Listen to an analysis of a book, film, play, or poem. A philosopher and poet discuss their meaning, themes, symbols, and motifs, with a view to co-creating an entertaining audio essay in real time.
Prestidigitocracy in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
The Wizard of Oz is supposed by the land’s inhabitants to be its most powerful magician. But far from having any actual power, he is not even native to the place in which real magic is in plentiful supply. Oddly, this supernatural world seems to be secretly governed by mundane sleight of hand, and growing up, for Dorothy, involves uncovering the flimsy basis of adult authority. Which magic is more potent: the childish imagination, or the symbolic power of grown-ups to educate it? Wes & Erin analyze the 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz.”
Formulated Phrases in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot: Part 2
Wes & Erin continue their analysis of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” In Part 1, they covered roughly the first third of the poem. In Part 2, they begin with a discussion of Prufrock’s coffee spoons, and then continue on to: his allusions to John the Baptist, Lazarus, and Hamlet; the disjointed portrait of his probable love interest; and the twinning of aging and fantasy in the final stanzas.
Disturbing the Universe in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot: Part 1
It was T. S. Eliot’s first published poem. Written when he was only in his early 20s, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” rode the crest of the wave of literary Modernism, predated World War I, and presaged an age of indecision and anxiety. The poem is the dramatic interior monologue of the title character, a middle-aged man whose passivity and ambivalence are threaded with artistic allusions, epigrammatic observations, and meditations on the nature of time, the fraudulence of relationships, and the risks of eating a peach. Should Prufrock dare disturb the universe? Should we?
Wes & Erin continue their discussion of "Apocalypse Now." Wes apologizes for asking Erin to watch something so disturbing, and we further discuss dueling conceptions of the arts, one Platonic and the other Aristotelian. We agree that "Apocalypse Now," despite being challenging, is an aesthetic masterpiece. What about the narrative? Wes argues that it is very close to not having enough of an arc. What it does most successfully is to convey a kind of surreal, psychedelic mood, one that is meant to capture the insanity of the Vietnam War (and perhaps war in general), and so constitutes its critique. We end by reminiscing about watching "Notting Hill" together. But we fail to talk about an obvious hypothetical ....
At Home with War in “Apocalypse Now” (1979) by Francis Ford Coppola
Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore doesn’t flinch for enemy fire, loves the smell of napalm in the morning, and would literally kill for good surfing and a beachside barbecue. His attempts to recreate home within the theater of war render him the perfect foil to a certain upriver madman, who seems intent on making high culture serve the purposes of primitive horror. And yet Kurtz is ready to argue that it is his methods that are more sound, just because they embrace their ruthlessness more honestly, in contrast to the impotent half-measures of an imperial power that can rationalize its atrocities as collateral damage in the service of a larger humanitarian goal. Which approach should evoke more horror? Wes & Erin analyze Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film “Apocalypse Now.”
Unsound Methods in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”
On his journey to the heart of the Congo, Marlow learns of a famed ivory trader named Kurtz— a remarkable man; a “universal genius;” a painter, poet, and musician; a man whose success in his trade has been unparalleled, but whose “unsound methods” have put him at odds with local bureaucrats. When Marlow finally meets Kurtz, he hears firsthand the trader’s essential characteristic: a deep and commanding voice which, combined with his methods, has earned him disciples and inspired local tribes to worship him as a god. But what message does Kurtz speak into the terrible silence of the African wilderness? And what deficiency, as Marlow calls it, might be hiding beneath his eloquence? Wes & Erin analyze Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella, Heart of Darkness.
Like a class where everyone has done the reading.
Great dynamic between Erin and Wes. Their different perspectives always seem subtle and productive, and both are great readers. This is the only podcast that has ever convinced me to re-read entire books.
“Sub text” review
Insightful / interesting / Intelligent. / /Pleasant. The Hosts work well together & are lovely to listen to. Really well done . 5 stars!
This was just what I needed! The 2 hosts do all the work for us and we get to kick back and listen to them examine and break down the different texts & movies. They are a great match and the discussion flows very naturally. They have great insights and background info on the works/authors which help contextualize everything. I really enjoy listening to this every week.