9 episodes

American University faculty members Sarah Marsh and Tom Merrill discuss books, ideas, politics, and liberal education with guests.

Politics and the Humanitie‪s‬ Thomas Merrill

    • Society & Culture

American University faculty members Sarah Marsh and Tom Merrill discuss books, ideas, politics, and liberal education with guests.

    Episode 9: The Fire is Upon Us: Nick Buccola on Baldwin, Buckley, and the Debate over Race in America

    Episode 9: The Fire is Upon Us: Nick Buccola on Baldwin, Buckley, and the Debate over Race in America

    Nick Buccola joins Tom and Sarah to talk about his book, The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley, Jr, and the Debate over Race in America. We talk about Buckley's opposition to civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 60s, the role of Christianity in Buckley and Baldwin's thought, and Baldwin's views of Western civilization and the canon. We discuss Baldwin's books The Fire Next Time and Notes of a Native Son.


    Links for the episode:
    The Fire is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley, Jr., and the Debate over Race in America.
    The Buckley-Baldwin Debate video.
    James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time.
    James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son.
    William F. Buckley on Fresh Air with Terry Gross in 1989.

    • 1 hr 14 min
    Episode 8: Great Books and the Left

    Episode 8: Great Books and the Left

    Sarah Marsh and Tom Merrill are joined by Michael Weinman of Bard College, Berlin to talk about why "great books" are not only for conservatives. Note: This episode has a few glitches--just keep listening.


    Michael Weinman's writings mentioned in this episode:


    Essays at Public Seminar:
    --"When is someone like us?"
    --"Butler's Ethic of Vulnerability and Redefining Liberal in the Liberal Arts"
    --"Perspectivalism without Relativism"


    Books:
    The Parthenon and Liberal Education
    The Emergence of Illiberal Democracy


    Michael's essay "Twilight of American Idols" will soon be available in _Amerikastudien/American Studies_.


    Michael's essay "Living Well and the Promise of Cosmopolitan Identity is available in On Civic Republicanism: Ancient Lessons, Global Politics.

    • 1 hr 8 min
    Episode 7: What the 1619 Project Got Wrong, and Right

    Episode 7: What the 1619 Project Got Wrong, and Right

    What did the New York Times's 1619 Project get wrong, and what did it get right? Sarah Marsh and Tom Merrill review the controversies about the 1619 Project and talk about the real complexities around slavery and race in the American founding.


    Links mentioned in the podcast:
    The 1619 Project at the New York Times.
    Sean Wilentz on the 1619 Project.
    Leslie Harris: "I Helped Factcheck the 1619 Project."
    Thomas Merrill, "The Later Jefferson and The Problem of Natural Rights," in The Political Thought of the Civil War
    Thomas Merrill, "When Jefferson Became Southern: The Missouri Crisis as Inflection Point, Political Science Reviewer
    Danielle Allen, _Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality. _
    Danielle Allen on "The Declaration of Independence Today" at American University

    • 1 hr 5 min
    Episode 6: Borden Flanagan on Thucydides and the Plague

    Episode 6: Borden Flanagan on Thucydides and the Plague

    In the early years of the Peloponnesian War, the city of Athens experienced a devastating plague which Thucydides described memorably in his history of the war. What do we learn about the Athenians from Thucydides' famous account? Why does Thucydides juxtapose his account of the plague with Pericles' famous Funeral Oration? Does Thucydides mean to undercut Pericles' beautiful speech?


    Borden Flanagan of American University (@Blahbliptyblah) discusses this questions in conversation with Tom Merrill (@w_merrill) and Sarah Marsh.


    Here is a good edition of Thucydides' Peloponnesian War.
    Specific passages discussed on the podcast include:


    The Funeral Oration: Book 2, para. 35-46
    The Plague: Book 2, para. 47-54.(

    • 1 hr 18 min
    Episode 5: Ross Douthat--Do the Humanities Have a Future?

    Episode 5: Ross Douthat--Do the Humanities Have a Future?

    Higher education is in crisis. Majors in the humanities have been in decline for many years, and universities are often criticized for being dominated by political correctness and student activism. But are these two things related? Are students responding to a longstanding technocratic and vocational ethos in universities that ignores moral agency? Could it be that student activism reveals an understandable need for moral and even religious reflection overlooked in academia?


    Ross Douthat of the New York Times joins Tom Merrill of American University to discuss the roots of the current situation of academia and the prospects for a renewal of the humanities.

    • 1 hr 33 min
    Episode 4: Aristophanes: Obscene Conservative, with Paul Ludwig

    Episode 4: Aristophanes: Obscene Conservative, with Paul Ludwig

    Aristophanes' Clouds is an irreverent look at Socrates and a parable about how liberal education can go bad. Strepsiades wants to study with Socrates in order to get out of paying his debts, but isn't really ready for what Socrates has to teach him. The play makes us ask questions like: does Socrates deserve to get punished? What is the connection between philosophy and father-beating? How should the academy think about its relationship to the world outside of the academy? And why are fart jokes so funny?


    Paul Ludwig of St. John's College, Annapolis, joins Tom Merrill and Sarah Marsh to talk about The Clouds. Ludwig's new book is Rediscovering Political Friendship: Aristotle, Modern Identity, Community, and Equality. His first book was Eros and Polis: Desire and Community in Greek Political Thought.


    Here are some English translations of The Clouds:


    Four Texts on Socrates, ed. and trans by West and West.
    Aristophanes: Acharnians, Lysistrata, Clouds, trans. by Jeffrey Henderson.


    Please tell us what you think about this episode at politicsandthehumanities@gmail.com

    • 1 hr 11 min

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