The History of Literature #413 – Walt Whitman – “Song of Myself”

In this episode, we resume our look at Walt Whitman’s life and body of work, focusing in particular on the years 1840-1855. Did Whitman’s teaching career end with him being tarred and feathered by an angry mob, as has long been rumored? What happened during his three months in New Orleans? And how did this printer and hack writer wind up writing the twelve poems in Leaves of Grass (1855), thereby becoming the “true poet” that Ralph Waldo Emerson had been searching for?

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The History of Literature #411 – Walt Whitman – A New Hope

In 1844, Ralph Waldo Emerson called for a new poet who would reflect the spirit and potential of America. In 1855, a then-unknown poet named Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass, his attempt to fulfill Emerson’s wish. In this episode, Jacke looks at Whitman’s early life and career, contrasting Leaves of Grass with the works of a pair of poets that Emerson may have had in mind when he railed against “men of poetical talents…of industry and skill in meter” who nevertheless failed to be what Emerson called “true poets.”

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The History of Literature #291 – The Book of Firsts (with Ulrich Baer and Smaran Dayal)

291 The Book of Firsts (with Ulrich Baer and Smaran Dayal)

Ever wonder who wrote the first play in the North American colonies? Or who was the first published African American poet? Or what year it was when an Arab American first published a novel in the United States? Or who wrote the first published gay-themed poetry in America? The answers to all of the above might surprise you – sometimes because they’re earlier than you expected, and sometimes because they’re later. Sometimes the “first” comes from a famous writer, and sometimes the authors have been completely overlooked or forgotten. But in every case, seeing what a “first” looks like expands our understanding of what came before, what came after, and what it means for us today.

In this episode, Jacke talks to Ulrich Baer and Smaran Dayal, editors of an exciting new anthology Fictions of America: The Book of Firsts, which focuses on the literary pioneers who broke barriers, inaugurated new traditions, and proved that the diverse imagination and creative efforts of a wide range of individuals helped forge a nation.

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The History of Literature Podcast is a member of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate Network. Learn more at

History of Literature #111 – The Americanest American – Ralph Waldo Emerson


In 1984, the literary scholar Harold Bloom had this to say about Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Emerson is the mind of our climate, the principal source of the American difference in poetry, criticism and pragmatic post-philosophy…. Emerson, by no means the greatest American writer… is the inescapable theorist of all subsequent American writing. From his moment to ours, American authors either are in his tradition, or else in a counter-tradition originating in opposition to him.” Who was Emerson? How did he become so influential? What did he unlock in American literature? And what can we take from his works today?

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Sneak Preview: Abandoning a Goddess

Would you leave her?
Would you leave her?

Dear Readers and Listeners,

It’s a heavy-hearted weekend for the world. All of our very best wishes for peace, love, and safety to our friends in Paris. Let’s hope we somehow learn to end the madness of hatred and violence.

This week on the History of Literature Podcast, we’ll take a deeper look at the passage in which Odysseus leaves the goddess Calypso. On Thursday, we’ll be back with another Restless Mind Show. In this episode, we update the world on our interaction with Bryan Cranston’s agent, whose feedback has inspired an exciting new Jacke Wilson project.

Don’t miss last week’s episodes:

The History of Literature 3: Homer

The Restless Mind Show 5: Gar Discovers a Lost Recording of Walt Whitman!

Literature has been many things to many people over the years. A comfort, an escape… and a way to remind ourselves in humanity’s brightest sides as well as its darkest. I hope you and your loved ones find a way to connect this weekend, and that the world finds a way to see ourselves out of this dark tunnel we currently find ourselves in.



The Restless Mind Show 5 – Gar Discovers a Lost Recording of Walt Whitman!


Gar finds a lost recording of Walt Whitman reading his own poetry! Plus: Author Jacke Wilson gives an update on the Greatest First Lines contest.


Exciting Discovery Revealed Tomorrow!


I don’t want to overpromise until I hear more details, but it sounds like tomorrow will be a Very Big Day for The History of Literature Podcast. Here’s a hint:

Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman – silent no longer?

Come back tomorrow for the Restless Mind Show when all will be revealed. Or just subscribe to the History of Literature Podcast (iTunes | Android | RSS | More Subscribe Options).

See you then!