The History of Literature Podcast

178 “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

In this episode, we take a look at the classic twentieth-century American short story, “The Lottery” (1948) by Shirley Jackson. Why did it cause such an uproar? Who banned it and why? And how well does it hold up today? We’ll be discussing all this and more with special guest Evie Lee.

SHIRLEY JACKSON was born in 1916 in San Francisco, California, before leaving to attend college at Syracuse University. After marrying her college sweetheart, whom she met at the university’s literary magazine, she resettled in Vermont and began her brief but highly successful literary career. Her best works, like The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and “The Lottery,” continue to provoke readers with their shocking twists and disturbing effects. Although she was only 48 when she died of a heart condition in 1965, she left behind six novels, two memoirs, and over 200 short stories.

NOTE: “The Lottery” is one of the most spoilable stories ever written. But no need to fear: we will be reading the story in its entirety before our discussion.

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2 thoughts on “178 “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson”

  1. One of my favorite short stories. I taught this story in may high school English classes in the late 60s and early 70s as part of a visualization project. After reading and discussing the meaning(s) ofthe story, students were assigned to imagine the story as a movie. How would the town, the people, the box, the stoning be portrayed. One class used a 8mm camera to produce the movie and present it to the school in a spring film festival.

    In the discussion of the story, the students gathered a list of similar traditions that have been lost meaning to many or are contrary to the fairness of society – mistletoe at Christmas, love on Valentine day (based on the actual story of St Valentine), and the US military draft.

    I enjoyed your discussions because the issues that we face to day were not the same issues we faced in the 60s and 70s (e.g., mass shootings, aggressive police enforcement, gender issues). Thanks for the reading and the discussion. I’m a new subscriber and very excited about the upcoming episodes.

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