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The Hedgehog and the Fox
42 minutes | Jun 16, 2022
Arnold Weinstein: The Lives of Literature
Arnold Weinstein, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Brown University, discusses his latest book, The Lives of Literature, and his own life of literature: the authors that have mattered most to him, what students have taken from his courses, and which books have recently become unteachable. He writes, 'The best books interrogate their readers—jostle their assumptions, challenge their own sense of "me" – and the teacher's calling must be to convey this "live”.' See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
43 minutes | Mar 2, 2022
Conversations with Translators: Laura Marris on Camus's The Plague
Translator Laura Marris discusses her experience of translating Albert Camus's 1947 novel, The Plague, during the Covid pandemic: 'I would be working on the scene where the doctors are meeting with the prefect of the city to try to convince him to put in more stringent public health measures. And then I would read the paper and there would be stuff about the CDC, Trump and I'd just think this is a very bizarre parallel. In the end, that was also something I had to think about, and potentially correct for, because this is a book about a plague that was translated during a plague, but it shouldn't really be like a COVID book. It should have like a longer life, I think.' See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
51 minutes | Feb 4, 2022
Laura Clancy: Running the (royal) family firm
When she tells people she’s researching the royal family, Laura Clancy, our guest on this week's episode, often encounters the response that the UK has more important things to worry about. Plus the associated responses that the royals don’t cost that much, that they’re good for the country, or that ultimately they don’t really matter. For a lot of Britons, they just are, a bit like the weather. Laura disagrees. She says: ‘we cannot talk about inequalities in Britain without talking about the monarchy’. Her book, Running the Family Firm (Manchester University Press, 2021), argues that ‘the principles by which monarchy works are key principles by which the whole system works, and in understanding monarchy we can begin to make sense of the system.’ In this interview, she discusses what she discovered in the course of her research... See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
30 minutes | Jan 27, 2022
Polly Barton: Fifty Sounds (part 2)
This is the second half of the conversation I had last autumn with Polly Barton, a translator from Japanese and the author of a terrific memoir cum reflection on language and translation, Fifty Sounds. In the first part we talked about Polly’s early fascination with Japan and language, and her decision aged 21 to go to live and work on a remote Japanese island and her experience of learning the language. In this part we talk about her decision to become a translator, some of the challenges that presented, and presents, and also about her book. Fifty Sounds has fifty chapters, each of which takes a single Japanese word as its starting point or leitmotiv. All of these words are so-called ‘mimetics’, a distinctive and richly expressive class of word in Japanese that merits its own chunky dictionary, but which in the English language we generally pay little attention to. They’re words that give colour and individuality to storytelling; the kind of words that convey the speaker’s sense of being an embodied person in the world, alert to its texture and feel. In choosing to build her book around these words, Polly seems to get to the heart of Japanese, or if that is too grand a claim, to capture the essence of what it meant to her to learn Japanese and to begin to glimpse the world through the lens of Japanese. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
36 minutes | Jan 19, 2022
Polly Barton: Fifty Sounds (part 1)
In this first part of my conversation with translator and writer Polly Barton, we talk about Polly’s early fascination with Japan and how she found herself on a remote Japanese island at the age of 21. ‘Sometimes’, she writes in her book Fifty Sounds, ‘I wonder how I ever thought I’d survive, setting out for a rural island with just a handful of Japanese words to my name.’ But survive she does and goes on to tell the tale... See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
40 minutes | Oct 30, 2021
Nicholas Cook: there's more to music than meets the ear
'Music somehow seems to be natural, to exist as something apart – and yet it is suffused with human values, with our sense of what is good or bad, right or wrong. Music doesn't just happen, it is what we make it, and what we make of it. People think through music, decide who they are through it,' says Nicholas Cook, my guest in this episode. His quest in his recent new edition of his highly influential Very Short Introduction to Music (Oxford, 2021) is to explore those human values. In this podcast he talks about how the world of music and our relationship has changed since the first edition appeared in 1998, in an era before smartphones and streaming... Nicholas Cook was until his retirement in 2017 the 1684 Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
38 minutes | Oct 15, 2021
Craig Robertson: Cabinets of curiosities
In this programme we’re looking at what I thought of as ‘the humble filing cabinet’ until I read Craig Robertson’s fascinating book, The Filing Cabinet: A Vertical History of Information (University of Minnesota Press, 2021). It’s easy to regard filing cabinets as space-hogging lumps of metal from a bygone era filled with dusty files; an obsolete way of storing information now that all our data lives in the cloud. But previous generations thought of their data as ‘live’ too, and a century or so ago, filing cabinets were being marketed as the essence of modernity and business efficiency, the very heart of the modern office – or perhaps more accurately, its brain. Listen to the interview and find out how much this not-so-humble piece of office furniture can tell us about work, information and gender roles in the 20th century. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
46 minutes | May 28, 2021
James Danckert: Boredom is trying to tell you something
Charles Dickens introduced the word 'boredom' to the English language in 1853, but the feeling it describes dates back much further. You can find it in the Bible or the work of classical writers. Only recently, though, have psychologists investigated what boredom is actually trying to tell us. And the news is not all bad. In this episode, Professor James Danckert reveals some of the latest discoveries in the science of boredom. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
31 minutes | Apr 8, 2021
Juliana Adelman on the Beasts of Dublin
Nineteenth-century Dublin was a city full of beasts: horses, pigs, cattle, sheep, dogs... all living in close proximity to the human residents. Historian Juliana Adelman describes the city thronged with beasts and explains why animals were often at the centre of Dubliners' heated debates about the kind of city they wanted to live in – and what that meant for the animals. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
30 minutes | Mar 5, 2021
Conversations with Publishers: Margo Irvin, Stanford University Press
In this new episode in the Conversations with Publishers series, my guest is Margo Irvin, who’s an editor at Stanford University Press, where she’s been commissioning history and Jewish studies for the past five years. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
29 minutes | Feb 11, 2021
Jennifer Howard: Clutter: An Untidy History
In this episode, we delve deep into clutter with Jennifer Howard, author of a recent book entitled Clutter: An Untidy History. This book is for you if you have a closet that will no longer close because it is so crammed with clothes, or a garage piled with boxes you keep meaning to sort, or a storage unit that you pay for every month without having an exit strategy. Maybe it’s especially for you if you have an older relative with a house piled high with belongings that you know they will never get rid of and you have a growing sense of dread that one day you are going to have to roll your sleeves up and tackle it... Jennifer talks about her own experience of clearing her mother's house and, more broadly, why we seem to have an increasingly vexed relationship with our (many) possessions. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
39 minutes | Jan 7, 2021
Lemmings, Linnaeus, and human migration
“From childhood,” Sonia Shah says, “we are taught that plants, animals, and people belong in certain places.” A powerful result of this, she suggests, is a dominant view of human migration as unnatural, a threat, and migrants as vectors of chaos and disorder. Her important new book, featured here, sets out to challenges this and other persistent myths. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
14 minutes | Nov 23, 2020
Conversations with Publishers: Rob Tempio, Princeton
Rob Tempio is Princeton University Press’s publisher for the ancient world, philosophy & political theory. He says on the Press’s website: 'I believe passionately in both the inherent and enduring fascination of these subjects and in the ways in which they perpetually speak to the present.' In this interview he talks about his career and his books, including the Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers series. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
43 minutes | Nov 12, 2020
Paul Cartledge: Thinking like a Theban
For all its importance to Greek history and myth, Thebes – Seven-gated Thebes whose patron god was Dionysus, birthplace of Herakles, the city of Oedipus and Antigone – tends to get bit parts in the broader story of ancient Greece. Until now. Paul Cartledge, Emeritus A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University, has devoted a whole book to what he calls the ‘forgotten city’ of ancient Greece. I think you’re likely to find it fascinating for the fresh insights that a shift in perspective can bring, seeing the world not from ‘violet-crowned’ Athens – as Theban poet Pindar put it – but from ‘the dancing floor of Ares’, Thebes. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
42 minutes | Oct 26, 2020
Conversations with Publishers: Dean Smith, Duke University Press
In this episode, I talk to Dean Smith, who’s been director of Duke University Press for almost a year and a half, and before that was director of Cornell University Press. Earlier in his career, Dean held posts at Chapman & Hall as director of electronic publishing and the American Chemical Society as vice president for sales and marketing. Earlier still, he was the director of Project MUSE at the Johns Hopkins University Press. So a wealth of experience in the university press world. When his departure from the Cornell University Press, I read on their blog: Dean leaves us at CUP with an emboldened mentality. He has given us the spirit and desire to fly ever higher, to dream ever bigger, and to achieve ever more. So when I spoke to him during his convalescence after hip surgery, I wanted to know more about how Dean saw the role of university press director. I also wanted to find out a bit more about his hinterland. Dean was born and raised in Baltimore; that city is clearly still close to his heart, as are its sports. He wrote about the Baltimore Ravens’ 2013 against-the-odds Superbowl triumph in Never Easy, Never Pretty: A Fan, A City, A Championship Season. Dean’s also a published poet and when we spoke a few weeks back, we talked about his debut collection, American Boy, which draws on his 1960s Baltimore childhood. In this interview, you’ll also hear what Dean thinks are the lessons of the recent Jessica Krug affair, as that author was published by Duke, and why he compares his press to a spaceship in the desert. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
39 minutes | Sep 8, 2020
Conversations with Publishers: Doug Armato, University of Minnesota Press
This episode is another in the series of Conversations with Publishers, which aims to find out more about the people who decide what gets published. Our guest is Doug Armato, director of the University of Minnesota Press, a post he has held since 1998, and in the interview we talk about his career both before and after his arrival in Minneapolis. The University of Minnesota Press was established 1925. On its website, it says: ‘Minnesota is a midsize university press.’ If so, it would be fair to say it punches well above its weight in terms of reputation and impact... See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
47 minutes | Aug 27, 2020
Francis Poulenc: the depths beneath the surface polish
In this programme, we’re exploring the life and music of Francis Poulenc, in the company of writer and musicologist Roger Nichols. Yale University Press recently published Roger’s biography of Poulenc, who was the pre-eminent member of the group known as Les Six and remains probably France's best-loved and most-performed 20th-century composer. One reviewer wrote of Roger's book: ‘I don’t think anyone writes better about classical music than Nichols, his wry humour and gift for surprising connections never losing touch with scholarly erudition.’ See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
33 minutes | Jul 29, 2020
Christopher Lloyd on Guy de Maupassant, teller of tales
This week we explore the life and work of the master of the 19th-century short story, Guy de Maupassant, in the company of his recent biographer Christopher Lloyd, who’s emeritus professor of French at Durham. (The TLS called Chris's book ‘a crisp, witty, balanced and well-informed guide.’) Depending on your age and background, you might have read some Maupassant at school, or maybe encountered him on a literature survey course at university. He’s much anthologized. But that has proved to be a mixed blessing. The same pieces crop up again and again, representing just a tiny fraction of his 300 short stories. In France, by some estimates, he is the best-selling classic author, thanks to continuing educational sales. So his name is well known. Many people feel they know him, without really knowing him. As Christopher Lloyd’s book shows, most of us have barely glimpsed the full extent of Maupassant’s writing, which includes half a dozen novels as well as the short fiction, and a wide range of themes which one French edition meticulously catalogued. It included ‘devil’, ‘divorce’, ‘double’, ‘duel’, ‘strangling’, ‘fantastic’, ‘madness’, ‘drunkenness’… which maybe already gives some insight into the often dark and dangerous world Maupassant’s characters inhabit. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
38 minutes | Jul 15, 2020
Camilla Townsend on the Aztecs, but not as you know them
We all know the Aztecs practised human sacrifice, a fact that so predominates in popular impressions of them that almost everything else about them is cast in its shadow. Yet as my guest in this episode, Camilla Townsend, writes in her latest book, The Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs: "The Aztecs would never recognize themselves in the picture of their world that exists in the books and movies we have made." So who were the Aztecs really? See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
30 minutes | Jul 2, 2020
Julian Baggini on Babette's Feast
Babette’s Feast, released in 1987, was the first Danish submission to win the Oscar for best foreign language film and it’s the subject of Julian Baggini’s recent book in the BFI Film Classics series. A short, engaging essay on the film that won’t take you much longer to read than the film’s running time. Babette’s Feast is based on a short story by Karen Blixen, best known as the author of Out of Africa. It’s set in the 19th century an austere part of northern Denmark in an equally austere Christian community, into which comes Babette, once a celebrated Parisian chef, now fleeing the counter-revolutionary violence of the Paris Commune in 1871. What could have been merely a pointed satire on the rigidity of a certain kind of religious life or a gentle culture-clash comedy, is, Julian suggests, something much deeper and much more thought-provoking: an example of film as philosophy. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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