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Episodes

May 26, 2022

411 Walt Whitman - A New Hope

In 1844, Ralph Waldo Emerson called for a new poet who would reflect the spirit and potential of America. In 1855, a then-unknown poet named Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass , his attempt to fulfill Emerson's wish. In t...

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May 23, 2022

410 What Is American Literature? (with Ilan Stavans)

America, America, America... a continent, a nation, a people, and a whole lotta books. But how does America define itself? Who defines it? Where did the idea of American exceptionalism come from? And how does literature fit i...

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May 19, 2022

409 "Fear and Trembling" (The Story of Abraham and Isaac) by Soren Ki…

In our last look at Søren Kierkegaard, we left our hero after he had just left the love of his life, Regine Olsen, in favor of a life devoted to God and philosophy. In this episode, Jacke looks at one …

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May 16, 2022

408 Dylan Thomas (with Scott Carter)

Do not go gentle into this good episode! Rage, rage against the dying of the... well, things fall apart there, don't they? (Because we're not gifted poets like Dylan Thomas!) In this episode, Jacke talks to producer, playwrig...

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May 12, 2022

407 "The Old Nurse's Story" by Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell had only written one novel when Charles Dickens started publishing her work in his journal Household Words . But soon she would become famous as the author of Cranford and North and South , two of the best …

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May 9, 2022

406 A World in Turmoil - 1967-1971 (with Beverly Gologorsky)

Novelist Beverly Gologorsky joins Jacke for a discussion of the tumultuous years from 1967 to 1971, which provides the background for her new novel. In Can You See the Wind? , a working-class family in the Bronx struggles to ...

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May 5, 2022

405 Kierkegaard Falls in Love

The nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) is well known as the father of existentialism and one of the great Christian thinkers of all time. But it is in his relationship with Regine Olsen - his ...

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May 2, 2022

404 Kafka and Literary Oblivion (with Robin Hemley)

Author Robin Hemley joins Jacke for a discussion of Kafka, writerly ambition, and his new novel Oblivion: An After Autobiography , which tells the story of a midlist author who finds himself in the posthumous world where auth...

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April 28, 2022

403 The Wonderful World of Mysteries (A Best-of-HOL Episode)

Mysteries! In this best-of episode, Jacke revisits conversations with three guests for three different angles on this popular and enduring literary genre. First, Jonah Lehrer ( Mystery: A Seduction, A Strategy, A Solution ) d...

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April 26, 2022

Introducing "The History of Literature"

Introducing "The History of Literature"

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April 25, 2022

402 "The Open Boat" by Stephen Crane

After being given $700 in Spanish gold by some newspapers, a 25-year-old Stephen Crane set out for Florida, where he planned to travel by boat to Cuba and cover the impending Spanish-American War as a war correspondent. But t...

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April 21, 2022

401 HOL Presents: Melissa Chadburn and The Throwaways (A Storybound P…

Jacke takes a look at the first work of literature by an African American author, courtesy of Fictions of America: The Book of Firsts by Uli Baer and Smaran Dayal. Then he turns things over to Storybound, a Podglomerate podca...

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April 18, 2022

400 Anniversary Special! (with Mike Palindrome)

Celebrating 400 episodes of The History of Literature, Jacke and Mike respond to a listener poll and choose the Top 10 Episodes We Must Do in the Future. Additional listening suggestions: Episode 83 - Overrated! Top 10 Books ...

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April 14, 2022

399 Stephen Crane (with Linda H. Davis)

Stephen Crane (1871-1900) lived fast, died young, and impressed everyone with his prose style and insight into the human condition. While he's best known today for his novels The Red Badge of Courage and Maggie: A Girl of the...

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April 11, 2022

398 Fernando Pessoa

Questioning the nature of the self is a standard trope in literature and one of the hallmarks of the Modernist movement. But no one pushed this to the extreme like Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). While the use of...

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April 7, 2022

397 Plath, Hughes, and "The Other Woman" - Assia Wevill and Her Writi…

In 1961, poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath rented their flat to a Canadian poet and his wife, the beautiful, accomplished, and slightly mysterious Assia Wevill. Soon afterward, Ted and Assia began having an affair. Within a y...

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April 4, 2022

396 Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (with Heather Clark)

Ultimately, the marital relationship of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes was filled with pain and ended in tragedy. At the outset, however, things were very different. Within months of their first meeting at Cambridge, they had fa...

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March 31, 2022

395 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (A Best of HOL Episode)

Jacke plays a clip from Nabokov discussing his famous novel Lolita , in which the frantic narrator Humbert Humbert recounts his passionate (and illegal, immoral, and illicit) love for a young girl. After hearing from the auth...

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March 28, 2022

394 Freud and Fiction | PLUS An Assia Wevill Preview

What narrative techniques did Freud borrow and employ? What was the effect? And what did it mean for the literary critics who followed? Following his look at the life and major works of Sigmund Freud, Jacke describes Freud an...

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March 24, 2022

393 Writers in Odessa, Ukraine's "Black Sea Pearl" | PLUS Margot Read…

Still recovering from his immersion in Sigmund Freud, Jacke looks instead to one of the world's great literary cities: Odessa. More than 300 writers have lived in, traveled through, and/or written about Ukraine's "pearl of th...

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March 21, 2022

392 Sigmund Freud

As the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. Although many of his claims and theories are still hotly debated, for decades his ideas dominated w...

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March 17, 2022

391 Mark Twain's Publishing Fiasco | Great Literary Terms and Devices…

Mark Twain was an enormously successful writer and a horrendous businessperson, with a weakness for gadgets and inventions that cost him a fortune.. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at his efforts to start his own publishi...

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March 14, 2022

390 Victor Hugo

In this episode, Jacke takes a look at Victor Hugo (1802-1885), whose poetry, plays, and novels made him one of the leaders of the nineteenth-century Romantic movement. In addition to his famous novels Les Misérables and The ...

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March 10, 2022

389 Thomas Pynchon (with Antoine Wilson)

"A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now." Such is the opening of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (1973), the novel that won the National Book Award but repulsed ...

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