The History of Literature #51 – Coleridge, Kubla Khan, and the Person from Porlock – A Literary Mystery

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In 1797, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge took two grains of opium and fell into a stupor. When he awoke, he had in his head the remnants of a marvelous dream, a vivid train of images of the Chinese emperor Kubla Khan and his summer palace, Xanadu. The vision transformed itself into lines of poetry, but as he started writing, he was interrupted by a Person from Porlock, who arrived at Coleridge’s cottage on business and stayed for an hour. when Coleridge returned to his work, the vision had been lost, and the fragmentary nature of the poem Kubla Khan has haunted its admirers ever since. The resentment has centered around the bumbling Person from Porlock, whose visit remains shrouded in mystery. The scholar Jonathan Livingston Lowes put it bluntly: “If there is any man in the history of literature who should e hanged, drawn, and quartered,” he wrote, “it is the man on business from Porlock.”

Who was this Person from Porlock, and why was he knocking on the door of Coleridge’s cottage? How did Coleridge handle the interruption, and what did it mean for him and his art? And finally, what might we take from this vivid legend today?

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Show Notes: 

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Piano Between” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

The History of Literature #50: Othello

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One of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies, The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice (ca. 1603) is perhaps the most difficult of them to watch. The malevolent Iago, viewed by some as evil incarnate, has been infuriating audiences for centuries – legend has it that at one performance in the Old West, a cowboy in the audience was so offended by Iago’s machinations he pulled out his pistol and shot him. And theater professionals are well accustomed to the gasps, cries, and occasional screams from the audience as they view the horrendous scene, in which the jealous lead character is finally driven to kill his wife, the innocent Desdemona. What motivates Iago? Why is Othello so susceptible? And what themes in Othello still resonate today?

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Show Notes: 

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

The History of Literature #49 – MFA Programs (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)

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For decades, the Master of Fine Arts degree has quietly dominated the American literary scene. There are now over 100 programs where professors and students go about the business of turning dreams into fiction through the alchemy – or as some would say, the meatgrinder – known as the writing workshop. It’s a phenomenon like no other in the history of literature. What goes on at these MFA programs? What good comes out of them? And what impact are they having on contemporary American literature? The President of the Literature Supporters Club joins Jacke for a discussion of MFA programs.

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Show Notes: 

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

The History of Literature #48 – Hamlet

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Hamlet (ca 1599-1602) has been called the greatest play ever written in English – and even that might not be giving it enough credit. Many would rank it among the greatest achievements in the history of humankind. Jacke Wilson takes a deeper look at the Prince of Negative Capability and his famous soliloquy.

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Show Notes: 

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

The History of Literature #47 – Hemingway vs Fitzgerald

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Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) were the pole stars of the Lost Generation, the collection of young American authors who came of age in the Paris and New York of the 1920s. The Hemingway-Fitzgerald relationship has been examined for decades and continues to fascinate. Why are we so drawn to these two authors? What do they represent in American literature? Who was the better author, and why?

Jacke and Mike take a look at the great Hemingway-Fitzgerald debate – and challenge themselves to find ten new things to say about these American icons.

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Show Notes: 

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

The History of Literature #46: The Poetry of the T’ang Dynasty

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China’s T’ang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) valued poets and poetry like no other culture before or since. In this episode, Jacke Wilson takes a look at what may have been the greatest flourishing of poetry in the history of the world. Poets discussed include Ezra Pound (1885-1972), T’ao Ch’ien (365-427), Wang Wei (ca. 699-761), Li Bai (Li Po) (701-762), and Tu Fu (712-770).

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The History of Literature #45 – Augustine and The Confessions (pt 2)

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Continuing the journey with a deeper look at the incredible achievements of St. Augustine (354 – 430 A.D.), a luminary of the early Catholic church, one of the most profound thinkers in Western culture, and the author of a work the likes of which the world had never seen, The Confessions.  Host Jacke Wilson identifies five key themes in The Confessions and shows how the themes build up to the autobiography’s culminating passage.

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