As the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. Although many of his claims and theories are still hotly debated, for decades his ideas dominated writers and thinkers around the world – and they continue to exert a major influence on how we view ourselves and our society. In this episode, we look at Freud’s life and some of his most famous works, setting the stage for an analysis of Freud’s impact on literature.
Mark Twain was an enormously successful writer and a horrendous businessperson, with a weakness for gadgets and inventions that cost him a fortune. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at his efforts to start his own publishing company, which started off strong but quickly descended into bankruptcy and ruin. What was he trying to accomplish? And what were the books that brought him down?
After that, Mike Palindrome, the President of the Literature Supporters Club, joins Jacke for part two of a discussion on great literary terms and devices. The two old friends recount the first ten they chose and – tongues firmly in cheek – select THE GREATEST LITERARY TERMS OF ALL TIME, numbers 11-20.
In this episode, Jacke takes a look at Victor Hugo (1802-1885), whose poetry, plays, and novels made him one of the leaders of the nineteenth-century Romantic movement. In addition to his famous novels Les MisérablesandThe Hunchback of Notre-Dame, we also look at some of his lesser known works; his family background; the legend of his conception in a Roman temple atop a mountain; his belief in the transformation of poetry throughout the history of human civilization; and the gusto with which he approached both life and literature.
“A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.” Such is the opening of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), the novel that won the National Book Award but repulsed the Pulitzer Prize Committee. Pynchon’s special blend of paranoia and postmodernism made him one of the hallmark authors of the Cold War era. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at Pynchon’s life and works, then is joined by a contemporary author, Antoine Wilson (Mouth to Mouth), for a discussion of his writing process and his recent trip to Pynchonland.
ANTOINE WILSON is the author of the novels Panorama City and The Interloper. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, StoryQuarterly, Best New American Voices, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications, and he is a contributing editor of A Public Space. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and recipient of a Carol Houck Smith Fiction Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin, he lives in Los Angeles. His website is: AntoineWilson.com.
“I am never too busy to think of S&S,” Jane Austen wrote to her sister, referring to her 1811 novel by its initials, “I can no more forget it, than a mother can forget her suckling child.” Sense & Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first published novel. First begun when she was in the throes of her doomed dalliance with Thomas Lefroy, the novel contains the familiar Austen project of a Hero, a Heroine, a Search for Love, and the Obstacle Called Money. In this case, the heroines are two sisters named Elinor and Marianne, representing the “sense” (prudence, restraint) and “sensibility” (passion, impulsiveness) of the title.
In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the writing of Sense & Sensibility; the still common themes contained within this classic novel; and the 1995 film adaptation, in which Emma Thompson, herself in the midst of an Austen-like entanglement, nevertheless drives a shiv into Jacke’s battered old heart.
Lauren S. Cardon is Associate Professor of English at the University of Alabama and the author of Fashion and Fiction: Self-Transformation in Twentieth-Century American Literature and The “White Other” in American Intermarriage Stories, 1945-2008.
Jacke takes a look at Nikolai Gogol’s early stories about his native Ukraine, including two famous descriptions of Ukrainian nights. Then Jacke turns things over to Eve and Julie from the Book Dreams Podcast, as they interview a scholar about a surprising find: in 2019, a librarian in Bristol discovered four scraps of parchment bearing the names “Merlin” and “Arthur.” Their guest, Dr. Laura Chuhan Campbell, was part of an interdisciplinary team working to determine the origins and significance of these medieval manuscripts.
In November of 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln boarded a train for Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. His heart was heavy with the cost of two years of a bitter civil war, his body fatigued and feverish from what was likely the onset of smallpox. In the midst of personal grief and political turmoil, he drafted and delivered one of the greatest political speeches ever written. In roughly 270 words, the Gettysburg Address (or “America’s Gospel,” as Tom Brokaw called it) managed to pay tribute to fallen soldiers, dedicate a cemetery in their honor, and crystallize the central dilemma at the heart of the American experiment. In this episode, Jacke looks at ten sentences that defined a nation and asked it to look deeply into its past, its future, and its soul.
Additional listening ideas:
For more on race in America, try our three-part series on the dispute between James Baldwin and William Faulkner, starting with Baldwin v Faulkner.
Mike Palindrome, the President of the Literature Supporters’ Club, joins Jacke to select the top 10 literary terms and devices of all time. PLUS Jacke reads a letter to a young writer from F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“Goodnight comb and goodnight brush…And goodnight to the old lady whispering hush…Goodnight moon..”
Telling the “story” of a darkening room at bedtime, Goodnight Moon (1947) has gone from near obscurity to selling close to a million copies a year. But if you thought – as Jacke did – that the author of this odd, quiet book was probably something of a quiet old lady whispering hush herself, you couldn’t be more wrong. Margaret Wise Brown was radical young woman who blew her money on furs and trips to Europe, had long-term relationships with both men and women, and spent her weekends hunting rabbits. In this episode, Anna Holmes, who wrote about Margaret Wise Brown for the New Yorker, joins Jacke to discuss the surprising story behind a beloved children’s classic.