Laura Snyder is a professor of philosophy at St. John’s University. Her work focuses on the history and philosophy of science, and frequently seeks to bring new, broader perspectives to debates in that field. Her first book, Reforming Philosophy, focuses on John Stuart Mill and William Whewell’s philosophies of science, but argues that this philosophy can only properly be understood in the context of Mill and Whewell’s entire body of work. Her second book, the Philosophical Breakfast Club, focuses on four British scientists in the 19th century and the revolution they brought to science at the time. The book was praised for its combination of scholarly rigor and public accessibility, and led to Professor Snyder giving a talk at the TED Global conference in 2012.Professor Snyder’s newest book is titled The Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, and the Reinvention of Seeing. The book tells the story of Vermeer and Leeuwenhoek at a remarkable time of scientific and artistic innovation in the Dutch Republic. It also continues Professor Snyder’s commitment to bridging popular and academic audiences, it was reviewed widely in publications like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and several outlets abroad.
An interview with Petra Kuppers, professor of English at the University of Michigan, as well as a poet, filmmaker, artist, and disability activist. The interview focuses on the politics of Professor Kuppers' scholarship and art. We pay particular attention to her latest book of poetry, Pearl Stitch.
Ursula Heise is the Marcia H. Howard Chair in Literary Studies at UCLA. She is best known for her work in environmental criticism and environmental humanities, fields she began exploring in the late 90’s. Her 2008 book Sense of Place and Sense of Planet has been described as a landmark book for inaugurating attention to globalism in environmental thinking. This book was at the heart of a recent retrospective in the journal Resilience, which noted that her work has created a network of influence that spans oceans as well as disciplines. Professor Heise’s newest book is entitled Imagining Extinction: the Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species, published in 2016 with the University of Chicago Press.
Jeff Williams is a professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University.
Professor Williams’ work focuses on the politics of literature and criticism, particularly institutions that produce culture like universities and academic journals. In his writing, he frequently takes a step back from arguments about the political or social value of intellectual work and examines them from a practical standpoint. In many of his essays since the early 90’s, he has called attention to the danger of student debt, and contrasted this danger with the freedom and possibility promised by an education in the liberal arts. Likewise, many of his essays about literary theory have shown how theory has been shaped by academic settings and the inevitable politics that come with tenure and promotion.
Professor Williams has also been deeply committed to reaching a broad general public with his scholarly work. Along with publishing in academic journals, he also publishes frequently in places like the Chronicle of Higher Education and Salon. His most recent book, How to be an Intellectual, features a number of essays that seek to blur the lines between criticism and journalism, a technique that he calls “criticism without footnotes.” He was also the editor of The Minnesota Review from 1992-2010, and earned praise during that time for editing one of the most lively, politically serious print journals in the profession.
I began by asking him about his longtime commitment to engaged scholarship, and what he feels academics can bring to public discourse.
Our guest today is Theresa Brown, oncology nurse, columnist, and author of The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives. Theresa began her career as a writer in 2008 when she published an essay in the New York Times about a dramatic and emotional experience she had with a dying patient. The piece received national attention, and was anthologized in the Best American Science Writing and The Best American Medical Writing in 2009. Since then, she has written dozens of pieces about nursing, and has become a leading voice for nurses and nurse advocacy across the country. Her first book, Critical Care was published in 2010, and is widely used as a textbook in nursing schools. Theresa’s writing frequently pulls back the curtain on the experiences and challenges that nurses face in their daily work. Sometimes this reveals frustrating working conditions, or difficulties dealing with hospital administration; but just as frequently, it shows the strength, skill, and commitment that nurses need to provide their patients with the best care they can. So it’s no surprise that President Obama quoted from Theresa’s blog when he was advocating for the Affordable Care Act in 2009. In what she calls her “past life,” Theresa received a PhD in English from the University of Chicago and was an English professor at Tufts University. I began by asking her about this past, and about the somewhat non-traditional path she took to becoming a nurse.
Lydia Goehr is a professor of philosophy at Columbia University. Her work focuses on aesthetic theory, particularly the history and philosophy of music. Her first book, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works, was widely influential for its exploration of what she calls the “work-concept,” or the set of beliefs and assumptions that have governed the West's performance and appreciation of music for the last 200 years. In her book, Professor Goehr shows various implications of the work-concept, such as musicians’ believing that they should carefully follow a score rather than improvising around its central theme, or spectators feeling that they should sit quiet and still throughout a performance.
An interview with Mark Jarzombek, professor of the history and theory of architecture at MIT. Professor Jarzombek visited Pitt during the Year of the Humanities to give a lecture titled "The Global Imaginary in an anti-Global World." This interview focuses on his life and work, and the relationship of his work on architectural history to the broader public.
George Lewis is a groundbreaking trombonist and composer as well as the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. Lewis’ career as a musician has been closely tied to the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a group founded in Chicago in 1965 to nurture creative and experimental music. Since 1971, Lewis has performed and recorded with a number of the group’s members, including Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, and Roscoe Mitchell. Lewis is also well-known for his work with computers and electronic music, including his software Voyager, which listens to and improvises with human performers. Since the 1990’s, he has also achieved success as a scholar, notably with his 2008 book A Power Stronger than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, which won the American Book Award in 2009.
Marcia Chatelain is an associate professor of history at Georgetown University. Dr. Chatelain’s research focuses on a wide range of issues in African American history, including African American migration, women and girls history, and race and food. Her first book, South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration, focuses on the experience of the great migration for young African American women—a group of people that scholars frequently fail to recognize or fully explore. In 2014, she gained national attention for creating the hashtag “FergusonSyllabus” on Twitter, and urging educators at all levels, and in all fields, to focus classroom discussion on the events surrounding Michael Brown’s shooting. The inspiration, she says, came from thinking of all the students in Ferguson who wouldn’t be able to go back to school as planned, and all of the empty desks and classrooms that would sit waiting.
This episode features an interview with Peter Holland, the McMeel Family Chair in Shakespeare Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Professor Holland is one of the leading critics of Shakespeare-in-performance, and has published on Shakespeare in a wide variety of formats, including scholarly journals, books, dictionary entries, and theater programs. For all of his scholarly acumen, listeners will quickly learn that Professor Holland is deeply committed to the idea that Shakespeare (and the humanities in general) should be fun, and shouldn’t shy away from the fact that they provide pleasure to readers and viewers alike.
In this episode, we interview Anthony Bogues is the Asa Messer Professor of Humanities and Critical Theory, Professor of Africana Studies, and Director of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice at Brown University. Professor Bogues began his academic career at the University of the West Indies in his native Jamaica and moved to Brown in the year 2000. In this interview, we focus on the broad range of topics that he has written on throughout his career, including intellectual and political history, literature and literary criticism, and most recently the visual arts.
This episode features an interview with Margaret Homans, professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale. In the early 70’s, Professor Homans was an undergraduate at Yale in the earliest years of co-education at that university. Since then, she has established herself as an important feminist critic as well as a mentor to young women looking to follow in her footsteps. Our interview focuses on her career as a literary scholar and the impact her work has had on her profession and the world more broadly.
Abdellah Taïa is a Moroccan writer and filmmaker based in Paris. In 2006, the French magazine TelQuel published an interview with Taïa in which he openly discussed his homosexuality for the first time. At this point, he says, he went from being “the new hip Moroccan writer” to “the new hip gay Moroccan writer.” In this interview, we focus on Taïa’s life, writing, and directorial debut in the film Salvation Army (2013).
This inaugural episode of The University of Pittsburgh Year of the Humanities podcast features an interview with Leonard Cassuto, professor of English at Fordham University. As a scholar, Dr. Cassuto has written several books on American literature and culture; as a columnist, Cassuto writes a regular column for the Chronicle called “the graduate advisor,” in which he focuses on the current state of graduate education in American colleges and universities. The interview focuses on Professor Cassuto’s work within and beyond the University, and his thoughts on how to bridge the two.