Professing Literature

6 Episodes
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By: David Anderson and Eric Williams

Why do great novels, poems and plays move us and excite us? How can they change the way we look at ourselves and the world? What do these authors have to teach us? Why do they matter? There are no better answers to these questions than those provided by the authors themselves. We want to let them speak. Professing Literature is not a broad summary of major works. Instead, it will zero in on one or two key passages, looking at them closely in order to figure out what is at stake. The goal will be to appreciate an author’s...

EP 06 - Memories of Jane | Salinger, "The Catcher in the Rye"
07/26/2021

J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Chapter 11.  Jane Gallagher had been the sort of girl who kept her kings in the back row.  Is she still?  As sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield unravels over the course of a few days in Manhattan his thoughts often return to Jane, who haunts his memory and is connected to so many of his most pressing obsessions:  sex, vulnerability, change and authenticity.  

As always, thanks for listening. Please send us your questions, comments, or otherwise to ProfessingLiterature@protonmail.com. We love hearing from listeners!


EP 05 - Alone in the Darkness | Milton, “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent”
07/17/2021

John Milton, “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent.”  In the early 1650s John Milton lost his eyesight.  Blindness forced him out of politics, where he had been an important figure in Oliver Cromwell’s government, and into retirement where he wrote some of the greatest poetry in all of literary history.  In this sonnet, though, he wonders if he has anything left to offer God at all. 

As always, thanks for listening! We'd love to hear from you, so please send your questions, thoughts, or otherwise to ProfessingLiterature@protonmail.com.


EP04 - 1984
07/05/2021

George Orwell, 1984, Chapter One. The opening paragraphs of George Orwell’s novel seem innocuous, as a man named Winston Smith returns to his apartment building for lunch. However, from the first sentence onward Orwell estranges us from the world we take for granted and begins hinting at the nature of the totalitarian state which he feared might one day come into being.

As always, thanks for listening! We'd love to hear from you. Send us your questions, comments, or otherwise to ProfessingLiterature@protonmail.com.


EP03 - Blackberry-Picking
05/25/2021

Seamus Heaney, “Blackberry-Picking.”  Today we consider a lyric poem from Death of a Naturalist, Seamus Heaney’s first collection (1966).  In “Blackberry-Picking” Heaney recounts a memory from his childhood, or perhaps from the beginning of his childhood’s end.

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We started recording episodes about a year ago and are just now releasing them. We have a handful more of them to publish before we catch up. We hope you enjoy and thanks for listening!

If you have questions for Dr. Anderson, please email us at ProfessingLiterature@protonmail.com.  We'd love to hear from you.
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EP02 - Emma
05/12/2021

Emma, Vol 3, Chapter 7.  A bright summer day in Surrey offers a sharp contrast to emotional storms.  In this episode we discuss one of Jane Austen’s great set pieces, the picnic at Box Hill.  Emma gets herself into deep trouble when she embarrasses an old friend, and the man who secretly loves her has to summon up the courage to tell her she was wrong. 

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We started recording episodes about a year ago and are just now releasing them. We have a handful more of them to publish before we catch up. We hope you en...


EP01 - Macbeth
04/22/2021

Macbeth, Act Two, Scene Two.  In the inaugural episode of Professing Literature we examine a conversation held in the aftermath of one of literature’s most famous murders.  Macbeth has just stabbed a king to gain a throne he will never sit upon securely.  His tense exchange of words with Lady Macbeth discloses the moral and psychological stakes of the act, and hints at the consequences that will follow.