116 Works

David Ferry, Roger Reeves, and the Underworld

David Ferry, John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Roger Reeves
"Their tongues are ashes when they'd speak to us" David Ferry, Resemblance. The underworld, that repository of the Shades of the Dead, gets a lot of traffic from time to time, especially from heroes (Gilgamesh, Theseus, Odysseus, Aeneas) and poets (Orpheus, Virgil, Dante). Some come down for information or in hopes of rescuing or just seeing their loved ones, or perhaps for a sense of comfort in their grief. They often find those they have...

Pardis Dabashi on \"My Uncle Napoleon\"

John Plotz & Pardis Dabashi
Iraj Pezeshkzad's My Uncle Napoleon is a slapstick and at times goofy love story, but it is also in the best tradition of sly anti-imperial satire. Scholar Pardis Dabashi came to it late, but she has all the convert's zeal as she links it to a literary tradition that's highly theoretical, but also delightfully far-flung.

A Conversation with Seeta Chaganti

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Seeta Chaganti
Seeta Chaganti, medievalist extraordinaire (Strange Footing and The Medieval Poetics of the Reliquary) joins John to discuss-wait for it-data visualization in the work of W. E. B. Du Bois, philosopher, visionary and scholar. They go on to discuss past traditions that merge text and image in ways that foreshadow modern visualization practices, and close with beloved books that take readers "back of the tapestry" to reveal what everyday front-of-tapestry life keeps decorously hidden.

A Conversation with Matt Karp about Class Dealignments

Matt Karp & John Plotz
We are delighted to begin the Brahmin Left series with Matt Karp, historian at Princeton, author of This Vast Southern Empire and a perennially thought-provoking essayist about the complex 19th and 20th century genealogies of contemporary American politics: "The Politics of a Second Gilded Age" is the essay that links most closely to this conversation.

Quinn Slobodian on Xenophobia and Ethno-Nationalism, 1973 to today

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Quinn Slobodian
What's the relationship between immigration, globalization and demographics? What do a badly characterized, racist novel and an imaginatively metaphoric biology article from the 1970s have to do with that? And what is woke particularism? John and Elizabeth find out all of that and more in this discussion with Quinn Slobodian, professor of history at Wellesley College and author, most recently, of Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism. They first discuss Jean...


John Plotz, Aarthi Vadde, Tom Perrotta & Mark Wollaeger
Novelist, screenwriter, and HBO showrunner Tom Perrotta joins his old friend Mark Wollaeger (who also happens to be a top scholar of modernism) for a wide-ranging conversation about literature, television, and everything in between. Tom reveals that he has been reading a most peculiar self-help book: Richard Ellmann's biography of James Joyce. Mark then shares some juicy Joyce anecdotes before getting into the nitty gritty of style and craft. We discuss balancing difficult themes with...

Season Wrap

John Plotz & Aarthi Vadde
Our two hosts play guest, and dive into the season's high and lowlights, starting with the role humor played on the show. We also talk through the affordances of the "virtual" studio as opposed to the brick and mortar one where John recorded podcasts in "the before time." Literary critics that we are, we can't help but consider the podcast as an audio form that solicits different kinds of listening. Aarthi wonders if it's "close"...

Orhan Pamuk reads and glosses the end of Snow

John Plotz, Aarthi Vadde & Orhan Pamuk
Pamuk plays scholar and novelist both. He reads the cheekily postmodernist final page of his novel Snow, while also talmudically interspersing comments on the text.

A Conversation with Jan-Werner Müller

John Plotz & Jan-Warner Müller
Today's guest is Princeton's Jan-Werner Müller, (Another Country: German Intellectuals, Unification and National Identity, A Dangerous Mind: Carl Schmitt in Post-War European Thought, Constitutional Patriotism) author of What is Populism? (2016) which explores how the identitarian logic of populism can come to lodge within democracies. Is the current success of the antidemocratic Right (in Hungary and Poland-and increasingly elsewhere in Europe as well) the product of "plutocratic populism"? Or is there some other more systemic...

Jennifer Egan with Ivan Kreilkamp

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry, Jennifer Egan & Ivan Kreilkamp
This week on Recall this Book, another delightful crossover episode from our sister podcast Novel Dialogue, which puts scholars and writers together to discuss the making of novels and what to make of them. Who better to chat with John and Jennifer Egan--prolific and prize-winning American novelist--than Ivan Kreilkamp? The distinguished Indiana Victorianist showed his Egan expertise last year in his witty book, A Visit from the Goon Squad Reread.

A Conversation with John Plotz and Elizabeth Ferry

John Plotz & Elizabeth Ferry
For the third installment of Books in Dark Times, inspired by our global moment, Elizabeth and John turned inward. We started with a book that you might not think would be so comforting, Daniel Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) about the plague in London "during the last Great Visitation in 1665." Probably based on the journals of Defoe's uncle Henry Foe, the Journal comforts Elizabeth in a few ways. First, by its...

The Caribbean and Vectors of Warfare

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Vincent Brown
The largest slave uprising in the 18th century British Caribbean was also a node of the global conflict called the Seven Year's War, though it isn't usually thought of that way. In the first few days of the quarantine and our current geopolitical and epidemiological shitshow, John and Elizabeth spoke with Vincent Brown, who recently published Tacky's Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War (Belknap, 2019), centered on a group of enslaved West Africans,...

Glimpsing COVID

Gael McGill, Gina Turrigiano, John Plotz & Elizabeth Ferry
What's a picture worth? How about the picture that allows scientists to grasp what's actually going on in a cell-or on the spiky outside of an invading virus? Gael McGill, Director of Molecular Visualization at the Center for Molecular and Cellular Dynamics at Harvard Medical School is founder and CEO of Digizyme and has spent his career exploring and developing different modes for visualizing evidence.

We are Not Digested

Ulka Anjaria, Rajiv Mohabir & John Plotz
Rajiv Mohabir is a dazzling poet of linguistics crossovers, who works in English, Bhojpuri, Hindi and more. He is as prolific as he is polyglot (three books in 2021!) and has undertaken a remarkable array of projects includes the prizewinning resurrection of a forgotten century-old memoir about mass involuntary migration. He joined John and first-time host Ulka Anjaria (English prof, Bollywood expert and Director of the Brandeis Mandel Center for the Humanities) in the old...

Addiction with Gina Turrigiano

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Gina Turrigiano
In this episode, John and Elizabeth speak with Gina Turrigiano, a neuroscientist at Brandeis, about a number of different facets of addiction. What makes an addiction to a morning constitutional different from-or similar to-an addiction to Fentanyl? What are the biological and social factors to consider? Should the addict be thought of in binary terms, or addiction as a state that people move into and out of? They contemplate these questions through biological, anthropological, and...

\"The Electro-Library\" with Jared Green

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Jared Green
In this warm summer episode, Elizabeth and John present a marvelous podcast, The Electro-Library, and they speak with one of its hosts and founders, Jared Green. Elizabeth, Jared and John play snippets from a recent Electro-Library episode on the decidedly non-podcasty topic of photographs, and use it as a springboard to discuss the different aesthetic experiences of radio, television, film, reading, audiobooks, and podcasts. Which are the easiest and which the hardest artworks to get...

Martin Puchner on Writing Then and Now

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Martin Puchner
From its origins in clay tablets to its future on digital tablets, Martin Puchner has thought about writing in all its forms. In this episode, John and Elizabeth talk to Martin, the Byron and Anita Wien Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard. They begin with a discussion of a very early writerly text-the epic of Gilgamesh, a version of which has been Englished by Elizabeth's father. They discuss the different stages of world...

Hayal Akarsu on Turkish Community Policing

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Hayal Akarsu
Today, Elizabeth and John discuss Turkish policing with Hayal Akarsu, Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis. Hayal is an anthropologist specializing in police reforms in Turkey in the context of authoritarian governance. Our conversation focused on what police reforms succeed in doing, even if they do not frequently succeed in reducing police violence, and on how police relate to state and military objectives in Turkey, Brazil and the...

The Capitol Insurrection and Asymmetrical Policing

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & David Cunningham
We first heard from the sociologist of American racism David Cunningham in Episode 36 Policing and White Power. Less than a week after the horrors of January 6th, he came back for an extended conversation about "asymmetrical policing" of the political right and left-and of White and Black Americans. His very first book (There's Something Happening Here, 2004) studied the contrast between the FBI's work in the 1960's to wipe out left-wing and Black protests...

The Work of Inhabiting a Role

Chris Fan, Charles Yu, John Plotz & Aarthi Vadde
Charles Yu won the 2020 National Book Award for Interior Chinatown but some of us became fans a decade earlier, with How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (2010). He brilliantly uses SF conventions to uncover the kind of self-deceptive infilling that we all do every day, the little stories we tell ourselves to make our world seem predictable and safe when it's anything but. His other work includes two books of short...

Military Sci-Fi Minus the Misogyny

John Plotz, Aarthi Vadde & Gerry Canavan
Gerry Canavan talks to geek feminist author Kameron Hurley about her Hugo-nominated novel The Light Brigade. A love-hate letter to military science fiction, The Light Brigade turns the form on its head. It is built around women fighters, queerness, and defying authority while being at the bottom of the chain of command. The novel also has surprising roots in the history of anti-apartheid resistance in South Africa where Kameron lived for a time to research...

Oh, The Places You'll Go

Aarthi Vadde, Ulka Anjaria, John Plotz & Madhuri Vijay
Ulka Anjaria and Madhuri Vijay sit down to talk about Madhuri's prize-winning first novel The Far Field. They discuss what it's like to write intimately about a place - Kashmir - that many people even within India know only through headlines and news stories. Getting intimate with a place moves us into talking about the Indian novelist as a guide to Indian society. Sometimes guiding readers reflects a legacy of cultural imperialism where writers in...

Feral Fiction

Catherine Lacey, Martin Puchner, John Plotz & Aarthi Vadde
Novel Dialogue sends Martin Puchner (polymathic author of The Written World and most recently The Language of Thieves) out to speak with Pew author Catherine Lacey. They go a-wandering. Lacey's earlier works include a 2018 collection of short stories, Certain American States, and two novels: The Answers in 2017 and 2014's Nobody is Ever Missing, a delightful road novel set in New Zealand-always a sure way to win John's admiration. Martin starts by noticing the...

That Demonic Novelistic Impulse

John Plotz, Aarthi Vadde, Orhan Pamuk & Bruce Robbins
In Episode Two of Novel Dialogue, critic and scholar Bruce Robbins sits down with Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk. They have taught classes on the political novel together at Columbia for years, and it shows. They ask how the novel can ever escape its roots in middle-class sensibility and perspective: Joseph Conrad comes up, but so does modern Brazilian film. Then they discuss the demonic appeal of Russian novels�and why retired military officers produced so many...

Promises Unkept

Chris Holmes, Damon Galgut, Andrew van der Vlies, John Plotz & Aarthi Vadde
Guest host Chris Holmes sits down with Booker Prize winning novelist Damon Galgut and Andrew van der Vlies, distinguished scholar of South African literature and global modernisms at the University of Adelaide, Australia. Andrew and Damon tunnel down into the structures of Damon's newest novel, The Promise to locate the ways in which a generational family story reflects broadly on South Africa's present moment. The two discuss how lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic invoke for...

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