33 – The Bhagavad Gita

Written over the span of 800 years from ca. 400 B.C. to ca. 400 A.D, the Mahabharata tells a riveting tale of disputed kingship and warring families. But just as the action-packed narrative reaches its climax, the story pauses to convey a dialogue between the reluctant warrior Arjuna and his charioteer Krishna, who dramatically reveals himself as the incarnation of God. This passage, known as the Bhagavad Gita, has proved inspirational to hundreds of millions of religious seekers and was regarded by philosophers from Henry David Thoreau to Mahatma Gandhi as perhaps the greatest distillation of philosophy and religion ever written.

How does this philosophical treatise fit into this fast-paced story? What lessons does it have for us? And how did a two-thousand-year-old argument that a warrior should fulfill his duty on the battlefield end up inspiring some of the most famous advocates of non-violence in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries?

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

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Books Discussed:

The Bhagavad Gita (tr. Easwaran)

Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation (tr. Mitchell)

The Norton Anthology of World Literature (Third Edition) (Vol. Package 1: Vols. A, B, C)

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Sweeter Vermouth” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

 

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32 The Best Debut Novels of All Time (A Conversation with the President of the Literature Supporters’ Club)

What makes a great first novel? Which do we prefer: the freshness of a new style (even if it contains mistakes), or the demonstration of competence (even if it breaks no new ground)? Does it matter if the book is the best (or only) novel by that author? Or do we prefer the debuts that initiated a long, distinguished career? Join host Jacke Wilson for a conversation with his friend, the President of the Literature Supporters’ Club, on the best debut novels in the history of literature.

Books Discussed:

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Broom of the System: A Novel by David Foster Wallace

Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Wise Blood: A Novel by Flannery O’Connor

Don Quixote by Cervantes

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Dangling Man by Saul Bellow

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Soldiers’ Pay by William Faulkner

White Teeth: A Novel by Zadie Smith

Brick Lane: A Novel by Monica Ali

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Speedboat by Renata Adler

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Roderick Hudson by Henry James

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

Adam Bede by George Eliot

Childhood by Leo Tolstoy

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Sweeter Vermouth” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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31 Secret Societies!

We thought we were done with conspiracies and conspiracy theories – but that was before we heard more about Justice Scalia’s bizarre final days. What hold do secret societies have over our imagination? Why do people join them? And what are we to make of those who do? Jacke Wilson takes another dive into the rabbit hole of mystery, intrigue, and the crazy world of a four-hundred-year-old secret society.

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

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Drums of the Deep”  and “This House” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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30 More Conspiracy!

What do Edgar Allan Poe, J.K. Rowling, William Shakespeare, Stephen King, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Justice Antonin Scalia have in common? Jacke Wilson connects the dots with another look at conspiracy literature, literary conspiracies, and the people who love them. (Part 2 of 2.)

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

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Drums of the Deep”  and “This House” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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29 Conspiracy!

Who runs things? Well, okay, sure…but who really runs things?

Conspiracy theories fascinate us with their possibilities, thrill us with their sense of unveiling secrets, and tap into some of our deepest anxieties and psychological needs. And sometimes, they turn out to be true. Jacke Wilson takes a break from the history of literature to examine the nature of conspiracy theories and their role in literature and the literary life. (Part 1 of 2.)

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

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Corruption” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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28 The Ramayana

It’s been called “the greatest of all Indian epics – and one of the world’s supreme masterpieces of storytelling.” Nobody can deny the power of this ancient tale of Rama, a warrior king in exile, and his beloved wife Sita. Combining intense action scenes with keen insights into spiritual and psychological motivations, the Ramayana continues to delight and enchant readers around the world. But what does the story mean for us today? How do its values correspond with our own? Do we agree with its views of what it means to be a great ruler? A great husband? A great wife? Author Jacke Wilson takes a look at The Ramayana, one of two great Indian epic stories, on his journey through the history of literature.

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

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Texts:

 

The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic (Penguin Classics) (tr. Narayan)

The Ramayana: A Modern Retelling of the Great Indian Epic (tr. Menon)

The Norton Anthology of World Literature (Third Edition) (Vol. Package 1: Vols. A, B, C)

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Jalandhar” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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27 The Upanishads (Part Two)

How did the Universe begin? What is the nature of individual consciousness? How do these relate to one another? Host Jacke Wilson continues his look at the set of ancient Indian mystic writings known as the Upanishads (ca. 700 B.C.) and rediscovers the impact they once had on his own spiritual journey.

(Looking for episodes 12-26? They don’t exist! This episode begins a simplified numbering system, which counts all releases to this podcast feed, whether they are History of Literature episodes, Restless Mind Show episodes, or minisodes.)

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

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Texts:

The Upanishads (Classic of Indian Spirituality) (tr. Easwaran)

The Upanishads: Breath from the Eternal (tr. Prabhavanada)

The Norton Anthology of World Literature (Third Edition) (Vol. Package 1: Vols. A, B, C)

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Jalandhar” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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11 The Upanishads (Part One)

Thousands of years ago, a group of Indian mystics conducted investigations into the universe and the nature of human consciousness. Using deep meditative techniques, they developed vivid ideas about the human soul and its relationship to a single spiritual force. Known today as the Upanishads (ca 700 B.C.), these philosophical and epistemological teachings have inspired hundreds of millions of practitioners of the Hindu religion–as well as many other seekers of wisdom and truth. In this episode, host Jacke Wilson introduces his project to investigate the Upanishads to see what these ancient texts might (or might not) be able to provide to a modern-day seeker.

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

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Texts:

The Upanishads (Classic of Indian Spirituality) (tr. Easwaran)

The Upanishads: Breath from the Eternal (tr. Prabhavanada)

The Norton Anthology of World Literature (Third Edition) (Vol. Package 1: Vols. A, B, C)

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Jalandhar” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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10 Indian Literature: A Cosmic Feast

Recalling his own long-ago transition from China to India, our host previews our journey’s next stop, where we will immerse ourselves in the literature of a spectacular culture. Marked by classics like the Rig Veda (1500 – 1200 B.C.) and the Upanishads (ca. 900 B.C.), the Ramayana (ca. 550 B.C.), and the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita (400 B.C. – 400), classic Indian literature is known for its deep engagement with universal questions like how the world was created, what our understanding of God is and can be, how we should treat one another, and what it means to be human. Jacke Wilson prepares our palate for a feast of Indian literature, one of the greatest achievements in the history of civilization.

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

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Further Reading:

The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic (Penguin Classics) (tr. Narayan)

The Ramayana: A Modern Retelling of the Great Indian Epic (tr. Menon)

The Bhagavad Gita (Classics of Indian Spirituality) (tr. Easwaran)

Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation (tr. Mitchell)

The Upanishads (Classic of Indian Spirituality) (tr. Easwaran)

The Upanishads: Breath from the Eternal (tr. Prabhavanada)

Classic Indian Cooking (Julie Sahni)

The Norton Anthology of World Literature (Third Edition) (Vol. Package 1: Vols. A, B, C)

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Jalandhar” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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9 Confucius

Perhaps the most influential teacher in the history of the world, Confucius (551-479 B.C.) left a literary legacy that continues to inspire and provoke. Jacke Wilson takes a look at the historical Confucius, the impact that the five works known as the “Confucian canon” has had on China, and the collection of sayings and anecdotes known as the Analects.

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

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits: “Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

Translation of Confucius’ Analects by D.C. Lau (courtesy of the Norton Anthology of World Literature).

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