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Interviews with Scholars of Literature about their New Books
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Interviews with Scholars of Literature about their New Books
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    Richard Kalmin, "Migrating Tales: The Talmud's Narratives and Their Historical Context" (U California Press, 2014)

    Richard Kalmin, "Migrating Tales: The Talmud's Narratives and Their Historical Context" (U California Press, 2014)

    Migrating Tales: The Talmud's Narratives and Their Historical Context (University of California Press, 2014) situates the Babylonian Talmud, or Bavli, in its cultural context by reading several rich rabbinic stories against the background of Greek, Syriac, Arabic, Persian, and Mesopotamian literature of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, much of it Christian in origin. In this nuanced work, Richard Kalmin argues that non-Jewish literature deriving from the eastern Roman provinces is a crucially important key to interpreting Babylonian rabbinic literature, to a degree unimagined by earlier scholars.
    Richard Kalmin is the Theodore R. Racoosin Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at The Jewish Theological Seminary.
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    • 49 min
    Anna Veprinska, "Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis" (Palgrave, 2021)

    Anna Veprinska, "Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis" (Palgrave, 2021)

    In this episode, I interview Anna Veprinska about her book Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021) recently published by Palgrave Macmillan. In it, Veprinska examines the representation of empathy in contemporary poetry that responds to moments of traumatic crisis, focusing specifically on the Holocaust, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and Hurricane Katrina. Rather than taking a straightforward approach that uncritically heralds empathy, Veprinska explores the various techniques poets use that invite and refuse empathy, thereby displaying empathetic dissonance, a term that Veprinska coins to describe the struggle poets and poetry have with the question of the value and possibility of empathy in the face of the crises to which they respond.
    Veprinska’s text is anchored by a tripartite structure of negation in which she explores the unsaid, the unhere, and the ungod, all of which deal with the internally fractured and dissonant nature of poetic empathy. By mingling textual analysis with philosophy, psychology, history, and trauma studies, Empathy in Contemprary Poetry after Crisis seeks to sketch out and approach the limits of empathy and to show how poetry is uniquely situated as a medium through which we can be with each other in the aftermath of world-altering events.
    Britt Edelen is a Ph.D. student in English at Duke University. He focuses on modernism and the relationship(s) between language, philosophy, and literature. You can find him on Twitter or send him an email.
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    • 1 hr 9 min
    Miriam Udel, "Honey on the Page: A Treasury of Yiddish Children's Literature" (NYU Press, 2020)

    Miriam Udel, "Honey on the Page: A Treasury of Yiddish Children's Literature" (NYU Press, 2020)

    While there has been a recent boom in Jewish literacy and learning within the US, few resources exist to enable American Jews to experience the rich primary sources of Yiddish culture. Stepping into this void, Miriam Udel has crafted collection, Honey on the Page: A Treasury of Yiddish Children's Literature (NYU Press, 2020), which offers a feast of beguiling original translations of stories and poems for children.
    Arranged thematically―from school days to the holidays―the book takes readers from Jewish holidays and history to folktales and fables, from stories of humanistic ethics to multi-generational family sagas. Featuring many works that are appearing in English for the first time, and written by both prominent and lesser-known authors, this anthology spans the Yiddish-speaking globe―drawing from materials published in Eastern Europe, New York, and Latin America from the 1910s, during the interwar period, and up through the 1970s. With its vast scope, Honey on the Page offers a cornucopia of delights to families, individuals and educators seeking literature that speaks to Jewish children about their religious, cultural, and ethical heritage.
    Complemented by whimsical, humorous illustrations by Paula Cohen, an acclaimed children’s book illustrator, Udel’s evocative translations of Yiddish stories and poetry will delight young and older readers alike.
    Miriam Udel is associate professor of German Studies and Jewish Studies at Emory University. She was ordained in 2019 as part of the first cohort of the Executive Ordination Track at Yeshivat Maharat, a program designed to bring qualified mid-career women into the Orthodox rabbinate.
    Schneur Zalman Newfield is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and the author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Temple University Press, 2020). Visit him online at ZalmanNewfield.com.
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    • 52 min
    Exploring Careers After Graduation: Writing for the Kid’s Lit Market

    Exploring Careers After Graduation: Writing for the Kid’s Lit Market

    Welcome to The Academic Life. You are smart and capable, but you aren’t an island, and neither are we. So we reached across our mentor network to bring you podcasts on everything from how to finish that project, to how to take care of your beautiful mind. Wish we’d bring in an expert about something? Email us at cgessler@gmail.com or dr.danamalone@gmail.com. Find us on Twitter: The Academic Life @AcademicLifeNBN.
    In this episode you’ll hear about: the steps to creating a writing career after college; the children’s book market; the difference between a pitch, a hook, a logline, and a synopsis; the importance of building a support network; and a discussion of the book Premeditated Myrtle.
    Our guest is: Elizabeth C. Bunce, the author of the Myrtle Hardcastle mystery book series. Elizabeth’s books are inspired by real places and cultures of the past, often with otherworldly or magical elements. She has been writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been interested in literature, folklore, history, and culture. She studied English and anthropology in college. When she’s not writing, she’s usually making something—cosplay, needlework, historical costuming, quilting—but not cooking.
    Your host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, a historian of women, gender, and sexuality. She specializes in decoding diaries written by rural women in 19th century America. She belongs to a critique group for children’s book writers, and has been an active member of SCBWI for over a decade. When she’s not reading, writing, podcasting, or teaching, she can be spotted taking walks along the shore and working on her nature photography. She seldom cooks.
    Listeners to this episode might be interested in:


    Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth Bunce


    Wired for Story by Lisa Cron


    The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl Klein


    Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt


    Stealing Hollywood: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors by Andrea Sokoloff

    The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

    The Highlights Foundation

    The Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults



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    • 1 hr 1 min
    Marion Turner, "Chaucer: A European Life" (Princeton UP, 2019)

    Marion Turner, "Chaucer: A European Life" (Princeton UP, 2019)

    More than any other canonical English writer, Geoffrey Chaucer lived and worked at the centre of political life—yet his poems are anything but conventional. Edgy, complicated, and often dark, they reflect a conflicted world, and their astonishing diversity and innovative language earned Chaucer renown as the father of English literature. Marion Turner, however, reveals him as a great European writer and thinker. To understand his accomplishment, she reconstructs in unprecedented detail the cosmopolitan world of Chaucer’s adventurous life, focusing on the places and spaces that fired his imagination.
    Uncovering important new information about Chaucer’s travels, private life, and the early circulation of his writings, Chaucer: A European Life (Princeton UP, 2019) documents a series of vivid episodes, moving from the commercial wharves of London to the frescoed chapels of Florence and the kingdom of Navarre, where Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived side by side. The narrative recounts Chaucer’s experiences as a prisoner of war in France, as a father visiting his daughter’s nunnery, as a member of a chaotic Parliament, and as a diplomat in Milan, where he encountered the writings of Dante and Boccaccio. At the same time, the book offers a comprehensive exploration of Chaucer’s writings, taking the reader to the Troy of Troilus and Criseyde, the gardens of the dream visions, and the peripheries and thresholds of The Canterbury Tales.

    By exploring the places Chaucer visited, the buildings he inhabited, the books he read, and the art and objects he saw, this landmark biography tells the extraordinary story of how a wine merchant’s son became the poet of The Canterbury Tales.
    Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at marshallpoe@newbooknetwork.com
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    • 53 min
    Stephanie Russo, "The Afterlife of Anne Boleyn: Representations of Anne Boleyn in Fiction and on the Screen" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)

    Stephanie Russo, "The Afterlife of Anne Boleyn: Representations of Anne Boleyn in Fiction and on the Screen" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)

    In the centuries since her execution in 1536, Anne Boleyn’s presence in Western culture has grown to extraordinary proportions. In The Afterlife of Anne Boleyn: Representations of Anne Boleyn in Fiction and on the Screen (Palgrave Macmillan), Stephanie Russo describes the various ways in which her life has been interpreted and how these interpretations reflect the interests and developments of their respective eras. This process began with her contemporaries, who began memorializing her even before her death. That she was the subject of so much of their attention reflected in no small measure her prominent role in England’s adoption of Protestantism, which exerted a predominant influence in how she was interpreted for over a century and a half. As the controversies in England over religion ebbed in the 18th century the focus became more exclusively upon Anne as a person, as her activities and her relationships proved an enduring source of material for both novelists and playwrights. Russo shows how this interest as only grown over time, with Anne Boleyn’s life today serving as subject matter for everything from postfeminist novels to salacious cable television series – all of which help perpetuate our interest about this enigmatic and elusive figure.
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    • 50 min

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