July 31, 2013

The Ghost in the Machine

with Kathryn Davis

For thousands of years, writers and philosophers have wondered about the animating spirit, or the soul. Many believe it is the part of a human being that lives eternally, that connects us with all other life. However, in this age, when we have access to scientific innovations like cloning and organs grown in labs, we have to ask ourselves, new questions arise. Is there an invisible thread that connects humans to all life around us? In this episode, Kathryn Davis, novelist and the Hurst Writer in Residence at Washington University in St. Louis, explores what animates us and how the fantastical world she creates in her new novel, Duplex, isn't as far from reality as it first appears.

In addition to the interview, you can listen to a reading selection from Duplex in a second podcast.

July 24, 2013

A Room of One's Own

with Danielle Dutton and Vincent Sherry

In Virginia Woolf's essay, A Room of One's Own, she writes: "For most of history, Anonymous was a woman." That is to say, that for most of history women did not have the education, the support of society, or the means to write and claim her own work. However, in contemporary society, we have moved past that—Or have we? In 2010, VIDA—Women in Literary Arts—found that between 3 to 5 men were being published or reviewed for every one woman that appeared in leading magazines, such as Harpers, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic. Danielle Dutton, fiction writer and founder of Dorothy, a publishing project, discusses what these numbers mean to her and the poetics of suburbia in her novel, SPRAWL. In the second half of the episode, Vincent Sherry, the Howard Nemerov Professor of Letters at Washington University, explores the life and literary opinions of Virginia Woolf.

In addition to the interview, you can listen to a reading selection from SPRAWL.

July 17, 2013

Magical Realism

with Kelly Link and William McKelvy

Many of the biggest literary successes in the past decade have involved elements of the fantastic, and we have seen these stories come to life on both the small and big screens: Harry Potter, True Blood, The Walking Dead, dare we mention Twilight? This is to say nothing of the various primetime TV shows that reimagine fairy tales, or the ghost story franchises from The Ring to Paranormal Activity. What draws us to these stories of the supernatural? And how do they relate to our real lives? Acclaimed author of magical realism, Kelly Link, explores the pleasure of surprising readers when using traditional story tropes, and discusses the archetypes of the genre. In the second half of the episode, William McKelvy, associate professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, explains the hallmarks and legacy of Gothic literature.

In addition to the interview, you can find a reading selection from the short story "The Hortlak" from Kelly's collection Magic for Beginners.

July 10, 2013

Slippery Nonfiction

with Edward McPherson

Nonfiction, simply put, is anything that isn't fiction. Easy enough, right? However, in recent years, several controversies have arisen as supposed factual memoirs are revealed to be nothing but a string of exaggerations or, well, fiction. But how well does any nonfiction writer capture "The Truth?" Numerous psychological studies have shown that if multiple people witness the same event, it's possible for all of them to walk away with very different stories of what happened. Edward McPherson, essayist and assistant professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, explores truth and memory in nonfiction. We also discuss how a place's identity can be shaped by fiction as easily as reality in his essay, Dallas: From Afar.

In addition to the interview, you can find a reading selection from his essay, "Dallas: From Afar."

July 3, 2013

Translating Dante

with Mary Jo Bang and Jessica Rosenfeld

In literature classes, we often turn back to study "classics" that are hundreds of years old, and while the core message of these works remain intact, the once-contemporary references to politics, the snide remarks about rivals, and the nuances of a word that has since taken on another meaning can go whizzing past our heads unless we are given notes and annotations to explain. How, then, can we make these texts as funny and engaging for modern audiences as they were for the original readers? Or should we allow these texts to become literary artifacts? Mary Jo Bang, poet and professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, explores the process she undertook in her recent translation of Dante Alighieri's Inferno, while Jessica Rosenfeld, medievalist and associate professor of English, explains why the Middle Ages are the origins of literature as we know it.

In addition to the interview, you can find a reading selection from Inferno: A New Translation.

June 24, 2013

A Life in Verse

with Carl Phillips and Timothy Moore

When tragedy strikes, we often comfort ourselves by saying "everything happens for a reason," and while the veracity of this statement in life is debated, it is always true in good literature. Every word is working toward building character, plot, setting, or layers of meaning. In this episode, Carl Phillips, poet and professor of English at Washington University, explores how life influences the creation of his poetry and the reoccurence of faith in his new collection, Silverchest. Timothy Moore, chair and professor of classics, then takes us back to ancient Greece where, even two thousand years ago, they searched for meaning in their lives and literature.

In addition to the interview, you can listen to a reading selection from Silverchest.

June 18, 2013

Coming of Age

with Anton DiSclafani

Adolescence is a difficult transition for many—a time when everything seems urgent and nothing seems certain, when we weigh our family and childhood values against who we are and who we want to become as adults. It's a period fraught with conflict, internal and otherwise, so it's no wonder authors like Anton DiSclafani, Washington University alumna and Writer in Residence, return to it in their work. In this episode, she examines the fundamentals of a coming-of-age story, the impact of place on identity, and the writing process she adopted for her acclaimed debut novel, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls.

In addition to the interview, you can listen to a reading selection from her novel.

May 24, 2013

Retellings: A New Series

Retellings: Preview

Creation doesn't happen in a vacuum. Artists and writers find inspiration in the world around them and in the work of their peers and predecessors. Today we offer a sneak peak into the new creative writing, summer podcast series, Retellings, which will explore the complex web of inspiration and influence in literature. For this preview, host Rebecca King will introduce the series and provide a clip of her interview with Washington University alumna and current Writer-in-Residence Anton DiSclafani, whose first novel, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, releases on June 4th.

The full interview with Anton can be heard on June 19th as the pilot episode of Retellings.