191 Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe’s first novel Things Fall Apart (1959) ushered in a new era where African countries, which had recently achieved post-colonial independence, now achieved an independence of a different kind – the freedom of imagination and artistry, as African authors told the stories of their geography, their culture, and their experience from the point of view of Africans, and not from the point of view of those who perceived them from only from the outside. “It sparked my love affair with African literature,” Toni Morrison said. Maya Angelou said it was a book where “all readers meet theirr brothers, sisters, parents, and friends – and themselves – along Nigerian roads.” Margaret Atwood called Achebe “a magical writer…One of the greatest of the twentieth century.” And Nelson Mandela, who read Achebe’s works while in captivity, said he was a writer “in whose company the prison walls fell down.”

In this episode of The History of Literature, we look at the life and legacy of Chinua Achebe, the impact of Things Fall Apart, and Achebe’s critique of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

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.

Music Credits:

“Unnamed Africa Rhythm” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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190 Blood and Sympathy in the 19th Century (with Professor Ann Kibbie)

“England may with justice claim to be the native land of transfusion,” wrote one European physician in 1877, acknowledging Great Britain’s role in developing and promoting human-to-human transfusion as treatment for life-threatening blood loss. But what did this scientific practice mean for literature? How did it excite the imagination of authors and readers? And how does our understanding of transfusion help us to understand our own reading of historical and contemporary scientific advancements?

In today’s episode, Jacke talks to Professor Ann Kibbie of Bowdoin College about her new book, Transfusion: Blood and Sympathy in the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, which examines the scientific and literary treatment of the nineteenth-century practice of transfusion, including the way transfusion seeped into the works of authors like George Eliot, Adam Smith, and Bram Stoker, whose Dracula stands as a culmination of the practice of transfusion and the elemental feelings it arouses.

Music Credits:

“Midnight Tale” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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189 Weeping for Gogol

“Gogol was a strange creature,” said Nabokov, “but genius is always strange.” Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (1809 – 1852) rose from obscurity to a brilliant literary career that forever changed the course of Russian literature. Born in 1809, he and his contemporary Pushkin influenced the titans who followed, including Tolstoy and Doestoevsky and Chekhov. Best known for his novel Dead Souls, his play, The Government Inspector, and a handful of classic short stories like “Diary of a Madman” and “The Nose,” it is his short story “The Overcoat” that perhaps best expresses his artistry and influence. As Doestovsky famously said, “we all come out from under Gogol’s overcoat.” But who was this unusual writer? Where did he come from? What was so different about his fiction, and what made it resonate with readers? And why does his story “The Overcoat” still have the power to make Jacke weep?

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.

Music Credits:

“Amazing Plan” and “Piano Between” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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188 Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes (with Yuval Taylor)

They were collaborators, literary gadflies, and champions of the common people. They were the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance. Their names were Zora Neale Hurston (1891 – 1960), the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967), the author of “the Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “Let America Be America Again.” After meeting at a great gathering of black and white literati, the two writers traveled together through the rural South collecting folklore, collaborated on a play, wrote scores of loving letters to one another – and then had a bitter and passionate falling-out. On today’s episode, author Yuval Taylor joins Jacke to talk about his book, Zora and Langston: A Story of Friendship and Betrayal.

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.

Music Credits:

“Dixie Outlandish” and “Piano Between” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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187 The Brontes

Although their lives were filled with darkness and death, their love for stories and ideas led them into the bright realms of creative genius. They were the Brontes – Charlotte, Emily, and Anne – who lived with their brother Branwell in an unassuming 19th-century Yorkshire town called Haworth. Their house, a parsonage, sat on a hill, with the enticing but sometimes dangerous moors above and a cemetery, their father’s church, and the industrializing town below. It was a dark little home, with little more than a roof to keep out the rain, a fire to keep things warm at night, and books and periodicals arriving from Edinburgh and London to excite their imagination. And from this humble little town, these three sisters and their active, searching minds exerted an influence on English literature that can still be felt nearly two hundred years later.

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.

Music Credits:

“Ashton Manor” and “Piano Between” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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186 Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894) went from a childhood in the western islands of Scotland to the heights of literary popularity and success, beloved and admired for his adventure stories Treasure Island and Kidnapped and his eerie portrait of a double life The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dismissed by Virginia Woolf as a writer for children and by H.G. Wells as a demonstration of the triumph of talent over genius, Stevenson nevertheless thrilled generations of audiences and inspired countless other writers, including Joseph Conrad, Ernest Hemingway, Hillary Mantel, Vladimir Nabokov, Graham Greene, and Jorge Luis Borges, who declared that reading Stevenson was “among the greatest literary joys I have ever experienced.”

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.

Music Credits:

“Wholesome,” “Magistar,” and “Symmetry” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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185 Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) did little of note until he turned 38 years old – but from that point forward, he devoted the rest of his life to writing a masterpiece. The result, the novel In Search of Lost Time, published in seven volumes from 1913 to 1927, stands as one of the supreme achievements of Modernism or any other period. Written in Proust’s inimitable, discursive prose, the novel recreates the memories of a lifetime, infusing a search for the past with an almost mystical belief in the power of beauty and experience to be ever-present, alive, unified, and universally important. Drawing upon everything in Proust’s life, from his childhood bedtime kisses from his mother to his travels through high Parisian society, the towering novel stands alone for its deep artistic and psychological insights.

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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184 George Eliot

Perhaps the greatest of all the many great English novelists, George Eliot was born Mary Ann Evans in 1819 in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England. Her father Robert managed an estate for a wealthy family; her mother Christina was the daughter of a local mill-owner. Among her rather large family, Mary Ann stood apart as the only one with a taste for intellectual pursuits. Her views on philosophy and theology led her to reject religion at the age of 22, leading to a row with her father that lasted months. She spent the next fifteen years in a kind of quest for intellectual companionship, which led to some humiliating episodes before finally resulting in a successful, if socially fraught, relationship with an unhappily married journalist named George Henry Lewes.

After making a living as a freelance editor and translator, Evans turned to writing novels at the age of 37. Published under the pseudonym “George Eliot,” her first novel Adam Bede was an immediate success, praised for the depth of its psychological insights and the clarity of its moral vision. Eliot followed Adam Bede with several classics of English literature including The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Middlemarch, and Daniel Deronda. She was, remarked Virginia Woolf, one of the few English novelists who wrote books for grown-up people.

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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183 Samuel Beckett (with Nick Barilar)

We’re back! A newly reenergized Jacke Wilson returns for a deep dive into the life, works, and politics of Samuel Beckett. Yes, we know him as one of the key figures bridging the gap between modernism and post-modernism – but was he more than just a highly refined artist generating art for art’s sake? Was he engaged with his times? And if so, how might that engagement have affected his writings? We’ll immerse ourselves in Waiting for Godot and some of Beckett’s other works for our answer, with special guest Nic Barilar, PhD Student in Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

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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182 Darkness and Light (with Jessica Harper)

Jessica Harper has had the kind of life it would take ten memoirs to capture. Born in 1949, she went from a childhood in Illinois to a career as a Broadway singer, a Hollywood actor and movie star, a songwriter, an author of children’s books, an author of cookbooks, and now a podcaster. Along the way, she’s worked with everyone from Woody Allen to Steve Martin to Bette Midler to Garry Shandling to Peter O’Toole to Max von Sydow to Brian di Palma to – well, it’s a who’s who of everyone Jacke admired when growing up in the 70s and 80s. She joins Jacke for a conversation about her new project, WINNETKA, a podcast-memoir in which she explores her childhood in the 50s and 60s – and the secrets that cast long shadows across even the brightest of families.

Learn more about Jessica Harper and WINNETKA at winnetkapodcast.com.

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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