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10 February 2024 · 11mins

Dazzling in its scope, The Second Sex incorporates anthropology, psychology, historiography, mythology and biology to ask an ‘impossible’ question: what is a woman? Judith Butler and Adam Shatz discuss the book’s startling relevancy for contemporary feminism, Beauvoir’s refusal to call herself a philosopher and the radical possibilities released by her claim that one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.

On Satire: John Donne's Satires

Clare Bucknell and Colin Burrow, 10 May 2024

4 February 2024 · 12mins

In the second episode of their series on satire, Colin and Clare look at the dense, digressive and often dangerous satires of John Donne and other poets of the 1590s. 

Among the Ancients II: Hesiod

Emily Wilson and Thomas Jones, 10 May 2024

24 January 2024 · 14mins

Emily and Tom return to the 8th century BCE to explore Homer’s near contemporary, Hesiod. In Works and Days, Hesiod weaves his curmudgeonly persona into a brilliantly comic narrative that encompasses everything from brotherly bickering to cosmic warfare.

Medieval LOLs: Chaucer’s ‘Miller’s Tale’

Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Wellesley, 10 May 2024

18 January 2024 · 30mins

Were the Middle Ages funny? Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Wellesley begin their series in quest of the medieval sense of humour with Chaucer’s 'Miller’s Tale', a story that is surely still (almost) as funny as when it was written six hundred years ago.

On Satire: What is satire?

Clare Bucknell and Colin Burrow, 10 May 2024

4 January 2024 · 11mins

Clare and Colin begin their twelve-part series on satire with the big question: what is satire? Where did it come from? Is it a genre, or more of a style, or an attitude? They then plunge into their first text, the Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus, a prose satire from 1511 that lampoons pretty much the whole of sixteenth century life in the voice of Folly herself. 

The Long and Short: Elizabeth Bowen's short stories

Mark Ford and Seamus Perry, 10 May 2024

24 December 2023 · 11mins

In the final episode of The Long and Short, we turn to Elizabeth Bowen, widely considered one of the finest writers of the short story. Mark and Seamus unpack ‘the Bowen effect’ and her singularly haunting style: subtle social commentary cut through with humour, and occasionally outright romanticism. A culmination of the short fiction explored in this series, Bowen’s work proves that life ‘with the lid on’ can be just as exhilarating, moving and funny as any sensationalist story.

Among the Ancients: Seneca

Emily Wilson and Thomas Jones, 10 May 2024

14 December 2023 · 11mins

For the final episode in Among the Ancients, Emily and Tom look at Seneca, whose life is relatively well known to us. For a long time, Seneca the Philosopher was often assumed to be a different person from Seneca the Tragedian, as they seemed such different writers. As a philosopher, he is the main source of what we know about Roman Stoicism, which prioritises virtue and the dispelling of false beliefs. Seneca's dramas, however, are full of extreme emotion and violence.

Medieval Beginnings: The Travels of Sir John Mandeville

Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Wellesley, 10 May 2024

4 December 2023 · 07mins

For the final episode of Medieval Beginnings, Mary and Irina look at by far the most popular text (in its time) of all that have featured in the series: The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. The fictional traveller’s fantastical descriptions of different places, peoples and animals across the Holy Land and Asia are almost certainly drawn mainly from other textual sources, rather than direct experience by the unknown author, and yet the work was often used as a source of reference as well as entertainment or prurient interest.

Among the Ancients: Ovid

Emily Wilson and Thomas Jones, 10 May 2024

14 November 2023 · 11mins

Ovid was perhaps the most prolific poet of Ancient Rome, certainly in the amount of his poetry which has survived (around 30,000 lines). This episode focuses on his 15-book epic, the Metamorphoses, a patchwork of hundreds of stories of transformation, including numerous retellings of famous myths from Apollo and Daphne to the Trojan War.

Medieval Beginnings: The Digby Mary Magdalene Play

Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Wellesley, 10 May 2024

4 November 2023 · 11mins

For sheer scale and spectacle, surely few plays of any period can match The Digby Play of Mary Magdalene. Boasting at least fifty speaking parts, with multiple locations, scaffolds and pyrotechnics, including an ascent into heaven, this wildly ambitious piece of late Medieval theatre mixes traditional hagiographic drama with magical adventure, romance and broad comedy.

Among the Ancients: Horace

Emily Wilson and Thomas Jones, 10 May 2024

14 October 2023 · 09mins

Emily and Tom follow Virgil with one of his contemporaries, Horace, whose poetry played an important political role in the early years of Augustan Rome and has had an enormous influence on subsequent European lyric verse.