Literature and History

This podcast is an introduction to Anglophone literature, from ancient times to the present, done by a Ph.D. with lots of books and musical instruments. A typical episode offers a summary of a work, or part of a work of literature, followed by some historical analysis. The episodes include original music, some comedy songs, and goofy jokes. You can listen to the shows in any order, although from time to time, episodes will make brief mention of previous or upcoming ones.

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A podcast covering Anglophone literature from ancient times to the present.
🇬🇧 English
last modified
2019-09-12 18:04
last episode published
2019-09-09 02:01
publication frequency
18.91 days
Doug Metzger owner   author  
Number of Episodes
Detail page
Society & Culture Philosophy History Literature Arts



Date Thumb Title & Description Contributors

Episode 70: Rome's Forgotten Epic (Statius' Thebaid)

Statius’ Thebaid, Books 1-6. This epic is hardly ever read or taught these days, but in 100 CE, it was as famous as anything in the Roman world.

Episode 69: Rome's Comic Novel (Petronius' Satyricon)

Petronius’ Satyricon is a contender for history’s first novel, a picaresque filled with sex, misadventures, and details about daily life.

Episode 68: Love Means Sin (Seneca's Phaedra)

Seneca’s Phaedra (c. 50s CE) is the story of an illicit passion, a stoic cautionary tale and simultaneously vivid character study.

Episode 67: Jaws Dripping Blood (Seneca's Thyestes)

Seneca’s Thyestes, probably written around the 50s CE, is one of the most horrifying and influential plays ever written.

Episode 66: Stoicism, Seneca, St. Paul

Stoicism, starting with Zeno in 300 BCE, was a popular philosophy by the lifetime of Seneca, perhaps even making its way into the New Testament.

Episode 65: Seneca and the Julio-Claudians (The Life of Seneca)

Seneca the Younger (c 1 BCE-65 CE) practiced the philosophy of stoicism over the course of several volatile, and very different imperial reigns.

Episode 64: Ovid's Exile (The Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto)

For mysterious reasons, in 8 CE, Ovid was exiled from Rome. Ovid’s last works were composed an ocean away from  Italy, on the western shore of the Black Sea.

Episode 63: All Is in Flux (Ovid's Metamorphoses, Books 11-15)

Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Books 11-15. The vast Metamorphoses draws to a resonant conclusion as Ovid brings his great poem to Rome itself.

Episode 62: A Curious Passion (Ovid's Metamorphoses, Books 6-10)

Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Books 6-10. In the middle portion of Ovid’s great poem, psychological transformations become as gripping as physical ones.

Episode 61: Changes of Shape (Ovid's Metamorphoses, Books 1-5)

Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Books 1-5. This book influenced thousands of years of later literature, and remains one of our best source texts on classical mythology.

Episode 60: How to Make Love to a Roman (Ovid's Art of Love and Cure for Love)

Ovid’s Art of Love is ancient Rome’s manual of seduction – a record of the steamier side of the Augustan Age.

Episode 59: Early Ovid (Amores, Heroides)

The love poetry of Ovid (43 BCE-17 CE) was standard Latin curriculum for hundreds of years, but it was also the product of a very specific historical moment.

Episode 58: She Caught Me with Her Eyes (Propertius' Poetry)

Propertius (c. 50-1 BCE) took the Latin elegiac form to new heights of complexity and passion, even weaving subtle satire throughout his work.

Episode 57: The World Grows Dim and Black (Virgil's Aeneid, Books 10-12)

Virgil’s Aeneid, Books 10-12. The end of Rome’s great epic is about something Romans of Virgil’s generation knew very well indeed. War.

Episode 56: I Shall Release Hell (Virgil's Aeneid, Books 7-9)

Virgil’s Aeneid, Books 7-9. Aeneas’ arrival in Italy begins auspiciously enough, but soon things take a turn for the worse.

Episode 55: Among the Shades (Virgil's Aeneid, Books 4-6)

Virgil’s Aeneid, Books 4-6. The story of Dido and Aeneas, and his subsequent journey to the underworld, is the heart of Rome’s most famous poem.

Episode 54: Out of Troy (Virgil's Aeneid, Books 1-3)

Virgil’s Aeneid, Books 1-3. The Aeneid is Rome’s great epic. Learn the story of its first three books, and when and why Virgil began writing it.

Episode 53: Then Came Hard Iron

Virgil’s Georgics (c. 29 BCE), or agriculture poems, show the poet reaching his full strength as a writer, and using an old form to analyze the history around him.

Episode 52: White Flowers Die

Virgil’s Eclogues (c. 38 BCE) are poems about country life. Far from being innocent celebrations, though they are often cryptic filled with a haunting darkness.

Episode 51: Horace and Augustan Age Poetry

Horace (65-8 BCE) was a central figure in shaping Augustan Age tastes in satire and literary criticism. His bumbling, self conscious persona has been charming readers for millennia.

Episode 50: Our Brutal Age (Horace's Poetry)

The Roman poet Horace (65-8 BCE), a contemporary of Augustus, endured wars, regime changes, and became a literary spokesman for the new principate.

Episode 49: The Strange Roots of Love (Catullus' Poetry)

Catullus (c. 85-54 BCE) is Rome’s most famous early poet. Departing from epic tradition, Catullus wrote a canon of short works that have been famous since antiquity.

Episode 48: The Right and the Expedient (Cicero's Career, 62-43 BCE)

Following his consulship, Cicero did his best to salvage the battered Republic, eventually going head to head with the powerful young general Mark Antony.

Episode 47: O Tempora, O Mores (Cicero's Career, 80-62 BCE)

The story of Cicero’s career is an epic tale, filled with courtroom dramas, corruption, conspiracy, greed, and Cicero’s own enduring hope for a better future.

Episode 46: The Republic at Twilight (Cicero's Early Life)

Cicero (106-43 BCE) was the undisputed master of the Latin language. During his first thirty years, he witnessed events that heralded the Republic’s end.

Episode 45: The Uncuttables (Lucretius' On the Nature of Things and Epicureanism)

Lucretius (c. 94-53 BCE) is our most important source for Epicurean philosophy, perhaps the most misunderstood school of thought from the ancient world.

Episode 44: Homo Sum (Terence's The Brothers)

The Roman playwright Terence (c. 184-159 BCE) produced a string of brilliant comedies in the 160s BCE. His masterpiece, The Brothers, continues to astonish us today.

Episode 43: On the Move (Plautus' The Rope)

Plautus (c. 254-184 BCE) was a prolific comedy writer. His late play, The Rope, captures the dizzying changes sweeping Rome after the Second Punic War.

Episode 42: The Beginnings of Roman Literature

Roman literature grew slowly from Greek traditions during the 300s and 200s BCE. Learn about its earliest figures, and how they paved the way for the Age of Cicero.

Episode 41: Everything So Far

A retrospective of everything L&H has covered so far, plus some special announcements.

Episode 40: Hellenism and the Birth of the Self

The Hellenistic period – 330-30 BCE, saw Alexander’s successor kingdoms rotting away in the east, the rise of Rome, and the birth of modern consciousness.

Episode 39: Medea and the Argonauts (Apollonius' Jason and the Argonauts)

Apollonius’ Jason and the Argonauts, Books 3-4. Mesmerizing Medea takes center stage at the Argonautica’s end, dominating the epic’s events.

Episode 38: The Epic Anti-Hero (Apollonius' Jason and the Argonauts)

Jason and the Argonauts, Books 1-2. Journey with Jason to find the Golden Fleece, and learn about the Greco-Egyptian writer, Apollonius of Rhodes.

Episode 37: The New Comedy (Menander's Old Cantankerous)

Menander’s Old Cantankerous (316 BCE), produced during the New Comedy period, shows theater beginning to take on its modern form.

Episode 36: War and Peace and Sex (Aristophanes' Lysistrata)

Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, with all of its nudity, sex, and explicit language, was nonetheless his most powerful salvo against the Peloponnesian War.

Episode 35: The Great Thundercrap (Aristophanes' The Clouds)

Aristophanes’ The Clouds is a dazzling satire on Athenian philosophy, showing a very different Socrates than Plato’s.

Episode 34: The Traditions of Our Forefathers (Euripides' The Bacchae)

Euripides’ The Bacchae, one of the darkest  and bloodiest works of Ancient Greek tragedy, is about the spread of cult religions during the late Peloponnesian War.

Episode 33: Woman the Barbarian (Euripides' Medea)

Euripides’ Medea is Ancient Greece’s most famous play. But what did it mean to the Athenians in 431 BCE who watched it on the Acropolis?

Episode 32: Trees Bending to the Torrent (Sophocles' Antigone)

Sophocles’ Theban Plays, 3 of 3. Antigone is a timeless and dark story about a clash of wills. But it’s also fascinating snapshot of the philosophical brawls of 5th-century BCE Athens.

Episode 31: The Requiem at Athens (Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus)

Sophocles’ Theban Plays, 2 of 3. Oedipus at Colonus, out of the ashes of the Peloponnesian War, is a story about a man who has lost everything but his own dignity.

Episode 30: Two Legs in the Afternoon (Sophocles' Oedipus the King)

Sophocles’  Theban Plays, 1 of 3. Oedipus the King is one of literature’s great stories. It’s also a haunting window into the fears of war torn Athens in 429 BCE.

Episode 29: The Mound and the Furies (Aeschylus' The Eumenides)

Aeschylus’ Oresteian Trilogy, 3 of 3. Pursued all the away to Athens by the monstrous Furies, will Orestes prevail, or be torn apart?

Episode 28: A Mother's Curse (Aeschylus' The Libation Bearers)

Aeschylus’ Oresteian Trilogy, 2 of 3. The infernal House of Atreus had witnessed almost every imaginable act of depravity. Except for one.

Episode 27: The Bloody King (Aeschylus' Agamemnon)

Aeschylus’ Oresteian Trilogy, 1 of 3. A terrible family curse. A wronged queen. The Trojan War was only the start of the bloodshed.

Episode 26: Ancient Greek Theater (The History of 5th-Century BCE Athenian Drama)

Masks. Choruses. Huge prosthetic penises. Before you read Sophocles, Euripides, and company, it’s a good idea to know a bit about Ancient Greek Theater.

Episode 25: Lyrical Ballistics (Sappho, Pindar, Archilochus, and Greek Lyric Poetry)

The work of Sappho, Pindar, and other remarkable Greek lyric poets makes us question everything we think we know about poetry, what it is, and what it does.

Episode 24: God May Relent (The Bible's Prophetic Books)

The Old Testament, Part 10 of 10. The seventeen Prophetic Books, produced during war and diaspora, are both despairingly bleak and searingly hopeful.

Episode 23: Love. Desire. Exegesis. (The Song of Songs/Solomon)

The Old Testament, Part 9 of 10. What’s the Song of Songs doing in the Bible? Is it a pious hymn to God, or just a couple of horny lovers talking to each other?

Episode 22: Fatalism (The Book of Ecclesiastes)

The Old Testament, Part 8 of 10. If there is one Biblical book that explains all of life, thick and thin, love and anguish, that book is probably Ecclesiastes.

Episode 21: The Bible's Magic Trick (The Book of Psalms)

The Old Testament, Part 7 of 10. In the Book of Psalms,  a single, fascinating, familiar linguistic device propels the world’s most famous poems.