I have finally found a way to redeem my misspent college years (Madden anyone?): ITunesU. From lectures on String Theory to “How did Hannibal cross the Alps?,” Systematic Theology to Heidegger, I feel like I’m now going–like the responsible adult I was supposed to be at 19– to all of those nightly addresses given by world-renown professors that, at the time, never seemed as interesting as some of the other extra-curriculars that college life affords. And, since my music/movie tastes are a little more pedestrian than my esteemed fellow bloggers (think Lil’ Scrappy and Fred Clause), this is my version of a playlist.
So, here are my 10 favorite ITunesU offerings for 2008. They’re not in any particular order, except for an attempt to mix up the ridiculous with the sublime (I’ll let you decide which is which). As this list will necessarily expose my own particular bias’ and interests, and since there are new classes and schools being added all the time, I’d love to know of others that I’ve missed.
This is a radio show from KZSU, Stanford. Hosted by Robert Harrison–a delightfully pretentious professor of French and Italian at Stanford–this is “Ivory Tower” intellectualism at its best. Whether its an interview with the late Richard Rorty , a wonderful conversation on the concept of “Athletic Beauty” and similarities between football and chess(here and here), Rene Gerard and Mimetic Desire, or Kandinsky and German expressionism, this show represents the breadth and depth of learning that a tenured professorship—or massive independent wealth–can afford you. Its something that we can all aspire to someday. Trust me, you’ll love it.
A few other highlights include:The Virgin Mary; Anti-Americanism—a conversation with Russell Berman; Hannah Arendt —a conversation with Karen Feldman 1 & 2;W.H Auden; Language and Thought
This is a set of instructional videos from the Aerospace department at the University of North Dakota intended to help aspiring pilots how to execute “soft field landings,” “holding patterns,” and “commercial steep turns.”. . . unbelievably cool.
3.Existentialism in Literature and Film
It seems like almost every class offered at UC Berkeley is online, and I don’t know if loss of revenue from tuition is contributing to California’s financial woes, but we’re all better off for it. The best thing about this class is the Profesor, Hubert Dreyfus. He is easy to listen to, self-deprecating and funny. In addition, if you want, you can buy the books—Fear and Trembling, Sickness Unto Death, Brothers Karamazov, etc—and read/learn along with the lectures. So, download a class or two for your next run/workout, and appreciate the opportunity to boldly assert your defiance of death and search for meaning while listening to a lecture on Nietzche.
4.The Historical Jesus
I think it was Browder, or Sun-Tzu (I get them confused), who said, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”
Covenant Seminary, R.T.S and Concordia
I don’t know a lot about Covenant Seminary St. Louis, but it seems very similar to RTS (Reformed Theological Seminary), which means that it is solidly Reformed-Evangelical (in distinction to the Cranluthmerian-Evangelical perspective). Despite some different pastoral and ecclesiological emphases, I always find it helpful to hear a clear and consistent exposition of the Reformed position. There are also many classes up from Concordia Seminary, St.Louis, which is Lutheran. It is simply amazing how many resources these seminaries have available online. And while I wouldn’t recommend it, you can, essentially, get an MDiv (including Greek and Hebrew) for free! At any rate, until MockingbirdU gets up and running, and in the great Cranluthmerian tradition, with 2 parts Concordia and one part RTS, you can’t go wrong.
5.Francis A. Schaeffer: the Early Years, The Later Years
This two-part class on Francis Schaeffer from Covenant was fascinating. Aside from the fact that I like biographies, Schaeffer was an important part of my return to a form of historic Christianity after one too many classes in the religious studies department. He lived/taught during a time of incredible social and theological change–which we’re still in the middle of–and he had some prophetic insights. Plus, given the worldwide reach of L’Abri, and its impact on so many prominent Christian leaders, his life is an attestation to the power of ideas and what individual people can do when inspired—and yes, I’m sure that I’m reading myself into that “grand narrative,” because what would life possibly be like, or how could I even begin to cope with reality, were it not for the ability to place myself in the unfolding story of God?
6.History of Philosophy and Christian Thought
I wish I had been offered a class like this in seminary. Despite the frequent asides about contemporary church issues that are sort of interesting, the consistent and thoughtful critique of the idea of autonomous reason from a Christian perspective is really instructive. My only hesitation with some these classes from RTS, which I’m reminded of when about half-way through most of them, is that simul iusius et pecattor applies to the noetic as well as the ontological,or in other words, our reason and rationality remain subject to the ever-present judgement of the Cross —at any rate, this class is a great way to spend 37 hours or so:)
7.Yale Religion Department Lectures
This is a collection of different lectures all falling under the heading of “religion.” It is interesting to see how morality of some stripe is the thread that runs through otherwise mutually contradictory conceptions of God. I’m just sayin. . .
8.Philosophy 185: Heidegger
I wonder if Heidegger would appreciate the irony of his ideas being downloadable (definitely a word). This is another class from Professor Dreyfus that reminded me why so many of my friends who were Philosophy majors were also into hydroponic farming. I’ve listened to the class one time straight through, and now am going back with the book in hand. . .slowly. If you’ve ever thought, “As the ego cogito, subjectivity is the consciousness that represents something, relates this representation back to itself, and so gathers with itself,” then this is the class for you.
9.History 167B: The Rise and Fall of the Second Reich
This one is also from the land of Heijman, and maybe its because I’m living in Germany, but I found this class fascinating. While “nothing-comes-from-nothing” is a profoundly anti-Christian theological principle, as this class tragically shows, it may have something to say to history.
10.BU Humanities & Social Science
This is a collection of different lectures. The highlights (IMHO) are: “A Lecture by Slavoj Zizek,” “Practical Theology as Empirical Theology,” and “Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11.” After listening to some of these, I have little hope for any reconciliation between red and blue states, but hey, what do I know?
So, these were a few of the things that kept me from having to talk to people sitting next to me on buses, airplanes and trains during 2008. If any of you has found classes that you like too, let me know–I’m always looking for fewer reasons to converse with strangers:) Until then, Merry Christmas from me, Liza, and Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey.