Dana Gioia on Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil
In this episode, I am joined by the poet and critic Dana Gioia to discuss Charles Baudelaire’s famous book of poems, Les Fleurs du Mal, or The Flowers of Evil. We tackle some big questions in this episode, such as whether and how evil can be beautiful, the nature of Catholic art and poetry, original sin, and the poet as a damned figure.
I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Dana Gioia is an internationally acclaimed poet and writer. He received a B.A. and M.B.A. from Stanford and an M.A. from Harvard in Comparative Literature. Gioia has published five full-length collections of verse, most recently 99 Poems: New & Selected (2016), which won the Poets’ Prize as the best new book of the year. His third collection, Interrogations at Noon (2001), was awarded the American Book Award. An influential critic, Gioia has published four books of essays. His controversial volume, Can Poetry Matter? (1992), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award. Gioia has also edited or co-edited two dozen best-selling literary anthologies, including An Introduction to Poetry (with X. J. Kennedy) and Best American Poetry 2018. His essays and memoirs have appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic, Washington Post, New York Times, Hudson Review, and BBC Radio. Gioia has written four opera libretti and collaborated with musicians in genres from classical to jazz. His work has been set to music by Morten Lauridsen, Lori Laitman, Dave Brubeck, Ned Rorem, Paul Salerni, and numerous other composers. He collaborated with jazz pianist Helen Sung on her vocal album, Sung With Words (2018). His dance opera (with Paul Salerni), Haunted, premiered in 2019. Gioia also served as the California State Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2019. During his tenure he became the first laureate to visit all 58 counties of California. His statewide tour became the subject of a BBC Radio documentary.
Jennifer Frey is an associate professor of philosophy and Peter and Bonnie McCausland Faculty Fellow at the University of South Carolina. She is also a fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America and the Word on Fire Institute. Prior to joining the philosophy faculty at USC, she was a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an affiliated faculty in the philosophy department. She earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in Philosophy and Medieval Studies (with a Classics minor) at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. She has published widely on action, virtue, practical reason, and meta-ethics, and has recently co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Self-Transcendence and Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and Psychology. Her writing has also been featured in Breaking Ground, First Things, Fare Forward, Image, Law and Liberty, The Point, and USA Today. She lives in Columbia, SC, with her husband, six children, and chickens. You can follow her on Twitter @jennfrey.
Sacred and Profane Love is a podcast in which philosophers, theologians, and literary critics discuss some of their favorite works of literature, and how these works have shaped their own ideas about love, happiness, and meaning in human life. Host Jennifer A. Frey is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina. The podcast is generously supported by The Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America and produced by Catholics for Hire.