Phillis Wheatley

Perceptions and interpretations of Phillis Wheatley's life and work have shifted since the 18th century. This episode examines Wheatley's published writing while enslaved, and how her place in the world of black literature rose, fell, and rose again.

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

Gertrude Stein is an icon in the world of modernist literature. Alice B. Toklas is often described as her partner and assistant, but she was also published writer, and “assistant” really doesn't cover how important she was to Stein’s life and work.

Rufus Wilmot Griswold

Griswold is most commonly known as Edgar Allan Poe's rival, and for creating negative characterizations of Poe that have endured more than a century. But his life story beyond his connections to Poe is worthy of examination on its own.

Edward Gorey

Based just on his art, you might imagine Edward Gorey as a dour Englishman, with the peak of his career sometime in the 1920s or '30s, whose childhood was marked with a series of tragic deaths. But Gorey was none of these things.

Walt Whitman, Poet of Democracy

Whitman is often touted as the best and most important poet in U.S. history, but he also worked as a teacher and a journalist. And his poetry career didn't start out particularly well.

Aphra Behn, Writer and Spy

There's really not a lot concretely known about the life of Aphra Behn, who, in addition to being a spy, was a dramatist, poet, novelist, translator, and the first woman in English literature known to have made her living as a writer.

Louisa May Alcott

Once you examine Louisa May Alcott's life story, the inspirations for her writing become clear. But while she had some things in common with her most famous heroine, a lot sets her apart from Jo March. Read the show notes here.

Suleiman the Magnificent and the Siege of Vienna

The Ottoman Empire's Suleiman the Magnificent was a head of state, a poet, a reformer of the military and a goldsmith. His reign had a significant impact on the law, literature and art of the Ottoman Empire.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, Part 2

Edna St. Vincent Millay was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and was one of the Guggenheim Foundation's judges for its poetry fellowships. And she managed to make a great deal of money as a poet in the middle of the Great Depression. Read the show notes here.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, Part 1

Known as Vincent to family and friends, Edna St. Vincent Millay grew up poor, caring for the household and her sisters while her mother worked. From an early age, she showed incredible talent and sowed the seeds of a life of passion and impressive poetry. Read the show notes here.