Literary History

Audre Lorde Pt. 1

Audre Lorde called herself a "black feminist lesbian mother poet warrior," but for a lot of people, she's best known for the "poet" part. She was way ahead of her time on a lot of social fronts, including feminism, gay rights, and the sexual revolution.

Was there a real Sweeney Todd?

Sweeney Todd is a well-known fictional character, a murderous barber who colludes with a cook to bake his victims into pies. There are many instances of the demon barber story being touted as a tale based in real-life events, but how true is that?

The Fantastic Fitzgeralds

A week after releasing his debut novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald married Southern Belle Zelda Sayre. But Fitzgerald's drinking and Zelda's mental state led to fights, debt and writers' block. Join Sarah and Holly as they trace the lives of F. Scott and Zelda.

The Mysterious Disappearance of Agatha Christie

In December of 1926, Agatha Christie left her home and vanished: Police found her car crashed and abandoned. An 11-day manhunt commenced and speculation ran rampant -- but when she was finally found - alive - there were more questions than answers.

After John James Audubon finished his book, he sought out a publisher. While his image turned off Philadelphia's intellectuals, he charmed Great Britain. In this episode, curator Michael Inman joins us to explain the publication of Birds of America.

Though John James Audubon was the son of a French planter, he cultivated the image of an American frontiersman. In this episode, New York Public Library curator Michael Inman joins us for a discussion of Audubon's early life.

The Death of Poe

In 1849, Edgar Allan Poe disappeared for five days before he was found semi-conscious outside of a saloon. He died four days later, presumably from alcohol abuse. Over the years, many alternate cause-of-death theories have emerged. Which is most likely?

The Pulitzer-winning play "Clybourne Park" took inspiration from Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin the Sun." In this episode, we talk to Clybourne Park's Tony-nominated director Pam MacKinnon about the work and historical research that went into the play.

After a childhood spent roaming Europe, Freya Stark began saving money to take Arabic lessons. Once fluent, she traveled into areas few outsiders had ever been, documenting her travels in best-selling books. Listen in to learn more about Freya of Arabia.

When Adam Worth stole a portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire, he fell in love with the painting. But a botched theft in Belgium landed him in prison, where the story of his life reached Arthur Conan Doyle and inspired the character of Professor Moriarty.