The History of Literature #184 – George Eliot

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Perhaps the greatest of all the many great English novelists, George Eliot was born Mary Ann Evans in 1819 in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England. Her father Robert managed an estate for a wealthy family; her mother Christina was the daughter of a local mill-owner. Among her rather large family, Mary Ann stood apart as the only one with a taste for intellectual pursuits. Her views on philosophy and theology led her to reject religion at the age of 22, leading to a row with her father that lasted months. She spent the next fifteen years in a kind of quest for intellectual companionship, which led to some humiliating episodes before finally resulting in a successful, if socially fraught, relationship with an unhappily married journalist named George Henry Lewes.

After making a living as a freelance editor and translator, Evans turned to writing novels at the age of 37. Published under the pseudonym “George Eliot,” her first novel Adam Bede was an immediate success, praised for the depth of its psychological insights and the clarity of its moral vision. Eliot followed Adam Bede with several classics of English literature including The Mill on the FlossSilas MarnerMiddlemarch, and Daniel Deronda. She was, remarked Virginia Woolf, one of the few English novelists who wrote books for grown-up 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 #183 – Samuel Beckett (with Nick Barilar)

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We’re back! A newly reenergized Jacke Wilson returns for a deep dive into the life, works, and politics of Samuel Beckett. Yes, we know him as one of the key figures bridging the gap between modernism and post-modernism – but was he more than just a highly refined artist generating art for art’s sake? Was he engaged with his times? And if so, how might that engagement have affected his writings? We’ll immerse ourselves in Waiting for Godot and some of Beckett’s other works for our answer, with special guest Nic Barilar, PhD Student in Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

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 #180 – Donald Barthelme

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Donald Barthelme’s “The Balloon” (1966) is one of the strangest and most enduring short stories to come out of the second half of the twentieth century. Filled with Barthelme’s gift for observation and detail, his wild imagination, and his playful wit, “The Balloon” represents for many the work of a postmodern master at his postmodern peak. But who was Donald Barthelme? Why were “The Balloon” and his other stories so popular? And are these postmodern stories interesting merely as a reflection of their era, or do they still have meaning for us today? Mike Palindrome joins us for a discussion of Donald Barthelme and “The Balloon.”

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 #179 – The Oscars by Decade (with Brian Price)

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Screenwriter and film scholar Brian Price (author of Classical Storytelling and Contemporary Screenwriting: Aristotle and the Modern Screenwriter) joins Jacke for a decade-by-decade look at the Oscar Winners for Best Picture. Which decade had the best movies? When did Hollywood get it right? And what does it tell us about the movies of the past – and the ones being made today?

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 #178 – Shirley Jackson and “The Lottery”

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In this episode, we take a look at the classic twentieth-century American short story, “The Lottery” (1948) by Shirley Jackson. Why did it cause such an uproar? Who banned it and why? And how well does it hold up today? We’ll be discussing all this and more with special guest Evie Lee.

SHIRLEY JACKSON was born in 1916 in San Francisco, California, before leaving to attend college at Syracuse University. After marrying her college sweetheart, whom she met at the university’s literary magazine, she resettled in Vermont and began her brief but highly successful literary career. Her best works, like The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and “The Lottery,” continue to provoke readers with their shocking twists and disturbing effects. Although she was only 48 when she died of a heart condition in 1965, she left behind six novels, two memoirs, and over 200 short stories.

NOTE: “The Lottery” is one of the most spoilable stories ever written. But no need to fear: we will be reading the story in its entirety before our discussion.

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 #176 – William Carlos Williams (“The Use of Force”)

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Today, the American modernist poet William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) is famous among poetry fans for his vivid, economical poems like “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “This Is Just to Say.” But for most of his lifetime, he struggled to achieve success comparable to those of his contemporaries Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. Toiling away as a physician in working-class neighborhoods in New Jersey, Williams tried to write poems and short stories whenever he could, often typing for a few minutes in between patient visits. In this episode of The History of Literature, Jacke and Mike take a look at Williams’s incredible short story “The Use of Force,” in which a physician wrestles with a young patient determined to preserve her secret at all costs.

NOTE: This is another self-contained episode of The History of Literature! We read the story for you – no need to read it yourself first (unless you want to!).

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 #175 – Virgin Whore – The Virgin Mary in Medieval Literature and Culture (with Professor Emma Maggie Solberg)

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Today, we know the Virgin Mary as quiet, demure, and (above all) chaste, but this wasn’t always the way she was understood or depicted. In her new book Virgin Whore, Professor Emma Maggie Solberg investigates a surprising – and surprisingly prevalent – theme in late English medieval literature and culture: the celebration and veneration of the Virgin Mary’s sexuality. Professor Solberg joins Jacke for a discussion of the portrayals of Mary in medieval dramas and other works – and what we can learn from those portrayals today.

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 #174 – David Foster Wallace (A Mike Palindrome Special!)

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Ask and ye shall receive! It’s an all-Mike episode devoted entirely to one of his literary heroes, David Foster Wallace. Enjoy!

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 #173 – The Yellow Wallpaper (with Evie Lee)

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Happy new year! Host Jacke Wilson is joined by special guest Evie Lee, a vice-president at the Literature Supporters Club, for a conversation about the classic short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN (1860-1935) wrote nine novels and novellas, several plays, and over 180 short stories in her writing career. Her most famous work, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” combines elements of a gothic supernatural horror story with an astute, ahead of its time  psychological portrayal of a woman oppressed by her surroundings. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is today one of the most widely read and studied works in American literature.

This is a self-contained episode of The History of Literature Podcast, in which the story is read aloud before being discussed. No need to read it beforehand (unless you want to!).

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 #168 – Jhumpa Lahiri (“The Third and Final Continent”)

What was it like to relocate from India to London to America in the early 1970s? And how can a daughter hope to recapture the experience of her father and convey it in fiction? In today’s episode of the History of Literature, Jacke and Mike look at a contemporary classic story, Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Third and Final Continent.” Along the way, they discuss the tropes of immigrant fiction, the pros and cons of epiphany stories, and whether a story is a “city” or “an old friend.” (Yes, that’s another one of Mike’s special theories.)

JHUMPA LAHIRI was born in 1967 in London, England, the daughter of Bengali Indian emigrants. She moved to the United States when she was two years old and grew up in Rhode Island. A graduate of Boston University, she began writing and publishing her stories of first-generation Indian-American immigrants in the 1990s. Her first book, Interpreter of Maladies, was a huge critical and commercial success, selling over 15 million copies and earning Lahiri the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

NOTE: This is a self-contained episode of The History of Literature, in which both the story and a discussion of it are provided. No prior reading necessary (unless you’d like to)!

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.