139 “A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka

In 1922, the miserable genius Franz Kafka wrote a short story, Ein Hungerkünstler (A Hunger Artist), about another miserable genius: a man whose “art” is to live in a cage and display his fasting ability to crowds that don’t always appreciate what he is trying to do. Inspired by actual historical figures, though suffused with nostalgia and Kafka’s penetrating insight, the story asks us to reconsider our conceptions of art and spectacle, life and death, hunger and humanity. Host Jacke Wilson is joined by superguest Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporters Club, to feast on one of the greatest short stories ever written.

For more on Franz Kafka, try Episode 134 – The Greatest Night of Franz Kafka’s Life

For more on short stories, try Episode 57 – Borges, Munro, Davis, Barthelme – All About Short Stories (And Long Ones Too)

For a deep dive into Alice Munro’s “A Bear Came Over the Mountain,” try Episode 115 – The Genius of Alice Munro

For a deep dive into Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” try Episode 110 – Heart of Darkness – Then and Now

Help support the show at patreon.com/literatureor 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.

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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/literatureor historyofliterature.com/shop. Learn more about the show at historyofliterature.comor facebook.com/historyofliterature. Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or via our new Twitter handle, @thejackewilson.

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137 Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami (b. 1949) is one of the rare writers who combines literary admiration with widespread appeal. Host Jacke Wilson is joined by lifelong Murakami fan Mike Palindrome to discuss what makes his novels so compelling, so mysterious, and so popular. Works discussed include The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore, and many others. Special Bonus Quiz: Can you tell the difference between famous quotes by Murakami and YA novelist John Green?

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 our new Twitter handle, @thejackewilson.

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136 The Kids Are Alright – Aren’t They? Making the Case for Literature

Does literature matter? Why read at all? Jacke Wilson takes questions from high school students and attempts to make the case for literature.

Works and authors discussed include Beloved, The Great Gatsby, Shakespeare, The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm, Scarlet Letter, Of Mice and Men, the Odyssey, The Inferno, The House on Mango Street, Farenheit 451, 1984, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Where the Red Fern Grows, Pride and Prejudice, Junot Diaz, Drown, Maya Angelou, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, J.K. Rowling, Paul Auster, Sara Gruen, Alice Sebold, Lorrie Moore, Sandra Cisneros, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Isabel Allende, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Amis, Colson Whitehead, Edwidge Danticat, Ronica Dhar, David Sedaris, Jhumpa Lahiri, Zadie Smith, Junot Diaz, Vu Tran, Julia Alvarez, Amy Tan, Gish Jen, Margot Livesey, Cristina Garcia, George Saunders, Jennifer Egan, Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, James McBride, Shawna Yang Ryan, Charles Baxter, Nick Hornby, Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

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 @WriterJacke.

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135 Aristotle Goes to the Movies (with Brian Price)


Hollywood screenwriter and professional script doctor Brian Price, author of Classical Storytelling and Contemporary Screenwriting: Aristotle and the Modern Scriptwriter, found everything he needed to know about screenwriting in a 2,500-year-old text, Aristotle’s Poetics. Brian and Jacke talk about how Aristotle’s study of Greek tragedy has unlocked the buried secrets of storytelling – and how those examples can be used to understand the storytelling secrets in everything from Casablanca to Spider-Man and Black Panther.

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 @WriterJacke.

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134 Franz Kafka – The Greatest Night of His Life

We use the term Kafkaesque to describe bureaucracies and other social institutions with nightmarishly complex, illogical, or bizarre qualities – and in most biographies of Franz Kafka (1883-1924) we find that his life often mirrored the strangeness in his fiction. In this episode, host Jacke Wilson examines the origins of Kafka’s particular sensibility, suggests how those characteristics played out in Kafka’s life and art, and finally uncovers what may have been the greatest night of Kafka’s life.

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 @WriterJacke.

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133 The Hidden Machinery – Discovering the Secrets of Fiction (with Margot Livesey)

Ever wonder how fiction works? Or what great literature can teach us about writing? Novelist Margot Livesey returns to the show for a discussion of her book The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing

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 @WriterJacke.

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132 Top 10 Literary Villains

Villains! Bad guys ! Femme fatales! We love them in movies – but what about literature? What makes villains so effective (and so essential)? What do they tell us about their authors – and what can they tell us about ourselves? In this episode, Jacke and Mike select the Top 10 Literary Villains of all time.

Works, authors, and characters discussed include Shakespeare, Euripides, Cormac McCarthy, Chuck Klosterman, John Milton, John Fowles, Stephen King, Thomas Harris, Emily Bronte, Othello, Medea, Hannibal Lecter, Iago, Lady Macbeth, Charles Dickens, Star Wars, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Judge Holden, Michael Corleone, HAL 9000, Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange, The Wicked Witch of the West, C.S. Lewis, Ian Fleming, Professor Moriarty, Captain Hook, Long John Silver, Beowulf, Grendel, J.K. Rowling, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

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 @WriterJacke.

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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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