About the Podcast



We are human beings, and human beings tell stories…

For tens of thousands of years, human beings have been using fictional devices to shape their worlds and communicate with one another. Four thousand years ago they began writing down these stories, and a great flourishing of human achievement began. We know it today as literature, a term broad enough to encompass everything from ancient epic poetry to contemporary novels. How did literature develop? What forms has it taken? And what can we learn from engaging with these works today?

Hosted by Jacke Wilson, an amateur scholar with a lifelong passion for literature, THE HISTORY OF LITERATURE takes a fresh look at some of the most compelling examples of creative genius the world has ever known.




New to podcasts? Check out Jacke Wilson’s how-to guide for downloading and listening to podcasts.

Contact us via email at

jackewilsonauthor at gmail dot com

Find us on Facebook: facebook.com/historyofliterature.

44 thoughts on “About the Podcast”

  1. Hello Jackie

    I just wanted to say thank you for what you’re doing. I am a 22 year old English/Comparative literature student from Aarhus with book-crammed shelves and always more piling up, but you have sent me scuttling back to the bookstores for more Lawrence, O’Connor and Flaubert, not to speak of obscure reference works for the Don Juan and Faust-mythologies. Even though my days are always bursting with reading, I always seem to find time for an episode of your podcast to unwind my thoughts, and to listen to someone who is as passionate about this literature stuff as I am.

    Ps: My girlfriend says hi and kind of damns you for filling our apartment with books upon books.

    Kind regards

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad to hear that the shelves are sagging in Aarhus. And of course, I’m very pleased to hear that you’re enjoying the show. Thanks again and happy listening (and please apologize to your girlfriend for me)!

  2. Hi,

    Just wanted to say how much i appreciate your podcast. I love to listen to you and Mike talk about books cause you do it with such love and warmth. Just listened to the episode where you talked about the books of your lives and after listening to Mike my summer is now dedicated to reading Magic mountain thats been waiting on my book shelves for years. Keep up the good work of spreading the magic of books!

    Kind regards from Andreas in Lund, Sweden

    1. Dear Andreas,

      Thank you so much! I couldn’t be more pleased to hear that you’ve been listening and enjoying the podcast. I passed along your comment to Mike as well, and he was also delighted. Enjoy your summer of reading and take care!



  3. Hi Jacke and Mike,
    It is a delight to listen to your podcast.
    Thanks for your dedication.
    I was wondering if you guys are going to continue this podcast.
    Since April, I didn’t see any new podcast.
    Of course, I will be glad to make a monthly contribution.

    1. Thanks for the comment – glad to hear you’re enjoying the show. Yes, I’m continuing the podcast, though the episodes have slowed down a bit as I work through some other projects.

  4. Hello Jacke,

    Stumbled across your podcast whilst looking for something to keep the mind ticking over whilst on the treadmill. I’m hooked! I particularly enjoyed the Gogol episode. Couldn’t help but noticing you did a lot more personal “rambling”, the Felski stories and the reflections on office life, which put me in mind of Gogol’s use of the “skaz” narrative technique and wondered if this was intentional or the ghost of Gogol, the dead soul of Gogol, influencing you.

    Anyway, I am very much enjoying the podcast and knowing this stuff is out there. Keep up the good work!

    Tottenham, London

    1. Hi Andrew, thank you so much for this comment! It has given me a lot to think about. Was the use of the “skaz” technique intentional? Well, that puts me in mind of a story…

      I’m so glad to have you on board. Hope you continue to enjoy the podcast!

      Take care and happy listening!



  5. Dear Jacke
    I’ve just discovered your podcast and am excited to have so many episodes to fill my ‘furloughed’ days in Lockdown. It seems that for so long I have been looking for a friendly voice to fulfil my obsession with literature and also fill the long commute between work and home. Now that I am obliged to stay at home, your dulcet tones are even more welcome!
    In the past, I’ve spent some years in the US and in particular Wausau, WI and have a Foam Cheesehead tucked away somewhere. Actually I may as well ‘fess up – I am also the proud owner of a Cheese Bra, to be worn over a ski jacket when it is 40 below in Lambeau Field!
    Keep up the good work, and may I also suggest an episode on Cormac McCarthy? While in Lockdown, I have just re read his Border Trilogy. In my humble opinion,The Crossing is the work of genius. I am partial to a western and McCarthy is the master.
    With kindest regards
    Sally in Kent, UK.

    1. Hey Jacke

      I just signed up for the Jane Austen package!
      Glad to be able to support such a much needed podcast!

      With kindest regards
      Kent U.K.

      1. Thank you so much, Sally! I’m so glad to know the podcast has been helping you make it through the lockdown. Wisconsin and the UK… two of my favorite places. I’m going to be laughing at the idea of the Cheese Bra for quite some time. Best wishes and take care! –Jacke (And yes, Cormac McCarthy is definitely on the list!)

  6. I am just loving this podcast..Hope you would make an episode on John Kennedy Toole in future

  7. Hello Jacke!! I just want to say thank you for the thoughtful examination of of Baldwin and Faulkner. It was really hard for me to sit down and listen to this, because I knew it would be hard. However, with what is going on in the news today – the killing of black innocent men, the protest and looting in MN – I thought that I had to. In fact, it is a sign of my own privilege that I could chose not to listen to the Baldwin episode, not to know what others have gone through, the centuries of pain and injustice Black Americans know – and had no choice but to know.

    Going to Meet the Man was one of the most disturbing pieces of literature I’ve encountered. I thank you, in the deepest sense possible, for exposing me and others in your podcast to this great and venerable work. I do believe that by getting exposed to such works that we can enlarge our imaginations and our hearts, to see the suffering of others and to unite us into kindness and decency.

    Thank you so much for all you and Mike do, you both make me proud to be a Maroon!

  8. p.s. can you please remove my last name? I didn’t think last name was going to be published, thanks!

    Also, please put me on the list for a book club meeting in the South of France, that would be amazing! Really enjoyed the Pepys episode as well!

  9. Dear Jacke, just a note to say how much I appreciate your podcast, The History of Literature! I love the episode on Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (which I have translated into English, along with Rilke’s The Dark Interval: Letters of Condolence). And I love the episode on Enheduanna, which was fascinating. Great to see other podcasters devoted to literature (I host Think About It). Cheers, Uli Baer

    1. Dear Uli, thanks so much for your kind words about the podcast! I’m planning to send you a separate email too – we might have a connection I wanted to touch base with you about. Good luck with Think About It and thank you again!

  10. Jacke,

    I just started listening to your podcast and I am so glad that I found it. I always look forward to car rides because of it! Keep doing what you do.



  11. Jacke,

    I am loving the podcast. Can you recommend a good English translation of the Vedas? Or if there is a better translation of just the Upanishads, could you recommend that as well?

    While we’re at it, same questions for the Mahabharata and just the Bhagavad Gita.


    1. Glad to hear it! I’m afraid I’m not an expert in translations, but I’m sure there are a lot of good ones out there. (I usually start with the Penguin edition of whatever I’m looking to read, if that helps at all.)

      1. Thanks, good to know. I got the Penguin edition of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Based on your show notes, I also got the Ramesh Menon translation of the Ramayana and Eknath Easwaran’s translation of The Upanishads.

  12. Mr. Wilson,
    THOL came up in a Spotify search about Proust, so I listened to your Proust piece and decided right then and there to subscribe. Your inquiries resonate with our current times, and I appreciate your help interpreting some literature that I’ve enjoyed. James Joyce is my current obsession so I hope to listen to your Joycean analysis soon.

    1. Correction! I found your podcast while searching for literary analysis of Zora Neal Hurston. Your piece on Hurston and Langston Hughes came up, got listened to, and that is what hooked me. Glad to have found this.

  13. Mr. Wilson: Analyzing the Beatles via “Get Back” seemed to settle on the “Let It Be” narrative as the reason they never got back together. Like many, when I first saw it in the late 70s I left the movie appalled and that, along with Lennon’s Playboy interview, turned me off the Beatles like touching a hot oven.

    However: I came back. Don’t you think, perhaps, that that movie was perhaps in the category of external agents but was such a large one it overcame them? Larger than Klein, Ono, or some of the others that you named? It seems like after Epstein, they were unprotected, so it was just a matter of time before something large enough came along. That ended up being the “Let It Be” movie. Just a thought.

  14. Mr. Wilson: In your recent review of Hayden’s beautiful sonnet, you came to a conclusion on your own that was quite in synchronicity with the definitions of freedom as the philosopher Kenneth Boulding put it. He defines two types: freedom from, and freedom to. You came to about the same place on your own.

    Freedom from is a traditional way to look at it, and he mentions Roosevelt’s “The Four Freedoms” – freedom from want, freedom from fear, etc. etc. as an example. Freedom to is quite different. As an individual one becomes educated and reaches a certain level in society that gives one the freedom to have larger influence, because the social norms are not constraining but rather liberating. Freedom to speak out comes with paying your dues, so to speak.

    Boulding was the author of “Spaceship Earth”, an obscure little essay that helped start the environmental movement, and several other essays that combined economics and philosophy. If I can find the citation I’ll share it.

  15. Hello,
    I know you’ve mentioned it but I can’t remember; would you please tell me what your theme music is?
    My wife says it’s Gary Pucket and the Union Gap. I think she’s thinking of another podcast.

  16. Hello,

    Love your podcast! I go through periods of only listening to your show and it’s starting up again. I’m just reaching out for episode suggestions
    Could you do one on Truman Capote and maybe am episode about weird habits of writers that help them consistently write.

  17. What is the lovely baroque music you use in your podcast? I was hoping to find a reference to it somewhere on your site or within the podcast, but must not be looking in the right place. :). Is it Vivaldi – sure sounds familiar.

  18. Hello! I would like to express my deep gratitude for your podcasts, it is very interesting to listen to them. We are students from Ukraine, we want to translate your podcast into Ukrainian and present it to our group. I really liked your podcast about “Bad poetry”, but would like to know if there is a script from it? So it would be much easier for us to translate =) Please tell me where you can find it, we will be very grateful for the feedback! I also leave a link to the podcast in the letter. Thanks and have a nice day!❤


    1. Dear Mariya, I am overwhelmed by your note of gratitude. I don’t usually share my scripts or show notes, but how could I turn down such a lovely request from some Ukrainian students? I don’t know how closely my actual words stuck to my scribblings, but in any case I will send you a link to what I have. I hope it’s helpful! Thank you very much and good luck to you – please stay safe and thank you again for your kind words! Best wishes, Jacke

  19. Dear Jacke, I was thinking about how to convey my appreciation for the HOL when it occurred to that I’d felt this way about a show once before as a boy. The opening music to your podcast gives rise to the same thrill I felt when I’d hear the opening notes and Mel Allen’s voice on This Week in Baseball as a small-town kid in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was half an hour of pure bliss that went by far too quickly. If you could see me staring transfixed at the screen and if you could feel the sadness that filled me when Mel ended each show with “see you next week on This Week in Baseball”, then you’d know that no greater compliment could be paid.
    Keep up the great work, Jacke.
    Ps I have a bookshop in Prague where we listen to your program, so the next time you find yourself in the Czech Republic do drop us a line.

  20. Hi Jacke!

    I have been putting on hold this review since I first encountered your podcast in 2019. It was a hard time for me, as my boyfriend and I spent the quarantine in Austria far from our families and friends -we are from Spain. Your podcast accompanied me during two years of lonely walks along the Danube river, rethinking my professional careeer. But most importantly, your podcast help me fight all the anxiety I had at the time.

    Now we live in a little town near Granada. I quitted my job in 2020 and I am now studying to become a teacher.

    Thank you very much for your podcast, it really changed my life.

    Best wishes and happy holidays!


  21. Dear Jacke,

    I have just picked up your podcast and have been enjoying it very much. Until, just this very minute, when I began listening to your podcast on authors or books that we shouldn’t read. It was appalling. I don’t know how many minutes I listened until I couldn’t take it any longer. I don’t have the words to express my disappointment. It was shameful. I could go on and on and explain how utterly wrongheaded a podcast on The History of Literature telling us what not to read when reading should be encouraged rather than discouraged. If you didn’t like a book, tell your readers, but telling a reader to only read one book by an author, or half a book, or pages of one book, it left me ashamed that I had been listening to you for hours up until this point, and I now I feel you have waisted my time. I don’t know at what minute I stopped listening, but I pulled the earplugs out and immediately stopped. I’m sorry to say, I will not be listening to you again.

    1. Wow! That’s quite a reaction to a lighthearted episode. As I explained, repeatedly, the episode was intended to alleviate guilt, not discourage reading. I think you completely missed the point, but that’s okay. Not every podcast is for everyone.

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