The History of Literature #65 – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (with Professor James Chandler)

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By any measure, Mary Shelley (1797-1851) lived a radical life. As the daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, two philosophers devoted to principles of freedom and equality, she grew up in a tumultuous world of exciting new ideas and strong advocacy for social change. After she and the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley eloped at a young age, they spent a rainy summer with Lord Byron and two other friends in a cottage in Geneva, Switzerland, where they passed the time by inventing ghost stories. And it was in that cottage that what is probably the most famous Halloween story of all time, Mary Shelley’s novelFrankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818), was brought to life.

What ideas shaped this famous story of a scientist who successfully animates a corpse before ruing the consequences? What does the novel have to say about the importance of human relationships in our society? And how does the novel connect to Frank Capra’s Christmas film, It’s a Wonderful Life?  In this special Halloween episode, we’ll talk to Professor James Chandler of the University of Chicago, author of An Archaeology of Sympathy: The Sentimental Mode in Literature and Cinema, about the fascinating world of Mary Shelley, her novel Frankenstein, and the films they inspired.

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Works Discussed:

An Archaeology of Sympathy: The Sentimental Mode in Literature and Cinema, by James Chandler

Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley

Show Notes: 

We have a special episode coming up – listener feedback! Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

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

Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

Music Credits:

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

“Supernatural Radio A” and “Greta Sting” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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History of Literature #64 – Dorothy Parker

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“She was a combination of Little Nell and Lady Macbeth,” said Alexander Woolcott. Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) wrote short stories, poems, reviews, screenplays, and more. Perhaps most famously, she was part of the group of New Yorkers known as the Algonquin Round Table, which met every day for lunch and eventually grew famous for their witticisms, put-downs, and general high spirits. A woman of brilliance as well as deep contradiction, Parker at her best combined romantic optimism with a dark, biting pessimism that still feels modern.

In this episode, Jacke is joined by the President of the Literature Supporters Club for a field report of the Algonquin Hotel today and a discussion of Parker’s life, works, and top ten quips.

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Show Notes:  Continue reading

History of Literature Podcast #63 – Books I Have Loved (with Charles Baxter)

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In this special episode, the revered American author Charles Baxter joins Jacke to discuss some of his favorite books, including works by Anton Chekhov, Saul Bellow, James Wright, and Paula Fox.

“Charles Baxter’s stories have reminded me of how broad and deep and shining a story can be, and I am grateful.” — Alice Munro 

CHARLES BAXTER is the author of the novels The Feast of Love(nominated for the National Book Award), The Soul Thief, Saul and Patsy, Shadow Play, and First Light, and the story collectionsGryphon, Believers, A Relative Stranger, Through the Safety Net, andHarmony of the World.  The stories “Bravery” and “Charity,” which appear in There’s Something I Want You to Do, were included in Best American Short Stories. Baxter lives in Minneapolis and teaches at the University of Minnesota and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

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Works Discussed:

Collected Poems by James Wright

Herzog, Henderson the Rain King, and Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow

Desperate Characters and The Widow’s Children by Paula Fox

Selected Stories by Anton Chekhov

Show Notes: 

We have a special episode coming up – listener feedback! Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

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

Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

Music Credits:

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

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

The History of Literature Episode #62 – Bad Poetry

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Everyone loves and admires a good poem…but what about the bad ones? After discussing his own experience writing terrible poetry, Jacke analyzes the 10 things that make a poem go wrong, assesses the curious role of Scotland and Michigan in developing bad poetry, and reviews some candidates for the worst poet in history, including:

  • Jennifer Aniston, whose astonishingly bad love poem to John Mayer graced (disgraced?) the pages of Star magazine;
  • James McIntyre, the Canadian poet known as “the Chaucer of Cheese”;
  • Julia A. Moore, the “Sweet Singer of Michigan,” whose poems were described as “worse than a Gatling gun” and “rare food for the lunatic,” but who insisted on giving public performances (to her husband’s mortification and Mark Twain’s delight);
  • Margaret Cavendish, the seventeenth-century aristocrat whose nature poems took her into the unintentionally comic realm of extreme bad taste (and near cannibalism);

…and many others as well. It’s a celebration of bad poetry… the agony and the ecstasy… the cringeworthy and the triumphant… or, as William McGonagall, one of the best (worst?) of the bad poets might say:  “This episode is very fine / Indeed I think it very fine.”

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Show Notes: 

We have a special episode coming up – listener feedback! Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

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

Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

Music Credits:

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