Michael D. C. Drout’s Audiobooks

December 14, 2009

An American scholar, a literary critic, an author, Michael Drout is an English professor at Wheaton College. Best known for his essays on Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics, and a recipient of Mythopoeic Award, he has earned his Ph. D. in English from Loyola University in Chicago. He has published a good number of books such as J. R. R. Tokien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment, How Tradition Works, and three volumes on Tokien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review, and so forth. The purpose of this essay is to discuss his audiobooks.
His audiobooks are treasured information on English literature, English language and grammar, analytical criticism, literary genre, aesthetic linguistic appreciation, sociolinguistics, sociopolitical linguistic significance, artistic phenomena and language arts, different cultural aspects, psychological linguistic perspectives, etc. The purpose of this essay is to introduce these audiobooks briefly. This brief information cannot translate the real significance of those treasures; however, real effort has been made to get the best of them.
Only five of these audiobooks have been briefly introduced, and they are covering such topics as Bard of Middle Ages: The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer A Way with Words IV: Understanding Poetry, The Modern Scholar: The Anglo Saxon, The Modern Scholar: A Way With Works Part III: Grammar for Adults, The Modern Scholar: Rings, Swords, Monsters: Exploring Fantasy.
There is a plethora of reasons to listen to these audiobooks, but the following three reasons are the most intriguing of all. First, the listener develops an extensive understanding of English literture, English language, language arts, and a lot more. Second, the listener will take a great delight in these audiobooks, because the information is exciting, and knowledge itself results in euphoria, especially when it is gripping. Third, developing a listening habit is very prolific, because receiving information through hearing is more comfortable than acquiring it through reading. Based on a critical analysis of what actually reading is, it is easy to justify that the mind gets the information through hearing much easier than through reading. By reading you have to see the word, lip it, until the brain absorb it, which, although it is unethical to what reading is actually understood and imported, sometime it is hard to dispose of habit and tradition. But to analyze reading critically and linguistically, it is the fastest and easiest way of feeding information into the mind, which on the basis of such analysis, the mind receives information faster through hearing than through reading. Thus listening to these audiobooks are more accommodating than reading them.
The audiobooks are narrated by the author himself. On average, each audiobook lasts about eight hours, or a little more or less. Lacking depth and resonance, his youthful voice puts his works outside the pale of refined delicacy; nevertheless, he is very clear, and his sentences are eloquently and measuredly stated. Further, the information is so intriguing that the listener forgets the voice and goes after the meaning. The audiobooks are linguistically sound and technically well developed.

Audiobook I
Bard of the Middle Ages: The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer
Listeners who listen to Bard of the Middle Ages will learn a lot on Chaucer and his literary works. It is a wonderful information on the majestic poet of the Middle Ages, Chaucer. The audiobook has shed enough light on the poet’s style, wit, creativity, and articulateness, providing the listeners with interesting information about the era he lived, and what kind of social, moral, political, and psychological phenomena were in vogue during that period. The Canterbury Tales, mentioned in this audiobook, is Chaucer’s collection of tales written at the end of the 14th century. The tales are narrated by a group of pilgrims who, to mark a storytelling contest, are traveling from Southwerk to the Shrine of St. Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. It is suspected that in this collection, Chaucer has been influenced by Boccaccio’s Decameron. The audiobook proves to be a good guide in understanding not only Chaucer’s life but also his works. It covers several lectures discussing a variety of subjects. Lecture 1 covers Chaucer’s life; lecture 2 includes his language, style, and literary background; lecture 3 explores The Book of the Duchess, The Romance of the Rose, and the Minor Poems; lecture 4 elaborates The House of Fame, Anelida and Arcite, The Parliament of Fowls, and Boethius; lecture 5 is about Troilus and Criseyde, Books I-II; lecture 6 focuses on Troilus and Criseyde, Books III-V; lecture 7 is targeting The Legend of Good Woman; lecture 8 is about The Canterbury Tales, whose subject of discussion is “General Prologue”; lecture 9 is on The Canterbury Tales, whose subjects of discussion are “The Knight’s Tale,” “The Miller’s Tale,” “The Reeve’s Tale,” and “The Cook’s Tale.” Lecture ten is in connection to Canterbury Tales, whose topics are “The Man of Law’s Tale,” “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” and “The Friar’s Tale”; lecture ll discusses the Canterbury Tales: “The Clerk’s Tale,” “The Merchant’s Tale,” “The Squire’s Tale,” and “The Franklin’s Tale.” Lecture 12 covers Canterbury Tales, whose topics are outlined such as “The Physician’s Tale,” “The Pardoner’s Tale,” “The Shipman’s,” and “The Prioress’s Tale”; lecture 13 is on The Canterbury Tale: “Sir Thopas,” The Tale of Melibee,” The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” and “The Second Nun’s Tale’“ lecture 14 The Canterbury Tales: “The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale,” “The Maniple’s Tale,” “The Retraction,” and Conclusions.

Audiobook II
A Way with Words IV: Understanding Poetry
This is a wonderful source of information on poetry from the Middle Ages through the modern era, an excellent opportunity to explore the poetry, to recognize it, and to appreciate it. The writer not only presents you with samples from each era, but he also walks side by side with the listener to explain those samples in terms of language, style, tone, plot, character, genre, climax, etc. Where an explanation involves, there the writer is present to help as effectively as the listener is satisfied. In many places even if the listener fails to locate the need for explanation on certain artistic, or linguistic, or historical aspects, the writer himself draws the reader’s attention and presents details. The writer not only pursues the etymological concept of certain words and expression, but he also clarifies their aesthetic significance. For instance, the writer studies about the root of Dunkin’ Donut, and how it is used artistically. Consider, for example, Dunkin’ Dunet , which are Anglo-Saxon’s terms, and they were used alliteratively.
This audiobook in the outset gives detailed information on poetry, its nature, style, form, genre, variety, rhyme, rhythm, tempo, etc. Furthermore, besides recognition of poetry, the listener is inspired to develop a sense of appreciation of it and assimilate its significance. The writer explains that poetry not only gives readers and listeners delight and exultation, but it also purges their emotion, which it signifies that how poetry has been profoundly grasped both socially and psychologically. Once a solid understanding of the poetry is established, its depth fathomed, its significance defined, its aesthetic importance explored, its sweet taste is flavored, its fragrance smelled, its boundaries are identified and a general scope of poetry is depicted, the writer explains how poetry as an oral composition is assimilated, a traditional way of presenting poetry in the beginning of its development, which is elaborated by means of good Anglo-Saxon’s poetic models.
Once the old, traditional samples of poetry is explored, the writer advances towards the Middle Ages’ poetry, and Chaucer’s works are selected as models for study. Professor Drout is quite familiar with this bard of the Middle Ages, on whom he has already researched extensively, knows how to handle it, present it, and use it to walk the listeners and readers through these times. Then the Renaissance period is trod, during which the revival of art and literature, under the influence of classical models of 14th-16th cemeteries, takes effect. Such poets as Spenser and Milton produce literary works indicating their interest in grasping English Christian beliefs. Then the Victorian period opens up, an important era in the history of poetry by connecting the Romantic movement into the modernist movement of the 20th century. Parading through all these aesthetic eras and movements, the listener reaches the conclusion, which is not an end, but the genesis of a new experience as to the poetry and its elements.

Audiobook III
The Modern Scholar: The Anglo-Saxon
This audiobook attempts to define what Anglo-Saxons are, who they are, where they have come from, and what they have contributed to the modern people. Etymologically, as an adjective, Anglo-Saxon refers to the Germanic inhabitants of England emigrated from the north of Germany; as a noun, it denotes any white, English-speaking person who spoke this language between the 5th- and the mid-12th century. Historically, Anglo-Saxons are the invading Germanic tribes migrated into the south and east of Great Britain during the 5th century A. D. and created England. Whether they drove the Britons from their land or lived peacefully, they took control of the most of Britain. In fact, they were a blend of several tribes who came from the present Denmark and Northern Germany. They were heathen, and it is accepted that they have overwhelmingly originated from the three tribes such as Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.
In this audiobook, Professor Drout has started his journey through a detailed introduction of Anglo-Saxons’ historical, cultural, ethnic, social, and geographical backgrounds, elaborating their original land migration, shedding light on their original religious, cultural, and historical cognizance, elucidating how they were Christianized, how they were intellectually transformed, and how their way of life was changed. The writer gives a good description of Anglo-Saxon’s golden age, which was attained during Alfred the Great. In fact, Anglo-Saxon’s life and style did not turn out to be an incarnation of the past, but, on the contrary, their religious, cultural, and artistic manifestations erupted into evolutionary elements, and by the time Alfred the Great overcame the Vikings, an educational, cultural, and social resurgence broke out. The fact that how the Vikings were beat, and how artistic and intellectual development succeeded are interesting topics that Professor Drout has successfully discussed and expounded. Beowulf is an epic of Anglo-Saxons’ heritage, in which Angelina Julie plays the role of a monster. End of Anglo-Saxon period is marked when the Normans assumed control by defeating Harold in the battle of Hastings. Now two languages were spoken in England—English and French.

Audiobook IV
The Modern Scholar: A Way With Words Part III: Grammar for Adults
This audiobook is an essential gift for the modern scholars. They cannot be modern scholar if they do not know how to use their language correctly. This is a great gift for those who are concerned about applying their language and dubious about their phraseology. The writer first tries to convince the speakers of the importance of correct usage of the language. He gives good examples of why it is important to use the language properly, and what happens if we ignore speaking properly. Professor Drout starts his book with a sociolinguistic question; that is, while nowadays the computer corrects people’s writing, why should they worry about the grammar? People are concerned about writing and speaking correctly lest they break the social barriers created by the language. The writer explains that he can use split infinitives or applying the proposition at the beginning or at the end of the phrase, because he is a professor of English, but ordinary people who tries to be completely correct, they have to know grammar. Grammar is the only tool through which they can defend themselves to attain their status in society as educated strata.
Grammar is used either by the speakers or by the linguists. The speakers want to use the right language and grammar because they do not want to be socially and educationally embarrassed. In fact, mastery of the language mark their intelligence, and the listeners and readers judge them by the language they use. Incorrect grammar not only results in humiliation, but it may also cost them much heavier than what they have calculated and expected. For example, if people are being interviewed, the interviewer watches their language more than their appearance and behavior. When the interviewer hears their few sentences, their level of understanding and knowledge will be assessed, and in the light of this assessment, they will be rewarded. The linguists use the grammar because their profession involve them. An ordinary person may be excused for not speaking correctly, but educated people have no choice but to know the grammar well and use it properly. Otherwise their professionalism will be at stake.
In the light of all this, Professor Drout substantiates the importance of using the language grammatically, discussing the use of vocabulary, diction, idiom, writing, phrasing. As a matter of fact, the book is very encouraging and interesting to speak correctly and to write properly, and the examples and explanation that the writer provides are very persuasive and invigorating.

Audiobook V
The Modern Scholar: Rings, Swords, Monsters: Exploring Fantasy
This audiobook is a cutting-edge for those who want to study fantasy. By listening to this audiobook, you learn not only about the fantasy but also about other genre of literature, and you can develop a critical understanding of all kinds of literary works, and not only of definition of genre itself but of literary genre. Because bringing a clear-cut boundary between fantasy and main stream literature is such a difficult task that it makes the writer penetrate deeper and deeper into literary investigation and critical examination of different literary genre to define what fantasy is. This minute examination of different ideas, books, genre, and other circumstances, teach the listeners to learn not only about fantasy but also about the entire literature
The writer ascertains the importance of fantasy by the number of films are seen, the books read, and other literary pursuits are made. However, academically it is not as seriously attended as it should . Such elements as magic, hero, mediaeval settings, castle, and monsters are attributed to fantasy. Fantasy is a literary genre; however, it is difficult to find such a definition to separate it from other literary genre. Even if you separate it from the mainstream literature, barriers are still come to exist . Because according to Professor Drout, there is not even one single element found in fantasy, cannot be found in realistic novel. He ventures to define fantasy and science as followig—fantasy is about things that could have happened but didn’t. Science fiction is about things that physically could have happened but haven’t happened yet. Further, to contrast between fantasy and realistic literature, he goes deeper into the works of such writers as Hemmingway, Faulkner, Henry James, and Jane Austen, whose characters are involved with minutia of social interaction and deep psychological motivation, and internal life. However, the writer is not satisfied with all this distinction. In order to distinguish the fantasy from the mainstream literature, he goes after distinct literary samples and draw distinction between the two categories.

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