Erin L. Thompson talks about monuments, and their role in American public life. Public art intervenes in directly in politics, shaping social behavior in the present. Monuments, in her account, are a bid for immortality that says “this is how things are” but often means “this is how things should be.”

In the episode she talks about The Houston Museum of African American Culture. They are engaged in a super exciting project reinterpreting the cultural memory of the US Civil War, as the first Black cultural institution that has re-housed a Confederate monument.

If you’re keen on the history and politics of monuments, check out her brand new book: Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of America’s Public Monuments. It’s coming out from Norton this Tuesday (Feb 8)! You learn more about the book, and her upcoming talks on her website:

Erin L. Thompson is an associate professor of Art Crime at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. Her first book Possession (Yale UP, 2016) studied the history of theft at the heart of private art collections from the Ancient World to the present.

Image: Statue of a man on a horse, part of the the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial at the US Capital, described in this article from the Architect of the Capital, US government website.

Music used in promotional material: ‘Morrisson’s jig – Leslie’s march’ by Aislinn

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /


Noreen Masud talks about the unnamed feelings and ambiguous modes of relationship occasioned by flat landscapes, and the act of looking at them, in twentieth century fiction, especially the novels of D.H. Lawrence, Willa Cather, and Gertrude Stein.

Noreen Masud is a Lecturer at the University of Bristol, UK, currently working on flat landscapes in twentieth century literature. Her first academic book, Hard Language: Stevie Smith and the Aphorism, is out with OUP in 2022, and her first trade book, A Flat Place, will be released by Hamish Hamilton in the UK and Melville House Press in the US in 2023.

Image: © 2022 Saronik Bosu

Music used in promotional material: ‘In Your Hollow’ by Allysen Callery

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / / /


Mark McGurl talks about disintermediation, a key term for internet commerce, and his new book about fiction in the age of digital self-publication. The fantasy of disintermediation lies at the heart of utopian dreams of the internet, but it turns out that not only is the internet actually a medium, and a vast economic engine, but self-publishing is a lot of work!

Mark McGurl is a professor of English at Stanford University. If you want to learn more about the effects of Amazon’s self-publishing mechanism on literature, check out his new book, Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon (Verso, 2021). His earlier book The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (Harvard UP, 2011) takes a similarly materialist perspective on literary production, and it was sort of a thing. His first book The Novel Art: Elevations of American Fiction after Henry James (Princeton UP, 2001), blames Henry James for making American novels into art. In a good way of course.

This week’s image is a photograph of a printing press held in the collections of the Fort Nonquai Eshowe museum in South Africa, posted on Wikimedia commons.

Music used in promotional material: ‘Internet, the day when all humans will disappear’ by Monplaisir

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / / / /


Claus Elholm Andersen talks about autofictionalization, a mode of narration that characterizes autotfiction, where the narrative consciousness or voice is placed with the experiencing character and not the narrator. Of particular interest here are texts produced after the financial crisis of 2008 which exemplify this mode, most importantly Karl Ove Knausgård’s series My Struggle (2009-2011).

Claus Elholm Andersen is the Paul and Renate Madsen Assistant Professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In his research, he is interested in the novel and in questions of fiction and fictionality: What it is, how it works, and what it implies. He is currently finishing up a book project on Karl Ove Knausgård and autofiction, titled The Very Edge of Fiction: Karl Ove Knausgård and the Autofictional Novel, in which he argues that Knausgård consciously engages with, and undermines, a long critical history of equating novels with fiction. He recently co-edited a special issue of Scandinavian Studies, with Dean Krouk, on Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle and edited the first scholarly anthology on Knausgård, published in Scandinavia in 2017. His latest publications are an article on Danish novelist Helle Helle in Edda in 2019 and an article on Henrik Pontoppidan’s novel Lucky-Per in Scandinavian Studies.

Image: © 2021 Saronik Bosu

Music used in promotional material: ‘North’ by Sergey Cheremisinov

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / /

Negro Literature

Elizabeth McHenry talks about the moment in the history of African American literature in the decade following the 1896 legalization of segregation, the subject of her new book To Make Negro Literature: Writing, Literary Practice, and African American Authorship. She redirects attention to overlooked archives of unpublished and unsuccessful literary production and thereby offers a radically alternative genealogy of Black literature.

Elizabeth McHenry is Professor of English at New York University and author of Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies, also published by Duke University Press. The book relies on a number of theoretical and disciplinary lenses to understand the epistemological and social conditions of print culture and literary community for African Americans between 1830 and 1940. It expands our definition of literacy and urges of us think about literature as broadly as it was conceived of in the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries. 

Image: The Louisville Western Branch Library in Louisville, Kentucky

Music used in promotional material: ‘Afro-American Symphony: II – Adagio’, William Grants Still

Tagged : / / / / / / / / /


Abhishek Avtans talks about the apabhraṃśa, a word that refers to the middle stage of the Indo-Aryan languages, crucial links between ancient languages like Sanskrit, and modern South Asian languages such as Hindi, Bangla, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Marathi, Nepali, and others. The first mention of apabhraṃśas is in Mahabhasya, a 2nd century BCE text by Patanjali, where the author refers to languages considered deviations from Sanskrit. However, research into apabhraṃśas, for the same reason, has become crucial in dispelling notions of linguistic purity and politics that is dependent on these notions.

Abhishek Avtans is a lecturer of Indic language/s at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He
loves to work on literature and linguistics of languages spoken in south Asia. He has contributed
in making dictionaries of Great Andamanese, Bhojpuri and Brajbhasha. He writes a column
Dialectical for the Himal SouthAsian Magazine. He tweets at @avtansa.

Image: © 2021 Saronik Bosu

(the stanza of verse in the image comes from the text of Bāhubalī rāsa by 13th Century AD Jain poet Shalibhadra Suri, it is an onomatopoeic stanza that describes the activities done by elephants, soldiers and horses.)

Music used in promotional material: “Rajasthani Folk Instrumental Music” by Rupayan Sansthan, Jodhpur, from the collection of Shri Komal Kothari

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Book Proposal

Laura Portwood-Stacer talks with Kim about book proposals.

Laura is a consultant for academic authors. Her book, titled, appropriately, The Book Proposal Book (Princeton UP, 2021), is a how-to-guide for writing an outstanding book proposal.

Through her business, Manuscript Works, Laura runs courses, workshops, and provides editorial assistance, to help academics navigate the world of publishing. Enrollment for her next “Book Proposal Accelerator Course” opens on Jan. 3, at 9am PST. Here’s the link:

Image of several books from Wikimedia Commons.

Music used in promotional material: Mozart Piano Concerto K.467 2mvt. by Cheong Lin

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / /

Squid Game

Kyung Hyun Kim talks about the Netflix series Squid Game, its economic and political contexts, and its cultural potential. He also talks about his new book, Hegemonic Mimicry, out from Duke University Press.

Prof. Kyung Hyun Kim is a creative writer, a scholar, and a film producer, who is currently a professor in the Department of East Asian Studies, UC Irvine.  He has worked with internationally renowned directors such as Hong Sang-soo, Lee Chang-dong and Marty Scorsese, and also with American film producers Jason Blum and Steven Schneider. Prof. Kim is author of Virtual Hallyu: Korean Cinema of the Global EraThe Remasculinization of Korean CinemaHegemonic Mimicry: Korean Popular Culture of 21st Century, all of them published by Duke University Press, and a Korean-language novel entitled In Search of Lost G (Ireo beorin G-reul chajaso, 2014) about a Korean mother combing through the US in search of her missing son during his junior year in a Massachusetts prep school.  He has coproduced and co-scripted two award-winning feature films Never Forever (2007, Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. Main Competition) and The Housemaid (2010, Cannes Film Festival Main Competition). He has recently written The Mask Debatehis first theatre screenplay, which premiered in February 2021 through UCI’s Illuminations: Chancellor’s Initiative in Arts and Drama YouTube channel.

Image: © 2021 Saronik Bosu

Music used in promotional material: ‘Horizon Mine’ by krackatoa

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Legal Regulation of Drugs

Carl Hart speaks with Kim about America’s punitive drug laws, and how we might change them for the better. He argues that we should legalize and regulate the sale of all drugs, in the same way we regulate the sale of alcohol, to improve the health, equity, and liberty of our society.

Dr. Hart is a professor of behavioral neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at Columbia University. You can learn how his scientific research in Neuropsychopharmacology relates to the politics of human experience in his new book Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear (Penguin Random House 2021).

Image: Creative Commons

Music used for promotional material: ‘A Better Tomorrow’ by astrofreq

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / /

Biscuit Art

Ella Hawkins talks about the biscuits she makes, inspired by her research on Elizabethan dress, and on everything from William Morris wallpapers to TV shows like Outlander and Game of Thrones. She also talks about her upcoming monograph, titled Shakespeare in Elizabethan Costume: ‘Period Dress’ in Twenty-First-Century Performance (forthcomin from Bloomsbury), which examines how early modern garments are recycled and reimagined in contemporary costume design for Shakespeare.

(You’ll hear Saronik trying, and failing, to recall something Oscar Wilde said. Turns out he was slightly misremembering the exact quote; it’s in “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” and the passage begins with the sentence: “Now, I have said that the community by means of organisation of machinery will supply the useful things, and that the beautiful things will be made by the individual.”)

Ella is a design historian and artist based in Birmingham, England. She has a PhD in
Shakespeare Studies and specializes in the study of stage and costume design, dress history,
and material culture. Drawing on her academic work, Ella creates edible art inspired by museum collections, art
history, and costumes designed for the stage and screen. She uses a range of decorative
techniques to make iced biscuit sets that celebrate the material culture of the past and
present.Ella has previously worked with the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Shakespeare
Birthplace Trust, and the Royal Shakespeare Company on various projects relating to
design and theatre history.

(For our American listeners, ‘biscuit’ in this case means ‘cookie’.)

Image: Assortment of Ella’s biscuits

Music used in promotional material: ‘pastorale’ by Dee Yan-Key

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / /