67 episodes

Professor Phil Ford and writer/filmmaker J. F. Martel host a series of conversations on art and philosophy, dwelling on ideas that are hard to think and art that opens up rifts in what we are pleased to call "reality."

Weird Studies Phil Ford and J. F. Martel

    • Arts

Professor Phil Ford and writer/filmmaker J. F. Martel host a series of conversations on art and philosophy, dwelling on ideas that are hard to think and art that opens up rifts in what we are pleased to call "reality."

    Episode 64: Dreams and Shadows: On Ursula Le Guin's 'A Wizard of Earthsea'

    Episode 64: Dreams and Shadows: On Ursula Le Guin's 'A Wizard of Earthsea'

    In her National Book Award acceptance speech in 2014, Ursula K. Le Guin intimated that, far from being superseded by digital technology, fantastic fiction has never been more important than it is about to become. Soon, she prophesied, "we will need writers who can remember freedom -- poets, visionaries, realists of a larger reality." In this episode, Phil and JF plumb the prophetic depths of one of her most famous books, A Wizard of Earthsea. A discussion of the novel's style and lore leads us into the politics and metaphysics of fantasy as developed by Le Guin and her predecessor, J. R. R. Tolkien. In the end, we realize that fantasy is not the literary ghetto it's been made out to be, but the sine qua non of all fiction.


    SHOW NOTES


    John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
    Heidegger, "On the Origin of the Work of Art"
    Beowulf, An Anglo-Saxon epic poem
    Weird Studies, episode 41 -- On Speculative Fiction, with Matt Cardin
    Weird Studies, episode 61 -- Evil and Ecstasy: On 'The Silence of the Lambs'
    Weird Studies, episode 62: Like 'The Shining,' But With Nuns: On 'Black Narcissus'
    The Complete Romances of Chretien de Troyes (translated by J.F.'s mentor, David Staines)
    Sir Thomas Malory, La Morte d'Arthur
    Lewis Carroll, British fantasist
    Ursula K. Le Guin's acceptance speech at the National Book Awards, 2014
    David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and A Treatise of Human Nature

    • 1 hr 17 min
    Episode 63: Faculty X: On Colin Wilson's 'The Occult'

    Episode 63: Faculty X: On Colin Wilson's 'The Occult'

    At its simplest, what Colin Wilson calls Faculty X is "simply that latent power in human beings possess to reach beyond the present." Yet its existence is evinced in all those phenomena that modernity files under "supernatural" or "occult." As difficult to explain as it is impossible to omit from any honest survey of human existence, the occult haunts the modern, not just as a vestige of the past but also, perhaps, as a promise from a time to come. For Wilson, magic isn't the living fossil the arch-rationalists would like it to be, but a "science of the future." Faculty X is an evolutionary power, innately positive, inseparable from the will to live and the unshakeable conviction that, somehow, this world has some real, ineffable meaning. In this episode, JF and Phil discuss Wilson's concept of Faculty X as elaborated in his monumental 1971 work, The Occult.


    REFERENCES


    Colin Wilson, The Occult: A History
    Rick and Morty, American sitcom
    Colin, Wilson, Dreaming to Some Purpose
    Colin Wilson, The Outsider
    Gary Lachman, Beyond the Robot
    Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
    David Benatar, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence
    Making Sense, episode 107: Is Life Actually Worth Living?
    Peter Wessel Zapffe, Norwegian philosopher
    Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race
    Francisco Goya, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
    Emil Cioran, Franco-Romanian essayist
    Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher
    At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing, Library of America collection
    Joe Frazier, American pugilist
    Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory
    Edouard Schuré, [The Great Initiates: A Study of the Secret History of Religions](Edouard Schuré, _The Great Initiates: A Study of the Secret History of Religion
    Weird Studies, episode 8: On Graham Harman's "The Third Table"
    Thomas Merton, American monk
    Gary Snyder, American poet

    • 1 hr 19 min
    Episode 62: It's Like 'The Shining', But With Nuns: On 'Black Narcissus'

    Episode 62: It's Like 'The Shining', But With Nuns: On 'Black Narcissus'

    The 1947 British film Black Narcissus is many things: an allegory of the end of empire, a chilling ghost story with nary a spook in sight, a psychological romance, and a meditation on the nature of the divine. Its weirdness is as undeniable as it is difficult to locate. On the surface, the story is straightforward: five nuns are tasked with opening a convent in the former seraglio of a dead potentate in the Himalayas. But on a deeper level, there is a lot more going on, as Phil and JF discover in this conversation touching on the presence of the past, the monstrosity of God, the mystery of the singular, and the eroticism of prayer, among other strangenesses.


    REFERENCES


    Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburged (dirs.), Black Narcissus
    Rumer Godden, author of the original novel


    Stanley Kubrick, The Shining
    Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition
    Tim Ingold, British anthropologist -- lecture: "One World Anthropology"
    Jonathan Demme (dir.), The Silence of the Lambs
    Pierre Bourdieu, French sociologist
    Bruno Latour, On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods
    Don Barhelme, American short story writer
    Paul Ricoeur, French philosopher
    Weird Studies episode 16: On Dogen Zenji's Genjokoan
    The King and the Beggar Maid
    Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers
    “Painting with Light,” featurette on the Criterion Collection DVD of Black Narcissus

    • 1 hr 33 min
    Episode 61: Evil and Ecstasy: On 'The Silence of the Lambs'

    Episode 61: Evil and Ecstasy: On 'The Silence of the Lambs'

    The Welsh writer Arthur Machen defined good and evil as "ecstasies." Each one is a "withdrawal from the common life." On this view, any artistic investigation into the nature of good and evil can't remain safely ensconced our modern, common-life construal of thinigs. It must become fantastic and incorporate aspects of "nature" that feel "supernatural" from a modern standpoint. Jonathan Demme's screen adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs is a powerful example. The film oscillates undecidably between a straightforward crime story and a work of supernatural horror. In this episode, JF and Phil cast Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling as figures in a myth that pits the individual against the institution, the singular against the type, and the forces of light against the forces of darkness.


    REFERENCES


    Jonathan Demme (dir.), The Silence of the Lambs
    Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs (original novel)
    Carl Jung on the doctrine of Privatio Boni
    Johann Sebastian Bach, The Goldberg Variations
    William Gibson, Pattern Recognition
    Rolling Stones, "Sympathy for the Devil"
    Howard Shore, Canadian composer
    Arthur Machen, The White People
    Weird Studies, episode 3: Ecstasy, Sin, and "The White People"
    Machen, The White People
    Machen, Hieroglyphics: A Note Upon Ecstasy in Literature

    • 1 hr 6 min
    Episode 60: Space is the Place: On Sun Ra, Gnosticism, and the Tarot

    Episode 60: Space is the Place: On Sun Ra, Gnosticism, and the Tarot

    Somebody once said, "No prophet is welcome in his own country." Whether this was true in the case of jazz musician and composer Sun Ra depends on whom you ask. With most, the dictum probably bears out. But there are those who can make out certain patterns in Ra's life and work, patterns that place him among the true mystics and prophets. Of course, these people already believe in mysticism and prophecy, but Sun Ra's total devotion to his myth does not leave much wiggle room on this front. He is asking us to choose: believe or disbelieve. And if you go with disbelief, you'll need to explain the sustained coherence and lucidity of his message, and the transformative power of his music. In this episode, Phil and JF take a look at Sun Ra's unforgettable film Space is the Place, interpreting it as a document in the history of esotericism, using gnostic thought and the tarotology as instruments to bring some of his secrets to light.


    REFERENCES


    Sun Ra, Space is the Place
    Sun Ra: Brother from Another Planet_
    Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus and [Kafka](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minority(philosophy))_ (for the concept of minority)
    Antoine Faivre, French historian of esotericism
    Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences
    Eliphas Lévi, French occultist
    Edward O. Bland (director) The Cry of Jazz
    Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return, or, Cosmos and History
    Ingmar Bergman, The Seventh Seal
    Stanley Kubrick, Dr Strangelove, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
    Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice
    Jackson Lears, Something for Nothing: Luck in America

    • 1 hr 25 min
    Episode 59: Green Mountains Are Always Walking

    Episode 59: Green Mountains Are Always Walking

    "Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around a lake." This line from Wallace Stevens' "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction" captures something of the mysteries of walking. It points to the undeniable yet baffling relationship between walking and thinking, between putting one foot in front of the other and uncovering the secret of the soul and world. In this episode, JF and Phil exchange ideas about the weirdness of this thing most humans did on most days for most of world history. The conversation ranges over a vast territory, with zen monks, novelists, Jesuits and more joining your hosts on what turns out to be a journey to wondrous places.


    Header image by Beatrice, Wikimedia Commons


    REFERENCES


    Dogen, The Mountains and Waters Sutra
    Weird Studies listener Stephanie Quick on the Conspirinormal podcast
    Weird Studies episode 51, Blind Seers: On Flannery O'Connor's 'Wise Blood'
    Lionel Snell, SSOTBME
    Henry David Thoreau, "Walking"
    Arthur Machen, "The White People"
    Herman Melville, Moby Dick
    Vladimir Horowitz, Russian panist
    Gregory Bateson, cybernetic theorist
    The myth of the Giant Antaeus
    Wallce Stevens, "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction"
    Deleuze, Difference and Repetition
    Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life
    John Cowper Powys, English novelist
    Will Self, English writer
    Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle
    Arcade Fire, “We Used to Wait”
    Paul Thomas Anderson (director), Punch Drunk Love
    Viktor Shklovsky, Russian formalist
    Patreon blog post on Phil’s dream
    David Lynch (director), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

    • 1 hr 19 min

Customer Reviews

RyanLeighart ,

Superb!

Guys, thank you so much for creating such an excellent podcast. I needed this. Anyone concerned with art and philsophy needs this. Thanks again.

Travis_Deity ,

Excellence Balanced

A thoughtful reflection of the anomalies we encounter, without unnecessary dramatisation or consciousness exclusion. Refreshing. Very well presented and organised, thank you for putting this out there.

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