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.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

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177 Sherwood Anderson (with Alyson Hagy)

One hundred years ago, a collection of short stories by a little-known author from Ohio burst onto the literary scene, causing a minor scandal for their sexual frankness. In the years since, Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919) became more famous for its insightful portrayal of a town filled with friendly but solitary individuals, who wrestle with questions of love and lust, art and ambition, deep frustrations and the desire for spiritual uplift. How well have these stories held up? And how well do they speak to us today? We’ll talk with Alyson Hagy, author of the new novel Scribe, about this often overlooked American masterpiece – and we’ll see how it’s informed her own writing career.

SHERWOOD ANDERSON (1876-1941) grew up in a small town in Ohio before leaving in a state of desperation for Chicago and a literary career. His novels and short stories were often cited by the next generation of American writers (Wolfe, Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald) as helping them to develop their own literary voice.

ALYSON HAGY was raised on a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She is the author of eight works of fiction, including Scribe and Boleto. She lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

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176 William Carlos Williams (“The Use of Force”)

Today, the American modernist poet William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) is famous among poetry fans for his vivid, economical poems like “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “This Is Just to Say.” But for most of his lifetime, he struggled to achieve success comparable to those of his contemporaries Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. Toiling away as a physician in working-class neighborhoods in New Jersey, Williams tried to write poems and short stories whenever he could, often typing for a few minutes in between patient visits. In this episode of The History of Literature, Jacke and Mike take a look at Williams’s incredible short story “The Use of Force,” in which a physician wrestles with a young patient determined to preserve her secret at all costs.

NOTE: This is another self-contained episode of The History of Literature! We read the story for you – no need to read it yourself first (unless you want to!).

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

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175 Virgin Whore – The Virgin Mary in Medieval Literature and Culture (with Professor Emma Maggie Solberg)

Today, we know the Virgin Mary as quiet, demure, and (above all) chaste, but this wasn’t always the way she was understood or depicted. In her new book Virgin Whore, Professor Emma Maggie Solberg investigates a surprising – and surprisingly prevalent – theme in late English medieval literature and culture: the celebration and veneration of the Virgin Mary’s sexuality. Professor Solberg joins Jacke for a discussion of the portrayals of Mary in medieval dramas and other works – and what we can learn from those portrayals today.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

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174 David Foster Wallace (A Mike Palindrome Special!)

Ask and ye shall receive! It’s an all-Mike episode devoted entirely to one of his literary heroes, David Foster Wallace. Enjoy!

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

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173 The Yellow Wallpaper (with Evie Lee)

Happy new year! Host Jacke Wilson is joined by special guest Evie Lee, a vice-president at the Literature Supporters Club, for a conversation about the classic short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN (1860-1935) wrote nine novels and novellas, several plays, and over 180 short stories in her writing career. Her most famous work, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” combines elements of a gothic supernatural horror story with an astute, ahead of its time  psychological portrayal of a woman oppressed by her surroundings. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is today one of the most widely read and studied works in American literature.

This is a self-contained episode of The History of Literature Podcast, in which the story is read aloud before being discussed. No need to read it beforehand (unless you want to!).

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

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172 Holiday Movies (with Brian Price)

Seasons Greetings! In this episode, Jacke attempts to recover from last week’s gloominess with something lighter and cheerier: a trip to the movies! Holiday movies dominate screens big and little during the month of December – but what do they do to us? How do they work? What separates a good holiday movie from the rest of the pack? We ask screenwriter Brian Price, author of Classical Storytelling and Contemporary Screenwriting, to help us understand the genre. Then Jacke, in a frenzy of holiday spirit, pitches his own idea for a holiday movie to Brian – and comes to learn the true meaning of the phrase, “Christmas flop.” Hope you enjoy!

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

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171 To Sleep, Perchance to Dream – On Writers and Death

“To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come…” In these immortal lines, Shakespeare’s Hamlet gives voice to one of the greatest of all human questions. What happens when we die? Should we be excited by the mystery? Or afraid? How do we puny humans endure the knowledge that we are not immortal? In this episode, Jacke and Mike take a look at writers on the verge of death. What did they see? And what did they say?

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

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170 Toni Morrison

TONI MORRISON (b. 1931) is one of the most successful and admired authors in the history of American literature. Her novels include The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977) and Beloved (1987), which is widely considered to be her masterpiece. After successful careers in both academia and publishing during the 1960s and ’70s, Morrison’s critical and commercial success enabled her to devote more time to her writing. In 1993, the Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature to Morrison, “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”

In this episode, host Jacke Wilson intersperses Toni Morrison’s biographical details and literary achievements with a discussion of his first encounters with Morrison’s works and what they meant to him.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

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169 Dostoevsky

FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY (1821-1881) was, in the estimation of James Joyce, “the man more than any other who has created modern prose.” “Outside Shakespeare,” Virginia Woolf wrote, “there is no more exciting reading.” His influence is as impossible to understand as it is to overstate: he is widely credited as the forerunner of modern psychology, existentialist philosophy, the detective novel, and the prison memoir – and is, by any measure, one of the pinnacles of Russian literature. In this episode of The History of Literature, we consider the life and works of one of the greatest novelists the world has ever known.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

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