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Publisher's Summary

Discover why intellectuals and historians alike consider Voltaire to be one of the most intriguing, influential, and elusive thinkers of the modern world. Focusing on the deepest, most enduring aspects of Voltaire's work and thought, but never losing sight of the colorful, fascinating man himself, these 12 lectures sketch for you a vibrant, thought-provoking vision of Voltaire as "the father of the Enlightenment" and one of the great literary personalities of all time.

You'll follow this Enlightenment thinker's 84 astoundingly productive years and go inside not only his masterpiece, Candide, but the hundreds of other works in almost all the literary, philosophical, and polemical genres current in his day, and the more than 20,000 letters this prolific writer and thinker left behind.

What was Voltaire's world like? Who and what influenced him? What questions and dilemmas did he ponder? What evils did he struggle against? What reforms did he advocate? What made him laugh and cry, or write a book like Candide, which is at once so funny and so sad? And what is his place in the history of the Western mind? The answers to these and other questions can be found right here in this illuminating lecture series. If you're unfamiliar with Voltaire and his works, prepare to meet one of Western literature's defining writers. And if you already have some familiarity with the man, prepare to discover even more insights into why he still matters after all these years.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Voltaire and the Triumph of the Enlightenment

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Enlightenment ideas still relevant today

This was one of my favorite Great Courses. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. My only real exposure to Voltaire before this was reading Candide in high school. The professor has such passion for the topic, and manages to pass it on to the listener. I felt I learned so much about not just Voltaire but the times he lived in, especially about the forces in French society that led to the revolution, and the figures of the Enlightenment that continue to impact us today.

I thought Prof. Kors was one of the best professors in the Great Courses series -- I always looked forward to listening to him.

I also thought this one was perfect on audio. I never had any confusion because this wasn’t in video form. And I find I make much more progress on Great Courses that are in audio since I’m not tethered to the TV. That said, anyone new to the Great Courses should realize that they sound like a professor lecturing (which is what it is) and not like a narrator reading an audiobook. I actually find that more engaging, but I realize some listeners prefer a smooth narration, rather than someone lecturing from a podium.

9 people found this helpful

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Voltaire challenges all professors, Kors does well

What made the experience of listening to Voltaire and the Triumph of the Enlightenment the most enjoyable?

The passion of the professor.

What other book might you compare Voltaire and the Triumph of the Enlightenment to and why?

Anthony Padgen The Enlightenment and Why it Still Matters

Have you listened to any of Professor Alan Charles Kors’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No. But, I know his politics are different than mine but, he skillfully kept his libertarian/conservatism from the lectures.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The parade in France for Voltaire near the end of his life.

Any additional comments?

Does history offer an intellectual peer for Voltaire? His prodigious writing was not something I was aware of before these lectures. 8 million words boggles the mind.

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if we could all think this clearly

this is my first introduction to Voltaire and the enlightenment. I found it very entertaining and thought-provoking, I recommend anybody interested in the French Revolution or the American Revolution listen to this course. as it illustrates the thought processes of the 18th century. this is a fascinating treatise on philosophy and the thoughts of man which I am new to. I just finished the course on the French Revolution from the Great Courses. I plan on now listening to Candide and immersing myself in this great thinkers greatest play. the narration is entertaining and enlightening at the same time I listen to this course in the space of one day I found it so interesting.

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outstanding. clear and illustrative!!! I'm spanish

outstanding. clear and illustrative!!! I'm spanish person and I didnt have problem following the lectures

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Voltaire

I loved this lecture series. Professor Kors clearly knows the subject and is a great teacher and orator. This is education and philosophy at its best.

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Expert and highly engaging!!!

Loved it. The professor has passion as well as a mastery of the subject matter.

Excellent delivery... excellent all around.

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Listened Twice

I completely enjoyed listening to this book. So much so, in telling my husband about it, we put it on during a long car ride, and listened to it again. After one lecture, my husband was captivated too. I am not sure if this is the exact book, but comedian Tom Rhodes recommended a Great Courses audiobook on Voltaire - it was such an unexpected choice - I had to give it a try when I came across this in Audible.

Each half-hour lecture is dense with information, but easy to understand. I loved Professor Kors as well - he has a distinctive style of talking and accent, so much at first you might go, "oh, I'm not sure I can listen to this" - but his enthusiasm, passion, knowledge and humor makes him come alive as if you were sitting in a favorite professor's classroom. I grew so used to him explaining this pivotal and interesting era of history, I purchased another Great Courses "The Birth of the Modern Mind: The Intellectual History of the 17th and 18th Centuries" that Alan Charles Kors also presents. I wish there were more!

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Excellent content Voltaire is very important.

This Proffesor has a very strange naselly speech and accent it was distracting but he knew his stuff.

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Simply superb

Voltaire's ideas could not be more relevant today in the 21st century than they were hundreds of years ago. What the Catholic Church was then, the new Woke left is today -- one an orthodox, legalistic, rigid, and mean-spirited religion with a God, and the other without.

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Prolific Critic, Philosopher, Writer

Very informative audiobook lecture series covering the great Voltaire. Learned much about his life and times and of the respect he earned even in his lifetime.

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  • dmcd
  • 05-11-17

Great overview of Voltaire

Always wanted to have an understanding of the Enlightenment and Voltaire- this course doesn't disappoint! 5 Stars

2 people found this helpful

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  • murray
  • 03-15-15

Stunning

Where does Voltaire and the Triumph of the Enlightenment rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Just amazing. Brilliantly lucid lectures on Voltaire. Loved this so much, passionately dictated bar the author's misguided understanding of Voltaire and tolerance. Highly recommended.

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  • Alexander Sutherland
  • 09-09-14

Excellent introduction and overview!

Any additional comments?

This is a fascinating and well told story of Voltaire, his works, his thoughts and his impact on society both then just before the French revolution and now. Excellently told with passion and attention to details. Super!!

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  • Chros
  • 05-30-22

Enlightening

In Voltaire and the Triumph of the Enlightenment, Prof. Alan Charles Kors talks about Voltaire in such a knowledgeable and familiar way that he may as well be speaking about a family member. Whilst his scholarly New York accent may initially come across as somewhat annoying (to a Brit), this soon dies down.

The lecture series is a concise yet seemingly complete and charming commentary on how Voltaire came to be one of the most influential writers of all time. Voltaire writes on the role luck plays in history; no doubt can the modern day student retrospectively see the role it plays here in Voltaire's life. There's a lot the present day thinker can learn from Voltaire - perhaps most poignant is how the pen can be mightier than the sword. Other subjects/themes encountered include optimism, tolerance, religion, nationalism, empiricism, deism, irenism and pacifism.

Despite being a 'green' Great Courses title which usually relates to philosophy, this one is perhaps more historical. In fact, it's part biography, part 17-18th century European history and only part philosophy. Even then, the word philosophy may refer to sciences such as physics i.e. Newtonian philosophy. Although philosophy is occasionally discussed in a more traditional sense when outlining Voltaire's personal ideas.

To fill in the gaps, one can read Voltaire's works (the most influential being mentioned within) or study the time period or the people that directly relate to the great man such as Newton, Descartes, Émilie du Châtelet, Rousseau, Louis XIV etc.

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