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The Great Poem Series: Unbinding Prometheus

via OpenLearning


Note: The next iteration of the MOOC, revised to include ten of Shelley's major works along with Prometheus Unbound, will run on Open Learning  starting February 17th, 2017 and run until June 9th, 2017.

Over 8 weeks, we will encounter and discuss one long poem, Percy Shelley's Prometheus Unbound.  

Shelley wrote this as a lyrical drama, most likely intending its performance primarily to be in the minds of his readers. Marcia Hepps, Peter Schwarz and Jim Schlatter of the Unbinding Prometheus team are producing an abridged  live concert performance at Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania on September 18th, 2014.  This course will make use of the performance video to consider and discuss aspects of the performance of Shelley's work.  Additionally, Unbinding Prometheus is also producing a complete, unabridged studio recording of the entire poem. Our MOOC students will thus be able to utilise a complete, multi-part audio-video-text alignment to assist their studies.  

Our video-recorded lessons are various. About half consist of a mix of short lectures, interviews and conversations with literary critics and scholars, poets, as well as philosophers, actors, directors, historians, and groups of students. 

Another half are collaborative close seminar readings by the Unbinding Prometheus seminar group, led by Eric Alan Weinstein.  These offer sample models of readers' engagement with, and interpretations of, this unique and  powerful poem. 

Finally, twice a week there will be opportunities to participate in live, global, online seminars where you get to join us, and become part of our course's shared video content. You do not need to participate in these live events if you would prefer not to---but we gently encourage you to do so. They're fun!


Unbinding Prometheus is a seven unit course, spread over seven weeks. Our eighth week is reserved for students who would like to write an essay (four days), and peer review essays by their fellow students (three days). The course is broken down as follows:

21st of November: Introduction to the course, Percy Shelley and to Prometheus Unbound

28th of November: Close reading of the first half of Act I

5th of December: Close reading of the second half of Act I

12th of December: Close reading of Act II

19th of December: Close reading of Act III

December 26th:  Close reading of Act IV

January 2nd: Conclusion, Overview and Recap of Course

January 9th: 8th week, additional time to write an essay, and peer review three essays by your colleagues (500-1100 words). 

Each week, we will have a series of questions to guide our mutual inquiry.

Taught by

Eric Alan Weinstein


5.0 rating, based on 19 Class Central reviews

Start your review of The Great Poem Series: Unbinding Prometheus

  • Paula Matusa
    This was a terrific class! I was a bit nervous when I first signed on, as I knew nothing about Percy Shelley or 19th Century Romantic poetry – but my fears were assuaged pretty quickly. Professor Weinstein provided a wealth of introductory and bac…
  • This was a very unusual course in the sense that the subject matter would not be familiar to many folks. The Instructor has chosen one of the most challenging but rewarding poems in the English Language...maybe ANY language. The programme of study…
  • Mary Obropta
    This course was so much fun. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations with classmates, the close-reading class videos, the provocative questions, the really amazing creative activities that Eric Weinstein set up for each section of the course--which…
  • Anonymous
    I began participating in moocs in 2012. Unbinding Prometheus has been one of the most rewarding experiences.The very nature of the long poem lends itself to the best of what a mooc can be.The collective reading,over time,enables a continuing opening up of meaning.This learning is well facilitated by Professor Eric Alan Weinstein.Fascinating visiting scholars provide historical context as well as focused views into the poem.The comment section creates an intellectually safe environment in which students,together and with the professor,are able to explore our evolving understandings. I very much recommend this course.-Stephanie
  • Ben Curtis
    This course was a lot of fun, but more than that, it led to overturning misconceptions of many years about the relevance and importance of Percy Shelley as a writer. It has taken over 150 years for this to occur, although I think some poets along the way have been aware and influenced by him. For anyone interested in Western literature, this course has much to reveal. The Western world is still coming to terms with the changes that came about in the 17th and 18th centuries, and this course sheds a great deal of light on these issues.
  • If you want a comprehensive look at the world, the lives, and the work of the Romantics, and Percy Shelley in particular, please take Eric Weinstein's course on Prometheus Unbounded. Although focusing on that one seminal work, you be introduced to much more of Shelley's work, as well as the work of his contemporaries. You will also learn a great deal about his personal life as well as his wife, Mary, author of Frankenstein, or the New Prometheus, and about Mary's remarkable mother as well.
  • Anonymous
    I am very grateful for the opportunity to study Prometheus Unbound with such talented and dedicated professors. Eric is superb, so knowledgable and approchable. The material that he put together is very comprehensive, drawing comparisons to other poems. I am glad that the class will be repeated, as this will give me more time to read the poem and fully participate. I appreciate that Eric and his staff take the time to participate in the forums and answer our questions. THANK YOU. I truly loved it.
  • I've really loved this course. I'm still hoping to complete it. I've loved Eric's personal attention to everyone - his deep understanding and passion for his subject and the variety of people and presentations. It's been a course like no other. We understand Shelley from many perspectives - his historical context, his peers, many erudite academics and from our own reading and participating. When you enter Eric's world you enter a community and you learn along with its members. I recommend it highly.
  • This has been a long course that is finally coming to an end. I started it with no knowledge of Shelley and no expectations. Within days I was hooked. The amount of work that has been put in by Eric and his team, the constant personal support and the heop of other particopants have created not only a course but also a community. Simply wonderful.
  • Anonymous
    Shelley's Prometheus Unbound has been a unique experience for study of the period, the poet and the Romantics in early 19th century. There was top quality seminars and discussions from outstanding experts, poets and academics. There was opportunity to study thoroughy. The posts were inspiring and deeply thoughtful. A great deal of work went in by all. A rich experience I recommend.
  • Profile image for Kerry Mohnike
    Kerry Mohnike
    A great course which helped me think in different ways about a text (and a tale) that I did not know well. The assignments were intriguing, and I enjoyed the opportunity to be creative around the text (and beyond). While I was unable to finish because of professional commitments, I would love to finish the course at another time.
    ~Kerry Mohnike
  • Anonymous
    This is such an outstanding course, I hesitate to even call it a course, its really a lifestyle. The level and depth of the materials goes far and beyond most other MOOCs that I've taken, and I'm so glad that it will be repeated because I simply didn't budget enough time for all of the materials and can't wait to do it again.
  • Jesse Pack
    I had tried to read Shelley's Prometheus Unbound more than once prior to this course but always found myself lost and frustrated. Taking this course was crucial to being able to really approach this amazing piece of art, appreciate it, and learn from it. This course is really a great gift to those who appreciate English literature.
  • Anonymous
    Prometheus Course was wonderful. A great community of people to discuss the poems with and learn new things. Eric is a wonderful professor and always in the discussion forums and available to help! It's an amazing class. I'll be there next year when it starts again.
  • Anonymous
    Really impressive course on a difficult dramatic poem. Eric has clearly put a huge amount of thought and effort into putting this together. I discovered it late so I've had to dash through parts of it. I very much look forward to doing a future iteration in more detail.
    This was an excellent course. Where did it go? I really want to do it again, and I know others who want to as well. Please bring back the course on Shelley's Prometheus Unbound called, "Unbinding Prometheus".
  • Shannon Ratliff
    I am so enjoying my Prometheus experience with Dr Eric! I haven't completed the course YET but that isn't based on the class but personal issues. I never ever expected to learn so much not only about this epic work but also the rich history of the writer, his wife, England, politics of the time as well as other writers and relationships! Dr Eric mad this work come alive with his knowledge of the material as well as bringing to the table many other speakers and art works that contributed to my learning and understanding. I am forever grateful for his teaching and for making this course although large, seem very catered to the learner. Take this class. It I fantastic and well worth your time!!!
  • Anonymous
    Terrific course on a difficult dramatic poem. Eric clearly put a huge amount of work into its preparation. I discovered the course late so I've had to dash through parts. I very much look forward to future iteration of the course.
  • Anonymous
    Great class! Love it! Enjoy it thoroughly. It's something I do for myself every week. It gives me a creative break from my hectic life.

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