Virginia Woolf has long been celebrated as a supremely gifted novelist and essayist. Less well known, but important to understanding her life and contributions to literature, are her efforts as a publisher. In the decades that she and her husband operated the Hogarth Press – starting with a hand-operated printer they ran on their dining room table, cranking out one page at a time – they published some Modernist classics, including works by Virginia and The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the decision to buy the press, the effect it had on Virginia’s life and writing career, and the very first book the Woolfs put out: Two Stories, featuring Leonard’s short story “Three Jews” and Virginia’s “The Mark on the Wall.”
Jacke plays a clip from Nabokov discussing his famous novel Lolita, in which the frantic narrator Humbert Humbert recounts his passionate (and illegal, immoral, and illicit) love for a young girl. After hearing from the author, Jacke plays clips from three History of Literature Podcast interviews: Jenny Minton Quigley, Jim Shepard,, and Joshua Ferris.
What narrative techniques did Freud borrow and employ? What was the effect? And what did it mean for the literary critics who followed? Following his look at the life and major works of Sigmund Freud, Jacke describes Freud and his followers’ at-times fraught relationship with fiction and fiction writers, with a particularly close look at Freud’s famous work “Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria.” PLUS a preview of our upcoming episodes featuring Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and Assia Wevill.
“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.
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.
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.
Yes, John Milton was important, and yes, Paradise Lost has been part of the canon since the 17th century – but why should we read anything by John Milton today? Do we imbibe his poetry like medicine? Is it a slog through cerebral but sterile prose? Or is there something wilder, more compelling, more alive? In this episode, Jacke talks to biographer Joe Moshenska, author of Making Darkness Light: A Life of John Milton, about the poet beloved by everyone from Virginia Woolf to Jorge Luis Borges to revolutionaries all over the world.
More listening ideas:
Want more Milton? We’ve got you covered in Episode #154 John Milton. Ready for more wild poetic visions? Try our episode on William Blake. Poetry not your thing? Check out our interview with Samantha Silva about the life of Mary Wollstonecraft.
Born in Wales to parents of Norwegian descent, Roald Dahl (1916-1990) grew up to become one of England’s most famous writers. Although Dahl was an accomplished writer of short stories for grownups, he is today known best for his well-loved children’s novels, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox, BFG, Matilda, and Danny, the Champion of the World. Dahl also had a fascinating past as a WWII fighter pilot, an intelligence agent, and the husband of the Hollywood star (and Academy Award winner) Patricia Neal. What secrets were in his past? What do we find unsavory about him today? And what kind of impact do his books still have?
Dragons! From ancient civilizations to modern-day movies, humans have spent millions of hours imagining these popular mythological creatures – and millions of words describing them. Jacke’s guest, Scott G. Bruce has compiled the best of these words, explaining how dragons have appeared in literature. Avatars of the Antichrist? Servants of Satan? Cuddly pets? Couriers of the damned? Loyal allies? In this episode, we look at two thousand years of dragons in literature from around the world.
Poet Robert Hayden (1913-1980) surprised Jacke with his description of freedom in his sonnet “Frederick Douglass”; in this episode, Jacke considers the nature of freedom and attempts to determine exactly what Hayden meant. PLUS Professor Scott G. Bruce stops by to talk about his work editing The Penguin Book of the Undead: Fifteen Hundred Years of Spiritual Encounters.