In talking about the history of the word culture, or the idea of cultural conservatism, the name Matthew Arnold is all but unavoidable. But why? What did the Victorians think it meant to be cultured, and how did they think this connected to politics? Is Arnold a key theorist of culture and education, or the Malcolm Gladwell of the 19th century?
The Sometime Seminar discusses Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy (1875), a text perhaps more talked about than read.
Are irony, ambiguity and skeptical wit instruments of serious philosophy, or “literary” toys for amateurs with no skin in the game?
The Sometime Seminar discusses the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (published 1779) by David Hume.
Supplementary links: “Hume on Religion” from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Wikipedia on the Dialogues
The Sometime Seminar discusses The Antinomies of Realism (2013), in which Fredric Jameson revisits and re-theorizes the realist novel.
Supplemental links: Michael Wood reviews Antinomies of Realism in the LRB
Writing a novel? Anyone can do that. Writing two novels? That’s sort of impressive…I guess. Writing a novel that seems like it’s really two novels, one a masterful tragicomedy of manners and the other a crazy fairy tale of ideas, a novel equally notable for peerless psychological acuity and for well-meaning yet nutso 19th-century race mystique, and featuring one of the most enjoyably despicable villains in literature? Now you’re talking.
The Sometime Seminar discusses George Eliot’s final novel, Daniel Deronda (1876).
Wile E. Coyote meets Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence of the same! If Krazy Kat could transcend the veil of illusion, would he ever be the same again? And how do you even read, much less summarize, much less talk about, a book with no words?
Supplementary link: Joe McCulloch reviews Fran in The Comics Journal
The Sometime Seminar discusses Inverted World, an early (1974) work of science fiction by Christopher Priest, along with his more recent writing about the genre.
Discussed in the podcast: Ned Beauman’s recent review of Priest’s work in the LRB, Priest’s 2012 polemic about the Clarke Awards
Should we fear the hobgoblins of consistency? And to what end? Can you be a philosopher if you write essays that don’t have a clearly stated point, and if so, what kind is Ralph Waldo Emerson: American individualist prophet or misunderstood pre-Nietzschean post-Stoic?
The Sometime Seminar discusses “Experience,” from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s First Series of essays (1841).
Endless sentences and aesthetic bliss!
The Sometime Seminar discusses László Krasznahorkai’s Seiobo There Below, a book of interconnected stories about aesthetic experience and/or religious ecstasy written in nearly endless sentences (as translated by Ottilie Mulzet).
Is gonzo journalism plus W.G. Sebald plus mental illness a good formula for humo(u)r writing, a mask for sharp cultural critique, or just a mess? Who killed the movies, and who would want to resurrect the Künstlerroman?
This episode of The Sometime Seminar discusses Walking to Hollywood, a fictional memoir, or perhaps an autobiographical novel, by Will Self.
Supplemental links: Grove Press’s Walking to Hollywood page features an interview with Self about the book; reviews from Anthony Cummins in The Observer and M John Harrison in The Guardian
If your dreams of exotic adventure involve lots of archives and rare book rooms (and hey, why not?), have we got a podcast for you. This episode covers the often bookish, sometimes forbidding, always unusual poetry of Susan Howe.
The Sometime Seminar discusses The Europe of Trusts and other poetry by Susan Howe.