents. However, the course she offers here is structurally flawed as it deals with three exceptional women of the 12th century and a fourth, Joan of Arc, who lived three centuries later. It would make no more sense to give a course on George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams along with ... Christopher Columbus! Although much research has ceratinly been undertaken, the material is repetitious and often not very pertinent. It is difficult to consider for instance an obituary as an objective document or a legal contract as revealing intimate personality traits! Worse, surprisingly out of place in a Teach12 course, Professor Wheeler repeatedly promotes various books she has herself edited. Consequently, this course can sadly not by any means be recommended to anyone.
Date published: 2011-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Impressive Depth of Information This course ties together information that I have been seeking for a long time. Without studying this course, it is extremely difficult to get a detailed idea of the true impact of the women profiled in this course. The professor discussed the women in a wonderfully interesting manner. I loved this course!
Date published: 2010-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightening and Engaging Excellent discussion of four fascinating women with particular care given to distinguishing between fact and myth. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2010-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from brilliant, insightful, splendid I realized half way through this exceptional course that I would happily listen to any course presented by Professor Wheeler. Her enthusiasm is infectious and never forced, her insights, compelling, her reasoning impeccable. I came to these four women with some not inconsiderable background in both the period and their stories, and yet I can say I learned much that was new, and more that helped rethink what I already knew. The best course I have heard yet from The Teaching Company.
Date published: 2010-06-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Powerful stories I'm grateful to Prof. Wheeler for choosing these four women and giving such detailed attention to their lives. I learned a lot, and for the most part I feel like I was being presented with good, factual history and a look at women's roles in the Medieval world. There were times when I felt she was a bit heavy-handed with the feminist viewpoint, which I think makes itself in the lives rather than needing a kind of sledge-hammer hit by the professor. But that just may be me. Overall, a good course, and worth listening to.
Date published: 2010-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Much-Needed Historical Course on Women These four women are some of the most fascinating people in history. All of them bring something different to the table, and their passions and tragedies are compelling for both their epic quality and their contemporary relatability.
Date published: 2010-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "Ready for their close up...." Every course I have taken (including TC's) or books I have read on the medieval period discusses these four women - some just a little, others a little more. This course gives them their due and it's an historical close up seldom given unless you take the time to read monographs on each but nothing I have read on these incredible ladies comes close to being as informative and enjoyable as this course. It's even more unbelieveable that Hildegard's music is still available on CD. This course is not just good history, it's a great story or rather great stories. If you have an interest in the medieval period, European history, Women's studies, or just love to hear wonderful stories told well - you will enjoy this course. Whatever you know from books, films, courses, or the Teaching Company about these women, this course will teach you more and you will enjoy learning it. These were truly incredibly tough women living in truly incredibly tough times and Professor Wheeler's course covers these women and their times incredibly well.
Date published: 2009-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great listening for a car trip I found these lectures to be excellent listening during a long car trip recently. Dr. Wheeler's voice is a bit forceful but I think that might be because she is passionately involved in the lives of these women of history. These lectures have inspired me to seek other reading about Eleanor of Aquitaine in particular. I was slightly familiar with Hildegard since she wrote music that we studied in my music history class at college. What interesting lives these women were able to lead in an era dominating by men. An inspiration to us all.
Date published: 2009-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Strong Women, Powerful Biographies This is a particularly enjoyable course! Professor Bonnie Wheeler digs into the stories of these four famous women with verve and energy. I am awestruck by the accomplishments of these enlightened women, who lived during tumultuous times when society did not easily accommodate strong and independent women. All four biographies make great listening, but the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine is particularly striking -- teenage Queen of France, eager participant in the Second Crusade, leaving one king for another to become Queen of England, passionate lover, mother of Richard the Lionhearted, and an altogether irrepressable woman her entire life. I had to smile at the image of the beautiful Eleanor traveling across France with her own private security force, fighting off repeated kidnapping attempts by lustful land barons! What an incredible life! I heartily recommend this terrific course to everyone, and I would welcome any future courses by the excellent Professor Wheeler.
Date published: 2009-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Poignant Survey of 4 Remarkable Women While listening to this course, I discovered four very remarkable historical figures. Yet, they are more than names in a history book. They are role models for young women in every culture and century. These women - Heloise, Hildegard, Eleanor, and Joan - overcame tremendous prejudice, oppression, and scandal to forge their individual paths into the halls of history. (As you will see from the course, Heloise's thwarted love and Joan's youthful martyrdom are particularly thought-provoking.) As a young woman, I was particularly inspired by their example. If these heroines could overcome such tremendous obstacles in a deeply male-centered era, what excuse do I have for not reaching my full potential? If viewed in this manner, their experiences paint a portrait which conveys life lessons to both sexes. Professor Wheeler's final point was particularly powerful: "The stories of these women is a reminder to every society what is lost when women are suppressed." You won't regret purchasing this course. 5 stars!
Date published: 2009-05-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from These stories were riveting. Eventhough I already knew some of their basics, the became new. My blood boiled with rage at injustices, my soul soared with admutation at the brilliance and selflessness of these women.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good subject matter- even a novice like myself was able to comprehend the subject matter.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have so enjoyed tohe course- very interesting and easy to follow.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful instructor; French accent abysmal.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This Medieval Heroines course was very interesting! I did learn a lot and enjoyed it too. the teacher was fabulous too.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the teaching co. provides an excellent service to those who believe in life-long learning and for scholars who wish to share their research and enthusiasm.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A superb teacher with a powerful passionate voice that echos those women of long ago. Deeply inspiring.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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