In 1922, T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), an American living in England, published The Waste Land, widely viewed as perhaps the greatest and most iconic poem of the twentieth century. Virginia Woolf recognized its power immediately, praising it for its “great beauty and force of phrase: symmetry and tensity.” And yet, as nearly a hundred years’ worth of readers and critics have found, its tangle of cultural and literary references can confound as well as compel. Who was T.S. Eliot? What was Modernism and how did he fit into it? What’s The Waste Land about? And what can it offer today’s readers?
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EZRA POUND (1885-1972) was born in a small mining town in Idaho and died in Venice, Italy. In his eighty-seven years, he changed the face of American poetry. A restless, tireless advocate for his artistic views and the authors who shared them, he also led an extremely eventful life, clamoring for change, devolving into madness, attacking his own country and living, for a while, as a prisoner of the United States Army, who kept him in an outdoor cage. His impact on American literature is as hard to understand as it is to overstate.
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The Nobel Prize for Literature has a special place in the literary landscape. We revere the prize and its winners – and yet we often find ourselves puzzled by the choices. The list of fantastic writers who never won a Nobel Prize is as long and distinguished as the list of those who did.
In this episode, Jacke and Mike take a look at the Nobel Prizes by decade, attempting to determine which decade had the best (and worst) group of authors. Do we select your favorites? Overlook some hidden gems? Let us know!
For a list of Nobel Prize Winners for Literature by Decade, visit historyofliterature.com/nobel-prizes-by-decade/
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In 1921, T.S. Eliot wrote, “When Shakespeare borrowed from him, which was pretty often at the beginning, Shakespeare either made something inferior or something different.” He was talking about Shakespeare’s near-contemporary Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), whose literary career was cut short by his murder at the age of 29, though not before he established himself as one of the most accomplished and innovative poets who ever lived. A scholar, a spy, a poet, a tragedian, a counterfeiter, an influencer of Shakespeare – wrestling with Marlowe’s interests and ambiguities could fill a hundred novels. Theories have long abounded: was his death ordered by the Crown? Or perhaps it was staged – paving the way for Marlowe, in hiding, to continue to write plays under the name William Shakespeare. But assuming that he did die in that tavern brawl, the questions are no less appealing: what would he have done, had he lived? How might he have continued to influence Shakespeare – and how might Shakespeare have influenced him? Host Jacke Wilson takes a look at the life and works of the extraordinary Christopher Marlowe.
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John Donne (1572-1631) may have been the most wildly inventive poet who ever lived. But that doesn’t mean he was the most successful. Dr. Johnson, writing a hundred years later, objected to Donne and the other Metaphysical Poets for the way in which they “yoked together with violence” heterogenous ideas. T.S. Eliot found something much richer in the poems, but even his analysis leaves us with the central burning question: can a poem about a flea be any good? Jacke Wilson considers the question.
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“Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).
“Dance Macabre,” “Hero Theme,” and “NewsSting” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.