The History of Literature #270 Edgar Allan Poe – “The Black Cat”

In 1843, Edgar Allan Poe, desperate for money and terrified that his wife was about to die, “became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” Fueled by alcohol and despair, he fell into “fits of absolute unconsciousness”–and yet managed to write some of his greatest masterpieces, including “The Black Cat,” which has been shocking readers for more than 150 years. In this first installment of “Edgar Allan Poe Month,” Jacke explores Poe’s life leading up to “The Black Cat” before reading the hair-raising tale of uncontrollable rage, murder, and haunting remorse.

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


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: 

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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 (
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Restless Mind Show #2 – Tolstoy’s Halloween


Taking another break from the history of literature for a Simpsons / Edgar Allan Poe mashup, Leo Tolstoy’s horse, and five lusty lizards blasted into space by the Russians.


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