Join Eric Alan Weinstein and his team--more than a dozen eminent academics and poets from around the globe--for a free online course exploring the work of poet Percy Shelley! Start by watching the introduction video and read on to find out more... 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote “Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains.” Poet Percy Shelley believed words could be stronger than shackles, and wrote poems intended to free mankind from their chains. 

Some have argued that poetry can do nothing--or as W.H. Auden said, "Poetry makes nothing happen." Yet Henry David Thoreau, Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were inspired by Shelley's words to live in the service of freedom and dignity, and they changed the world. The Unbinding Prometheus MOOC investigates both what Shelley's words have meant over time, and what his words might mean for us today. 

NO previous background in literature is required--simply the patience and persistence to read poetry, discover beauty and find meaning in a community of learners.  Join us and experience the power of poetry.  Prometheus Unbound. Read the poem. Change the world.

 ---Eric Alan Weinstein and the Unbinding Prometheus team 

The Team

Eric Alan Weinstein       1934 kudos

Hello all. I'm Eric Alan Weinstein.  I am co-chair of the Unbinding Prometheus  project and Chief Course Facilitator for the Percy Shelley: Unbinding Prometheus...

sachio takashima       11 kudos

Hey there Shelleyans, I’m a poet and philosophy writer in Philadelphia, and a reader of Shelley. (I run the Shelley forum on Facebook) My ancestry is Chines...

Kelly Lincoln       1 kudos

Hey ho & Westward ho!! I am Classically trained actor, doing voice over, radio and am the sound recordist for the Prometheus Unbound MOOC....

Leigh Hershkovich       0 kudos

Hello everyone, I'm a teacher for this course and I can't wait to learn with all of you.

Sarah Wipperman       0 kudos

Hello! I am part of the Teaching Support Team for this course and am here to answer any questions you may have about using/accessing the videos on Penn's instit...

Tim Cartlidge       0 kudos

Hello everyone, I'm a teacher for this course and I can't wait to learn with all of you.

The Community

1322 Students           13598 Comments

More Information

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, once  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!

Course Prerequisites

The Unbinding Prometheus MOOC has no prerequisites other than a willingness to spend some weeks of your life living with and exploring this poem. Bear in mind: most good reading requires patient re-reading. Don't worry. We read the poem slowly and together, so you will have lots of models of good reading to work with. In the end, however, the most important reading to you will be your own. Like most things in life, you will get out of this just what you put into it. 

You do not need to make yourself available to participate at any particular time each week. You can do this course entirely when you wish to, at any time of the day or night. All you need is a working computer with a good connection and the ability to read text and watch videos comfortably on your screen. 

You do not need to purchase any textbooks for the course. All the materials you will need will be provided from by the Unbinding Prometheus team.  

Course Preparation

To prepare, you will merely need to read (and probably re-read) that week's pages of the poem. I recommend watching the week's videos after your first read-through of the week's assignment. Then, go to the discussion forums, and  participate! The heart of any good MOOC is its discussion forums, That's where you will go to engage with other students and think about their responses to the week's reading and supplementary content. Our TA's will be there to help, so feel free ask questions about concepts you don't understand. Posting at least once a week should be the minimum you expect from yourself. More likely, you will find yourself posting every day or two, as ideas and threads catch your fancy. 

Some people have asked if they should read some poetry in order to prepare for our course. While this is not necessary, it is a good idea. Read any poetry you like. It all helps. 

Others have asked if they should take any other literature MOOCs before Unbinding Prometheus.  It is NOT necessary to do so. However, if you are reading this in August or early September, there is a particular MOOCs which I whole-heartedly recommend. It is called ModPo, and may be found here: 

The course is taught by my colleague and mentor Al Filreis and Julia Bloch. Many of my friends are TA's and CTA's in this course, and I contribute too from time to time, in a variety of ways.  Al has taught online for more than 20 years, and ModPo  is generally acknowledged to be the gold-standard in humanities MOOCs.  You will also find that some TA's and CTAs in ModPo also provide teaching support for Unbinding Prometheus. Our MOOC begins just days after ModPo ends, so there is absolutely no scheduling conflict between the two. 

Course Structure & Schedule 

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:

7th of January, 2015: Introduction to the course, Percy Shelley and to Prometheus Unbound

18th of January 2015: Close reading of the first half of Act I

25th of January 2015: Close reading of the second half of Act I

1st of February  2015: Close reading of Act II

8th of February 2015: Close reading of Act III

15th of February 2015:  Close reading of Act IV

22rd of February 2015: Conclusion, Overview and Recap of Course

1st  of  March 2015: 8th week, additional time to write an essay, and peer review three essays by your colleagues (500-1200 words). 

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

You do not have to answer every question.  Indeed, questions such as these are not meant to  have cut-and-dry answers.  They are meant to guide thought and discussion. Here, for example, is what Unit One's questions look like: 

Unit One: Introduction (January 7th-January 17th)

Who was Percy Shelley? What was his world like, and what was his place in it? How did he come to understand his place in the world? What was the status of poetry and literature in the early 19th century? What were some of the major literary conventions of his time? What were some of the characteristic features of what we now call “romantic poetry?” What were Shelley's political, social and artistic aims?  Why did ancient Greece matter to Shelley, and why did Shelley chose Prometheus as his subject matter? What is “a lyrical drama?” Can it be performed successfully? What is the place of Prometheus Unbound in Shelley's corpus? How has the status of Prometheus Unbound within the Western Canon changed over time?

Each week, we will post a short video guide to the new materials posted, and some suggestions about what to look out for, and how to make the most of what we've made available. Again, TA's will be on hand to offer help as needed, and your follow MOOC participants will no doubt be happy to offer their suggestions as well. 

We think we have an amazing course to offer. We can't wait to meet you, and begin our journey together! 


Status: Closed

Duration: 41 Weeks

Students: 1322