The History of Literature #171 – To Sleep, Perchance to Dream – On Writers and Death

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“To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come…” In these immortal lines, Shakespeare’s Hamlet gives voice to one of the greatest of all human questions. What happens when we die? Should we be excited by the mystery? Or afraid? How do we puny humans endure the knowledge that we are not immortal? In this episode, Jacke and Mike take a look at writers on the verge of death. What did they see? And what did they say?

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 #149 – Raising Readers (aka The Power of Literature in an Imperfect World)

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Jacke and Mike respond to an email from a listener who is about to become a father and wondering about the role of literature in the life of a young child.

Works and authors discussed include J.K. Rowling, Phillip Pullman, Andrew Motion, Dr. Seuss, Sandra Boynton, The Great Brain series, Bedtime for Frances, Frog and Toad, Beatrix Potter, Martin Amis, James Mill, John Stuart Mill, The Beatles, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, the Moomintroll books, Nick Hornby.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC.

The History of Literature #148 – Great Literary Hoaxes

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What can we count on? What do we know is true? In this episode, host Jacke Wilson takes a look at a motley crew of inventive liars who set out to fool the literary world – and often did, at least for a while. From the ancient pseudo-Sappho to the escapee from a debauched convent, from the treasure trove of Shakespeare’s lost works to the balloon fraud of Edgar Allen Poe, writers have been generating bogus works for centuries – and an gullible public has gobbled them up and come back for more.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC.

The History of Literature #143 – A Soldier’s Heart – Teaching Literature at the U.S. Military Academy (with Professor Elizabeth Samet)

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Since ancient times, societies have used rousing lines of poetry to inspire soldiers to acts of heroism, courage, and sacrifice. But what about literature that expresses doubts about war? Or fear? Or that conveys its brutal nature? Should those works be a part of the curriculum as well?

And what about literature that, on its surface, has nothing to do with the battlefield? Where is the value in that for a soldier?

One thing seems clear: how a society educates its soldiers tells us something fundamental about the values of that society. And when it comes to the role of literature in a soldier’s education, we can learn two things. We see how we as a society think of the men and women fighting for us. And we see a reflection of what we think literature can and should do.

In this episode, we’re joined by author Elizabeth Samet, a professor of literature at the United States Military Academy (West Point). Professor Samet’s book, Soldier’s Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point, was a New York Times Book ReviewEditors’ Choice, A USA Today Best Book, and A Christian Science Monitor Best Book.

Works and authors discussed include the Shahnameh, Elizabeth Bishop, Great Expectations, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Shakespeare’s Henry V and Romeo and Juliet, and others.

We took a look at Homer and his famous tale of the siege of Troy way back in Episode 3 – Homer.

For Shakespearean soldiers, try Episode 70 – Julius Caesar or Episode 80 – Power Play! Shakespeare’s Henry V.

For an episode on the dialogue between the reluctant warrior Arjuna and his charioteer Krishna, who dramatically reveals himself as the incarnation of God, try Episode 33 – The Bhagavad Gita.

For more about poetry in the context of war, try a pair of episodes with Professor Bill Hogan: Episode 56 – The Poetry of Ruins and Episode 93 – Robert Frost Finds a Friend

For the story of an American writer who went off to World War II and came back a changed man, try Episode 141 – Kurt Vonnegut (with Mike Palindrome).

For a look at the politics of war and peace, try Episode 117 – Machiavelli and The Prince.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. Learn more about the show at historyofliterature.com or facebook.com/historyofliterature. Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or on Twitter @thejackewilson.

The History of Literature #132 – Top 10 Literary Villains

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Villains! Bad guys ! Femme fatales! We love them in movies – but what about literature? What makes villains so effective (and so essential)? What do they tell us about their authors – and what can they tell us about ourselves? In this episode, Jacke and Mike select the Top 10 Literary Villains of all time.

Works, authors, and characters discussed include Shakespeare, Euripides, Cormac McCarthy, Chuck Klosterman, John Milton, John Fowles, Stephen King, Thomas Harris, Emily Bronte, Othello, Medea, Hannibal Lecter, Iago, Lady Macbeth, Charles Dickens, Star Wars, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Judge Holden, Michael Corleone, HAL 9000, Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange, The Wicked Witch of the West, C.S. Lewis, Ian Fleming, Professor Moriarty, Captain Hook, Long John Silver, Beowulf, Grendel, J.K. Rowling, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. Learn more about the show at historyofliterature.com or facebook.com/historyofliterature. Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or @thejackewilson.

The History of Literature #103 – Literature Goes to the Movies

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The lights dim, the audience hushes in expectation, and the light and magic begin. In some ways (the crowd, the sound) the experience of watching a movie could not be more different from reading a novel – and yet the two have some very important features in common. Novels and the cinema are intertwined, and both show the power of a cracking good story told through what John Gardner called a vivid, continuous dream. In this special episode, Jacke and Mike take a look at great films made out of great works of literature.

Love literature and the arts?  Looking for a way to express your support for the History of Literature Podcast? Please visit patreon.com/literature and consider making a modest monthly donation, which will help to keep the show up and running. All your support is greatly appreciated!

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The History of Literature #100 – The Greatest Books with Numbers in the Title

It’s here! Episode 100! Special guest Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporters Club, returns for a numbers-based theme: what are the greatest works of literature with numbers in the title? Authors discussed include Thomas Pynchon, Dr. Seuss, Alexandre Dumas, Haruki Murakami, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Agatha Christie, Joseph Heller, Charles Dickens, V.S. Naipaul, Arthur Conan Doyle, Graham Greene, Kurt Vonnegut, John Dos Passos, Jules Verne, Arthur C. Clarke, John Buchan, Roberto Bolano, William Shakespeare, J.D. Salinger, Pablo Neruda, John Berryman, George Orwell, and Ray Bradbury.

Show Notes:  Continue reading