131 Dante in Love (with Professor Ellen Nerenberg and Anthony Valerio)

Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) was the greatest poet of his era and one of the greatest artists of all time. His masterpiece, the Divine Comedy (or simply Comedìa or Commedia), written between 1312-1320, which describes his journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Heaven (Paradiso), stands as one of the greatest achievements of Western Civilization. “Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them,” T.S. Eliot once wrote, “there is no third.”

But years before Dante placed the beloved figure of Beatrice at the heart of the Divine Comedy, he wrote a shorter, more intimate work devoted to his love for her. Called La Vita Nuova (or Vita Nova or A New Life), the combination of poetry and prose tells an astonishing story of his love for Beatrice, from the moment he first saw her (when both were children) to the moment he learned of her death.

In this episode, host Jacke Wilson is joined by two special guests: Professor Ellen Nerenberg, Dean of the Arts and Humanities, Hollis Professor of Romance Languages and Literature, and Professor of Italian at Wesleyan University; and Anthony Valerio, author and editor of several works of fiction and nonfiction, including Dante in Love: Dante Alighieri’s Vita Nuova Reinterpreted, a 2017 translation of Dante’s youthful and enduring masterwork.

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

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130 The Poet and the Painter – The Great Love Affair of Anna Akhmatova and Amedeo Modigliani

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) began her career as a poet of love and ended it as the poet of suffering and heartbreak, thanks in no small part to the totalitarian Russian regime she suffered under. On today’s special Valentine’s Day edition of The History of Literature, we look at Akhmatova’s poetry and life, and consider what might be her moment of greatest happiness: the youthful affair she had in Paris with Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920). What happened when these two soul mates met? How did it affect their art? What happened to them afterwards? And what does it mean for us today?

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

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129 Great Sports Novels – Where Are They? (with Mike Palindrome and Reagan Sova)

Every year, the Super Bowl draws over 100 million viewers in the U.S. alone, and the Olympics and World Cup will be watched by billions around the world. Movies and television shows about sports are too numerous to count. But where are the novels? Mike Palindrome and special guest Reagan Sova (author of Tiger Island, a novel about sports) join host Jacke Wilson to talk about the world of sports in literature – and attempt to determine why sports are so underrepresented in adult literary fiction.

Works discussed include: Underworld by Don DeLillo, The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby, Shoeless Joe (Field of Dreams) by W.P. Kinsella, Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, The Natural by Bernard Malamud, Beowulf, The Shortest Poem in the English Language by Muhammad Ali, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley, Rabbit, Run by John Updike, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow, The Sportswriter by Richard Ford.

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128 Top 10 Animals in Literature (with Mike Palindrome)

Continuing our look at animals in literature, we’re joined by Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporters Club, for a discussion of the Top 10 Animals in Literature. Did your favorite make the list? Did we leave it out altogether? Let us know!

Authors, works, and animals discussed include William Shakespeare, Michael Chabon, Jack London, Rilke, C.S. Lewis, Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Melville, Christopher Smart, Master and Margarita, Charlotte’s Web, Beatrix Potter, Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter, the Cheshire Cat, The Jungle Book, Roald Dahl, T.S. Eliot, Leo Tolstoy, Toto the Dog, Watership Down, Frog and Toad, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, William Blake, Franz Kafka, Ovid, Beverly Cleary, Jaws, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Carbonel: King of the Cats, Paddington, The Wind in the Willows, Ferdinand the Bull, and George Orwell.

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

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127 Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein (1874 – 1946) would be essential to the history of literature had she never written a word – but she did write words, lots of them, and they’ve led to her having an uneasy position in the canon of English literature. Avant-garde pioneer? Literary charlatan? Or underappreciated genius? In this episode, we look at the fascinating life and works of the incomparable (and irrepressible) Gertrude Stein.

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

Music Credits: “When You’re Down, My Dear” by Josh Hetherington and Ronny Haynes, from Show Me Where It Hurts, available at showmewhereithurts.bandcamp.com

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126 Animals in Literature (Part One)

Inspired by a listener’s heartfelt request, we take a look at an often overlooked subject: animals in literature. In this episode, a precursor to a forthcoming Draft with President Mike (i.e., “The 10 Best Animals in Literature”), Jacke considers the earliest mentions of animals in literature and how the literary appearances of animals have changed over time, before concluding with a modest offering of his own.

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

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125 Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver (1938-1988) packed a lot of pain of suffering into his relatively brief life. He also experienced relief and even joy – and along the way, he became one of the most influential short story writers of the American twentieth century. How did this son of a sawmill worker become the man commonly referred to as “America’s Chekhov”? Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporters Club, joins Jacke for a conversation about the life and fiction of Raymond Carver.

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

FOR A LIMITED TIME: Special holiday news! Now for a limited time, you can purchase History of Literature swag (mugs, tote bags, and “virtual coffees” for Jacke) at historyofliterature.com/shop. Get yours today!

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124 James Joyce’s “The Dead” (Part 2)

In this second part of a two-part episode, we look at the resounding conclusion of James Joyce’s masterpiece “The Dead,” which contains some of the finest prose ever written in the English language. Be warned: this episode, which runs from Gabriel’s speech to the final revelatory scene, contains spoilers. But don’t let that stop you! Read the story first (if you want), then come back and listen to the episode – and hear the song that launched a thousand complex thoughts in Gabriel (and a million college theme papers for everyone else).

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

FOR A LIMITED TIME: Special holiday news! Now for a limited time, you can purchase History of Literature swag (mugs, tote bags, and “virtual coffees” for Jacke) at historyofliterature.com/shop. Get yours today!

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123 James Joyce’s The Dead (Part 1)

Happy holidays! In this special two-part episode, host Jacke Wilson takes a look at a story that he can’t stop thinking about: James Joyce’s masterpiece “The Dead.” How does it work? Why is it so good? And why does it resonate so deeply with Jacke? We tackle all that and more.

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

FOR A LIMITED TIME: Special holiday news! Now for a limited time, you can purchase History of Literature swag (mugs, tote bags, and “virtual coffees” for Jacke) at historyofliterature.com/shop. Get yours today!

 

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122 Young James Joyce

We often think of James Joyce as a man in his thirties and forties, a  monkish, fanatical, eyepatch-wearing author, trapped in his hovel and his own mind, agonizing over his masterpieces, sentence by sentence, word by laborious word. But young James Joyce, the one who studied literature in college and roamed the night-time streets of Dublin with his friends, laughing and carousing and observing the characters around him, was a different person altogether – or was he? Host Jacke Wilson takes a look at the James Joyce who studied his fellow Dubliners – and then wrote a masterful collection of short stories that he named after them.

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

FOR A LIMITED TIME: Special holiday news! Now for a limited time, you can purchase History of Literature swag (mugs, tote bags, and “virtual coffees” for Jacke) at historyofliterature.com/shop. Get yours today!

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