The History of Literature #216 – The Trials of Phillis Wheatley

In 1773, Phillis Wheatley became the first person of African descent to publish a book of poems in the English language. It was yet another milestone in Wheatley’s extraordinary life, which began with a childhood in Africa, a passage on a slave ship, twelve years in Boston living as a slave, and then her unprecedented education and emergence as a poet. She was lauded by Voltaire and Gibbon and Ben Franklin; she exchanged admiring letters with George Washington; and she exposed some of Thomas Jefferson’s highest ideals and lowest shortcomings. Her appearance as a poet was so unlikely – and such a dangerous example for pro-slavery critics – that she eventually was put on trial to establish whether she truly wrote her poems. And yet, in spite of all these accomplishments and pioneering achievements, her legacy is a complicated one, as (in the words of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) she wrote what has been the most reviled poem in African American literature.

How did this happen? And what does it tell us about Phillis Wheatley, her critics, her champions, and ourselves?

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #214 – Kipling, Kingsley, and Conan Doyle – When Writers Go to War

In early 1900, the paths of three British writers – Rudyard Kipling, Mary Kingsley, and Arthur Conan Doyle – crossed in South Africa, during what has become known as Britain’s last imperial war. In this episode, Sarah LeFanu, author of the new book Something of Themselves: Kipling, Kingsley, Conan Doyle and the Anglo-Boer War, joins Jacke to talk about the experiences of these three writers. What did they expect? What did they find? And how did the experience change them as writers and people?

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #213 – Special Quarantine Edition – Gusev by Anton Chekhov

More bonus content! For those of you living in isolation (and those of you who aren’t), Jacke explores the depths of the human condition – as well as its ultimate beauty – with the help of Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) and his short story masterpiece, “Gusev.”

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #211 – Edith Wharton

“There are only three or four American novelists who can be thought of as ‘major’,” said Gore Vidal. “And Edith Wharton is one.” In this episode, Jacke and Mike take a look at the life and works of Edith Wharton (1862-1937), author of The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth, with a special deep dive into her short story “Roman Fever.”

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #208 – John Keats

“Keats is with Shakespeare,” wrote Matthew Arnold, and few would disagree. His life was short, but his poetry is deep and his legacy long enduring. Who was this man? How did he overcome his lowly origins and become one of the brightest stars in the poetic firmament? In this episode we take our first look at John Keats (1795-1821), including a deep analysis of his famous poem, “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Running Fanfare” and “Bluesy Vibes Sting” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The History of Literature #207 – Agatha Christie (with Gillian Gill)

Agatha Christie is one of the most successful writers of all time – it’s often said that sales of Christie’s books are surpassed only by Shakespeare and the Bible. But who was Agatha Christie? What was she like before she became famous? And what exactly happened during those infamous two weeks, when she disappeared from view – perhaps suffering from amnesia, perhaps to spite her husband and his young lover, or perhaps even to frame him for the murder of his wife. In this episode of The History of Literature, Gillian Gill (author of Virginia Woolf and the Women Who Shaped Her World and Agatha Christie: The Woman and Her Mysteries) joins Jacke for a discussion of Agatha Christie’s mysteries and her, well, mysteries.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #206 – Karl Ove Knausgaard

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Since the publication of the first volume of his massive novel Mein Kampf (or My Struggle) in 2009, Karl Ove Knausgaard (1968- ) has become a household name in his native Norway – and a loved and hated literary figure around the world. Thanks to that six-volume book, plus another four-volume work titled after the four seasons, Knausgaard has drawn comparisons ranging from Marcel Proust to a blogger on steroids. For some, he is the avatar of a new kind of writing, or a new kind of novel, a pioneer who has advanced the novel into territory perfectly suited for the twenty-first century. For others, he is a hack, a charlatan, a navel-gazing fraud who barely deserves the title of novelist, let alone the acclaim or esteem that many have accorded him.

What do we make of Karl Ove Knausgaard? Why should we give his books our time? What’s the best way to read him? And can we strip away the sturm und drang surrounding his books and see them with any kind of clarity? In this episode, Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporter Club, joins Jacke to help sort through one of the most polarizing figures in contemporary world literature.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com

The History of Literature #205 – Saul Bellow

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Saul Bellow (1915-2005) was born in Quebec, immigrated to Chicago, and became one of the greatest of the great American novelists. In 1976 he won the Nobel Prize for writing that displayed “the mixture of rich picaresque novel and subtle analysis of our culture, of entertaining adventure, drastic and tragic episodes in quick succession interspersed with philosophic conversation, all developed by a commentator with a witty tongue and penetrating insight into the outer and inner complications that drive us to act, or prevent us from acting, and that can be called the dilemma of our age.”

In this episode, Jacke and Mike take a look at one of their favorite authors, discussing the highs and lows of the “first-class noticer” and his larger-than-life presence in the literary world.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Frog Legs Rag” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The History of Literature #204 – Living Poetry (with Bob Holman

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Fellow poet Naomi Shihab Nye says that Bob Holman’s “life gusto and poetry voice keep the world turning.” In this episode of The History of Literature, we tap into that voice, as Bob Holman joins us for a rollicking conversation about the poetic life he’s led, from his birth in a small town in Kentucky to his decades living in New York City, where – in the words of Henry Louis Gates Jr. – he’s “done more to bring poetry to cafes and bars than anyone since Ferlinghetti.” Holman’s latest works (Life Poem and The Unspoken, published recently by Bowery Books, were written fifty years apart. We’ll ask Bob how he’s changed as a poet and person in those years, and to give us his sense of where poetry has been, where it is now, and where it’s headed.

Poets and writers discussed or mentioned include ee cummings, William Blake, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Mayakovsky, the Russian futurists, Kenneth Koch, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Philip Roth, Donald Lev, Jackie Sheeler, Alan Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, Jayne Cortez, Papa Susso, Pablo Neruda, Homer, Sappho, and Sekou Sundiata.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Bass Walker” and “Bluesy Vibes Sting” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The History of Literature #203 – William Blake

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Jacke takes a look at the astonishing life and works of William Blake (1757-1827), a poet, painter, engraver, illustrator, visionary, and one of the key figures of the Romantic Period. How did the boy who saw God’s head in a window at age four become the man who wrote the most anthologized poem in English (“The Tyger”) AND perhaps the most brilliant and innovative visual artist that England has ever produced? We discuss all that and more!

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Magistar” and “Wholesome” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/