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Just Listen Podcast

55 episodes - English - Latest episode: 9 months ago - ★★★★★ - 2 ratings

Readings in American Literature

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Just Listen Podcast: Poetry - Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market"

April 30, 2020 17:30 - 16.3 MB

Christina Rossetti's most famous poetry collection, Goblin Market and Other Poems, appeared in 1862, when she was 31. It received widespread critical praise, establishing her as the foremost female poet of the time in England. The poem Goblin Market is one of Rossetti's best known. Although it is ostensibly about two sisters' misadventures with goblins, critics have interpreted the piece in a variety of ways, seeing it as an allegory about temptation and salvation, a commentary on Victorian ...

Just Listen Podcast: Poetry - Christina Rossetti

April 26, 2020 17:30 - 24.4 MB

Christina Georgina Rossetti, born on December 5, 1830,  was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children's poems. She is famous for "Goblin Market" and "Remember.” She wrote the words of two Christmas carols well known in the British Isles: "In the Bleak Midwinter,” later set to music by Gustav Holst and by Harold Darke, and "Love Came Down at Christmas,” also set by Harold Darke and by other composers. Rossetti's most famous collection, Goblin Market and Other P...

Just Listen Podcast: Poetry - Sara Teasdale and Edna St. Vincent Millay

April 12, 2020 17:00 - 20.2 MB

Today we examine the work of two American poets, both of whom are featured in a new book by John Dizikes entitled Love Songs: The Lives, Loves, and Poetry of Nine American Women.  The book’s focus is on a group of nine American women whose work dominated and helped shaped the direction of American poetry. All of them used New York City as the locus for their expansion as poets during the first half of the twentieth century.  Both Sara Teasdale and Edna St. Vincent Millay made important and ...

Just Listen Podcast: Winesburg, Ohio - Loneliness

March 15, 2020 17:45 - 16.1 MB

A short story cycle (sometimes referred to as a story sequence or composite novel) is a collection of short stories in which the narratives are specifically composed and arranged with the goal of creating an enhanced or different experience when reading the group as a whole as opposed to its individual parts. Short story cycles are different from novels because the parts that would make up the chapters can all stand alone as short stories, each individually containing a beginning, middle and ...

Just Listen Podcast: Winesburg, Ohio - Hands

March 01, 2020 18:15 - 11.5 MB

Winesburg, Ohio is a 1919 short story cycle by the American author Sherwood Anderson. The book consists of twenty-two stories, with the first story, "The Book of the Grotesque,” serving as an introduction. Each of the stories shares a specific character's past and present struggle to overcome the loneliness and isolation that seems to permeate the town. Stylistically, because of its emphasis on the psychological insights of characters over plot, and its plain-spoken prose, Winesburg, Ohio is...

Just Listen Podcast: The First Seven Years

February 02, 2020 18:15 - 18.6 MB

During World War II, millions of Jews were murdered by the Nazis under the direction of German dictator Adolph Hitler.  Many Jewish refugees immigrated to the United States, a pattern that continued after the end of the war.  This story takes place in the 1950s, when many Holocaust survivors like Sobel, the shoemaker’s assistant, struggled to establish new lives in the United States. Today’s author Bernard Malamud was an American novelist and short story writer. Along with Saul Bellow, Josep...

Just Listen Podcast: from The Diary of Samuel Pepys

January 19, 2020 18:45 - 11.7 MB

Samuel Pepys was the son of a tailor and the fifth of eleven children, but child mortality was high in the 17th century, often 50% or more, and he was soon the oldest survivor. As an adult, he became an administrator of the navy of England and a Member of Parliament who is most famous for thediary he kept for nearly a decade while still a relatively young man; writing for himself alone, he used a little-known shorthand that was not deciphered until the nineteenth century, when the diary was ...

Just Listen Podcast: The Interlopers

January 05, 2020 18:45 - 10.1 MB

Hector Hugh Monroe, also known as Saki, is famous for his tongue-in-cheek commentaries on the upper classes and the quick, startling way in which many of his stories end. To compare today’s story, “The Interlopers,” with other Saki works, look for “The Open Window” and “The Schartz-Metterklume Method” here on Just Listen. A story’s omniscient narrator knows everything that happens, and why. This type of narrator is not a character in the story but an outside observer who can tell you what ea...

Just Listen Podcast: The Lady in the Looking Glass: A Reflection

December 22, 2019 18:45 - 11.1 MB

Virginia Woolf was born into intellectual and social aristocracy.  Her father, Leslie Stephen, was an editor and historian.  Her mother was a known and admired beauty, often used as a model for important Pre-Raphaelite painters. Virginia was not sent to school, in accordance with the custom of the times.  She received a splendid education as an autodidact but remained resentful and offended on this account.  Her mother died when she was young prompting her first nervous breakdown.  Virginia ...

Just Listen Podcast: The Lagoon

December 11, 2019 18:30 - 25.8 MB

"The Lagoon" is a short story by Joseph Conrad, a Polish-British writer regarded as one of the greatest novelists to write in the English language. Though he did not speak English fluently until his twenties, he was a master prose stylist who brought a non-English sensibility into English literature. “The Lagoon” was first published in Cornhill Magazine  in 1897. The story is about a white man, referred to as "Tuan" (the equivalent of "Lord" or "Sir"), who is traveling through an Indonesian ...

Just Listen Podcast: Elegy in a Country Churchyard

December 01, 2019 18:30 - 7.19 MB

"Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"  is a poem by Thomas Gray, completed in 1750 and first published in 1751. The poem's origins are unknown, but it was partly inspired by Gray's thoughts following the death of the poet Richard West in 1742. Originally titled "Stanzas Wrote in a Country Church-Yard," the poem was completed when Gray was living near St Giles' parish church at Stoke Poges. On 3 June 1750, Gray moved to Stoke Poges, and on 12 June he completed "Elegy Written in a Country Ch...

Just Listen: The Invalid's Story

November 17, 2019 18:15 - 12.1 MB

“The Invalid’s Story” is a raucous story by Mark Twain about a case of mistaken identities and is a testament to how olfactory images can truly color a piece of literature. The story is considered by many critics to have no literary value. Still, even though some critics have panned the story, it is often reproduced in collections of Twain’s stories, and others have noted that it is a good example of the frontier-style humor for which Twain was known. The story details the unfortunate misadve...

Just Listen Podcast: Tennyson Poetry

November 10, 2019 18:30 - 12.4 MB

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson was a British poet. He was the Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular British poets. Although decried by some critics as overly sentimental, his verse soon proved popular and brought Tennyson to the attention of well-known writers of the day, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Tennyson's early poetry, with its medievalism and powerful visual imagery, was a major influence on the ...

Just Listen: Michael

October 13, 2019 17:00 - 17.7 MB

"Michael" is a pastoral poem, written by William Wordsworth in 1800 and first published in the 1800 edition of Lyrical Ballads. The poem is one of Wordsworth's best known poems and the subject of much critical literature. It tells the story of an aging shepherd, Michael, his wife, and his only child Luke. Pastoral poems are poems relating to the countryside, portraying or expressing the life of shepherds or country people in an idealized and almost Utopian manner.   The focus is on the plea...

Just Listen: Scary Stories

October 08, 2019 05:00

"A Ghost" by Guy de Maupassant  Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant  was a French writer, remembered as a master of the short story form. “A Ghost” relates the tale of a brief haunting that results in a lifelong terror. [[nid:4147]] "Dracula's Guest" by Bram Stoker Bram Stoker’s Dracula is perhaps the best known of all vampire tales.  Today’s story, “Dracula’s Guest,” was excised from the original Dracula manuscript by its publisher because of the length of the original book.  It was pu...

Just Listen: The Duchess and the Jeweller

October 02, 2019 17:00 - 13.7 MB

In March 1941, Virginia Woolf wrote a letter to her husband Leonard. It would be the last letter to her beloved. On the 28th of that month, she filled the pockets of her overcoat with stones and walked into the River Ouse, which ran near her home. Her body was not discovered until the following month. Here is Virginia Woolf’s last letter to her husband Leonard.  it is a love letter, written in the pain of mental illness and the heavy shadows of despair. And now, today’s story - "The Duches...

Just Listen: The Canterville Ghost

September 29, 2019 17:00 - 46.5 MB

"The Canterville Ghost" is a short story by Oscar Wilde.  It was the first of Wilde's stories to be published, appearing in two parts in The Court and Society Review in February and March of l887. The story is about an American family who moves to a castle haunted by the ghost of a dead nobleman, who killed his wife and was starved to death by his wife's brothers. "The Canterville Ghost" is a short story by Oscar Wilde.  It was the first of Wilde's stories to be published, appearing in two p...

Just Listen: From A Journal of the Plague Year

September 18, 2019 17:45 - 9.15 MB

Perhaps more famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe, Defoe was an eyewitness to the horrors of the plague, and it is through his observations that we come to know, perhaps, the most true-to-life and believable narrations of one of humanity’s most dreadful hours. Alas, London was to suffer even more, for in l666 the great fire broke out and destroyed much of the city, killing, as it burned, the sources of plague in the city, from where the rats carried the plague-infected fleas to the populace....

Just Listen: The Most Dangerous Game

September 15, 2019 17:45 - 35.8 MB

Widely anthologized, and the author's best-known work, "The Most Dangerous Game,” also published as "The Hounds of Zaroff”, is a short story by Richard Connell, first published in Collier's on January 19, 1924.  The story features a big-game hunter from New York city who falls off a yacht and swims to what seems to be an abandoned and isolated island in the Caribbean where he is hunted by a Russian aristocrat. The story is an inversion of the big-game hunting safaris in Africa and South Amer...

Just Listen: A Wagner Matinee

September 04, 2019 17:30 - 15 MB

A young Bostonian named Clark receives word that his Aunt Georgiana is coming to visit from Nebraska to settle an estate. Thirty years have passed since Georgiana has seen Boston.  Clark recalls her kindness to him when, as a boy, he visited Nebraska and she introduced him to Shakespeare, classical mythology, and the music she played on her small parlor organ.  The story takes place in Boston, but Clark, the narrator, describes Nebraska in detail.  “A Wagner Matinée” combines two familiar W...

Just Listen: The Masque of the Red Death

August 29, 2019 17:30 - 11.3 MB

In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death, Prince Prospero attempts to avoid a dangerous plague, known as the Red Death, by hiding in his abbey. He, along with many other wealthy nobles, hosts a masquerade ball within seven rooms of the abbey, each decorated with a different color. In the midst of their revelry, a mysterious figure disguised as a Red Death victim enters and makes his way through each of the rooms. The story has been turned into an annual Halloween event called The Ma...

Just Listen: To Build a Fire

August 25, 2019 17:30 - 27.3 MB

Jack London was born John Griffith Chaney on January 12, 1876, in San Francisco, California. After working in the Klondike during its gold rush, London returned home and began publishing stories. His novels, including The Call of the Wild, White Fang and Martin Eden, placed London among the most popular American authors of his time and depict elemental struggles for survival. A pioneer in the world of commercial magazine fiction, he was one of the first writers to become a worldwide celebrity...

Just Listen Podcast: One Thousand Dollars

August 18, 2019 17:45 - 8.1 MB

William Sydney Porter, known to posterity as the author O. Henry, is famous for stories that have surprise endings.  A very adventurous life, including an imprisonment of three years for embezzlement, provided O Henry with a wide range of experiences and acquaintances, many of which appear in his numerous short stories. In his day he was called the American answer to the French writer Guy de Maupassant. While both authors wrote plot twist endings, O. Henry's stories were considerably more pl...

Just Listen Podcast: A Modest Proposal

August 04, 2019 17:15 - 14.9 MB

Published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729, “A Modest Proposal” is a satirical essay.  It suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies. Widely held to be one of the greatest examples of sustained irony in the history of the English language, this essay astonished audiences at the time of publication.  Swift goes to great lengths to support his argument, including a list of possible preparation sty...

Just Listen: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Part II

July 21, 2019 17:30 - 23.3 MB

In our last encounter with our protagonist Ichabod Crane, we find him summarily compared to his rival Brom Bones, a rough and rustic practical joker—both of them competing for the hand of the somewhat compelling Katrina Van Tassel, daughter of a well-to-do farmer.  As our story reopens, we find Ichabod wending his way through a rich autumn landscape en route to the Van Tassels' for an evening of celebration and perhaps – perhaps not -  a little romance. Part Two of “The Legend of Sleepy ...

Just Listen: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Part I

July 19, 2019 17:30 - 28.1 MB

Criticized by many Americans during his own lifetime for relocating to Europe, where he wrote travelogues, he claimed that any good he might do the new republic would come from his pen, not a sword.  His colorful descriptive passages—of animals, of nature, of people—attest to the keen eye and well-turned phrase that made his travelogues famous throughout Europe and the new United States. He completed a five-volume biography of George Washington just eight months before his own death at the ag...

Just Listen Podcast: Winter Dreams

July 07, 2019 17:15 - 35.4 MB

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, named for his famous second cousin, three times removed, was an American fiction writer, whose works helped to illustrate the flamboyance and excess of the Jazz Age. While he achieved popular success, fame, and fortune in his lifetime, he did not receive much critical acclaim until after his death. Perhaps the most notable member of the “lost generation” of the l920s, Fitzgerald is now widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.

Just Listen Podcast: Dracula's Guest

June 12, 2019 17:45 - 21.5 MB

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is perhaps the best known of all vampire tales.  Today’s story, “Dracula’s Guest,” was excised from the original Dracula manuscript by its publisher because of the length of the original book.  It was published as a short story in l9l4, two years after Stoker’s death.

Just Listen: Excerpts from Into Terrible Light

May 31, 2019 17:00 - 30.5 MB

His work has appaeared in Alaska Quarterly Review: Forklift, Ohio; Kenyon Review Online; The Massachusetts Review; The Sun; Waxwing; Witness, and many other journals.  A Soto Zen priest and hospice grief counselor, he lives in California with his wife and two young children.

Just Listen: The Magic Shop

May 24, 2019 17:45 - 18.2 MB

On leaving a Cambridge party, Wells accidentally picked up a hat that did not belong to him. Discovering his mistake, he decided not to return the headgear to its rightful owner, whose label was inside the brim. The hat fit Wells comfortably; furthermore, he had grown to like it. So he wrote to the former owner: “I stole your hat; I like your hat; I shall keep your hat. Whenever I look inside it I shall think of you and your excellent sherry and of the town of Cambridge. I take off your hat t...

Just Listen: The Marriages, Parts III & IV

May 18, 2019 17:30 - 30 MB

Our last encounters with Adela, our protagonist, show her to be in the throes of three troubled relationships—with her father Colonel Chart, with his fiancée Mrs. Churchley, and with her brother Godfrey. As our story reopens, we find Godfrey, Adela’s brother, on the eve of his examinations. We offer you Parts Three and Four of ‘The Marriages’ by Henry James.    

Just Listen: The Marriages, Parts I & II

May 15, 2019 17:15 - 26.1 MB

James was one of the great letter-writers of any era. More than ten thousand of his personal letters are extant, and over three thousand have been published in a large number of collections. Today’s story, “The Marriages” by Henry James, was first published in The Atlantic Monthly in August 1891. It is a study of the relationship of a young girl with her widowed father’s recent romantic interest, a Mrs. Churchley.  Young Adela must learn to juggle the jolts and jealousies inherent in this re...

Just Listen: The Sculptor's Funeral

April 28, 2019 17:30 - 26.2 MB

Two things I find striking and worthy of special note in today’s selection by Willa Cather, “The Sculptor’s Funeral.”  One is the sense of place that is keen in the story—that of a frozen, barren plains town in the throes of winter--which harkens back to her injunction, “Let your fiction grow out of the land beneath your feet.”  The other is the great insight she displays in describing uneasy groups of men in this story—men gathered to receive a coffin in the frozen night and men gathered to ...

Just Listen Podcast: The Red Room

April 17, 2019 17:30 - 18.4 MB

An English writer nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature four times, H.G. Wells was prolific in many genres, writing dozens of novels, short stories, works of social commentary, satire, biography and autobiography, including even two books on war games. He is now best remembered for his science fiction novels and is often called the Father of Science Fiction, along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback, publisher of the first science fiction magazine. In “The Red Room,” an overly confiden...

Just Listen: The Old Nurse's Story

April 03, 2019 17:00 - 36.9 MB

Written on invitation by Charles Dickens, who was a fan of her work, Elizabeth Gaskell’s “The Old Nurse’s Story” was published in 1852. The setup is classic: an elderly caregiver gathers her charges to tell them a spooky story about their mother’s childhood—and to teach them a moral lesson.

Just Listen Podcast: The Trial for Murder

March 20, 2019 17:30 - 20 MB

Ghost story enthusiasts in the Victorian Era were accustomed to the telling of ghost stories on Christmas night, although the custom of telling ghost stories at this time goes back to long before Ebenezer Scrooge. According to religious studies professor Justin Daniels at the University of Pennsylvania, “Christmas as celebrated in Europe and the U.S. was originally connected to the ‘pagan’ Winter Solstice celebration and the festival known as Yule. The darkest day of the year was seen by man...

Just Listen: The Judge's House

March 06, 2019 18:30 - 31.5 MB

In the story, a student arrives in a small town looking for a quiet place to stay while he prepares for his examinations.  Making light of the local superstitions, he moves into an old mansion where a notorious hanging judge once lived.

Just Listen Podcast: The Devil and Tom Walker

February 20, 2019 20:00 - 20.1 MB

The story of Tom Walker is a variation on the legend of Faust, a l6th-century magician and astrologer who was said to have sold his soul to the devil for wisdom, money, and power.  Washington Irving reinvented the tale, setting it in the 1720s in an area of New England settled by Quakers and Puritans.  In Irving’s comic retelling of the legend, the writer satirizes people who present a pious public image as they “sell their souls” for money.  

Just Listen Podcast: The Nightingale and the Rose

February 06, 2019 20:00 - 21.9 MB

In “The Nightingale and the Rose,” the conflict between science and faith that so marked Oscar Wilde’s own era is mirrored in the conflict between love and philosopy as a young man tries to fulfill his dreams.

Just Listen Podcast: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

January 28, 2019 20:00 - 18 MB

  "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (1890) is a short story by the American writer and Civil War veteran Ambrose Bierce. Regarded as "one of the most famous and frequently anthologized stories in American literature."  it was originally published by The San Francisco Examiner on July 13, 1890, and was first collected in Bierce's book Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (1891). The story, which is set during the American Civil War, is known for its irregular time sequence and twist ending. Bier...

Just Listen Podcast: Dr. Heidegger's Experiment

January 16, 2019 20:00 - 17.5 MB

"Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" is a short story by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne about a doctor who claims to have been sent water from the Fountain of Youth. It was included in 1837 in Hawthorne's collection Twice-Told Tales. Edgar Allen Poe reviewed the second edition of the collection in 1842 and wrote that "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment was exceedingly well imagined and executed with surpassing ability. The artist breathes in every line of it."

Just Listen Podcast: A Jury of Her Peers

January 02, 2019 20:00 - 32.3 MB

  On its surface, “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell appears a simple detective story, but through extensive dialogue between two women, Glaspell slowly reveals the story's true underlying conflict: the struggle of women in a male-dominated society.  

Just Listen Podcast: The Gift of the Magi

December 20, 2018 20:00 - 9.99 MB

A perennial Christmastime favorite, "The Gift of the Magi," written by O. Henry, is about a young husband and wife and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other--with very little money.  His wonderful plot twists and surprise endings, as well as his deep insights into human nature, make O. Henry a favorite around the world, where his works have been translated into numerous languages.

Just Listen Podcast: The Cask of Amontillado

December 12, 2018 20:00 - 11.8 MB

Edgar Allan Poe is classified as an American Romantic writer, a detective fiction writer, and a Gothic writer. He is considered by many to be the father of the short story and the first writer of detective fiction. Some critics refer to Poe as the first truly modern writer because he probed the individual and the mystery of the self. In “The Cask of Amontillado,” a visit to a friend’s wine cellar turns out to have disastrous consequences. Listen to the careful description of revenge in the o...

Just Listen Podcast: The New Dress

November 28, 2018 20:00 - 14.9 MB

“The New Dress” by Virginia Woolf is perhaps one of the finest examples of stream-of-consciousness writing produced by an American or British author, many of whom dabbled in this genre once or twice in their writing careers, including William Faulkner, Samuel Beckett and Toni Morrison. Stream of Consciousness is a type of writing that originated with the works of psychologist William James (brother of Novelist Emeritus Henry James). Basically, its purpose is to emulate the passage of thought...

Just Listen Podcast: The Empty House

November 14, 2018 20:00 - 28.6 MB

Algernon Henry Blackwood, a Commander of the British Empire, was an English short story writer and novelist, one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories in the history of the genre. He was also a journalist and a broadcasting narrator.  Today’s story, “The Empty House,” is one of his most widely anthologized stories, famous for its suspense.  It details the circumstances of an elderly adventuress intent on investigating a house with a terrible reputation.

Just Listen Podcast: A Ghost

October 29, 2018 19:00 - 11.8 MB

Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant  was a French writer, remembered as a master of the short story form, and as a representative of the naturalist school of writers, who depicted human lives and destinies and social forces in disillusioned and often pessimistic terms. Maupassant was a protege of Gustave Flaubert and his stories are characterized by economy of style and efficient, effortless dénouements. He wrote some 300 short stories, six novels, three travel books, and one volume of verse...

Just Listen Podcast: Theft

October 21, 2018 19:00 - 35.2 MB

In “Theft,” Katherine Anne Porter’s widely-anthologized short story, the protagonist must grapple with a host of emotions and circumstances:  loneliness, uncertainty, struggle, trust, independence, love, and loss. Finally, she must discover the truth of her own identity in the midst of so many confusing impressions.  

Just Listen Podcast: The Schartz-Metterklume Method

October 07, 2018 19:00 - 28.8 MB

At a railway station an arrogant and overbearing woman, Mrs Quabarl, mistakes the mischievous Lady Carlotta, who has been inadvertently left behind by a train, for the governess, Miss Hope, whom she has been expecting, Miss Hope having erred about the date of her arrival.  Saki’s humorous handling of the events and characters in “The Schartz-Metterklume Method” make it an endearing favorite for his readers.  Saki was killed in a WWI trench by a sniper’s bullet after exclaiming his last word...

Just Listen Podcast: The Open Window

September 26, 2018 19:00 - 19.8 MB

Saki is the pen name of the British writer Hector Hugh Munro, also known as H. H. Munro (1870 - 1916). In"The Open Window," possibly his most famous story, social conventions and proper etiquette provide cover for a mischievous teenager to wreak havoc on the nerves of an unsuspecting guest.