The History of English Literature from Sumeria Onwards
March 17, 2021 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Literature and History is a podcast by Dr. Doug Metzger about the literature of the English speaking world from the year 2000 BCE until … well, in the five years since he's now up to 300 CE, and in about a year's time, in episode 100, he'll get to the first Anglo-Saxon books. The plan is to cover all the major influences on Anglophone literature, and the main influences on those influences, before diving into literature written in that language. The episodes are generally between an hour and two hours and half long, and leaven serious literary history with jokes and silly songs. All episodes have transcripts and quizzes available, and if you've listened to all the free episodes, 84 so far, you can also buy some more. [via Emma Hine in The Paris Review]
posted by Kattullus (15 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, WOW. This looks AMAZING.

The transcripts come with maps and illustrations, which makes this simply ideal for me, as someone who really likes podcasts but also really likes reading stuff.

There is way more wonderful art than I will get to read or listen to in my lifetime, and I'm really quite happy about that.

Thank you so much for posting this, Kattullus! ( ... should I start with episode 49?) I am most grateful!
posted by kristi at 2:29 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]

That's... ambitious.
posted by doctornemo at 2:37 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]

This looks like it'll be a good companion to The Novel: An Alternative History: Beginnings to 1600 by Steven Moore, which I'm about to crack.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 4:27 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]

I've been listening to this for a couple of months now and it's truly incredible in scope and depth. It all makes me wish that I had a lot more mindless tasks to listen to hundreds of hours of podcasts during. That he's eventually going to make it to literature written in English still seems like a dim hope on the horizon.

The recent episodes on Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism and Manichaeism are wonderful. I've been talking about the Second Discourse of the Great Seth to anyone who will listen.
posted by jshttnbm at 5:38 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

The recent episodes on Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism and Manichaeism are wonderful.

I don’t know about that; I’ve heard the Manichaeism episode is about half good and half bad.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:02 PM on March 17 [9 favorites]

(Side note: the term Anglo-Saxon is falling into disfavour among scholars, and being replaced by Old English. This is because "Anglo-Saxon" has long been used in a racialised way, including by extremists; and also because it's inaccurate: the people often referred to as "Anglo-Saxons" didn't call themselves that.)

(Twitter thread and article by Early Medieval scholar Dr Mary Rambaran-Olm)
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:02 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]

This reminds me a bit of Will & Ariel Durant.

Having the text transcripts is really swell.
posted by ovvl at 7:06 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]

I listened to the first two episodes a few months ago, and they are information-rich treats, well explained, with recapitulations that are useful if you don't the transcript (so helpful) in front of you. Great reminder to pick it up again.
posted by the sobsister at 7:13 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

Early Long Term Germanic Visitors to England (ELTGVE)...

Anyway, let’s talk about the podcast. I admit, I am growing wary of podcasts whose average running time per episode is more than about 40 minutes. They get exhausting, and I’m not sure it’s really better in anyway. History of Rome/Revolutions, History of Philosophy (Without Any Gaps), and History of England all manage to cover sprawling topics in smaller bites. Of course, other preferences are available.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:09 AM on March 18

On the other hand, it turns out I need a brief history of Mesopotamian literature, so this is timely.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:25 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]

Like, pre-1066...English or British in any word form isn't something they would call themselves either.

"Englisc" is absolutely a thing they called themselves.

Is this just a Twitter thing?

No, it is not.

"English" isn't going to stop being associated with "white" soon.

Evidence to the contrary.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:28 AM on March 18

So that song from the Grammys isn’t about White Anglosaxon Protestantism?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:44 AM on March 18

Pre-poms? Early Limeys?
posted by Phanx at 7:31 AM on March 18

There is a lot of problematic stuff in the Classical material, if you are interested, including this delight:

' And from the twenty-first century, we can see that although fifth-century Athenians were slaveholders - and they had wildly asymmetrical gender relations, as far as life in the fifth century BCE was concerned, Athens was a far more equitable and humanitarian place than average.'

That Anglo Saxon is a really problematic term is very well known in the field and has been the topic of a lot of discussion. The people who adhere to it are not exactly known for their lack of issues with race and ethnicity.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:12 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]

Oh this is great! My wife put me onto L&H about 3 years ago, glad to see it getting traction here. One small quibble I have is his ... pronunciation, it's a little weird at times.
posted by northtwilight at 11:07 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]

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