History of Literature Episode #138 – Why Poetry (with Matthew Zapruder)


In his new book Why Poetry, the poet Matthew Zapruder has issued “an impassioned call for a return to reading poetry and an incisive argument for its accessibility to all readers.” The poet Robert Hass says, “Zapruder on poetry is pure pleasure. His prose is so direct that you have the impression, sentence by sentence, that you are being told simple things about a simple subject and by the end of each essay you come to understand that you’ve been on a very rich, very subtle tour of what’s aesthetically and psychologically amazing about the art of poetry.”

In this episode, Matthew Zapruder joins Jacke for a discussion on why poetry is often misunderstood, and how readers can clear away the misconceptions and return to an appreciation for the charms and power of poetry. Along the way, they discuss poems by W.H. Auden, Brenda Hillman, and John Keats, and the views of critics like Harold Bloom, Giambattista Vico, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Paul Valery.

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 via our new Twitter handle, @thejackewilson.

History of Literature #70 – Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar


Just after World War II, the poet and critic W.H. Auden said that Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (ca. 1959) is “of great relevance to our time, though it is gloomier, because it is about a society that is doomed.  We are not doomed, but in such immense danger that the relevance is great. [Rome] was a society not doomed by the evil passions of selfish individuals…but by an intellectual and spiritual failure of nerve that made the society incapable of coping with its situation.”  Why is Julius Caesar so continually important to those living in a liberal democracy? What does it tell us about the relationship of an individual to society and the state? And as the citizens of a republic lose their faith in institutions, how do we reconcile the noble ambition of a Caesar with the high-minded (but bloody) principles of the assassin Brutus?

In this episode, host Jacke Wilson takes a look at Shakespeare’s play, the portrayals of Brutus (James Mason) and Mark Antony (Marlon Brando) in the 1953 film, the fraught morality of assassination, the surprising links between John Wilkes Booth and the play, and an essay from The Journal of Democracy describing the declining faith in liberal democracies in 2016.


Show Notes: 

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You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

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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).